Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Many kinds of happiness

There are many things in life that can make a girl happy; clean white sheets, dark chocolate, warm weather, dinner parties, just catching the last train, overalls, badedas bath gel and of course dumplings.

The wonderful thing about dumplings is that they come in so many different types and appear in so many different cuisines that you can be dumpling happy almost anywhere at any time of day!

There are dumplings that you eat down laneways in the city, drowned in vinegar and shared with friends, beer and a couple of rats. There are dumplings that you eat at your grandmother’s house which are doughy and crumbed and filled with sour plum jam so you’re never entirely sure whether they’re sweet or savoury.

And then there are dumplings that are more your style, full of ricotta, silverbeet and swimming in rich tomato sauce. Dumplings called malfatti that you make yourself and serve at home, inflicting serious dumpling happiness on your family and friends. For me they are the best dumplings of all!

Last night I cooked dinner at my parent’s place for my family and thought that these delicious (mostly) light little balls of ricotta and silverbeet would be the perfect food to serve up to a big hungry crowd. As it turns out, making these en masse is a fairly arduous task that included almost a kilo of ricotta, de-stemming steaming and chopping about 2 kilos of silverbeet and lots and lots of ball rolling. While some of the gorgeous little dumplings came out a bit soft and others a bit hard, they were, on the whole very yummy – particularly when paired with Marcella Hazan’s Crazy Tomato Sauce and some freshly grated parmesan. Here, I've been realistic and given a recipe that will generously serve 2 rather than 6 people.

Like all things dumpling, these should probably be enjoyed in moderation, but will more likely be scoffed and result in sighing and belly grabbing. It’s worth it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Ricotta and Silverbeet Malfatti*

1 small(ish) bunch silverbeet (or rainbow chard or spinach etc)
350g fresh ricotta (not from the tub, it’s too wet)
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup plain flour
¼ cup grated parmesan
Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Trim the silverbeet to remove the stems and any thick white veins so that you’re left just with the leafy bits.

Steam or briefly sauté in a bit of water for about 5 minutes until properly wilted.

Transfer to a bowl to let it cool until you can handle it then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Finely chop the silverbeet and squeeze again (and again and again) to make it as dry and finely chopped as possible.

In a clean bowl mix together all the ingredients (but only a small amount of flour, about ½ cup)

Once well combined it should be wet but not too sticky, keep working in flour bit by bit until you have a dough that you can work into little balls without making a massive mess. At the same time, the more four you add, the chewier the dumplings will be, so this may take a couple of attempts to perfect.

Lay out a sheet of waxed baking paper, sprinkle with flour (I used semolina because I ran out of normal) and pop on a large pot of salted water to boil.

Take approximately ½- 1 tsp size pieces of the dough and roll into little balls, place on the baking paper - don't be tempted to make them bigger because they will swell a bit and these are the sort of thing that you just want to pop into your mouth, not cut in half first.

Once they’re all done, sprinkle a bit of extra flour on top of them all.

In two batches, gently plop the dumplings into lightly simmering water. When they bob up to the top, leave them for a minute and then pull them out with a slotted spoon. Repeat with the remaining dumplings.

Serve with rich tomato sauce, or some brown butter and sage and be dumpling happy.

* Malfatti means badly made in Italian - but I think mine looked lovely ;) these are also called Gnudi because they're like ravioli filling without the "jacket" of pasta


  1. The recipe I used was:
    120gm spinach
    350gm ricotta (I accidentally used about 380gm)
    1/2 cup parmesan
    1/2 cup flour
    1 egg
    salt, pepper, nutmeg.

    Would be interesting to compare the outcome...

  2. It's a dumpling off people... it's a dumpling off!