Growing up, Mum and Dad used to host these elaborate black tie dinner parties. The open fire raging, the silverware all laid out to be polished and the smell of roast lamb wafting from the kitchen, there was a real sense of occasion in the air. I’d watch in awe as Mum put on her lippie and my sisters and I would get dressed up as “waitresses” whilst trying to convince our brother Pete to wear Dad’s bow tie. I can’t imagine a happier memory.
Prawn cocktails, always the height of sophistication, were served in the 1920s style champagne saucers that were given to my parents as a wedding present. These were the same glasses they used to toast me as a newborn baby in hospital, with the tradition carrying on when Cork Daddy and I used these very glasses to toast the arrival of our eldest daughter Charlotte, 4 years ago.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved a dinner party. From backyard sushi rolling sessions during uni days flatting in Neutral Bay, to themed dinner parties in Wagga (who doesn’t love a themed dinner party?) where I’d go to so much effort buying red and white checked fabric for the table, potting basil plants in empty Italian tomato tins and even going as far as impulse buying our huge kitchen table when racing out to pick up a few last ingredients from Woolies.
These days, with many of our friends having kids and living out of town, it’s often hard to juggle babysitters, cabs home, sleeping babies etc. The good ol’ dinner party has fallen by the wayside.
So I reckon it’s time to bring back the dinner party. You don’t need to cook anything too fancy or fiddly. A big slow cooked lump of meat, a good bottle of red (or two) and some crusty bread thrown in to the mix is all you need. The middle of winter is the perfect excuse to gather round the table with family, friends or neighbours and this beef ragu, slow cooked in red wine and served with pasta topped with lashings of fresh parmesan, is comfort food at its best.
So light the fire, open the cupboard that houses all of your unused wedding gifts and turn on some tunes. You’ll be creating memories for years to come.
lo’s beef ragu (serves 6)
100 grams of pancetta, finely diced
1 x cup of red wine
1 x 50 gram tomato paste sachet
2 x 400 gram tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
3 x bay leaves
3 x cups of beef stock
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 x tablespoons of olive oil
500 grams of cooked rigatoni pasta, to serve
Finely grated parmesan, to serve
Fresh basil leaves, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180℃. Salt and pepper the beef on all sides and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy based pan. Over a high heat, sear the meat on all sides until nicely browned. Set aside.
- Adding the remaining olive oil, fry the onion, garlic, carrot and celery in the same pan until softened. Add the thyme and pancetta and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.
- Add the red wine to the vegetables and let it cook until 3/4 of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves and stock and let it come to the boil.
- Return the beef to the pan, pop the lid on and bake in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, turning the meat over half way through the cooking process. By this stage, the meat should fall apart when poked.
- Using two forks, shred the beef finely, being careful to discard the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and any fat.
- Serve with the cooked pasta, topped with parmesan and basil leaves.
If you make this beef ragu please leave your comments below, or post your pic on Insta tagging #los_kitchen. xx