Sunday, 27 June 2010

Cheap-Ass Ham And Cheese Tortellini

NAME: _Cheap-Ass Ham And Cheese Tortellini
(See Notes)

30 - 40 Tortellini wrappers (or square wonton wrappers from the shop)
(200g flour, 2 eggs, a drop of olive oil, few drops of water, roll out to 9)
50g - 100g ham
50g - 100g cheap cheddar
5g - 10g blue cheese
cabbage or kale leaves
10g - 50g ham
500ml water
1/2 an onion
1 clove garlic
50g butter
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
1 - 2 tbsp flour
250ml milk
chicken stock cube
salt, pepper
cabbage or kale leaves left over from above, or some fresh parsley.

I'll assume you know how to make pasta dough, or got wonton wrappers.  Just make sure the pasta doesn't dry out while you're making this.

Wilt the green leaves in a steamer or a pot of boiling water, dry the leaves.  Chop 2/3 (about 100g) of the leaves into quite small shreds, the rest (about 50g) into larger strips.  Set both aside.

Grate the cheddar into a bowl, and either finely dice the ham or freeze it and grate it also, add to the bowl.  Add the finely chopped green leaves, and freeze the blue cheese and crumble it finely or grate it, add that to the bowl also.  Stir to mix the filling ingredients, leave to get warm, stir again.  The filling needs to have cohesion from the cheddar, which is why it needs to be room temperature.

Now finely chop the onion, garlic, and the remaining ham, put in a saucepan with the olive oil over medium heat, and cook to glassy onion stage.  Season with the pepper to taste.  Add the butter, and when it melts, add the flour, stirring constantly.  Now begin to add the water, stopping at the quite thick paste stage.  Add the milk, and then add water until the sauce is rich and creamy.   Add the crumbled chicken stock cube, then adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Bring a few litres of salted water to the boil, drop in half the tortellini, and allow to come back up to the boil for about a minute, or until the required doneness is reached, drain. When all the pasta is cooked and drained,  warm the sauce through again, add the remaining shredded green leaves or parsley, and serve.

You can either coat the pasta in the sauce and serve, or serve pasta on a bed of sauce, or pasta first sauce on top, I don't think this matters except from the presentation point of view.  I use the coat and serve method myself.

Top with a few crumbs of cheese and/or parsley.

NOTES:Watching Master Chef a few weeks back - and specifically, an invention test to make something with household type ingredients, and a much fairer invention test suggested itself: Consequently, this dish was born.  The challenge?  Take whatever I actually really truly had in my kitchen, as a pensioner, and produce a tasty and quality dish from it.

Now I'd just paid $5 for a 7 kilo ham, so that was obviously a "quality" start to the dish.  That's almost 30c a pound, in the old measurements, and that has to represent the budgetest budget cut, right?  I also had some Coles medium cheddar, local dairy milk, local eggs, a kilo of plain flour, and (jewel of my collection) about 10g of the last of a piece of supermarket Danish Blue cheese.  The challenge was on!  I have to say that for the ingredients, I managed to make something that had a lot of complex flavouring, was of reasonable quality, and which, I'm sad to say, was actually better than many similar meals I've had at restaurants...

The Danish Blue adds a very slight tang to the cheddar and lifts it from ordinary to something a bit harder to define by taste.  As the cheap ham is quite salty, that adds all the seasoning the tortellini need, and the steamed kale modifies the saltiness and smooths flavours out again.

So on to the tips and tricks: Tortellini is the easiest shaped filled pasta to make, start with a square, add a dollop of filling, form a triangle, seal the edges, take the two opposite corners and form into a ring, seal, done.  Bonus: more pasta to filling ratio, so you can make an economy portion of filling go a long way.

Crumbling slightly moist blue cheese is always easier if you drop it into the deep freezer for an hour beforehand, then you can grate it or finely chop it without it sticking back together.  Actually, with "high quality" ham like I had, that would probably have been good advice for that, as well.

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