RECIPE: CORN TORTELLINI WITH SOY AND SMOKED TEA BROTH

THIS RECIPE IS AIMED AT THE INTERMEDIATE HOME COOK, AND REQUIRES SOME TIME AND EFFORT. TWO GREAT TAKEAWAYS, HOWEVER: THE METHOD FOR VEGAN PASTA, WHICH YOU CAN USE IN PLACE OF ANY FRESH PASTA; AND THE BROTH (LESS THE SMOKED TEA AND CORN), WHICH IS A GREAT BASE FOR A RAMEN-STYLE NOODLE SOUP.

THE FILLED PASTA CAN BE MADE WELL AHEAD AND FROZEN. -JRS

Same recipe, different pasta. Ravioli.

PASTA DOUGH

Making pasta by hand is best explained visually. So, go watch this video.

INGREDIENTS

– 3 cups durum semolina
– 1 cup 00 flour
– 1½ cups water
– 1 tbsp olive oil

Note: If you can’t get Italian 00 flour, you could use all purpose. This may change how much water you need, however.

“What I felt was sadness – a sadness deep and cool like a well, into which my hopes had fallen” – “A Man of the People”, Chinua Achebe.

Pour the flour onto a clean surface and form a well with your fingers. Add the wet ingredients and begin to stir in the flour with a fork. When everything comes together, start kneading the dough.

This takes some work. Knead for 10 (or better, 15) minutes. Double wrap in cling film and set aside to rest for at least one hour.

CORN FILLING

INGREDIENTS

– 6 ears fresh corn (I used ½ sweet corn, ½ yellow corn)
– 1 shallot, diced
– 1 clove garlic, sliced
– vegetable oil
– soy sauce, to season

Shuck the corn and cut off all the kernels. Reserve the cobs.

In a medium pot, add some vegetable oil and sweat the shallot and garlic over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the corn kernels and a splash of water. Up the heat a little and saute everything, stirring regularly, until the corn has cooked (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Add about three-quarters of the cooked corn to a blender and blend until you get a relatively fine puree. You may need to add a touch of water to get things moving.

Pour the corn puree into a fine strainer and use the bottom of a ladle to push some of the liquid out—the goal is to remove as much moisture as possible, so that the filling for the pasta is not too wet.

Next, scrape the puree into a bowl. Add the remaining whole kernels and fold through. Season with some soy sauce, starting with a teaspoon. Stir and taste (see my post on seasoning for reference). Add additional soy as needed to balance out the sweetness of the corn. It may need a touch of acid, so you could use white wine vinegar or rice vinegar.

When you’re happy with it, place it in the fridge to cool.

SOY AND SMOKED TEA BROTH

INGREDIENTS

200 mls soy (use a good soy, e.g Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.)
2 onions, halved with skin on
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed slightly (but kept whole)
¼ cup sugar
2 star anise
1 tsp coriander
Reserved corn cobs
2 tbsp lapsang souchong (smoked black tea; optional)

Put the star anise and the coriander in a tea ball or wrap them in a cheesecloth and tie with string, a kind of “boquet garni”; basically this makes it easier to remove them when they’ve flavoured the broth.

“Bouquet garni” in a tea ball.

In a pan or wok, heat up a few tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When hot, place the onions in the pan, cut-side down. Let the onions sear until they blacken, 5 minutes or more.

Burn ’em. Burn ’em good.

Place the blackened onions into a pot. Add three corn cobs, garlic, spices, soy, sugar. Pour in about 2.5 litres of water, bring to a boil and immediately lower the heat until you’ve got a steady simmer.

Broth in the making.

Meanwhile, place the tea in a glass or small pot and pour over two cups of boiling water. Stir and leave to steep.

Taste your broth after a few minutes. If you can taste the garlic already, remove the whole cloves. Let simmer for another fifteen or twenty minutes, tasting every few minutes. Your end goal is a very savoury broth with a balanced sweetness, and the corn and spice flavour in the background.

NOTE: If at any point you feel one flavour is getting too strong, simply remove that ingredient.

When you’re happy with it, remove from heat and strain. As an extra, OCD-level step, you can also clarify the broth through a cheesecloth or some other very fine strainer; I used a coffee filter.

This is a broth-clarifying machine.

If using the smoked tea, strain that and pour about half into your broth. Taste. You want the flavour of the broth plus a slight tannic and smoky note from the tea. Add more, a little at a time, as needed.

TORTELLINI

The last time I made this recipe was the first time—point is, I’m no expert. Go watch this video, it explains how to fill and shape them. (You could also make any other filled pasta, ravioli, agnolotti, etc.)

You don’t need a pasta machine. Roll by hand with a rolling pin, a wine bottle, etc.

General tips:

– Get your dough as thin as possible while rolling
– Use a very small amount on each individual piece of pasta.
– After making a couple, place them in the freezer on a plate or sheet with a sheet of parchment paper; once they’ve frozen individually, you can store them together in a container.

Filling.

SWISS CHARD AND SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS

Remove the leaves from the chard and cut into large pieces. Slice five or six shiitake mushrooms into thick slices.

Sautee each separately in oil over medium-high heat; you want to get a bit of char on the chard, and brown the mushrooms well. Set aside.

FINISH

Get your serving bowls ready. Place some chard in the bottom of each (three or four pieces), and some shiitake mushrooms on top of that.

Close.

Reheat the broth til it’s very hot.

Cook the pasta in simmering hot water with a little bit of salt, 4 per serving, plus a couple extra in case any break. From fully frozen, the tortellini take about three to four minutes to cook. Remove one and test to be sure.

Closer.

Place four tortellini on top of the chard and shiitake mushrooms. Add enough hot broth to just reach the pasta—or more if you want, it’s your dish.

Done!

Bon appetit.