Thursday, July 12, 2012

Borage and tofu ricotta cannelloni

There has been a patch of borage in our front garden for several years which is pretty much impossible to get rid of. The borage plants have been removed on weeding days although they are incredibly resilient and always reappear before long. The plants have lovely bright blue flowers which happen to be edible and look very pretty as a salad garnish so I've been quite happy for the plants to remain in the garden as long as they are under control.

The man had been complaining about them recently and was threatening to do another borage cull. It led me to think that if the flowers are edible perhaps it is also the case with other parts of the plant. It turned out that my hunch was right! Searching on the internet led me to fascinating discoveries about this formerly pesky plant, the leaves, stems and flowers are all edible. I've been excitedly talking about using borage in recipes ever since!

Borage soup was the most common hit when searching for recipes and not far behind was a regional dish from Liguria, Italy for borage and ricotta ravioli. The Spanish parboil the leaves and then deep fry them and the Polish use borage to flavour pickled gherkins. I was very tempted to try out a soup first and then figured I may have better success with converting my fellows onto the borage bandwagon with a pasta dish. Ravioli sounded like a bit too much work so I went with making cannelloni instead.

Some care needed to be taken when picking leaves from the plants as the older leaves are covered in fine spines. The spines are supposed to disappear when they come into contact with liquid so I was a bit concerned when they remained after soaking them in water. When I had cooked them in a stockpot they were almost gone although there were still a few remaining.

I used my broccoli and tofu ricotta cannelloni recipe as the basis and tweaked it a little. On occasion my pasta dough hasn't worked out terribly well using half semolina, half flour so I went back to a straight flour mix this time and gave the dough a decent knead before it's resting period. For the filling I increased the amount of nutritional yeast and salt and also added in some lemon juice and nutmeg.

The young man was very surprised that it didn't taste awful, in fact he rather enjoyed the meal. He had misgivings about borage due to it's name. He was associating it with porridge which he doesn't like at all as their names are pronounced the same way. From what I had read, it was supposed to have a mild cucumber taste although mixed up in the cannelloni it was difficult to get a proper sense of it's flavour. It's appearance reminded me of a spinach cannelloni yet it had a slightly chewier texture.

It was pleasing that we all enjoyed the meal, especially as the star of the show was plucked from the garden and has been growing like a weed. The real test will be how we fare with something like borage soup which I'm planning to try soon. I'll leave you with a few tidbits about borage that you may find interesting as well as the recipe.

Interesting facts about borage
  • The origins of borage can be traced back to Syria and it's cultivation spread throughout the Mediterranean.
  • It is an annual herb that was traditionally used for culinary purposes and as a medical remedy.
  • Nautropaths use borage to treat PMS and menopause symptoms. It has anti-inflammatory properties which diminishes respiratory symptoms.
  •  Borage is used for companion planting with legumes, spinach, the brassica family, strawberries and tomatoes. 
  • They attract lots of bees to the garden. Can you spot one in the photo?
  • 100g of borage contains 10% of your daily needs of calcium and 20% of your daily requirements of iron so it's a great thing for veg*ns to eat. It's also a very good source of Vitamins A and C. 

Resources used when researching borage

Borage and tofu ricotta cannelloni (Adapted from my other cannelloni recipe)

Pasta dough

1 1/2 cup plain flour
pinch salt
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil

Place the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl, mix together thoroughly and make a well in the centre. Pour the water and olive oil into the well and work the flour into the water slowly until the mixture comes together. Turn it out onto a clean bench and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

Borage and tofu filling

400g fresh borage leaves, washed thoroughly
350g firm tofu
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch nutmeg

Bring some water to the boil in a stockpot. Cook the borage leaves for 2-3 minutes or until wilted. Drain into a colander then rinse with cold water. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Place the cooked borage, tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, lemon juice and nutmeg into a food processor bowl and pulse for about a minute. The resulting mixture should be soft and crumbly and the borage finely chopped.

Tomato sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
700ml jar tomato passata
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the tomato passata, basil and salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with pepper to taste.

Cannelloni assembly

Use a pasta machine or rolling pin to roll out thin sheets of pasta. Cut out rectangular shapes of pasta measuring the width of your baking tray. Place a line of the filling down the centre of the pasta, then roll up to enclose the filling. Repeat until the pasta or filling runs out.

Spread about 1/4 of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 30cm x 20cm baking dish. Place the cannelloni tubes in the tray then cover with the remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 180C for 40 minutes or until bubbling.


  1. borage is a new one to me but I am glad that your weed can make such tasty pasta and impress the family - if only I could find a recipe for the grass that grows between any cracks in our garden :-)

    1. It was quite fortunate that the borage plants happened to be edible, I can't see myself branching out into recipes involving common grasses. ;)

  2. I've never had borage-- I don't think it's available here in the United States, or maybe I just haven't run into it or then again it may be called by another name here? I love new herbs and greens, and I hope I'll have a chance to try it some day. Your cannelloni looks absolutely gorgeous.

    1. It's actually not very common over either, maybe it is more widely available in parts of Europe. I've never seen it sold at green grocers before so if it's not growing in your garden it may be difficult to acquire.

  3. Wow, borage is such a pretty weed! Love your use of it in the pasta--a great way to kill two birds with one stone!

    1. I love the colour of the flowers, I must remember to use them more often as they look fantastic in salads.

  4. I am so impressed that you found a use for what would otherwise have remained a pesky weed. I haven't actually heard of borage but I suspect I've seen it and dismissed it - goes to show one should never assume!

    1. It was a wonderful discovery to find that the rest of the plant was edible, I've only heard of it in recent years.

  5. this looks delish! i've never attempted a dish like this but definitely want to try - i love love love pasta and tomato sauce.
    hope you had a great week!

    1. Cannelloni is one of my favourite pasta dishes and the great thing is if you aren't up for making your own pasta, the ready rolled tubes are a handy option too.

  6. Good thinking to see if you could eat borage! What was once a nuisance is now dinner! I'd never heard of borage before this post. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the flavor when it's not masked in a dish with a lot of other elements.

    1. I was a little cross with myself that it took so long for me to make this discovery as we have previously culled so many plants. Borage soup is definitely on the cards in the near future, I might have to post about it whether it works out or not!

  7. This looks really good! I love cooking with fresh herbs! :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by Angel! Fresh herbs are such a wonderful thing, they can bring so much life to ordinary meals.

  8. Borage is completely new to me - I wonder if it grows over here? That canneloni looks AMAZING though - and I love that you get all the borage for free from a garden clear out. Looking forward to the next borage post!

    1. Sounds like borage isn't common in quite a few places, unless it's growing in your garden like a weed. Most of the sources where I was finding recipe inspiration were UK based so people must be growing it over there somewhere...