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