We hosted our first dinner party last weekend and I was seriously nervous. I am having a really hard time getting back into my cooking stride. It was a long break from packing up our kitchen in London to getting set up here in Abu Dhabi, and somewhere along the travels, I lost my cooking confidence.
So I started reading through some of my favourite cookbooks to strum up some inspiration, and came upon this Gordon recipe for slow-braised beef-cheeks pasta that I couldn't go past. I headed off to my local shops in search of beef cheeks, but there wasn't a huge range of options, so I went with lamb shanks instead. I knew I wouldn't be able to find a gluten free pappardelle, and so decided I would cook lasagne sheets and slice them into thick pieces to serve the lamb with.
It is a really easy dinner to serve guests because you can do the majority of the preparation well before, and then just freshly cook the pasta when you are ready to eat. I don't usually think pasta is a dinner party kind of meal, but this one is not exactly mac & cheese!! It is so rich and almost velvety. The lamb just melts in your mouth and the little bursts of parsley gives a fresh zing to each mouthful.
Olive oil, for frying
1kg beef cheeks (or two large lamb shanks)
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly crushed
1 bay leaf (or use two dried ones if you can't get fresh)
400ml red wine
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock
500g dried pappardelle (or pasta of your choosing)
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1) In a heavy-based pan, heat a good splash of olive oil. Season the meat on both sides and brown all over in the hot pan. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
2) In the same pan, lightly brown the onion, then add the garlic and bay leaves until just softened and starting to brown a little.
3) Return the meat to the pan, and add the wine to deglaze the pan.
Allow it to reduce a little and then add the tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down somewhat. Let cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 4 hours. Check it every hour or so to make sure its not reducing too quickly and drying the meat. If so, just add more water and turn the heat down.
When the meat just falls apart, you'll know it is ready! Pull it all off the bone (if you are using shanks) and pull it apart into tender strips.
4) Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet. For the lasagne sheets, it takes a little extra care, keeping the sheets constantly moving and separated from each other. When cooked, slice them into a few thick strips.
5) Gently stir the sauce through the pasta and serve immediately. Top with a little chopped parsley and season to your tasting.