This is the first time I’ve joined up with other food bloggers in a recipe. I’m quite excited about the whole thing and it feels quite special to be part of something like this, and to give my interpretation of the dish and share it with a lovely community.
This has been set up by a lovely lady called Rosella, who is based in Italy. She has based the event around the life and work of Gianni Cosetti, holder of a Michelin starred restaurant in the north of Italy; ‘Il Roma’. He trawled the local area to collect traditional recipes for ‘cjalsons’, and Rosella is doing likewise with bloggers from all over the world.
To describe caljons, I’d say they were a cross between a filled pasta and a gnocchi, considering the dough has flour, egg and potato. They’re also incredibly similar to pierogi, or other eastern European dumplings.
Regardless, these things are devilish to get right, but incredibly versatile little things that can be filled with whatever the mind can conceive of. Quite against the whole theme of her endeavours, I’ve gone and made my own version, but tried to keep in the spirit the cjalson.
Immediately after I read the rules and recipes, I was interested in making sweet dumplings, but couldn’t stop thinking about meat. So I’ve gone for a combination of the two, with what I imagine is a Moorish influence. To make matters worse, I’ve gone even further away from the spirit of the whole recipe and did a little experiment with a thicker dough and a different cooking method (read deep fried).
So, one recipe in the spirit of the competition and another as a bonus. If it was a competitive competition, I know I would have already won a prize for the shittest pictures…but regardless; without further ado, I give you my version of the cjalson.
Anyone that wants to read up a little more on Gianni Cosetti, the cjalson or Fruili and can read Italian or use a browser translator then follow the links below…
For the rest of you here is your ingredients list…
For the dough…
200g plain flour
300g of cooked potatoes, mashed
Salt and pepper
For the filling…
The meat of two Italian sausages, skinned (I chose one with plenty of fennel in it)
4 chicken livers
Half a glass of good white wine
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped fine
Good amount of fresh thyme, say a tablespoon full
Zest of half a lemon and a small twist of the juice
Zest of half an orange and a small twist of the juice
Tbsp and a half of raisins and the same of flaked almonds
For the sauce…
4 or 5 tbsp of ricotta
Dash of milk
A couple of handfuls of spinach
A few gratings of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
There are your ingredients, now here are your cooking instructions…
Take your cooked potatoes and bash them through a sieve, which will give you a lovely smooth purée. You should probably do this after you pass your flour through a sieve. Combine the two, then add an egg, a little seasoning, and start mixing it all together. Give it time and a little effort and it should come together into a lovely smooth dough. If the mixture is still a little wet no matter how much you knead it, then add a bit more flour. Dough making, pasta making; it’s all about instinct and feeling. Sometimes the mix will be perfect, sometimes it needs adjusting. Just trust your instincts and you’ll be fine. When you’ve got that lovely smooth dough, set it aside under cling film until you’re ready to use it.
So now we get on with the filling….
Heat a little olive oil and a generous knob of butter up over a medium heat and when it starts to shimmer and shift in the pan, add your sausage meat. Brown a little, then add the livers. After a couple of minutes, knock up the heat and pour in the wine, add the zests and the garlic. Allow the wine to bubble and reduce, and add your almonds and raisins, a little twist of lemon juice, and another of orange. When the mixture has turned from wet to moist, add your thyme and take it off the heat. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before you use it.
Now to roll out your dough. Flour your surface well, and your rolling pin. If you have a pasta machine, all the better. I don’t. We’re looking to get this thin, thin, thin. Too thick and you’ll have a tough dumpling, but too thin and it’ll split and leak when you boil them up. I cut mine out with the rim of a cup because I have no decent kitchen equipment, but use whatever you have in your possession that is round.
Fill the dough with your cooled filling and close them up by folding around the filling and pinching them shut. Keep making them until you run out of your filling.
When you’re ready to cook, put some salted water on to boil. It’s a good time to get on with your sauce now, as the cjalsons will take a few minutes and so will the sauce. I served up five per serving, but believe me, as much as we tried we couldn’t finish them, however delicious we found them. I would advise three per serving.
They only need to be boiled for a couple of minutes, and they’ll be ready when they start to float on the surface. To test, it won’t hurt pulling one out and eating it. The dough should be silky and lovely and heavenly. If it isn’t, you’ve either got everything entirely wrong or it needs a little more cooking.
So while they’re boiling away, bring a fresh pan up to heat and add your milk, then when it heats a little, add your ricotta, a couple of gratings of nutmeg and the spinach. When the spinach comes down, shrivels and shrinks, taste and adjust the seasoning. You want it the consistency of a good cream sauce. If it’s too thick add a dash more milk and re-adjust the seasoning.
That’s it. Enjoy them. Or is that it? Do you want in on the bonus round?
BONUS ROUND!!! Fried Cjalsons
It isn’t much of a bonus round, just a different cooking method. I couldn’t help but want to try this out. If you’d like to do similar, then you’ll need exactly the same ingredients as above minus the sauce ingredients. But do add some oil. You can cook these shallow fried or deep fried. It’s up to you. They’ll be delicious either way. Just bring some oil up to a good temperature and fry your dumplings. Rather than that rich ricotta sauce, all these need is a short drain on some kitchen paper and a little squeeze of lemon juice. They’re good hot or cold as well.