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Slow Roasted Lamb Ragu


Cooler weather has began to settle over Sydney recently. I have to admit that while I absolutely love floating my days away in Sydney's beautiful beaches when summer is here, I really do love the cooler months.

The beauty of layering our clothes, indulging in a good glass of red wine and snuggling on the couch. Most of all, is the excitement of creating soul nourishing and heart warming food with the flavours of autumn and winter.

Earthy mushrooms, rich tomatoes and delicious garlic infused roasts. Beautiful root vegetables and pungent curries. The list is never ending.

Don't you just love a warm bowl of deliciousness accompanied by a glass of full bodied and berried red? I know I do.

As I dreamt of the flavours to come, with autumn upon us I decided that it was time to create an Italian favourite. A ragu. This time though, and in line with my usual philosophy of slow food, I have focused on infusing as much flavour into my lamb by slow roasting the lamb.

After roasting away for a few hours it is then shredded and added to a simple, yet flavoursome tomato ragu base and cooked further. To make it completely indulgent and even more satisfying, this delicious ragu is then served with light, fluffy 'cheats' (read: store bought) gnocchi... because, for a lazy day, I could only commit to my slow food philosophy for the lamb. I'm not sorry.

Make sure you make a mountain of the ragu, as I did. Freeze what you don't use and enjoy it with gnocchi, or pappardelle, over and over again with more red wine.

You can thank me later.

SLOW ROASTED LAMB RAGU

Serves 2 with a HEAP of leftovers to freeze in portions

INGREDIENTS

For Roasting:

2-2.5kg lamb shoulder, bone in

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 brown onions, unpeeled and quartered

1 bulb garlic, with the cloves smashed

1 handful, thyme sprigs

1 handful, rosemary sprigs

200ml red wine

250ml beef stock

For the Ragu:

Shredded lamb meat from the roasting process

1 thick (1cm) slice of pancetta, finely diced

Olive oil

1/2 brown onion, finely diced

6 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

3 celery sticks, finely diced

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup semi-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

300ml red wine

250ml chicken stock

400g can chopped tomatoes

600-700g jar of passata

Salt and pepper

1 cup fresh green basil leaves

To Serve:

Gnocchi, cooked

Pecorino, shaved

METHOD

1. Roasting - preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a deep baking tray with baking paper. Place the quarter onions and smashed garlic cloves on the base of the pan along with half of the rosemary and thyme. Top with the lamb shoulder. Massage a drizzle of olive oil into the lamb. Scatter the remaining thyme and rosemary over the lamb and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Carefully pour the wine and beef stock around the base of the pan. Put into the oven for 30-40 minutes.

2. Remove the lamb after the first roasting period.

Decrease the heat of the oven to 100-120 degrees Celsius. Cover the lamb with foil and return to the over to slow roast for 3.5-4hours.

3. Increase the oven temperature to 170 degrees Celsius. Remove the foil and return the lamb to the oven to roast for a further 30 minutes.

4. Turn oven off and allow the lamb to cool for 20-30 minutes.

Shred the meat from the bone and set aside.

5. The ragu - Add the pancetta to a heavy based pot on the stove and then turn it on to a medium heat.

As the pot begins to heat the fat from the pancetta will begin to render away.

At this point a good drizzle of olive oil and the onions.

Cook until aromatic and beginning to turn transparent. Add the diced fennel, carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaves, stirring for 2-3 minutes until combined, softening and becoming aromatic.

6. Add the shredded lamb, stir and cook for 1 minute.

After the tomato paste is evenly spread throughout the mixture, add the semi-dried tomatoes and stir everything together again.

7. One combined, turn the heat on the stove up to medium high and pour in the red wine, stirring and allowing it to cook off until it has reduced by half.

Add the chicken stock and stir to combine, allowing this to reduce down.

When the liquid has reduced again, add the can of chopped tomatoes and passata, stirring everything together.

Bring the mixture to the boil, then cover and reduce to a low simmer cooking for 30-40 minutes.

8. Remove the lid and allow the liquid to reduce for a further 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir through the basil, seasoning as desired.

To Serve: serve the ragu over cooked gnocchi, topped with shaved pecorino and with a good glass of red wine.

Tip: Freeze the leftover ragu in portions. When serving with gnocchi, my portions tend to be larger, but when serving with pappardelle you can toss it through and use half a portion. From this recipe we will get the original dinner for 2 and an additional 4-6 meals depending on how we use it. Don't forget that you could also use the left over ragu in pies. You could use my earlier recipe for Lazy Leftover Beef Ragu Pies and use the lamb ragu in place of the beef recipe. Yum.

WINE SUGGESTION

Get out a good red wine. Make it a true Italian affair by choosing a delicious drop of montepulciano, tempranillo or a beautiful sangiovese. If you're feeling extra authentic look for a bottle of recognised chianti classico. To ensure this is what you've got, look for the "cock" of approval (I've been wanting to say that for the past 8 months since visiting the wine region in August 2016!). In other words, look for the rooster.

There's nothing better than matching authentic food to a good bottle from the same region. The Italians, French and Spanish do a damn good job of creating wine to match their food, unlike us who do it in reverse. There's nothing wrong with either philosophy, but if you want that real Italian flare, get the Italian bottle!

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People who love to eat

are always the best people.

- Julia Child