Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Pumpkin Ravioli

 These misty days just scream for bright food and things don’t get much brighter than pumpkin. Ravioli was also what my stomach demanded and rather than pop to Farringdon Road and buy my pasta fix from Gazzano’s I though I’d make my own.

It all very simple and like any craft rather soothing, but with moments of frustration. I learned fresh pasta making during my stays in in Italy and love it texture and silkiness. I also learnt most definitely that dried pasta was often the pasta of choice and that you never, never put oil in the pasta water to cook it.

Many of my most humiliating food moments have been when in Italy: asking for cappuccino after 11 am, hanging onto your red wine when you have asked for dessert, wanted Parmesan on seafood risotto…….. My cheeks have stung often with the scorn of the waiter as I make yet another Faux Pas!

But I have learned and now only drink macchiato after 11am and finish my wine before ordering dessert. I do occasionally add Parmesan to crab risotto but only in the privacy of my own home and then only when the curtains are drawn!

So to the pasta: I make mine in a food processor though any freestanding mixer works well and  I would use a dough hook in preference, or naturally you can knead the dough by hand.

I use the usual ration of eggs to flour: 100gms pasta flour to 1 medium egg just adding a couple of pinches of salt. If my egg is a bit on the large side I add flour a sprinkle at a time. It’s worth spending time getting the texture right so the pasta rolls evenly. It should be malleable but not stick to the heel of your hand when push away from you.

To make the filling I roasted a butternut squash with olive oil and a few cloves of garlic until it was soft. I then peeled the squash and whizzed it in a processor with plenty of freshly ground pepper and lots of fresh Parmesan. Nutmeg or cinnamon would work and many add amoretti biscuit crumbs but I find that makes the finished dish too sweet.

As the sage in my garden was way past it’s best I used a sauce of warm extra virgin oil with chopped pecans, fresh thyme leave and some lemon zest.

Pumpkin Ravioli

300gm pasta flour
3 medium eggs
2 pinches salt


I medium butternut squash
4 plump cloves garlic
90gm finely grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fresh thyme leaves
30gms pecan or walnuts finely chopped
a little finely grated lemon zest

Make the pasta by mixing the flour and salt with the eggs, kneading until you have a smooth firm dough.

Allow it to rest under an up turned bowl for 30 minutes

Cut the squash into pieces and place in a dish in the oven with the garlic and a little oil roasting until soft.

Peel off the skin and peel the garlic cloves. Whiz the flesh with the cheese and season well.

Roll out your dough and fill as shown.

I lay the made ravioli on trays dusted with polenta to stop them sticking.

Bring a big pan of water to the boil add a couple of tablespoons of salt to it and when you’re ready drop in the ravioli. They will need about 3 minutes rapid boiling though the degree of  “al dente” is personal!

While the pasta cooks warm the oil, nuts and herbs together and when the pasta is drained toss the ravioli in this sauce.
Serve at once.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Pot Roast Heaven

Well pot roast beef in fact, but heavenly indeed on a glum November day.  The rediscovery of the casserole is the latest news on the food front and a pot roast is just one step further along.

I love this type of cooking as it combines so many of my favourite things: a delicious tasty meal, minimum last minute preparation and a dish that is extremely forgiving.

I have chosen beef for this recipe but the technique is the same whether you pick chicken, venison or pork. A pot roast shoulder of lamb would work just fine but I might cook that rather fatty meat open over the veg as in Lamb Boulanger to allow the skin to crisp.

The basics are a decent sized piece of meat about 2 kilos and whatever vegetables you have in the larder with a definite lean towards roots. You will need an onion or two, leeks work well especially with chicken, and some seasoning herbs. For liquid you can chose stock, or wine but I often use water, not wanting to add too many flavours to the dish.

I have a beautiful collection of cast iron casserole/cocotte dishes collected over many years and half the pleasure to me of making pot roast is being about to use one of these lovelies.

The method is simple and can be followed for which ever meat you chose, the economy is perfect, less costly joints faring best here, and any leftovers will make gorgeous hearty soups.

Beef Pot Roast

2kg  joint of silverside, topside or leanish brisket

110gm smoked streaky bacon
a couple of tablespoons olive oil


2 leeks cleaned and sliced
4 carrots peeled and cut into chunks
4 small parsnips peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 ribs of celery sliced
4 fat cloves of garlic peeled and bashed a bit

I pint stock, water or red wine

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

A couple of sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf or two

To finish:
A couple of handfuls of small potatoes and some black olives these are optional but tasty if you have them in the fridge, Sun blushed tomatoes would work too.


Begin by choosing a lidded casserole into which all your ingredients will fit.

Place this over a moderate heat and cook the bacon till the fat runs and the bacon browns. Remove this to a plate then adding the oil brown the beef ( chicken, venison etc) on all sides. This does not seal the meat but it does caramelize the sugars and deepens the flavours of the final dish.

Take the meat out and add the veg. Give this all a stir and cook for about 4-5 minutes until things start to look a little relaxed.

Put the meat and bacon back then add the stock, season and tuck in the herbs.

Put on the lid and bring to a simmer.

Pop the dish in the oven and cook at 150 (140 fan) gas mk 2 for about 3 hours. It will sit in the oven happily for 4 hours.

I like to check the stock level a couple of times during cooking, it should come no more than half way up the meat.

About 40 minutes before serving add the potatoes and olives if you’re using them.

Serve with a good green cabbage.

Cook often until spring!!

Just some of my dishes!!!