Three recipes from Ixta Belfrage's cookbook Mezcla

This porcini ragu has all the intensity of a meat ragu that has simmered for hours.
This porcini ragu has all the intensity of a meat ragu that has simmered for hours. Photo: Supplied

Porcini ragu

I'm not sure if you're allowed to call a sauce that doesn't contain meat, doesn't start with a soffritto, and that only cooks for 10 minutes a ragu, and yet because of the concentrated flavour of the dried porcini, this has all the intensity of a meat ragu that has simmered for hours. This recipe is inspired by two of my favourite dishes at Ristorante Pizzeria Acone near where I grew up in Tuscany – penne all'Aconese and tagliatelle alla Beppa.

INGREDIENTS

Ixta Belfrage's new cookbook.
Ixta Belfrage's new cookbook. Photo: Supplied
  • 40g dried porcini
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped (not crushed!)
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (or less if you prefer)
  • 10g fresh parsley (stalks and leaves), finely chopped, plus extra to serve
  • ⅓ tsp fine salt
  • 1½ tbsp tomato paste
  • about 50 twists of freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g dried tagliatelle nests
  • 40g parmesan, very finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • 3 tbsp double cream

METHOD

  1. In a medium bowl, cover the porcini with boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 75g of the soaking liquid. Very finely chop the porcini to mince consistency, then set aside.
  2. Put the oil, garlic, chilli flakes, parsley and fine salt into a cold, large saute pan on a medium-low heat. Very gently fry for 5 minutes until soft and lightly golden, turning the heat down if the garlic starts to brown.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high, then add the chopped porcini, tomato paste and plenty of pepper. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, then set the pan aside while you boil the pasta.
  4. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for about 6 minutes, until al dente. Drain, reserving 350g of the pasta water.
  5. Return the saute pan with the porcini to a medium-high heat, then add the 350g of pasta water and the reserved 75g of porcini soaking liquid. Stir and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, leave to bubble away for 3 minutes. Add half the parmesan to the pan, stirring until it has melted before adding the rest. Lower the heat to medium, then stir in the cream, followed by the drained tagliatelle. Toss over the heat until the pasta and sauce have emulsified – about 1½ minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and serve at once, finished with as much extra oil and parmesan as your heart desires.

Serves 2 as a main with leftovers or 4 as a starter

Vegan option You can easily make this vegan by using plant-based cheese and cream.

Notes It's always good to have all your prep done before you start cooking, but it's especially important with this recipe, as things happen rather quickly. Make sure you have your porcini soaked and finely chopped, garlic and parsley finely chopped, and your parmesan finely grated before you turn the heat on.

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Chicken, pineapple and 'nduja bake

I love the combination of sweet and savoury, and there is no greater union than that of pork and pineapple. The pork here comes in the form of 'nduja, a spreadable chilli-spiked sausage from Calabria. Add chicken, pineapple, chipotle and tangerine to the mix and you've got yourself a party.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, at room temperature
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
  • 1 medium onion, halved and very thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 300g (½ large), extra-ripe pineapple, peeled
  • 4 sweet tangerines (or 2 oranges), squeezed to get 100g juice (see notes)
  • 100g chicken bone broth, stock or water
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 5g fresh coriander
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

'Nduja and chipotle paste

  • 50g 'nduja paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • ½ tsp chipotle flakes
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¾ tsp fine salt
  • about 20 twists of freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).
  2. Put all the ingredients for the paste into a large bowl and mix together. Add the chicken, garlic and three-quarters of the sliced onion and mix well so everything is coated evenly. Tip the onions and garlic into a 28cm ovenproof cast-iron frypan or similar-sized baking dish and spread out. Place the chicken thighs on top, skin side up and spaced apart.
  3. Cut the pineapple into 4 rounds, then cut each round into quarters, removing the hard core (you should have about 300g). Add the pineapple to the bowl with the remnants of the paste, mix to coat with whatever's left there, then arrange the pineapple around the chicken.
  4. Pour the tangerine juice around the chicken (don't get the skin wet), then bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the stock or water into the pan around the chicken (again, don't get the skin wet). Return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is browned and crispy. If you have a blowtorch, use it to char the pineapple a little.
  5. Drizzle the cream into the sauce. Toss the coriander and the remaining sliced onions together with a tiny bit of oil and salt and arrange on top. Serve from the pan, with the lime wedges alongside.

Serves 4

Get ahead Marinate the chicken in the 'nduja and chipotle paste up to 2 days ahead, but don't mix in the onion and garlic until you're ready to bake.

Notes I use tangerines over oranges as they have a more complex floral flavour, but feel free to use oranges if that's easier (use fresh fruit, though, not juice from a bottle or carton). If your tangerines/oranges aren't particularly sweet, you may want to add some maple syrup or honey – do this when you add the stock or water.

Whipped yoghurt with roasted strawberries and peanut fudge sauce

The lime-roasted strawberries and peanut fudge sauce are essentially a refined combination of peanut butter and jelly, and boy do they sing together! Here I serve them with a simple whipped yoghurt, but you could serve with plain yoghurt or shop-bought ice-cream.

INGREDIENTS

Roasted strawberries

  • 300g frozen strawberries, defrosted (frozen strawberries will produce a redder syrup, but you can use fresh strawberries – stalks removed and roughly chopped – just make sure they're extra ripe)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • ½ lime
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, roughly broken

Whipped yoghurt

  • 150g mascarpone, fridge-cold
  • 200g yoghurt, fridge-cold
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Peanut fudge sauce

  • 50g smooth peanut butter
  • 15g (1½ tbsp) cocoa powder
  • 75g maple syrup
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (or tamari)
  • 1½ tbsp water

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C fan-forced (220C conventional).
  2. For the roasted strawberries, place all the ingredients in an ovenproof dish just big enough to fit the strawberries in a single layer. They should be snug, but not piled on top of each other. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway. Set aside to cool.
  3. Place the mascarpone, yoghurt, vanilla paste and maple syrup in a large bowl and whisk together until completely smooth. Keep the bowl in the fridge until ready to serve.
  4. For the fudge sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. You may need to add more water or maple syrup, depending on the thickness of your peanut butter. You're looking for a smooth, thick but pourable consistency.
  5. In individual glasses, layer the chilled yoghurt with the warm strawberries and the fudge sauce and serve.

Serves 4

Make ahead The fudge sauce and strawberries will keep for 3 days refrigerated.

These recipes are an edited extract of Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage, published by Penguin Random House Australia, RRP $55. Buy now