So I found myself without a purpose this Saturday. Although in reality it was but a mere fortnight since I had not been working at the weekend, it felt like it was so long ago that I was unable to remember what normal people do with their weekends. I think they run errands? After getting up and drinking my morning cup of tea in the garden with my brother and to my surprise my father who I had imagined was in Devon, I had a quick consultation with my brother about what we might like for dinner and made a shopping list.
I went to the market on the North End road which I don’t think I’ve done since the beginning of May and purchased a vast quantity of eggs, some figs and peaches before popping into Waitrose for some additional items that couldn’t be bought in the market. I was looking for a wild strawberry liqueur which I have read about in several magazines as being something that is available from M&S but the Simply Food in Fulham is too small to have an extensive stock range so I thought that Waitrose might be able to assist. Alas they didn’t have any either (I knew in my heart of hearts all along that this would be the case) but they did have a rhubarb liqueur from Chase which I thought sounded quite exciting so I made some mental adjustments to my plans and picked up a bottle.
I also finally managed to take a dress to be shortened (which is exciting as I might actually be able to wear it now without falling over myself but this remains to be seen) and duly staggered home with my shopping to begin a pleasant afternoon in the kitchen.
I had decided that I wanted to make macaroons and pasta so that we could have homemade butternut squash ravioli for dinner and tackled my macaroons first.
My original idea had been to make vanilla and wild strawberry macaroons using the aforementioned wild strawberry liqueur and some wild strawberry jam that is lurking in my fridge however, I adapted the plan in light of the liqueur situation and made vanilla and rhubarb macaroons instead. Now macaroons are always an interesting one for me; I love macaroons however, I have a mild intolerance to almonds and they make me itch so making macaroons doesn’t come without some degree of discomfort. (Who says I don’t know how to live on the edge?) Anyway, I made my macaroons using the ’10 Steps to Macaroon Perfection’ that I photocopied from a book that my friend Siobhan has which is really useful to have as I don’t make macaroons very often so it’s good to have the reassurance. I think that the basic concept is relatively easy as long as you know how to make a decent meringue but it’s all the little tips about how the mixture should look once you’ve folded in the almonds and icing sugar and about leaving the macaroons to dry before putting them in the oven. FYI, if you don’t do this then you won’t have good macaroons. For the first time ever, my macaroons only took the prescribed 30 minutes to be dry enough to put them in the oven.
I was really pleased with my macaroons; they had a really good pied and were a really lovely texture (it’s important to try a few as they come of the oven I find) and a pleasing vanilla flavour. Whilst they were cooling I made up my rhubarb buttercream filling. The first thing I did was to try the rhubarb liqueur because I think that it is important to know your ingredients. Liqueur duly tasted, I softened the buttercream, made a sugar syrup and whisked it all together along with some of the liqueur, a drop of vanilla extract and a splash of pink food colouring.
Having made my macaroons, for no good reason other than I wanted to, I moved onto making my pasta for the ravioli. I made pasta earlier this year but on that occasion I hadn’t been able to procure the correct flour and had made it with strong white bread flour which does work but it makes the dough much harder to work. I still wasn’t able to get hold of any durum wheat flour but had succeeded in getting some 00 flour from the Italian deli at the top of my road and the dough was so much easier to knead. Making the dough is really quick but I spent quite a bit of time kneading it to produce a silky smooth pasta which I wrapped up and put in the fridge to wait until dinner to roll it.
For the ravioli filling, I peeled, cubed and roasted half a butternut with plenty of seasoning and a chopped red onion. Once roasted, I pureed it and left it aside to cool before seasoning again and adding plenty of grated parmesan and nutmeg.
Now the plan had been to eat the ravioli on Saturday evening but someone didn’t quite make it home in time from rugby so we ate on Sunday night instead. It’s probably just as well really because I think that having longer limbs is a definite advantage when it comes to rolling pasta, I run out of arm span very quickly, so my brother rolled and I assembled the ravioli.
Homemade pasta cooks really quickly, much more quickly than supermarket fresh pasta. While it was cooking, we whipped up a sage and lemon butter to accompany the ravioli and served it with freshly grated parmesan and delicious Italian fennel sausages.