Monday, April 04, 2005

Paper Chef #5

The Paper Chef event is akin to the Iron Chef television series. Whilst the latter has top-notch chefs from around the world competing against the appointed Iron Chef Italian/French/Japanese/Chinese in Kitchen Stadium, this internet event has amateur to semi-professional cooks beavering away in their home kitchens trying to make a masterpiece out of four randomly selected ingredients.

I have meant to participate in this even ever since it started but practicalities (moving, Mardi Gras, etc.) have conspired against me so far. Finally, I have managed to dip my toe into this competitive pool; I've seen some of the entries from prior winners and the quality of their blogs - it's intimidating.

This month's Paper Chef #5 features the ingredients:
Goat cheese (chevre or any cheese made from goat's milk)
Sherry vinegar
Green Garlic

Green garlic is supposed to be the "topical/seasonal" ingredient. Hmm...I guess that definition only applies to the Northern Hemisphere. Green garlic has nary a mention Downunder at the moment. Persian fairy floss seems to be the ingredient du jour according the the frou-frou food magazines. It is also definitely not seasonal because we are going into autumn this side of the world and it is a spring vegetable.

I also had difficulty finding a definition of what green garlic purportedly is. The picture I found via google depicts it looking somewhat like spring onions. Epicurious also does not have a definition for green garlic. In the absence of clear guidance I invoked The Spirit of Paper Chef and made a substitution. I have used garlic chives instead of green garlic.

Winter Garlic Chives

These chives are the winter version, i.e. they are from the stems of garlic about to go to seed. The flowers have been removed and instead of being flat the stems are turgid and round. They still possess a very noticeable garlic aroma - they stunk out the bf's car on the way home and there were numerous (bad) jokes made about me indulging excessively in leguminous vegetables. I hope this substitution was indeed within the spirit of the competition.

My entry for Paper Chef #5 is:

Garlic chive and Goat's Cheese Ravioli with Sherry Vinegar Reduction and Prosciutto Shards

First I cut the chives into rounds and parboiled them. These will later be incorporated into the ravioli filling; I wanted to soften the stalks so that they didn't clash texturally with the soft goat's cheese.

Parboiling garlic chive rounds

I used an approximate 1:1 by weight combination of chevre and goat's feta from Tasmania. The proportion of chive to cheese is approximately 2:3 in terms of volume but this is all estimated and to taste. The filling was seasoned with a moderate amount of black pepper.

Ravioli filling

Whilst preparing the filling I had already started the sherry vinegar reduction. Approximately 600 ml of sherry vinegar from Simon Johnson was vigorously simmered with 100 g of yellow lump sugar until reduced to 3 tablespoons. Personally, I think Simon Johnson is overpriced for a lot of things, but they usually have all of the world's most esoteric non-Asian ingredients. I choose to use yellow lump sugar because I wanted a moderately sweet taste without excessive caramel overtones at the start because these would be produced during the reduction. Brown sugar would have been too caramel flavoured whilst white sugar would be too sweet. This process took the good part of an hour and stunk out the kitchen with vinegary fumes. When doing this, it's best to reserve some vinegar and make the reduction too sweet and thick, then thin and sour to taste.

Caramelised sherry vinegar

I confess to using store-bought lasagne sheets. I'm essentially a very lazy cook and this Paper Chef event has seen me attempt the most finicky work ever in the kitchen. I drew the line at making my own pasta though. I used lasagne from Pasta Vera on Harris St which make their pasta fresh daily and on bronze dies and rollers. I don't know if that makes a difference, but the food magazines assure me that it does. I nearly cheated and used their Goats Cheese and Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli; but I thought that would definitely disbar me from the competition. Is it still a Paper Chef entry if all the entrant did was reheat and pour sauce on top?

I placed approximately 1.5 teaspoons of the filling onto a pasta rectange (~12 x 7 cm) and sealed the edges with water. These parcels were boiled for 5 mins then drained and tossed with a tiny amount of unsalted (sweet) butter.

Boiling ravioli

I first encountered this method of serving vinegar reductions at Aria restaurant. The sherry vinegar is now a very thick and viscous paste with the consistency of toffee. I painted the glaze in a long arc following the edge of the plate.

Painting the reduction

Ravioli and sherry vinegar reduction

I grilled the prosciutto until crisp then lightly crushed them in a mortar and pestle. Some shards were reserved for garnishing. The prosciutto crumbs were sprinkled on the ravioli which were then anointed with lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil. There is a garnish of rocket at the side.

Anointing the ravioli

Rocket garnish

And voilà, my entry for Paper Chef #5:

Garlic Chive and Goat's Cheese Ravioli with Sherry Vinegar Reduction and Prosciutto Shards

Did it taste good? The bf said that he'd pay to eat this as an entrée (appetizer) at a restaurant. High praise indeed.

Garlic chive and goat's cheese ravioli filling, reduction and prosciutto

The texture of the filling viz. the chive rounds and goat's cheese were complimentary - soft cheese and tender chives like tiny perfectly-cooked asparagus. The flavour of the goat's cheese and garlic chives also went well - I'd forgotten how strongly flavoured goat's cheese is and needn't have worried about the chives overpowering it. The reduction was sweet but sour - a nice compliment to the richness of the ravioli whilst the prosciutto provided crunch and a hit of smoky saltiness. The lemon-infused olive oil I could have omitted or used a lot more lemon rind. Next time I will use store-bought lemon oil instead of trying to make my own. I think a garnish of watercress leaves would have been prettier: round shapes to compliment the square ravioli.

