RETURN TO THE RIVER CAFE

Exclusively in 'The Sunday Review' we publish the second of four tempting collections of recipes from the new 'River Cafe Cook Book Two'

WEEK 2: PASTA, POLENTA, RISOTTO

PASTA has been the success story of the decade. There is a generation of young people who would rather eat pasta as a meal than meat and Rose Gray says that it's the favourite food of her three grand-children. Pasta is very satisfying and it's simple to cook.

The River Cafe's Rogers and Gray don't see pasta as a meal in itself. They are great exponents of the selective Italian style of eating which offers more variety and interest, in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon way of piling everything on to one plate.

They will start with antipasti (which are very easy to put together) and then have a small amount of pasta, followed by a simple main course, say grilled meat or fish with a single vegetable.

Pasta offers a wide range of interesting recipes, using pungent fresh herbs and piquant ingredients such as anchovies. Rogers and Gray hope, through their new book, to wean people off the idea that pasta can only be eaten with a tomato sauce. Although commercial dry pasta is quick and convenient, home-made fresh pasta is the gourmet option. It is challenging to make your own and, with a little care, you should be able to produce something really silky and smooth. The only way to do this is, firstly, to use the very best and finest flour, Italian Tipo Zero Zero or '00' (this is not a strong flour, as used in bread-making, but a weak flour that is low in gluten). It is available at good supermarkets at last. And secondly, fresh eggs. Without super-fresh eggs, you shouldn't even try making pasta, they say.

Fresh pasta can be made without the help of a pasta machine, but it is slow work kneading it. It is a good idea to experiment before acquiring one and then, confident of the results, though, you can buy one without begrudging the cost of the investment.

If you do buy a pasta machine, it is essential that you choose a sturdy one.

Polenta is another Italian basic to master. You must allow sufficient time and the shortcut of buying quick-cook polenta is not recommended. At the River Cafe they go to great trouble to get the best - an organic variety of polenta, Bramata, available at good Italian stores. MICHAEL BATEMAN

PASTA

FRESH PASTA

This is made in a food processor or mixer fitted with a dough hook. It is important to use Italian pasta flour labelled Tipo '00' (a soft, wheat, finely ground pasta flour) and only very fresh eggs. Break one to check; the yellow must be firm, with the white clinging to the yolk.

Makes about 1kg (2lb 4oz)

700g/a good 1lb 8oz Tipo '00' flour

4 medium-sized fresh organic eggs

9 medium egg yolks, from fresh organic eggs

1 tablespoon Maldon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

semolina flour for dusting

Sieve the flour into the bowl of a food processor or mixer. Then add the eggs, egg yolks, salt and olive oil to the centre. Using a dough hook, knead slowly, allowing the mixture to come together.

Keep the food processor or mixer on a low speed for 10 minutes. As it is mixed the ball of dough should become smooth. If the dough is too dry to hold together, add another egg.

Dust your work surface with semolina flour. Divide the dough in half, and knead each half by hand for three to four minutes until completely smooth.

Wrap each of the balls of dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for one-and-a-half to two hours.

To prepare your dough for cutting into either tagliatelle or ravioli, put it through a pasta machine. Put each ball through at the thickest setting 10 times, folding the sheet into three each time to get a short thick strip, and then turn it by a quarter, and put it through the machine again. After 10 such folds the pasta feels silky. Only then reduce the setting gradually down to the thinness required.

If rolling by hand, hand-knead and hand-roll the dough the equivalent of 10 times through the machine. Do this in a cool place so the pasta does not become dry.

SPINACH PASTA

If you were in Italy you would be able to buy pre-prepared little balls of cooked spinach.

Makes about 1kg, 2lb 4oz

700g/a generous 1lb 8oz pasta flour

2 medium fresh organic eggs

9 medium-sized egg yolks, from fresh organic eggs

2 egg-sized balls of blanched spinach, squeezed dry and finely chopped

1 tablespoon Maldon salt

semolina flour for dusting

In your processor or mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour with the eggs and the egg yolks, then add the spinach and salt. Keeping the mixer on a low speed, knead the dough in the same way as for fresh pasta (left). If the dough seems too sticky, add a little extra flour. The dough should become silky after about 10 minutes.

