I don’t like to eat meat every night, nor do I think it should always be the centre point of every meal, so it may surprise you to hear that I do like to buy half a pig in one go. I think if we are going to eat meat we really should make sure that the animal concerned has had a good life, and that we eat every part of it and not waste half of it just because we only eat pork chops, or whatever. It’s how generations before us used to cook, and if we’re serious about helping not just ourselves, but the planet as a whole, it’s how we’ll have to start cooking again.
I have a family of 6 and get through 2 half pigs a year, which quite apart from the roasting joints, is a lot of bacon, sausages and the surprisingly unpopular offal. It means, though, that I am always looking for new ways to prepare the offal, as recipes for pig’s liver and kidney are really quite hard to find nowadays, unless of course you make faggotts (an old British recipe for a kind of offal meatball and very tasty!), which need caul fat to encase them- not always easy to come by.
Last week I got a new ravioli cutter so I thought I’d try and kill two birds with one stone and use the cutter whilst trying out a recipe to use up the last of my pig’s liver. I have seen old Italian recipes using chicken liver in ravioli, so I thought I’d use that as a base and adapt it to what I had.
Don’t be put off by the liver, it was absolutely delicious, and although quite time consuming (I don’t think you could ever rush ravioli) it was very simple to make and well worth it. Plus, the quantities I used made 145 ravioli, way too much even for my starving family, so I have a couple of bags left over in the freezer. To freeze them, lay them out in a single layer on a board or plate and freeze like that for a couple of hours to ensure they don’t stick together, then bag up in the right sized batches for you. I’m thinking they’ll make a lovely starter at some point, or a rather impressive lunch.
1 kg of borlotti beans (weighed whilst in their pods),
800 g organic pigs liver (soaked overnight in milk overnight)
You will also need garlic, nutmeg (to taste) salt and pepper.
Firstly, I podded and cooked the borlotti beans. I always add a clove of garlic to the cooking water, as well as a tomato and a potato to soften the beans up. Do not salt them until they are almost cooked. Mine were done after 25 minutes, but test yours after 20, they may take up to half an hour.
Next, I washed the spinach, the cooked it with a couple of cloves of garlic and a few turns from my nutmeg mill. Make sure you cook off as much water as possible, then drain and squeeze out the rest.
I chopped the liver into medium sized pieces then pan fried it with another clove of garlic, until it was cooked through, about five minutes, depending on how big your pieces are.
Finally, I blitzed the spinach, liver and two thirds of the beans in a food processor, with the tomato, garlic and potato from the cooking water as well as enough of the cooking water to get a smooth, but not too moist paste.
That’s it, filling made! Then comes the real time consuming bit.
I made my pasta with 600g of 00 flour, and 6 eggs, but it was slightly too much. Put your flour into a bowl, add a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre and then pour in your beaten eggs. Mix it using your hands until you get a cohesive ball, then place it onto a floured surface and start kneading it. The surface will be smooth and glossy when it is ready. Then you chill it for half an hour or.
To make the ravioli, either use a pasta machine, or roll out by hand with a rolling pin. I used the machine as I think it is way easier, as long as you remember to roll the dough through the thickest setting 2-3 times before turning the dial down.
Keep the sheets floured, and the finished ravioli floured, or make sure they don’t touch each other as they will stick.
To cook, drop into salted water for 5 minutes, but don’t overcrowd the pan, rather do more patches and keep them warm in the oven.
I served mine tossed in brown butter, in which I had fried a good handful of chopped fresh sage leaves and diced pancetta, (but smoked bacon lardons would also be fine) and with the remaining borlotti beans. Add a nice green salad on the side, with something a bit spicier in it like rocket, and there you have it.