So, good luck to the other entrants and I hope my readers enjoyed this entry. If you know me personally, maybe, just maybe I might make this for you. I've still got uncooked ravioli in the freezer and the reduction is in a jar in the fridge.


Julia said...

I'm absolutely bowled over, Carpal Fish. And yes, I wouldn't mind paying for your ravioli too. It looks so professional and sounds gorgeous. Love the way you painted the reduction on the plate. Stroke of artistic genius there. :)

David said...

Hey Julia! Thank you so much! Yes, I was quite inspired this time round. But then again, I have a lot of great gourmets (yourself included) around me to be inspired by.

Rachael said...

Well, I may not be the judge, but you have my vote! Looks and sounds DELISH...

Nic said...

Incredible. This dish looks so good!

Barbara said...

I love what you have done with this months ingredients. Looks brilliant.

Fatemeh Khatibloo-McClure said...

Hey Carpal, hop on over to

and take a gander!

Alice said...

You got my vote too! I think I'll be making this dish with the left over ingridients I have. Sounds yum!

Sam said...

It never occurred to me to buy lasagne for homemade ravioli purposes. It has been so long since i made pasta, tell me, is there anything special you did to seal the edges?

Tseen said...

heya CP. holy smokes. you are a foodie of the 1st order. that looks amazing and now I just gotta go check out the whole paper chef deal (being a die-hard iron chef watcher)...

Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

Congrats on your win! Your dish certainly looked good to me and would have gotten my vote. I really think I'll include pictures of mine next time. It made a big difference in my opinion to see the finished product and the work that went into it.

Owen said...

Wow! I second all the comments! I really really appreciated the photos and comments about plating - that's a particular failing of my own. I too would pay good money for this one. Particularly impressive because it was a real quality crop of entries this time around!

pinkcocoa said...

Wow. This is absolutely lovely. Just look at the presentation! I won't mind paying for it either. ;-)

David said...

Hi all, thank you so much for your lovely comments!

It's inspiring/intimidating to have all this attention focused on my little blog - I'll have to buck up and post more often to keep up the standard. (Had I know you were all arriving I would have tidied up more; there's bits of unused code lying around everywhere).

Sam: my days of being a mobile wonton making factory for my parents' Chinese takeaway have held me in good stead for dough packaged food parcels. I sealed these ravioli by brushing a wet finger along the edge with water then pressing lightly: the idea is to barely dissolve a film of pasta which re-sets itself upon contact with the other edge, but some people use beaten egg. I find that can be a little messy. I've used lasagne sheets to roll cannelloni as well because I detest stuffing filling into long tubes. (I also broke too many of them).

Owen: plating is not my strong suit either - but I'm trying to improve. At the moment my answer to everything is to throw a handful of chopped fresh herbs (leaves not stems) on top.

Thank you all again and see you soon!

T said...

so i was a bit late to go through all the wonderful paper chef entries but i must say, this is brillant! congratulations on your win :-)

Anonymous said...

Holy moley Carpal Fish, your dish looks so appetising and artistic, you really deserve to win. Congratulations!

Marco said...

Look delicious, i have to try it!!

David said...

Hey Tanvi, welcome to my (oft-sporadic) blog. Thank you very much. I used some of the frozen ravioli on Saturday night again. Still delicious, even better still because the garlic chives had infused through the cheese even more. But I will have to remember to freeze individually because it was all stuck together.

Hey Umami, thank you too! I'll try to do the icon proud.

Marco - welcome. It's an easy-ish dish to try. The thing with filled pasta (or filled anything) is not to put too much in or it will bulge and and spill everywhere when it's cooked.

Kuponuts said...

Your ravioli looks really good. And I think the garlic chive will go well with the goat cheese both in texture and taste. The prosciutto is a nice touch as well. Well done!
Just some suggestions:
1. You could have cut the lasagne sheets into rounded triangles to fit better with the geometry of the plate. Also triangles tend to stack nicer than squares for presentation purpose.
2. Lasagne sheets tend to dry out very quickly, so maybe you should have toss the cooked ravioli in your lemon-infused oil so that the oil coats well. This will give the ravioli a smoother texture and the outer skin will not "sweat". You can probably use Simon Johnson white truffle oil for convienience and also variations.
3.The sherry vinegar reduction is very innovative. But I don't think that formed a bridge between your rocket garnish and your ravioli. I suggest using simply balsamic vinegar + olive oil + Tasmanian honey + soy sauce (you need to control the sweetness though) because dark vinegar goes well with ravioli (which is like Chinese dumplings) and salad vegetables especially rocket.

David said...

Hello kuponuts, welcome to my blog. I agree, triangles would have complimented the plate, but I preferred a rectangle to contrast with the plate shape.

I did toss the ravioli in some butter after cooking it. Coating the lasagnes sheets with oil before boiling ravioli would not have worked as the oil layer would have changed the texture of the pasta upon boiling. The standard method of preventing lasagne sheets from drying out is to cover them with a wet tea-towel when working with them.

A balsamic-based reduction would have been the natural choice for this dish, but I had to feature the Paper Chef ingredient of sherry vinegar - maybe next time I will try a balsamic reduction.

Comet said...

OMG Jack! I'm SOOO impressed with this blog and your award winning entry. If only I knew you were such a genius in the kitchen I would have made you cook for your accomodation when you were in Tokyo last year!!

I am looking forward to the day when we are in the same city again so I may be able to sample one of your fabulous dishes. I may even consider visiting you in London just for the privilege :)