On The Side: Mashed Jerusalem Artichoke With Grated Courgette

I love artichokes! I love them raw, cooked, hearts in a jar soaked in olive oil, mashed… One of my earliest memories is of pulling the leaves off an artichoke to dip them in olive oil. I seem to have had a sophisticated palette as a four year old! Globe artichoke leaves are eaten raw dipped in olive oil as a starter in Tuscany. They’re quite tough when uncooked but still good. So, I was pleased to see Jerusalem artichokes out and about the other day. I cut them into pieces about 2cm x 2cm, boiled them briefly, drained and mashed them and grated a courgette on top with a slosh of olive oil. It was delicious! I, like Uncle Monty in ‘Withnail and I’, prefer ‘ornamental’ vegetables to roses. I love ornamental cabbages and the artichoke, when left to flower, is beautiful as below.

Homemade Pasta No. 3: Beetroot and Pea Ravioli

I’m getting so into my pasta machine that I think I will start turning my nose up at dried pasta soon! These ravioli were really good and a real authentic genuine Italian ate them and said they were “buonissimi” so they have had the stamp of approval. Phew! When I served them everyone said that they had never tried beetroot or pea ravioli before (nor had I). I have often made a risotto with random ingredients and Italian friends have said “Oh, I’ve never heard of that one”. There are lots of standard dishes in Italian food and I got the feeling when living there that veering from the normal recipes was seen as a bit quirky! As long as the colours look good (green/ pea and purple/ beetroot) and the taste is great, I’m satisfied! (I especially love how the purple juice of the beetroot bled into the pasta dyeing it a bit.)

Serves 6.

What you need:

240g 00 flour

100g semolina

4 eggs

150g frozen peas

2 medium sized beetroots

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Pecorino, to grate at the table

What you need to do:

1. Wash the beetroots then boil them (whole) until tender in a pan with enough water to cover them generously. This could take about 30-40 mins.

2. In a large bowl mix the flour and semolina together, create a well in the middle and crack the eggs in.

3. Gradually bring the ingredients together with your fingers working them until you form a ball of dough.

4. Place the ball on a floured surface and knead it for a good few minutes.

5. Divide the ball into 3. Take each piece of dough and roll it out with a rolling pin into a long strip.

6. Feed the lengths of pasta into the pasta machine set on a thin setting, flour a surface and lay the thinned strips on it. You may need to cut the strips in half if they are too long to handle.

7. Put each strip through the machine twice, then leave on the floured surface to dry a little whilst you prepare the other ingredients.

8. Boil the frozen peas for 3 minutes, drain and place in a blender with a glug of olive oil. Blitz them briefly until they form a purée and tip them out into a bowl.

9. When the beetroots are tender, drain them and slice into chunks (be careful with their seriously purple juice! It can be very tricky to get off clothes) and blitz until they form a purée.

10. Now you can put the ravioli together. Lay two lengths of pasta side by side and put small blobs of the pea or beetroot purée down it spaced evenly with about 2cm space between them.

11. Then take the other strip of pasta and place it on top of the one with the purée. Gently pat down the top strip between each blob of filling making sure you expel the air. Then cut out each raviolo.

12. Put a large pan of lightly salted water on the hob and boil while you repeat this process until you have used all the filling and strips of pasta.

13. Once all the ravioli are ready put them in the boiling water for 4 minutes.

14. Serve the ravioli with a scrunch of black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some grated pecorino.

p.s. Homemade Pasta Number 1: Trofie

Homemade Pasta Number 2: Spaghetti

Homemade Pasta No. 2: Spaghetti

Hot on the heels of the wheel as the greatest invention is my pasta machine! Finally I got it out of its box and put it to work at the weekend. My helper and I made lots of spaghetti for a Carbonara Italian style – not Brit style with pools of cream. I heard recently that cream in Carbonara was an addition in restaurants to keep the dish warm as the traditional version with an egg cracked on top at the end would cool too fast from kitchen to table. Well, unless you dine in a banquet hall I think it’s safe to say the traditional version will still be hot when it reaches your table.

Serves 4.

What you need:

160g 00 flour

70g semolina

3 eggs (for the pasta)

1 rasher of organic bacon per person

2 eggs (for the Carbonara)

Extra Virgin olive oil

Freshly grated parmesan for people to help themselves at the table

What you need to do:

1. In a large bowl mix the flour and semolina together, create a well in the middle and crack the eggs in.

2. Gradually bring the ingredients together with your fingers working it until it forms a ball of dough.

3. Place the ball on a floured surface and work it more with your fingers for a good few minutes.

4. Divide the ball into 3. Take each piece of dough and roll it out with a rolling pin into a long strip.

5. Feed the lengths of pasta into the pasta machine set on a thin setting, flour a surface and lay the thinned strips on it. You may need to cut the strips in half if they are too long to handle.

