21 August 2013

Sweet Potato, Sage and Hazelnut Ravioli

Oh you poor neglected blog! True to 'bear' type when the cold dark days set in I went into hibernation mode. I had all the best intentions of warming slow cooked dinner's and crumbly baked desserts... unfortunately this was combined with the lethargy of black bear who had gorged on pine nuts and found a warm den to curl up in. 

Our kitchen is not designed for winter, in fact you could say it is not designed for cooking in at all! The tiny sink that overflows with only 3 plates in it (and heaven forbid a pan needs to fit under the tap), the nonexistent bench space, the oven that turns itself off every 10 minutes, the slate floors which have broken wine glasses well into double digits and whoever thought louvered windows in Melbourne were a good idea deserves an icy wind to constantly taunt them. Next time we move I will not be seduced by 'character'!
To foray back into the kitchen I wanted to make something with simple flavours and involved getting my hands dirty kneading some sort of dough. Simple tasty filling - check, sticky dirty hands - check, uses up some of the mountain of nuts we have accumulated - check. Ravioli - done. 

Ingredients (makes approx 25 tortellini 6cm in diameter):


  • 200 g flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons (very fine)
  • approx 14 fresh sage leaves
  • 300 g sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 25 g salted butter
  • ground nutmeg (to taste, I like alot)
  • flaked salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • handful dry roasted hazelnuts, roughly crushed
  • freshly grated Pecorino to taste
Sift flour onto a clean surface, make a well in the middle, add salt and crack in your eggs. Combine using a fork and then knead with your hands until fully incorporated, about 6 minutes or so, it should be springy but not sticky  (and will be a little lumpy, don't worry, this will smooth out in the pasta making process). Not all eggs are created equal so if you are having trouble combining all of the flour wet your hands a little and keep combining - don't be tempted to add too much water or you will end up with a sticky tough mess. Wrap in cling film and set aside for 1 hour so the gluten can relax.
Peel your sweet potato and cut into approximately 1 cm cubes, toss in the 2 tblsp of olive oil and cook in batches in a hot pan to just brown and caramelise the edges. Once they are all nice and browned, reduce the heat and return all of them to the pan with a lid on until completely cooked through and soft. There should be enough moisture in the sweet potato to steam but if not add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan to help the cooking along. Once soft add the butter and season well with flaked salt, nutmeg and cracked pepper using a fork to gently mash and combine - do this quite roughly so you maintain some texture.
Back to the pasta, add your lemon zest to the ball of pasta dough you had set aside, your zest should be as fine as you can get it otherwise it will tear the pasta sheets as it passes through the pasta machine. Knead together until combined then halve, dust with flour and start running it through the pasta machine as per the instructions, dusting with flour as you go so it doesn't get stuck. You want the pasta to be quite thin (mark 7 or 8 on a hand crack pasta machine) but too thin will tear with the filling and zest. Once you get to the desired thickness, lay out the sheet of pasta and cover half with washed and dried sage leaves (the younger and softer the better), fold over the top half and run through the same setting once only. It's OK if the pasta splits over the leaves as you can cut out the ravioli shapes around the splits.
Using a 6 - 7 cm diameter round cutter cut out circles in the pasta, carefully avoiding any holes or splits (you can see the splits in mine below).
Any left over scraps from around the cut out rounds can be kept in the fridge overnight and used as normal pasta (funny scrappy shapes but just as tasty).
Line up the rounds in pairs and spoon a small amount of sweet potato filling into the center, don't be tempted to over fill it as they won't seal properly and will open while cooking. Dampen the edges with a little water, add the lid, pressing down carefully trying not to trap in any air and firmly pinch to seal the edges.
Bring a big pot of water to the boil and add the ravioli, they will float when cooked 'al dente' (about 5 minutes) take one out to taste and cook longer if desired.

Remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl with a little olive oil already in the bottom, drizzle over the lemon juice and cracked pepper. Toss carefully to fully coat the ravioli with olive oil and lemon juice. Taste the dressing and make sure the oil/ lemon is balanced and check if it needs a pinch of salt or more cracked pepper.

Transfer dressed ravioli onto a plate, drizzling over any dressing remaining in the bowl. Top with a small handful of crushed dry roasted hazelnuts and a little freshly grated Pecorino and you're done!

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