Ready Steady Cook Viral Antidote Day 11: Pasta, sweetcorn, paprika

Sweetcorn e cacio e Pepe

This is so creamy you just won’t believe it. And it is for Roo and Hugh who nominated sweetcorn, gluten free pasta and paprika.

It’s a quick supper, that’s for sure.  I am not certain whether this is a tin of sweetcorn, or corn on the cob that they’ve chosen.  If the latter then the first thing to do is to shave the corn off the cob top to bottom.  Then put the stalks in a pan with 200ml salted water and boil for 10 minutes with bayleaves and thyme if you have it.  Yes! Just that! Then pour the stock into a jug.  If you are not choosing fresh, then drain the tin and use the juice as stock and top it up with water.

Now roast five black peppercorns in the dried pan for a couple of minutes, then grind in a pestle and mortar. Put back in the pan, add the stock and about 30g butter.  Add the corn cobs and a teaspoon of paprika and simmer gently for 5 minutes

Now add your pasta – you are aiming for the liquid to just about cover the pasta.  Bring it all to the boil till the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Now add a good cup of grated parmesan.  This will  melt and make it creamy.

If you are really going for broke, you could boil a handful of non-salted cashew nuts in 150ml water for 10 minutes then let them cool slightly and blitz in the Nutribullet or liquidiser.  Combined with parmesan, it makes an even creamier sauce for pasta.

This recipe is a slight adaptation from the original from The Tasting Table.

Ready Steady Cooks viral antidote 4: Wild garlic lasagne

This one’s for Tricia!  Wild garlic….. she’s obviously been walking in the woods again.

Generally, you can smell wild garlic before you see it, especially if the sun is out.  Before you pick any make sure you are not on private or protected land!!  And make sure that if you pick it, only pick the leaves – don’t pull it up roots and all.

The first time I came across wild garlic was when my parents in law lived in Tregoose in the depths of a valley in the depths of Cornwall.  Walking through the path in the woods on the other side of the small river that ran through their garden was always magical – the delicate tracery of new leaves silhouetted against a bright blue sky. And wafting from the ground was the pungent smell of crushed garlic.  Heavenly.

Here’s a couple of recipes for wild garlic. It will be in the woods somewhere near you right now!

Wild garlic pesto

Who doesn’t love pesto?  On pasta, dolloped into soup just before you serve it, spooned onto freshly cooked fish in a pan…..

Wash the leaves thoroughly in lots of running water. Dry them on a clean tea towel.

In a blender, Nutribullet or in a deep pestle, put three large cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of salt.  Crush with a mortar if using the pestle, otherwise flick the switch and chop.  Then add two large handfull of leaves, 150g pine nuts and about 75g parmegano regiano. Blend again. Add olive oil in a drizzle – probably about 200ml but it depends on the bulk of the dry materials you’ve blended. The idea is that the mixture should drop off a spoon. Taste it and see. It might need a bit more parmesan or salt but these things are down to personal taste.

As a variation – and I have three different types of pesto on the go at the moment – you could substitute walnuts and parlsey for the wild garlic and pine nuts; or basil and cashews or pumpkin seeds – ditto.

Wild garlic pesto lasagne

First off take 150g red lentils, put them in a saucepan with a dried red chilli and a bay leaf.  Add water to 1.5cm above the lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer until nearly all the water is absorbed, but not quite.

Pasta is easy and the easiest way is to make it in a food processor. Or you can do it by hand by blending 600g flour (00) – although I have made it with good quality plain flour. Add a teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the centre then add 6 beaten eggs, gradually drawing the flour into the centre.  when all the egg is absorbed, knead the dough until it is soft and springy.  If you are vegan use the recipe here using tofu instead of eggs. Or if you are lazy like me, put it all in the food processor until it forms a dough.  Put in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and rest the dough for 30 minutes.

For the filling, fry a finely chopped onion and some celery with some garlic until soft. Throw in a glass of red wine and reduce. Then add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a small sprinkle of chilli flakes, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, chopped thyme and rosemary to your taste and just a little sugar.  Simmer until it is thick and almost sticking to the pan. Now remove the bay and chilli from the lentils and add the lentils to the tomato sauce.  Mix and taste and adjust seasoning.

You do not need a pasta machine. Just a floured surface, a good rolling pin and some elbow grease.  Roll the dough, keep turning it one quarter turn at a time, roll, turn, roll, turn. A bit like doing front crawl!  It needs to be really thin (see picture).  Cut lasagne sheets to size.

Now choose your dish – just choose one deep enough to leave a gap at the top when it’s full.  Neat trick – put a thin layer of sauce in first, then layer up with pasta, sauce, pasta, sauce, pasta, a few dollops of pesto (see above) then sauce, finish with pasta.

You might want to make a bechamel for the top. Personally, mostly I can’t be bothered and find that 200g quark, or full fat yogurt works just as well, with 3 eggs beaten into it and a handful of parmesan and some black pepper and a little scrape of nutmeg.

Put into the oven at 200C for 30 minutes then check it. It will probably need another 10 to 15 minutes after that.  Take it out of the oven and let it rest. Don’t serve straight away. Leave it for 15 minutes – it really will not get cold – before you slice and serve.  Belissima!

One of my fondest food memories was eating in an Agritourismo in La Marche in Italy.  Layers and layers of paper think pasta with a smear of passata between them, a light grating of parmesan and a basil leaf or two.

