Category Archives: italian

cheese-filled cannelloni

Standard

The other day I found a packet of dry cannelloni tubes in the pantry, & decided we’d have cannelloni for tea. The sauce was going to be easy: we’re slowly working through the packets of tomato sauce that I froze last summer, so out came one of those, plus there was a 450g packet of beef mince in the freezer. So I turned the oven to heat to 180 C and next, once the meat was defrosted (microwaves are a wonderful invention) I browned it in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring to break it up, & then added a packet of sauce & left it to simmer very gently. But what to put in the tubes of pasta?

In the fridge were eggs, a block of parmesan cheese, and 250g tubs of ricotta cheese & sour cream. I emptied the 2 tubs into a bowl & beat them together with a wooden spoon, before beating in the egg and some grated parmesan. Next I chopped together fresh parsley, basil mint (because I still don’t have any basil) and lemon thyme & mixed that into the cheese mixture. I used a teaspoon to fill the pasta tubes, standing each on its end to do this. In retrospect I could have used a piping bag, but oh well…

I spooned a little of the sauce over the base of an oblong casserole dish, then arranged a layer of filled cannelloni over the top. More sauce on the pasta, and then the next layer of cheese-filled tubes, and finally the rest of the sauce. Because I felt like a cheese overload I sprinkled a little more parmesan over the top before putting the dish into the oven – it took about 35 minutes to cook, by which time the sauce was bubbling & the cheese golden. (You can check that it’s cooked by pushing a skewer into the pasta – there should be very little resistance.)

We had it with salad & some steamed broccoli from the garden – there was plenty for 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day.

 

pumpkin, feta & walnut ravioli

Standard

We had several friends to dinner last night, & as one has a particular fondness for vegetarian food, I thought I’d do something with some of our plentitude of pumpkins. I decided on ravioli because I rather enjoy making pasta, & was enticed by the idea of a combination of feta, pumpkin & walnuts that bubbled to the front of my brain.

First up, the pumpkin(s) needed roasting. I picked out a big butternut pumpkin & – because you can never have too much pumpkin (had there been any excess it would have ended up in bread) – a couple of the cute yellow-&-white striped minis. Once split in half & seeds scooped out, they went cut-side down on a teflon sheet in a roasting dish, to bake at 180 C for about 40 minutes.

Then, the pasta. Traditionalists may flinch at this – but because I’d got other things on the go as well (making the dip for folks to enjoy with beer, not to mention the pastry for dessert), I decided to let the bread machine do the kneading of my flour & eggs with a littlebitta oil. I’d tried this before and with good results; you just have to keep an eye on it in case there’s a need for extra liquid or flour.

Once the pumpkins were cooked & had cooled a little, I scooped the flesh into a bowl & mashed it roughly, before stirring in about 1/2 c coarsely-grated parmesan, 150 g creamy feta (crumbled into bits about 1 cm on a side), & a cup of roughly-chopped walnuts (you want a bit of firmness to the bite, so don’t process them to the point where you have walnut flour!).

While I do have one of those little trays for making ravioli I’ve only used it the once. Instead I make use of my 4cm round ravioli cutter (a bit like a biscuit cutter but with a handle). So yesterday I rolled chunks of my dough ever more thinly through our pasta machine. With each sheet of pasta, I laid it flat on a floured bench and placed heaped teaspoonfuls of the pumpkin, cheese’n’nut mix onto half the sheet, well spaced. Then I slowly folded the other half of the sheet down over them, pressing down around each mound of filling to exclude as much air as possible, before cutting out the little pasta packets. As I made them, I dusted each one lightly with flour before placing them on racks covered with baking paper, then covering them with a dry tea towel & leaving them to dry. I ended up with over 6 dozen, but then there were 7 of us for dinner so that sounded right (although it looked an awful lot!).

The sauce was easy as I have rather a lot in the freezer 🙂 Just needed to defrost a couple of packets & then heat them through in the microwave, while boiling the water to cook the ravioli. Which, once the water’s boiling, don’t take long to cook. Pop them carefully into the pot, & then once they’ve come to the surface & the water’s returned to the boil, they should need only 2-3 minutes more – fish one out & try it to be sure.

