"What," I hear you cry, "is the difference between ragoût and ragù? (except, of course, for enabling you to use different types of fancy accented Latin over the letter u)". Well, it's simple really. Ragoût is French for a slow cooked stew and ragù is an Italian meat based sauce commonly served with pasta. It's usually made from minced or finely chopped meat, which has slowly cooked down with vegetables and liquid - stock, passata, wine. Ragù is basically what my mum (and probably your's) would call Bolognese sauce, but we can't allow you to use that name here, especially today of all days, when the letter "R" is on the menu.
I bought the rabbit from Moen's of Clapham, my favourite London butcher's by a mile. Not only are they incredibly skilled and knowledgable, but they are unfailingly helpful and irrepressibly jolly. They boned the bunny for me, then bagged the bones for me to take home for my stock pot. Rabbit is quite a subtle meat, so be generous with herbs, seasoning and wine. I popped the bones in a large pan filled up with cold water, an onion, carrot, a couple of sticks of celery and a leek all cut into chunks, along with a scattering of peppercorns, a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and a couple of bay leaves to make stock. I brought the water up to boiling and then turned the gas down and left the stock to simmer for a few hours. It can be used for Richard's Roquefort and rocket risotto and various other bits and pieces from R night's menu.
Rabbit ragù ravioli
For the rabbit ragù
1 rabbit, boned (you can ask your butcher to do this for you, but ask to keep the bones for stock)
3 rashers of smoked back bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 large glasses of red wine or, even better, ruby port
2 level tbsp tomato purée
A sprig of thyme
A couple of bay leaves
1 pint of rabbit stock (or, if you haven't made it yet, chicken stock)
Salt and pepper
Place the onion, celery, carrot, bacon and garlic in a large saucepan with a generous glug of olive oil and lightly sauté until soft. In the meantime, finely chop the rabbit meat, including meat leg, kidneys, liver and heart into small pieces and add it to the pan. Stir it all for a few minutes to brown the meat. Add the tomato purée and stir again for a couple of minutes before adding half the port, stirring to deglaze the pan. Once the first glass has evaporated, toss in the second and leave to reduce by half. Add the stock and herbs and leave to simmer for about an hour and a half or until the sauce has thickened and the meat is tender. Season to taste and take the pan off the heat and leave the rabbit to cool completely.
200g '00' pasta flour
2 whole eggs or 4 egg yolks
A pinch of salt
Sift the flour and salt together and make a big mound on your worktop. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Whisk the egg a bit with a fork, or your fingers, and start to incorporate the flour into the egg. Ditch the fork and start bringing the dough together and knead for about 10 minutes. Use the heal of your hand to stretch it away from you and folding it over and repeating this action. You'll be left with a beautifully silky and elastic dough. Wrap it in cling film and leave the dough to rest for about 20 minutes, before rolling out.
Extra flour, for dusting
Cold rabbit ragú
If you have a pasta machine, use it. Otherwise a rolling pin will suffice, though you'll have to put some real elbow grease into getting it thin enough. Cut the pasta dough in half and wrap the half you're not using back up in cling film. Flatten it with your hand until it's about half an inch thick and put it through the pasta machine at the widest setting. Fold the two ends inwards and put it through the machine again. Repeat this another couple of times, dusting the dough with flour if it starts to get sticky. Repeat this with each setting, 3 or 4 times, dusting whenever necessary, until your pasta is 1 - 1.5 mm thick.
place the long sheet of pasta on a flour dusted surface and trim off the rough side edges and cut the sheet in half. Cover one half of the pasta with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.
Place a heaped teaspoon of filling in the centre of one end of the pasta strip, leaving a 2 inch margin from the edge. Repeat, leaving about 2 inches between each mound of ragú. Once you have got to the end, brush around the mounds with a water dipped pastry brush. Lay the other half of the sheet of pasta over the top. Cup your hands and press gently around each mound of ragú until each is tightly sealed all the way round. Cut the ravioli to shape, either with a knife or a cutter and place on tray generously scattered with semolina. Repeat with the whole process with the second half of the dough. You can cook the ravioli straight away, or pop in the fridge for a few hours until needed.
Once ready to cook, boil some generously salted water in a large saucepan before plunging in your ravioli and cooking for 4 - 5 minutes, or until they have risen to the surface. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and serve simply, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a crack of black pepper and a little Parmesan, if you like.