19th December 2014
Pre-Christmas Leftovers

Paul and Rosy came by to help me eat up the last of my pre-Christmas leftovers, and to trial potential Christmas starters.

I'd originally planned to test pumpkin and amaretti ravioli as part of my annual pumpkin fiesta (as a possible Christmas starter), but didn't get around to it, so we had them today. Along with a first run at sauerkraut and mushroom file parcels - the eventual winner.

A big pot of tarragon-flavoured mussels handy since I needed some mussel stock for the file parcels! and home-made vanilla ice cream with cocoa-meringue to follow completed the meal plan.
You wouldn't believe the washing up, though my flatmate Peter now does. Must be the difference between a three- and four-course meal.

Things I learned today: Now if you'll excuse me - I have a lot of baking to do before Christmas...

Amaretti Biscuits
sweet veg
The original recipe calls for cooking the cookies at 160°C/325°F/Gas 3 for 15 minutes, but that simply wasn't happening for me, so I turned my oven up to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 which cooked them in the advertised time. But I'm finding they come out crunchier if left for longer at the lower heat say 25 to 35 minutes as David Lebowitz suggests.

Makes about 20 biscuits

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3.
In a large bowl beat the egg whites until soft-peaking - the consistency of softly whipped cream.
Mix the sugar and the almonds gently into it. Add the amaretto liquor and fold in gently until you have a smooth paste.
Place some baking parchment on a baking sheet lightly brushed with butter. Using two dessert spoons place small heaps or quenelles of the mixture approximately 2cm/¾in apart as they will expand whilst cooking. Bake in the oven for approximately 25-35 minutes until golden brown.
Really tasty, though you need to bake them until they're edging towards caramel brown if you want them at all crispy. They keep very well, and gradually harden if anything so bake them early if you're thinking of incorporating them into pumpkin ravioli.

Pumpkin and Amaretti Ravioli with Sage Beurre Noisette
starter main veg pasta
These make an excellent light course or starter. Probably difficult to make a full main course out of them though.

Usually I use semolina rather than flour for my pasta which gaves a more interesting grainy texture, but in the case of ravioli I find semolina makes for too gritty and frangible sheets, so I prefer a mixture of mostly fine flour with a little semolina blended in, and dusted on top.

Serves 4

For the pasta, blend the flour, a little semolina, salt, freshly ground black pepper, eggs and olive oil in a food processor, pulsing until the dough resembles breadcrumbs.
Or just mix by hand. Adjust the quantitiy of flour to get a smooth dough.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pull together into a dough, then knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into a bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Dust a pasta machine with flour. Set the pasta machine to its widest setting, then feed the chilled dough through the machine, turning the handle with one hand and holding the dough as it comes through the machine with the other. Change the setting on the pasta machine to the next-widest setting, flour it again and feed the pasta sheet through the machine again, as before. Repeat this process 3-4 more times, flouring the machine and decreasing the width of the rollers each time.

Place the sheet of pasta dough onto a floured work surface and cut into a 40cm x 6cm (16in x 2in) rectangle. Cut equal-sized squares from the rectangle, about 6cm/2in wide.
Or use cookie-cutters to cut out scalloped or plain circles.
Cut the pumpkin into 1-2" chunks, peel, season, drizzle with olive oil in an oven tin and roast around Gas Mark 5 for 30 minutes or so until tender.
Purée in a food processor, potato ricer or use a potato masher as best you can.
Spread the pumpkin in a frying pan and fry gently for a few minutes to dry as thoroughly as possible.

When the purée has cooled, stir in the crushed amaretti biscuits, ground ginger, grated nutmeg, Ricotta, Parmesan, lemon juice if you like, a few bits of Mozzarella and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place one teaspoonful of the mixture in the centre of each pasta square. Brush the edges of the pasta square with a little water.
Place another pasta square over the top of the filled pasta square and press down gently around the filling, pressing out any air bubbles. Press the edges flat to seal and trim off any overlap. You can use the tines of a fork to give a decorative edge.
Repeat the process with the remaining pasta squares and filling. Place the ravioli onto the lined baking tray until you're ready to cook them.
For the sage beurre noisette, heat a non-reactive frying pan until hot, add the butter and heat until it turns a nut-brown colour. Throw in the sage leaves towards the end.

Heat a separate frying pan until hot, add a little olive oil and the diced pumpkin and fry over a medium heat until golden-brown and just tender. Add the pine nuts and fry for another more minute, or until just browned. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Optional.

To cook the ravioli, place them, a few at a time, into a large saucepan of salted, boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until they float back to the surface. Drain.

To serve, toss the drained ravioli gently with the beurre noisette.
Place five ravioli onto each plate, then spoon over the beurre noisette and a few crispy sage leaves.
Top with the fried pumpkin, pine nuts and some grated Parmesan.
Very good.
I'd hoped the crumbled biscuits would remain crunchy in the mixture, but they didn't for me (though I did prepare them a little ahead of time). Still tasty though.
I skipped the lemon juice, Mozarella and the pumpkin and pine nut decoration. To no great disadvantage.

Pasta with Mussels and Sauerkraut
fish main pasta
It turns out that Seafood Choucroute is a thing. Who knew?

Make the pasta. Fry the shallots, add the tomatoes until they soften. Stir through lemon juice, sauerkraut and perhaps a bit of sour cream.
Serve over the pasta.
Surprisingly tasty!
I may have added celery. Don't think it helped.

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