Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ravioli al branzino

I love ravioli in all their variations, larger, smaller, in different colors and textures. Given that the filling should be the focus of the dish, I prefer my ravioli with lighter, simpler sauces than what I would use on plain pasta. Unfortunately making ravioli is more involving and messy than boiling some dried pasta, but then again it's fun and ful-filling (pun intended!), and you can freeze them for another treat!
Mostly, ravioli are filled with ricotta cheese and spinach or various meats. I opted for a lighter, more subtle sea-bass ravioli, to be enjoyed with a flavoursome clam and fish sauce.

I therefore grabbed my motivation and decided to prepare some sea-bass ravioli this morning. Before heading out for my shopping, I prepared the dough using:
  • 200g semolina flour
  • 100g plain flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • a tablespoon of water 
Mix all the ingredients well and knead until smooth (I used an electric mixer), then roll into a ball, wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

While the dough was resting, I went out to buy the following ingredients:
  • 1 fresh sea bass
  • Some breadcrumbs, or a slice of bread which you will soften in water or milk
  • 1 egg
  • Some herbs. I used parsley, fresh oregano and chives.
  • Pink peppercorns, crushed

Steam the sea bass until cooked, remove the skin and separate out the meat. Finely chop the herbs, then mix with the sea bass meat, the egg, the breadcrumbs (or softened bread), and a pinch of salt. Mash gently using a fork, until you obtain a mixture that can be scooped into your ravioli.

Pull out the dough from the fridge and roll into thin sheets using a pasta machine. These need to be thinner than you would roll if you were making tagliatelle, as you don't want your ravioli to feel "doughy". I used a raviolatrice (see picture) to fill my ravioli, but you can easily make them one by one by hand, it just takes a little longer.

I made the accompanying sauce with a 50-50 clam and fish stock reduction as I had these two ready made in my freezer. Make the sauce by mixing in equal parts clam and fish stock in a frying pan together with a few tablespoons of tomato water and reducing on medium heat with a lemon zest and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. Reduce until the sauce reaches the right level of thickness, then remove from the heat.

Tomato water: to make tomato water, blend a couple of fresh tomatoes, wrap the blended pulp into a cheese cloth and place onto a colander on top of a bowl. The tomato water will slowly drip over an hour or two.
Clam stock: simply sauteé the clams until they open up and release their juice, then separate the clam juice out.
Fish stock: Simmer the bones and of the fish over slow heat together with an onion, a stalk of celery, some button mushrooms, and preferably some fennel and fresh parsley. The stock will be ready after about 40 minutes.

Finally, boil the ravioli for a couple of minutes in a large pot of water, drain them out of their water and place on high heat into the frying pan together with the sauce. Sauteé for a couple of minutes, basting them with their own sauce, then remove from the fire and top with some delicate extra virgin olive oil. The ravioli are ready to be served.

Monday, August 6, 2012

CookForFamily - Branzino alle erbe

Here we go, onto the second part of the CookForFamily event. After the fusilli with clams, I cooked a baked seabass with herbs in foil. I love the delicate, tender and juicy meat of seabass when it's cooked just right. Baking it in a foil allows you to maintain the flesh moist while capturing the fragrance of the seasonings over a slow cooking process. Everyone loved this recipe as it's healthy and the medley of herbs infuses natural flavors into the meat and juices of the fish. This is convenient to make, since you can prepare this fish in advance, refrigerate it, and put it in the oven just 30 minutes before serving.

For this recipe, I used the following ingredients:
  • 1 medium fresh sea bass
  • 1 lemon sprigs of thyme, sage, rosemary, some lemongrass
  • olive oil
  • assorted peppercorns
  • Slice the lemon into 3mm thick slices
  • Wash all the herbs, and break them into smaller chunks
  • Clean the fish, remove the innards and fins, score it and pat dry
  • Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and inside, then massage it with olive oil throughout
Cooking process:
  • Bring a drizzle of olive oil to the heat on a large frying pan
  • Place the slices of lemon, and fry them until nicely browned on both sides
  • Remove them from the heat
  • Clean the pan, then repeat the same for the fish. Make sure that the oil is well hot before placing the fish, as what you want is a crispy skin on both sides. All you need is about 40 seconds on each side. Make sure not to break the skin as you maneuver the fish.
  • Scatter the herbs and lemon slices on some aluminium foil, then place the fish on them and repeat the same pattern on top of the fish. Wrap and seal the aluminium tightly, and store it in the fridge until ready for cooking. 
  • Heat the oven up to 180C, then place the whole wrapped fish on a tray and cook it for about 30 minutes, or until the fish is ready.
  • It will be easy to check if the fish is cooked by carefully opening the foil and checking through the scoring cuts
I transferred the parcel onto a plate, opened up the foil and served the whole fish at the table portioning chunks of flesh and a few of the herbs and lemon slices for decoration, for the enjoyment of the family!