Remove on to a floured surface, and cut into two. Knead each ball of dough separately by hand for three to four minutes. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill for one-and-a-half to two hours. Then prepare the spinach dough as for fresh pasta.

SPINACH PASTA WITH RICOTTA AND SUMMER HERBS

The colour of the pasta and the freshness of your own garden herbs give this dish its appeal.

Serves 6

1 recipe spinach pasta (see above)

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

semolina flour for dusting

Parmesan, freshly grated

For the olive paste:

250g/9oz stoned black Nicoise olives

2 garlic cloves, peeled

3 tablespoons fresh basil

3 tablespoons fresh marjoram

For the filling:

750g/1lb 10oz ricotta cheese

150g/5oz Parmesan, freshly grated

4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh marjoram, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

3 organic eggs

120ml/4fl oz double cream

For the nutmeg butter:

225g/8oz unsalted butter, clarified

1 nutmeg

To make the olive paste, put the olives, garlic, basil and marjoram into a food processor and pulse-chop. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

To make the filling, beat the ricotta with a fork to lighten and separate it. Add the Parmesan, basil, marj-oram and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Take about half of this herb ricotta, and place in the (cleaned) bowl of the food processor. Pulse-chop to combine

and then add the eggs one by one. Finally, add the cream and mix in. You will have a bright green, fairly liquid mixture, which should be carefully folded into the remaining ricotta mixture. Season to taste.

Roll the pasta out by hand on a work surface, dusted with semolina flour, to a large sheet, as thin as possible; it will not matter if there are a few holes or tears. Cut the edges to straighten; you should have a piece of about 30cm (12in) square. If you have a pasta machine, roll out two strips and join to make the same size by brushing the edges with water to seal.

Spread the olive paste along the edge of the side nearest you, and then spread the ricotta mixture over the rest of the sheet to a 1cm (12in) thickness. Scatter with a little grated Parmesan. Starting with the olive edge, gently roll the pasta up into a large sausage, about 6cm (212in) thick. Wrap the roll in a large tea towel as tightly as you can, securing with string to help keep the roll in shape. (If you do not have a fish kettle, the best cooking pot for this long roll, you will have to cut the roll in half and make two tea-towel wrapped parcels.)

Fill the fish kettle or other suitable pan with water and bring to the boil. Add salt generously and poach the pasta roll for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the nutmeg butter. After clarifying the butter, grate the whole nutmeg into it, and season with salt and pepper. Heat gently.

Drain the pasta roll and remove from the cloth. Place on a board and cut into generous 2cm (34in) slices. Ladle the nutmeg butter over, and sprinkle with some grated Parmesan.

RAVIOLI WITH POTATO AND ROCKET

This is a very comforting dish. Use a good variety potato: Rogers and Gray use Desiree. Potato and rocket like each other. Use pecorino Romano, a salty cheese with the same crystalline formation as Parmesan.

Serves 8

1 recipe fresh pasta (see previous page)

semolina flour for dusting

100ml/312fl oz extra virgin olive oil

50g/2oz aged farmhouse pecorino Romano cheese, grated

200g/7oz rocket, washed, dried and roughly chopped

For the filling:

2kg/4lb 8oz red-skinned Desiree potatoes, scrubbed clean (do not peel)

Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2-3 small dried red chillies, crumbled

1.15kg/2lb 9oz rocket, washed and dried

100g/4oz aged farmhouse pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Cool. Scrape off and discard the cooked skin, and put the flesh through a coarse mouli.

Heat the oil in a large heavy thick-bottomed pan and fry the garlic and chilli until the garlic is just turning gold. Add 800g (1lb 12oz) of the rocket, stir briefly, then put on the lid and immediately remove from the heat. This allows the rocket to wilt in the steam generated. Cool, then drain off excess liquid and chop the rocket finely. Roughly chop the remaining raw rocket for the filling.

In a large cold bowl, combine the mashed potato, chopped wilted rocket, chopped raw rocket and the pecorino. Season with black pepper and salt to taste (but be sparing with the latter as the pecorino is salty).

