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.

Suburban backyard chickens and ‘Breakfast of Gringos’.

I was in Brisbane with my family recently and they were in charge of feeding their neighbours chooks which means they get to keep the loot. I was so impressed with this ultra neat and tidy, home-built chicken coop I just had to tell you. There are only three hens, I am not sure what breed they are, and they were capable of at least 3 eggs a day. Good girls. In the chook yard they have planted a lemon, a lime and a flame tree and they keep the grass fresh as the girls really like a good peck through it.

With our loot on the first day I made lasagne with fresh pasta, see here for my lasagne, with left over pasta dough for fettucine. I am a bit keen on baking eggs in a tomato based sauce in the oven, usually I make Moroccan meatballs and crack eggs into the tomato sauce for the last 20 minutes of cooking. The yolks become so creamy even though they are cooked for so long, it is a much gentler heat than boiling. Another dish in this vein is eggs cooked in a tomato sauce for breakfast. I thought I would combine this thought with a version of Huevos Rancheros where instead of the fried eggs on tomato sauce and tortillas with refried beans I will bake the beans in a tomato sauce with mexican chillies then crack the eggs into the sauce for a slow poaching.

Huevos Rancheros

First up, the beans. I soaked 400g dried butter beans overnight, then simmered them with onion, garlic, bay leaf and whole black peppercorns. If you have access to epazote (Jaggers or Chili Mojo in Adelaide or Mexican supplier in your city, or grow it), use a good pinch if dried or a few stems if fresh.

The tomato sauce. Fry 1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic until lightly golden and softened, add tomatoes, 1 tin or fresh, peeled and chopped, 2 tsp chipotle powder or to taste and season with salt and cracked pepper. Add some water so you have something to reduce while the tomato cooks out (if you have used tinned) and it becomes a spicy sauce (20 mins).

I must now apologise for my stray from authenticity here, Huevos rancheros is a mid morning hearty meal with roots deep into Mexico. A dish from the Yucatan Peninsula, Huevos Motulenos shows these roots, it is layered corn tortillas, eggs, salsa piccante, black beans and cheese. I am heading towards the US border with my re-hash of this quite old Mexican dish.

Moving on. Drain the beans and put the tomato sauce and beans in an oven pot with a lid, cover and bake 20 mins. Crack 3 or 4 eggs (or however many people you are feeding) into different parts of the bean dish, add more water if it seems too dry, cover and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Warm the totillas under a grill, slightly crisp up for better results but watch them with your life so they don’t burn.

Layer the beans and eggs with the tortillas, top with what ever you like provided it is one of the following: slices of avocado, crumbled mild cows milk feta, chopped fresh coriander, sour cream, wedge of lime, fat slices of fried chorizo or combination of the above.

Muchos gracias chicas at number 47.

 

Lasagne

I am not saying this one is quick or easy, it usually takes me all day, but it is a favourite. This is lasagne made with fresh pasta. What a difference a day (making pasta) makes! So a few notes on making lasagne with fresh pasta.

The dough: knead for 10 minutes, then knead for an extra 50 counts to make sure you didn’t cheat on the 10 minutes. Rest for 1/2 an hour (no not you, the dough). Roll to number 8 on your machine or until nice and thin. Boil the pasta for 30 seconds or until bigger by about a third and lightened in colour, in other words, cooked. Have your sauce and bechamel ready when you cook the pasta sheets.

The sauce: Nice and runny as it always dries out further when cooking. I use pork and veal mince from Feast fine foods or Marino meats in the market, tomatoes from the glut at my parents house this summer, a sofrito of onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano, sometimes celery, carrot and leek if around on the day, and tomato paste made from tomato powder and water which I much prefer to the prepared tomato pastes. Tomato powder is available at good delicatessens such as Jaggers.

The bechamel: Use white pepper and a tasty cheese such as provolone piccante or even comte or gruyere for flavour. Also a mozzarella, layered with the bechamel in thin but whole slices, is good for that nice ‘ooze out of the sides when you cut it’ texture.

Pasta with stuff from my shop.

Pasta, the good stuff from my shop, Martelli maccheroni. Sauce, a fried shallot, some blue cheese, some cream and once the pasta has cooked, some of the cooking water. Also some rocket from the House of Organics down the road, just wilted in the sauce. As there is already cheese in the sauce instead of parmesan on top is some Kanmantoo bacon and wood oven bread crumbs fried in olive oil until crunchy. This is what they would do in the south of Italy instead of parmesan when money was tight. The dish at the back is Spanish olive salt which was also sprinkled on at the end. The salt is flor de sal mixed with oven roasted kalamata olives, delicious. Oh and so was the wine.