Pumpkin Amaretti Ravioli

Pumpkin Amaretti RavioliHallowe’en, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain….whatever you call it, it spells PUMPKINS, carved ones to be precise (or as the Americans call them – Jack O’Lanterns). There are many subtle variants to the legend of why precisely we carve ghoulish faces into squashes at this time of year (apparently the Irish traditionally use turnips or swedes instead) but ultimately the idea is to scare bad spirits away. Seems sensible enough to me, and I always loved the slightly gory feel of tearing out massive handfuls of fibre and seed from the pumpkin’s interior!

Many many years ago (2005 to be precise), when blogging was still quite niche rather than the first resort of any self-confessed ‘foodie’, Elise over at Simply Recipes ran a competition for the most creative way of using up the off-cuts from the pumpkin carving, and I won! With this picture no less:

Yes, really; hard to imagine that winning now isn’t it? These were the days before every blogger taken seriously had a digital SLR, home studio and props cupboard!

Anyhoo, as you can see from the first photo, I’ve reshot (though it’s still nothing Foodgawker or Tastespotting would consider acceptable), and have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, omitting the pumpkin seeds (I like to dry-fry them with salt & chilli and serve them as pre-dinner snacks), and replacing the creamy sauce with a simpler sage butter and some fried amaretti breadcrumbs. So here at long last is my reprise of my favourite Hallowe’en recipe, reinvented for 2013….

Read on for the recipe…

Chive flower tortelloni

Chive flower tortelloniChives grow abundantly in our garden and although the plants, at 3 years old, are a bit tougher and woodier than I’d like they still put forth a beautiful crown of purple flowers at this time of year, which is as attractive to me as it is to the bumble bees that frequent our herb bed in droves.  The flowers are even more delicious than the green chive itself, with a delicate perfumed garlicky-ness I find quite addictive.  If you don’t grow your own and can’t get hold of the flowers by any other means you could of course substitute fresh chopped green chives in this, just use a bit less to avoid them overpowering the other flavours. Half the flavour of the potatoes is in their skins so I leave them on as you want to get maximum flavour from the simple constituents of the filling here, and I like to use Burford Brown eggs for my pasta, as the orange yolks give a great rich colour.

Chive flower tortelloni with new potatoes and raclette cheese
Serves 8-10

500g ’00’ pasta flour, plus extra for dusting
4 medium eggs + 6 egg yolks
For the filling:
1kg new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
100g butter
300g raclette cheese (or any other good melty cheese)
5 tbsp chive flowers (approx 10 heads)
You will also need a pasta machine

Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and pulse until it forms a dough (or mix by hand on a clean worktop, breaking the eggs into a well in the centre of the flour and working in gradually). Knead the dough on a clean worktop for a few minutes until you have a smooth, pliable dough, then divide into eight portions, wrap well in clingfilm and leave to rest for an hour.

Read on for the rest of the recipe…

Presto Pasta Nights #248 – The roundup

No sooner had the announcement been made that I was hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Nights then I had received the first entry, this stunning offering from La Caffettiera Rosa, a delicious seafood pasta with cannellini beans and mussels:

lacaffettierarosaNext up was Clarion of Preventing Culinary Amnesia with her classic Arrabbiata, a word which incidentally is Italian for ‘angry’, perfect for a dish of such spicyness:

ArrabbiataRuth, Queen Bee of Presto Pasta Nights and blogger over at Once Upon A Feast, contributed this delicious woodland-inspired ‘taste of the forest’ pasta with mushrooms, pancetta & arugula (that’s ‘rocket’ to you and me!) 🙂

Taste of the Forest Pasta Thus far all the pasta dishes have been pretty darn speedy supper recipes, but then in swept Nupur of UK Rasoi with a lovely step-by-step guide to making one of my favourite weekend meal projects: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni:

Spinach and Ricotta CannelloniThe meatiest offering of the week came from Jules of Pictures of a princess, a spicy yet creamy Chicken Paprikash served on spätzle – the Germanic equivalent of Italy’s noodle, the name of which means ‘little sparrows’ for goodness-only-knows reason why!

