Trippa alla Romana (Mario Batali's Roman-style tripe)

Trippa alla romana

I don't blame anyone for being hesitant about tripe. It looks weird, it can be unpleasantly chewy, and physiologically it's a tube for poop. A tough sell, really. But let's make a deal: I'll give you one recipe for tripe as it should be, and if you still don't like it I will never bug you about it again. In fact, I'll never bug you about anything — I wouldn't want to get on the bad side of someone who is so obviously insane.

There is one thing to remember when cooking tripe: cook it until it is done. When I was a kid I remember having the thought, "why don't our intestines digest themselves?" (Boy was I a popular kid). Now, years later, I understand — intestines don't digest themselves because they're made of something very, very tough: intestines. This is originally a Mario Batali recipe, and frankly his recommended 1 hour of braising is wildly optimistic unless you're intending to serve a hearty bowl of leather. Rather, check the tripe every hour and allow plenty of time if you need it to be ready for dinner that night — mine took 3 hours to achieve the melting tenderness I was after.

Serve it with some buttery toast to soak up what's left, and you'll never look back.

Trippa alla Romana

Ingredients:

  • 900g ox tripe
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract1
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small brown onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 cups Mario Batali's basic tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano, parmagiano reggiano, or a mixture of the two
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, sliced thinly
  • 1 thick slice of fresh italian bread
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt, to taste

1. Place the tripe in a non-reactive pot with the vinegar, vanilla essence, and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for at least 1 hour. Check the tripe every hour and cook until it is completely tender.
2. Drain the tripe, and once cooled cut into 1 cm strips. Heat the olive oil to medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the sliced tripe and chilli flakes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, adjust seasoning, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine the cheese and mint in a bowl. When ready to eat, toast the bread on both sides on a grill or broiler, then spread generously with butter. Season with salt.
4. Spoon the braised tripe into a bowl, sprinkle over the cheese mixture, and serve with the toast.

(1) Although I've never experienced the funky taste that some people associate with tripe, the addition of a small amount of vanilla extract is intended to counter that.

Spring has sprung: Spaghetti genovese

Spaghetti genovese

It sure feels good to be home. I enjoyed my time in Whyalla, but a month away from home has taught me that there are some things telephones and facebook can't substitute. Driving home, I was looking forward to two things most — a night in my own bed, and a meal in my own kitchen.

Back in Adelaide I was shocked to learn that not only is it abnormal for every exposed surface to be covered in red sand, but that while I was away winter had become spring. Whyalla lacks seasonal flora, so the change of seasons is instead noticed by experienced locals who are able to sense a shift in the weather either slightly up or slightly down the scale of "uncomfortably warm and dusty". Back in Adelaide — where I am, at least — you wouldn't guess that we're still years into a chronic water shortage. The trees are green, flowers are blooming, and the skies are blue. Life is good.

As one does when life is good, I made pesto. Well, that was the plan. When it became clear that I'd left my paid-for pine nuts on the shop counter at the markets, I diverted course slightly and made what would be better described as a basil, cashew, and lemon paste. It doesn't quite have the same ring to it as 'pesto', but damn does it taste good. The generous amount of lemon makes it zestier than a traditional basil & pinenut pesto, which is perfect for a warm evening. I could even see this working at room temperature in place of your usual pasta salad.

Now without further ado, please allow me to officially return the second pancake to its regularly scheduled programming. Pesto & genovese recipe after the jump.

No-knead pizza dough

No-knead pizza, crumb shot

Is it lazy to take shortcuts? Does it make you less legitimate as a cook, or less dedicated? Can a guy who rallied against instant pancake mix maintain any integrity as he posts his second no-knead dough recipe?

No, no, and sure he can.

The thing about a shortcut is that it's only worthwhile if it still gets you to your destination. If you cut through some side streets and wind up going the opposite direction, it's not a shortcut, it's the wrong way. The same is true for cooking — Sandra Lee's corner cutting is an embarrassing false economy, but true shortcuts make you more efficient and remove some of the frustration that can bog down even the most enthusiastic cooks.

