Dad’s open lasagna of beef ragú and porcini cream (serves 6)

Yesterday we cooked a special lunch for my Nan and Pop. My Dad cooked his awesome Beef Cheek Ragú Lasagne and I made a Tunisian Orange and Almond cake. It was a beautiful sunny May Sunday and because it was a long weekend, we could all relax and enjoy a long lunch. I have asked Dad to share his recipe with you and I hope you take the time to try it someday. Take it away Dad!!

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Okay, trust me when I say I know a thing or three about cows. Growing up with a family “milker” and a family “eater” meant we always had at least two beasts sharing our acreage in rural Fernvale. One thing I know about the big boppers is that they poo a lot. I know they poo a lot because my bro and I made a living out of collecting and selling cow paddies to the city-slickers for garden mulch. Number 2 cow fact is no matter how tame and docile your pet cow is, don’t show off in front of one of those paddy-buying city-slickers and climb underneath them. I still have a bald spot on the side of my head to remind me. The final thing I know about cows is that they chew all day long. ‘Chewing the Cud’ must surely make their cheeks the toughest muscle known to humanity. So why the hell would anyone want to eat them? They are sold in the dog food section after all and only cost a couple of bucks a kilo. Well don’t let this put you off. Just like any gristly meat, cooked the right way – long and slow, beef cheeks make a splendid meal. My Open Lasagne of Beef Ragú and Porcini Cream has become a family favourite and I’d love to share the recipe with you. Remember to cook ahead of time because the ragú will need at least 8 hours cooking time. For this reason, I like to do a big pot capable of feeding 20 or more and freeze 3/4 for another day. You can halve or quarter the quantities to suit.

Ingredients

Ragú

2 Kg beef cheeks – trimmed and cut into large chunks (3 pieces per cheek)

4-5 onions (I used 1 brown, 1 red and 5 large golden shallots) – thinly sliced

500g speck – diced

4 cloves garlic – finely sliced

2 carrots – diced

2 stalks celery – diced

1 red capsicum

500ml tomato passata/puree

500ml red wine

1lt beef stock

Bunch of fresh thyme – leaves removed from stems

Extra thyme for garnish

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons ground pepper

Grated parmesan

Strips of peeled parmesan

Porcini Cream

2 large golden shallots

bunch of fresh thyme – leaves removed from stems

15g dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup of pouring cream

1/4 cup white wine

50g butter

Teaspoon truffle oil

Salt and ground pepper

Pasta

This pasta recipe is one of Matt Morans and makes a lovely silky lasagna sheet perfect for this dish.

500g ’00’ flour (very fine and perfect for pasta)

8 egg yolks

3 whole eggs

2 teaspoons olive oil

Method

1. Preheat oven to 130C (250F).

2. Using a sharp knife, remove the tough layer of white tendon on the top side of cheek. Trim any other obvious bits of fat, gristle or tendon but don’t bother trying to get it all – it would take you forever and it will all render down anyway.

3. Cut each cheek into 3 pieces and dust each chunk in flour.

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Vegetables

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4 stages of beef cheek preparation

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Preparation is the key!

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy based oven proof pot and saute the beef in batches for a couple of minutes or until browned. Remove and set aside.

5. Add another tablespoon of olive oil in the pot and saute the onions until softened. Remove and set aside.

6. Again with the olive oil and this time saute the speck for a couple of minutes. Remove and set aside.

7. Repeat with another splash of olive oil and cook off the garlic, celery, carrot, capsicum and thyme. Remove the vegetables and deglaze the pot with the red wine.

8. Add the beef stock and bring to the boil. After 5 minutes, reduce heat and add everything back into the pot. Stir to combine all the ingredients, add the pepper and salt and turn the heat off.

9. Cut a round piece of baking paper (cartouche) and sit on top of the ragú and put the lid on your pot. Place in the oven and put the timer on for 6 hours.

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Ragu ready for the oven

Once the timer goes, the beef should be nice and soft. Take out of the oven, remove the cartouche and stir in the tomato passata. Place back in the oven and cook for a further 2 hours.

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A whole 8 hours in the oven.

Pasta Preparation

Time to prepare the pasta.

1. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until they resemble breadcrumbs. Remove and place on a floured work bench.

2. Kneed until smooth, wrap in cling-wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm.

3. Remove and split into 4 balls. Put 3 back into the fridge and start rolling the one ball through a pasta machine. Working your way through the dial settings until you reach the second thinnest (8 on mine).

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4. Lay out on bench and dust with flour, working it over with your hands.

5. Cut into 20 cm strips and hang to dry.

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Pasta sheets out to dry.

6. Repeat with another ball of pasta dough.

7. Prepare a large pot of salted water (5 ltrs water/tablespoon salt) and have ready to turn on.

Porcini Cream

1. Soak the dried porcinis in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove the now-soft porcinis from the water (keeping the coloured water for later) and finely chop.

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Chopped porcinis, golden shallots and freshly picked thyme from our own garden.

Melt the butter in pan and add the shallots. Saute until golden and add the thyme and porcinis. Stir for a couple of minutes. Add the white wine and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the porcini water, truffle oil and cream and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste.

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Simmering porcini cream

Serving

1. During the Porcini preparation, place the ragú on stovetop and bring to simmer. Also turn the salted water pot on high.

2. Once the pasta water is boiling, place 6 pasta sheets into the water and cook for 2-3 minutes.

3. Carefully remove using silicon tongs or slotted spoon.

4. Repeat another 2 times until you have 18 cooked sheets (3/person).

5. Place a sheet of the cooked pasta in the centre of a large dinner plate.

6. Add a large spoon of the ragú on top.

7. Put a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese over the ragú then place another sheet of pasta on top. Top again with ragú, parmesan, pasta, and ragú.

8. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the porcini cream around the plate and then top the lasagna with a couple of slices of the peeled parmesan and thyme for presentation.

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Serve with a simple green salad and glass of red wine (a chianti if you can!).

Elliot made a delicious Tunisian Orange and Almond cake to follow and the adults enjoyed a glass of chilled Lemoncillo.

Bellissimo!

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