To serve, I layered the pasta with the sauce in two large oblong dishes, and brought them to the table along with a bowl of finely-grated parmesan and a big salad of lettuce & finely-sliced red pepper from the garden.

The daughter swears she hates pumpkin. But we noticed that last night, she had two helpings 😀

pumpkin risotto

Standard

This year we have a plethora of petite pumpkins – the shot below shows rather less than half the crop. Pretty, aren’t they? We decided to grow mini-pumpkins as while the husband & I love them, the daughter has them on her list of Food to Avoid If Possible. (No accounting for some tastes…) Anyway, the seed packets informed us that we’d get just 3-4 fruit per plant, so we planted quite a few, wanting to try the different varieties on offer. And most of the plants grew like Topsy & produced a dozen or so cute little pumpkins. Which, as well as looking gorgeous, taste great. I just need to come up with a range of ways to cook them.

pumpkins!

So the other night, I made pumpkin risotto. First up, I cut two of our larger fruit in half, scooped out the seeds, & put them cut side down in a baking tray lined with a teflon sheet before baking them at 180 degrees C until soft – about 45 minutes. When they were done, the cut surfaces were slightly caramelised, giving added depth to the flavour.

While that was happening I started in on the risotto part of the meal. A thinly-sliced onion went into one of my big saucepans with 25 g of butter & a splash of olive oil, to soften over a low heat. After 5 or so minutes I added several cloves of garlic, peeled & sliced, followed by 2 c of arborio rice. I stirred all that together until the rice started to go translucent round the edges & was glisteningly covered with the butter/oil.

At which point I opened a bottle of the rather nice 2011 Villa Maria gewurtztraminer, added 250 ml to the rice – & poured myself a glass as well 🙂  – then stirred everything together & turned the heat right down, so that it was all barely simmering. Once the liquid was almost all absorbed, I started adding a litre of hot vegetable stock (again, 250 ml at a time), stirring & then leaving each lot of liquid to be absorbed before adding the next.

While this was going on I also cooked 4 large rashers of shoulder bacon in a very little butter (I find it tends to stick, otherwise) until crispy round the edges. Once that was done I drained it & chopped it into smallish pieces, before cooking 12-15 sage leaves in the fat that remained in the pan. Be careful with this – they need very little time to go crispy!

By this time the pumpkin was done & the risotto was creamy & tender. I added 1/2 c of sour cream to the rice & stirred that through, following it with the bacon & the pumpkin, scooped out of its skin with a dessertspoon to give reasonably big chunks. And then we ate it all up, with lashings of parmesan & the rest of the wine on the side. (No, Trevor, I did not drink it all!)

pizza – for dessert?

Standard

One of my brothers introduced me to this variation on pizza, way back when we still lived in Palmerston North. (He’d been keeping an eye on our place while we were away, & we’d been wondering where all the grapes had got to…) Our muscatel grapes are ripe at last, so I thought this would make a good dessert for the family.

I make pizza dough quite a lot, by hand or in the bread machine. There’s little difference in time between the 2 methods (both take around 45 minutes), but for this one I used the machine to do the kneading as I had other stuff on the go in the kitchen at the same time.

Into the mixing bowl I put 2 c strong (bread) flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tblsp olive oil, 3/4 c water, & 2 Tlbsp raw sugar. Normally I use very little sugar in pizza dough but this time I wanted it to be sweetish, on account of it being for dessert. Then I put it in the machine on the ‘pizza’ setting & set it going.

While the bread machine did its bit, I put my big pizza stone in the oven (200 degrees C) to heat, & set about preparing the grapes. I wanted around 2 cups, & had a mix of fat green grapes from the market & our own lovely golden-pink muscatels. The latter, which are smallish, I just pulled from their stems – they tend to split a little, but this is good as the escaped juices caramelise in cooking. The big green ones I halved, & flicked out their seeds with the point of a knife.

Once the dough had finished its brief rising, I kneaded it a little to get rid of the air bubbles & then rolled & stretched it to a disc a little smaller than the pizza stone. (I usually do this on a Teflon sheet & slide it onto the stone from a baking tray.) Then I studded it liberally with grapes – green ones cut side up – & sprinkled everything with 2-3 Tblsp white sugar before putting the pizza in the oven for about 20 minutes: the fruit should soften and the sugar & juices caramelise.

