Pastry chef Fran, alongside husband Aaron Carson, has shaken up Auckland's café and restaurant scene with a string of uber-popular eateries including Winona Forever, Sugar, FANG, Rude Boy and Major Tom.
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
sea salt and ground pepper
900 grams Italian pork and fennel sausage
5 cloves garlic, finely grated
2 x 400-gram tins Italian tomatoes
1 bay leaf
500ml full cream milk
250 grams instant polenta
150 grams pecorino cheese, finely grated
handful chopped Italian parsley
witloof salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning
In a large pot (I use my aunty’s old orange Le Creuset) place 70ml of the oil over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the onion is translucent. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add salt and a good grind of black pepper, and remove from the stove.
Squeeze the sausage out of the casing into 1cm chunks and divide into two lots. Heat the remaining oil in a large fry pan and cook the meat until well browned. Repeat with the second batch. Add to the cooked vegetable mix and return to the stove on medium heat.
Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes; stir, and add the bay leaf. Add a few more grinds of salt and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for at least 1½ hours, then add water, a cup at a time, to stop the mixture becoming too dry. Keep adding until you get a nice gravy consistency, with the oil separating from the tomatoes. Season to taste.
Heat the milk and water in a saucepan, add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to boil. Add the polenta and stir quickly with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until it thickens to a porridge consistency. Immediately remove from the stove, add 100 grams of the pecorino, and stir.
To serve: Spread the polenta out on a board or serving platter in a round or oval shape, placing the ragù in the centre; let it spread out over the polenta. Top with the grated pecorino (adding more if you like) and the parsley. Each person can serve themselves at the table. The ragù can be made the day before and reheated on the night, maximising hang-out time with your guests and minimising clean up. serves 4-6
Fran, on why she chose this recipe: I chose this dish because it’s real comfort food, is easy to make and super-yummy. Plus with winter here and the situation we are facing in hospitality, I’m only eating comfort food that my dad or mum used to make. It makes me happy and is most excellent with red wine.
Our first post-lockdown get-together will involve having as many friends over at once as possible and feeding them all until they can’t move. I’m sure it will start off tame enough, but could end with blood on the dance floor…
No surprise that we spent lockdown cooking and cooking, thinking about what next. The thing I was most looking forward to after lockdown was travelling outside of my suburb, and getting spicy dumplings from TianFu Noodles in Newmarket.
Our spaghetteria Barbarino’s has re-opened for takeaway, as has Sugar at Chelsea Bay.
The biggest positive of lockdown and beyond has been having time to re-think the industry we are in. I think what we’ve learned and always known is in any industry you have to be willing to change and be flexible.