Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Raving. About Ravioli. I know. I know.

Well, I largely finished off the Juniper Berry cured pancetta from a while ago. I cooked up an Amatriciana with it, and finished off the last of it in some bacon and potato hash, with dried chillies and plum tomatoes. I think I favour the bay leaf cure thusfar. A nice, deep, sweetly subtle taste. Next up is the crushed coriander seed cure. And after that, I think I'll experiment. Black mustard seed. Fennel seed. Honey cured. The skys the bacon-based limit.

Consumed too quickly to photo, I'm afraid.

The next project was supposed to be some guanciale, air dried and salt cured pigs cheek. Its getting too close to summer for air drying though. And pigs cheek is difficult to track down. After 7 or 8 attempts, I finally tried Buckleys in Moore street, who will sell me an entire head, which I can take home and chop up myself. €5. Bargain.

Needing a break from the heart halting porkfest of death the last few weeks have presented, I wound up cooking for some Italian friends recently. A terrifying experience, as I cooked Italian food. Two Northerners, to be precise, a sommelier friend of mine, and someone I used to work with. As they talked about their plans to start up an import business - more of which, hopefully, i the following few months, I put the finishing touches to the ravioli I had prepared that morning, and served it up in a butter and lemon sauce, with some pate and pork rillette on the side. Beautiful. And it went down a treat. As good as homecooked Italian apparently.

To make the pasta dough.

1 egg per 100 g of doppio zero pasta flour - available from the best of Italy, or any good food store - is the recommended amount. But in Irelands humid climate, I tend to use less egg than this. I used about 350 g of flour, and 3 eggs. Make a volcano with the flour, sprinkle with a little salt, and crack the eggs into the well of the volcano. Using a fork, gradually break up the eggs and incorporate flour, a bit at at time, caving in the sides of the volcano as you do. Eventually, the mix becomes thick enough to mix all the flour together. Working it into an elastic dough, as it begins to come together, stretch the top of the dough slightly, and pull it back towards you over the rest of the dough and press it in with the heels of your palm. Turn the dough often. Add flour as required, or, if the dough is too dry, dip your fingers in a bowl of water, and continue mixing. Repeat as required. After the dough has initially come together, 10 minutes working it should suffice. Roll out the dough, to maybe a 1 inch thickness, and then clingfilm it, and allow to rest for 1 hour.

For the filling.

Spinach leaves.
Good quality ricotta.
Black pepper.
Fried pancetta cubes - small.
Fresh nutmegs.

Quickly wilt some spinach, circa 300g, in a little water - just the water used to wash the leaves - adding some sea salt. Drain in a colander for an hour, and allow to cool. Sqeeze out as much water as you can from the cooked leaves, and chop them roughly.

In a bowl, mix 250g of good quality ricotta - you have to go to a specialist deli for this - with some freshly grated nutmeg, some chopped and fried pancetta, and black pepper (the pancetta, or home cured bacon, should add enough salt). Mix in the chopped spinach, and add some egg to bind the mix. I normally use half an egg, lightly beaten just before adding.

Take your dough out from the fridge, and leave, wrapped, on the countertop for half and hour, to heat up. Flour a work surface with doppio 0 flour. Cut your pasta dough into quarters. cover three of the pieces with a damp towel, and roll out the fourth piece into a rectangular shape, about 1-1.5cm thick. Feed this pasta into your pasta machine rollers, starting at the highest setting. Pass though the machine once for each setting until you reach the thinnest. You should have a long, slightly oval shaped piece of pasta, partially translucent. Fold it over on itself several times lengthwise, until you can feed it back though the thickest setting, and again, run it through the rollers several times, dropping down one thickness at a time. Again fold it over, but this time, turn the sheet 90 degrees and pass it through the pasta machine from thickest to thinnest using this different orientation - this stretches the pasts in all directions. Refold along its length once more, and without turning 90 degrees, again pass though the rollers, from thickest to thinnest setting.

To make the ravioli.

You will need, a small spoon, a pastry brush, a pasta cutting wheel, and some lukewarm water. Flour a work surface, and lay out the by now several foot long sheet of pasta on your surface, Dot the pasta with small spoons of the filling. I tended to use a heaped teaspoon of filling, fitting the dots in rows of two halfway down the pasta. Lightly brush the channels between the fillings with water, and fold over the rest of the pasta, laying it lightly on top of the fillings. Working from the open top, press the upper sheet down on the lower, starting from the centre of the sheet, and moving out, trying to push out any air bubbles. Seal up the separate ravioli carefully, making sure there are no gaps, or trapped air bubbles, and cut using the wheel, or a scissors or serrated knife.

I'd suggest using them immediately, though if you do store them, lay them out in single layers. They stick very easily. To freeze, lay them out in single layers on a floured tray, in the freezer. When they freeze, you can bag them.

To cook, add them to boiling water (use a large full pot), and scoop out after three minutes - when cooked they change colour, and float to the top of the pot. Plate or bowl em.

For the sauce.

Juice of half a lemon.
Black pepper.
Butter(circa 200g).
Sea salt.
Fresh sage leaves(optional)(5 or 6 whole, two roughly chopped)

Heat the butter in a small saucepan, or cast iron frying pan. When the butter begins to froth add in whole sage leaves, and stir. Add the lemon juice, and some zest if you like. Grate in black pepper. Add salt. Taste, and adjust seasoning, and lemon as necessary. Take out the whole sage leaves. Pour over the pasta, and sprinkle with chopped sage leaves. Serve.


The Humble Housewife said...

Sounds amazing. Interesting that you use less egg in your pasta dough, as I always seem to find myself adding more flour to the egg/100g ratio... this must be why! Will have to remember that next time.

Am sure your friends had a wonderful meal! Sounds incredible!!!

Abulafia said...

It was pretty good, actually. And very relaxing to make.

I always find it difficult to describe an egg pasta recipe to anyone, though, and for the reason you mention. It varies from day to day, depending on the flour, the weather, how old the eggs are....should've stressed, fresh, organic eggs.

Lorraine said...

Abulafia you are putting me to shame making your own pasta. Would you believe I've never made my own. Just pure laziness as my mother in law always makes it. Someday! I have to say sage and butter sauce is the best sauce to eat with ravioli! We love it and so simple!!

Abulafia said...

Hell. It took me about a year and a half to make pasta for somebody other than myself.

I think, with cooks, there so much invested in the idea of being able to make your own pasta, that its difficult to actually overcome that and make the stuff.

And making it for people who actually know their stuff still scares the hell out of me. This was the first batch in a long time that I actually fed to Italians.

For a rundown on good pasta, I'd recommend the Locatelli book.

Laura said...

Sage and butter my favourite too, I use it with the ricotta gnocchi I make sometimes. I have to try this recipe it sounds so good but would you be very cross if I leave out the pancetta?!

Abulafia said...

I'd be insane with rage if you left out the pancetta.

But tat'd be the mad cow in me talking.

The classic combo is nutmeg. ricotta, and spinach, with some pepper, and egg to bind.

Ricotta gnocchi sounds superb.