For me, kneading is a step I will happily forgo. Medium hydration doughs are actually quite therapeutic to knead by hand, but the two doughs I make most often are either relatively stiff pasta dough, or pizza dough. I love the big, random air bubbles and thin, crunchy crust that high hydration gives a pizza dough, but if you've ever tried to hand knead something that sticky you'll forgive me for taking the easy way out. This recipe is only 65% water, next time I plan to go ever higher.

Bakers who know about the science of bread may shake their head at this recipe, but the fact remains that it produces a damn tasty pizza base. The extended rest boosts the flavour, and it develops enough gluten to give the dough some chew thanks to the large amount of water. I haven't reached (homemade) pizza heaven yet, but I can see the light and I'm floating towards it.

Recipe after the jump.

10 ways that puttanesca got its name

Spaghetti puttanesca

Everyone knows that puttanesca means essentially 'whore's pasta'. However, the specifics of how it got this name are disputed to this very day. I've done a little research to collect some of the most likely origins of the name, and in case you're wondering, no I didn't just make some up to get ten.

  1. It's fiery and spicy, just like prostitutes.
  2. It was offered cheaply to customers to entice them into the brothels.
  3. It's quick to make so it could be cooked easily in between customers.
  4. It could be made from ingredients that keep well, as prostitutes often didn't have the opportunity to visit the markets every day.
  5. The intense aroma of the garlic, anchovies, and capers drew men by their noses to the brothels.
  6. The intense aroma was also advantageous to the women, who found that it deterred customers from breaking the 'no kissing' rule.
  7. Being red, it camouflaged well under the tawdry red lights. How this is of any advantage, I'm not sure.
  8. Because your mum makes it. Burn!
  9. Olives are considered by some cultures to have contraceptive effects. Particularly cultures with high birth rates.
  10. An early incarnation of the dish actually contained chlamydia.

Which one of these ten equally legitimate suggestions is the true origin of pasta puttanesca we may never know, but thankfully the recipe has remained intact throughout the ages. And here it is.

Spaghetti puttanesca

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 100g spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 small chili, sliced thinly (or substitute red pepper flakes to taste)
  • 1/3 cup of canned tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, torn roughly
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained (salt-packed are preferable)
  • 2 tbsp kalamata olives, pitted and halved

1. Boil a pot of salted water and add the spaghetti. You can make the sauce before the pasta finishes cooking.
2. Sauté the garlic with the olive oil on a medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the anchovies and chilies and cook for a further 30 seconds.
3. Add the tomatoes and parsley, and cook over a high heat until the tomatoes break down and thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives1 and capers. The sauce can then be held until the pasta is cooked.
4. Once the pasta is almost al dente, drain it and toss with the sauce over a high heat. Add a little pasta water if it's looking too dry. Serve with grated parmesan.

(1) I find the olives can get bitter if you add them earlier and cook them with the sauce.

The accidental calzone

Accidental calzone

Let this be a warning to all of you food bloggers out there: while you're taking photographs, your food is getting cold, getting warm, overcooking, drying out, wilting, melting, or setting. If you spend too much time fucking around, your uncooked pizza will stick to the board, tear when you transfer it to the oven, and turn into an accidental calzone. Perhaps not you, personally.

In related news, I think I've hit upon a great pizza dough — stay tuned.

Quick, no-knead pasta dough (that doesn't suck)

Fresh pasta

Cooking's a great hobby to have. Everyone's gotta eat, which means dedicating time and money to preparing food whether you like it or not. Enjoying cooking is like some kind of tax exemption from domestic drudgery — dinner doesn't get in the way of a relaxing evening, it's part of it. If only I could get into ironing in the same way.