6. Put each strip through the machine twice, then leave on the floured surface to dry for two minutes whilst you prepare the other ingredients. The pasta cooks very quickly so this will be the last thing you do to prepare the Carbonara.

7. Put a large pan of water on the hob to boil with a shake of salt.

8. Cut the rashers of bacon into small pieces, around 1cm by 1cm, and fry in a little olive oil on a gentle heat. Once they have cooked a bit, about 2 minutes, pour the fatty juices away and continue frying so they crisp up.

9. Turn the heat off the bacon and start feeding the pasta strips through the machine in the spaghetti attachment. Put the pasta in the boiling water as soon as you have rolled it through the machine. If the spaghetti is sticking together as it comes out of the machine the strips need to dry for a few more minutes.

10. Once you have made all the spaghetti and boiled it for 2 minutes, drain it, place it back in the pot and stir the bacon in with a glug of olive oil. Then crack 2 eggs on top and stir quickly to coat the pasta.

11. Serve immediately.

p.s. Homemade Pasta Number 1: Trofie

Pea and Asparagus Risotto

This recipe doesn’t have a couple of classic risotto ingredients such a white wine and parmesan but it was scrumptious without them. I served this with herby tomato and polenta muffins, as a starter, followed by chocolate tower cakes. Recipes on their way…!

Serves 4. Takes 30 minutes.

What you need:

1 white onion

A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch of asparagus (about 12 stalks)

240g arborio rice

35g vegetable stock powder

250g frozen peas

Half a tub of mascarpone

A few twists of black pepper

What you need to do:

1. Boil the kettle then pour the water over the stock powder in a medium sized pan, stir and keep warm on the hob.

2. Chop the onion into small pieces, put them in a pan with some olive oil and lightly sweat them.

3. Once they have cooked a little add the arborio rice and let it toast in the heat for a minute, stirring with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t stick to the pan.

4. Then pour the stock on top, stir briefly and allow the risotto to simmer away. You don’t need to carry on stirring. Keep an eye on it and add more hot water if needed.

5. Whilst the risotto is simmering cut each asparagus stem into 3 and cook for 2 minutes in a pan with only 1cm of boiling water with the lid on. Drain immediately and place on the side.

6. Boil some water in a pan and cook the frozen peas in it for 3 minutes.

7. Drain the peas, allow to cool a touch then put them in a blender with a glug of olive oil and a generous dessert spoon of mascarpone. Whizz for 10 seconds to a bitty purée.

8. Once the risotto has absorbed most of the stock and is still al dente, scoop the pea purée on top of it and stir it in. Then add the asparagus pieces and stir them in as well. Continue to heat a little ensuring that the risotto doesn’t get too dry.

9. To serve, place the risotto in bowls, add a dollop of mascarpone in the centre and a twist of black pepper.

Buon appetito!

Homemade Pasta No.1: Trofie

A bunch of friends, with really good taste in presents, gave me a pasta maker for my birthday which I cannot wait to use. I wanted to have fresh pasta today so I decided to make trofie which you don’t actually need a pasta maker for. I had a pasta lesson in Florence a while ago and once you see how easy it can be to make, it feels naughty to buy packets of dried pasta! Fresh pasta is so much softer too so is more subtle than shop bought dried pasta. Trofie must be one of the easiest pastas to make and the ingredients couldn’t be simpler as all you need is type 00 flour, salt and water. I found the 00 flour at my local deli.

Per person you need 100g flour, a few pinches of salt and some water.

What you need to do:

1. Pour the flour into a bowl and add a couple of pinches of salt.

2. Add a few splashes of water and begin to work the water and flour together. You will see how elastic the dough this fine flour makes is. Add water as you see fit ensuring that the dough isn’t wet and sloppy but is mixed enough so that it forms a ball.

3. Put the ball of pasta dough on a floured board and begin pulling bits off the size of fagioli beans or big peas – whichever you imagine first! Then roll each into a long sausage shape.

4. To get the typical curled trofie shape you then twist the long sausage shaped piece of pasta around a cocktail stick or a wooden skewer and then gently pull it off.

5. Once you have made trofie shapes from the whole ball of dough leave them to dry on the floured board for 4 hours.

6. When you’re ready to eat them simply boil them in a pan of slighty salted water for about 6-8 minutes.

I served the trofie with lightly boiled and then briefly blended butternut squash, olive oil and thyme. They would be delicious with sliced fresh tomatoes and basil or simply served with pesto.

