Next Class
1st November 2022 - Aaron Bulging
Dinner Party Dining - Course One - A Bit of a Ragù
Our first outing with chef Aaron Bulging.
As was to become a tradition our printed instructions only passingly resemble the actual cookery.
Also by tradition for the opening class of a course the college provided all the ingredients.

The Ragù is a bit of an eclectic dish - it was developed in the Bourbon court of Naples from the French ragoüt (French for stew), said to have been brought into Italy in 1796 by the invading Napoleonic soldiers, and was then stolen by the Bolognese from whom it takes its more usual name.
And now it's ours!

A Bit of a Stew
Slow Cooked Beef Ragù
Stolen by the Italians. Is there anything they invented themselves?
Or in our case, more like pappardelle.
Basil Oil
Would have gone here. If we'd made it.

Slow Cooked Beef Ragù
main meat pasta italian
Maybe this would stretch to serving four? You could always bulk it out with pasta and more cheese.

Serves 2

Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C Fan/Gas Mark 3 and season the beef all over. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and brown the beef until dark. Set the beef aside on a tray or in a bowl.

Add about 2 tablespoons of oil, the onions, carrots, celery and garlic with a pinch of salt and cook for 15 minutes over a low-medium heat.
This sweaty collection of finely diced vegetables is called il soffritto.
Stir in the tomato purée and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the wine, herbs, tomatoes and stock, season and bring to the boil, stir the beef back into the sauce and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30/40 minutes, stir and put back on the stove for 15 minutes uncovered.

When ready to serve, cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water for 3 minutes, drain then tip into the ragù, toss together with some parmesan and leave for 1 minute. Ladle the past into bowls, scatter over the remaining parmesan and serve.

Fresh Pappardelle
staple veg pasta
Or supposedly, in the class's case, Fresh Tagliatelle. Though our thickness may have varied.
The quality of your pasta depends to a large extent on the flour you use to make it - the precise varieties of wheat used , the overall protein content, and the flour's fineness.
Tipo 00 is Italian for fine sort. It's the grade of milling used to make the flour. 00 is the finest and has the consistency of baby powder, which is excellent for making pasta dough. Though you can certainly use all-purpose flour to make perfectly acceptable pasta, the best is considered to be a fine durum wheat (or 'semolina') flour - which has a high protein content and DNA coding for less elastic gluten.

Of course you can't make a good fresh pasta with regular ranged eggs - you must have the free kind. You did check your chickens didn't you?

I learned from Aaron that you need to really liberally dust your pasta, surfaces and pasta machine with flour as you work. Also that you should regularly taste your cooking, though perhaps that goes without saying?
Oh, did I mention that you'd need a pasta machine?

Serves 6

Place the flour on a board or in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork! until smooth.

Using the tips of your fingers, just the tip! mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined.

Knead the pieces of dough together - with a bit of work and some love and attention they'll all bind together to give you one big, smooth lump of dough!

Once you've made your dough you need to knead and work it with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour, otherwise your pasta will be flabby and soft when you cook it, instead of springy and al dente. There's no secret to kneading. You just have to bash the dough about a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, pulling it, stretching it, squashing it again. It's when you pasta starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury that the process is complete.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes - make sure the clingfilm covers it well or it will dry out and crusty round the edges.

Dust your work surface with some Tip 00 flour, take a lump of pasta dough the size of a large orange and press it out flat with your fingertips. Set the pasta machine at its widest setting and roll the lump of pasta dough through it. Lightly not the way Aaron does it! dust the pasta with flour if it sticks at all.

Click the machine down a setting and roll the pasta dough through again. fold the pasta in half, click the pasta machine back up to the widest setting and roll the dough through again. Repeat this process five or six times. It might seem like you're getting nowhere, but in fact you're working the dough, and once you've folded it and fed it through the rollers a few times, you'll feel the difference. It'll be smooth as silk and this means you're making wicked pasta!
Honestly one or two foldings seemed sufficient in the class.
Now it's time to roll the dough out properly, working it through all the settings on the machine, from the widest down to around the narrowest. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour every time you run it through.

When you've got down to the narrowest setting, to give yourself a tidy sheet of pasta, fold the pasta in half lengthways, then in half again, then in half again once more until you've got a square-ish piece of dough. Turn it 90 degrees and feed it through the machine at the widest setting. As you roll through the settings for the last time, you should end up with a lovely rectangular silky sheet of dough with straight sides - just like a real pro! If your dough is a little cracked at the edges, fold it in half just once, click the machine back two settings and feed it through again. That should sort things out.

Once you've rolled your pasta the way you want it, you need to shape or cut it straight away into parpadelle. Pasta dries much quicker than you think, so whatever recipe you're doing, don't leave it more than a minute or two before cutting or shaping it. You can lay over a damp clean tea towel which will stop it from drying.

When ready to serve, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water for 3 minutes, drain and serve.
Unlike dried pasta, fresh pasta firms up slightly as it cooks. It also cooks quickly - perhaps in as little as 30 seconds, so check frequently - testing and tasting a strand at least every minute. The pasta should start to float up when its ready.

Basil Oil
ingredient veg vegan
No doubt this is what we'd have done if we'd made any basil oil.
You shouldn't keep this oil for very long - I've made herb oils before by heating the oil which kills any bacteria.
You can also blanch the herbs, then shock them in ice water to retain their bright green colours.

Makes 100ml

Wash and dry the basil.
Place the basil, water, garlic, salt in a pestle and mortar or food processor. Add the olive oil and pulse a few times until you have a smooth sauce.
I haven't made a herb oil with added water before though. I guess the resulting emulsion has a bit more body.