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

Coconut macaroon medley

Individually wrapped these would make a great little stocking fillers for foodies at Christmas. If you make them with this in mind, remember a liberal dose of willpower is an additional ingredient.

Of course, you don't have to gift them to people, just having a batch made up ready to give to Christmas visitors to munch on with a glass of cidre chaud or cup of tea is just as good. Or eating them all to yourself. Whichever you prefer.

I've dipped these macaroons in two different things to bring a bit more excitement to them, and it also makes them look very pretty (a very important consideration in sweets I think). There will be loads of variations and ideas on coatings for these little treats, but given the chill in the festive air the below recipe is for:
- Spiced orange chocolate dipped coconut macaroons
- White chocolate and cardamom dipped coconut macaroons

For 12-14 coconut macaroons:
Below is the basic macaroon mixture for all of the macaroons, and below that are the separate ingredients for their coatings:
2 egg whites, whisked until foaming but not stiff
100g golden caster sugar
125g dessicated/shredded coconut
A level tablespoon cornflour

For the spiced orange chocolate coating:
A quarter of a Terrys milk chocolate orange (you could use milk chocolate and add Grand Marnier, but I think this is much easier and as its Christmas time you're likely to have one of these knocking about)
Half a level teaspoon ground ginger
Half a level teaspoon ground cinnamon
A single stem ginger from a jar, drained and cut into very small dice

For the white chocolate and cardamom coating:
50g good quality white chocolate
4 cardamom pods, seeds removed from their skins, and the seeds crushed to a powder
A few tablespoons crushed hazelnuts

- Preheat your oven to 175 degrees
- In a bowl whisk your egg whites until they foam, then add all the other ingredients, combine thoroughly - the mixture looks quite dense and 'shredded' and is a bit sticky, you might think it doesnt look or feel like it will bind well but dont worry
- Make a ball shaped macaroon using about a tablespoon full of the mixture, and press onto a lined and lightly buttered baking sheet, pressing down gently to create domes. Repeat until all are done then place into the oven for 12 minutes. Once lightly golden topped remove them from the oven and set aside on a wire cooling rack
- While they are cooling you can make your coatings one at a time in a ban marie (simply a glass bowl on top of a pan of simmering water - note the water mustnt touch the base of the glass bowl).

When the macaroons are cooled it's time for the toppings
- In a glass bowl place the orange chocolate, cinnamon and ground ginger, and leave to melt over the simmering pan of water, use a teaspoon to combine the spices with the chocolate, once this has happened taste the mixture to check the spicing, you might want more - add them as you like
 - Lay out a sheet of baking paper
- Take each macaroon in your fingers and dome side down, wipe it through the chocolate to cover half of the top of the macaroon. Lay it onto the baking paper and sprinkle some of the stem ginger dice over the melted chocolate, which it will stick to. Repeat until you've done half the macaroons
- Clean the orange chocolate bowl and put it back on the simmering pan of water, add the white chocolate and the ground cardammom, and once it's melted mix together with a teaspoon and coat the remaining macaroons, laying them out on the baking paper and then scatter the crushed hazlenuts over the white chocolate
- Wait for them to cool and the chocolate to set before eating (this is optional, but I like them cold so you get to break through the chocolate)

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Feta, roasted pepper and spinnach filo parcels with a warm wintery coleslaw

I adore homemade coleslaw, but when its -4 degrees outside the last thing you want to eat is something cold and salad-like.

Cue a warm coleslaw, made in this case with fennel, beetroot and carrot. And if having it warm temperature wise isn't enough you can turn the volume up on the mustard to bring in some additional heat.

This is a tasty little lunch that combines summer and winter flavours together easily. So that you don't have to worry about buying lots of things out of season the key ingredients for the parcel can come from jars, which makes it a bit of a store cupboard winner - handy when you might be snowed in.

This warm coleslaw is a very versatile dish, we've had it with pork and apple burgers and I can imagine it going very well with homemade kebabs and as an accompaniment to a Christmas ham. Plus its one of those dishes you needn't feel too guilty about eating, on account of it being full of veggies and certainly providing more than your five a day.

Lunch for two:
The parcels -
8 sheets of filo pastry
2 peppers from jars - the char grilled sort is possible
A block of feta - the standard supermarket sized version, crumble it by hand into bite size pieces
A few sun dried tomatoes
A large bag of spinach
Unsalted butter, melted for brushing
Salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

The warm coleslaw -
For the grated vegetables I recommend using a food processor, it makes it much easier and you're able to get a really fine grate. To finely slice the fennel and the onion I'd suggest a mandolin on a super fine setting. Of course, doing all this manually is fine, it's just a pain in the arse.

Two carrots, peeled and finely grated
Half a red onion, cut in half and sliced razor thin
4 cooked beetroots (not the vinegared variety!) finely grated
2 spring onions finely sliced
Three tablespoons mayo (I use light but full fat is good too)
Three tablespoons natural yogurt
1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper

Method -
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- In a saucepan on a medium heat add a knob of butter and when it starts to foam add your bag of spinach and put the lid on. Cook the spinach for a few minutes, turning occasionally until it's wilted right down, then remove it from the heat and leave to cool
- Take the red peppers and sun dried tomatoes and finely slice, put them in a large bowl and add the feta
- When the spinach has cooled enough to handle squeeze as much of the water out of it as you can, then run a knife over it and add it to the feta mix
- Add a slug of olive oil, the Parmesan, a scrunch of salt and pepper and using a fork combine the mixture in the bowl
- Lightly butter the baking sheet the parcels will sit on and set aside
Now it's time to assemble the parcels:
- Place a sheet of filo on a clean and lightly dusted work surface and brush it with butter, then lay another sheet on top of it. Place what is around three tablespoons of the mixture in the centre of the pastry, then just like wrapping a present, turn the bottom edges up to lay across the centre of the mixture, brush with butter again and then fold the top edge down to lay across the first fold. Brush with butter again and take each side and bring them up into the centre above where the mixture is held, then pinch the filo together, forming a pinch (as in the picture) brush with butter again and repeat with the other three parcels until all the mixture is used up.
- Place the parcels into the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until they're golden brown looking
With the parcels in the oven, it's time to make the coleslaw - this needs to be started 10 minutes before the parcels are removed so that the slaw is warm when eaten
- Combine the yogurt, mayo, spring onion, red onion, mustard, a scrunch of salt, some black pepper and cider vinegar in a large bowl and mix with a fork until combined
- Place the beetroot, fennel and carrot in a roasting tin and put into the oven for 5 minutes - this it to dry them out a little so that the coleslaw isn't overly wet
- After five minutes remove the vegetables and add them to the mayo mixture, combine thoroughly - this will make a gorgeous pink mixture
- Remove the parcels from the oven and serve with the slaw - a little glass of something white and chilled would go just nicely too