Reverend Mother’s Arm

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Appears in

Real Chocolate: Over 50 Inspiring Recipes for Chocolate Indulgence

Real Chocolate

By Chantal Coady

Published 2003

  • About

At school we used to be given a steamed roly-poly suet pudding with jam in the middle which we took to calling ‘Reverend Mother’s arm’! I have used this idea to make a savoury pasta roll – to which you can give your own name!

In the past, I have made it for 30 people, but you need a large kitchen and big fish kettles to work on that scale. The advantage of making this roll over stuffing ravioli is that there is no danger of losing the filling when the ravioli explode, which does seem to happen, even for the most experienced of old pasta hands. You can also bake this roll in the oven, covered with a béchamel sauce.

Feel free to experiment with different fillings – roast pumpkin also works very well – and you can have up to four sorts of filling, depending on how elaborate you want it to be!


For the Pasta

  • 200 g 00 (Italian doppio zero) flour
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 fresh eggs (newly laid if possible)
  • a very little ice-cold water
  • about 30 g cocoa nibs

For the Mushroom Filling

  • 50 g dried porcini (cep), soaked in boiling water to cover and left for an hour
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 15 g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 225 g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

For the Spinach and Ricotta Filling

  • 500 g spinach
  • 125 g ricotta cheese
  • 125 g crumbly blue cheese, like Stilton, crumbled
  • freshly grated nutmeg

For the Beetroot and Goats’ Cheese Filling

  • about 500 g raw or cooked (as long as not vinegared) beetroot
  • 125 g ricotta cheese
  • 125 g goats’ cheese

To Serve

  • 100 g toasted pine nuts, to garnish
  • 225 g unsalted butter
  • big handful of fresh sage leaves


Make the pasta: sift the flour and cocoa powder into a food processor, then add the eggs, and blend to a smooth ball of dough (if too dry, add a little ice-cold water). You can also make and knead this dough by hand. Wrap in cling film and chill while you make the fillings.

To make the mushroom filling: first drain the porcini, reserving the liquid, squeeze out excess liquid and chop into pieces. Sauté the red onion in the butter and olive oil over a very low heat for about 15 minutes – don’t to let it brown or burn. Add the porcini and fresh mushrooms, and cook for another 5 minutes. If they start to get too dry at any point, add some of the strained porcini soaking water. Season and allow to cool.

To make the spinach and ricotta filling: first cook the spinach for 2–3 minutes, either by steaming it or blanching it in boiling water. Drain, squeeze out as much water as possible and chop roughly. Mix it with the cheeses. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

To make the beetroot and goats’ cheese filling: you can use ready-cooked beetroot as long as it was not cooked in vinegar, or cook your own. Do not pierce the beets, but test to see if they are cooked by trying to peel back the skin with your thumb – if you can, it is cooked. Leave to cool and then peel. Chop roughly, mix with the cheeses and seasoning.

To assemble the ‘arm’, if using a pasta machine, cut the dough into several equal-sized pieces. If you don’t have a machine, roll the entire ball of dough by hand into a very smooth large rectangle as thin as possible (about 1 mm). If making by machine, the strips need to be ‘welded’ together using a little water, again until you have a sheet about 30 × 45 cm. The seams should be at right angles to the rolling edge, or the ‘arm’ may come apart.

Carefully place it on a clean old tea towel. Scatter the cocoa nibs over it and then spread the different mixtures evenly in stripes across it, leaving a blank strip about 5 cm wide at the end and sides to seal. Start by rolling the filled end, using the towel to help if necessary. When rolled up, seal side and ends by dampening the edges with cold water and pressing firmly. Roll up in the towel and tie with string, so it looks like a fillet of beef.

To cook, immerse in boiling salted water and simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts gently until golden. Make a sage butter by melting the butter in a pan, dropping in the sage and cooking for a few minutes. To serve, untie the bundle and cut into slices (ideally 2 per person), discarding ends. Serve with the sage butter and toasted pine nuts.

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