Vegetables are gently sautéed then combined with red wine, beef broth and herbs in which beef short ribs are slowly braised until meltingly tender; served to friends on Friday, it was the perfect meal for a winter’s night. On Sunday, a day during football season when we typically crash in front of TV all day, I made an easy second meal be re-heating the leftover meat and sauce and serving it over wide pappardelle noodles. Ty it!

Braised Beef Short-Ribs

Braised Beef Short-Ribs

Braised Beef Short-Ribs, serves 4 with leftovers 

This is a simpler version of a recipe from Ina Garten, otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa. You will need:

• Beef short ribs, cut “English-style”, 2 per person plus 4 extra

• Olive oil

• Onion, Vidalia, 1 large, peeled & chopped

• Carrots, 2 large, peeled and chopped

• Celery, 4 large ribs, sliced crosswise

• Leeks, 2 large, white part only, sliced crosswise (optional)

• Garlic, 3-4 cloves, peeled & chopped

• Tomato paste, 2 heaped tablespoons

• Full-bodied red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon), 2 cups

• Fresh rosemary, 1-2 sprigs

• Fresh thyme, 3-4 sprigs

• Beef Broth (I used Imagine Brand), 6 cups

If using meat from the fridge, let it sit out for about an hour beforehand.

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Pat the ribs dry, season with salt and pepper and place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; roast for 15 minutes in the oven then set aside.

Turn the oven down to 300F.

While the meat is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot that can hold all of the ribs. Add the onion, carrot & celery (and leeks if using them) and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes (do not allow to brown). Time spent here helps develop the flavour of the dish.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Raise the heat; stir in the tomato paste to combine then pour in the wine; keep at a brisk simmer for 10 minutes until the wine has reduced and thickened.

If you have kitchen string, tie together sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme or simply add sprigs of each herb to the pot. I give rough quantities because sometimes rosemary sprigs are large, woody and pungent and sometimes less so; use your best judgement.

Add the ribs to the pot in a single layer (you may have to put them in upright) and add 4 cups or more of beef broth, enough to just cover the meat. Place the lid on the pot and place the pot into the pre-heated oven for 3 hours or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bones.

Allow the leftover meat and sauce to cool completely then store separately, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Beef in a Red Wine Sauce over Noodles

Beef in a Red Wine Sauce over Noodles

Beef in a Red Wine Sauce over Noodles

Simple and delicious; if anything it tastes even better second time around. You will need:

• Leftover cooked beef short ribs, 4

• Leftover sauce (I had 4 cups)

• Pappardelle noodles (or pasta of your choice), enough for two

Remove the bones and discard any rough cartilage from the ribs then shred the meat.

Heat up the leftover sauce in a pot, add the beef and simmer gently over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes until heated through (if it cooks for much longer it may start to dry out).

Meantime, cook pasta in a large pot in rapidly boiling salted water as per the instructions on the package – my noodles were cooked in 6 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add it to the meat sauce off the heat, cover and let sit for about 3-5 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. It’s delicious as is but you could also grate over some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. If you have an extra bottle of red wine it would be perfect served alongside. Enjoy!

Meltingly tender braised lamb pairs beautifully with a side of potato-tomato-onion gratin; all you need are some gently steamed green beans or peas and dinner is ready. I’m serving these dishes as part of my New Year’s Eve dinner this year, omitting the cheese in the “gratin” and also making a slow-cooked white bean stew with kale for our vegan friends. Leftover lamb is turned into an easy Rogan Josh, a mildly spiced curry that’s perfect for a cold winter’s eve.

Braised Shoulder of Lamb in Vermouth

Braised Shoulder of Lamb in Vermouth

Braised Shoulder of Lamb in Vermouth

This “recipe” came about by accident as so many do when I had no braising liquid on hand other than water. It was delicious and I’ve been making it this way ever since. The slight sweetness of the vermouth complements the meat and partners well with peppercorns and bay leaves. Vermouth keeps in the fridge for months at a time and is perfect for when a cup or two of white wine is called for in a recipe. You will need:

• Shoulder of lamb, 4lbs

• Olive oil

• White vermouth, 2 cups (Noilly Pratt if you can find it, or Martini brand)

• Black peppercorns

• Bay leaves

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and brown the lamb well on all sides; transfer to a Dutch oven or roasting pan just large enough to hold it.  Pour in the vermouth and add a tablespoon of black peppercorns and 2 large bay leaves. Cover and bake for 3 hours or longer until the meat is soft to the touch and fully cooked.

Carefully remove the lamb to a chopping board and remove the string. The meat will be so tender at this point that you can almost shred it to serve it.

Remove as much fat as possible from the juices left in the pot and ladle over the lamb.

Cover and refrigerate leftover lamb for up to 3 days.

