Three course diner: ravioli, risotto and floating islands

A delicious three course diner cooked for guests consisting of:
Ravioli filled with ricotta, pine nuts and parmesan in browned butter
Risotto with mascarpone and parmesan; grilled green asparagus and parma ham; lollo biondo and cherry tomatoes with balsamic dressing
Floating islands
All for 4-6 persons

Ravioli filled with ricotta, pine nuts and parmesan in browned butter
You can find my ravioli recipe over here.
For the filling roast 25 grams of pine nuts, mix with 200 gram ricotta, a few tablespoons of grated parmesan and a grinding of black pepper. You will probably have a bit left (it is always difficult to estimate the amount of filling that goes into ravioli) but it is delicious the next day combined with some courgette. Shape the ravioli any way you like, I made small squares. Cook them in boiling water, then toss in a hot frying pan with butter, to toast them slightly. I served them very simple on a plate with a drizzle of the butter. If you want to make this dish in advance, place the formed ravioli on a plate and cover with cling film. Set aside at a cool place until ready to cook.

Risotto with mascarpone and parmesan
You can read about making risotto here, here and here. Make risotto with 300 g arborio and 1 liter stock (homemade vegetable or chicken stock is best, but you can also use store bought stock of good quality (which I did this time)). Finish the risotto with a few tablespoons of mascarpone, a generous amount of grated parmesan and a grinding of pepper. Taste to check the seasoning, add salt and/or pepper if necessary. Serve with the grilled green asparagus and parma ham on the side. If you want to prepare this dish in advanced, cook it until the finishing step; when ready to serve heat the risotto on low heat and finish.

Grilled green asparagus and parma ham
Cut a few cm from the bottom of the asparagus (fresh and/or thin ones only need a small bit of the storkremoved, be with larger and/or older ones a bit more generous with what you cut off). Peel the asparagus; some people suggest that this is not necessary with green asparagus, but I find that they need to be very small and thin to not need peeling… no one likes to have a mouth full of fiberous stringy bits. Boil them for a few minutes, then grill for a minute in a very hot pan. This gives the asparagus a nice, sweet and slightly charry finish. Meanwhile fold the ham into rosettes (use any raw ham you like/have available, I used parma). Place the asparagus on the plate next to the risotto, garnish with the ham rosettes and a few shavings of parmesan cheese (use a potato peeler for this). If you want to prepare this dish in advance, peel the asparagus and store them in cold water. You can also already make the ham rosettes and parmesan shavings.

Lollo biondo and cherry tomatoes with balsamic dressing
Very simple. Wash the lettuce, tear in pieces, halve the cherry tomatoes (you can do these things in advance). When ready for serving, mix the lettuce and tomatoes, sprinkle with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. Mix well and serve immediately.

Floating islands
I had some trouble with this recipe, because the instructions were not perfect and the ratio of ingredients is slightly off. The amount of custard is perfect for a rich dessert for 4-6 persons, but you have a lot more meringue than necessary. There is also a lot of caramel, I think you could do with halve a recipe. Also, it is important to not have the milk boiling when you poach the meringues, this will give a big mess and it also makes the meringues disgusting. And make sure you don’t place to much meringues in the pan, the recipe suggest that 6 large dollops will fit, but I think 4 medium dollops is really the maximum. Luckily, in the end it all turned out very well and everyone thought the dessert was delicious, so it is certainly worth it to prepare. But keep in mind, it is really rich, so don’t serve it if you already had a large and/or heavy appetizer and main course.

Slightly adapted from Raymond Blanc – Echt Frans koken
For the poaching liqor
1 liter full fat milk
250 ml cream
2 vanilla pods (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)

For the meringue
8 egg whites
275 g sugar

For the custard
8 egg yolks
75 g sugar
the milk in which the meringue was poached

For the caramel
3 tbsp water
150 g sugar

Flavour the milk. Pour the milk and cream into a large pan of 30 cm diameter and 7 cm deep and bring to simmering. Slice the vanilla pods lengthwise and scrape the seeds out of them. Add both the seeds and the pods into the milk (you can rinse the pods after simmering and place them in a jar of sugar to create vanilla sugar; or blend them to a paste and use as extract). Or add the real vanilla extract. Leave to simmer 5 minutes.
Make the meringue. Whip the egg whites to slightly foamy, then gradually pour in the sugar while mixing. Keep mixing about 10 minutes (with an electrical hand mixer) until the mixture is shiny and has firm peaks.
Poach the foam. Use a large spoon to scoop 4 medium dollops of the meringue into the lightly simmering milk. Poach 5 minutes, then turn over very carefully (I used a slotted spoon) and poach for another 5 minutes. The milk should be barely simmering, not boiling!!! When ready, use the slotted spoon to place the poached meringues onto a baking tray. Use the remaining meringue for another 4 dollops, or for making dried meringues (dollop on a lined baking tray and bake in an 130C oven until firm).
Making the custard. Sieve the milk and cream used for poaching into a pan. Bring to a simmer. Mix the egg yolks and the sugar in a large bowl. Pour the simmering milk on top of the egg yolk mixture, while mixing. Pour back into the pan. Heat 4-5 minutes on low-medium heat until the custard thickens. Keep mixing the whole time. The custard is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour back into the bowl and keep mixing for a while to cool the custard slightly (otherwise it could still split). Leave to cool further, place in the fridge if you like really cold custard.
Making the caramel. Pour the water and sugar into a pan. Place on medium heat until it forms a syrup and then turns to caramel. Don’t stir, and don’t let the caramel get to dark, it will cook slightly further when you take the pan of the heat.
Presentation. Pour the custard in individual serving bowls or in a large bowl. Carefully place the poached meringues (with help of a slotted spoon) on top of the custard. The poached meringues are the islands that float on a sea of custard. Drizzle the meringues with the still hot caramel.
You can make both the poached meringue islands and the custard in advance (up to a day). But making and drizzling the caramel is a last minute job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *