Thursday, 11 August 2011

Ravioli and Riots

Thankfully with the civil unrest dying down, I am once again able to tear myself away from 24-hour news coverage and get back into the kitchen.  I haven’t really been in the mood to cook since it started.  There’s something inherently depressing about the state we must be in, where a whole swathe of society is willing to pillage their local communities.  Sad days...

But I’m not going to dwell on those thoughts as it’ll just demoralize me more, so back to the irrelevancies of cooking... There’s a reason they call it comfort food! 

As previously touched on, my flatmate (whom I love very much) doesn’t like cheese (which I also love very much).  There have been many conversations over the years, trying to gauge which I prefer - the jury's still out! 

Sometimes though, not very often but sometimes, I do just forget.  Last night we had ravioli - two types - both containing cheese.   I am a bad friend, it’s only just occurred to me as I’m writing this... honestly, I really did forget!  At least it’s not quite as dangerous as when I used to forget about my old flatmate's serious allergy to shellfish...

First I decided on mushroom ravioli.  Then, to calm my friend who is pathologically enraged by all things mushroom (yes James, I mean you!), there was sweet potato ravioli too.  

So I set about making the pasta, completely ignoring the note of dire warning on my parents pasta machine. I mixed fillings and wound the handle until repetitive strain injury set in.  It took a whole day... WHOLE DAY!  But: a veritable mountain of food... what's not to like?

Basic Pasta Dough:
Place the pasta flour on a clean dry work surface.  Make a well in the centre.  Crack the eggs into the well and lightly whisk.
Gradually incorporate the flour until it is dry enough to mix by hand.  You may need to keep reshaping the flour walls to prevent the eggs escaping.  If adding flavouring (e.g. spinach or herbs) then add at this stage. 

Once all of the ingredients are mixed in, knead for 10-15 minutes.  At this stage, the dough should be silky, smooth and elastic.  You'll probably have to play around until the correct consistency is obtained.  If it seems dry add a little more egg, if it sticks to your hands or the work surface then add slightly more flour. 

Wrap in clingfilm and rest on the side for between 30 minutes and 2 hours. 

Flour the work surface and the rollers on the pasta machine.  Gently flatten the rested pasta.  Pass the dough through the pasta machine on its widest setting.  Change the machine to the next thickest setting and pass the pasta through again.  Each setting needs to be used until you have reached the desired thickness (remember it’ll swell during cooking so you want it thinner than the final product – mine wasn’t quite thin enough and so turned into a VERY substantial meal!). 

Dry the finished pasta for approximately 15 minutes before cooking, to prevent it sticking together. 
It can be kept for up to a week in the fridge.

Polenta or semolina flour will keep the pasta from sticking together.

Now for the fillings and assembling the ravioli.  The fillings should always be cut to incredibly small pieces (think a smooth paste) so that they cook at the same speed as the pasta.  Because they’ll only be cooking for a matter of minutes while the pasta cooks, make sure that meat, fish and hard vegetables are cooked before using as a filling.

To assemble the ravioli, place a sheet of pasta on a work surface dusted with polenta flour.  Dollop teaspoons of filling spaced about 2cm apart.

Next brush the spaces around the fillings with lightly beaten egg.  Place a second sheet of pasta over the top and press lightly to seal.  Cut into squares.

Boil the ravioli until the pasta is al dente.  Meanwhile make the ravioli sauce.  Mix the oil and lemon juice like a vinaigrette, and then gently heat.  Add the tomatoes and warm through, season and add any herbs you might want.  Dress the ravioli and serve.  We had ours with a huge green salad and Jamie Oliver's courgette salad

Mmmmmmmm... leftovers tonight!

Sweet Potato Ravioli:
Preheat the oven to 180˚C.  Roast the sweet potatoes in their skins until soft (approximately 20-30 minutes).  Split the skins open, turn the oven off and let them dry out in the cooling oven.  Once cool remove from skins and mash the flesh.  Grate ¼ of a nutmeg over.  Mix with the crushed chili, salt and Parmesan.

Wilt the spinach in a medium-hot, dry pan until cooked.  Squeeze any excess moisture out of the spinach and then finely chop or puree.  Add the spinach to the pasta dough when kneading.

Sweet Potato Ravioli Filling: (serves 4)
2 medium Sweet Potatoes
¼ nutmeg, freshly grated
1 dried chili, finely chopped/crushed
1 pinch salt
3 handfuls finely grated Parmesan

Spinach Pasta: (serves 4)
4 eggs
400g “OO” flour
1 large pinch salt
150g spinach

Mushroom Ravioli:
Blend the mushrooms to a paste.  Fry in butter with the garlic and thyme until really fragrant, add the sherry and cook until it has reduced/dried out.  Leave the mixture to cool and stir through the crumbled blue cheese and chopped cashews.

Finely chop the sage.  Add the chopped herbs to the pasta dough when kneading.

Mushroom Ravioli Filling: (serves 4)
500g closed cap chestnut mushrooms
50g butter
3 gloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp dried thyme
100ml sherry
90g blue cheese
2 handfuls cashews, chopped

Sage Pasta: (serves 4)
4 eggs
400g “OO” flour
1 large pinch salt
1 handful fresh sage, finely chopped

Ravioli Sauce:
240ml olive oil
90ml lemon juice
8 small tomatoes, deseeded and diced

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