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Asian Style Tortellini

I always remember my Mother taking an Asian cooking course when I was in my teens. She was a keen shopper at the best of times and this latest project meant she could go wild in the aisles of the Chinese supermarket in Lausanne. I’d laugh at the number of bags she’d return with, filled with these wonderful and mysterious goods – apparently we needed all of it ‘just in case’.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Asian food was a novelty as Switzerland only had a handful of restaurants specialising in this kind of cooking so the opportunity to try it at home was warmly welcomed in our household. I spent quite a few Saturday afternoons making so many spring rolls that our freezer was almost fit to burst!

My fondness for Asian food, be it Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese stems from this time. It’s always interesting; it can be mild or spicy, fresh or intense, light or more substantial. But more than anything it brings back some great memories.

Prawn & Tofu Asian Style Tortellini
Tortellini dough & soy dipping sauce adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe
Filling & Fish Sauce dipping sauce – my own

Ingredients

Tortellini dough
250g strong flour
2 free range eggs
4 egg yolks

Method
Whisk the two eggs and 4 eggs yolks in a bowl, mixing yolks and egg white roughly together. Place the flour on a clean counter surface. Create a well in the middle of the flour and add the beaten eggs into it… be careful it might spill out. With a fork mix the egg in with the flour, it will start to form a paste. At this stage, just get in there with your hands and knead until you obtain smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and then put in the fridge for 30 mins.

Remove from fridge and split the dough in half. If you have a pasta machine, go ahead and use it, putting the dough through several times so it’s only 1-2mm thick by the end of it. If not, use a rolling pin. It will take some effort and a little bit of time, but I promise it is worth it. Again aim for a thickness of 1-2mm. Once you have rolled it out to desired thickness, cut into 10cm x 10cm squares.

Prawn & Tofu filling
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 sticks lemongrass, outer leaves removed and roughly chopped
100g frozen prawns, rinsed and defrosted
100g firm tofu, roughly cubed
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornflour
A handful of tinned water chestnuts

Method
Put the ginger, garlic and lemongrass into a food processor and whizz through. Add the rest of the ingredients and repeat. You should have a rough paste by now. Set aside.

How to make the tortellini:

Take a teaspoon of filling and place in the centre of the square. With a small brush or your fingers dipped in tap water, wet all around the filling.

Now fold over one corner of the dough square over to the opposite corner, creating a triangle. Cup the filling with your hand and press down so the dough sticks, ensuring there are no air bubbles.

At this stage, with the flat edge of the tortellini facing you, roll over once towards the tip.

Bring the two side flaps back towards you and squeeze together where they meet. I use a bit of water here if it doesn’t stick.

Cook in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain. Then add some oil to a pan and fry one side of the tortellini until it is crisp and golden. Serve immediately with the two dipping sauces below.

Serves 6 as a starter.

Soy dipping sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 fresh chilli, chopped
Chopped coriander

Method
Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate until gyozas are ready to be served.

Nuoc Mam dipping sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped

Method
Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and leave in the fridge to infuse all the flavours.

The Greengage Summer

We live in an area of Switzerland, in the south-west, which is known for being one of sunniest cantons in the country. Although July was rather on the wet side, August is looking a lot more clement already, the sun is blazing outside and the mountains look beautiful in the bright light. This kind of climate is a paradise for growing soft fruit. We are right in the middle of apricot season and when you drive down into the valley, there are stalls selling apricots and any related products every two kilometres along the road. There is something incredibly nice about knowing that your fruit’s provenance is a stone’s throw away.

Other than apricots, there are greengages, called Reine Claude in French. Small, gorgeous, green and amazingly juicy. They are in season for such a short time, it would be a crime not to grab a punnet and enjoy them.

We had some left over and I couldn’t quite muster the strength to eat all fifteen of them in one go before they went off… imagine the stomach ache! So instead I came up with this recipe, a tart, with a shortcrust base, some indulgent mascarpone, lemon marmalade and of course, the succulent greengages.

Greengage, Mascarpone & Lemon Marmalade Tart

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry
125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
55g butter, cut into cubes,
2-3 tbsp of water

For the filling
Approx. 15 greengages, cut in half, stones removed
250g tub of mascarpone
2 tbsp of icing sugar
Lemon marmalade

Put flour and salt in large bowl and then add the butter. Using your fingers, rub the flour and butter together until you have a consistency similar to coarse breadcrumbs. Try and do this swiftly or else it will go greasy, I usually run my hands under the cold tap and then pat dry before starting so the butter doesn’t melt too fast.

Add a tbsp of water, the consistency will change immediately once you mix it in, add another tbsp and repeat. Add a third if needed. Now wrap dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Whilst the dough is resting, grease a 24cm tart tin.

After you’ve prepared the greengages, mix 2 tbsp of icing sugar into the mascarpone.

