Sunday 18 December 2022

Advent 2022 - Fast Tracking #22


Today's Challenge: Fast from... using the oven.

Another oven-free day. The scattering of oven-free days over Advent has definitely made me think ahead more strategically and double up bread-baking etc where possible which is a good discipline. I'm not sure how much fuel will have been saved over the four weeks of Advent but if I were to persist with observing oven-free days regularly, it would probably make a small but significant impact on our energy use, bearing in mind how much I use it, generally. 

tea with unsweetened soya milk
grape juice
an orange
oatcakes with honeycomb

cheese, date and apple chutney, sourdough crackers, fruit 

black tea
panforte di Siena

pumpkin and ricotta stuffed ravioli* with chopped fresh thyme, Parmesan cheese and a swirl of olive oil
tomato and black olive salad
steamed blackberry puddings with homemade egg custard and blackberry sauce**

*These ravioli are stuffed with a mixture of roasted pumpkin, ricotta, black pepper, grated nutmeg and some salt. I baked the pumpkin a few weeks back when I had the oven on for something else, removed the skin, mashed the flesh and froze it for subsequent use either in pumpkin rolls (see Day #4), risottos, or, as today, in a filling for ravioli.

I don't make ravioli all that often - they are a bit of a fiddle - but when I do, even if I am making them as I did today for serving on the same day, I always freeze them ahead of cooking. 

This dates back thirty years or so to when I was first making fresh pasta and, in a fit of enthusiasm, decided to produce homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli for a dinner party. It was time-consuming to make the number required but the little ravioli turned out beautifully and I was delighted with them. I'd made them a few hours ahead and carefully stored them in the fridge on flour-dusted plates. Unfortunately, when I came to cook the blighters, despite the fact that I had squeezed the spinach as dry as I could when I made the filling, liquid had oozed forth and turned my beautiful ravioli into a gluey mess of which nothing was remotely salvageable. 

There was nothing to be done but tip the whole lot in the the bin in a cloud of blue language that would not have been out of place on a rough building-site, and send D hot-foot to the supermarket to lay his hands on a commercial alternative. After the considerable number of hours I'd spent making them, it was heart-breaking and ever since then, I've erred on the safe side and frozen them immediately after making  and then cooked them from frozen which eliminates any risk. Because, however dry you try and make the filling, there is always some moisture in there which can't be relied upon to stay put! 

I don't know how this is avoided in commercial, fresh ravioli which seem to sit in their packets and emerge as they're meant to, when you're ready to cook them, but all I can say is that my empirical experience of making them at home has been unequivocal and I ain't risking a repetition of what happened that evening thirty odd years ago! 

Pumpkin makes a nice filling as a change from spinach and ricotta although you do need to season it well. Smoked salmon fillets, baked in the oven and skinned, or mushrooms cooked down, as I did the other day with onion and herbs, and then blitzed in each case with a tub of ricotta in the food processor, also make excellent homemade ravioli fillings, I've found.

**The steamed blackberry puddings are a reprise of what I did at the end of my food challenge project in May here. They have remained a firm favourite and so quick to cook in the pressure cooker - 5 minutes steaming and 7 minutes under pressure is all they need. 

E x

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