Fresh pasta would be one of those recipes that would have most people saying, "Sorry Tim, I've got work at 8 am tomorrow and I'm not spending my entire Tuesday evening making a bowl of fettucini". Well I'm not going to do that either, but necessity is the mother of invention. And for me, it is absolutely necessary to eat the best food without wasting time or expense.

Now, this doesn't mean cutting corners. Here's what's going on in pasta dough (simplistically): flour and egg are combined, and kneaded to develop gluten. The traditional method has worked for centuries, but it's only one way. I use a food processor, adding half the flour at first to get a sticky dough that stretches, developing the gluten in the same way that kneading does. There comes a point where the dough becomes so dry that the processor stops stretching and just chops it up, but I've tried both ways and any difference is imperceptible. Try both ways yourself, if you don't believe me.

Fresh pasta dough, two ways

Ingredients (per person for a main course. It scales up well.):

  • 1 egg
  • 100 g plain flour

No-knead

Pasta

1. Crack the egg(s) into a food processor, and add roughly half the flour. Process for about 15 seconds until the mixture becomes a gummy, sticky mess, then process for another 30 seconds.
2. Add the remaining flour 1/4 at a time, processing for 20 seconds each time to fully incorporate. Once all of the flour is added it should take on the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs.
3. Turn the mixture out onto a board and push it all together to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and stand for 30 minutes before using.

The regular way
1. Pile the flour onto a large board or benchtop, and make a well in the middle. Crack the egg(s) into the well, and whisk the egg briefly to combine yolk and white.
2. Using a spoon or your finger, gradually incorporate flour from the edge of the well into the egg mixture. Once half of the flour is incorporated, mix the rest of the flour in and form into one dough.
3. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it becomes smooth but elastic (it will be quite a firm dough, but it should spring back if you poke it with your finger). Wrap in plastic wrap and stand for 30 minutes before using.

Fresh pasta with bolognese sauce

Risotto, abridged

Mixed mushroom risotto

I'll never forget my first risotto. Unfortunately. It was a first in more than one way — I'd never cooked a risotto before, but I'd also never eaten one. It showed, too — it was two years before I was ready to cook it again, and before Lucy was ready to eat it.

My problem was thinking of risotto as just another recipe. There are surely plenty of great recipes infinitely more reliable that the lemon I tried, but to make great risotto all you need is to get your head around three things: good rice, good stock, and good technique. With the basics down, you can easily improvise with whatever additions you like. The idea of a risotto recipe will become as ridiculous as a recipe for making a sandwich.

Good rice
Almost everyone says to use arborio. While I hate to get sanctimonious about these sorts of things, almost everyone is wrong. Objectively wrong. Especially autumn from the carbonara comments. Seriously though, arborio is a fine choice. You want a thick, starchy variety of rice and from that category you won't have any trouble finding arborio. Most risottos are made with it, and if you have good technique you'll make a good risotto.

But carnaroli is better. Let me put it another way: in the bizarro world where food eats people, in Bizarro Pirates of the Caribbean arborio fills Orlando Bloom's shoes while Captain Jack Sparrow is played by carnaroli. Arborio is inoffensive with mass appeal, but for totally badass risotto that everyone is going to remember, carnaroli is the rice you're after. The texture is better and it's much more forgiving and consistent. It's harder to find, but worth the search — try specialty shops and Italian delis, or order it online.

On the topic of rice, vialone nano is another well-regarded variety that I've never actually tried. I've heard it's best for seafood risotto, but if you've got more information leave a comment.

Good stock
If rice is the texture base, then stock is the flavour base. There are two things to consider with your choice of stock: does it taste good, and is it appropriate?

The taste part is easy: Homemade stock is better than bought, and if buying stock get a salt-free or salt-reduced version. The salt thing has nothing to do with snobbery or health, by the way. By simmering the stock until absorbed you will concentrate its saltiness and your risotto will be unbearably salty before even adding the cheese.