Divide the pasta into balls, each one the size of a large egg. Using a pasta machine, roll the balls out into long strips (do this one at a time to prevent drying) as thin as possible. Cut in half if too long.

Put tablespoons of filling about 6cm (214in) apart on the sheet, in the centre of the half nearest you, so that you can fold the other half over to make a "parcel" of about 5cm (2in) square. Brush around the fillings with a pastry brush dipped in water before folding, so that the envelopes you are making will seal properly. Using a pasta cutter, seal each envelope by cutting on three sides (the fourth is the fold). Dust a large plate or tray with semolina flour and carefully place the ravioli on it, making sure that they do not touch. You should have about 50.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and put in the ravioli. Lower heat to a simmer: the ravioli will rise to the surface after 30 seconds, but according to how thin you managed to roll the pasta, they will take between three to five minutes to cook. Test on the join where the pasta is thickest; it should be al dente.

Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, grated pecorino and a scattering of chopped fresh rocket.

TAGLIATELLE CON MASCARPONE E PANGRATTATO

A surprising, unusual, delicate dish.

Serves 6 as a starter

600g/1lb 6oz fresh tagliatelle (see recipe on previous page) or 450g/1lb dried-egg tagliatelle

500g/1lb 2oz mascarpone cheese

4 organic egg yolks

200ml/7fl oz extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

150g/5oz Parmesan, freshly grated

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

For the herb pangrattato:

1 ciabatta loaf, bottom crust removed, made into coarse crumbs

200ml/7fl oz extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh marjoram, chopped

Slowly mix the mascarpone and egg yolks together in a food processor. Add the oil, drop by drop, as for mayonnaise. Stir in the chopped garlic and Parmesan. Season.

Heat the oil for the pangrattato in a small saucepan and add the whole garlic cloves. Cook gently until a deep golden colour, then remove the cloves. Add the breadcrumbs to the garlic-flavoured oil and cook until golden. Just before they turn brown, add the herbs. Immediately remove the breadcrumbs and herbs from the oil using a slotted spoon, and drain on kitchen paper. Cook the tagliatelle in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain. Mix with the mascarpone and generously cover with the herb pangrattato.

TAGLIATELLE WITH WALNUT SAUCE

For those who have been weaned off the idea that tomato is the only flavour for pasta, this sauce, with walnuts, resembles a pesto in texture.

Serves 6 as a starter

600g/1lb 6oz fresh tagliatelle (see recipe on p39) or 450g/1lb dried-egg tagliatelle

2kg/4lb 8oz wet walnuts, shelled and bitter skins removed

breadcrumbs from 1 loaf ciabatta bread, stale if possible, soaked in 150ml/5fl oz milk

3 garlic cloves, peeled

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

150ml/5fl oz olive oil

100g/4oz Parmesan, freshly grated

4 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped

75g/3oz soft unsalted butter

Keeping a few pieces of walnut whole for serving, pound the remainder together with the garlic in a mortar. Add a little salt and then the parsley, and continue to pound.

Squeeze most of the milk from the breadcrumbs (keep the milk). Add half of the breadcrumbs to the mortar, and mix in. Add the olive oil gradually, plus a little of the milk to loosen the paste, stirring continuously; the sauce must be well mixed. Finally, add half the Parmesan and basil, then season. The result is a thick green sauce.

Cook the tagliatelle in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly and return to the saucepan. Add the softened butter and stir in the sauce.

Serve with the rest of the basil, Parmesan and a few pieces of uncrushed walnut.

LINGUINI WITH FRESH BROAD BEANS

This is a lovely pasta dish that should only be eaten when broad beans are young and tender, at their best.

Serves 6 as a starter

400g/14oz podded broad beans

1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

250ml/8fl oz hot water

400g/14oz linguini

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

100g/4oz Parmesan, freshly grated

In a large heavy saucepan cook the onion, garlic and parsley slowly in the oil for five minutes or until very soft. Add the broad beans and stir for several minutes. Add the water and cook until the beans are tender. Add salt and pepper. Put half of the beans in the food processor and pulse- chop to a coarse puree. Return to and mix with the whole beans. Cook the linguini in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, then add to the sauce and stir. Check for seasoning and serve with the Parmesan.

