Spinach and ricotta ravioli.

I know it seems from these posts that I cook a lot but they may only arrive every 10 days or so and I eat more often than that. What I do is always make heaps of what ever it is I make that is freezable and bring it out on a rainy day. So since my fridge broke (yay) I had absolutely nothing up my sleeve for dinner. So I did what anyone would do with an afternoon to spare and made spinach and ricotta ravioli, with a bit extra dough to make some fettucine. Actually the real reason  was so I had something different to photograph. But the ravioli was so, so much better than anything you can buy in shops by a million miles and a bit. The filling was so light and delicate, not over-seasoned (because the seasoning comes hard and fast with the sauce and parmesan on top) and you can’t go past freshly made pasta.

I know you know how to make pasta dough, couldn’t be easier really, 3 eggs/ 300g ’00’ flour, 4 eggs/ 400g etc. ’00’ flour is flour from soft, young wheat flour before it has really dried and hardened on the plant, and  is always used in egg pastas. If you are making a pasta to dry and store (like the commercial ones) it would be hard durum wheat flour and water without the egg.

So you have made the pasta dough, kneaded it for 10 minutes, no less, more is far superior to the alternative, and rested it for 20 minutes. The filling is refreshingly simple, get some frozen spinach from the supermarket, yes I did just say that. Defrost about 200g of it. Mix it with about 200g ricotta or until the mix looks about half/ half. Grate some nutmeg over the mixture and season with salt and white pepper (getting a bit pedantic here, black pepper will do) and grate parmesan in to taste but remember not to over-do the seasoning. Add two egg yolks and fold in.

See what I am doing in the photo above? Well do that with the filling once you have rolled the pasta to number 7 or preferably 8 on your machine. Keep your bench well floured when making pasta because it soon sticks without the flour. I also put the pasta on grease proof paper as it comes out of the press to make sure.

Wet your finger in a handy dish of water and trace around where the pasta is going to seal itself then fold the sheet of pasta on top of the filling.  Squeeze the air out of the ravioli as you seal them, making your way from one end of the pasta sheet to the other. Trim the edges of the ravioli into shape.

Boil in overly large pot of water for only about 2 minutes to cook the pasta through. I mean it, no tiny sauce pans for cooking pasta please. The sauce served with the ravioli is traditional and could not be easier, the ingredients are sage and butter. Make sure you have used a fair amount of butter and reached that brown, nutty but not burnt stage and when you put in the sage it crisps up nicely. So delicious.

I had more pasta than filling so I made some into fettucine, it was quite good fun.


Sunday roast beef

Coorong angas rib eye (just one rib feeds 2) pan seared then into a really hot oven for 15 mins then rest 15 mins. Here is a photo of two things of great beauty, the rib and my Japanese chefs knife.I am such a fan of radicchio as you may well have noticed from other posts, cooked long enough with plenty of salt and pepper it becomes creamy, looses most of its bitterness and the outer leaves crisp up. Here I have drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. I cooked it as long as the potatoes but covered with foil.You have to have roast potatoes if you are cooking a roast. I chose Dutch cremes, what an amazing flavour, so sweet and tasty. Didn’t blanch them this time just tossed in plenty of grape seed oil and salt and into the oven.A pan that can sear or brown meat then can also go into the oven is a kitchen essential, I use this pan for nearly everything. The beef is from Feast! Fine foods in the Market.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Pavlova with Rose petals and Vanilla syrup.

This photo is a reject from a shoot for a wholesale food website in Poland, I was happy with the recipe so I thought I would share. Pavlova is such a dated dessert that is always associated with Kiwi fruit and strawberries but given a Middle Eastern touch and a tart fruit, it was surprisingly good. It might make a good substitute for Christmas pudding as it looks so spiffingly festive. If you do think ‘gosh that is a good idea’, buy rhubarb now, cook it and freeze it because I think it is the end of the season.

