Thursday 30 May 2013

Sweet Potato and Parmesan Ravioli with Tomato and Basil Sauce

From Vegie Food: low-fat & delicious, The Australian Women’s Weekly, ACP Magazines, 2006.
As far as I am concerned, this is a cheat ravioli. It is not made from pasta but from wonton wrappers. But if your time short then it works quite well.

I boiled 250g of sweet potato (for two people) until it was soft. Then I mashed it and left it to cool. A tablespoon dried currants were added as well as a quantity of grated Parmesan cheese—about 2 tablespoons worth. I now left this covered until I had the sauce made.
I chopped an onion and added it to a saucepan to cook in a dessertspoon olive oil until it had softened. About 100ml white wine then went into the pot and was simmered until almost all gone. Meanwhile I had peeled two tomatoes, seeded and chopped them. These went into the saucepan with ¼ cup water and a corner of a stock cube. I let these simmer gently while I made the ravioli.

Ten wonton sheets were laid out and on the centre of each I placed about a tablespoon of the sweet potato mixture. I now lightly whisked an egg white and brushed the edges of the wonton sheets with it. Another wonton sheet was placed on top and the edges pressed down firmly to ensure that they stuck.
I brought a large pot of salted water to the boil and dropped the ravioli in a few at a time. Once the ravioli had come to the surface they were done so they were drained and went onto serving plates with tomato sauce poured over and a little chopped basil. To finish some grated Parmesan cheese was sprinkled on.
These were acceptable ravioli. It’s not the way I would generally make them but worth doing it so that the technique is known in case of wanting to prepare a hurried pasta meal. The filling was pleasant, not strongly flavoured, and enlivened with the occasional currant.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Wednesday 29 May 2013

White Garlic Soup with Almonds

From Eat Your Veg, Arthur Potts Dawson, Mitchell Beazley, 2012.

In a small bowl I placed 76g blanched almonds and just covered them with milk. They were then left for an hour to soak.

After the hour I took the almonds out and placed in the milk two slices of white bread that had had the crusts cut off. I cut the bread into smaller pieces to fit into the milk in the bowl.

While the bread was soaking in the milk I peeled two garlic cloves and added them to the blender and gave them a whirl. The bread had soaked up the milk by now so it was added and given another whirl to blend it all to a paste. Keeping the blender going I added about ¼ cup olive oil, a tablespoon cider vinegar and 150ml water. The mixture by now resembled a thin cream. It went into the refrigerator to chill.

Before serving some almond pieces were dry fried until they became a little brown. They were sprinkled over the surface of the soup when it had been poured into bowls.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised that a garlic soup would be so strongly garlic—but I was. The soup was creamy with the wonderful crunch of roasted almonds but the raw garlic was harshly overpowering. The recipe does state that the bread mellows the garlic. I’m not so sure about that.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Tiger Nut Sweets

From A History of Food in 100 Recipes, William Sitwell, Collins, 2012.
When Coat-of-Many-Colours Joseph had gained a position of power in Egypt he was visited by his brothers who had sold him to slavers. They were seeking grain during the drought that had swept the land. The brothers did not recognise Joseph and he, after giving them supplies, told them there would be no more unless they returned with his younger brother. They returned with Benjamin, the brother, and their father gave them items to take with them: spices, almonds, sesame seeds and honey. It is reasoned in A History of Food in 100 Recipes that these items were for making tiger nut sweets, recipes for which have been found in parchment records of around 1700 BC, the time of Joseph.
It is an interesting tale and one that prompted me to make these earliest of sweets. The name ‘tiger nut’ comes from the fact that the sweets look somewhat like the tuber of the tiger nut plant.

There were no quantities so I just took about two handfuls of hazelnuts and roasted them in a dry pan. Almonds were quoted but I settled for hazelnuts. I chopped about the same amount of dates and chopped them roughly. The two ingredients went into the blender and were given a burst to break them up. I now added two dessertspoons honey and gave them a few more bursts to mix them. I next took small amounts and rolled them into balls that were then rolled in sesame seeds. They were ready.

These sweets were very acceptable. Who would have thought that sweets from such an early period are now making a great comeback in the form of so-called health bars. They were so easy to make and so good to eat I don’t think I’d ever think now to purchase the similar commercial items—and I know exactly what goes into mine.
Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Apple and Rhubarb Pie

From Sydney Food, Bill Granger, Murdoch Books, 2000.
Apple and rhubarb are a perfect match for a pie so with Granny Smith apples cheap at the moment it was time to make that pie.

Firstly I set about to make the pastry. I used 4 cups of plain flour and sieved it with ½ cup icing sugar and a pinch of salt. The recipe called for 380g of butter to be rubbed into the flour until it was like fine breadcrumbs. I felt that the amount of butter was a little too much so I began to cut it into cubes a little at a time and mixed it in until I felt that there was sufficient. I didn’t measure to see what was left over from the 380g but I guess it was approximately 80g. I now mixed in ½ cup cream and used my hands to mix it until it began to form a dough ball. This was split into two, wrapped in cling film and placed in the refrigerator while I made the filling. 

I used 5 apples (about 1kg). They were peeled, quartered, cored and sliced thinly. I cut into smaller pieces about 250g rhubarb. I tossed 50g butter into a large frying pan and when it had melted added the apples to cook for 5 minutes. Then in went the rhubarb and 300g caster sugar. They were stirred and let cook for another minute. Now 2 tablespoons flour were sprinkled in with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the mixture was left to cool. The oven was turned on to heat to 200ºC.
One ball of pastry was now rolled out until thin and placed in the bottom and sides of the pie tin. It went back into the refrigerator as the filling had not fully cooled.  When the filling was ready it was spread over the base. The other pastry ball was rolled out for the top. An egg was beaten and the edges of the pie base were brushed with the egg before the top was placed on. The edges were pushed together firmly and crimped all around with a fork. The top was now brushed with egg, a couple of holes were cut into the top and the pie went into the oven for an hour. About half way through the cooking the oven was turned down a little as the top had browned up well.
This was delicious—as I knew it would be. The pastry was light and flaky. I was a little worried as I had used less butter but it came out very well. The filling, of course, was a wonderful mix of sweet and tart.
Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