Beetroot and goats cheese ravioli

I’ve been wanting to learn to make pasta for many months and on the weekend I finally bought myself a pasta machine. The impetus stemmed from a recipe idea I developed while travelling home from work on Friday. Upon leaving the office I passed by an independent fruit and vegetable store and caught sight of some fresh beetroot. While musing upon the impossibility of sourcing such produce in supermarkets I struck upon the notion of a beetroot and goats cheese ravioli.

Before attempting my recipe I searched for a cookbook about making pasta. Unfortunately I could find no such thing. The majority focussed on pasta sauces, dedicating only a few pages to the act of making the pasta itself. In the end I resorted to the basic pasta recipe in Cook with Jamie.

6 small beetroot
1 head of garlic
3 sprigs of thyme
Olives oil
250 grams of goats cheese
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
Half a portion of basic pasta dough
3 shallots
100ml strong olive oil
2 tablespoons of baby capers

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Wash the beetroot thoroughly. Top and tail them and cut them in half. Put in a roasting tray with peeled garlic and thyme. Drizzle with olive oil and shake the pan to coat. Cover the tray with tin foil and place in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes or so. They should be cooked, but firm.

2. Allow the beetroot to cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to cool further. When cold, grate coarsely with the flesh to the blade. The skin will naturally peel away and can be discarded.

3. Crumble the goats cheese into a bowl. The pieces need to be quite small so that each ravioli has a good mix of beetroot and goats cheese. Add the grated beetroot and lemon juice, and season to taste.

4. Roll out a potion of pasta dough into a sheet at the thinnest level, according to instructions. Cut in half widthways at the mid-way point. On one sheet, lightly brush with water then add teaspoons of the filling evenly along the sheet about 4 cm apart. Place the other sheet of pasta on top and press down around the filling, pushing out the air while doing so. Cut the ravioli into square with an appropriate pasta cutter. Place on a floured plate to dry.

5. Repeat until all the filling and dough has been turned into ravioli.

6. While the pasta is drying, make the sauce. Finely dice the shallots and fry in a little olive oil. When they start to become transparent add the capers. Lower to a minimal heat and add the rest of the oil. Leave for about 10 minutes to allow the flavour of the capers to infuse the oil.

7. Toss pasta in sauce and serve.

Making the pasta was very time consuming, but I was really happy with the end result. The filling is really tasty, even if I do say so myself. Next time I might try making it with yolks only to see how this affects the flavour.I might also purée the beetroot to give the filling a smoother texture.

In search of the perfect bolognese part 1.

So I love pasta, and spaghetti bolognese is up there with the best of the comfort foods. However, I’ve never actually cooked it from a recipe. I don’t know why, there’s just something in me says “no”. Apparently I am determined to find my own way there instead.

One of the ongoing challenges I encounter in this quest for the perfect bolognese is that the flavour of the beef gets lost in the sauce. Even when I’ve tried cooking the meat and sauce separately, the mince just gets lost. This time I tried something different. Inspired by my lamb kofta on the weekend I decided to take the meatball approach. I know, not a traditional bolognese, but I’m more interested in flavour at this stage.

I took a very basic approach to the meatballs, mixing 500 grams of lean beef mince with a finely chopped onion (well as finely as I can, my knife skills definitely need some work!), an egg and salt and pepper. I usually use Maldon sea salt when cooking, but this time chose to use table salt. Sea salts are larger, so need time to break down. Given this, I felt that I couldn’t be confident that the salt would distribute evenly throughout the mixture in the time that it took to combine it. From this I was able to form 20 meatballs. I left them in the fridge to chill for about an hour before cooking them in a frying pan. I tend to use cooking spray wherever possible. when you like food as much as I do, it’s best to keep the additional calories down wherever possible!

I made the sauce separately, and added the meatballs once the flavours of the sauce developed. I’m not going to put my sauce recipe up because quite frankly, at this stage I’m still cheating and using an italian dried herb mix. One of these days I will start experimenting and finding the right balance of fresh herbs. However, at this stage I’m focusing on the meat. One step at a time (thus “part 1.” in the title of this post). In addition to the meatballs I added some freshly roasted yellow pepper. Actually “roasted” is a misnomer in this case. I take the grilling over a gas flame approach rather than actually roasting the peppers. I also added some pan fried mushrooms. I’ve stopped using white mushrooms in my cooking, and generally use chestnut mushrooms unless another type is specified. I find that the chestnut mushroom has a much stronger flavour. The contrast between the dark exterior and the white interior can also bring an interesting aesthetic to the dish.

Overall, I was really happy with my meatballs. By frying them I retained the flavour of the meat while ensuring that the meatballs remained succulent. Maybe now it’s time to move onto experimenting with the sauce.