Potato-Tomato-Onion Gratin

Potato-Tomato-Onion Gratin

Potato-Tomato-Onion Gratin

Tomatoes, onion and garlic add flavour to this potato dish; cheese is optional (I did not use it when I made it). It is adapted from a recipe for Tortino di Patate (Potato Gratin) from a lovely little cookbook called Rustic Italian Cooking by Kathleen Sloan. You will need:

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Yukon Gold potatoes, 4 lbs

• Sweet VIdalia onions, 2

• Grape tomatoes, 1 pint

• Garlic cloves, 3

• Dried oregano, 1 tablespoon

• Pecorino-Romano cheese, freshly grated, 1 cup (optional)

Firstly a bit of prep: peel the potatoes then slice thinly crosswise; peel and thinly slice the onions, halve or quarter the grape tomatoes, peel and finely chop the garlic.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the potatoes, onions, tomatoes, garlic and oregano, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add in half a cup of Pecorino Romano if using. Use your very clean hands to combine well.

Transfer the potato mixture to a baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino Romano if using.

Cover dish with foil, bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Leftover gratin is delicious as a filling in an omelet or quiche, or add it to the Lamb Rogan Josh (see below).

Lamb Rogan Josh

Lamb Rogan Josh

Lamb Rogan Josh

Depending on your source this is either a dish of Persian or Indian origin of curried meat in a rich, aromatic, tomato-based sauce. You will need:

• Olive oil

• Onion, peeled and chopped

• Rogan Josh sauce, 1 can (I used Patak’s brand)

• Leftover lamb, about 1 lb

• Leftover Potato-Tomato Gratin (optional)

• Cooked white rice

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or shallow pot and sauté the onion gently until golden (not brown), about 10 minutes.

Then simply pour in the Rogan Josh sauce, add the lamb (and about a cup of potato-tomato “gratin” if using), ¼ cup of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes to allow the meat to heat through and the flavours to meld.

Serve hot over cooked white rice; basmati is traditional but regular converted white rice is good too.

Braise lamb shanks and make two delicious meals in one: a unique free-form version of Shepherd’s Pie – and a tomato-rich Barley Risotto with Lamb.

For even better results, braise the lamb a day or two ahead – it tastes better and allows you to reduce the amount of fat in the dish. Having done that, don’t skimp on the butter and half-and-half for the potatoes – they are the perfect partner for the tomatoey lamb and spinach.

Braised Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks, serves 4 with leftovers

Don’t be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients – once assembled, it is relatively easy to put this dish together, place it in the oven and basically forget about it. You will need:

• Lamb shanks, 6 (I used frozen), thawed

• Olive oil

• Sweet Vidalia Onion, 1 large, peeled & chopped

• Garlic cloves, 3-4 large, peeled and sliced

• Baby carrots, a good handful

• Fresh Rosemary, 1-2 sprigs

• Vermouth or dry white wine, 1 ½ cups

• Beef broth, 1 ½ cups

• Crushed tomatoes, 1 (28oz) can

• Red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon

• Worcestershire Sauce, 2 tablespoons

• Brown sugar, 1 heaped tablespoon

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Season the lamb with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat then brown three of the shanks well on all sides; set aside. Brown the remainder of the shanks well on all sides then set them aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, season well with salt and pepper then cook for about 5 minutes taking care not to burn. Add the sliced garlic and baby carrots and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to prevent the vegetables from browning. Add the rosemary; if the sprigs you buy are large, use one, if smaller, use two.

Turn up the heat, add the vermouth and allow to boil for 2 minutes. (Just as an aside, I keep vermouth on hand and use it whenever a recipe calls for white wine; it keeps for months in the ‘fridge.)

Add the beef broth, crushed tomatoes (whole or diced tomatoes won’t work as well), red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar; stir to combine then bring to a boil.

Return the shanks to the pot, arranging them so the wider ends are fully submerged and the lid will fit. Place the pot in the pre-heated oven and braise for up to 3 hours or until the lamb is tender and the meat is just starting to come away from the bones.

Can be made-ahead: allow to cool, uncovered, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, covered. Skim off any fat that has collected before heating through.

About an hour before serving, half-fill a large pan with salted cold water and about 2lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into same-sized pieces. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain then put back into the same pan.

Add a big knob of salted butter (or several if you prefer!) and a generous splash of half-and-half (purists will warm the cream first) and roughly mash the potatoes – there shouldn’t be lump’s but it doesn’t need to be super smooth either. Cover and keep warm.

At the last moment, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat then add a container of pre-washed baby spinach; stir to coat with oil.  It’s ready when it’s wilted slightly but still bright green, about 2 minutes.

Serve the meal by layering firstly a spoonful of the mashed potatoes then a spoonful of spinach and finally one lamb shank, pushing it into the vegetables to help it stand upright with the bone sticking up. Spoon over pan juices and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh rosemary.

