I’ll probably never dine in London again. Not that I wouldn’t want to, but because our younger daughter lived there for the last four years, we have been lucky enough to visit multiples times, taking advantage of London’s fabulous gastropubs and restaurants.
We visited her this past July, to get our last opportunity to see her in situ before she moved back to the states. So then there was the matter of picking the final restaurant destination for our last meal in London.
The restaurant-choosing burden is always on me, which is probably because I’m controlling when it comes to planning the restaurant itinerary when we travel. Also, no one else in my family understands the concept of making reservations. But in any case, this was a difficult decision.
My daughters had given me a little book called “Where Chefs Eat” for Christmas a while back, and I turned to this book for inspiration.
And that’s how I came about to choose Bistrot Bruno Loubet for our final London meal.
I had never heard of Bruno Loubet, but his bio is impressive. He opened the restaurant, in the Clerkenwell district, in 2010. After only four years, the restaurant needs some spiffing up and somewhat of an upgrade, but the space itself is really nice, with a beautiful bar and various seating areas, including one outside.
This is a shot from the website of the bar area in its heyday. Now the chairs are pretty scuffed up and fabric is worn.
Knowing me, it’s probably the shot of those purple bar stools that made me want to go to this restaurant, other than it was recommended by other chefs and the menu looked fabulous.
So Bistrot Bruno Loubet is where I enjoyed Mr. Loubet’s beet ravioli, which turns out is one of his most popular dishes. I discovered this tidbit because after getting home to the states, I ordered his cookbook “Mange Tout,” which translates to eat everything! And there was the beet ravioli recipe in the cookbook. Yay!
This is the photo of my ravioli at the restaurant that evening. Gorgeous, isn’t it? I started with grilled octopus, and ended with these. Seriously a fabulous menu.
Now, I know that food bloggers aren’t sitting around wondering why I haven’t had a fresh pasta post on my blog, but I haven’t. And it’s not because I don’t know how to make fresh pasta. Honestly, It’s because I got tired of making it.
When I was a personal cook for a family for 8 years, I made tons of pasta. And I think I burned myself out. Plus, I also lent my pasta maker to a neighbor and never got it back. That didn’t help. Or perhaps I said, “Keep it. I never want to see it again!”
But to prove to you that I actually used to make pasta, I want to show you this photo that my daughter will hopefully not see because she will be mad at me. But she’s 8 years old and making her own pasta. She looks like a cross-eyed nut, but she was a great pasta maker. She loved to choose flavors, like thyme and cayenne.
I’m so happy that Mr. Loubet’s beet ravioli inspired me to buy another pasta maker, because these ravioli are exquisite. This could be my last meal, if I had a choice in the matter, and hopefully not because I’m on death row.
The recipe is quite involved. Not difficult, just involved. But because I remember how good these ravioli were, I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible, and this is what I did.
based strongly on Bruno Loubet’s recipe in Mange Tout
makes about 40 ravioli
3 beets, washed, dried, trimmed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 ounces cream cheese (the original recipe called for ricotta)
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan (the original recipe called for 2)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and bake them in the foil package for 2 hours. Let them cool.
Peel the beets, then chop them up.
Place the chopped beets in a food processor and pulse 4-5 times. You want finely diced beet, not mush.
Place the beets in cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl. Tie up the beets, then weigh down and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day you will have about 1/4 cup of beet juice.
Pour the beet juice into a small pot, and add the balsamic vinegar. I also squeezed out the cheesecloth to get a bit more juice into the pot.
Over very low heat, reduce the beet-balsamic mixture until it’s almost like a syrup; set aside. It will eventually look like this:
Empty the cheesecloth and place the beets in a medium bowl.
Meanwhile, add the cream cheese and grated cheese to the beets and stir well. When the beet-balsamic syrup has cooled, add about 1/3 of the amount, or about 1 tablespoon, to the filling and stir well; set aside.
