Ricotta

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Sangiovese risotto with ricotta & cime de rape

serves 6 generous starters
difficulty moderate
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 45mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) cime de rape, Ricotta, rice, wine, chicken stock
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Cime de rape is a classic Italian winter green, looking a bit like skinny broccolini with kale like leaves and yellow flowers. It’s the wilted green used for the famous orecchiette dish with anchovies that you’ll often see made with soft broccoli. Look for bunches with bright, light green leaves and fine stems.

Ingredients

1.2 litres good quality chicken stock
100 grams pancetta, roughly diced
extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, 3 finely chopped, 1 split
1 fresh bay leaf
salt flakes
500 grams arborio rice
750 ml Sangiovese (or any other dry red wine)
200 grams cime de rape, trimmed
120 grams Grana Padano, finely grated
100 grams unsalted butter
100 grams fresh ricotta

Method

In a saucepan, bring the stock to the boil, and keep at a simmer.

In a heavy based pot add the pancetta and fry without oil until golden – this will start out dry but the fat will render out once it warms up. Add the onion, chopped garlic and bay leaf, season lightly and sweat out until softened but not caramelised – add a splash of oil if necessary.

Add the rice to the pot and stir constantly until the grains of rice are hot to the touch, then add 650ml of the Sangiovese. Stir until the wine has reduced to almost nothing. Once reduced start adding the stock, a ladle or so at a time, letting the liquid reduce and absorb again to almost nothing before adding the next ladleful. Continue this process until the rice is cooked to your liking – you may have some stock leftover, but if you use it all before the rice is cooked just use hot water.

While the rice is cooking, cook the cime de rape in about 300ml of water with a split clove of garlic and some salt, leaving the lid off so as to reduce the water as it cooks. Add a good slug of oil and cook until the rape is quite soft and the water has evaporated. Keep warm.

Once the rice is just cooked, add the remaining wine and boil briefly. Reduce the heat and vigorously beat in the cheese and butter until creamy. Adjust the seasoning and allow to sit for a minute or two.

Serve the risotto on warmed plates, snip bite sized pieces of cime de rape with kitchen scissors and lay over the rice, crumble over some ricotta and drizzle with a little of your best extra virgin olive oil.

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Seared scotch fillet with ricotta, white anchovies & a parsley, radish & shallot salad

serves 2 people
difficulty easy
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 25mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) steak, Anchovies & Sardines, radish, parsley, Ricotta
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Make sure to get your griddle pan smoking hot to get some good colour on the steaks or alternately use the barbeque.

Ingredients

2 x 200 gram scotch fillet at room temperature
salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1 shallot, sliced finely
2 pinches of cumin powder
2 pinches of caster or brown sugar
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
¼ bunch of continental parsley, picked
2 sprigs mint, picked
4 radishes, finely sliced
1 green chilli, sliced
50 ml of peppery virgin olive oil
6 white anchovies
100 grams fresh ricotta

Method

Pre-heat a griddle plate to smoking hot. Season the steak with salt and pepper and rub with a little oil.

In a bowl add the shallot, sugar, cumin and a pinch of salt, mix with your fingers. Allow the shallot to soften for 2 minutes then add the vinegar, parsley, mint, radish, chilli and peppery oil and toss through.

Sear the steak for 2½ to 3 minutes on each side to cook medium-rare to medium. Rest for a few minutes. To plate, lay the anchovies over each steak, dollop with ricotta and serve the parsley salad on the side. Spoon over any of the remaining dressing from the bottom of the bowl.

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Doughnuts with pistachios, ricotta & orange blossom syrup

serves 8-10 desserts
difficulty moderate
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 1hr (approx.) + 1hr dough rising
main ingredient(s) flour, honey, orange blossom water, pistachios, pine nuts, Ricotta
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You can keep the doughnuts in the syrup for a day or two then warm before serving, covered, in a 180°C oven or by gently simmering in a pan.

Ingredients

Doughnuts
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) dried yeast
40 ml warm water
30 grams caster sugar
200 ml milk
30 grams butter, cubed
pinch salt
2 eggs
310 grams plain flour, sifted
Honey syrup
400 grams honey
100 ml water
400 grams caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
splash orange blossom water
To serve
300 grams ricotta
40 grams pistachio kernels, crush
40 grams pine nuts, crushed

Method

Place yeast, water and a pinch of the sugar in a small bowl and stir until yeast is dissolved. Bring milk just to the boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Combine butter, remaining sugar and salt in a large bowl and add hot milk. Whisk until smooth, then set aside until just warm.

