Bigoli with duck ragu.

The Bigolaro.

This is a bigolaro, a pasta press for extruding a thick wholemeal spaghetti.  The dough goes in the ‘Torchi’ and by cranking the handle is pushed through a bronze die to make either spaghetti or rigatoni which in the Venitian region is called bigoli and gargati respectively. And what fun it is when friends come over.

The dies, gargati in front and the one at the back makes the bigoli.

And the reason I have a bigoli press? To make Bigoli con l’Anatra, Bigoli with duck. Back in 1875 when the hand press was first patented the dish would have been different to what I have cooked for my friends. The duck is cooked in the same way, poached in water with stock vegetables and herbs. Then the pasta is cooked in the stock, that is made from cooking the duck. This step is essential. Traditionally the pasta would then be served as a first course with the ducks liver minced and cooked in butter with sage and served with parmesan. The duck would be eaten as the second course with a sauce such as paera or mustard fruits.

I cook the pasta in the stock and make a tomato and wine ragu using more of the stock and adding the chopped liver and duck meat at the end which is moist, tender and ducklicious. Roasted radicchio is a perfect partner and a local staple to Veneto.

A pear and rocket salad is served on the side, dressed with walnut oil and pecorino.


For the duck: 1 duck, 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 small leek, the vegetables all chopped roughly for stock, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp whole black peppercorns. In a large stock pot add all the ingredients and cover the duck with cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, skim off the foam and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until the duck is very tender and coming away from the bones easily.

For the pasta: 150g wholemeal flour, 150g buckwheat or ’00’ flour, 2 eggs (60g) 1/2 cup warm milk. Mix as you would a normal egg pasta dough but only knead to bring the ingredients together. Add more wholemeal flour if the dough feels too sticky. Rest in the fridge 1/2 hour.


For the sauce: 2 tblsp olive oil, 2 small onions, 1cm thick slice of mild pancetta, 2 cloves garlic, 1 stalk celery, 1 small leek, 1 carrot, 2 bay leaves, 1 cup red wine, 2 cups duck stock (from the pot with the duck in it), 3 cups tomatoes (peeled and chopped) or 2 tins chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Chop all the vegetables, garlic and pancetta into a small dice and fry in the olive oil for 10 minutes. Add the bay leaves and red wine, let the alcohol boil off. Add the stock and tomatoes and simmer 1/2 an hour, adding more stock if needed. Check for seasoning. I used beautiful ripe tomatoes from my parents garden which made the sauce so amazingly sweet and delicious but if you have to use tinned you may need a bit of sugar and salt and pepper to season.

If you are adding duck liver, fry it in butter until still pink, chop finely and add to the sauce. When the duck is ready take the meat off the bones and shred, then add to the sauce. Strain the stock and skim off the fat. The duck can be cooked a day ahead, if you do this, strain the stock and refrigerate overnight to make the fat removal easier. Put the duck stock back into a stock pot and bring to the boil when you are ready to cook the pasta.

Pick through the bones for any tasty duck bits.


And now for the bigoli:


Dust the bigoli with the wholemeal flour as it comes out of the press so it does not stick together.

On the off chance you do not have a bigoli press you can make some fresh egg pasta, roll through a normal pasta machine and cut into linguine or fettucine, or use a good quality dried pasta. Cook the bigoli in the duck stock, toss through the sauce and serve with pecorino or parmigiano reggiano.


A Ducklicious Christmas.

My sister is an artist (makes jewellery) and a florist (makes money) and this year she out did herself with the Christmas table decorations. Using some red gerberas and cordifoliums that were purchased and by raiding our parents native garden and my mothers collection of old glassware she created this master(centre)piece.

She goes by the name Wild Poppy Florist, or Sarah Parkinson, 0411 614 724.

As for the roast duck legs, radicchio risotto, sour cherry sauce, it was a hit. The chopping took some time as the recipe was multiplied by four and I spilt some (lots of) duck fat in my mums new oven and on her pristine floor, but no one saw that. Until today. When I confessed. But overall it was a success.

Some people could not wait to tuck in!

Roast duck legs, radicchio risotto, sour cherry and orange sauce spells Christmas…..In Italy?

Roast Duck legs, radicchio risotto, sour cherry and orange sauce

A whole duck looks and tastes lovely roasted but when cooking for more than 4 people roasting duck legs is simpler and always a hit. They are so easy you just about throw them in the oven and turn it on, then about an hour later you have golden brown, crisply cooked, salty skinned, melt in the mouth duck legs. This christmas we have about 14 for lunch not including the under sixers so roasting a big tray of duck legs, stirring up a risotto and adding a quick sauce on the side is the answer to feeding the family. This recipe is festive (in a Northern Italian sort of way) and has obvious classic pairings of duck with orange /duck with cherries but the roasted duck legs can go with just about anything. I included the same simple roast duck legs with a date and pomegranate sauce as part of a middle eastern themed lunch I made for my friends which Sarah has posted on her beautiful blog for the love of food. So on with the recipe:

For the duck

4 duck legs (for 1 each, more if you like)

Sea salt flakes and black pepper

1-2 onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Season the meat side of the duck with salt and pepper and lay on a bed of the onion and garlic in a roasting dish. Sprinkle the skin with sea salt.