The product the website, Lamonde foods, is promoting is vanilla syrup which is available at fine foods stores, I sell a New Zealand brand called Heilala at Jaggers. It works really well with both the rhubarb and the strawberries.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Pavlova with Rose petals and Vanilla syrup.

serves 8

1 1/2 tsp cornflower

1 tsp rose water

5 egg whites or 150g

220g caster sugar

6 stalks rhubarb, sliced into 2cm slices

1/4 cup vanilla syrup

300 ml pouring cream

1/2 tbsp caster sugar

1 punnet strawberries

1 tbsp vanilla syrup

dried rose petals (optional)

Preheat oven to 160 C. Mix the cornflour with 1 tablespoon of cold water and the rose water. In a food mixer beat the egg whites until thickened then add the caster sugar slowly until incorporated. Add the cornflour mixture and keep beating for 6 minutes at medium-high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy.  Line a rectangular baking dish with grease proof paper and a little vegetable oil and smooth in the meringue. Bake for 35 minutes or until lightly golden on the top then turn off the oven and allow to cool with the door ajar.

Put the rhubarb, the 1/4 cup of vanilla syrup and 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan and simmer until very tender, about 6 minutes. Whip the cream and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar until stiff peaks form. Quarter the strawberries and mix with the tablespoon of vanilla syrup.

Once the pavlova is cool, if serving in individual portions, top with the cream and cut into eight squares. Top each piece with the rhubarb, some of the rhubarb syrup and some strawberries. Sprinkle with the rose petals if using and serve. Alternatively bake the pavlova in a round shape, top with the cream, rhubarb and strawberries, sprinkle with rose petals and serve whole.

Soy bean and tofu stir fry with pickled cabbage, better known as BBC.

The ingredients.

We all know and love the BBC from Ying Chow- don’t we? Well I have had a few requests for this dish and Sarah spotted it in the background of the last post on smoked duck so I thought I would give you my recipe made up from eating there so many times, and from frequent cooking, it is shaping up to be quite good. My freak of a vegan sister loves it and out of anything (I can cook) in the whole world she asked for BBC for her birthday ‘treat’. Weird.

Anyway, instead of buying fried tofu I buy firm tofu, slice it like haloumi, dry it in paper towel and fry it in peanut oil to get a nice golden colour and texture happening. After more time on paper towel to absorb the oil I slice it into the size shown in the photo below for the dish.

I should clear up the BBC thing, it stands for broad bean, bean curd dish, even though they mean soy beans.

To the recipe:

2 1/2 tbsp peanut oil

1 cup pickled cabbage, rinsed well and squeezed dry in paper towel

½ tsp sugar

2 (roughly) 6 x 6cm pieces of firm tofu, sliced into rectangles 5mm thick, press onto paper towel to remove moisture

1 tsp ginger, finely chopped

2 spring onions, white part only, sliced

1 cup fresh soy beans, (they come frozen in Chinese supermarkets)

1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 fresh birdseye chilli, sliced (optional garnish)

Heat 1/2 a tablespoon of the oil in a wok and fry the pickled cabbage for a minute. Add the sugar and stir until incorporated. Tip the cabbage onto a plate and put aside for now.

Heat another tablespoon of oil and fry the tofu slices until golden brown, remove and slice ready for the dish.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and fry the ginger for 10 seconds then add the spring onions and fry for another 10 seconds. Add the soy beans and stir fry for a minute then add the soy sauce. Return the cabbage to the wok and stir through then put the tofu into the wok, give it a stir around then take it off the heat once the tofu is hot enough and has absorbed some of the flavours. Serve straight away with smoked duck, or not. If you are vegan, just have it with a nice glass of water and some brown rice.

Spinach and potato curry.

I found myself home with an almost completely empty cupboard tonight, I had frozen spinach, potatoes and rice. That’s pretty much it. So I made up a new Spice Road recipe, it was my only choice really and sometimes I like to humour the vegetarians.

What I did was fry a chopped onion, some ginger and garlic, then about 1 tablespoon of the Spice Road to India paste. About a cup of cooked and chopped spinach,  5 baby potatoes peeled and halved or quartered, a cup of water and a teaspoon of tomato paste went in. I simmered this until the potatoes cooked and the liquid was almost gone then added some halved cherry tomatoes, cream, salt and a bit of sugar. Simmered this a bit longer. The rice was steamed with stock and saffron.

Rosewater and vanilla creams.

I accidentally bought buttermilk instead of normal milk (the carton looked the same and I wasn’t paying the least bit of attention) so I might as well show you a really good, easy and delicious dessert from Greg Malouf (and I will probably also make pancakes). I made this dessert when I had very little time left to come up with something to finish a middle eastern dinner and it was perfect, light, not too sweet thanks to the buttermilk and easy to make and serve. I halved the quantity below to make 6 glasses.

