There’s something fundamentally satisfying about feeding people. Especially when you get to feed the same group for five days straight and get to know them a little more over each meal. This is one of the things I love most about cooking for the residential art classes hosted and taught by Annie Herron (my Mum) every Autumn and Spring. Last week was the first of Spring’s classes and as always, the group was diverse, diverting and just lovely to cook for and get to know.
Weather-wise, we had four seasons in five days; from bright hazy summery afternoons to drizzly cool days, storms and perfect Spring mornings; so the menu was a moveable feast, trying desperately to keep up with the change in weather and subsequently mood. Here are a few of the recipes we shared throughout the week, and some pictures too.
Not exactly reinventing the wheel here I know, but ravioli is very satisfying to make and serve, and I find, much easier than most pastas as you can easily freeze a few batches without worrying whether the pasta will stick together etc and happily cook it straight from frozen. This pasta recipe is the one I use every time and it always works well. And you can of course change around the fillings limited only by what’s in your garden/pantry/imagination but right now, as Spring springs fast, this combination is my favourite. Serves 6
For the pasta
400g plain or 00 flour
2 tsp salt
4 large free range eggs
Combine the flour, salt and eggs in the bowl of your food processor and blitz for 10 seconds or until the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto a work surface and gently knead, bringing it all together until you have a smooth, springy dough. Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for an hour or so.
For the filling
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 cup fresh ricotta (see recipe below)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmsean cheese
zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your food processor and blitz for a few seconds then season to taste.
To make the ravioli
- Before you begin rolling, make sure you have everything ready; you’ll need a tray lined with paper for the finished ravioli, a little bowl of water, the ravioli filling, a couple of spoons, a ravioli cutter and a tea towel.
- Now lets roll! Unwrap the dough and divide it into four pieces, keep one out and wrap the rest in plastic. Lightly dust your pasta machine with flour, put it on the first/widest setting then flatten out with your palms to a thick disc. Feed this through your machine, fold pasta in half and repeat. Now feed through the machine on the second setting, fold in half, return to the first setting and repeat. You basically want to ‘work’ the pasta through the first few settings by rolling it through, folding in half and going back a setting each time. Once you get to about the fourth setting just go for it, gently feeding the pasta through each setting until you have a lovely thin, silky smooth long rectangle of pasta. Place this on your work surface and fold in half (lengthways) quite gently then unfold (you just want to see the halfway mark).
- Spoon a little of the filling on the top half of the pasta, about four centimetres apart and repeat all along the length of pasta (see picture above). Dip a finger into the water and run this across the long, top side of the pasta and now now fold the bottom half of pasta over the top and gently press on either side of each mound of filling, you want to press out any airbubles and use the moistened edge across the top to help seal the pasta together.
- Grab your ravioli cutter and cut across the top, pressing down firmly to seal and cut at the same time, and down the sides to make individual pieces. Place these on the tray lined with paper, cover with a tea towel and pop in the freezer.
- Repeat process with remaining pasta and filling.
To cook and serve
- Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and place about 15g butter in a frying pan. While the water is coming to the boil, get all your bits and pieces ready; you’ll need half a cup or so of toasted pine nuts, about the same amount of freshly shaved parmesan and a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn.
- Drop the pasta (fresh or frozen) into the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente (5 minutes if frozen, 3 if fresh). Meanwhile, melt the butter in your pan until it’s a lovely nutty brown (but no more!). Drain pasta and then tip into the saucepan of browned butter.
- Toss about so each piece is coated nicely then transfer to a warmed serving platter, sprinkle over the pine nuts, cheese and basil and serve straight away.
We had the above ravioli for lunch on a particularly hot day, and finished the meal with iced tea and madeleines drizzled with burnt honey custard (recipe can be found here).
Simple asparagus tart
This is a great little tart recipe and can easily be adapted to take thinly sliced zucchini, tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, pretty much any vegetable you please. Serves 4.
1 golden shallot
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp thyme leaves
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 sheet puff pastry (Careme pastry works beautifully here and is pre-rolled, yay)
1 bunch asparagus, bottoms snapped off
First make the filling so it has time to rest a bit in the fridge; heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan and add the shallot. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes then add the garlic and thyme leaves. Now pour in the wine and let the mixture reduce a little, stirring all the while. Remove from heat and fold in the creme fraiche. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and pop in the fridge until needed. Place the pastry on a tray lined with paper score a border about 2cm from the edge right around the pastry and pop this in the fridge to rest for half an hour too.