The next thing to do is make the pasta dough. I don’t want to have a pasta-making tutorial because it would make this post too long, plus there are plenty out there. Go to Stefan’s blog Stefan Gourmet for his tutorials. He’s got a really light hand when it comes to making pasta – especially filled pasta. Plus it’s really challenging to take photos with dough and flour on your hands.
The pasta dough recipe I made was about 2 cups flour, 2 eggs plus 2 yolks, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Use a little water, if necessary, to make the dough the proper consistency. You can always add flour to dough, but you can’t add water to it.
Stir the egg and olive oil mixture gradually into the flour until the liquid is completely incorporated. Turn out onto a slightly floured board, knead a minute, then wrap up in plastic wrap and let sit at least 30 minutes to rest.
Hook up your pasta maker and make sure it’s stabilized. You don’t want it moving around while you’re rolling out sheets of pasta.
If you’re new to using a pasta maker, it’s important to start with the widest opening, which is typically the #1 position. As you knead the dough and work on it to make it thinner, move the position narrower and narrower by adjusting the number. You don’t have to make the pasta sheets the thinnest possible, but I did because I’m making ravioli.
Have a small bowl of water handy, and a cookie sheet or platter sprinkled with a little bit of flour for your ravioli. Then cut your pasta dough into 4 even pieces; you’ll be using one at a time.
Begin putting your dough through the pasta maker, folding it over, which essentially kneads it and smooths it out. Work the sheet thinner until you’re happy with it. Use a sprinkling of flour if you feel it’s necessary.
Once you’ve made a couple of sheets, and they’re not sticking to your workspace, place evenly-sized blobs of beet filling, evenly spaced, on one length of the pasta sheet.
Dip your 5 fingers into the water bowl, and then tap the water around each beet filling. You can also give the lengths of the pasta edges a little water. This just helps make the pasta stick together. Fold over the sheets lengthwise, and press the dough together, trying to avoid air pockets. You can make square ravioli, but I chose to make round.
I placed the just-cut ravioli on the platter, then continued with the remaining pasta sheet. Half of the dough made about 20 ravioli.
Have a large pot of water on the stove already warming, and now is the time to turn the heat to high. Have a cloth-lined platter nearby for the cooked ravioli, and a spider sieve for catching them.
When the water is at full boil, slip about half of the ravioli into the boiling water. Within 3 minutes they will rise to the surface, at which point you can remove them with the sieve and place them to drain on the platter. Repeat with the remaining ravioli.
I only prepared 20 ravioli, because I’m the only one who eats beets. In fact I shared them with my neighbor. With the other half of the dough I made fettucine for my husband. Isn’t it pretty? I think I have a renewed outlook on making pasta!
To finish the recipe, here’s what I did (double the amount for all 40 ravioli):
2 ounces butter
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
Finely grated Parmesan
Coarsely grated black pepper
Finely grated Parmesan
Red wine vinegar
Truffle oil, or olive oil
Melt the butter and brown it in a large skillet. Add the bread crumbs and stir well.
Quickly but gently add some ravioli to the butter mixture and toss them. Place them on a serving plate, and continue with the remaining ravioli.
Sprinkle them with coarsely grated pepper and some Parmesan.
Because Mr. Loubet’s presentation was so beautiful, I did something similar. I used spinach leaves and chiffonaded them, to produce little ribbons, and put them in a small bowl. I added a few drops of red wine vinegar, and a few drops of truffle oil. Using my fingers, I tossed the ribbons in the vinaigrette, then placed some of them in the middle of the circle of ravioli. And I added salt.
There was something about the beet flavors, the browned butter, and the truffle oil that just went fabulously together.
The filling is very beety and creamy. And it’s pretty.
Oh – and something else. After you’ve made up your plates with the ravioli, salad, and toppings, drizzle on the remaining beet-balsamic syrup over the ravioli. That’s the piece de resistance!
note: The recipe calls for wild rocket instead of spinach, but I would have no idea how to get my hands on some. Plus, He also sautés sage leaves to top these ravioli. Since I use sage in a lot of pasta recipes, I decided to see what all this would taste like without the sage. And to me, it’s not necessary.