CookForFamily - Fusilli alle vongole

As part of the CookForFamily initiative, I have prepared this dish for my family this Sunday. It is a revisited version of the classic "spaghetti alle vongole". In the classic recipe which you would find in most books, the clams are sauteé'd in olive oil with white wine and parsley, and finally the pasta is added to the pan. The issue with this sort of recipe is that the flavor of clams tends to be too subtle and get lost. Also, the sauce will be too liquid and lack in depth. My version on the other hand has greater depth in flavour due to higher density of the sauce and concentration of the flavour. My additional touch is the ginger and lemon zest, which provide a boost of freshness to the dish. Although linguini or spaghetti are the best match for this sauce, my family is quite bored with those classics, so I picked something a bit different, with rougher textural qualities.

This is what I used to make this pasta:
  • 1 inch of ginger
  • A pack of white clams (you can find these in FairPrice or Cold Storage)
  • A bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1/2 glass of white wine
  • 1 Fennel bulb (this can be bought at FairPrice, or replaced by celery)
  • Chili as required (I used 2)
  • Some breadcrumbs (I use Japanese panko)
  • 15ml of Light extra virgin olive oil (suitable for fish)
  • A few cherry tomatoes (I used aged pomodorini del Piennolo, but these cannot be found in Singapore)
  • For the pasta I used long fusilli (180 gr x 2/3 people), however you can use linguini or spaghetti.
Preparation steps:
  • Wash the clams in ice water, then rinse them and set them aside. Save a few of them for decoration.
  • Cut the fennel bulb into 4 pieces
  • Peel the lemon and keep the zest
  • Peel 1 inch of Ginger and slice it into 3
  • Cut the zucchini into Julienne strips
  • Chop half of the parsley
Cooking steps:
  • Heat up some olive oil in a medium pot, then add the clams and cover over high heat.
  • Once they open, add the white wine and let evaporate for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the fennel, ginger and lemon into the pot, and top up with hot water to almost cover the ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium or low, just letting the stock bubble slowly for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the unchopped parsley and reduce for another 5 minutes.
  • Strain the stock with a fine colander and pour it into a large frying pan. Bring to a slow boil, add some more lemon zest and the chilies if you like a bit of spice, as well as a pinch of breadcrumbs (about a tablespoon).
  • Let it reduce down to a third, or until the sauce is slightly dense (probably about 15 minutes).
  • As you will keep the sauce going waiting for the pasta to be ready, you need to maintain it at this level of density, so add a tablespoon of boiling water from the pasta pot if required.
  • In the meantime, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and put in the pasta (no salt required).
  • Put the spare clams into the saucepan and cover. Wait until they open, then set them aside.
  • 2 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the zuccchini and the cherry tomatoes to the sauce and cover.
  • Remove the pasta 1 minute before its cooking time, and put it straight into the frying pan, quickly tossing it into the sauce together with half of the chopped parsley as well as 1/4 of teaspoon of salt.
  • Toss for about a minute or until the pasta is "al dente", adding water if required to loosen the sauce.
  • Remove from the fire, then top with extra virgin olive oil and mix it into the sauce.
  • Plate into individual portions, decorating with the parsley, extra clams and cherry tomatoes.
The skill is to time everything so that the pasta will be perfectly cooked when the sauce will have the perfect density. This may require a few attempts for beginners.

It is a family tradition for us to cook at home every Sunday lunch, but I came up with this particular pasta just for the CookForFamily event. It came out perfectly and was extremely well received by the family! There was not a single droplet of sauce left on the plates, and I was asked to repeat it again next week. There is nothing more fulfilling than a new dish being so appreciated by your own family. Why not try this yourself for your own family next Sunday?

Related Posts with Thumbnails