Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Shock of the New

Ravioli Viola con Patate Dolce, Zenzero & Caffé
Purple Corn Flour Ravioli with Sweet Potato, Ginger & Coffee Filling & Sage Butter

Hold on to your horses cow-people- things are going to get a little crazy here! Well at least this next dish that I prepared for you all is. Although... actually I didn't prepare it for you at all- it was my supper! But still... ;-) 

I had also been inspired to make this pasta dish whilst in Rome, where I enjoyed a plate of black, carob-flour ravioli on my last night before leaving... sigh! They were filled with bottarga- something I may try for myself one day- and totally delicious. I loved the fact that the pasta itself was a little out of the ordinary, with a slightly tangy, very mildly earthy and rich flavor- and just so much more interesting than your average pasta dish!

So let me tell you, before you start getting too excited, that this WAS an experiment and it CAN be improved on... and will be at some later date! The purple corn flour I decided to risk using, gave the pasta a great, earthy taste that I really loved, a very distinctive deep, dark purple flavor which was fun, but it did call for a bit more care and attention than regular flour pasta dough, as it simply does not "bind" as well. Also, as it needs to be "dissolved" in boiling water, that was an aspect that made it unsuitable for using eggs with- so this was a very simple flour and water dough. But hey- it DID work- I just had to be careful! The flavor was terrific, so I shall try this again- and of course I would be more than delighted if you give this a go! So let me tell you how...

I started off with 1 cup of "harina morada", the purple corn flour which I poured into a bowl and then trickled boiling water into, little by little, just enough for it to turn into a soft paste whilst stirring with a fork. I stirred it thoroughly until it was nice and smooth and then added regular flour- 2 cups of white to one cup of purple flour more or less. I added a drop of olive oil and a pinch of salt and began to knead it until all of the white flour had become integrated and the dough became firmer and more elastic. It was still a little "crumblier" feeling than regular pasta dough, but that is simply due to the coarser texture of the grains.

In any case, I persevered and rolled the ball of dough together, set it to one side for 15 minutes or so and got busy with the filling. I based these flavors on a side dish I had eaten in the USA many moons ago, in Savannah, Georgia... mashed sweet potato with a hint of coffee, vanilla and nutmeg- so delicious! In fact, it is my favorite way to enjoy sweet potato as mash- nothing else comes close to tasting so good!

So that was my inspiration- although I did something a little different this evening.  The filling for these 12 ravioli was made from just 1 half of a regular sized sweet potato. I grated it, along with about 1" of ginger, and popped it into a dry frying pan with half of a small onion which I had chopped finely. I stirred these around until the onion began to turn translucent and the sweet potato began to change color. Soon everything began to soften up a little and at that point I added a teaspoon of tomato paste and a couple of sage leaves which I had chopped very finely. Now was the time to add the coffee- just a half teaspoon of instant coffee is what you want- it dissolves immediately and does not add too much unnecessary liquid- and you do not want a soggy filling for the ravioli! 

I seasoned the filling with nutmeg, a tiny hint of cinnamon and a drop or two of vanilla essence- just the smallest hint. Then came salt and pepper of course, and the tiniest amount of milk- maybe a shot-glass full. I then took it off the heat and stirred everything together really well using a wooden spoon, stirring hard until the mixture became smooth and thoroughly well mixed.

The next ingredient, once the potato paste had cooled off, was a little Mozzarella cheese, just to help bind the mixture and keep it moist but not too soft. I cut three slices of mozzarella, cut them into strips and then cut the strips into a fine dice- easy. But first, I got back to my pasta dough as it was now time to roll it out! The great thing about the corn flour is also the bad thing about it... it just isn't as sticky as regular flour, so it won't stick to your work surface- at the same time, it is a little more delicate than regular pasta dough. Still- obviously, as you can see, it is doable! 

I used a ravioli tray, the kind that you fill first and then cover, and roll over with a rolling pin to cut, but obviously you can cut individual ravioli out with a cookie cutter, a stamp or even shape them by hand and cut them with a knife... whatever works is good. My only advice would be to not overfill them! These were very generously filled and almost critical- haha! Just a level-teaspoonful is plenty- it's better to be safe than sorry!

I then boiled the finished ravioli in plenty of well salted water for 2-3 minutes, until they floated up to the surface and became a uniform dark purple color all over... it is kind of cool the way that the color changes, you can literally see them cooking! As soon as there are no more pale spots of purple visible, carefully fetch them out and drop them into some cool water- this will prevent them from continuing to cook and softening up too much or sticking together.

All that I needed to do now was to melt a teaspoon of butter and to gently fry 5-6 sage leaves in it until they were nicely moist and had given the butter plenty of their rich flavor- and then I added the ravioli, stirring them in so that they became coated from all sides and could come back up to temperature. Whilst that was happening I seasoned them with a little dusting of nutmeg and pepper, and though it may sound counter productive, I added a tiny splash of water which gave the ravioli a little steam bath to get them nice and moist and hot, hot, hot to serve! No worries- that little bit of water soon gets soaked up again and it turns the butter into a nicer sheen on the ravioli... all good!

I served them with the sage leaves and a sprinkle of freshly grated salted ricotta cheese... and enjoyed them immensely! The only down-side on them was the fact that they did need a little care whilst making them... but hey! The flavors were out of this world together and for sure, you will not see this on any menu anywhere... other than here! Or at your house if you try them too! If you're feeling brave I do recommend it! Dare to be different!


  1. Wow, such an interesting
    dish! To be honest I eagerly stepped by to see how you made the dough, for it looked more black than violett to me. First I thought you could have added calamar ink, but what I found out is completely new and fascinating.
    By the way, you can add a binding component to the gluten free flour for a better handling.

    Per 100 g about: 
    1 g guar gum/Guarkernmehl
    1g carob bean gum/Johannisbrotkernmehl
    3g ?/Pfeilwurzelstärke
    3g Kuzu

    Best regards

  2. Thanks Barbara! Maybe I will try it again and do it properly now you have told me how! <3 You're the best!