Appropriateness. A good rule is to match the stock with the additions/main course eaten with the risotto. For example, chicken and asparagus risotto? Chicken stock. Braised oxtail risotto? Beef or veal stock. Of course this isn't always possible — how likely are you to make rabbit stock for a rabbit risotto? In these cases a white chicken, veal, or vegetable stock are adaptable. Avoid using seafood stock in a non-seafood risotto unless you have some master plan for how it's going to not taste odd. These are guidelines rather than rules — try mixing it up a bit. In the mushroom risotto above I used duck stock because it goes well with mushrooms, and added the liquid that the dried porcinis soaked in for extra mushroominess.

Technique tips and a few recipes are after the jump.

Things not to attempt hungover: Pizza with tomato & pesto

Pizza with tomato & pesto

It took a while to get lunch out today. I woke up at 10:30 with a dry mouth and the punishment for a night of excess throbbing in my head. It was another hour before I was mobile enough to fetch 2 paracetamol for breakfast, which hit the spot but were frankly a touch bitter and powdery for my palate.

There was focaccia dough in the fridge (a new recipe), but it stuck to the bowl when I tried to remove it for shaping which was dispiriting enough to quash that idea — I made pizza instead. It was quite good really, but not the best I've made. Part of the problem was lazily not allowing it to rise enough, but the dough itself unsurprisingly would be better suited to focaccia. Keeping in mind that every step placed successfully ahead of the previous one was a small victory this afternoon, I'd still call this a moderate success.

Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 140 ml water
  • 5 g active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 215 g strong flour
  • 4.5 g salt

1. Mix together the warm water, yeast, and olive oil and let stand for ten minutes. Meanwhile combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir together with a sturdy wooden spoon. Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 10 minutes, or knead in an electric mixer until the dough is smooth1.
3. Rest the dough in a warm place for 1.5 hours then knead for 2 minutes, shape into a ball, lightly oil the dough and place it in the fridge, covered, for 24-36 hours.
4. Bring the dough to room temperature for 1.5 hours while preheating the oven and pizza stone as hot as you oven will go.
5. Gently pull the dough ball to about 3/4 cm thickness2. Top with whatever you like3 and bake on a pizza stone until the crust is golden brown and crispy (about 10 minutes).

(1) This dough is quite wet and a little challenging to knead by hand. If you have an electric mixer I suggest using it.
(2) Don't roll it with a rolling pin! This will get rid of all the bubbles you've spent 24 hours creating.
(3) I topped mine with a simple tomato sauce made from blending uncooked canned tomatoes with salt. On top was some terribly inauthentic supermarket cheddar (which I added 5 minutes into cooking to prevent it burning), and pesto added after the pizza was cooked.

Submitted to YeastSpotting

100% infallibly authentic spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara

As you already know, I'm obsessed with authenticity — most of all in Italian cooking. There is of course only one correct way to make a given Italian dish, and any deviation from that is utterly unacceptable. Don't even think about giving me that "but it tastes good and I like it" bullshit, either.

For those of you unaccustomed to sarcasm, the truth probably lies somewhere in between the extremes of culinary dogmatism and liberalism. If the meatiness of a bolognese sauce can be enhanced with star anise, surely this addition is true to the 'spirit' of ragu alla bolognese. When it comes to a dish such as spaghetti carbonara, the spirit of the dish is simplicity. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms, parsley, chili, spinach, whatever you like, but when it stops being about simple flavours it stops being a carbonara (as much as you might enjoy it).

'Traditional' spaghetti carbonara is made from pasta, eggs, guanciale (cured pork cheek; pancetta or bacon are okay), hard Italian cheese, and pepper. To my tastes, you really don't need any more ingredients. The addition of cream dilutes the sauce's delicate egg flavour, and in terms of texture it simply isn't necessary for a creamy, full-bodied sauce. Use the best quality ingredients you can find. Try it with guanciale at least once, and for the cheese use parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, or a mixture of the two.