Reserve the sauce and remaining 2 shanks separately; allow to cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Barley Risotto with Lamb in a Rich Tomato Sauce

Barley Risotto with Lamb in a Rich Tomato Sauce

Barley Risotto with Lamb in a Rich Tomato Sauce

This is probably the ultimate comfort food: incredibly smooth and rich tasting, easily good enough to serve to company but you may prefer to eat it all on your own! Best part is that there’s NO stirring and stirring until it’s done; it’s virtually foolproof. You will need:

• Pan juices & vegetables (from leftovers)

• Beef broth

• Lamb shanks, 2, (from leftovers)

• Pearl barley, 1 cup

Measure the amount of leftover juices and vegetables and add enough beef broth, if necessary, to make up 4 cups; pour into a large saucepan.

Take the meat off the shanks, discarding any excess fat; tear apart with your clean hands into chunks and add to the pot; stir to combine.

Turn the heat to high under the pot until the sauce starts to boil then add the pearl barley; stir to combine.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, enough to maintain a steady simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. All of the juices should be absorbed but the barley should still be slightly firm to the tooth, or al dente as the Italians say. (Keep a small pan of beef broth heated up on the stove and stir in a small amount if you think the risotto is too thick.)

Ladle the risotto into bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese

Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese

Italian sausages, colourful bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes with a touch of red wine combine to make this flavourful sauce, my version of bolognese – without all the work!

It can be made spicy or not and can easily be adapted to use the sausages whole, to mix sausages with ground beef or to substitute ground beef completely if you prefer making it one of the most versatile recipes in my collection. Just be sure if you’re using them to buy the best tasting Italian sausages you can find. You will need: 

• Vidalia sweet onion, 1 large

• Olive oil

• Red bell peppers, 2

• Orange bell peppers, 2

• Garlic, 3 cloves or more

• Hot Italian sausages, 4

• Sweet Italian sausages, 4

• Dry red wine, ½ cup

• Marinara sauce, 1 jar (I use Rao’s) *

• Wide noodles, e.g. Pappardelle, 12oz

• Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

• Flat-leaf Italian parsley (optional)

Firstly, peel and chop the onion, core, de-seed and chop the peppers, peel and finely chop the garlic, remove the casings from the sausages and set aside.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onion; cook for about 5 minutes until just beginning to soften. Add the chopped peppers, stir to combine, add salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for about another 5 minutes or so or until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add in the sausage meat, stir to combine and cook for a further 10 minutes or so or until the meat is cooked through and all traces of pink have disappeared. (If using whole sausages, brown them separately in a skillet then slice them thickly on the diagonal before returning them to the pot – they may still be a little pink inside but don’t worry as they will cook through as the sauce cooks.)

Turn up the heat to high, add in the wine and sauce and stir through. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes; the sauce will have thickened slightly. Turn off the heat.

Meantime, cook the pappardelle noodles in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the package; drain then return to the pan.

Grate about half a cup of Parmigiana Reggiano directly into the sauce and stir to combine; add the noodles and stir again.  Cover and let sit for about five minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Ladle into bowls, grate over a little extra cheese and garnish with fresh Italian parsley (optional).  Mangiare!

Set aside the leftover sauce, allow to cool then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

The tomato and pepper-rich sauce with Italian sausage infuses the pork with flavour while keeping it tender while it cooks. You will need:

• Pork rib roast, 3-4 ribs (or use chops)

• Olive oil

• Leftover spicy sausage sauce, 2 cups

• White cabbage

• Vidalia sweet onion

• Salted butter

• Fennel seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Season the pork roast with salt and pepper then heat about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and brown the pork well on all sides.  Place into an ovenproof dish (not too large or the meat will dry out); pour over the leftover sauce, cover and put into the oven.  Bake for about 90 minutes or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bones.

About half an hour before the meat is cooked, make Braised Cabbage: Peel off the outer layers of the cabbage and discard, slice the cabbage into inch-thick wedges; remove the skin from the onion and cut into eighths. In a saucepan just large enough to hold both vegetables, add about an inch of cold water then the cabbage and onion.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon each of fennel seeds and salt and a half teaspoon of freshly-ground black pepper, dot generously with butter and cover.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes; almost all of the water will be absorbed and the cabbage and onions will be tender not limp.

Carefully cut the cooked pork roast into individual chops, spoon over the sausage sauce and serve alongside the braised cabbage and onions.


* A word about Rao’s. It is a famous Italian restaurant in New York that only a few people can ever get into to eat; the rest of us have to make do with their line of sauces. They are premium quality and yes, premium priced, but well worth it in my opinion. I would even go so far as to say that if you’re Italian and your Nonni makes sauce from scratch that it won’t be better. Long way of saying, try it!