After I finished reading 'Julie and Julia' and realized that cooking with Jamie is a walk in the park compared with cooking with Julia, I began telling Simon about how Julie and her husband often didn't eat till midnight and never before 9, in an attempt to keep him on side with my project. He clearly suspected that I was telling him this in order to pave the way for some late-night dinners, since he responded by checking, 'you aren't going to make me eat at midnight, are you?' One of the best things about the Jamie project is that we haven't (yet) had any midnight feasts masquerading as dinner; another is that although we have ventured into the world of cooking squid, mussels and scallops (with crab and lobster to come), there haven't been bone marrow dishes or sweetbreads, and, best of all, there have been loads of ordinary dinners, the kind normal people, if they exist, might actually want to eat. Like the stew I made yesterday to go with potato pasta cushions, which is really just a variant on stew and mash, only here the mash is mixed with lemon and nutmeg and parmesan and rocket and stuffed inside freshly made pasta. I thought this was a happy, comforting way to start 2007; not as easy as all that, because you have to make the pasta, but not too difficult, all told.
First I made the stew, which doesn't really need describing because everyone knows how to make a decent basic stew (it had thyme and rosemary in, and white wine; otherwise all the usual suspects).
Next, Simon and I did our usual joint effort on the pasta - the initial rolling seems to require four hands, or three at least. I made the filling by baking potatoes for an hour in a medium-hot oven, letting them cool and then mashing the flesh with grated parmesan, lemon juice and zest, chopped rocket and grated nutmeg. We cut the pasta into 10 cm squares and filled each square by hand, sealing and cutting into a vaguely neat shape. These shapes look a bit like pillows or cushions; they are ravioli, in effect, only bigger than usual.
We served the stew with the cooked pasta cushions on top, drizzled with a little olive oil and fresh parsley.
This is rustic food, not the kind of showpiece that people tend to serve at dinner parties - which is a shame, because I defy anyone not to love it. The stew is as tasty as a good stew should be and the pasta cushions are delicious - the potato is given fantastic flavour by the lemon, nutmeg, cheese and rocket; their lemony sharpness contrasts beautifully with the homey, hearty stew. Another heartwarming dinner; another recipe to come back to (and I have happily already frozen extra portions for a rainy day).