Use a whisk to beat eggs until light and frothy. Add eggs, yeast mixture and flour to warm milk mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot (about 175°C). Deep-fry heaped teaspoons of doughnut mixture until puffed and golden, spinning in the oil for 2 minutes. Otherwise, use a piping bag and cut the dough into little balls using scissors dipped in the oil to stop the dough from sticking.

Drain on kitchen paper.

To make the honey syrup, combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming any froth from the top.

To serve, soak the doughnuts in the warm honey syrup in a pan. Warm over medium heat, then spoon on the ricotta and sprinkle with nuts.

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Trofie pasta with bacon & ricotta

serves 4 mains
difficulty easy
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 30mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) pasta, radicchio, Ricotta, chilli
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Ingredients

500 grams trofie pasta (or other pasta spirals or squiggles)
4 thick rashers bacon, cut into lardons (small batons)
100 ml olive oil
4 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 or 3 red chillies, finely chopped, seeds retained
2 tablespoons oregano, chopped
80 ml white wine
1 radicchio, shredded
2 handfuls parsley, chopped
250 grams ricotta

Method

Cook pasta to al dente, according to packet instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a large high-sided fry pan, fry the bacon in a little of the oil for 2 minutes until the bacon is golden brown and the fat renders.

Add the shallots, garlic and chilli and a splash more olive oil. Cook for a minute over medium heat. Add the oregano and wine and allow to bubble.

Add cooked pasta to the pan, followed by the radicchio, parsley and crumbled ricotta. Stir through to slightly wilt the radicchio, then season and serve immediately, drizzling with a little extra oil if necessary.

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If there’s pesto left over, spoon it into a jar and top with a thin layer of oil before sealing. Eat the pesto on toast with ricotta, toss it through broad beans or potato salad, and serve it with grilled lamb chops and fetta.

Blanching the parsley ensures that the pesto stays a vibrant green.

Ingredients

80 grams parsley, leaves only
80 grams basil, leaves only
100 grams mint, leaves only, plus a few extra
60 grams toasted almonds
120 grams parmesan, grated
2 small cloves garlic, sliced
200 ml olive oil, plus a little extra
salt and pepper
400 grams linguine
80 ml milk
200 grams ricotta

Method

Bring a small pot of water to the boil, add the parsley and allow to cook for 30 seconds before draining well.

Place parsley, basil, mint, almonds, parmesan, garlic and olive oil into a food processor or blender and blitz to a smooth, thick paste.

Season with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Cook linguine according to packet directions. Drain and return to hot saucepan with most of the pesto and a dash of milk. Season and serve immediately, crumbling ricotta over the top, garnishing with a few extra mint leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Croissant bread & butter pudding

serves 6 desserts
difficulty moderate
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 1hr (approx.)
main ingredient(s) croissants, milk, chocolate, Ricotta, cream
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Stale croissants are needed for this pudding - just purchase extra next time you visit a good bakery. It makes such a difference to use a real vanilla bean for this custard, not just for its flavour but also its perfume.

I bake the pudding in a rectangular baking dish, 40 cm x 15 cm, but you can also use a round one of similar size.

Ingredients

200 ml milk
200 ml cream
1 vanilla bean, split, scraped and sliced lengthways into 6
120 grams caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, extra
3 whole eggs
40 ml Frangelico
7 croissants, day-old
5 tablespoons Nuttela
300 grams ricotta, in the piece, sliced
50 grams dark chocolate buttons
pouring cream, to serve

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat the milk and cream in a pot over medium heat with the vanilla bean and its seeds. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat.

Place the 120 grams sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk for 1 minute. Pour in the hot cream mix and whisk to combine, then add the Frangelico to make a boozy custard.

Cut the croissants horizontally into 3 slices. Spread Nuttela generously on one side of a croissant slice and lay it in the dish, Nuttela side up. Add a slice of ricotta and 5 pieces of chocolate and top with croissant top. Repeat with all croissants then pour over the custard. Press into the croissants to help them absorb the custard and scatter over remaining chocolate and extra caster sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes till a little golden and slightly puffed then serve with cream poured all over.

