Last weekend I wanted to make something in the slow cooker, to just spend a while in the kitchen and really investing in a meal that would warm my winter soul fill the house with delicious aromas. I had woken up that morning thinking it would be pulled pork but when the butcher didn’t have any pork neck, I thought back to this blog I had found the other day – Skamps Kitchen – and decided that I would recreate the recipe I had seen there for lamb ragu in the slow cooker, but that I would take the courageous step of making it into ravioli at the end. This was a pretty big decision, as I had never even made fresh pasta before and I didn’t have any sort of pasta making implement besides a rolling pin. But what else do you need really? Stay tuned to find out.
Anyway, I had a chat with the butcher about what I wanted to do, and he did cut the lamb leg in half for me, well at least cut a third off the end. However, I have a ridiculously small slow cooker and when I got home I confirmed what I probably already knew – I needed to cut my lamb leg in half again. Let me give you the tip now – make sure you know what you can fit in your slow cooker, and if it wont fit ask the butcher to cut it, because chopping a lamb leg is no easy task. Lucky I have my super-knife, otherwise, I never would have been able to do it.
After that ordeal, I was able to get on to the cooking. I’ll replicate the recipe from Skamp’s Kitchen here – I did change it slightly for my own personal taste but its pretty much the same for all intents and purposes – except that I made mine into ravioli at the end.
Ingredients for the lamb
- 2 tbsp of ground fennel seeds – I am not a big fan of fennel seeds so you could put a couple more spoonfull’s if you’re into it
- 3 tbsp. dried parsley
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 1 tbsp pepper
- 1 tbsp pink salt flakes
- 3 tsp. red chilli flakes – I may have added a little bit more, but I have a love for chilli!
- lamb leg – mine was about 2.5kg’s with the bone in, see picture above
- 12 cloves garlic, minced – I am a HUGE garlic fan, you might want a couple less
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tins crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 brown onion
- 2 tsp sugar
Ingredients for the pasta dough/ravioli
- 2 cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- water – may be needed, but possibly not
Making the lamb ragu
1. Place the fennel seeds, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper and mix it all up in a bowl.
2. Cut the lamb down the middle, and rub the herb mix through the middle and half of the minced garlic. Close it back up (well, attempt to anyway), and rub all around the outside with the rest of the herb mix. Just keeping rubbing it in until the meat wont hold on the any more, I managed to get through most of mine but it will depend on how big your piece of lamb is.
3. Heat up a pan with a generous amount of oil on a medium heat, and brown each side of your lamb for about 5 minutes. Do this for each piece of lamb if its cut up, and then set aside for a while
4. Pop the diced onion into the pan, along with the rest of the garlic, and cook for 5 minutes or until caramelised a bit. Add a tin of the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Once the tomatoes are reduced by half, then add in the stock, water and wine.
5. Once this is all mixed, put your lamb and the sauce in the slow cooker on high for 5 hours or so until the meat is falling off the bone. The trick with this part is to have enough sauce to cover the lamb in the slow cooker – I couldn’t quite fit all of my sauce in my tiny slow cooker, but I kept the rest and incorporated it right at the end. Just try and keep the ratios of wine/stock/water if you change the volume.
5 hours is a long time! I watched The Notebook and Silver Linings Playbook – it was a great rainy Sunday afternoon. I also made my ravioli dough towards the end. If you are not making the ravioli, scroll down a little further to see the final steps for the lamb
Making the pasta dough
1. Pile the flour on a clean bench or chopping board. Make a well in the middle of the flour with high sides – my egg spilt everywhere because mine wasn’t high enough!
2. Crack the eggs into the well in the centre, and pop in the oil and salt. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the eggs into the flour by pulling flour in from the sides with a whisking sort of motion.
I am not really sure if this mattered too much, but it was a bit messy so try and avoid it.
3. Keep mixing, the dough will look really messy for ages, and you will feel like it will never resemble anything like pasta but you will get there.
4. Once it is all kinda coming together, use your hands to knead the dough for about 10 minutes (I know right, pasta requires a lot of love). Mine was super dry, so I needed to add a fair bit of water – but only add it a tablespoon at a time! If its too sticky, add some flour. Apparently this is more of an art that a science, and the amount of water you may or may not need depends on the egg, the flour, the humidity, what side of the bed you woke up, whether you put your hair in a ponytail or left it out, which wrist you wear your watch on…. you get it. Just do what feels right until your dough looks something like this.
Then you need to let it sit for half an hour or so, I am not sure why but it seems to be the done thing. I just put mine under a tea towel so I didn’t have to look at it, as I was a little flustered by then and a bit mad at my dough.
After our time out I was ready to forgive it, and move on with ravioli making. But first, the lamb!
Finishing the lamb
So if its been about 5 hours, take the lamb out of the slow cooker. You should be able to shred the meat off the bone with two forks really easily, if you cant it might need to go back in for a little longer. I learnt this the hard way trying to shred the meat off the bigger piece, and then moving onto the smaller pieces and realising how easy it should be! But I got there in the end – just get as much meat off as you can,and fat as well, but make sure its shredded up and you don’t have big chunks of it.
Now you want to put the liquid that was left in your slow cooker in a pan or pot on the stove, and add your second tin of tomatoes. Depending on how much liquid and lamb you have you can add some more water – I added the sauce I had at the beginning that I couldn’t fit in the slow cooker! Add the sugar as well, and stir and simmer until reduced by a quarter. Then add the lamb back in and mix well. You want the mixture to be wet, but you don’t want the lamb swimming in the sauce.
You could be satisfied at this point serving it with some pasta or polenta, but I was going onwards and upwards to achieve my ravioli dream
Making the ravioli
I rolled the pasta out, which was more difficult than the recipe I was following made it sound! It did not want to go anywhere, and I kept having to pull it out with my hands, then roll it again, then stretch it out. Make sure you keep flouring the bench and moving the dough around, as you don’t want to get to the end and have your nice thin dough stuck to the bench. But other than that just keep on rolling baby.
I got there in the end, even if it wasn’t quite uniform. I am going to be honest with you now – I made some pretty shocking looking ravioli out of this. But it tasted amazing, and it wasn’t a problem with the dough but my ravioli finesse. And I have since bought a ravioli stamp, and one day I will make that pasta maker purchase and my ravioli will be glorious.
So once you have it rolled out, cut it out into strips about 8cm across, and pop some lamb ragu onto the dough, with enough space in between to press together. Fold it over on itself, and cut as needed and press together. Before you fold it over rub some water on the edges that you will want to stick together to help them do so.
This is kind of do as you want, it’s up to you how big or small they are, how full they are and how much pasta dough there is around the outside. I used a fork to press the sides of mine together, which worked out ok but not great. I would advise you to buy a ravioli stamp – I got mine at The Re-store in Leederville for $8.
So things improved, and I got there in the end. Once I had put them all together, in their varying shapes and sizes, they just needed a couple of minutes in boiling water – I just wait until they are floating then they are probably done.
Put it on a plate, and maybe put a little more lamb ragu on top, because it is just so delicious