Tuesday, November 25, 2014

potato and pumpkin tortelli


It’s Friday and I took a day off from work.  I’m home, alone, and I feel in complete freedom. There’s a pleasant atmosphere in the house that I’ve strived for throughout the busy weeks that have gone by.  The moment is all mine and there’s nothing else I want to do than be in my kitchen.  I’m in the mood to cook something good that requires some time, the time I usually don’t have.  The tranquil moment makes it all possible and here I am with a pumpkin in my hands.  Flour and eggs are on the counter and I’m already kneading before I can even realize it.  A pot of water and potatoes are on the stove and an indecent amount of butter is taken out of the fridge.   All the ingredients slowly come together with one that complements the other. 
Fast forward. 

It's Tuesday today.  I’m at work and it’s time for lunch. There’s nothing else I want more than these potato and pumpkin tortelli with butter and sage.  The ones I made that Friday in a tranquil moment of solitude in my kitchen.
tortelli di zucca e patate
Potato and Pumpkin Tortelli with Butter and Sage

For the filling 

The amount of each ingredient depends on the portions.  I used a quarter of a medium sized pumpkin and 4 medium size starchy potatoes, which was enough for three portions of pasta. Remove the hard skin from the pumpkin and reduce in cubes. Toss the pumpkin cubes in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some salt. Place the cubes on a tray and bake in a prepheated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and mash the pumpkin with a fork.  Put aside. 

Meanwhile, rinse 4 medium sized potatoes under cold water and with the skin still on, place them in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Once the potatoes are tender, check with the tip of a knife, and remove them from the pot.  Remove the skin from the potatoes and mash with a fork or potato masher.  Put aside.  

Put the mashed potatoes and pumpkin in a bowl. Add some salt, freshly ground nutmeg, freshly ground tumeric and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Taste and adjust if necessary.  If fresh tumeric is not available use the dried powder version or do not use at all. 

For the pasta 

Prepare the fresh egg pasta.  See how to make pasta through the pretty video below.  

The ration for pasta is 100gr : 1 egg.  For 3 people, you'll need 300gr flour and 3 eggs. Once the dough is ready, let it rest covered under a kitchen towel or bowl for 30 minutes. 
The Making of fresh Pasta from Nicola JC Valletti on Vimeo.
To assemble 
Roll out the pasta with a pasta machine.  Place small balls of the filling on the sheet of pasta with a distance of 1 cm between each other. Dip you fingertips in a bowl of cold water and wet the surface of the pasta sheet right around the filling, so that the pasta sheets can adhere nicely when you shape out the tortelli.  Place another sheet of pasta over to cover the filling.  

Press against the pasta sheets with for fingers, so that they stick to each other.  

Remove any the air that may form between the two sheets.  Now, shape the tortelli with a round pasta cutter. Bring a pot of cold water to a boil, add some salt and gently place the tortelli in the pot. Remove when they float on the surface and place in a large pan where you have previously melted some butter with sage. I used 100gr of butter. Gently swirl the tortelli in the pan so that they are evenly coated with butter, if necessary add some of the pasta's cooking water. Serve hot with butter and sage and a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

who says pork chops are boring?

A heat wave floats above the cast iron pan placed on the stove a few minutes earlier, this tells me it's ready for the pork chop I've planned for dinner.  The hot pan sears the meat releasing a hissing sound, the fat melts and sizzles, and a cloud of caramelised smoke spreads over the cooking area.  It's a matter of seconds and flavour becomes tangible.  An exceeding amount of saliva builds in my mouth making its way towards the corners, the drooling becomes uncontainable.  An insignificant, boring pork chop puts me on my knees.  I'm almost embarrassed this weakness has overcome me all at once, but I let go to what has conquered all my five senses, in five seconds.
pork chop
I try to prolong the pleasure of this moment so that fumes, scents and desire linger a few more minutes before fork and knife ends it all dramatically.  Some sauce - a green peppercorn cream sauce - multiplies succulence and decadence leaving any thoughts of pork-chop-boredom behind.  The meat is now sitting on a warm plate.  The cast iron pan is still on the stove, heat on.  A half glass of port wine is gently poured in the pan, over the meat's remains and juices.  The liquids thicken and encapsulate all the taste left back and almost gone to waste in the sink. Pickled green peppercorns are added, just a few, maybe a spoonful. They're left to mingle with the port as it simmers. Finally, a scant glass of heavy cream brings consistency and silkiness to the sauce, it wraps the flavours in and around, and brings more of that drooling effect. A pinch of salt will finish finely. Some more port wine is on the table. It's time.
pork chop

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

chicken soup ... my way

IMG_1625As much as I love to cook, I do often desire, that sometimes, someone, would cook for me, especially in those moments when I'm particularly tired to even think, yet too hungry to go without eating.  That's when a egg and a piece of bread fits in perfect for me, but not for the two hungry beasts at home.  Fortunately, my husband and son are not fussy eaters, they do, however, expect to find a decent meal when they get home. Not that bread and eggs isn't a decent meal, if it wasn't for the fact, that after two minutes they'd be hungry all over again.

A few weeks ago I found myself in this exact state of mind and on top of that, also with a flu. A soup is what I needed. It happens to be, that soup, just like bread and eggs, leaves my family with a grumbly stomach. For someone who is absolutely not in the mood to cook, nor wants to even think about it, and wishes that someone else would do the thinking and cooking, is not going to bother to please who wants what.  As egoistically I may say.

It was going to be soup and nothing more than soup and I wasn't going to dedicate much time to it either.
It turned out that a simple lazy soup for the sick and tired moved towards a tastier direction. One ingredient brought to another, inspiration grew, and the soup was from there to become a delicious meal in a bowl. Signals of gratitude were launched through slurping sounds and with the call of second rounds I was certain, at that point, that it wasn't only a satisfying meal but one that keeps spirits high and proud for longer than the two minute timeframe.  


Bring a pot of 1-1/2 litre of water to a boil, add a whole chicken breast, an onion, two tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste, some salt to taste and a tablespoon of fennel seeds.  Slice a couple of carrots in julienne strips and add to the pot 20 minutes after the soup begins to boil.  The carrots should remain firm.  After 30 minutes total, remove the pot from the stove.  Slice the chicken breast in strips, remove the carrots and portion in each bowl.  Use a thin sieve and pour the broth through the sieve directly in each bowl.  The sieve should retain the fennel seeds, onion and any floating bits. Just before serving, add some fresh greens directly in each bowl, this will allow the greens to soften but will also keep them firm and crunchy. You can use chard, like I did, or parsley and mint, or all of them, even a fresh spring onion if you please. Add a few more fennel seeds and a freshly sliced red hot pepper, more or less according to the amount of spiciness desired. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.  Each commensal will then be instructed to use a fork and knife to cut up the vegetables and chicken within the bowl in smaller pieces. I also added some noodles for my husband and son's portions. The noodles were cooked separately and added the last minute.  My portion was kept simple like in the photo.  Either way will be delicious and restoring.