Film Noir pasta

Trofie with butternut squash and thyme

Winter Supper

There has been a little pause since my last post. I think I might have had baker’s block! Certainly not blogger’s block since I started a blog about design: Design Hawk. I did a little supper for friends at the weekend which went down well so here is the Winter Supper Menu. I’ve been experimenting with date and almond pastry which I shall refine and post soon.

The Winter Supper started with homemade humous and deli made wholemeal bread. (All recipes serve 6 people)

For the humous you need:

1 can of chick peas (drained and rinsed)

1 dessert spoon tahini

Juice of 2 lemons

100ml extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic (grated or just sliced)

Half a teaspoon of powdered cumin

Half a teaspoon of paprika

A pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper

What you need to do:

1. Put the chick peas in a blender with the tahini, olive oil and lemon juice and blend.

2. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and blend again. If it seems too thick add a splash of water or two and blend again.

3. Store it in the fridge while you prepare the risotto.

Butternut squash with sage risotto:

1 butternut squash (about 600g)

2 cloves of garlic

3 red onions if small and 2 if big

100g arborio rice per person

vegetable stock powder

sage

olive oil

6 x flat mushrooms (optional)

What you need to do for the risotto:

1. Cut, deseed and remove the skin of the butternut squash. This is quite a job in itself. If you lie it on its side, cut it into segments, then put the segments on the chopping board so the fleshy part is touching the board then you can slice the skin off. You really deserve a good meal after this little work out!

2. Cut it into pieces about an inch and a half by an inch and a half and place them in a pan of water. Bring the water to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until the pieces are soft but not squishy. There should be a bit of resistence when you put a fork in them.

3. Drain the squash and allow to cool whilst chopping the onions into small pieces. Put the onion pieces in a deep pan with a coating of olive oil.

4. Fill a pan with a litre of water and 3 teaspoons of vegetable stock powder and simmer.

5. While the stock is heating up place the squash pieces with a handful of washed sage leaves in a blender and blend. You can add a splash of the stock if it isn’t blending well.

6. Now that the squash is prepared and the stock is heating up you can start on the rice. So, turn the heat on low and sweat the onion with the lid on for a few minutes. Then add the rice to the onions and stir it while it toasts.

7. Add a good splash of stock and let the rice and stock fizz and bubble a bit in the heat whilst stirring. Make sure no rice or onion is sticking to the base of the pan.

8. Add the rest of the stock, give it a good stir and leave to cook on a low heat. (The squash is added later)

9. Wash the flat mushrooms and bake in the oven at 180C for 10 minutes or until cooked but not shrunk!

10. Once most of the stock has been absorbed add the butternut squash puree and stir in well. Add a few more sage leaves. The risotto is ready when the rice is cooked but not so that it is squishy. There should be a bit of bite to it.

11. Serve the risotto with a flat mushroom placed on top and a drizzle of oil.

Ingredients for the shortbread:

100g butter

100g cocoa powder

150g plain or wholemeal flour (wholemeal flour is bitty so if you want smooth shortbread use plain)

80g brown sugar

1. Heat the oven to 175C.

2. Rub the butter and flour together until it forms crumbs.

3. Add the cocoa powder and sugar and work it into the butter and flour mixture until it forms a heavy dough. It will seem quite dry – this is normal.

4. Grease a baking tray (I used a circular one 20cm in diameter) and press the dough into it. Using a knife mark out the pieces and then with a fork gently spike it all over to give it that classic shortbread look!

5. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Easy Florentines

First of all, I must say that I am talking about the dolci and not people from Florence but I think the photo is a bit of a give away! The Florentine recipes I have done have always involved baking but I don’t think this is necessary so here is an easy recipe that involves melting instead of baking.

What you need:

200g dark or plain chocolate

4 dessert spoons golden syrup

3 dessert spoons light brown sugar

40g flaked almonds

20g dried cranberries

You can mix and match the dried fruit and use other nuts and seeds as you like – just keep to the measurements.

1: Melt the chocolate in a pan on a low heat stirring frequently and do not let it boil.

2: Spoon the melted chocolate onto baking paper on a tray. Using the spoon spread the chocolate in circles. I made about 20 discs. Place the tray in the fridge and let the discs set for about 30 minutes.

Neat tip! >  Make use of the remnants of melted chocolate in the pan by adding milk to make a rich hot chocolate to drink whilst the discs set. Or just eat it with a spatula!

3: Whilst the discs are setting (and you’re drinking hot chocolate!) melt the golden syrup with the sugar on a low heat and when it is well blended add the cranberries and almonds.

4: Take the chocolate discs out of the fridge and put spoonfuls of the almond cranberry sticky mixture on top.

5: Place the Florentines in the fridge to set for about an hour.