Friday, 16 November 2012

Rainy Day Cooking

There are some things in life that take time.
Like painting the Forth Road Bridge.
Or raising children.
They take as long as they take.

When the rain sets in and it's November, sometimes it's lovely to go to the kitchen, shut the door (if you can!) and get on with some slow food.

Some of you will enjoy baking . Others will love bottling and making jams and chutneys.

But when it's pouring outside, I love to take the time to make pasta. Especially ravioli.

It's a time consuming process- but well worth it. First, you need a foolproof pasta recipe and this one never fails for me.
250g plain or pasta flour
1/2tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks (remember to freeze the egg whites for another day)

Place all the ingredients (except one of the eggs) in the bowl of your food processor. Whizz it up and then look at the consistency- if it's too dry and breadcrumb-y, then add the second egg. (You might not need it depending on the size of the eggs). You can add a drop more olive oil if you need to.
Tip the dough out onto some clingfilm and bring it together into a smooth ball. Place in fridge until you need it.

Then prepare your filling - I love a mushroom stuffing, but butternut squash or pumpkin, or spinach work really well with the cream cheese mixture too: soak a tablespoonful of dried wild mushrooms in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes,  blitz a small onion, a clove of garlic, a handful of parsley and 150g (about 6) large button mushrooms in a food processor (or chop finely by hand). Drain the wild mushrooms using a tea strainer (reserving the strained liquid). Add the wild mushrooms and blitz again. Fry the mushroom mixture in a little olive oil and then add the mushroom liquid and cook until it has been absorbed. Allow to cool and then mix with 2 tablespoons of cream cheese (of your choice- garlic and herb, low fat, ricotta....).

Keep the pasta wrapped in clingfilm in the fridge and take a quarter at a time to work with so it doesn't dry out.

Roll it three times through the pasta machine- first on the widest setting, then a medium, then a fine. 

Cut the strips with a biscuit cutter, place a teaspoon of filling in each one, brush the edges with water and crimp the edges 2/3 of the way round.

 Pick up the little parcels and finish the crimping at the top to ensure all air is pressed out and the filling is secure. If you have sealed well and expelled all the air bubbles these ravioli will not burst and will cook easily.

I keep a damp tea towel handy, sprinkled with flour, to store the ravioli as I work.

You can cook them fresh or freeze them in a container with tiers of greaseproof paper between them, again sprinkled with flour. They freeze well and can be cooked from frozen too.

To cook, bring a pan of water to a rapid boil, gently add the ravioli and turn down the heat to a simmer. The ravioli are cooked when they rise to the surface and float.
You can serve them with simple tomato sauce, or olive oil and parmesan shavings, or floating in a tomato or mushroom soup.

Ravioli in a mushroom broth

You will probably have a helping of mushroom filling left over of course (otherwise why post it on this blog?). It is scrumptious stirred through tagliatelle, spread on garlic toast as mushroom pate or stirred into a mushroom risotto, or used a jacket potato filling with some crispy bacon.

Mushroom stuffed potatoes

Whilst I'm rolling, stuffing, crimping and flouring the pasta - I like to put a stew on to cook slowly in the slow cooker: a coq au vin or a rich beef stew. Very simple for both- brown some onion, carrot and celery quickly in a pan, place in the casserole dish or slow cooker , brown some beef (for beef stew) or chicken and bacon (for coq au vin)  in the same pan and add to the casserole. Deglaze the pan with 2 glasses of red wine, add to the casserole. Add 2 bay leaves and some herbes de provence. Cover and cook for 6 -8 hours in the slow cooker or 2-3 hours in a low oven (150 degrees). You will need more liquid if you cook in the oven- another cup of stock or water. Adjust seasoning  to your own taste, thicken with gravy granules or cornflour paste if necessary.
Coq au vin
Rich Beef Stew
Braised red cabbage

Lovely to serve these stews with a braised vegetable dish like braised red cabbage. I like to cook red cabbage with some chopped onion and a glass of red vermouth (for a sweet and sour taste) but it goes well with apple or chilli too.

Finally, for those of you who like to bake... you command my respect, as I am not much of a pastry chef. I quite like to knock up a batch of cheese scones though whilst the oven is on and here is a recipe I gleaned on a recent course I attended. (I'm now a Community Cookery Leader by the way- v. proud.) I was by far and away the worst baker there though, so do as I say not as I do when it comes to this recipe.

You need 3 level dessertspoons of sunflower margarine, 1 cup of plain flour and 1 cup of wholemeal flour, 4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 cup of milk plus 1 tsp mustard, 50-60 g of grated cheese and a finely chopped spring onion or red pepper.

Blitz it all together until it forms a soft dough and then press it out on a floured board until it is 3-4 cm thick- cut with pastry cutters or slice into triangles, sprinkle with paprika or sunflower seeds or more grated cheese and bake for 10 minutes in a hot oven (220 degrees).

These are delicious with Marmite, butter or cream cheese- hot from the oven. Bliss!

Cheese scones

1 comment:

  1. Can you Fedex me some hot cheese scones please? And maybe a slow cooker too? No but seriously, these scones are wonderful, everyone should make some. (And send them to me.)