Sunday, 12 December 2010

Rabbit ragu with roasted butternut squash raviolos and crispy sage

Another dish made with the game purchase from the magnificent Wild Meat Company - this time rabbit.

I like ragus very much, the classic Italian sauce is so comforting and intense and rich, nothing pleases me more than having a pan of it blipping away in the kitchen for hours, the flavours of carrot, celery, smoked pancetta and your chosen meat intensifying deliciously.

You can make it with various meats, for a 'traditional' ragu I like to mix pork and beef mince, though for a really authentic angle you should try adding minced chicken livers to the pot too, and I find that venison works very well also.

I happily use white wine or red wine to make it, both work well, but the thing that never changes in a good ragu is the base - mirepoix; the holy trinity of sauteed carrot, onion and celery, then garlic, crushed tomatoes and time - the longer the better and if you can bare to wait an extra day you wont be disappointed - leaving the dish to cool overnight helps its flavours deepen no end.

Anyway, enough of 'ragu according to Hannah', onto this dish...

Rabbit, butternut squash, Parmesan and sage - exquisite, rustic, wintry flavours that are so alive and vibrant you'll be happy to hibernate with them and a bottle of red over an evening.

Rabbit is sweet and gamey and creates a very rich ragu sauce. If you buy rabbit that comes with bones in it develops an even deeper flavour as it cooks, but to be honest I don't think this dish needs it, so I'd look out for diced boneless pieces of rabbit instead.

In case you were wondering, the raviolos get their name from their size. Raviolis are small and raviolos are large apparently, something new that I learned recently. In this recipe they have a lot going for them as the filling manages to be sweet from the squash yet savoury from the Parmesan and nutmeg, tastes which are all complemented brilliantly by the rich ragu.

Dinner for 2
For the ragu:
400g diced rabbit
One golden onion, finely diced
One large carrot, peeled and finely diced
Two celery stalks, finely diced
4 rashers smoked pancetta
One clove of garlic, finely chopped
A glug of olive oil
A knob of unsalted butter
400mls dry white wine
400mls pasatta
Sea salt and pepper
Parmesan to serve

For the raviolos - around 15 (this mix makes enough pasta for this dish and one other on another night, the pasta will keep nice and fresh in the fridge without a problem):
375g type 00 flour
3 eggs
A glug of extra virgin olive oil
A large knob unsalted butter
A generous glug vegetable / groundnut oil
A handful sage leaves
One medium sized butternut squash, cut in half and de-seeded
50g Parmesan, finely grated
Half a teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt and pepper

- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, once to temperature put the squash in and cook for 2 hours
- Saute the onion, carrot and celery until turning golden in some unsalted butter and olive oil on a medium heat
- Add the rabbit and continue to cook until it begins to brown, then add the garlic, and once you can smell the aroma of it come out of the pan, add the wine and cook off for about 5 minutes, then add the pasatta, a scrunch of salt and pepper, then stir and cover and cook for 2 hours on a low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking
- Place the flour, eggs and olive oil in a food processor and blitz until you have a dough or beads of dough, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and bring together
- Knead the dough to bring it together properly and make it feel silky to the touch - don't be shy when kneading this, it needs a good going over to get it ready! You're looking for it to become stretchy and elastic so when you prod it it springs back. Once this has happened divide it into two pieces, put each in a bowl with cling film tightly over the top, and set aside for at least 30 minutes
- The squash should be ready to take out now or once the pasta's had 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven and using a spoon scoop the flesh out of the skins and put into a bowl. Once its cooled a little mash it up with a fork, then add some salt and pepper, the grated Parmesan and nutmeg, combine with the fork and set aside
- Roll out through a pasta machine until you have sheets of pasta run through on the finest setting - don't forget to keep dusting the sheets before rolling through on finer settings to stop it dragging and pulling holes in the sheets on the way through
- Place a teaspoon of the squash mixture onto a section of the pasta sheet, brush the surrounding area with water and then 'drape' another piece of pasta over the top of the mixture, you'll need to press the pasta down where it joins the bottom sheet right next to the filling, smoothing any air out and away. Use your fingers to make sure the pasta sheets are connected then either use a cutter to cut them out into rounds or squares, or place a cup over the top and cut around it with a sharp knife. Discard the excess pasta (or collect it up and make some more with it if you have enough squash mixture) Repeat until you've used up all the squash mixture, placing them on a floured board to stop them sticking to it, flour each one as you place it down too to stop them sticking to each other
- The ragu should be smelling fantastic by now, using the back of a wooden spoon just gently break the meat up a little (you don't want it super fine so don't press it too much), remove the lid and continue to cook so the sauce can reduce a little
- Put a pan of salted boiling water on to boil and get ready to plunge the raviolos in
- In a separate small pan while the water is heating up, place a generous knob of unsalted butter and a big glug of groundnut or vegetable oil, turn the heat on until the butter really starts to foam
- Place the raviolos carefully in the boiling water and set your timer for a couple of minutes
- Put a couple of tablespoons 00 flour into a bowl with some salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, mix together. Then run your sage leaves under the cold tap and toss them in the flour so it sticks to them, and put them into the foaming butter, gently moving them round to cover each side in the foaming butter - this will take around 60 - 90 seconds, once they're done remove them from the pan and place onto some kitchen paper
- Turn the pasta and ragu off, carefully drain the raviolos and them slip them into the ragu pan and cover them in the sauce
- Plate the raviolos covered in the ragu, top with the crispy sage and a fine grating of Parmesan, then eat

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