So. It’s the second weekend of January and I’m still using up the veg from Christmas week. Not because I over ordered (perish the thought) but because I got invited out to more dinners then expected – the joy of hospitable friends and family and to be frank, the lure of lovely shiny places like Salthouse Bacaro (www.salthousebacaro.co.uk) and Berry & Rye ….
Anyway. Back to the vegetable glut. I have two butternut squashes, a single parsnip, half a bag of Brussels sprouts, a cauliflower, some carrots, a bit of celery, a few potatoes and the usual pantry staples of onion, garlic and ginger. First thought of course was soup. But then I always make soup and one of my food resolutions for 2015 was to be bold and not just to stick to my comfort zones.
In search of inspiration, I perused Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus – which takes the interested cook on a journey through categories such as Spicy, Woodland, Roasted, Earthy, Marine etc, suggesting pairings of ingredients based on their flavour characteristics and how they balance each other. As butternut squash is dominating my larder, I looked up what she had to say about it. Niki places butternut squash in the Woodland category, alongside carrots, chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. She points out that the sweetness of butternut squash means it works well with salty or sour flavours but its dense creamy texture means that it can also cope well with spices and herbs. Some of Niki’s suggestions include pairing it with bacon, blue cheese chilli, lime, seafood, rosemary, sage, or nutmeg.
Bacon has a tendency to grab my attention, especially as I know I have a pack of Savin Hill’s dry smoked bacon lurking in the fridge. I also like the idea of using the woody herbs such as rosemary and sage but the ingredient that’s really intriguing me is lime. It just so happens I have a few limes left over from the Christmas gin & tonics. Now I’m thinking about Asian inspired dishes, using lime and chili to sharpen up the sweet butternut squash. Decisions, decisions…
Being January, my herb patch is looking a little sad, but the sage is marching on so I decide upon using one of squashes to make butternut & bacon filled ravioli, served with sage butter. The other is destined for more exotic treatment, a Malay inspired Laksa with lime, chilli and coconut (yes I know it’s a sort of soup, but it’s a fancy one!).
Butternut & Bacon Ravioli Serves 4
500g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 4 cm pieces
3 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper
2 rashers of bacon*, cut into small dice (or use pancetta)
50g gorgonzola (or other blue cheese) grated or diced into small pieces.
300g 00 grade flour
3 large free range eggs
2tbsp olive oil
handful of fresh sage leaves
Preheat oven to 200C/ 400F/ GM6
Toss the butternut squash pieces with two teaspoons of olive oil and season. Place in one layer on a baking sheet and put in the oven to roast for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes before blending into a thick puree with the gorgonzola. (I needed to add a little cream to aid this) Set aside to cool.
Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in pan and cook the bacon pieces until crisp. Set aside to cool. Mix into the cooled butternut puree, with nutmeg and more salt and pepper as needed to taste.
Make the pasta. Make a well of sifted flour and add a pinch of salt and the 3 eggs, lightly beaten together. Use a fork (or fingers) to lightly mix them together to create a dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead well for between 5 and 10 minutes – pulling and stretching the dough until it changes texture from rough and floury to smooth and silky – it will have a slight sheen. Divide into 4 pieces, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for a good hour.
Once the pasta dough has chilled, take the first portion and roll it out onto a lightly floured work surface to about 1mm thick or roll through your pasta machine. (Note to readers: It is at this point I took the sensible decision to invest in a pasta machine. Rolling out pasta by hand is perfectly possible but you will develop Popeye’s forearms…)
Using a pastry cutter 8.5cm or 3.5 inch in diameter, cut out 12 discs. Set aside and repeat the process until you have 24 discs. Divide the cooled filling into half and spoon into the centre of 12 of the discs – about a heaped tsp. Brush round the edge of the filled disc with water and then take another disc and lay it over the top, pressing down on the water brushed edges to seal. (Note to readers: I was paranoid about the filling bursting out, so I gently stretched the discs and then rolled the edges rather like a Cornish pasty. Not very authentic, but my raviolis stayed intact!)
Once you have filled 12 pasta parcels, repeat the process with the remaining mixture and two balls of dough. Place on a floured board, and dust with a little flour. Cover with a cloth and set aside.
Make the garnish before cooking the ravioli. Roughly chop the sage leaves. Melt the butter and oil in a shallow pan and add the sage leaves, cook til they start to crisp, then remove from the heat.
To cook the ravioli, fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Add salt and turn down to a gentle simmer. Slide the ravioli into the water. They will sink to the bottom of the pan, and as they cook will bob to the surface. It will take about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and toss in the sage scented butter. Sprinkle with black pepper and a scattering of grated Parmesan. Enjoy!
*Note for Vegetarians – leave out the bacon and add a handful of toasted pinenuts instead.