When bringing pasta and sauce together, the books say that adding the hot pasta to the egg mixture is enough to cook the sauce. In my experience this isn't enough, so add the pasta to the uncooked sauce in a pan and toss over heat. Make sure you keep it moving in the pan once it gets hot to stop areas from overcooking &mdash the better you get at this, the quicker and hotter you'll be able to do it. This recipe serves 2, but it scales easily (making more than 5 servings at a time could get challenging). For a main meal, use 100 g pasta and one egg per person.

Spaghetti carbonara

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 200 g spaghetti
  • 70 g guanciale/pancetta/bacon, chopped into pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of hard italian cheese (parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, or a mixture)
  • Plenty of freshly cracked black pepper

1. Cook the spaghetti until almost al dente in boiling, salted water while you make the sauce.
2. Sauté the guanciale in a medium-hot pan until it is crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Remove from the heat and add a tablespoon of cold water to bring the pan temperature down (this will evaporate, and if it doesn't it won't matter).
3. Add the eggs and cheese to the cooled pan and lightly whisk the egg mixture.
4. When the spaghetti is almost al dente, drain quickly (or just pull it out with tongs) and add to the egg mixture. Toss this over heat until the egg mixture thickens and coats the spaghetti. Add a generous amount of black pepper, toss to combine, and serve.

This is not a bolognese

Spaghetti almost-bolognese

Only a fool would be stupid enough to lay claim to a "traditional" Italian recipe. In Sicily they kill you for saying that sort of thing, by way of old Italian women hitting you with rolling pins. Even in Italy, the idea of what's authentic changes from one kitchen to the next.

With that in mind, I make no claims that this is a traditional ragu alla bolognese. It's not served with fresh tagliatelle and it does contain tomato. If that offends your orthodox sensibilities, either cover your eyes or polish your pitchfork because you won't be happy with the anchovies or star anise. But isn't it possible that this wide world of food might just be big enough for more than one Italian meat sauce? Let's make a deal: I won't call this real bolognese, if you concede that science and the expertise of Heston Blumenthal (oh, only the man behind the best restaurant in the world) might possibly, you know, maybe, make for a recipe that isn't so bad?

If you can get past the big deviations from tradition and understand why they were made, you'll find that this recipe (based on Blumenthal's from the Times) really isn't so inauthentic. Consider this:

  1. When star anise is cooked with onions, a chemical reaction occurs producing a substance that enhances the 'meaty' flavour of a dish. It's true, Heston says so. It's effect isn't simply limited to beef either.

  2. Anchovies are rich in glutamate, which is umami central and the 'active ingredient' in MSG. Like any taste umami can be overpowering and unpleasant when used to excess, but used judiciously it boosts the flavour of savory food. In case there is anyone who doesn't know this yet: beyond the baseline expected rate of hypersensitivity to any ingested substance, glutamate or MSG is not bad for you.

  3. Pork makes everything better. If you are pork-averse, replace the pork with beef for veal mince but be sure to use a fattier cut like chuck. Bolognese is much more a meat sauce than a tomato sauce, so for this bolognese-inspired recipe use good quality meat. Because you're using tougher and less presentable braising cuts, even from best-quality animals it will still be pretty cheap.

  4. You can't make this when you get home from work and have it for dinner — this sauce takes at least 7 hours to cook. Thankfully most of that time is slow-cooking in the oven, so you can go and do something else. It tastes great freshly made, but even better the next day.

  5. Eat your sauce with whatever the hell you want to eat it with. The bolognese were definitely on to something pairing ragu alla bolognese with fresh tagliatelle, but spaghetti or rigatoni are a different and equally enjoyable alternative. Have it in a toasted sandwich with cheddar cheese, I don't care. This isn't about creating an authentic cultural experience, it's about making food you want to eat.

A recipe for food you want to eat is after the jump.