Roast in a really hot oven for 15 minutes then turn the heat down to 180 and roast for an hour. If they have not reached that mouth-watering golden colour with lovely crisp skin, turn up the heat for a bit and roast until they look like this:



For the risotto

2 tblsp olive oil

2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 radicchio, sliced

salt and pepper

3/4 cup carnaroli

1/2 cup red wine

400 ml chicken stock

knob of butter

Heat the oil and have the stock warm and at the ready. Fry the bacon and shallots gently for a few minutes. Turn up the heat and add the radicchio, stir into the bacon and shallot then cover with a lid and turn the heat down as low as it will go. After 8-10 minutes when it looks like this, season well, radicchio loves salt and pepper:


Turn the heat up, add the rice and stir 5 minutes. Add the wine, let it bubble up for a bit then add some stock. Keep adding stock until it has been absorbed then add warm water until the risotto is nearly done. When the rice is still just under done and the risotto seems too runny still, put the knob of butter on the top, cover with a lid and leave it for 10-12 minutes off the heat.


For the sauce

80g dried sour cherries, pitted

2 oranges, juiced (I use blood oranges when in season)

3/4 cup red wine

100 ml chicken stock

1 tblsp brown sugar

Soak the cherries in the orange juice for 5 minutes while you put a saucepan onto a high heat. When the pan is hot add the red wine and let it reduce for  a minute. Add the stock, sugar, cherries and orange juice and reduce for 5 minutes until slightly syrupy. By now the risotto is ready and the duck is cooked, no need to rest, serve while the skin is crisp on a large spoon of risotto with the cherries and sauce around the side.

note: the onions in the roasting pan can be added to the dish or left to be nibbled at by passers by for the rest of the afternoon or evening (they are so very tasty).


Duck and porcini tortellini


This recipe is to be done in stages (a weekend, on holiday, early minutes from work). One day you braise some duck. Next day you make pasta. It is easy if you take your time. And it is OH so worth it. The recipe also works with osso bucco in exactly the same way.

Day 1- Braise the duck.

6 duck legs

3 T olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

2 onions, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 celery stems, chopped

1 leek, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 T tomato paste

500ml chicken stock

1 bay leaf, dried

1 stem oregano, fresh or dried

2 stalks parsley, fresh

In a large, heavy based pot render the duck legs using a little of the oil to get them going. Season the meat side before you turn them over then, once brown, remove from pot and tip out the duck fat. Add the rest of the oil then the vegetables and garlic and cook 5 minutes, stirring, over a medium heat, until softened and slightly coloured. Add tomato paste and stir for another minute. Return the duck to the pot and fill with stock and cold water until the water covers the duck by a few centimeters, add the herbs. Simmer 2 hours, topping up with water if necessary.


Dinner Day 1- Braised duck legs with mashed potato and broad beans


Make some buttery mashed potato, cook some broad beans in dill and olive oil and serve with the braised duck legs and some of the stock from cooking the duck (reduced a little). You can serve the duck with whatever you like- polenta, braised cabbage and smoked bacon, steamed spring vegetables etc, whatever is in season and takes your fancy. Just don’t eat all the duck. Yet.

Refrigerate the remaining duck in the stock.


Day 2 or 3-make (and eat) the tortellini


You should have 4 or at least 3 duck legs left with most of the stock they were cooked in. Degrease the stock, strain the stock and reserve 2 tblsp. of the vegetables from the cooking.

for the pasta

5 eggs, 60g

500g ‘OO’ pasta flour

for the filling

15- 20g porcini

1 T butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

parmigiano reggiano or grana, finely grated to make 1/4 cup plus extra to serve

salt and pepper

1 tsp. truffle paste (optional)

1 small egg, beaten


to serve

2 T parsley and young celery leaves, chopped

1 t butter

Soak the porcini in warm water.

Make the pasta, knead for 10 minutes, wrap in cling film and rest for 30 minutes in a cool place or in the fridge.

Take the meat off the duck legs and remove the skin. Chop finely with a knife to a course paste consistency. Put in a bowl with the reserved vegetables.

Take the porcini out of the soaking water, squeeze and chop finely, reserve the porcini water.

Heat the butter in a pan and fry the shallot gently until softened, add the porcini and continue to fry a few minutes, stirring, add to meat. Stir in the parmesan and truffle paste, if using, season the mixture with salt and pepper. Add enough egg to wet and bind. Mix well.

Roll the pasta through a machine to a setting for tortellini, I use number 7 on my machine. Cut the pasta into rounds with a pastry or biscuit cutter, fill with a teaspoon of duck mixture and make into tortellinis.


Continue to roll, cut, fill and shape until all pasta or filling is gone. Set the tortellini aside on grease proof paper as you make them.


Boil the broth and check the seasoning, add as much porcini water as you like. Simmer the tortellini in the broth until done, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and celery and swirl in the teaspoon of butter to enrich the broth or sauce which will have thickened from the flour on the pasta. Serve with the extra reggiano or grana.

There should be enough tortellini for 2 meals for 2 people, so freeze half. This means you get Bonus day!


Bonus day: Duck and porcini tortellini with sage butter


Boil water and cook the tortellini from frozen being careful not to have the water boiling too rapidly or they will split. In a pan melt butter and as it changes colour to brown throw in about 10 whole sage leaves. Serve immediately with parmesan or peccorino