It’s one my life’s great pleasures to cook food for friends so it was completely remarkable to me when I learned recently that one of my oldest and dearest friends had never had any of my food. Having been friends since we were 11 both moving to the other side of the world and having shared countless restaurant meals and bottles of wine it seemed bizarre to me that the only thing I’d ever “cooked” was defrosting some frozen ravioli one very late evening in Sydney. So, to fix this long standing horror, we had his boyfriend and him round for lunch the other week. Since I’d only ever made him frozen ravioli I thought it might be nice to make some fresh. The end result was a dish that I would instantly put on my hypothetical menu at my fictional future restaurant. Deeply savoury beef shin and oxtail tortelloni with intense Jerusalem artichoke purée, roasted hazelnuts and a light tomato and basil dressing – it felt like that perfect beginning of spring dish where it’s still cold outside but you want to use the great produce that is just starting to pop up and you want it to feel light.
Although it feels like the star of the show should be the beef ravioli, it’s actually the Jerusalem artichokes that really shine. I’ve written before about my love affair with the knobbly root and in this dish they provide a deeply savoury but slightly sweet note that ties everything together. I also don’t use any cream in my recipe, largely because I don’t want to mute the lovely natural flavour they have. They have such a short season, which is in full swing right now so I know I’ll be cooking with them as much as possible! You can buy them fairly easily nowadays, with most supermarkets delivering them online. They’re a little trickier to find in bricks and mortar stores, but I do find them lurking around in a few grocers here and there. If you don’t want to use Jerusalem artichokes then you could perhaps use peas or celeriac which would both work well, albeit in very different ways.
The tortelloni filling is a slow braised combination of beef shin and oxtail. Oxtail on its own is a little rich and beef shin provides some necessary textural body that’s still beefy but not quite as unctuously over the top. Beef short rib also works exceptionally well. It’s a simple braise with canned tomatoes and aromatic vegetables which is either done very slowly in the oven over around 4- hours or you can turbo it in a pressure cooker in around an hour and a half. Just like in the ham hock bonbons which formed part of my recent post about brunch, what’s important is how much of the residual stock and the fat from the meat you add. Both add moisture in different ways and both are important.
I know many people get a little put off by the concept of making your pasta – especially filling ravioli. It feels like you need a pasta machine (a rolling pin works but it’s pretty tiring) and they think that actually making the pasta is hard. Like all things, practice makes perfect but truth is it’s not too difficult. This guide over at Seriouseats is a really helpful “how-to” which demystifies the whole process. It really does make a difference to the finished dish and once you’ve done it a few times you can bash it out pretty quickly. All that being said, sometimes you just want to cheat and there are a couple of ways to if you don’t want to go the full hog. Firstly you can change it up from tortelloni to an open lasagne. It will be a little messier to eat and you won’t get that same “everything contained in one perfect bite” feeling but it will be faster to make and almost the same. Once you’re doing that, it’s also not the end of the world if you want to use store bought lasagne sheets and simply cook them from dried. Again, texturally it’s a little worse but I won’t tell if you don’t. Some supermarkets even sell fresh lasagne sheets which are a pretty good halfway house.
The only things left are the garnishes of roasted hazelnuts and a light sauce vierge (basil and tomato dressing). I’ve been playing around quite a lot with roasted nuts in pasta dishes recently – inspired by both their classical use in pesto but also my experiences with jazzing up couscous. Couscous benefits greatly from both the texture and savoury notes that roasted nuts, in particular hazelnuts give. Since couscous and pasta basically have the same ingredients (flour and water), I thought why not give it a go. In fact, after a little bit of research, I discovered that nut based sauces are not actually that uncommon and one of the recipes I ended up devising based on slow cooked leeks and hazelnuts might just be the topic of a future blog post. In this dish, they were actually better incorporated as larger pieces (hazelnut halves) that had been deeply toasted than combined within the sauce. I can’t stress enough how important it is to toast them fully. It dramatically enhances both the flavour and, crucially, the texture. Around fifteen minutes in a 180 degree oven should be enough – but make sure they’re in one even layer when you toast them. Also, please don’t buy the pre-blanched skin removed hazelnuts. They can be ok for baking but their texture always stays on the creamy, almost mealy side which doesn’t quite work for a savoury dish like this. Once this whole dish comes together, it has a lot of deep flavours so it’s crying out for a light sauce. A mixture of sherry vinegar, olive oil, finely chopped basil and finely chopped pomodorino tomatoes cuts through the richness of the tortelloni and artichokes. A classic sauce from reducing the braising liquid is fine for Winter but a light sauce makes this feel like the Spring dish it really is. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Braised beef shin and oxtail tortelloni with Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnuts
- Jerusalem artichoke purée – Follow the recipe here
- Pasta dough rolled thinly – follow this recipe
- 4 roasted hazelnuts per person skins off and cut in halves.