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Ingredients

1.5 to 1.8 litres chicken stock
100 ml olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 brown onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
salt
500 grams arborio rice
200 ml white wine
60 grams unsalted butter, diced
90 grams parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 lemon, plus 1 lemon, juiced
55 grams hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
100 grams ricotta

Method

Have the stock in a saucepan and keep it just off the simmer.

In a heavy, wide-based medium-sized pot over medium heat, add the oil, bayleaf, onion and garlic. Stir. Season lightly and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat every grain in oil. This is important to heat and seal the rice so you don’t end up with gluggy risotto. When the grains of rice are hot to touch, add the wine and quickly follow with a ladle of hot stock. Stir with a wooden spoon and then add a couple more ladles of stock.

Continue the process of stirring and adding stock for another 15 to 20 minutes then add half the butter. Gradually add the cheese, stirring. Check your rice: it should have a nutty centre. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, check seasoning, and let it sit for 2 minutes in the pot.

Put a small frypan on the heat and add the rest of the butter. When it’s melted add the nuts. Season and cook the butter until it is golden and smells nutty. Take it off the heat and add the lemon juice.

Serve risotto on plates and crumble ricotta over the top. Finish by spooning the nutty mixture over the risotto and serve immediately.

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Ingredients

2 banana peppers
1 red pepper
sea salt flakes and black pepper
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
2 handfuls parsley
20 ml sherry vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
2 pinches sugar
2 175 gram Scotch fillet steaks
100 grams ricotta
lemon wedges, to serve
crusty bread to serve, optional

Method

Heat the oven to 200°C and roast the peppers for 15 minutes. Don’t let them colour too much. Remove peppers from the oven and place them in a plastic bag for 15 minutes to sweat. Slip the skins off, break the peppers to remove the seeds and chop into 2 cm dice. Dress the peppers with salt, pepper, half the oil, the garlic, parsley, vinegar and sugar.

Place the steaks between two sheets of clingwrap and beat them until they’re very thin and even.

Heat a large frying pan or grill until extremely hot. Season the steaks lightly with salt, pepper and the rest of the oil. Fry one steak at a time, flipping after 30 seconds, then cooking for another 30 seconds or until cooked to your liking.

Transfer the steaks straight to plates. Spoon on peppers and ricotta.

Serve straight away with lemon wedges and crusty bread, if desired

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Standard filo pastry is fine but I hunted around Melbourne’s Prahran Market and found beautiful home-made filo.

Ingredients

70 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons capers, chopped
1 bunch spinach, about 800 grams
4 sprigs of mint, leaves only, chopped
2 sprigs dill, leaves only, chopped
4 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
2 eggs
250 grams ricotta
120 grams fetta
salt and pepper
200 grams butter
15 sheets filo pastry
2 teaspoons ground fennel

Method

Preheat oven to 180C.

Wash the spinach well and roughly chop it, retaining the stems.

Place 50 ml olive oil in a wide heavy-based pan, then add the onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes on a medium heat, then add the capers and half the spinach. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted, then tip everything into a colander to drain. Press out as much liquid as you can, using a spoon, or your hands.

Pour the rest of the oil into the pan. Add the herbs and the rest of the spinach. Again, cook it over a medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted, then tip the mixture into a colander to drain, pressing out as much liquid as you can.

Turn all the spinach mixture onto a board and chop it quite finely. Return to a bowl, add the eggs, ricotta and crumbled fetta and stir them in well. Adjust seasoning.

Melt the butter, then use some of it to grease a 35cm round tin. Lay a filo sheet on the bench. Brush it with butter, and repeat 4 times, so you have 5 sheets of layered buttered pastry. Place a third of the spinach mix along the length of the pastry, then roll it into a sausage shape. Gently form the sausage into a spiral shape and lay it in the centre of the tin.

Repeat the process of layering pastry with the second and third portion of spinach mixture, adding these sausage shapes to continue the spiral outwards and fill the tin. Brush the top of the pastry with butter and sprinkle with the ground fennel and a little pepper.

Bake until golden brown for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool a little and remove from tin to serve, cutting or pulling apart as the mood takes you.

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