Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Tomato Sauce

Making pasta dough used to scare me.

Honestly, making any kind of dough used to scare me. I think it was the kneading... It had always seemed complicated to me, something that needed A LOT of practice.

But once you get the hang of it, you realize it's not that hard and it's actually a lot of fun.

It's not difficult, but you will have to set aside some time, particularly if you're making pasta from scratch for the first time.


Ingredients

Filling:

250g spinach, washed and chopped

150g ricotta cheese

Salt and pepper

Pasta:

300g flour

3 eggs

3 teaspoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

Tomato Sauce:

2 (400g) cans peeled tomatoes in juice

4 or 5 cloves ofgarlic, crushed

4 tablespoons oil

Salt and pepper

  1. For the sauce: Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the crushed garlic and fry for a few minutes until fragrant.
  2. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them, along with the juice, to the pan. Fill both cans with water and add this to the saucepan as well. Bring to the boil, place the lid on the saucepan and turn the heat down to very low.
  3. Let the sauce cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. As the sauce thickens you will have to stir more frequently. The sauce is ready when it is no longer watery.
  4. When the sauce is ready, remove from heat and set aside.
  5. For the filling: Add the spinach to a saucepan and cover with 3 to 4 cups of water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 30 minutes.
  6. Drain the spinach and squeeze the water out.
  7. Mix together the spinach and ricotta in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. For the pasta: Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt.
  9. Make a well in the centre, break to eggs into it and add the olive oil.
  10. Using a fork, slowly whisk the eggs and then gradually start to incorporate the flour into the eggs.
  11. Once the dough starts to come together, do away with the fork and use your hands to form it into a ball.
  12. It may seem dry at this point but as you begin to work it, it will come together.
  13. Use your hands to form the dough into a ball and press all of the dry flour into the dough. Then knead it for 4 to 5 minutes. To knead the dough, place the heel of your hand in the middle of the ball of dough and push it away from you. With your fingers, fold the dough over towards you and then use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you. Repeat this process until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  14. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  15. Now to roll out the dough, you can either use a pasta machine or you can roll it out by hand. (I used a pasta machine.)
  16. Divide the dough into 3 portions.
  17. If you are using a pasta machine, take a portion of dough, roll it into a log shape and flatten slightly. (Cover the other two portions of dough with a damp cloth so that it doesn't dry out.) Dust the dough on both sides with flour and pass through the machine, at its widest setting. Do this twice. Then fold the dough, first from left to right and then from top to bottom. Pass the dough through the machine again, at the widest setting. Repeat this process 6 times. If the dough gets sticky or wet, dust with some more flour.
  18. Now continue to pass the dough through the pasta machine, reducing to a narrower setting each time, until the pasta is 1 mm thick.
  19. Alternatively, you can roll the pasta dough out by hand using a rolling pin.
  20. Cut the pasta into 4 x 4 inch squares. Take one square and place a teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Brush the edges of the square with water and top with another square of dough. Press down around the filling to push out any air bubbles. Press the edges of the dough together, trim the dough and then seal the ends by pressing down with the edge of a fork. Repeat until the filling is used up.
  21. Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water, in batches of 3 or 4, for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat the tomato sauce.
  22. To serve, spoon some tomato sauce, about 3 tablespoons, in a plate and place 3 or 4 ravioli on it. Spoon a bit more sauce over the ravioli, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve. (Serves 4 to 6)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grilled Three-Pepper Salad with Mint and Roasted Garlic Dressing


Ingredients

3 bell peppers, in different colours (I used green, red and yellow)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 teaspoons mint leaves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Place the onions in a medium bowl and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over them. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Cut the peppers into quarters, remove the seeds and place on a baking tray, skin side up. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the peppers and toss together.
  3. Wrap the garlic cloves in foil and place on the baking tray as well.
  4. Place the tray under a grill and grill until the peppers' skins are blackened.
  5. Remove the tray from the oven. Put the peppers in a bowl, cover with cling film and allow to cool.
  6. Mint and Roasted Garlic Dressing: When cool enough to handle, remove the garlic cloves from the foil and peel. Using a mortar and pestle, grind together the mint, garlic and lemon juice to form a paste. Stir in the olive oil.
  7. When the peppers have cooled, peel the skins off and thinly slice them, lengthwise.
  8. Transfer the onions to a strainer and rinse well. Squeeze the excess water out and place on paper towel or newspaper to dry.
  9. Now mix together the peppers and onions and toss in the dressing. Before serving, taste the salad and add more salt if you like, but the onions will already be quite salty so you may not need to add more.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Carrot and Apple Salad


Ingredients
1 carrot
1 apple
1 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons peanuts (or chopped walnuts)
Salt and pepper

  1. Grate the carrot into a medium bowl.
  2. Peel the apple, grate it and add to the grated carrot. (You should have roughly equal amounts of grated carrot and apple.)
  3. Add the lemon juice and toss together.
  4. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad and mix well.
  5. Right before serving, toss the peanuts into the salad and season with salt and pepper. You can add some raisins too, if you like.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken, Potato and Spinach Kebabs

There are lots of ways to use leftovers. Pasta, salads, sandwiches...

Or kebabs.

The thing with kebabs is that, when you mush everything together, nobody has to know what exactly went in them. *evil laugh*

Okay, that was lame. Nothing dodgy in these, just some leftover spinach and chicken and some potato to bring it all together.



Ingredients
120g potato (about 1 medium)
100g cooked chicken (3/4 cup, chopped)
3/4 to 1 cup chopped spinach
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

  1. Boil the potato until tender and mash.
  2. In a nonstick pan, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the spinach and saute for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  3. When the spinach has cooled, place the chicken and spinach in a food processor and process until well combined, 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Mix the chicken and spinach mixture with the mashed potato. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
  5. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs each in three separate shallow plates. Shape the kebab mixture into round patties. You can make four, six or eight kebabs, depending on how big or small you would like them to be.
  6. As you shape each patty, coat in flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs and place on a large plate.
  7. Shallow fry the patties for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and serve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Cookies 'n Cream Trifle

I happen to like trifle.