SPAGHETTI WITH MUSSELS

This is a dish Rogers and Gray came across last year on a visit to the Marche region of Italy. You need to chop the mussels, the cook told them, so that every piece of spaghetti is coated.

Serves 6 as a starter

3kg/6lb 8oz mussels, cleaned

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 small dried red chilli, crumbled

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

150ml/5fl oz white wine (Verdicchio Classico)

1kg/2lb 4oz ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

400g/14oz spaghetti

extra virgin olive oil

In a large heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat half the olive oil. Add the mussels, cover, and cook briefly over a high heat until all open which will take about five minutes. Discard any still closed. Drain, retaining the liquid. When the mussels are cool remove them from their shells and chop. Reduce the liquid by half, strain and add to the mussels.

In a separate large pan heat the remainder of the oil, add the garlic, chilli and oregano, and cook briefly until the garlic begins to colour. Add the wine, reduce for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring regularly, for 15 minutes until reduced. Add the mussels, juice, seasoning and parsley. Heat up the sauce.

Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain. Add to the sauce. To serve, pour over extra virgin olive oil.

BUCATINI WITH ANCHOVIES AND PANGRATTATO

The pangrattata, breadcrumbs fried in oil with garlic, gives the dish texture and flavour.

Serves 6 as a starter

8 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

3 dried red chillies, crumbled

18 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

zest and juice of 2 lemons

400g/14oz bucatini

1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

For the pangrattato:

500ml/17fl oz olive oil

10 garlic cloves, peeled and kept whole

1 ciabatta loaf, bottom crust removed, made into coarse crumbs

To make the pangrattato heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the garlic turns golden, then discard. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan and cook until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper, then season.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently fry the garlic until it begins to colour. Add a third of the chilli and the anchovies, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and the black pepper. Cook the bucatini in plenty of boiling salted water and drain. Add to the anchovy sauce. Serve on individual plates and sprinkle with the lemon zest, the remaining chilli, the pangrattato, and the parsley.

Penne with zucchini and ricotta Ricotta cheese is used a lot as a stuffing for ravioli, but it is unusual to sprinkle it over pasta. Serves 6 as a starter 1kg/2lb 4oz small young zucchini Maldon salt freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped 400g/14oz penne 350g/12oz ricotta cheese 1 bunch fresh basil, shredded 100g/4oz Parmesan, freshly grated

Trim the zucchini, then blanch whole in boiling salted water for about two minutes. Drain, cool and slice at an angle, about 1cm (2in) thick. In a large heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and cook the garlic until very soft but not brown. Add the zucchini slices and toss over a low heat for four to five minutes. Cook the penne in plenty of boiling salted water, then drain well. Add to the zucchini then crumble in the ricotta. Season, toss together and add the basil and Parmesan.

POLENTA

Wet polenta with chicken stock and cavolo nero Cavolo nero is a tender and tasty black-leafed cabbage which turns bright green in the cooking. Rogers and Gray introduced it here and now Sainsbury's stocks it in 28 stores. You can buy the seeds too. Serves 6 250g/9oz bramata polenta (organic polenta flour) 8 heads cavolo nero Maldon salt freshly ground black pepper 4 garlic cloves, peeled 1.25-1.5 litres/2-212 pints chicken stock 200g/7oz unsalted butter 150-200g/5-7oz Parmesan, grated

Put a large pan of water on to boil for blanching the cavolo, and season with salt. Prepare the cavolo nero by removing any large discoloured or tough outer leaves. Remove the central stems and discard. Wash the leaves well, then blanch with the garlic f

or five minutes until tender. Drain and pulse-chop the cavolo and garlic in the food processor. Season. Put the polenta in a large jug so that it can be poured in a steady stream. Bring the stock to a simmer in a large thick-bottomed saucepan; it should come halfway up the sides of the pan. Pour the polenta into the stock slowly in a continuous stream, and

, using a long-handled whisk, whisk constantly so that lumps do not form, until completely blended. The polenta will start to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring with a spoon to prevent a skin forming, for about 40 to 45 minutes. The polent

a is cooked when it falls away from the sides of the pan. Stir in the butter, Parmesan, cavolo nero, black pepper and some salt if needed.

