This week we are joined by a superstar blogger (and soon to be superstar TV cook – read about it on her blog!), the lovely Ginger from Ginger and Bread. Ginger’s is a fabulous blog, full of wonderful recipes and photographs, but also full of stories, culture and history, I’ve already learnt so much from her blog. Although we come from pretty much opposite ends of the culinary scale, Ginger responded immediately, and positively, when I invited her to do a guest post for me…..so….
Ginger, what would you feed me?
Elaine and I are not just on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to food, I am convinced we’re on different spektra altogether. I absolutely adore her posts, the way her dishes are put together and presented makes me completely forget that they don’t contain any of the foods I consider necessary for my survival. When Elaine looks at my food, she probably needs protective eyewear. Needless to say, when she invited me to cook for her, I was both excited and terrified.
Those who knows my blog knows that Germans survive on a balanced mix of sausages, bread and beer. Any surplus dietary requirements are covered by cake and, occasionally, sauerkraut. Incidentally, I had been dying to make a particular Ligurian dish, pansotti with walnut sauce, for ages, especially as our garden at this time of the year gets overtaken by borage.
This beautiful plant with its distinctive blue flowers is not only an attraction for bees, it is also used in many Italian and German dishes. We use the young leaves and even the flowers in salads or for sauces; it tastes a little like cucumber and adds a fresh note to your dishes. Traditionally, this pasta is filled with a combination of several wild herbs, but a mix of spinach and chard works brilliantly. If only I had sown my chard a little earlier, though …
Liguria is the home of pesto, which we know as a mix of parmesan, pine nuts and basil. Unsurprisingly, they have hundreds of variations of it, and the mix of walnuts, ricotta, cheese and marjoram sounded just too promising! Walnuts are a right superfood, too, and any recipe that makes use of them is definitely a start in the right direction. That only left me with the issue of pasta …
Armed with a recipe for gluten-free pasta by Jamie Oliver [http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/gluten-free-pasta-dough/], I made my way into the ‘free from’ section at our local supermarket. Not for the first time, I hasten to add. I once accidentally bought a bar of gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and, potentially, chocolate free chocolate from there.
Using rice flour and xantham gum, as well as almost double the amount of eggs as for regular pasta, the finished product was much better than I had anticipated, namely with the consistency and taste of, well, pasta.
The lack of gluten means that the dough is a little more challenging to process: you’ll have to roll it out quite thin before using your pasta maker, otherwise it will break. It is less elastic, which makes it harder to close the parcels around the filling. I used some beaten egg to seal them, just to be on the safe side. Any offcuts are best kept aside and cut into thin strips for further use as tagliatelle or similar rather than trying to knead them and roll them out again. Simply leave them to dry on a kitchen towel dusted with rice flour and use them at another time.
The finished dish was absolutely wonderful – the fresh borage really compliments the spinach, and the creamy consistency of the walnut pesto really made it stand out for us. If you are using gluten free pasta, you need to season the filling slightly more generously than for wheat pasta, I think, but otherwise I would certainly recommend going through the effort of making your own pasta!
Even when working under Elaine’s strict guidelines, there is no way I would miss out on dessert. Funnily enough, this one was a no-brainer, and a traditional German one at that, too! ‘Rote Grütze’, a specialty of Hamburg, translates as ‘red porridge’ and is best described as a berry compote, usually served with a dollop of cream. It doesn’t contain much more than berries and corn flour, and the sweetness can be adjusted using grape juice. Instead of cream I used quark, which complements the slight tartness of the berries perfectly.
I just hope Elaine will like the finished result as my as we did – even the kids finished their plates without any complaints, which must have been a first!
Pansotti di Borragine (serves 4)
For the gluten-free pasta:
180 g gluten-free rice flour, plus extra for dusting
50 g potato starch
1 tablespoon corn flour
2 tablespoons xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 medium eggs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
For the filling:
300g of spinach, borage leaves and swiss chard
100g grated parmesan
1 tsp marjoram
salt, pepper, to taste
1 egg, beaten, to seal the pansotti.
Jamie suggests ‘blitzing’ the ingredients for the dough in a blender, and I can only agree with him as it helps you to mix the dryish ingredients thoroughly before even attempting to knead them into a dough. Start with a little less of the rice flour and add more, if necessary. Once the dough comes together, cover it with cling film to prevent it from drying out and leave it to rest for about half an hour.
In the meantime, wash the vegetables. I used around 300g altogether, how you mix it is really up to you. I wouldn’t use borage on its own, but 1/4 to 3/4 spinach worked a treat.
Steam the leaves over boiling water for a few minutes, drain them carefully and chop them finely. Mix them with the remaining ingredients.
Cut the dough into 4 portions and roll out one on a lightly dusted surface. If you are using a pasta maker, keep rolling it out until the second last setting – I couldn’t get the gluten-free dough any thinner than that. Although it stretches quite well in terms of its length, it won’t expand sidewise, so bearr that in mind when you are rolling it out.
Cut the rolled-out dough into 5 cm/3 in squares and fill them with a small teaspoon of filling each. Close the pansoti by folding them into a triangle, using a little of the beaten egg to seal them.
Let the finished pansotti rest for around 30 minutes on a floured tea towel or similar. Then boil them for about 10 minutes in salted water: once they come up they are ready to serve!
Salsa di Noci – Ligurian Walnut Sauce (serves 4)
1 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic, peeled
100g ricotta cheese
60g grated parmesan
2 tbs marjoram
100ml extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
As for pesto alla Genovese, simply put all the ingredients bar the olive oil into a blender and mix them until they are all roughly chopped. Add the olive oil in steps until you have a smooth paste. Adjust the seasoning depending on the saltiness of your parmesan!
Hamburger Rote Grütze – Sugar-free Red Berry Compote (serves 4-6)
250g mixed berries, frozen or fresh (red currants, black currants, blueberries, raspberries and brambles
200g cherries, ideally without the stones …
1 – 1 ½ cup grape juice
3 tbs corn flour
Bring the berries to boil over a medium heat. In a small bowl, mix the corn flour with the grape juice until fully dissolved. Once the berries are bubbling, add the cherries, and finally the corn flour mix. Adjust the sweetness of the compote by adding more grape juice, if necessary. You want to achieve the consistency of a thick soup, or single cream.
Serve cold, with a generous dollop of quark.
It’s a great way to make the most of seasonal produce, some of which is growing on our very doorstep. I hope Elaine enjoys this summer feast as much as we did!
Ginger, I am so honoured by your beautiful dish and all of the hard work you obviously put into this post. Thank you so very much for taking part and for feeding me such an amazing meal xxx