Preheat oven to 200C, line the base of your pastry with the filling, top with the asparagus spears and drizzle with a little olive oil. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with the below salad.
It’s always pretty exciting for me to cook with beautiful, fresh local produce so I was very happy to take delivery of a box of goodness from local grower Dougal Munro as I drove out of Orange to Rydal for this week in the kitchen. In addition to the asparagus above, Dougal had also included a big bag of miner’s lettuce or Claytonia perfoliata (pictured above). I’d never come across this stuff before, the leaves have a fresh, faintly peppery flavour a little like watercress and they found their way into a big salad with goat’s curd, toasted walnuts, radishes and a simple dressing of caramelised verjus and olive oil.
Baked Ricotta with herbs
Fresh ricotta is one of my favourite things to make and eat and baking it with cheese, eggs and herbs is really just gilding the lily. Of course you could use ricotta from the shops and that will be yummy too but using freshly made ricotta really does add an extra push of lightness and flavour.
for the ricotta
4 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
1/2 tsp sea salt
Juice of two lemons
Combine the milk, cream and salt in a large saucepan and bring just to boiling point. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Whisk so the mixture starts to curdle and leave for ten minutes, whisking every now and then. Pour through a sieve lined with one layer of muslin and leave to drip for an hour. Give the whey to your cat, dog or pig if you have one handy. Makes about 1 1/2 cups ricotta.
For the baked ricotta
Combine 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta with 5 really fresh eggs, 1 cup grated parmesan and half a cup of mixed freshly chopped herbs (tarragon, chives, parsley and thyme are good). Pour mixture into a tray lined with baking paper and pop into a preheated oven (180C) for 25 minutes or until golden but still wobbly to touch.
My Dad reckons this Nordica caramel almond cake is the best thing I’ve ever made. So. It’s just found a permanent position in my top 5 go-to cake recipes. The fact that it’s lovely and easy to make might just push it up a few spots too. Thank you to My Blue and White Kitchen for this recipe, it’s just gorgeous with fresh berries and yogurt but any fresh or stewed fruit would be delicious too. If the apricots are ready to pick yet, I’m going to make a few cakes and serve them with roasted apricots with lavender cream for our December Farm Kitchen lunch. Oh yes.
Halway through the week our stocks of fresh produce were dwindling so I headed up the Blue Mountains to pick up an order from the clever and lovely Erika and Hayden at Epicurean Harvest. Honestly, I was so excited to get this box home to the kitchen; there were peppery fresh radishes, lots of edible flowers, snow pea sprouts and kale and every leaf and petal tasted and looked perfect.
Big, beautiful rice salad with nuts, flowers and currants
This salad is inspired by one given in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More and it’s an absolute cracker – take it to picnics, serve it at your next barbecue, make a big batch on a Sunday night and have it for lunch during the week. Whatever, however, you make and serve this I really think you’ll love it as much as I do. There are a few steps involved but none of them hard. Skip the flowers if you don’t have any, they are really just for decoration! Serves 8.
3/4 cup wild rice
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup quinoa
3/4 cup mixture of pepitas and sunflower seeds
1 handful basil leaves, finely chopped
1 handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 brown onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice and zest of two lemons 4 tbsp olive oil
1 handful edible flowers
1 cup red currants*
Rinse the wild rice then place in a medium-sized saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water, bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until al dente. Now cook the basmati rice; place in another saucepan and cover with 1 1/2 cups water, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until al dente. For the quinoa, bring yet another (sorry!) saucepan of water to the boil, add quinoa and cook for ten minutes. Drain and set aside.
Toast the seeds until golden and toss into a large mixing bowl and add the herbs. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat, add the onions and reduce heat. Cook for about 15 minutes or until golden and caramelised. By now the rice-s should have cooled down so toss them into the bowl with nuts and herbs. Add the quinoa and toss well. For the dressing; mix the garlic, lemon juice and olive oil together then drizzle over the rice salad and toss to combine. To finish, add the caramelised onions, currangs and flowers and gently toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.
* We froze a big batch last year and I tossed them in frozen (they took hardly any time to defrost) but if you like, you can substitute with dried blueberries, or any other tart, fresh or dried fruit you fancy.