At this point, your dough will be ready, remove from clingfilm and roll out with a rolling pin onto a surface lightly covered with flour. Carefully place it in the tart tin and shape to fit. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven on to 190 degrees.

When the 15 minutes are up, blind bake the case. Prick the pastry with a fork and then cover with greaseproof paper that fits the base. Place dried beans (I use chickpeas), dry rice, dry lentils or pie weights over the surface of the covering. Put in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Then add the mascarpone, spreading it evenly. Place the greengages, cut side down, and then put a little marmalade on each of the halves of fruit.

Bake for 30 minutes on a shelf near the bottom of the oven. Once done, don’t take the tart out immediately as the filling will still be runny. I turn the oven off, open the door and pull the shelf out slightly. After a few minutes, you should be able to place it on the kitchen counter without any spills!

Let the tart cool & set completely before serving. Enjoy!

The invasion of the courgette

Sharing a garden with someone who is green fingered has been a lovely treat. Our landlady regularly insists we eat her salads, Swiss chard, herbs, rhubarb and courgettes. Not one to turn down such an offer, I have made the most of her wonderful generosity. As gardeners will know, once the courgette plant is ready, it seems like it will never stop sprouting. From one day to the next, courgettes grow a couple of centimetres! Rather impressive.

One of my favourite dishes involves plenty of summer flavours: crab, chillies, red onion, lemon, capers and of course, our much loved courgette. Teamed with lovely wholegrain spaghettini, you have yourself a delicious week night dinner.

Crab, Chilli & Lemon Spaghettini
Adapted from In the Mood for Food by Jo Pratt

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced finely
1 large courgette or two small ones, sliced thinly
1 chilli, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 generous tablespoons of capers
1 or 2 tins of crab
Wholemeal spaghettini

Method
Add the spaghettini to a large pot of boiling salted water. Heat a large frying pan on medium to high heat. Add a tbsp of olive oil. Then add the sliced courgette, red onion and chilli. Fry until the courgette is slightly browned.

Add in lemon zest, capers. Stir through. With a couple minutes remaining on the pasta, add the crab and a splash of lemon juice.

Drain the pasta and put it back into the pot, throw in the crab and courgette mix. Add a glug of olive oil and some lemon juice. Season if needed. Serves two generously.

Surfing & Yoga at Surf Maroc

Onwards, in a taxi, to somewhere north of Agadir. A place called Aourir, known by everyone as Banana Village, just a little south of Taghazout, the surfing community of the area. The journey is chaotic but funny as our enthusiastic taxi driver bombs down the motorway towards our destination. This is argan tree land, there are thousands of them planted everywhere, on the hills, the side of the road, in every small patch available.

Late afternoon, we arrive at Villa Mandala, a wonderful house on the beach. A warm welcome awaits from Louise & Emma, our yoga teachers and hosts for the week. We also meet the other residents of this 7-day yoga and surf retreat – an array of nationalities from Europe and the US, a great mix of personalities and backgrounds.

Our schedule each day includes two hours of meditation & yoga early morning, followed by a hearty and wholesome breakfast, before Eunice and Karim, our surf instructors, turn up to take us surfing to the various spots in the area. We return mid-afternoon, salty, sandy, windswept and sun baked ready for another two-hour session of yoga early evening. We are then rewarded by an amazing Moroccan inspired vegetarian feast cooked up by Shane Vincent, the Global Table Chef.

I take part in a 4-hour cookery class with Shane and some of the girls on holiday there. Going to the market to pick out the produce is a great experience, the stalls are over spilling with fruit and vegetables, it is busy, hot, fragrant. Back in the kitchen, Shane has us working like a well oiled machine: peeling chickpeas and almonds, toasting seeds and nuts, making curry paste, melting chocolate… Cooking the evening meal for everyone is incredibly rewarding.

On the surfing front, Eunice, our instructor, is an incredible teacher – clear with his instructions, patient, happy, kind and always full of praise when you finally catch that wave and stand up. If you ever get the chance to go on a Surf Maroc holiday, be sure to seek him out.

And, of course, the yoga… This holiday changes everything for me. I’d never been particularly into yoga before I went to this retreat. I dabbled a little here and there for several years, focusing on running and cycling rather than increasing my flexibility or strength. The wonderful set-up, the teachers, the progress I make and the open atmosphere this retreat offers takes me to a place where I suddenly understand why people are passionate about yoga. I now embrace it, trying to practice at least three times a week by any means I can – be it alone or in a class.

Surf Maroc’s Villa Mandala is the place to go if you want an active holiday, with great food, some pampering, a welcoming environment and the opportunity to feel not only revived but relaxed. You can do as much or as little as you want… which is just what you want when you are on holiday, away from all the obligations of your usual life.