ANZAC day family dinner

Today being ANZAC day was a great opportunity to spend some time with the family. After a busy, but fantastic morning singing at two services (complete with 180 Australian sailors- what a rendition of ‘Advance Australia Fair’!), I was rewarded with brunch cooked by Dad. I had called up Mum the day before and told her I would like to make them dinner on the Wednesday and I told her that I would like to make pasta from scratch.

Mum said “Oooo, that’s a big undertaking, Claire, are you sure?” to which I replied yahuh…. She may have been kinda right because we didn’t eat until about 9.30pm, BUT it was so much fun making the pasta and the satisfaction of knowing that I had made the pasta (yay meeeeeee) was very much worth it.

My flatmate made this cannelloni recipe last week and it was so good I just had to make it again. I used Jamie Oliver recipes for both the pasta and cannelloni, because we love Jamie very much and because he makes making pasta look easy as seen here. I thought “piece of cake!” I shall take photos of the process while I experience for myself this delightful easy process….

NOT SO

First bit= incredible amounts of fun!

Look at that! You get to make a mess (especially because I was practicing cracking eggs with one hand, a technique I have yet to master… explode-o eggs) and you get to play with your food eee! So, you take your eggs and flour and mix them together into a dough, then you knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s smooth and lovely, then stick it in the fridge for a bit et voilà!

There, you have your pasta ready to go into the machine. Then, the calm and lovely attitude goes out the window. Then you develop a really bad relationship with pasta machine. You are both behaving unreasonably and it’s not pretty. Basically, the pasta machine we have does not attach to the bench well and it slips around while you are trying your darndest to roll out pasta which requires THREE hands anyway, yup three, not two. This lead to difficulties, because I, like most humans, have but two hands.

Pretty much you need one hand to feed the dough in, one hand to turn the handle and one to catch the pasta as it comes out so that it doesn’t fold in on itself and stick to itself. I would sorta get the hang of it and then the pasta would stick to itself, or the handle would fall out of the machine onto my ready, waiting foot or I would run out of bench space for the long, elastic lengths of pasta. Not a happy bunny and I wished for the thousandth, hungry time that I had just bought some pre-made lasagne sheets. Look what happened though.

Wee cannelloni, just waiting to be joined with sauces and baked! What really helped with the pasta making was dusting it after each pass through the machine with semolina flour and lots of it. Would have been handy if i had dusted the bench as well before laying down my fat, filled cannelloni, made getting them off the bench unpleasant and bugger my new favourite word.

After all this unpleasantness, I was able to swan into the living room circa. 9pm and say “Dinner is in the oven!”.

Boy, was the wait worth it. There is cheese everywhere, which should be recommendation enough for any dish, but here the combination with the rich, deep tomato sauce and the delicate marjoram that went in with the spinach was to die for. If you don’t make the pasta, this is most definitely a recipe worth trying. There are lots of parts to it, but all simple enough. Dear Jamie, you have once again outdone yourself.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni Adapted from this recipe from Jamie’s Dinners

4-ish Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

a handful of marjoram, chopped

about 8 bunches of spinach, washed

1/2-1 tsp grated nutmeg

salt and pepper

400g ricotta

2 handfuls of parmesan

2 400g cans of chopped tomatoes

splodge of red wine

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

1 tsp sugar

200g mozarella

12 squares of fresh pasta about the size of a postcard

250g tub of crème fraîche

3-5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

Take a large roasting tin, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and put on a moderate heat. Add one of the sliced garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, nutmeg and the marjoram. Then add the spinach and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted, but still green and vibrant. Place the cooked spinach in a bowl with all the contents of the pan, including juices and allow to cool.

Place the pan back on the heat and add another tablespoon of olive oil if you need it. Add the other sliced garlic clove and cook over a moderate heat until the garlic is soft. Then add the cans of tomatoes, half of one of those cans filled up with water, red wine, tomato paste, oregano, salt and sugar. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is reduced, but still sloppy. Remove from the heat. Preheat your oven at this point to 180°C.

Take your cooled spinach and roughly chop it, then return to the bowl with ricotta and parmesan, mix together. Take your pasta squares and dollop a couple of tablespoons of the spinach and ricotta mix into the middle and nudge it into a niceish, fat line. Brush one of the edges with water and roll up towards that edge to seal. Once you have done this with all 12, place them in the pan with the tomato sauce, mix up the crème fraîche, anchovies and other handful of parmesan with a wee bit of water to make a pouring consistency and pour over the top. Sprinkle the cannelloni liberally with mozarella, parmesan and a good drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 20-30mins or until bubbling and starting to brown.

Oooo, also, if you haven’t already, you should definitely go and see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I nearly skipped out of the movie theatre afterwards.

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