Saturday, 27 March 2010

Back Breaking Work.

I was all excited this morning when I got up, eager to go out and do some serious vegetable gardening. I had a bunch of seeds and garlic cloves that need to go into the ground and Jerusalem artichokes and a few varieties of potatoes to plant in potato bags.
So after breakfast, on went the wellies and the dogs and I ventured out to the veggie patch. The plan was this: Fill the grow bags with soil and compost (and tubers!) and then start on pretty little rows of radishes, beets, carrots, peas, beans.....and on and on. I was planning to save the greenhouse projects like tomatoes and chillies for the afternoon, when it was supposed to rain.

As it turns out, I should probably done some stretches before flinging shovels-full of dirt, because half way through carrying the filled grow bags my back went out. It felt rather like a massive rubber band running across my back had snapped and raveled back on itself. It was frightening!

I can only imagine what the neighbours thought if they heard the noises I was making. Perhaps that I had Tiger Woods or John Terry over?

I waddled, doubled over back to the house, feeling embarrassed about my shocking physical condition and worrying that I'd slipped a disc or something.

By the time it was time to make dinner, I'd taken a super-hot bath, some arnica and some (lots) codeine and was feeling considerably better, although in no way up to an hour or more of vigourous cookery. I had made a ball of pasta dough yesterday, as I was planning to make these simple tortellini. As with things like samosas, pasties and some other stuffed pastry dishes, there's a little time taken stuffing/folding etc, but it's a rather zen activity and rather relaxing as long as you're not in a hurry.

This was my first attempt at making pasta, which is weird because I like to make as much as possible from scratch but we usually eat noodles like spaghetti or tagliatelle rather than stuffed pastas like this. I don't yet have a pasta machine, but it's on my Amazon wish list (Are you reading Daddy?) so hopefully I'll have one by my next birthday.

I used Raymond Blanc's pasta dough recipe, which worked well I thought. I think I could have rolled the dough out a little thinner so I will next time but otherwise it was a really lovely dish.

Pork and Arugula Tortellini with a Simple Tomato Sauce
serves 2, takes approx 1 hour- 75 mins

200g (7 oz) tipo 00 flour
2 large free range eggs

100g (3.5 oz) minced pork
100g (3.5 oz) pancetta, chopped quite small.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
large handful rocket (arugula) roughly chopped
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper

3 large, ripe tomatoes
1 more clove garlic, crushed
2 sprigs basil, leaves picked and cut into chiffonade
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt
pinch crushed red chilli

In a food processor, tip the flour and the eggs and pulse for a minute to bring the two together into a dough. Add a few drops of water if the mixture is too dry- you want it to come together in a ball without being sticky. When well mixed, put your ball on a piece of cling film, flatten into a disc about half an inch thick, then wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.

While your pasta is chilling, make your filling. In the food processor, add the pork, pancetta, garlic, fennel seeds, parmesan, rocket and a little salt and fresh black pepper. Pulse a few times to bring the mixture together well but be careful not to turn it into a paste, as you want to retain the texture of the meat.

When the dough has rested, roll it out on a well floured worktop to a thickness of about 2mm (1/8") then use a 7cm (2.5-3") circular cutter to cut out round pieces and dust off any excess flour. Put about a teaspoonful of the meat mixture in the centre of the pasta rounds and wet one half of the circle, then fold the edges together into a semi circle, being sure to push any air out as you go. If you have air trapped inside, it could expand and burst the pasta shells when you cook them, making a nasty mess. Now, bring the two corners together, overlapping the two points, sticking together with a little water to make little closed crescent shapes.

Put a large pot of water on to boil with some salt.
Add your pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 10-12 minutes while you make your sauce.

Blanch the tomatoes first, by cutting a shallow X in the skin and plunging into boiling water for fifteen seconds. The skins should peel off quite easily now.
Halve the tomatoes and scrape out all the seeds and pulp, reserving them in a small bowl. Dice the tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a sautee pan over a low-med heat and gently fry the garlic without letting it brown. Add the tomatoes to the pan with a few good pinches of olive oil and run the reserved tomato seeds and pulp through a sieve into the pan. That soft jellyish bit inside the tomato is rich in umami, and so is important to the sauce. Add your pinch of chilli and allow the sauce to cook for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and have lost their raw smell. Stir through the basil and remove from the heat.

Your pasta should be cooked at about the same time as your sauce, so drain it well and add to the sauce. Toss well to coat and serve with plenty of fresh parmesan.

Tortellini on FoodistaTortellini


  1. Hey, this looks really wonderful-love the mix of fragrant ingredients. I admire that you rolled out homemade pasta dough and made dinner with an injured back. Hope you feel better...

  2. Homemade pasta is on my short list of 'upcoming kitchen conquests.' I don't have any equipment and have never attempted it before, but the time is coming!

    These look great, awesome job.

    BTW - I can totally sympathize with the injured back.. I'm working with a broken wrist these days!

  3. Thanks fellow foodies! Liam, I don't even want to imagine trying to cook with a broken wrist. I think I would need a lot of wine to make me feel better about letting my husband cook instead.

    As for the home made pasta thing, it was my first time, kinda because I didn't have any equipment either. One thing I would definitely say is that you can't roll the dough out thin enough. I was worried that it might break or be difficult to handle if I rolled it too thin, but it wouldn't have been, it's really pliable, strong dough and it gets thicker when you cook it. I think the rule (that I had forgotten) is that you should be able to read a newspaper through it. Now that I've popped my homemade pasta cherry, I'm not so intimidated by it anymore.
    I'll make it again soon, only thinner this time and see how I get on. If you make it, let me know how it turns out please and pass on any tips!