It doesn't have to be a standard custard-jelly affair. I like the custard-jelly type too, don't get me wrong. But there are a million ways to go about it.

So what do you make for dessert for last-minute dinner guests when you don't know three out of four of them (and therefore you don't know what they may or may not like)?

You go with chocolate, that's what you do.

I whipped up this trifle, which I'd never made before, and I sort of improvised the ingredients and recipe as I walked through the aisles of the grocery store. "Ooh Oreos! Let's put those in!" That sort of thing.




I thought it looked great when I put it into the fridge to chill. But when it came closer to serving, I thought to myself, "Why did I make something I've never made before, something I haven't tasted, for a dinner party?!"




Well I didn't need to worry because it turned out to be a big hit, so I thought I'd share the recipe.


Ingredients

Coffee syrup:
1/3 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder

Chocolate custard:
3/4 cup milk
70g semisweet chocolate chips or 70g dark chocolate
1 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla custard powder
3 tablespoons milk

3 chocolate cupcakes (or about 4 ounces of any chocolate cake)
4 Oreo cookies

4 to 6 tablespoons cream*


  1. Dissolve the sugar and coffee in the boiling water to make the syrup.
  2. In a separate bowl, crumble the cupcakes (or cake) into small pieces. Drizzle the syrup over the cake, a tablespoon at a time, allowing the cake to soak it up before adding more. Stir the mixture and continue to slowly add more syrup, a little at a time, until there are no dry bits, but the mixture should not be soggy or watery. You may not need to use all of the syrup.
  3. Take two dessert glasses and spoon a quarter of the cake mixture into each glass.
  4. For each glass, break up an Oreo cookie into small pieces and arrange on top of the cake.
  5. To make the custard, add 3/4 cup milk, sugar and chocolate into a saucepan and cook on low heat until the sugar and chocolate dissolve.
  6. If you're using dark chocolate, you may need to add more sugar to the custard. Taste the milk before adding the custard powder and add more sugar according to your liking. You don't want a very sweet custard though, because there is already a lot of sweetness from the syrup in which the cake is soaked and from the Oreos.
  7. Meanwhile, dissolve the custard powder in three tablespoons milk.
  8. When the sugar and chocolate has dissolved in the milk, bring the mixture to a boil and then slowly add the custard dissolved in milk, whisking constantly. When the custard has thickened, remove from heat.
  9. Let the custard cool a little, for two or three minutes, stirring frequently with a whisk to keep the custard smooth.
  10. Spoon two to three tablespoons of the chocolate custard into each of the two dessert glasses.
  11. Repeat theses layers; divide the remaining cake mixture amongst the two dessert glasses, followed by an Oreo (broken into small pieces) in each glass, and then finally spoon over the remaining custard into each glass.
  12. Let the trifles cool for about 15 minutes, then spoon two to three tablespoons each of cream on top of the second layer of custard.
  13. Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours, overnight if possible. Dust with cocoa before serving, or decorate with grated chocolate.
(This recipe will make two individual servings. To make it in a single large bowl, multiply the recipe by four. *Use 1 cup of cream if you are making the trifle in a single large serving bowl.)



Monday, December 5, 2011

The 'Handful' Salad


I saw some gorgeous fresh baby spinach at the vegetable shop so I had to buy it for a salad. It looked like it had just come from the farm minutes ago.

The salad I made doesn't really have a name and it's nothing special, but all the measurements are in handfuls instead of cups and weights.

You can use whatever vegetables you like. Just try to use ingredients that will give you different colours and textures to make your salad interesting. It doesn't have to be bland and boring.

Ingredients
Salad leaves (I used baby spinach)
Onions
Tomatoes
Dried apricots
Chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper

Dressing:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. In a large flat dish, layer 4 handfuls of salad leaves. Tear the leaves into bite size peices if they are too big.
  2. Top with 2 handfuls of sliced onions, then 2 handfuls of sliced tomatoes.
  3. Sprinkle 1 handful of chopped dried apricots over the salad, and finally 1 handful of chopped walnuts.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard, soy sauce and olive oil. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato


During a trip to Italy over the summer, I ate gelato every day.

Sometimes, twice a day.


Really though, how could I resist? Every few steps and there was another gelateria, and, needless to say, the gelato was divine.


(Trastevere, Rome)

I was only there five days, mind you. I think that's perfectly reasonable.



(Rome)


(Milan)

Anyway, I went through gelato withdrawal and I couldn't imagine a life without gelato anymore so I wanted to try and make it myself.

I used a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, but I've changed around the proportions a bit. The result is a silky-smooth, rich, delicious gelato.

(The recipe can easily be halved, just in case you're worried about all those egg yolks and all that Nutella.)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)




Ingredients
3 cups full-cream milk
1 1/2 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Nutella
  1. Combine the milk, cream, and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. This should take about 5 minutes. Do not boil.
  2. In a medium bowl lightly whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly.
  3. Now add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes. Do not leave this custard alone and keep stirring until it is thick enough.
  4. Place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through it. Stir the vanilla and Nutella in to this mixture until it dissolves. Cool the mixture to room temperature, then freeze in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  5. If, like me, you don't have an ice cream maker, click here for instructions on how to make it by hand. Store the gelato in the freezer in an airtight container.
  6. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls, using an ice cream scoop dipped in hot water. If the gelato is too firm, leave it outside for a few minutes before serving.