I used to be known as ‘the ravioli queen’ in one of the London restaurants where I worked. I have small hands so I was nominated to make the ravioli, twice a day, every day! It was a task and a half as the chef was very particular about his ravioli, so I could not risk getting it wrong.
In this recipe, I serve one large raviolo per person – it looks like a plump pillow sitting on your plate and makes the dish pretty and refined. It’s the perfect show-off starter. This dish does require a bit of work, but the satisfaction and sense of achievement when you’ve finished it, make it well worth all the effort.
Ingredients & Method
For the fresh egg pasta
- 225g type '00' pasta flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- a pinch of sea salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 eggs
For the pheasant ravioli
- 1 oven-ready pheasant (about 500g)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- a sprig of fresh thyme, leaves only
- 1 egg white
- 60ml double cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed soft herbs (such as parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 200g kale, stalks removed
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the chestnut sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 leek, washed and sliced
- 1 banana shallot, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 150g vacuum-packed whole chestnuts, chopped
- 100ml dry sherry
- 300ml chicken stock
- 150ml double cream
For the kale pesto
- 100g kale, stalks removed
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
- 20g finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 60ml rapeseed oil
- juice of 1 lemon
Start by making the fresh egg pasta dough using a food processor. Some people might find this method unconventional, but provided you don’t overwork the dough and you process it in short bursts, the result is just as good as making the dough by hand.
Place the flour, oil and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times, until the oil and flour are just combined. With the motor running, add the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the whole eggs and blend for about 1 minute or until the dough forms a ball.
Turn the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 4 minutes or until the dough becomes silky smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, then wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the pheasant for the pheasant ravioli. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Remove the legs and breasts from the bird using a sharp knife, then remove and discard the skin from the breasts. Cut the breast meat into 1cm dice and refrigerate until needed. Season the pheasant legs with salt and pepper, then rub them all over with the olive oil, garlic and thyme leaves. Transfer to a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the meat is cooked and flaky and the skin is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes, before flaking the meat from the bone. Discard the bones and skin, transfer the meat to a bowl, then cover and chill in the fridge.
While the leg meat is chilling, make the chestnut sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and once it starts to foam, sauté the leek, shallot, garlic and chestnuts over a high heat for 6–7 minutes or until golden brown. Add the sherry to the pan and let it bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, then boil rapidly over a medium heat for about 2 minutes or until the sherry becomes syrupy but has not completely evaporated. Add the stock, cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, remove the lid and simmer for about 12 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add the cream, bring the sauce back to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Set the sauce aside while you make the ravioli, then reheat it gently before serving (see Cook’s Notes).
To prepare the ravioli filling, place half the diced pheasant breast meat and the egg white in a food processor and blend together until smooth. Add the cream and salt and pepper and pulse until just combined. Do not overwork the mousse as the cream can separate. Transfer the mousse to a mixing bowl and fold in the remaining diced pheasant breast meat, the chopped herbs, the cooled flaked pheasant leg meat and another sprinkling of salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into 6 equal balls, then place on a plate and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Continue making the ravioli. Roll out the rested ravioli dough using a pasta machine. Start with the machine at its thickest setting and pass the dough through the rollers. Repeat this process several times, decreasing the roller setting and dusting the pasta with flour between each pass to prevent it from sticking to the rollers. For ravioli, I take the pasta down to the penultimate setting, about 1.5mm thickness. You should end up with a silky sheet of dough.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out twelve 10cm rounds. Place a chilled pheasant ball on to 6 of the rounds, brush the edges of the pasta with the beaten egg and place another pasta round over the top of each ball of filling. Dust your hands with flour and then, using your fingers, press down firmly around each ball of filling to push out any trapped air. Pinch the edges of the pasta rounds together to seal the filling inside, to make 6 large ravioli in total.
To make the kale pesto. Cook the kale in a pan of boiling water for 1–2 minutes or until very soft, then drain well. Put the kale into a blender with half of the garlic, the pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, mustard, rapeseed oil and salt and pepper and blend together until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the pesto is a bit thick, add an extra dash of rapeseed oil. Transfer to a bowl, then cover and chill until needed.
To cook the ravioli, bring a large pan of salted water to a rapid boil over a high heat. Blanch the kale in the boiling water for 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon, drain it well, transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Add the ravioli, all at once, to the pan, then return the water to a rapid boil. Cook for about 6 minutes or until the ravioli float to the surface. Carefully remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. While the ravioli are cooking, bring the chestnut sauce back to a gentle simmer.
To serve, divide the warm kale between the serving plates, making a nest on which to sit the ravioli. Place a raviolo on top of each kale nest, spoon the warm chestnut sauce over the ravioli (see Cook’s Notes) and serve immediately with the kale pesto spooned alongside.
The chestnut sauce can be made in advance, if you like. Make it as directed, then pour the sauce into a bowl and leave to cool. Once cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. When you are ready to serve, gently reheat the sauce in a saucepan until piping hot.
If you’re serving the sauce at a dinner party, or simply want to make it that extra bit special, you can serve it as a foam. Reheat the sauce in a deep saucepan, then use a stick blender to aerate it. I find it aerates best if the sauce is just below boiling point. If the sauce is too thick, it will not foam, so if this is the case, add a dash more double cream to thin it down slightly. I also find adding a small knob of cold unsalted butter does the trick as fatty components help the sauce to aerate. As soon as the sauce is aerated and foamy, serve it immediately.