My slow-food slide into autumn continues. This week I’m whipping up a rich beef short rib ragu. With it I’m making silk handkerchief pasta – largish sheets of fresh pasta informally torn by hand. Once cooked they drape beautifully, just like silk. If you’ve never made fresh pasta before, now is the time. A pasta machine helps of course, but you can easily roll dough for silk handkerchief pasta with a rolling pin. Perfection is definitely not required!
All you need is…
For the beef short rib ragu
700g beef short rib
2 Tbs flour
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped shallots (can substitute with normal onion)
1 large carrot, finely grated
3 fat garlic cloves, finely minced
1 x 250ml cup measure dry red wine
3 fresh bay leaves, lightly crushed by folding them over
1 tin plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 beef stock cube
two-thirds tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup water
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp sugar
For the pasta
400g cake flour with a generous pinch of salt added
4 jumbo free range eggs
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
To make the beef short rib ragu: Heat a pan with the oil. Dust the short rib in the flour and then brown the meat. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the carrot and shallots to the same pan and gently fry for a few minutes until the shallot starts softening. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the red wine and let it boil for two minutes. Now add the rest of the ingredients, place a lid on, turn the heat as low as it can go and walk away. If you’re doing it on the stovetop, we’re talking a good 2-3 hours here. Once the meat falls off the bone, it’s time to use two forks to flake it. Taste for salt and add as needed – it will definitely need extra salt, how much depends on the stock cube you used.
To make the fresh pasta: Form a mound of flour and make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the flour, add the oil and use your fingers to fold the flour in. Stir until it combines and then knead dough for five minutes. As you work the dough it will become smooth like velvet. When it gets there, you know it’s ready. (If your eggs area bit small and the dough simply won’t come together, add some water. BUT only add a teaspoon at a time! It’s so easy to make the dough too wet.) Wrap dough in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Silk handkerchief pasta really should be whisper thin. Think thin like the eyelids of a day-old kitten and you get the idea. I take it all the way to the lowest setting on my pasta machine. Simply cut the dough ball into four. Use your hands to shape something vaguely rectangular and use your palms or a rolling pin to press each rectangle flat. Dust lightly with flour and push each piece of dough through your pasta machine, starting at the widest setting (ergo the highest number) and taking it down one notch each time you pass it through. A light dusting of flour occasionally will prevent it from sticking. (If you don’t have a pasta machine, you absolutely can still make fresh pasta. All it needs is a rolling pin and some muscle power.)
Use your hands to informally tear largish leafs of pasta and drop them into a large pot of salted, rapidly boiling water. These sheets will cook in about three minutes. Scoop them out, drain them in a colander, drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and give them an extra pinch of salt. Toss to coat evenly, then serve immediately with the beef short rib ragu plus plenty of parmesan and some chopped parsley for a hint of green.
MY WINE CHOICE: THE HUNTSMAN 2018
My choice with this rich short rib ragu is a ruby red gem from Journey’s End Vineyards. The Huntsman is a Rhône-style blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Viognier. The two reds, Mourverde and Shiraz, were whole-berry fermented in oak barrels. The Viognier was fermented separately in stainless steel and added to the blend at the end. Now Viognier is of course is a white grape variety and you may find its inclusion in a red wine unusual. Not so. Shiraz-based wines of France’s Rhône region, specifically those of the Côte-Rôtie, often feature a splash (as in no more than 5%) of Viognier. With it’s incredibly heady aromas and full body Viognier augments reds, adding to the aromatic profile and lending a smooth roundness. You won’t know it’s there. You’ll just smack your lips and anticipate the second sip. On the nose of this SMV-blend you’ll pick up pepper (that very specific Shiraz marker!), but also violets, red currants and cherries. On the palate you’ll find loads of juicy red and dark fruits. Tannins are elegant and the finish is long and smooth. This SMV-blend is available on the Journey’s End website at R95 at time of publication. A real treat with a weekend slow-food dish like my short rib ragu.