Pasta dumplings

It is a dead cert that I will get a brilliant cookery book or two for Christmas. This year it was Kaukasis by Olga Hercules who – since her previous publication Mamushka – has become one of my favourite food writers. The fact that I was given two copies of Kaukasis, one from my daughter in law and one from my daughter just goes to show they both know me well. It wasn’t a problem as someone will be the lucky recipient of the second copy at some point during the year.

It is also a dead cert that rarely do I stick to a recipe as written on the page.  For me, all my (many) cook books are simply inspiration. A starting point. Dyushbara were no exception. In Georgian kitchens these little pasta dumplings would be filled with a mixture of spiced lamb and pork which in my ‘normal’ world would be fine. Except we are approaching 2018 and again I am leaving meat and fish and dairy off the menu for a few weeks.  And David is always and forever a vegetarian and I wanted him to try them too. So there was no meat and the pasta substituted tofu for eggs (there are other similar recipes for egg-free pasta on this blog).

First to the filling.  I spent a relaxing 5 minutes chopping onion, garlic, squash and half a dozen vacuum packed chestnuts and dark green kale into small pieces then I sweated them off in good Sicilian olive oil provided by Nino and Marion until the mixture was very soft.  Further flavourings of a scrape or two of nutmeg, a crushed clove of garlic, some chilli flakes and a little shake of smoked paprika were added.  I mashed it all together and left it to cool.

Then out came the Kenwood and its pasta attachment and into the food processor went 400g OO grade flour, 150g fine semolina, 175g  tofu, a teaspoon of salt, churned a bit till the tofu was mixed in then added  2tbs olive oil and 2tbs cold water. Processed again until it all came together into a clump.  If you press a little pasta between two fingers and it feels dry of grainy, add a little more oil and process again.  Then gather it all together into a ball, knead very lightly then cut the ball in half.  Put half into the freezer for lasagne sheets another day and wrap the other half in cling film,  and put into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Do a little test run with your pasta machine to make sure you remember how to work it! Alternatively, scatter a work surface generously with fine semolina and roll it out with a rolling pin. Either use the pasta machine or a rolling pin to roll out strips of dough then cut into 2cm squares, put just over half a teaspoon of the stuffing into each square wet the edges then fold once, corner to opposite corner, making a triangle. Pick it up and pull down two neighbouring corners to make a ‘tail’  (see picture).  Do this as many times as you need to get a collection of pasta dumplings on your tray.  Apparently in Georgia women make these swiftly and less than half the size. As they do in Italy.  Not in my kitchen – my fingers are not nimble and although this was a bit of a zen experience I wasn’t that keen!

At this point you can freeze them if you wish, or drop into a wide shallow pan of stock for 2-3 minutes remembering that home made pasta cooks in no time at all,  and serve in individual dishes with a little stock in the bottom and  sprinkled with sweet crispy fried kale or grated parmesan.

I can hear you muttering “too much hassle Dawn”.  But if you have a spare afternoon and it is too wet and cold to go fossil hunting in West Runton and the traffic in Norwich is sufficiently atrocious to prevent any attempt to get to the Rembrandt exhibition at the Castle Museum, then what could be lovelier then pottering around in the kitchen and messing up someone else’s recipe!


Post script – they were delicious!

Ourzo pasta with beans, peas and prawns


First you will notice that I dont do lists of ingredients. I would rather you read the page and enjoyed it. It’s intuitive – the results will flow easily from your fingertips, just read it like a good book and enjoy it. Then cook it and share it.

For four people:

Shell some broadbeans, about 500g should do it (before they are shelled), take about 250g peas out of the freezer and 16 big fat tiger prawns – defrost these if they are frozen. Go into the garden and pick a large handful of fresh mint – dont go near any dried mint in this recipe! Take the zest from half a lemon with a zester and squeeze the juice from the lemon and save it. Dissolve one small pot of dehydrated fish stock in 1l of boiling water – I used to buy this in Carluccio’s but they don’t seem to stock it anymore, so now I use 3 tbsp fish sauce from the Chinese supermarket instead. Chop a handful of deep green flatleaf parsley and grate 100g of good parmesan.

Take a big handful of fresh basil leaves, a teaspoon of rock salt, 2 tbsp olive oil and one fat clove of garlic. Pound it down in the pestle and mortar till it looks like thick pesto.

Now we are ready.

Remove the broad beans from their long furry shells and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Put the prawns into a small pan with chopped garlic with the lemon zest, a knob of butter and chopped garlic. Maybe just a sprinkle of dried chilli depending on your taste. Heath the prawns gently till cooked then take off the heat immediately.

Put 300g of Ourzo pasta into a big saucepan then add all the boiling stock, bring the whole thing back to the boil. Dinner will take 15 minutes from this point. Just before the 15 minutes is up, about 75% of the liquid will have been absorbed by the pasta. Add the peas, the beans and the prawns and stir well, and add 75g of the parmesan, stir again and take off the heat.

You should have in the pan a thick soupy unctious pasta with peas, beans and prawns. There should still be liquid visible in the pan. Check for seasoning, but the combination of the fish sauce and the Parmesan should mean that you probably dont need any additional salt. Stir in the parsley and the chopped mint. Add the lemon juice.

Serve hot, with liquid in the bowl, bury a good dessert spoon of the pesto in the middle and offer extra Parmesan and eat with a spoon – because the combination of fishy stock, parmesan and pesto, combined with the sweet beans and peas and gorgeous prawns means you can get more in your mouth than with a fork! Bon appetito!Ourzo pasta