Beef Ravioli with Tomato Sauce

I made these ravioli when I spent the day cooking with kids.  They wanted to fill them with a classic bolognese sauce but it’s easier to use the dry meat mixture as a filling and to make a separate tomato sauce to pour over the cooked ravioli.

It took me back to the days when the only ravioli I knew of came out of a tin.

Generally speaking, the pasta for ravioli should be very thin (7 or 8 on the pasta machine) but we left it a little thicker (no 6) to make it easier for the children to handle.

Over the last few weeks I have been watching Masterchef the Professionals and they do seem to like a raviolo (on top of everything!) but I have been surprised by how often they fail to seal them properly.  It’s not particularly difficult – in this instance eight year olds managed it perfectly well – it just takes a bit of care and attention.  Like everything in the kitchen really.

Serves Eight

Ingredients

For the pasta

400g “00” Flour

4 Large Eggs

For the Filling

1 lb Minced Beef

1 Medium Onion

4 Cloves Garlic

1 Carrot

½ Stalk of Celery

2 oz / 50g Grated Parmesan

1 tsp Grated Nutmeg

½ tsp Allspice

Salt and Pepper

1 tbsp Tomato Puree

1 Egg

A splash of Olive Oil

For the Tomato Sauce

2 Tins Chopped Tomatoes

1 tbsp Tomato Puree

1 Medium Onion

4 Cloves of Garlic

A handful of Fresh Basil leaves

Salt and Pepper.

A splash of Olive Oil

Extra Parmesan to serve

Method

For the Pasta

Put the flour and eggs into a food processor and pulse until well combined and a dough forms.  Tip onto a floured surface and knead well.  Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest until you are ready to roll it out.  For more information on making pasta look here.

For the Filling

Dice the carrot and celery into very small pieces and finely chop the onion and garlic.  Place a large frying pan over a low heat and add a generous splash of olive oil.  Add the chopped vegetables and sweat gently until softened. Add the nutmeg and allspice and stir through.

Increase the heat and add the beef, break it up with a spatula and stir until well browned.  Stir through the parmesan and season to taste (remember that the parmesan is salty so don’t over do it).

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.  Once cool mix in the egg.

For the Tomato Sauce.

Chop the onion and garlic and sweat in a little olive oil over a low heat.  Add the tomatoes and tomato puree and bring to a simmer.  Tear up half the basil and stir through.  Season to taste.

To Assemble

Roll out the pasta very thinly.  Lay a long strip of pasta on a lightly floured surface.  Place spoonfuls of the beef mixture at 2” intervals along the centre of the pasta.  Lay another strip on top.  Tuck the top layer carefully around the filling – make sure you get rid of any air bubbles.  Using a biscuit cutter cut out neat ravioli leaving a border around the filling.  Take each ravioli carefully in your hand and, using your fingertips, crimp all around the edges to ensure that it is well sealed.

Place the assembled ravioli on a floured surface and keep covered with a damp cloth to stop them drying out as you work.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the ravioli for 3 or 4 minutes.  Drain well and serve in bowls, topped with the tomato sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan and the rest of the basil leaves (roughly torn).

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Pheasant Breast in Cider Sauce

Pheasant is abundant throughout the autumn months in Britain and if you look outside the supermarkets it is also very reasonably priced.  This is a great opportunity to use social media to improve your shopping – I mentioned on Facebook that I needed some pheasant and had an offer from a friend who shoots so I got fresh birds and I knew everything I needed to know about their provenance too.  Big thanks to Rob and Will for supplying our dinner.

I was feeding some “game virgins” so opted for fresh rather than hung birds as an introduction.  Hanging ripens the flavours but not everybody appreciates the more gamey taste.

If you have never cooked pheasant before there are a few things you should know:

It may still have shot in it – check the meat carefully before cooking and again before eating – broken teeth are no fun at all!

The shot can push feathers deep into the flesh so be sure to pull them out.

The meat may well be discoloured in patches – don’t worry this is just bruising but it helps to rinse the meat to remove any clots.

It can dry out easily so fast roasting at a high temperature or slow cooking in a sauce helps to keep it moist.

And finally – it is scrummy and well worth the effort.

Ingredients

4 Pheasant Breasts

4 Rashers of Smoked Streaky Bacon

500ml / 17fl oz Dry Cider

5 Shallots

A knob of Butter

1 tsp Caster Sugar

30g / 1oz Plain Flour

100ml / 7 tbsp full fat Crème Fraîche

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Method

Rub the pheasant breasts all over with butter – this is easiest with very soft butter. Wrap each breast in a rasher of bacon. Place in an ovenproof dish with a little bit of space between them and then put in the oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 170°C /325°F / Gas Mark 3, pour 250ml / 8 fl oz of the cider over the pheasant breasts, cover with a lid or tin foil, and return to the oven for a further 60 minutes – check occasionally to make sure that they are not drying out – add more cider if necessary.

Put the rest of the cider into a pan and cook until reduced by half.