For the filling: (this makes more than you need but I freeze the rest)
- 1kg beef shin (bone in)
- 1 kg oxtail (bone in)
- Mirepoix of carrots and onions diced (around 3 large carrots and one or two large onions)
- 2 tins whole roma tomatoes crushed by hand
- Aromatics (I uses a couple of bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme tied with twine)
- Glass of brandy (optional)
- Glass of sherry (optional)
For the sauce:
- Sherry vinegar
- Olive oil
- ¼ Finely minced red onion
- 30g basil leaves finely chiffonaded (ribbons – see below for tip)
- Handful of cherry tomatoes, finely diced
- A bunch of enoki mushrooms cut into large bunches
- A knob of butter
- A squeeze of lemon juice
For the ravioli:
- Season and brown the beef in batches, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the mirepoix and sweat over a medium heat until fragrant, add the aromatics and deglaze first with the brandy and then the sherry. Add the meat back along with the tomatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and place in a low oven (140-150 degrees celsius) for 4-5 hours or until soft and tender. Alternatively you can cook in a pressure cooker in around 90 minutes but you will need less liquid.
- Strain the meat and vegetables from the liquid. Reduce the remaining liquid a little if overly thin. Shred the meat addding enough of the liquid and the fat from the meat to make it unctuous and moist. It will firm up in the fridge so don’t be afraid to go a little wetter than you think you should. Season well with salt and pepper and chill until needed.
- Roll the pasta dough thinly and cut into large circles, wet the outside edge of the pasta. Place a small ball of filling inside each circle ad fold in half. Make sure to press all the air out working from the filling outwards. Seal the pasta. Fold the two ends around your finger until they meet and then seal them together. Fold the rim slightly outwards to perfect the tortelloni shape. But realy you can do it anyway you want – here’s how jamie does it (although these are little tortellini rather than larger tortelloni)
- The ravioli will only take a minute to cook in lightly simmering water (an aggressive boil makes them more likely to split!).
For the sauce and garnish:
- Finely dice the cherry tomatoes – you could also use larger peeled and deseeded tomatoes but that can be a little bit of a pain and I like the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes. You don’t want them processed or blended but you do want a nice fine dice so you don’t get bits of tomato skin stuck between your teeth.
- Combine the tomatoes with very finely miced red onion and season well with salt and pepper before adding the sherry vinegar. Add the olive oil just before serving and stir to combine.
- Add in the finely chiffonaded basil. To cut basil into a chiffonade you roll the leaves together like a cigar and then cut across them finely – a bit like this. Stir into the sauce and adjust seasoning/sharpness.
- Over a high heat melt the butter and sear the enoki mushroom bunches until cooked through. Remember to season them well with salt and pepper. Add a small dash of lemon juice to enhance the flavour.
- Place the Jerusalem artichoke purée in the bottom of the bowl. Place 7 tortelloni around the purée in a ring.
- Drape over the enoki mushrooms and scatter the roasted hazelnut halves around the plate
- Spoon some of the sauce over the tortelloni and serve immediately.
TimedEating tips and tricks for cooking Tortelloni ahead of time;
- The purée can be made up to a week in advance. Simply reheat gently in a pan, if it becomes a little thick add a dash of water to think it out. It also freezes very well and once thawed you simply reheat as from the fridge.
- The filling for the ravioli freezes excellently and can be made at least a week in advance.
- The ravioli themselves actually store better frozen than not. Freeze them in one layer initially to avoid sticking but once frozen they can be combined in a bag. If not frozen they must be consumed on the day to avoid the moisture in the filling making the dough unworkably sticky. Store them on greaseproof paper dusted with a little semolina or plain flour for up to 6 hours before cooking.
- For the sauce you can combine all the elements except the olive oil and basil up to an hour before. The olive oil will break down the tomatoes and make them mushy if not added last minute. Also remember as I always say, don’t bring a knife to a fire fight – you can do all the cutting before hand!