RISOTTO

Crab risotto Use a good fish stock, and preferably buy a live crab and boil it yourself. Serves 6 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped 2 small fennel bulbs, finely chopped (keep the leaves, chop and set aside) 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped 10 fennel seeds, crushed 2 small dried red chillies, crumbled 300g/10oz risotto rice 1 x 800g/1lb 12oz tin plum tomatoes, drained 1.5 litres/212 pints fish stock Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper 75ml/212fl oz Italian oaked Chardonnay 1 x 2.25kg/5lb live crab, boiled, cooled, and white and dark meats separated juice of 2 lemons 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped extra virgin olive oil Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and fennel and fry together, stirring, over a low heat until soft and beginning to colour. Add the garlic and cook briefly, then add the fennel seeds and chilli. Stir, and as soon as the garlic tur

ns in colour, add the rice and stir to coat. Add the drained tomatoes and break them up into the rice to allow the tomato to be absorbed before you start to add the stock. You can raise the temperature a little, but always stir to prevent sticking. Heat the fish stock, and check for seasoning. Add the Chardonnay to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or until the wine is absorbed. Reduce the heat and over a low flame, gently stirring, add the hot fish stock, ladle by ladle, stirring constantly, allowing each ladle to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. Continue until the rice is al dente, usually about 20 minutes. Stir in the brown crab meat with the lemon juice first, then the white meat and the parsley and fennel leaves, folding in gently, just sufficiently for the crab meat to heat through. Check for seasoning, and serve the risotto with some extra virgin olive

oil on the top.

Risotto with fennel and vodka The Italians like to add alcohol to a risotto, usually extra dry vermouth. This is the River Cafe's adaptation, using vodka impregnated with herbs. It gives a bit of a kick at the end. Serves 6 3 fennel bulbs, with their green tops 2 garlic cloves, peeled 112 small dried red chillies 112 teaspoons fennel seeds Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper 250ml/8fl oz vodka juice of 112 lemons 1 litre/134 pints chicken stock 100g/4oz unsalted butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped 300g/10oz risotto rice 100g/4oz Parmesan, grated

Remove and discard the tough outer leaves of the fennel and finely chop the remainder of the bulbs. Chop the fennel tops and keep separately. In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic, dried chilli and fennel seeds with one teaspoon Maldon salt. In a bowl, mix the vodka, lemon juice and chopped fennel tops to allow their flavours to combine. Heat the chicken stock, and check for seasoning. Melt half the butter and the olive oil in a saucepan, then add the chopped onion. Cook for a minute or two, keeping the heat low, then add the fennel seed paste from the mortar and let it cook briefly before adding the chopped fennel bulb. Let this cook slowly until soft. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat each grain. Start to add the hot stock, ladle by ladle, stirring continuously, and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. Continue until the rice is al dente

, usually about 20 minutes, then stir in the remaining butter and the vodka, fennel tops and lemon juice mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Lemon risotto with basil Many of their dishes are based on the traditional, but this is definitely modern. Scrub those lemons. Serves 6 1 litre/134 pint chicken stock Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper 125g/412oz unsalted butter 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped 1 head celery, white parts only, chopped, plus leaves 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped 300g/10oz risotto rice 150ml/5fl oz dry vermouth 6 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil juice and zest of 4 large washed lemons 100g/4oz Parmesan, freshly grated 5 tablespoons mascarpone cheese Heat the chicken stock, and check for seasoning. Melt half the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Gently fry the onion and celery stalks until soft. Add the garlic and celery leaves, stir to combine, then add the rice. Stir the rice to coat, then add the vermouth. Allow it to bubble and reduce, then add the hot stock ladle by ladle over a gentle heat. Stir constantly and allow each ladleful to be absorbed before adding another. When the rice is al dente, usually after about 20 minutes, stir in most of the basil, the lemon juice and zest, half the Parmesan and the mascarpone. Stir once; the texture should be creamy. Serve with a few basil leaves and the remaining Parmesan. NEXT WEEK MEAT, FISH AND VEGETABLES

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