It’s been a busy week, what with keeping up with my son’s social life, seeing my second guest post at LiveGlutenFree going live last Friday and going out to (gluten-free!) dinner with my husband (sans bébé for the first time in 16 months!) on Saturday.

I talked a couple of posts ago about the troubles I had coming up with a recipe for my second post for LiveGlutenFree. Well, it all came out in the wash and I created a caramelized red onion and goat’s cheese tart in a thyme crust. It was even a hit with my toddler! Do stop by the blog to have a look at the recipe.

My husband and I were given a voucher for a dinner for two at a hotel in Cheltenham for Christmas by my elder sister, Kim, and her family. We’ve only just got around to using it because procuring the services of a trustworthy babysitter in a town you’ve only just moved to is quite a big ask. But the voucher was nearing its expiry date and Kim told me in no uncertain terms that if we didn’t use it, we’d have to manufacture a very believable account of a fantasy meal that we’d ‘eaten’ or else… Not one willing to stir the wrath of Khan Kim, I procured a babysitter toute suite.

I’ve talked already about the problems of eating out when you’re gluten-free. Now I’m going to talk about the successes. Unfortunately, they come with a price tag. The two most enjoyable meals out that I’ve had since being gluten-free have been in 4 star hotels: the first for my ‘significant’ birthday this year at the Barceló Hotel in Oxford and the second, this last weekend at Parker’s Restaurant at The Hotel on the Park in Cheltenham. This should come as no surprise – the more you pay, the less likely processed food is to make a shifty appearance – everything is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. I could eat most things on the menu, i.e. the ones that if you cooked them at home, they would naturally be gluten-free anyway, and the restaurants, on both occasions, provided me with gluten-free bread (although the waiter in Oxford DID have to be educated not to serve gluten and gluten-free bread in the same basket…) So, what did I have? A beautiful starter of seared scallops with lardons and carrot and cumin purée, followed by a delicious piece of slow-cooked lamb on a bed of potatoes Lyonnaise and peas and bacon, followed by crème brûlée (without its accompanying almond tuile). Scrump-shuss.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d far rather eat out less frequently at higher-end restaurants with a good choice and not have such a big fear of cross-contamination than more frequently at cheaper eateries where gluten-free often means the ‘choice’ of half of one thing on the menu that’s had the other glutenicious half unceremoniously scraped off by surly waiting staff…

Gluten-free smoked mackerel and lemon ravioli with a parsley and chive butter

My tips for making gluten-free ravioli can be found here. But the challenge and also the charm of gluten-free cooking and baking is that you’re always learning on the job. So in addition to those tips, I would add: make sure that you have floured fingers when sealing the ravioli – this will prevent the top layer of pasta sticking to your fingers and unsealing itself. When cutting the ravioli, use repeated downward strokes rather than pulling the knife as you are likely to snag the pasta.

Smoked mackerel is probably not the most conventional or authentic filling for ravioli but it was absolutely delicious. Even if I say so myself!

Serves 3 (makes 40-50 ravioli)

For the pasta:
160g plain (all-purpose) gluten-free flour
20g cornflour (cornstarch)
2/3 tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt (optional)
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
cold water

For the filling:
250g smoked mackerel (skinned weight)
2 tbsp ricotta
zest and juice half a lemon
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for sealing the ravioli)

For the sauce:
75g butter (or low-fat butter alternative)
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped chives

You will also need a pasta-rolling machine

First, make the pasta. Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz for a couple of seconds to mix the flours and break up any lumps. Add the two eggs and the oil. Blitz again to combine and gradually add a little cold water through the funnel until you have a soft dough.

Tip the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. It should be soft and ever so slightly sticky to the touch*. Now wrap the ball in clingfilm to keep the pasta from drying out.

Give the inside of the food processor a wipe around with a damp cloth. Blitz all of the ingredients for the filling until you have a smooth paste.

Working with one small, plum-sized piece of pasta at a time, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin until it is a few millimetres thick. Passing the dough just once through each thickness setting, starting at 2 and ending 6, roll the piece through the machine**. Make sure you carefully support its weight with your free hand. You’re looking for a strip at least 6cm wide – the length will vary so it doesn’t really matter.

Lay the strip horizontally on the work surface and trim the top and bottom long sides with a sharp knife so that the pasta is 5½ – 6cm deep. Place teaspoonfuls of filling at about 5cm intervals. Using a pastry brush, brush egg white around each spoonful of filling. This will stick the pasta together. Roll another pasta strip to go over the top: dust your fingers with flour and, starting from the left (I’m right-handed), gently drape and press this pasta strip around the first mound of filling, making sure that it is sealed all the way around. Go on to the next mound of filling and continue until you have used up the pasta strip. Minor tears can be mended by smoothing them over with a little egg white on a pastry brush.  Cut the ravioli into squares with a sharp knife and gently lift away the surplus pasta. Gently lift the ravioli on to a plate (I use a palette knife to ease them from the work surface). The ravioli can be covered with clingfilm and refrigerated until needed. Scrunch the surplus pasta up again and add to it, if needed, to get a plum-sized ball.  Re-roll and continue making ravioli until all the filling is used up.

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, put a large pan of lightly-salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small frying pan (skillet), simply melt the butter and add the chopped herbs. Leave to heat through gently whilst cooking the ravioli.

Cook the ravioli in two or three batches. As soon as you put the ravioli in the boiling water, put the lid of the saucepan on to help the water come back up to the boil quickly and time them for 2½ minutes. Scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon held over a wad of kitchen paper and put in a warmed bowl. Repeat with the second and third batch. Dress with the parsley and chive butter.

*If the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and knead the ball of dough. Then break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces to distribute the flour more evenly, tip back onto the surface and knead into a ball. Likewise, if the dough is too hard and dry, break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces and add a little more water. Once it has come together again, tip back out onto the work surface and knead.

** The sheet will have slightly raggedy edges. This is to be expected. If there are numerous holes, scrunch the ball of dough up and reroll. If the dough disintegrates as it goes through the rollers, it is probably too dry. See *

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