Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Scallop and crab ravioli with basil oil, tomatoes and fennel fronds

When I cooked crab for this blog a couple of months ago, it made me realise that I really don’t eat enough of it. It ticks all of the boxes, with wonderful sweet flavour, great sustainability and reasonably priced. On that occasion I served it very simply, boiled and then eaten with fresh bread and lemony mayo. While this was delicious, it also inspired me to think of loads of other ways to use it; crab tian, crab roll, crab linguine, crab green thai curry... you get the picture! 

Crab ravioli is a really lovely way to make the most out of fresh crab, with light fresh summery flavours. Cooking a fresh live crab and then making pasta may seem like a major hassle, especially for a starter, but there are loads of ways that you can turn it into a quicker meal. When I tested the recipe for this blog I made it as a midweek, after work meal. To save time, the crab can be cooked in advance, or you can buy one that has been already cooked and dressed from a decent fishmonger. Once you have this, the only time consuming thing is making the pasta, but after a few practices this process speeds up dramatically. To make the meal really quick, you can even make the ravioli well in advance and freeze it until needed. This would be great for when having friends over as all you have to do is thaw it out and prepare the finishing touches. 

Skinning tomatoes and adding fennel fronds may also seem like too much work, but it is all worth it. By discarding the bitter skin and seeds you are left with just the sweet flesh, and the texture harmonises with everything else on the plate. The fennel adds a subtle, fresh flavour and makes the dish look delicate and inviting. 

Scallops and crab are both very delicate flavours, and mixing them with lemon, chilli and herbs lets that flavour really shine through. As with sourcing anything, try and find local, independent suppliers who will often be able to give you the best quality produce. I only use a little of the brown crab meat in this recipe, spread the leftovers on hot toast with a squeeze of lemon.

Serves 4 


For the pasta:

400g strong 00 flour
4 eggs
salt and pepper

For the filling:

1 crab, cooked, white and brown meat removed
8 scallops
2 small red chillies, finely chopped (or to taste)
2 lemons, juice only
Small handful parsley, finely chopped 
40g butter, melted

To finish:

4 tomatoes
1 small chilli, finely chopped
Large handful fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juice only
Fennel fronds 
Rocket leaves (optional)

Make your pasta by putting the flour, eggs, a good pinch of salt and olive oil in a food processor, and blitz until the mix looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Tip everything out onto a floured surface and knead together until the dough has an elastic texture but is not sticky. Knead in a little flour if necessary. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least half an hour to rest.

While the pasta is resting, make the ravioli filling. Put all of the white crab meat and 2 tbsp of the brown meat into a bowl, and add the chilli, parlsley, half the lemon juice and salt and pepper. Mix well and stir in the cool melted butter. Taste the mixture before you add the raw scallops and adjust with the remaining lemon, you want to slightly over-season the mixture to cater for this. Chop the scallops, but not too finely as you want the cooked filling to have texture. Mix everything together for a final time and set aside.

After you have made the filling and once rested, remove the pasta dough from the fridge. Using your pasta machine, roll the dough through until it’s at it’s finest setting and you are left with a long sheet - you want the finished ravioli to have nice thin pasta.

Roughly mark on one of the pasta sheets with the pastry cutter that you are using for your ravioli. Carefully place a spoonful of the filling mixture in the middle of each marking. Brush a little water on the pasta sheet around the filling and then place the other sheet on top. Gently seal the pasta around each pile of filling, making sure that no air bubbles are left. Using the pastry cutter, cut through the pasta around each filling until you are left with the finished ravioli parcels. If you don’t have a pastry cutter then you can just use a knife - traditionally they are square shaped anyway. Dust with a little flour and place on greaseproof paper; they can now be refrigerated until needed or frozen.

Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Score a small cross in the bottom of each tomato and drop into the water for 10-20 seconds, or until the scores in the skin start to expand down the sides. Remove the tomatoes from the water and peel off the skin, then cut into quarters. Spoon out the seeds and discard with the skin. You will now be left with the flesh. Cut into very small squares and put into a small bowl. Add the finely chopped chilli, salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Taste, season and set aside. 

To make the basil oil, blitz the basil with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and a little extra virgin olive oil in a food processor until finely chopped and smooth. Adjust the seasoning and pour into a bowl. 

Bring a large saucepan of very salty water to the boil. 

When ready to cook, drop the ravioli into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. When cooked, remove from the water onto heated plates. Quickly drizzle over the basil oil and spoon over the tomatoes, making sure each ravioli gets some. Decorate with the fennel fronds and rocket if using, pour over a little more extra virgin olive oil and serve.

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