Chicken paprikashShellfish got a rather glamorous makeover with this impressive entry from Tandy of Lavender & Lime – it’s time to apply for your fishing permit and do battle with the invading red signals so you can make this:  Crayfish ravioli with a bisque sauce

CRAYFISH RAVIOLI WITH A BISQUE SAUCEI’m not normally a big fan of vegan food (I do so love my cheese!) but Deb of Kahakai Kitchen might just have converted me with this scrumptious Super quick tomato basil ‘cream’ bucatini in which blitzed cashews take the place of dairy to make the sauce rich and creamy:

Super Quick Vegan Tomato Basil "Cream" BucatiniShelby, aka ‘HoneyB’ over at The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch broke with the so-far distinctly European vibe to produce this fabulous east-meets-west fusion of Beef & Broccoli with Black Bean Mushroom Sauce on linguine:

Beef & Broccoli with Black Bean Mushroom Sauce More globe trotting on the pasta front was going on over at Cook.Craft.Enjoy where the order of the day was a Paprika chicken stew with Pierogies – the delicious Polish dumplings that are halfway between ravioli and potato gnocchi:

Chicken Stew with PierogiesJoanne of Eats Well With Others joined in with an inspired healthy-meets-comfort food offering of Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese:

Broccoli-Basil Mac and CheeseWith a twist on a classic in a similar vein to Joanne, Ruth of Once Upon A Feast deserves super-praise for contributing not just one, but TWO entries for this week’s round up – her second one being her Insanely Delicious Mac ‘n Cheese with Kale:

Insanely Delicious Mac 'n Cheese with Kale And lastly, but hopefully not least, is my own contribution – an Asian cousin of ravioli – Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce:

← Chili-con-Carne for even the most hardened chilli-phobe (and chilli-lover!) Presto Pasta Nights needs YOU! → Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauceThat’s it!  I’ve loved hosting this week’s Presto Pasta Nights and hope you’ve enjoyed my roundup.  Next week the roundup returns to Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast.

Presto pasta nights

Runner bean spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce

Runner bean spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce

Late summer is a time of abundance for British gardeners, the time of year when a vast majority of homegrown crops are at their peak and when keeping up with your edible bounty can be downright difficult! Runner beans have been a staple crop in my household since I was a child, and in good years we eat them almost every day, the plants putting out fresh batches of beans practically overnight.

Even if you aren’t growing your own, runner beans are everywhere now so it’s a great time to get some toothsome airmile-guilt-free food whilst it’s dead cheap.  This is a delicious and simple dish which is easily scaled up or down, depending on the number of people needing serving (and how big your glut of runner beans is!).  I wouldn’t bother cooking less than half of the tomato sauce – simply because it’s so easy and tasty you can use any spare sauce for other pasta dishes, stews or even on homemade pizzas. It keeps in the fridge for several days, or in the freezer for months.

Read on for the recipe

Spaghetti with roasted cherry tomatoes and feta

Spaghetti with roasted cherry tomatoes and feta As the dominant cook in my household (hubby CAN cook, but works evenings most of the time, and besides that is a typical male cook – every pan in the house, mess everywhere, two day’s worth of washing up left ‘to soak’), I’m all too aware of how tough it can be coming up with something tasty for dinner day in, day out. Snatching time between work, social life and household chores to put something tasty on the table every night can be tricky, but it’s well worth it, and it’s something I try hard to do (the odd takeaway notwithstanding).

Recently my friend Steph challenged me to come up with a selection of recipe ideas, not for herself but for her long-suffering boyfriend Chris, who as it happens is a student at Southampton alongside my own dear sister-in-law (the world is tiny, really!). Chris is a trainee doctor, so his hours are long and unsociable; and to add to the challenge he is also a fitness fanatic, running marathons and basically spending all his spare time pummelling his body in gruelly workouts and sports activities. I enjoy a challenge, so here is the first in a series of recipes I’d like to call Chris’s Dishes.

Simple to make and tasty to eat, this is the food I love to have when I get home from work, and I hope it will inspire you to try something new rather than reaching for the takeaway menu next time your dinner muse goes AWOL.  Not all of them can be done in 10 minutes, but if it can be assembled in five and then shoved in the oven for an hour, sometimes I think that’s the best of all – prep as soon as I get home, tuck it away in the oven or to the back of the hob, then get on with little bits and pieces until it’s ready (or just flop on the sofa with a glass of wine!).  We will begin with that stalwart of easy suppers – pasta.

Spaghetti with roasted cherry tomatoes & feta
Serves 1 hungry marathon runner or 2 regular people

1 pack cherry tomatoes (approx 335g)
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a big pinch of dried will do, so long as the jar hasn’t been in the back of the cupboard for two years)
150-200g spaghetti (you know how hungry you are)
75g feta cheese

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/Gas 6. Cut your tomatoes in half and pop into a smallish baking dish or roasting tray. Add your crushed garlic and herbage, season with salt & pepper, then drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil. Toss together briefly, then chuck in the oven for 30-45 mins until the tomatoes have shrivelled a bit and charred in places.

