Makes 16-18 ravioli
200 g refined spelt flour
2-3 eggs (depending on size and absorbency of the flour)
Carrier bag loosely filled with young nettle tops
Clove of garlic, finely chopped
200 g ricotta
2 tbsps of grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
Salt and pepper
Make your pasta dough several hours in advance; the dough will stretch more easily for having rested.
It may be frowned upon in Italy, but I usually make my pasta dough in a food processor and can judge the right consistency by when it begins to come together in a ball. Put your flour into the food processor and crack in two whole eggs. Process, and at this stage the mixture will probably form crumbs. Separate the third egg and add the yolk. Process again. If the mixture has still not formed a ball, lightly whisk the white, to break it up so that you can add a little at a time, and do so until the mixture forms a ball around the blade. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it briefly on a worktop. Put the bowl in a plastic bag and rest it in the refrigerator for several hours (up to a day).
Wash the nettle tops in a sink full of cold water. Lift the nettles out into a colander, leaving any grass or other debris behind. Place the colander in the sink. Boil a kettle of water and pour it over the nettles to remove their sting and wilt the leaves. Refresh by running briefly under cold water. Drain using the back of a wooden spoon to press out excess liquid.
Heat a mixture of oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the drained nettle tops and cook for a minute then add the chopped garlic. Cook for a further minute, leave to cool slightly, and then transfer to a food processor. Process until the nettles finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper. Add the ricotta and parmesan cheese and process again to blend smoothly.
Roll the pasta dough into sheets about 10 cm wide. Place teaspoonfuls of the filling in a line along one (the shorter) sheet leaving a gap about the width of two fingers between each spoonful. Dampen a circle of the dough around each pile of filling. Lay a longer sheet of pasta dough on top of the first using your cupped finger to form a seal around the filling taking care not to create an air bubble as you do so. Cut around each raviolo (you can use a pastry cutter, knife or scissors). Now take each raviolo and seal firmly between your thumb and forefinger. This is another opportunity to check for air bubbles, which you should be able to expel before sealing firmly.
Bring a large pan of well salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile melt some butter in a saucepan to serve as a sauce. Drop the ravioli into the boiling water. You will probably need to cook them in two batches, removing the first with a slotted spoon when cooked, but they take only a few minutes. The ravioli are cooked when they have all risen to the surface. Drain, but only briefly, before turning in the melted butter.
Season with freshly cracked black pepper and Parmesan cheese before serving.
Kleftiko apparently means “stolen meat”. The thief would cook the meat in a hole in the ground, sealed with mud so that no steam escaped to give him away. Nowadays the meat is enclosed in a paper, or foil, parcel but the idea is that by sealing in all the juices the meat remains moist. Potatoes and other vegetables can be included in the parcel but remember that as well as absorbing the meat juices they will also absorb fat. Shoulder is a more economical joint than leg, but also usually fattier. The amount of fat depends on the breed and how it has been fed. As the meat should cook for a very long time, until it is falling from the bone, one solution is to pour off any excess fat and add the potatoes for the last hour only.
1 shoulder or leg of hogget or mutton
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp oregano or thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
4 cloves of garlic
Wineglass of white wine
Mix the cinnamon, oregano or thyme leaves stripped from their stalks, with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a little salt. Rub this all over the meat.
Lay the meat in a roasting tin and cover with foil. Cook at 150˚C (fan)/ 160˚C (conventional oven) /Gas Mark 3 for 2 hours.
Remove the foil and drain off any excess fat. Now add peeled and quartered potatoes, whole peeled garlic cloves and any other root vegetables you desire. Cut the lemons in half and add them to the pan, cut side down. Continue roasting without the foil. Check the pan every quarter of an hour, turning the potatoes so that they cook evenly, and adding white wine to the pan as the juices evaporate. It will take about an hour or so for the potatoes to cook and the lamb to begin falling from the bone.
Paskha (pronounced pass-ha) is the traditional dessert for Easter in Russia. Traditionally it is made in a pyramid shaped mould, but a pudding basin will do. The dessert is very rich so small slices should be served. In Russia it often accompanies a yeasted cake.
750g/1½ lb cream cheese
5 tbsps sour cream
50g/2 oz unsalted butter
125g/4 oz vanilla sugar
few drops of vanilla extract
grated rind of 2 lemons
125g/4 oz raisins (plus extra for decoration)
125g/4 oz candied peel and/or glace fruits
In a food processor cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, butter, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla extract. Chop the candied peel or glace fruits and add to the mixture together with the raisins.
Press the mixture into a pudding basin or other mould, cover with a plate and place a weight on top. Refrigerate overnight.
Before serving dip the bowl into hot water and run a palette knife dipped in hot water around the edge to loosen. Turn out onto a plate ad decorate with raisins arranged to form the letters “XB”, the Cyrillic for “Christ is Risen”.
I spent half of one holiday in Sicily trying to track down the moulds on which the pastry tubes are formed. Finally I found them, tubes made of thin metal that aren’t actually fully formed tubes,but open along their length so that you can make them smaller by squeezing and thus remove them from the cooked pastry. The reason they had take so long to track down is that even in Sicily hardly anyone makes their own. A British alternative would be brandy snaps. Here however is Antonio Carluccio’s recipe for the original.
For the pastry:
15g/½ oz butter
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsps dry white wine
1 tsp white wine vinegar
150g/5 oz 00 flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
For the filling:
600g/1 lb 5 oz ricotta cheese
300g/10½ oz caster sugar
55g/1¾ oz candied citrus peel, chopped
55g/1¾ oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then mix in the wine and vinegar. Fold in the flour and cocoa and knead to form a dough. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan.
Roll the dough into a large sheet about 2mm thick and cut into rectangles about 10 x 6 cm (4 x 2½ inches). Wrap each rectangle around the mould so that the points of the short side meet around the middle, seal these with a little beaten egg.
When the oil is very hot put in the cannoli, a few at a time, and fry until crisp and light gold in colour (about 1½ – 2 minutes). Drain on paper towels and leave to cool, removing the moulds.
To make the filling beat the ricotta cheese and sugar with a fork. Mix in the candied peel and chocolate. Fill the cases just before serving.