Thinly slice the shallots and cook gently in a little butter until soft and just golden. Add the caster sugar and continue to cook until caramelised. Set aside until you are ready to finish the sauce.

To make the sauce, return the shallots to the heat and stir in the flour, cook together for a minute or so. If it seems a little dry add a bit more butter – you are essentially making a roux. Now add the cider reduction and cook together over a low heat until the sauce starts to thicken. When the sauce is ready, stir in the crème fraîche and continue stirring until it is completely heated through. Season to taste.

Slice each pheasant breast into five or so pieces and serve with the sauce spooned over it.

Serve with simple steamed veg and potatoes.

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Lemony Sausage and Fennel Casserole

Lemony Sausage and Fennel Casserole

This recipe is lighter than lots of casseroles but it is still warming and flavourful.  Most sausage casseroles are rich and heavy with tomatoes and beans and, whilst I enjoy those too, this one provides a refreshingly different way of cooking great sausages.

I used pork and leek sausages from my local butcher which worked really well.

Ingredients

6 Good Quality Sausages

2 large Fennel Bulbs

2 Leeks

1 Lemon

1 pint of Vegetable Stock (made from bouillon)

1 tbsp Olive Oi

A handful of freshly chopped parsley

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/ 350  F / Gas Mark 4
Cut the fennel into quarters through the root (if they are very large cut them into six or even eight pieces).  Trim and wash the leeks and cut into large chunks.  Cut the lemon into six wedges.  Toss all the vegetables in the olive oil and place in a shallow casserole dish. 
Push the sausages in amongst the vegetables and place. the dish into the oven for 30 minutes or until the sausages are browned and the vegetables have begun to caramelise.
Pour the stock over the other ingredients and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
Season with black pepper, sprinkle over the parsley and serve with new potatoes or crusty bread.

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Chicharrones with Onion Salsa

I first ate these bite sized chunks of belly pork in Peru but they taste just as good back here in Blighty.  The onion salsa is a salty, spicy, sweet accompaniment which lifts the chicharrones to the next level.  Serve them with roasted sweet potatoes and a bitter green leaf (kale or savoy cabbage) for an alternative Sunday roast or a week night treat.

Ingredients

Serves 4

1 1/2 lb Pork Belly cut into bite sized cubes

1 tsp salt

For the Onion Salsa

1 red onion – finely sliced

Juice of 1 Lime

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1 Red Chilli – sliced thinly

Salt

Method

Put the pork into a large, flat based pan (a deep frying pan is perfect) so that it is in a single layer and has room to move.

Cover the meat with cold water and add the salt.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and simmer, uncovered, until all the water has evaporated.  It is the slow cooking that renders the fat from the meat.

Meanwhile make the onion salsa.  Place the onion slices in a bowl and generously sprinkle with salt, cover and leave for 15 minutes.  Rinse the salt from the onion and squeeze out any excess moisture.  Return the onion slices to the bowl and repeat the salting process.  Rinse once again and squeeze dry.

Place the onions in a clean bowl and mix in the lime juice, olive oil and chilli.  Cover until ready to serve.

Once the water has all evaporated from the pork continue cooking over a low heat, the meat will brown and caramelize in its own fat.  Turn the pieces until all sides are a rich golden brown.

Serve with roasted sweet potatoes and the onion salsa.

 

Beef Stroganoff with Cucumber Pickle

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the beef Stroganoff

4 Steaks (Fillet)

2 oz / 50 g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 Onions, finely sliced

2 tsp Paprika

150 g (5.3oz) mixed mushrooms (button, portabella, shitake), sliced

2 tbsp Brandy

5 fl oz / 150 ml fresh beef stock

5 fl oz / 150 ml Sour cream

1 handful Fresh Parsley, chopped

For the cucumber pickle

1 Cucumber

1 Shallot

2 tsp Caster sugar

2 tbsp White wine vinegar

Method

First make the cucumber pickle. Put the vinegar, finely chopped shallot, sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Trim the ends of the cucumber then use a potato peeler (or a mandolin) to cut long, thin ribbons of cucumber (discard the first slice which will be mostly peel) and then toss the cucumber in the vinegar mix and set aside whilst you cook the rest of the meal.

Sweat the onion in a knob of butter over a low heat. When the onion is soft add the paprika and cook gently for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Gently fry the mushrooms in a large knob of the butter until they are cooked, all the moisture has evaporated off and they are beginning to turn golden. Remove from the pan and add to the onions.

Heat a heavy based frying pan on the hob.

Cook the steaks the way you like to eat them. You will find a useful guide here

While the steaks are resting return the mushroom and onion mix to the pan. Pour in the stock and brandy and cook over a high heat until it is reduced to almost nothing. Remove from the heat and stir in the soured cream. Heat gently until warmed through but don’t over heat or it will split.

Divide the onion / mushroom mixture between warmed plates. Slice the steaks and place on top of the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with the cucumber pickle and sautéed potatoes.