When your tomatoes are nearly done, bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt it generously (it should taste like sea water) and cook your pasta. Most kinds will take 10-12 minutes, check your packet for timings. Remove your tomatoes from the oven and splash in a spoonful of water from the pasta, and stir gently to loosen all the delicious goo from the bottom of the roasting dish. Drain your pasta and add to the tomatoes, tossing to coat the pasta in all the delicious oil and juice. Serve with the feta crumbled over the top. Buon appetito!

Basil Gnocchi

Homemade Basil Gnocchi

When I had a glut of basil on my hands and needed inspiration for what to do with it, Qin of ‘In Pursuit of Food‘ told me about some delectable basil gnocchi she’d had recently at Mayfair’s Tempo and as I adore making unusual variants of this Italian classic I just had to give it a try. Gnocchi take a bit of trial and error, as the best ones are super-light and therefore super-delicate, but I urge you to give this recipe a try – it captures the beautiful fragrance of the basil perfectly, and makes for a super eye-catching dish!

Basil Gnocchi – Serves 4

4 large baking potatoes (to yield approximately 450g cooked flesh)
70g fresh basil
70g parmesan, finely grated
1 large egg yolk
75-125g plain flour

Read on for the recipe method….

Lasagne of Wild Mushroom Ragu with Pecorino and Porcini sauce

Lasagne of Wild Mushroom Ragu with Pecorino & Porcini sauceThis is a gorgeously indulgent dish, full of rich earthy flavours and textures. For the best result, the ragu should be made with a mixture of wild mushrooms, such as Ceps, oyster mushrooms and Enoki), however these can be expensive and/or hard to get hold of depending on the season. A mixture of chestnut and large flat mushrooms would work well as an alternative, I wouldn’t bother with those polystyrene globules sold variously as ‘white mushrooms’ or ‘closed cup mushrooms’ as they have next to no flavour. You’ll still get a good depth of mushroomyness with the more commonly available varieties, as the dried porcini added to both ragu and sauce pack quite a punch, and they’re readily available in supermarkets; in fact I always have them in the storecupboard, ready to pep up any stew, risotto or soup which needs extra oomph.

Random foodie know-how: The white sauce in Lasagne is traditionally a béchamel sauce, but the Pecorino & Porcini sauce in this recipe is technically a velouté. The difference? Although both sauces begin with a classic roux (butter and flour gently heated together to make a thickening paste into which a hot liquid is then stirred), a velouté is made with stock – in this case the liquid from steeping the dried mushrooms – whereas a Béchamel is made with milk.

Anyway, on with the recipe

Peperonata con Rigatoni

Update 10/12/10: If you have a little extra time and want to make the peperonata extra silky you might like to take the time to char the skins of the peppers and peel them before slicing. Pop your peppers under a grill or on a gas-burning hob until blackened, then place in a bowl and cover with clingfilm until cool. The skins should just rub off under your fingers – don’t peel them under running water as you’ll lose the lovely charred flavour you’ve imparted in them. This is by no means an essential step, and if you were serving the peperonata as a side dish, or as a topping for crostini (two of its many alternative uses), I wouldn’t bother as the firmer texture you get from the skins is good, but for serving with pasta it makes a real difference.

Peperonata con Rigatoni

A rare one for me – a dish that is not just vegetarian but also vegan-friendly! You could bulk this dish out a little with some tangy salty feta*, but actually it’s one of those rare pasta dishes that really doesn’t need cheese on top. The key is to be bold with the flavours – garlic, chilli and peppers, and to not stint on the olive oil: it adds a luscious taste and texture you just won’t get if you use it miserly.

3 tbsp olive oil
1½ medium onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
200g passata
4 peppers (red, orange or yellow), sliced into strips
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1½ tsp. capers
Basil leaves, a small handful
300-400g rigatoni (depending on how hungry you all are!)

On a medium heat, soften the onions with the olive oil in a large high-sided frying pan. Add the sliced garlic and sweat gently for a minute or two. Add the passata and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir well. Add the peppers and chilli flakes and turn gently to mix without breaking up the pepper strips. Pop a lid on and cook on a medium heat for 20mins, stirring once or twice (again do so gently – you don’t want pepper-mush).

Meanwhile, get a large pot of water on to the boil and salt it generously. Cook the rigatoni in the salted water, according to the packet instructions.

After the peperonata has had its 20mins covered simmer, add the red wine vinegar, taste it for seasoning, and allow it to cook for a further 10minutes with the lid off. Turn off the heat and add the capers (well drained if in brine, rinsed if in oil), and the basil. Drain the pasta and toss with the pepper sauce. Serves 4.

*If you choose this option, I’d recommend the ‘unearthed’ brand of barrel-aged Greek feta, or your nearest cheese shop’s own traditional feta – this recipe won’t benefit from the cheap polystyrene sold as feta in your local one-stop shop or all-night grocers.