Friday, 27 August 2010

Bavarese alle fragole - Strawberry bavarois

Once you’ve got the hang of the bavarois – bavarese in Italian – you can apply it to any fruit. I prefer to make them in small one portion ramekins.

Enough for 8

250ml milk
3 eggs
150g caster sugar
25g powdered gelatin
500g fresh strawberries, pureed
300ml double cream, whipped
150g fresh strawberries


1. Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale.

2. Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan.

3. Reserve half a cup of the milk, pour in the gelatine and stir it thoroughly to dissolve the powder.

4. Gradually add the milk to the egg mixture, whisking as you do it. Then whisk in the gelatine mixture.

5. Add the pureed strawberries and then carefully fold in the whipped cream.

6. Pour into the ramekins and refrigerate until set in about 2 hours.

7. Unmould the bavarese by running a knife around the edge of the ramekins.

8. Serve with fresh strawberries.

Pappardelle with broad bean and pea cream

Summer is coming to an end but there are still broad beans in the shops. Broad beans make an irresistible sauce to accompany pasta. They need careful handling so that they don’t become a claggy mess. This recipe combines them with peas, butter and mint to make a cream. And by not draining the pasta completely, a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water is used to dilute the cream so that it sticks evenly to the pasta, rather than sitting in clumps around the bowl.

Ideally, the pasta should be broad like pappardelle but you could use tagliatelle instead. A good brand of shop bought like Cecco is fine – Buitoni is not – or you could make your own if you want therapy and exercise and the sheer pride of serving home made pasta. But be careful: If it is too thick it will take so long to cook that it will pass the al dente stage and become pappy (perfect food for chickens or dogs).

Enough for 4 as a first course.

350g without pods or skins (about 700g in pods) broad beans
125 g – fresh or frozen peas
60g butter
60g parmesan
4 tablespoons double cream
To taste salt and pepper
A few leaves mint
400g pasta – bought


300g OO pasta flour
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt

1. Cook and skin the broad beans. Reserve a third of the beans. Cook the peas.

2. Add butter to the vegetables and briefly cook to melt the butter and combine the beans and peas.

3. Using a hand held liquidiser, coarsely chop the beans, peas and butter, then add half the parmesan, the cream and season to taste.

4. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Shop bought pasta will take about 10 minutes, home made half that time.

5. Just before you empty the pasta into a colander, scoop out a cupful of the water.

6. Drain the pasta and return to the cooking pan.

7. Now stir in the bean and pea cream, the reserved beans and the mint. Add as much of the reserved cooking water as you need to thin the sauce so that it lightly coats the pasta. Serve into bowls. Pass grated parmesan.

If you decide to make your own pasta, amalgamate the flour, salt and eggs in a bowl, knead until the pasta is springy and no longer sticky. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in a cool place for an hour, then roll out using a pasta machine or rolling pin until the pasta is almost see-through. Roll up the pasta and cut it with a sharp knife to produce 2 cm wide noodles.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Garganelli con gorgonzola, pancetta, pere e noci - Pasta tubes with gorgonzola, bacon, pears and walnuts

This is a very easily and speedily concocted dish and is common in Bologna even if not totally native. While the pasta is cooking you can prepare the sauce. The cheese will melt into the pasta but all the sauce ingredients should remain distinct. The combination is sublime, a combination of salty, creamy, crunchy and sweet. If you or your guests are allergic to walnuts, substitute slivered almonds lightly fried in butter. There is no substitute for the gorgonzola.

Cooking hints: This is one of those occasions when you should buy the fresh pasta if it is available. Dry garganelli isn’t always made with egg, as it should be.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

150g streaky bacon
350g garganelli
2 pears
200g walnuts
200g gorgonzola

1. Grill the bacon until crisp and then snip into thin pieces with scissors, or serve as a slice.
2. Put the pasta on to boil.
3. Peel and dice the pears. Shell the walnuts. Cut the gorgonzola into dice.
Drain the cooked pasta and briefly combine with the rest of the ingredients in the pan.
Serve each portion as a mound with the bacon on top, as a slice or in pieces.
That’s it.

Wine match: how about Rosato Letizia, made by Letizia Gaggioli at Zola Predosa? Or, failing that, a full bodied rose like Villa Maria, made from the syrah grape?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Lasagnette di zucchini - Courgette lasagne

Like many simple dishes, courgette lasagne can be tricky to do well. What you are aiming for is a balance between the pasta, the béchamel sauce and the courgette. So, do

1. ensure that you use egg pasta and that you parboil it for four minutes

2. ensure that the flour is cooked out of the béchamel and that it has the consistency of thick pouring cream

3. grill the courgette until it is soft and caramelised. The photo below shows how it should look.

I’ve found that a lower layer of leek and spinach adds variety to the dish but be careful not to brown the leek so that its flavour drowns out the more delicate courgette. To assemble it, I start with a layer of pasta which I leave to overhang the dish on all sides. Then there’s the leek and spinach on a bed of sauce, followed by more sauce, another layer of pasta and the courgette. Finally, fold the overhanging bits in, fill in any gaps with more lasagne sheets and finish off with a thick layer of béchamel. This last is vital to ensure that the pasta cooks well so reserve 40% of the sauce for this last bit.

Crumbs, that sounds a bit complicated. Once you get going, it’s anything but and you get a cheap, appetising dish that feeds four well. If it’s a primi, it could be followed by a piece of grilled meat or fish. If it’s a secondi, it could be preceded by a salad. Or you could do it English caff style, with garlic bread and chips. (A joke.)

I used a well greased dish approximately 24cms x 28 cms.

4 medium Courgettes

130g Butter

100g Plain flour

1 l. Milk

100g Parmesan grated

To taste Salt and pepper

Grated to taste Nutmeg

2 Leeks

200g Spinach

12 sheets Egg pasta lasagna

1. First, slice and grill the courgettes. Cut each one into two or three tubes and then slice each one lengthwise into 40mm. thick strips. Heat and oil a griddle and grill the strips on each side until they are soft and brown.

2. Make the béchamel by melting the butter in a large saucepan, stirring in the flour and cooking them into a smooth paste – or roux - over a low light. Then heat the milk and gradually add it to the roux, stirring it all the time with a wooden spoon while the sauce thickens. Bring it to a slow simmer, stirring around the bottom of the pan to prevent it sticking, and cook it for four minutes. Stir in the parmesan and season with salt and black pepper and a good grating of nutmeg, to your taste. Taste to ensure that the sauce is well cooked. It may need another minute or two.

3. Clean the leeks and spinach thoroughly. Chop the spinach roughly. Slice the white and light green part of the leeks across into 50mm. chunks. Fry them in 30g of butter. When they are soft add the spinach and cook until it too is soft, ensuring that there is no liquid in the bottom of the pan.

4. Boil a large saucepan of water, and parboil the pasta six sheets at a time. When it is ready, lift it out with a draining spoon and drop it into a bowl of cold water. Lift it out and leave it to drain on a teacloth.

5. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter, then lay two sheets on each side of it so that they overhang the side, meeting in the middle of the bottom of the dish. Place a sheet lengthwise at each end of the dish so that there is a complete layer of pasta on the bottom of the dish.

6. Spread a layer of sauce over the pasta, then cover this with a layer of leek and spinach.

7. Lay three sheets of pasta across the dish, then add the layer of the griddled courgette.

8. Fold over the overhanging pasta and complete the pasta layer with one or two sheets of lasagne.

9. Finish with a smooth layer of the sauce.

10. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 160 degrees for 30 minutes or until it starts to go brown and crispy.