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…

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How to cook like Heston? – Ultimate cheese sauce for lasagne

Ahh, Heston Blumenthal, a name that divides opinion more sharply than probably almost any other in the food world. Love him or loathe him (I blame the snail porridge for 99% of the haters) you can’t escape him these days, between Waitrose adverts, the ongoing debate about the merits of Dinner, scandals in the press and his various TV projects. I’d planned to try some of the recipes from Heston’s latest series anyway, and with a chance to win a tour of his lab on offer at lovefood what did I have to lose? I threw caution to the wind and rolled up my sleeves to melt cheese according to his ‘groundbreaking’ method.

How to cook like Heston? - Ultimate cheese sauce for lasagneHeston does a couple of variations on his cheese sauce (one involves infusing parmesan rinds into the wine, which I wished I’d remembered as I have a freezer full of the things) , all of which make quite a small amount, so I used a double quantity of the recipe as done for cauliflower cheese. As with other recipes of Mr Blumenthal’s I’ve tried (spag bol, chilli con carne, chicken tikka masala, all from the In Search of Perfection series), I’ve found that the predominant problem for home cooks is not actually the techniques, or even the availability of the ingredients, but the cost, and once again I was blown away with how much money he assumes the average Joe (even the average foodie Joe) is willing to spend on dinner at home. Reducing nearly a whole bottle of good quality wine (there’s no point using a cheap bottle – it’ll taste like rancid vinegar by the time it’s reduced sufficiently) to make half a pint of cheese sauce feels like a painful extravagance to me, particularly given the current economic climate (which I must assume is not affecting Bray).

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Heston Blumenthal’s ultimate cheese sauce (adapted from the original)
This double quantity made enough sauce for a lasagne to feed 6.

1 litre quality chicken stock
600ml white wine
240g grated cheese (two-thirds hard cheese, one-third soft goat’s)
40g cornflour
40g sour cream (Heston uses soft cheese but I didn’t have any)
Knob of butter

First reduce your chicken stock to 400ml in a small pan (if you do it in a large pan you’ll be cleaning burnt stock off the sides for weeks). In a separate, even smaller pan, reduce the white wine to 60ml. This takes quite a while so get it started nice and early, but make sure it is still warm when you continue to the next step.

Add the reduced wine to the reduced stock. Mix the grated cheeses and cornflour then stir into the liquid on a low heat until melted (following Heston’s advice as given on the show I added the hard cheese first, then when that was melted I added the goat’s cheese, which just as he said doesn’t melt totally). Finally stir in the knob of butter and the sour cream/soft cheese.

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Is it worth it? Read on to find out if you should be cooking cheese like Heston….

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

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….

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.