Rosewater and vanilla creams

500 ml pouring cream plus 150 ml pouring cream, lightly whipped

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways, seeds scraped out with a knife

75 g castor sugar

3 sheets gelatine

500 ml buttermilk

1/4 tsp rosewater

dried rose petals for serving

Put the 500 ml cream, vanilla seeds and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar, bring to the boil then immediately take off the heat and cool a little. Soak the gelatine in cold water until wobbly, a few minutes, squeeze the water out then add to the cream mixture and stir to dissolve completely. Strain this mixture and refrigerate to cool completely.

When the cream is cold, add the buttermilk and rosewater then fold in the lightly whipped cream. Pour into glasses and leave to set in the fridge. They will set within an hour. Serve with the rose petals sprinkled over and around the glasses. Pretty


Mantu and Boolawnee (Afghani dumplings and leek pastries).

Mantu are spiced, minced lamb dumplings, fried then steamed like Chinese jioaza, then ‘dabbed’ (not liberally coated) with a tomato sauce, minted yoghurt and some chopped coriander and spring onion. I have made them a few times, they are a crowd pleaser and quite easy. So easy that I cooked both the dumplings and the leek pastries on the fire outside since the weather was so stunning this weekend. Glossary: Baharat is a Lebanese 7 spice blend, perfect with lamb, obviously not Afghani but a good substitute.

The tomato sauce is just a shallot, finely chopped and fried in olive oil with 1/2 clove of garlic until softened. Add 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped and a pinch of baharat. Season with salt and pepper and reduce and cook for 5 minutes. The yoghurt is a sheep milk yoghurt mixed with dried mint to taste.

For the Dumplings you will need: 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 shallots, finely chopped, 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 500 g lamb mince, 1 tsp baharat, 1 tsp tomato paste, salt and pepper, chilli flakes or freshly chopped birdseye to taste, 1 packet of 30 sheet gow gee wrappers.

For the filling: fry the shallots and garlic in the oil over a medium heat until softened and lightly coloured, turn up the heat and add the lamb. Fry the lamb until browned, add the baharat, tomato paste and chilli then season to taste, stir and cook another minute, reduce any liquid if necessary by cooking further. Cool the mix before filling the dumplings.

To fill: put a heaped teaspoon of the mince on one half of a gow gee wrapper, wet the outside of the half with the filling, fold the other half over the filling and seal by pinching the edges together making a flat bottom as you go. Have a look at this post on ducklicious.com for filling and cooking the similar Chinese jioaza.

To cook you will need a fry pan with a lid, some frying oil and a cup of water at the ready: Heat a smear of oil, I used grape seed, and when a dumpling makes a nice frying noise when it hits the oil put in enough dumplings to fill the pan without any touching. Fry a minute until the bottoms of the dumplings are browned then add enough water to come half way up the sides of the dumplings, cover with the lid. When the water is nearly evaporated, take the lid off the pan and reduce the remaining liquid until the dumplings start to fry again. They are ready when they come away from the bottom of the pan easily, which also means they have crisped up from the second frying.

Dot them with the tomato sauce, yoghurt, sliced spring onion and fresh coriander.

For these babies you need: 2 cups of plain flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 2/3 cup cold water, also for the filling: 1 leek, more salt, olive oil and chilli flakes and grape seed oil for frying. Make a well in the flour and salt, add the water, you know the drill, make a dough, knead 5 minutes, rest 1/2 an hour or until you are going to make them. Chop the leek into a small dice, in a bowl mix the leek with 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. With your hand macerate or knead the leek mixture to soften.

Roll the dough into a sausage, cup off 1 cm pieces and roll each into roughly 10cm disks. Fill one half with 1 teaspoon of leek mixture, wet the edge with water and fold the other half of the dough over to cover, pinch or press the edges together with a teaspoon or more traditionally a thimble.

Heat enough grape seed oil in a fry pan to just cover the pastries when 3 or 4 are added depending on the size of your pan. Fry until browned then turn and fry the other side. Serve and eat straight away, they are better when the pastry is hot and crunchy, they soften pretty quickly.