The scent as the finished dish came from the oven was that of a good dessert wine 🙂

a very nice risotto

Standard

This morning I got a pack (around 600g) of rump steak out of the freezer to defrost, before heading off to work. I’d originally intended a warm salad (there are still a lot of lettuces in the garden & some tomatoes too), but by the end of a trying day I was thinking “comfort food!” So I stopped off at the supermarket – we needed milk anyway – & picked up some button mushrooms & a 200g packet of marscapone. And although I’d been contemplating beef stroganoff (my version of it, anyway), this is what I came up with.

First I put some dried mushrooms (what the husband calls ‘fancy’ mushrooms, ie porcini, shiitake & so on) to soak in a bowl, covered with boiling water. While they softened, I started 50g of butter melting in one of my stockpots and added a peeled, thinly-sliced brown onion &, after that had been cooking for a few minutes over a low heat, several cloves of minced garlic. (I have a garlic crusher but I usually can’t be bothered with using it; it’s so fiddly to clean afterwards!)

Next, I added 2 c of arborio rice to the pan & stirred everything so that all the rice grains glistened with melted oniony butter. Once the edges of the grains had started to go translucent I poured in the first cup of liquid. Usually I use white wine for this (a glass for the risotto, a glass for me…) but we’d none opened. For some reason the husband wasn’t interested in opening one; “aha!” he said, “what about your cider?” I thought, hmmmm, & used a cup of apple cider, then stirred everything & left the rice to absorb all the liquid while I went on to the next step: draining the mushrooms – don’t discard the liquid! you’ll need it – & slicing them (not too thinly).

By this time the first lot of liquid had disappeared, so I tipped in the mushroom liquor, opened a 1 litre tetrapak of vegetable stock & put a cup of that into the microwave to heat, & started cutting up the little button mushrooms from New World. And also one of the long ‘sweet point’ red peppers from the garden. And in went the next cup of hot stock, followed by mushrooms & pepper. It’ll take another couple of rounds of heating stock, adding it, stirring well & leaving to cook on a very low heat before the stock is all absorbed.

After the 2nd cup of stock sloshed into the pan,  I trotted off outside & fired up the barbecue, then brushed the steak with a little oil & put it on the grill – 2-3 minutes on each side – before taking it back to the kitchen, serving the risotto another helping of stock, & then slicing the meat thinly across the grain. It was still quite rare, but I knew the heat of the rice would get the meat to a state that the rest of the family would tolerate 🙂

Finally, I opened the marscapone, stirred that into the risotto, then added the meat & stirred again before checking the flavour & adding a good slosh of soy sauce. And served the meal with a bowl of finely-grated parmesan & a side of what I suspect are just about the last of the season’s runner beans, finely-sliced & steamed.

And yes! even after everyone had had seconds, there will be leftovers for lunch 🙂

using more of the garden’s bounty: vegetable lasagne

Standard

Something else that we seem to have a lot of in the garden – as well as all those tomatoes – is pumpkins. While the daughter dislikes them, the husband & I are rather keen on pumpkins, but even he agrees that he might have got just a little carried away in his plantings last year. With reason, mind you – after growing the usual butternuts & crown pumpkins & a few supermarket squash last year, we found ourselves with an awful lot of the things: far too many for the two pumpkin-eaters to take care of. So when we came across some small-fruit varieties, we thought we’d try them out. Well! Small the fruit may be, but the plants still sprawl everywhere, & they’re amazingly prolific given that the seed packets usually said ‘2-3 fruit per plant’. And some of them are already ripe.

So, since I had freshly-made tomato sauce to hand, I decided on vegetable lasagne for tea. (I’d like to say that I made the pasta for it, but honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t; I used a packet of fresh lasagne sheets from the supermarket.)

