Along the Grapevine


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Stinging Nettle Ravioli with Sage and Black Garlic Butter

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When I first figure out how to use a wild edible from the garden, I like to keep it simple to see how the particular ingredient tastes and feels. I have done enough with stinging nettles that this time I wanted to make something a little more complex – and find a way to use up my prolific patch before it all goes to seed. Stinging nettle tastes very much like spinach, and loses its sting once cooked. It can be used in any recipe calling for cooked spinach, and vice versa.

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I’ve made plenty of pasta dishes before, but never ravioli, so that seemed a good place to start. I also wanted to make a sauce to serve with it, one which is not so substantial that it would take over the dish, but with enough flavour to jazz it up. Enter black garlic – an ingredient I have been wanting to make myself but not sure that with the risk it involves it would be worth using the amount of electricity required. I did pick up a package of black garlic when in Spain, so this seemed a good time to try it out. Mixed with sage, butter and a little lemon sounded like a plan. Some might like a little grated parmesan on the finished product, but hardly necessary.

If you are not familiar with black garlic, it is garlic which has been cured over several weeks at a warm temperature, and then aged further. The cloves turn a definite black, are soft and gooey in texture, and have a wonderful smokey, sweet flavour which works in just about any dish calling for garlic. These came in a box of two heads with the papery skin all in tact. It is expensive though, and if you don’t have it, roasted garlic would be a good substitute.

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For the pasta

2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)

3 eggs

2 Tbsp cooked, pureed sweet potato (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil

1 beaten egg

Make a well in the flour salt mixture and pour in the sweet potato, eggs and oil. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until it is well combined. Wrap it up in a wet cloth or plastic and refrigerate for at least a half hour or up to 24. Bring it back to room temperature before rolling it.

Using about one-fifth of the dough at a time, form it into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick then roll it out either with a rolling pin or a pasta machine. Either way, roll it several times. I started with the widest setting on the machine, folded the pasta over and passed it through again, repeating this several times. As I worked down to the thinnest setting, I folded the pasta in two each time, aiming for as rectangular a shape as I could get. This repeated rolling makes the pasta stronger and less likely to rip, even when very thin.

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Remember to keep the dough you are not using covered so it does not dry out.

Place the rectangle on a board and cut in two. Brush the edges of one sheet with the beaten egg, including around where you expect to cut the ravioli. I brushed all four edges, one line down the centre lengthwise, and then across according to the size I wanted. Bigger is less work!

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Fill the centres with a heaping tsp. of filling and place the other sheet on top. Press down around the edges of each piece and cut. Fork the edges to secure. Set on a floured surface and cover with a damp towel while you do the remainder.

For the Filling

1 1/2 cups cooked, chopped stinging nettles

1 Tbsp dried onion flakes

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Squeeze any excess water out of the nettles. Mix all the ingredients.

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For the Sauce

1/2 cup butter

one handful of fresh sage leaves

3 cloves black garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice or a lemon zest

Melt the butter in a saucepan. When it starts to foam, add the leaves and garlic. Continue to cook about 3 minutes. Add the salt and lemon.

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Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water, about five minutes. Serve with a little of the butter sauce drizzled over it.

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The sauce with the sage and black garlic is a winner. I will either have to cure my own, or maybe travel back to Spain for more, depending on which is more cost-effective.

I apologize for my late arrival at Fiesta Friday this week, but hope there are enough party-goers around to give this 3-part recipe a try.