Meanwhile, this one is about my awesome pasta machine. It is an Imperial. It is super-shiny and the best therapy I've come across in a long time.
I had some tip-top ravioli recently in a restaurant in Belgium. I didn't realise that ravioli could be tip-top, as my usual experience is some sort of baby food wrapped in gunge which, when boiling water is added, produces the wrappy equivalent of a pot noodle. So I set out to make my own.
Pasta is flour and eggs. Being the educated kind of chap I am, I didn't know this. I thought it grew on trees. The flour is supposed to be "00" grade (superfine), which I used, because it is expensive, organic, and I don't know any better. To make pasta one mixes the flour and the eggs (or egg, as one egg is enough to make a sheet of pasta suitable for a tarpaulin for the centre court at Wimbledon), into a dough, or mess, then squidges it between the hands, knees or boomps-a-daisy until bored. This is the first part of the therapy. It has the added advantage that if one's fingernails have become grimy, owing to just having done an engine oil change for instance, all of this residue is easily absorbed by the dough. For those who wish to copy this "recipe", 6 good old British ounces of flour is about right for one large egg. Free range.
Once the dough is homogenous, it is left to "rest". I don't understand why it needs to rest - I'm the one who's been doing all this kneading, not the bloody dough, but apparently it is important.
At this point, it is wise to drink some cider and smoke a couple of Marlboro Reds, and sit in the sun.
Next, take the brand new shiny Imperial pasta machine from its box. Find a table to which to screw it down - it doesn't damage the table top, only the bottom. Plug in the handle. At this point, make a decision about what you're going to fill this ravioli with, because once you start making the pasta it is like glue, and will stick like shit to a blanket to itself, the table, you, the floor, the dog or anything else with which it comes into contact.
I chose prawn and onion, because that has a certain ring to it, and because Waitrose (my shop of choice, no chavs) had some on special offer. But you can fill it with anything, it doesn't have to be minced up baby food. I suspect that even veg would work (veggies please note my contribution to vegginess there).
So, the filling.
- 1 packet of prawns, indonesian, uncooked, on offer (200g, I think)
- 3 bunches of spring onions, the small kind
- plenty of garlic
- big chilli (not a raging hot one, one of those long red jobs)
- a big lemon
- light oil such as sunflower or rape
Put some oil in a frying pan and heat it up. Finely chop a pile of garlic (I think I used 6 cloves) and fry until pretty overdone, dark brown. Add salt and a bit of pepper. Chop the spring onions into smallish bits and add them, frying gently until the whole place smells like a Chinese restaurant. Split the chilli lengthwise into four pieces, scrape off the seeds, chop it finely. Add it to the mixture and fry for a few more minutes. Turn it off.
Wash the prawns several times, then drain them. Cut them into smallish pieces and put them on a plate, squeeze the juice of a lemon over them and leave them for as long as it takes to drink another pint of cider. They will cook themselves in the lemon juice. When the cider is finished, drain the prawns, add them to the frying pan and heat the whole lot through for maybe five minutes. The juice of the prawns will cause the mixture to become a bit gooey, which is good. Let it cool, while you drink a cider.
Take the dough you made earlier. This is the next part of the therapy. Feed it a lump at a time into the pasta machine, set to its widest-apart setting. It is tricky at first but then becomes simple as you realise what you were doing wrong. Each time you feed the lump, fold it over and re-feed it. Do this about ten times. When you have processed all of the dough, set the machine to the next narrowest setting, feed the dough through once. Repeat until you are at the narrowest setting. The sheets will now be wafer-thin and pretty unmanageable, so you have to get on with it.
Take a piece of baking parchment. Cut out two pieces of pasta (for that is now what it is) about four inches square. Put one square on the parchment. Plonk a big spoonful of the stuff from the pan onto the middle of one square. Put the other square on top and pinch the edges together so it looks like ravioli from the shop but much bigger. Repeat until there is no more mixture left. I ended up with nine ravioli. Throw the rest of the pasta into the bin.
Cover this up with cling film and have another pint of cider.
You now need to make a sauce, because that's what people do with pasta. I eventually made a mushroom, white wine, onion and tomato sauce. Only because that's what it ended up as, though. It went like this:
- 1 tin of tomatoes, chopped
- 1 handful dark mushrooms (chestnut)
- 1 handful white mushrooms (button)
- 1 onion
- 1 glass crap white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
- big lump of butter
- some oil
- Marlboro Red
Skin the dark mushrooms. Take the stalks off both sorts, and chop them up well. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add mushrooms. Drink cider, have a couple of Marlboro. Once it has all gone a bit dry, take it out and put it on a plate. Heat some oil in the pan with salt, chop up the onion, fry until soft. Put the mushrooms back in with it, heat through, add pepper. Tip in the tin of tomatoes, turn down low, have another cider.
Everything is now ready. You will realise by now that you won't be able to eat all of this, so you will need to find a volunteer to help with this. Neighbours can be useful here; failing that go to the pub and find someone who hasn't eaten yet.
When you're ready, boil up a lot of water in a huge saucepan, add the ravioli, one at a time (because if you sling the whole lot in, they'll stick together). While continuing to boil, heat up the sauce. After about three minutes, take out the ravioli carefully and arrange on a plate. Tip the sauce over the top.
Serve with cider.