A full version with recipes can be found at the Slow Travel Berlin website. more...
Full version with recipes can be found at Slow Travel Berlin. more...
I've been a big fan of Felicity Cloake's Perfect column for the Guardian ever since it started. more...
About ten years ago, Toby, my then-flatmate and I had a homemade pasta disaster. At this time, we were both in our first jobs, not very well-paid and didn't have the money or the time to experiment in the kitchen prior to making a dish for friends. So whenever people came round for dinner, which happened quite often, it was a bit hit-and-miss if we were making something new. (I'm pleased to say that the pasta incident was, in fact, the only real disaster, though a few times we had to think quickly on our feet when something turned out differently to expected.)
In this instance, we'd decided to make ricotta and lemon ravioli for a dinner party. Everything was wonderful in the kitchen at first. The pasta was perfect, smooth and silky. The ricotta was excellent, from a Soho Italian deli. We didn't have a lemon zester, but had spent ages zesting the lemon with a sharp knife and carefully cutting it into equal sized slivers. Despite not having a proper ravioli press, we'd made each one by hand, carefully cutting them to size so they were uniformly beautiful.
We put them onto a plate, covered them and left them in the fridge for a few hours until we were ready to cook them. Then disaster struck.
I was chatting to our guests in the sitting/dining room (this was a tiny London flat) when Toby called from the kitchen in a slightly strangled voice: "Caroline, can you come here for a moment?"
I can't remember whether or not we sprinkled the plate with flour and dusted the ravioli with flour, but I find it hard to believe we would have made such a basic error. However, the ravioli had stuck to the plate like cement. Toby was chipping away with a knife, trying to prise them off, but there was no saving them. I think at the end, we had only two or three intact ravioli that we'd managed to remove from the plate.
Toby and I considered our options. We thought about phoning for pizza, but then realised we had a good stock of dried linguine in the flat. We cut open all the savaged ravioli, scraped out the ricotta filling and used it as a sauce on the linguine. Luckily, our guests were all close friends who found the situation funny.
This experience put me off making my own pasta for a long time. However, a few weeks ago, I decided the time had come to tackle it again.
I did so with some trepidation and liberal dusting of every available surface with flour. But far from being a traumatic experience, it was really quite wonderful. I had forgotten that glorious silkiness of fresh pasta and how satisfying it is when you roll out a smooth, pliable strip of pasta from the pasta machine.
I cut the strips into fettucine ribbons and we ate them very simply with clams. It was a very successful experience this time. So successful, in fact, that I ventured a few days ago into the dangerous world of handmade ravioli. I'm pleased to report that this was also a success.
Before serving them at Thyme Supperclub, I need to make them a few more times to lay that particular demon completely to rest. But barring any further disasters, I fully expect to have handmade ravioli on the menu this autumn. In the meantime, here are the recipes for the pasta sauces. There are far better descriptions than mine on how to make fresh pasta; I include it for the sake of completeness.