After a somewhat long break from writing anything on this blog, I’m really happy to get things going again. I managed to get away for a few weeks on a long, much-needed holiday and I’ve had time to work on lots of new recipes, which will appear here in the very near future. To be honest, writing again lifts a real weight off my shoulders. When I started this blog all those years ago, it was really aimed to be a bit of fun, a foodie distraction. I didn’t realise how important to me it would become, to the point that I start to feel guilty if I haven’t written for a couple of weeks.
This recipe is a cracker, a totally delicious plate of food that is comforting and indulgent despite the modest ingredients. It’s a prime example of how inexpensive, overlooked produce combined with a little time and patience can result in something a little special. Pigs trotters will always be pigs trotters, and there’s no getting around the fact that you are working with a very graphic, often hairy, animal foot. Even in Pierre Koffman’s seminal stuffed trotter dish, it’s still very much that. There is no dressing it up, but looking past all of this allows you to utilise what is in essence a uniquely flavoured and textured cut of pork.
Although the focus will always be on the trotters with a dish like this, my main inspiration for this recipe was actually the swede. The poor old swede has really got the bum deal as a truly unfashionable vegetable, yet it is something which I grew up eating and adore. Combined with the pork and sage as the filling for the pasta, it creates a wonderful, slightly sweet balance of flavour which brings the whole thing together.
As with lots of my cooking, some of the elements are a little on the timely side. When I make these recipes at home, I spread them over a couple of days, leaving only the quick bits and pieces to the day of serving. For this recipe, the trotter and sage filling can be made 3-4 days ahead if necessary, and like the best lasagnes and stews, will most probably benefit from a day in the fridge.
For the trotter and swede filling:
6 pigs trotters
4 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces
3 shallots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 carrot, chopped
10 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 glass of white wine
1-1.5 litres of chicken stock
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
10 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 tbsp of grated parmesan
For the sauce:
The braising liquid from the pigs trotters
1 good knob of butter
A squeeze of lemon juice
For the pasta:
300g strong ‘00’ grade pasta flour
3 medium eggs, plus 1 spare
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 baby leeks
Parmesan for grating on top
First braise the pig’s trotters. Place a large, heavy casserole dish onto a medium-high hob and add a good glug of olive oil. Trim the trotters and singe away any hair, then quickly brown in the hot pan. Once coloured on all sides, transfer to a side plate with some tongs. Add the chopped bacon to the now-empty pan and also caramelise for a couple of minutes, before adding the 3 chopped shallots, carrot, garlic, bay leaf and 10 sprigs of thyme. Fry for another few minutes, then pour in the wine. Allow to boil and reduce by half. Return the trotters to the pan and top up with the chicken stock, until everything is just covered. Bring to the boil again, then lower to a gentle simmer. Partially cover the pan with a lid and cook for 3-4 hours, until the flesh on the trotters is very tender.
When the trotters are ready, allow everything to cool slightly before straining the liquid into a smaller saucepan and setting aside for later. Strip the flesh from the trotters and chop very finely with a knife before transferring to a bowl. Discard the now spent vegetables.
While the trotters are cooking, set the oven to 180⁰C (fan).
Peel the swede and chop into rough chunks about an inch in size. Tip onto an oven dish and coat in a little olive oil and seasoning. Slide into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, until very tender.
Place a small saucepan onto a medium-low heat and add a little oil. Add the remaining shallot, garlic, thyme and sage to the pan along with a little seasoning, and soften gently for 8-10 minutes. When both the swede and shallot/herbs are cooked, transfer them into a food processor and blend well to form a smooth puree. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and combine with the cooked and shredded trotters and grated parmesan. Taste and season if necessary with salt and pepper or more parmesan. Cover and set aside.
To make the pasta dough, pour the flour into a large bowl and use a wooden spoon to create a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well and add the olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Use a fork to whisk the eggs, gently incorporating the flour at the same time. When a dough is formed, tip it out onto a board and knead really well for about 10 minutes. Wrap the dough with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
When the dough has rested, use a pasta machine to roll it into a sheet at the thinnest setting. Crack the spare egg into a small bowl and whisk well. Using a large circular-cutter about 3” in diameter, cut circles of pasta and top with a small tablespoon of filling in the centre. Lightly brush one edge with the beaten egg, then take the pasta in your hands and fold into a semi-circle, sealing the pasta around the filling and expelling any air bubbles. Repeat until 24 agnolotti have been made. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside.
To make the sauce, set the saucepan containing the leftover braising liquid onto a high heat. Bring to the boil, and allow to reduce by half-two-thirds, until it turns into a thick and concentrated sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in both the lemon juice and butter.
For the leeks, place a heavy griddle or frying pan onto a high heat. Toss the leeks in a little oil, then place onto the hot pan, cooking for a few minutes on each side until lightly charred and cooked through.
Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil. When the water is rolling, add the agnolotti and cook for 3 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, pour a ladle or two of sauce into a large frying pan and warm through. When cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta into the warm sauce, gently turning to glaze all sides.
To plate up, arrange two leeks onto each plate along with six agnolotti. Spoon over a little more warm sauce and finally grate a generous amount of parmesan on top.