Tuesday, 30 December 2008

First experimentation with the new pasta machine - Foie Gras Ravioli with Pumpkin Veloute

Foie gras is a very traditional thing to eat at Christmas time in France and (at least southern) Switzerland. Last year I made tiny little foie gras and red onion tartlets (which I completely failed to photograph, how bad am I?) and this year I thought I would put my new pasta making machine to work and make foie gras ravioli.

I started with a basic egg pasta dough:

300g fine white flour
3 eggs

Place the flour in a heap on the work bench, and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the centre and then using your fingertips work the flour into the eggs. This is the really fun messy bit. Once incorporated, knead the dough, if necessary adding just a drop of water or two to get a good workable consistency. How long to knead? Till the dough stops feeling sort of grainy and starts feeling smooth. Wrap up in plastic wrap and let sit for at least half an hour.

Break the dough into two pieces (leaving one wrapped up) and set your pasta machine to the widest aperture. flatten the ball of dough out a bit so it can fit through and feed it through by cranking the handle on the machine. Once fed through, fold it in half and feed it through again. If the dough kind of catches on the rollers and has a rough knobbly surface, smooth just a little flour on to the dough before folding and feed through again. Do this 6 or 7 times... I promise you will know when it is done as your pasta dough will be smooth and silky.

Then take the machine in a step and feed the pasta through again. In another notch and feed again... You might find you now have an unmanageably large length of dough; if so, cut it in half and put one half under a damp clean dishcloth while you deal with the other half. Keep taking the machine in a notch and feeding the pasta through until you have the finest sheet you can get. Don't worry if the edges are not perfect!

Stage 2: the Ravioli
1 bloc du foie gras (about 200g)
1 batch egg pasta dough

If you are making square or triangular ravioli you can simply place the sheet on the bench, brush it with water, put your ingredients on top, lay another sheet on top of that, and then press together and cut out the ravioli. In my case I wanted to make something a little more festive, so I cut out heart shapes. Then I (and my handsome assistant) brushed the edges of one heart with water and then placed pieces of bloc du foie gras on the pastry, leaving a good edge of pastry. We then placed another heart of pasta on top and pinched around the edges firmly.

Sprinkle the hearts with flour to stop them sticking together then spread out on a tray and pop them in the freezer. Once frozen you can put them into a ziplock bag and keep them that way until ready to use.

Stage 3: Pumpkin Veloute

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 butternut pumpkin (aka squash)
1 tsp caster sugar
drizzle of olive oil
1 litre of chicken stock.

In a large pan, soften the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the cubed pumpkin and sprinkle with the caster sugar. Stir the cubed pumpkin over medium heat until the pumpkin is browned and the sugar has caramelised. Pour over the chicken stock and raise the heat to bring to the boil. Simmer until the pumpkin has cooked completely then put through a ricer, after which you can use a stick blender to blend to a velvety smooth veloute.

To complete the dish:

Heat the veloute until warmed. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Once it has reached boiling point, add the ravioli (still frozen). Cook for just a few minutes till al dente. Put out serving plates, add some of the veloute and then lay the ravioli on top in a decorative fashion. Grate a little nutmeg on top.
Photo courtesy of Ed.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

My new toy

Sorry its taken so long to post up the answer to my question of 7 December... what is this?

The answer is that I finally got my new pasta making machine. Best of all it was free - I finally got enough loyalty points from one of my local supermarket chains to get it.

Isn't it beautiful? Gleaming and solid and just begging to be used.

...I have this idea for christmas dinner. I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Here at last, I am delighted to announce that my friend Cynthia's book "My Caribbean Cookbook" is now available for pre-ordering from AKD Press.

Cynthia is one of my fellow foodbloggers, although far more established and talented than I! Her lovely foodblog has delectable recipes accompanied with delightful stories that really take you with her to her Caribbean home.

I highly recommend her blog, and think that the promise of her new cookbook would be a fabulous Christmas gift for anyone you know who is a cooking fan.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Beef in Beer

On my weekend jaunt across the border I bought myself some beef. I had the idea that I would make beef bourguignon from my new recipe book "The Complete Robuchon". Nice simple meal, beef, burgundy, onions. Nope. 19 ingredients (mind you that is including spices). Cooking time, 2 and a half hours plus 25 minutes for the onions, 5 minutes for the lardons and 10 minutes for the mushrooms. 5 pots or pans. 5!!!!

As we say in Australia "bugger that for a game of soldiers".

Beef in beer instead. 7 ingredients. 1 frypan, 1 crockpot - much better!

900g diced beef
3 medium sized onions, sliced
3 large carrots chopped up
500g new potatoes (cut larger ones in half)
Olive oil
2 large cans of beer (or one bottle)
2 beef stock cubes

Chop the carrots and cut in half the bigger of the potatoes. Put in the crock pot/casserole.

Heat up a fry pan with a little oil, and brown the meat in batches and add to the crock pot. Cook the sliced onions in the pan till softened and a little browned. Pour some of the beer into the pan to lift the delicious browned bits from the pan. Pour into the crockpot and add the rest of the beer and the stock cubes. If using an electric crock pot, cook for 8 hours on low. If using a pot on the stove, simmer gently for 2 hours.

How easy is that? Ok so it takes a while to cook, but effort? Almost zero and the taste... delish!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

400 anzac bikkies later

A fun and busy weekend!

Friday night was a work function (which I didn't have to cater), and on Saturday morning I rented a car and drove off in search of fabric and food. Geneva is only a matter of 10 minutes away from France, but sometimes it is a world away in what you can and cannot find in supermarkets.

For example, brown sugar can't be found for love nor money in Geneva, but cross that wee border and there it is, in every supermarket. Golden syrup, smoked chicken and even Vegemite can be found on the other side of the air strip. (In one direction to get to France from Geneva you drive under the airplane landing strip)

The other grand difference is the cost of things, especially meat. Lamb can be found for about 6 euro a kilo, (about 9 Swiss francs) where in Geneva it is up to 40 francs a kilo! There are limits on how much you can bring across of course, but still, its a fair old difference eh?

Saturday evening I met with friends in a cafe for a burger and a chat. This was followed by a quiet drink (but we couldn't bear the bar for long because of the cigarette smoke... when oh when are the Swiss going to join the 21st century?) then on to a night club for a bit of dancing.

In the morning, one of my friends came over and we headed back over the border again to visit the Divonne markets. Churros, cheese, onions, tapenade all found irresistable.. some for me some for my friend.

Back home and into the kitchen to finish cooking 400 anzac biscuits (cookies for my US readers). All done by 7pm. (whew!)

Now what to have for dinner? Time too cook up those lovely fresh French onions into French Onion Soup. Mmmmmm...

So as I type, the onions, which have been softened in butter are now caramelising. As soon as there is enough of the lovely golden edges for my taste, I will sprinkle flour onto it, to start a roux. Once that has been cooked for a little while (vital to cook it or you end up with a grainy floury taste to your soup) I will add my beef stock. The roux soaks up the butter, preventing an oil slick on top of the soup and making it thick and rich. Once brought to the boil, I add a final splash of brandy and voila, ready to eat - a perfect Sunday evening dinner. There is a slightly more exact recipe earlier in my foodblog if you want it. Oh, and the anzac biscuit recipe too!

What is this?

Stay tuned and all will be revealed