Recipe for the best ever weekend: one reasonably attractive young man, the cooking of laborious soul food with multiple bottles of wine, all mixed together in one of the most beautiful locations this country has to offer. Ok make that one very attractive young man.
Dylan had the excellent idea to rent a 'rumpty' (his words) wee place on Air BnB in Hamner Springs for Queens Birthday Weekend. Three days holed up with no screens, no work, zero life admin, a roaring fireplace and only a single pot stove element and endless pretty scenery to keep us entertained. Oh and each other. For the first time ever I found myself attempting to do the Sunday Star Times Crossword albeit with limited success.
Mr Dylan loves cooking as much as I do. I actually think he is better than me. What we love more than cooking for each other is cooking with each other. We made a fragrant yellow fish curry, had bratwurst with red sauerkraut in butter toasted sour dough, whipped up a delicious chicken laksa, but what really stole the show was the slow braised beef shin and mushroom tortellini made with handmade fresh pasta then tossed in browned butter then finished with Parmesan and pecorino. Holy mother of all things great. It took roughly eight hours from start to finish and it was demolished in mere minutes.
What I love most about this dish is that there was no recipe. We didn't measure anything except maybe flour for the pasta. We bought our beef shins from a proper old butchery back in Christchurch (think meat bundled up for you in newsprint). Dylan cranked up the barbecue outside and braved the cold to sear the shins. The flavour released from the surface of the meat was unbelievable. We found a slow cooker hidden in one of the cupboards and braised the meat with shallots, a carrot, thyme, red wine and stock for a few hours until it melted in the mouth. We finely chopped a big bag of mushrooms and sautéed them slowly with plenty of butter and a sprinkling of more thyme. The meat was drained and combined with the mushrooms and left in the laundry to chill - it was colder than inside the fridge out there. Dylan started mixing up the dough for the pasta and we drank wine in the lounge in front of the fire while it rested. Butter was cautiously browned and many fingers were dipped into it. Together we rolled out the pasta dough using the hand-cranked machine we packed with us and large circles were cut our using the lid of a large jar we found. We sat there at the kitchen table assembling our tortellini, Dylan making two perfect morsels for every runt one I produced. The tortellini were tossed into a pot of boiling water where they stayed until they floated to the surface. Drained and tossed in the browned butter, they were then dished out onto our two plates with shavings of parmesan and pecorino dusting the tops.
We have made many a dinner together but I think this by far has been my favourite. Not only for it's taste and texture but for the long and relaxing process we went through to get there. The wonderful thing about Italian food is that contrary to popular belief, there are no rules. Soul food has no rules or guidelines. If you take the time and the care it will always be wonderful.