Sunday, 27 June 2010

Cheap-Ass Ham And Cheese Tortellini

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

INGREDIENTS/UTENSILS:
TORTELLINI
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
SAUCE
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.

METHOD:
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.

SERVING:
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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Friday, 18 June 2010

Sweet Potato and Turmeric Cannelloni

NAME: _Sweet Potato and Turmeric Cannelloni

INGREDIENTS/UTENSILS:
8 - 12 canneloni tubes, the hard store bought pasta kind
250g minced meat (beef)
100g sweet potato
100g sweet pumpkin such as butternut
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp tinned diced tomato
one small onion
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1 level tsp turmeric
1 level tsp paprika
1 medium carrot
2 stalks celery
bunch parsley
approx 100g cheese for grating
chicken stock powder
beef stock powder

METHOD:
Seperate the meat into two lots, one approximately 100g, the other 150g. Place in two small saucepans, place over very low heat to start.  Grate the carrot, finely dice the celery stalks.  Divide the piles in half.  Finely dice the onion, and crush the garlic.  Finely chop the parsley.  Peel and small dice the sweet potato and pumpkin, place in a third small saucepan, also over low heat.

The 100g of mince will become the filling for half the cannelloni - add one half each of the carrot and celery to this saucepan, add the paprika, add two tbsp of the diced tomato.  Add approximately one quarter of the chopped parsley.  Bring to a simmer, season salt to taste, and then set aside to cool.  Add the turmeric and 1/3 of the crushed garlic to the sweet potato and pumpkin, add the remaining 2 tbsp diced tomato and a level teaspoon of chicken stock powder.  Simmer until potato and pumpkin are soft, and roughly mash together with a wooden spoon. Salt to taste and set aside to cool.  (Both fillings use as little water as possible, just the bare minimum to prevent burning.)

Add remaining carrot and celery, chopped onion, and crushed garlic to the 150g of meat.  Add the 2 tbsp of tomato paste, 2/3 of the remaining chopped parsley, and some water to produce a bolognese sauce consistency, leave simmering while you prepare the cannelloni.  The water content of this sauce will be absorbed by the cannelloni tubes, softening them.

Fill half the tubes with the now cool meat mixture.  Grate approximately one third of the cheese onto the sweet potato filling and fold in.  Fill the other tubes with this mixture. Lay the tubes in a baking dish, I cut thin slices of pumpkin to layer the bottom of the dish so the pasta doesn't stick, your call - you could also use thinly sliced onion for extra flavour.  Pour the hot sauce over making sure it gets in all the spaces between tubes and slightly covers the tubes.

Grate the remaining cheese over the top and place in a 350 degree oven for around 45 minutes.  The cheese should start getting a tinge of colour and be well melted.

SERVING:
Serve with a crispy tart side salad, serve up one of each kind of cannelloni per plate.  Sprinkle the remaining chopped parsley over each serving.

NOTES:
I could have made the tubes myself but then they'd be soft and hard to fill, especially with a filling I left deliberately rough textured.  The flavours are all slightly tied together by key ingredients, but widely varied.  The cannelloni tubes serve to keep those flavours separate until you plate up, which is why they need to be packed close side by side and end to end in the baking dish.

Using powdered stock is a decision made because you don't want either filling to be sloppy, and if you wait for normal stock to reduce you'll overcook the fillings.  Also, normal stock won't pack enough flavour punch. Unless you make your own stocks and reduce them to almost pan glazes.

The flavour of the sweet potato filling is quite heavy on turmeric and tomato and garlic, because I find that vegetarian type food (yes I know chicken stock isn't vegetarian, but use one of the meatless ones if you like) is always a little bit bland.  With the added flavours, it's strong.  The beef filling is also quite heavy on paprika and the parsley which gives that it's flavour. And the sauce has garlic, onion, and tomato paste to keep it flavoursome.




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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Chorizo Ravioli

NAME: _Chorizo Ravioli

INGREDIENTS/UTENSILS:
PASTA
200g OO flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp olive oil
FILLING
1 Chorizo
roughly equal quantity of minced beef
1/2 onion
2 tsp tomato paste
several leaves cabbage or kale
SAUCE
1 can diced tomato
1 tbsp tomato paste
bunch parsley

METHOD:
Make the pasta dough an hour or so ahead of time.  Put the flour in a bowl, add the eggs and other ingredients in a well in the center, mix together with an implement like a fork or spoon, then take from bowl and knead for five minutes or more.  Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.  Retain the bowl, no need to wash.

Take the skin from the chorizo and slice and finely chop it.  Finely chop the onion and greens.  Mix the meats, chopped vegetables, and tomato paste in the bowl, then transfer to a saucepan and place over low heat and stir until liquid forms, allow to simmer until it thickens again.  Set aside to cool - I usually spread it in a thin layer on a cold dinner plate and that cools it very rapidly.  Retain the saucepan, no need to wash.

Chop the parsley and put in the saucepan. Put 2/3 of the tin of diced tomato and the tomato paste in the saucepan, heat over low heat until gently simmering.  Set aside.

Now's the time to laminate the pasta. Roll the pasta roughly into a long thin slab, cut into two lengths. Get the pastabike roller out and roll the pasta once on each setting until you get to 6.  (I gather all pasta rollers are similar in this scale, a bit over halfway to the thinnest setting is fine. Do this for both pieces of pasta.

Oil a ravioli pan and lay half of one layer of pasta over it.  Lightly press the pasta into the hollows, then spoon a small - a tiny - quantity of the chorizo filling into each depression.  Press it in lightly.  Work quickly before the thin pasta sheets dry.  You may want to wet a finger and run it between the filling islands if the surface feels or looks too dry.  Fold the sheet of pasta over the top, and use the rolling pin to trim the dough and seal the edges.  200g of dough should make enough to cover the pan twice, so about 4 dozen ravioli.

Remove the ravioli from the pan and let them rest while you bring a pot of water to the boil.  Drop in enough ravioli at one time to cover the bottom, and wait until they float up, wait about one minute more, and scoop them out into a colander or draining tray.  Reheat the sauce at the same time.

SERVING:
Serve immediately with the sauce and some freshly grated or shaved cheese.

NOTES: I made pasta for the first time to make these. The filling of chorizo and beef was an experiment that worked out very well, it's a nice flavour.  And if I can make these then anyone can.  %)


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