First I split a couple of our cute little pumpkins in half, removed the seeds, brushed them with oil & put them in the oven (180 C) to bake. Once they were cooked & cool enough to handle, I scooped the lovely rich, dry-ish flesh into a bowl. In another bowl I mixed 500g of cottage cheese with one large egg & a decent handful of chopped parsley & garlic chives. And I set the first of our spinach to cook in briskly boiling water. Then I assembled the lasagne, using a largish roasting dish as I had 5 hungry mouths to feed.

On the bottom of the dish went about a cup & a half of sauce. Then I laid half the pasta sheets on top of the sauce, & topped them with the pumpkin, the spinach leaves, & some more sauce. Atop that went the rest of the pasta, followed by the cottage cheese mix. More sauce over the top of that, sprinkled with grated tasty cheese, & then the lasagne went into the oven (180 C again) for about 30 minutes until it was bubbling & the cheese was golden.

We had it with salad, & – some time later – blackberry & apple crumble for dessert.

sweet pepper sauce & handmade cheese-&-herb ravioli

Standard

I am soooo enjoying being on holiday 🙂 And my idea of being on holiday includes (among other fun activities) cooking lots of Nice Things. This morning I biked down to the Farmers’ Market, but – because I knew I’d be coming home with blueberries – before I left I mixed a brioche dough & left it to rise. And when I got back I used it to make blueberry brioche (which I will probably write about in another post).

Also in the saddlebags were beetroot, apple juice, avocados, macadamia nuts, free-range eggs, and a whole lot of lovely long sweet red peppers, courtesy of the lovely folk at the Southern Belle Orchard booth. I had designs on those peppers! Some of them I packed away in the fridge, but I kept 4 big ones aside. After lunch (mmmm, nommilicious brioche!) I turned them into a lovely, slightly spicey sauce:

  • Slice a brown & a red onion thinly & start them frying gently in a heavy pan. (It wouldn’t actually matter which kind you used; I just grabbed what was there.)
  • Peel & chop the cloves from a couple of small heads of garlic & add them to the pan.
  • Remove the seeds from the peppers (you could use ordinary capsicums too) and slice the flesh; add that to the pan as well.
  • At this point I looked at our excess of zucchini, and then chopped 3 of them into small dice & popped them in the pan with everything else.
  • Add 1 tsp of paprika – the rich red smoked kind if you have it (which I do, cos my friend Annette gave me some), 1/4 tsp chili powder (more if you like it hot), & salt to taste, before pouring in 500 ml chicken stock (I didn’t have vege stock available). Pop a lid on the pan and simmer the mix gently for about 30 mins, & then a further 30 mins with the lid off if you want to thicken the sauce.
  • Finally, use a stick blender or food processor to process to a smooth-ish puree.

Now, I’d started off making the sauce without a firm idea of what to use it with, but while it was cooking (& I was doing my embroidery) I decided it would go rather nicely with cheese-&-herb ravioli. So I mixed up a batch of pasta dough (3 c flour, 6 of those free-range eggs, a couple of Tbsp of olive oil, all kneaded together & then – when I needed it – rolled out into thin sheets), & then dealt with the filling. Again, you could vary this according to what you’ve got in the fridge.

  • Beat together 250 g ricotta cheese and 250 g cream cheese, plus however much grated parmesan you feel like using.
  • Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that to the cheese, along with about a cup of finely chopped herbs: I used parsley, basil, marjoram, lemon thyme, chives, & garlic chives.
  • Fry 3-4 rashers of bacon, chop finely, & stir into the cheese/herb mix, along with the zest of a lemon & juice to taste.
  • Finally, mix in an egg – it helps hold everything together when cooked.
  • Take a sheet of pasta (I rolled this one sheet at a time) & place teaspoonfuls of the filling on half the sheet, spacing them about 3 cm apart.
  • Fold the other half of the sheet over the top & press down around each little mound of filling, before cutting into ravioli. Place to dry on baking paper on a cake rack & then roll your next pasta sheet. That amount of dough & filling gave me about 4 dozen  5 dozen** ravioli.

When ready to eat, bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to the boil, drop in the pasta, & cook 3-4 minutes or till they’re al dente. Heat the sauce through while the ravioli cook. I’m just about to go & do that now. And we’re going to have it with a nice bottle of red wine, all the way from Italy!

** make that 5 dozen – I counted as I popped them into the pot 🙂