A game for cooks & a recipe for Sujuk Ragu with Wholemeal 'Pappardelle'
When we were newly living in our studio flat, Lo and I would play a game called Larousse Roulette. We were lonely and anxious, just eighteen, had very little money and drank very little wine. The rules are as follows
Open your copy of Larousse Gastranomique, which you received on your birthday, at random and select a recipe. If the recipes are boring or impossible (generally due to cost or the difficulty of getting, say, a pig’s head on a Monday night) you may draw twice more. The best way to ensure a random draw is to have one player fan out the pages and the other stick their finger between them, while their eyes are closed.
When you have the recipe, walk to the Waitrose nearby to buy the ingredients. In our first flat this was the closest large supermarket, and we found its expense and largeness very comforting. A large Sainsbury’s or Tesco may work but I doubt it.
With the ingredients to hand, cook the recipe exactly. Do not let your own expertise or taste intervene. This is how I learnt to infuse spinach by spearing a clove of garlic on a fork and stirring it through.
We cooked odd things: duck with peaches in syrup, ham with garlic and cream, and enjoyed such oddness immensely. My ideas of food were purely contemporary, situated in the (very clever, delicious) middle-eastern influenced food of Ottelenghi. To eat dishes my grandparents, or at least their adventurous peers, may have eaten was transgression indeed. I am reminded of this impulse by a nice Instagram I’ve been enjoying recently, Odes to Dated Restaurants.
You could probably play the game with another cookbook, but the game’s fun lies in the book’s nature as an encyclopaedia. One might have to cook some Frenchman’s bastardised idea of a curry or his blessed recipe for trotters. And in so doing will enjoy a vanquished age.
I was very hungover on Sunday — I’d spent Saturday drinking pints in the sun and then watching Eurovision, something I’d never done before but found oddly… compelling. A chic poet kept telling everyone how unusual England’s near victory was, genuinely excited.
But that was then and now my fridge contained two pork sausages and two sujuks, red Turkish sausages, made of beef, quite like spicy spam. I really like these, even after a Turkish friend said “you nasty” when she saw me eating them. I had tomatoes, onions and so on. A ragu.
The ragu I made is a bastardised and comforting thing — very rich and tomatoey, a little spicy from the sujuk. The pasta thick and lazily cut, very homely, nutty from the wholemeal. Food comes from necessity.
Sujuk Ragu with Wholemeal 'Pappardelle’
For the ragu make a sofrito of carrot, celery, onion and fennel. Fry til soft then add the meat of 2 big pork sausages and 2 sujuks, removed from their skins and mashed with a fork. Stir in and add a generous pinch of fennel seeds, two tins of whole tomatoes, also mashed, small glass of wine, a little water and bring to the boil. Now simmer for two hours. Stir every now and then.
Now make the pasta. For the dough I mix 2/3 semolina 1/3 wholemeal, one egg and water then knead until the dough is firm and springy. Roll lazily with a long rolling pin and cut with a knife, rough thick strands without uniformity.
You will have a very tomato-y sauce, very thick, and can loosen it with a little pasta water. The pasta, boiled for three minutes in salted water, should have a little butter and parmesan mixed into it before the addition of the sauce. Look at the emulsion that just comes! This reminds me of eating a fresh mushroom pasta in a tiny crappy Airbnb in Ostiense, how it was miraculously the best thing I ate that month in Rome.