I am a spice lover. I think it started as a child with a love of ginger and the scents of Christmas.
I’ve always loved the sweet, peppery, floral aroma that hit when you bit into a gingersnap cookie or took that first mouthful of still-warm gingerbread cake. That fiery tingle on the tongue, it was food magic.
Fast-forward to adulthood when I discovered, early on, what a difference freshly ground black pepper makes to a recipe compared to using ready ground black pepper. Even more so, how freshly toasted and ground whole spices like cumin, coriander and fennel can completely transform a meal to the next level.
I’d like to think that my current spice-cupboard is rather well-stocked, but there is always something to be learned so with delight I signed up to the Spice It Up cooking class taught by Gelf Alderson of the River Cottage.
In this cookery class, part of the River Cottage Cooking Diploma, we’re introduced to building flavours with spice, using them to enhance and compliment meat, fish and vegetables.
In the second of four lessons in this course, in addition to learning ways spices are used, we are taught how to spatchcock a whole chicken, how to fillet a fish and how to cook a whole fish on open coals. We’re also taught how to make our own nitrate-free chorizo at home using simple ingredients.
Our assignment for this lesson: to use this homemade chorizo in our own recipe.
I thought I’d showcase my spicy chorizo in a homemade ravioli recipe... here’s what I did:
To make the pasta
-400 grams '00' flour
-4 free range eggs
-semolina flour, for dusting
1. Measure out the flour and make a well in the centre.
2. Add the beaten eggs and mix with your fingertips until it begins to clump together.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for three minutes, until the dough forms a smooth ball.
4. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rest in the fridge for an hour.
For the chorizo ravioli filling
-1 tbsp Scottish rapeseed oil
-50 grams brown onion, finely chopped
-1 garlic clove
-250 grams River Cottage ‘Tupperware’ chorizo
-1 tbsp paprika
-sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
-170 grams ricotta cheese
-15 grams Parmesan cheese, finely grated
-2 tbsp parsley leaves, finely chopped
1. Heat the rapeseed oil in a sauté pan and gently cook the onion for 10 minutes, until translucent.
2. Add the garlic and cook a further minute.
3. Add the chorizo and brown all over.
4. Add the paprika and cook another minute.
5. Season well to taste and leave to cool.
6. Mix the cooked chorizo with the ricotta, Parmesan and parsley.
For the tomato sauce sauce
-4 tbsp olive oil
-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
-400 ml passata
-1 tbsp basil-infused olive oil
-sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and cook the garlic for a minute, taking care not to brown it.
2. Pour in the passata and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.
3. Turn off the heat, stir in the basil-infused olive oil, season well with salt & pepper.
1. Divide your ball of pasta dough into four even pieces.
2. Using a pasta machine or rolling pin and a surface dusted with semolina flour, roll out the dough to as thinly as possible.
3. Drop a heaped teaspoonful of the chorizo filling on to the bottom piece of pasta, leaving gaps between each spoonful.
4. Moisten around the edges of the filling with a finger dipped in water.
5. Place another layer of pasta on the top and gently press down, making sure no air bubbles are left.
6. Cut into squares with a fluted pasta cutter.
7. Place the finished ravioli on a tray dusted with semolina flour and cover with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out.
8. You can pop the ravioli in the fridge for a few hours, until needed, or freeze for another time.
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
2. Cook the ravioli in small batches for 2-3 minutes.
1. Arrange a little of the tomato sauce on a plate.
2. Sprinkle with fresh rocket leaves.
3. Top with the cooked ravioli.
4. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, a little feta, freshly torn basil leaves and season with salt and pepper.
Fancy learning how to cook with spices yourself? Spice It Up is one of 12 courses in the River Cottage Cooking Diploma, a collection of 48 lessons covering a broad range of cooking skills. There are two options, the Expert version, which I am currently enrolled in, and the Peer version.
Will you join me in this class? Book your place here
Get FREE Food & Drink tips and ideas from our experts in your inbox.