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Mostly concerning Ravioli Sauces and Steaks

I like making my own pasta. There is the same mixture of skill, timing, dexterity and mistakes that give personality to my guitar playing. You can’t rush a hand turned crank. The wheels go round, half a metre of thick pasta goes in and a metre and a half of grade 6 comes out. And, repeat.

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Making the dough is simplicity itself. Measure out 100grams of 00 grade four for every egg, beat together with a round bladed knife and then knead for seven minutes. Putting the pasta through the rollers of the pasta machine counts as kneading in my book. It’s the usual rule of kneading. Two songs for white flour, one song for brown.

There really is nothing other than practice for the machine. If the sheets are getting too long, cut them in half. Those of us old enough to have had to use mangles on wash days have a distinct advantage, especially if it was a bed linen wash. We had automatic mangles on what my mother regarded as pretty modern machines. (The one pictured is identical to the one in our house around 1966). If you have ever had to do a full wash for a family of seven children by hand, then any machine would seem like a Godsend. We did also have an old hand cranked mangle in the outside wash-house, over a huge white sink. The sort of combination you’d find in all working class homes in the old days. You’d find them in Kensington and Chelsea these days. Working class people have discovered front loaders! (See photo)

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Note the concentration.

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Note the calm.

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Note that the idiot is doing it in his best shirt

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Note the fact that the occasional swear word doesn’t come through on the blog medium. I had tried to take the photos on a timer but had to ask T, who is something of a reluctant photographer, to help out.

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I’m still a novice and the one thing I am unsure of is how long you can leave the pasta exposed to the air. I work on the theory that everything should be done in a Clickety Click manner. Once the sheets have come through at grade 9 they are cut in two, lengthways and the filling is spooned on.

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Everything is guesswork. I may have made pasta a few times, but this is the first time I’ve made ravioli. I’m led to believe that the key is keeping the air out as you bring the two sheets together. I succeed but I certainly wouldn’t want to make hundreds of them. I can see why you only get three or four if you order them as a starter.

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I have a special cutter which you can just about see in the photo below. I think they look rather nice.

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I’ve made 200 g of pasta and use about half on the ravioli. The rest I make into tagliatelle by putting the remaining sheets through the cutters. This gets boiled for four minutes and shared between two bowls.

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I’m making this on Monday evening. The filling was made yesterday and left to go cold. It’s a mixture of red onion, minced pork, lots of fresh chopped rosemary and garlic with only enough tomato passata to hold it together.

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A little goes a long way in making ravioli. I make a sauce with more red onions, celery, chilli, mushrooms and the rest of a packet of passata. Realising I don’t need all the filling, this gets added to the sauce.

All the pasta, all the tagliatelle and all the ravioli was eaten up and enjoyed hugely. I really don’t know if it is worth all the effort. I certainly wouldn’t make it for more than four people. But it really is a special treat. I’ve never had ravioli at what you would call good restaurants, so to call it the best I’ve ever had basically means it is better than the stuff you get in tins. There is no similarity, and I have the benefit of knowing what went in mine.

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It’s a layered dish. First fresh and lovely ribbons of tagliatelle with a pork and tomato sauce over it. Then, seven or eight ravioli with more sauce poured over. Finally lots of Pecorino Cheese. For a first attempt, it is blooming lovely.

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Tuesday’s evening meal is simplicity itself. There is plenty of sauce left over from the ravioli. All I do is boil up a packet of spaghetti and we are eating within twenty minutes. Once again we try out the Pecorino cheese in  a taste challenge with Parmesan. The old favourite wins but I will use Pecorino more often. There is a nutty subtlety about it that, I feel, would go perfectly grated on plain pasta with no other ingredient.

Reading about Italian food recently, has let me know just how much of this great food tradition has arisen out of poverty and hunger. In England we tend to have far too much sauce with the pasta. Pasta really requires very little to turn it into a feast.

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Wednesday finds me buying a cheap packet of pork chops from Aldi. I grill them simply and serve them with new potatoes and a sauce that is as lovely as it is simple. Red onions, chopped tomatoes and butter beans. A little salt and pepper and it suits the meal perfectly. Wednesdays were made for such simplicity.

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On Thursday we go to the cinema to watch a play. There is a recent trend to show theatre in cinemas. It is a three way loser. Plays don’t work on big screens, the whole scale of the performance is wrong, gestures and facial expressions that work perfectly for a live audience look like gurning on a huge screen. Films are so much better shot. And, they charge you a premium to watch them and put you in an audience with every cheapskate aesthete in the city. The whole place was teeming with John Carey and Rosie Boycott lookalikes. We ate at one of those all you can eat Chinese places where our neighbours included every child in Sheffield who you wouldn’t want in your class. I gradually lost my appetite and will not be going back.

Friday was a trip to the chip shop where we timed our visit to coincide with some rather tasty haddock coming fresh and piping out of the fryer. We pretty much ran home to enjoy their freshness. I like Fridays.

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Saturday finds me still employed. I started packing my things yesterday but was visited by the head teacher who said they were having difficulty finding a replacement. She would like me to stay until Easter. I don’t say no, but I am unhappy. In order to feel some benefit from the unlooked for money, I buy a couple of sirloin steaks. Wednesday’s butter bean and tomato sauce gets a pep from some chilli and some balsamic vinegar and turns a treat into an occasion. I also order myself some new shirts and a tie.

Half of Europe desperately seeking employment and I can’t even resign effectively.

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Saturday morning is celebrated with an elephant foot’s eclair from our local bakery and last Sunday saw a quick cooked breakfast. Beans, sausages and eggs go so well together on a day off. If only I had a few more days off!

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