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This is the meal that inspired my friend Gines to insist that I start to write a diary of what I cook, which then led on to this blog, so I thought you would be interested to see the menu and recipes for this dinner.

The starter was Butternut Squash Ravioli served with Lemon and Sage Butter. The tartness of the lemon in the sauce cuts thought wonderfully the sweetness of the butternut squash. In the photo I have garnished the ravioli with some fried artchoke slices – just in case you were wondering what it was.

After a soft textured and saucy starter the main course needed to be something crunchy. I always have a selection of salads in the vegetable patch, so a crispy green salad to accompany a nice fat piece of grilled fish, salmon in this instance.

For dessert a grown up sundae. Vanilla ice cream, bitter chocolate sauce, rum soaked raisins topped with a coffee meringue and maple syrup. I see no shame in using a good shop bought vanilla ice cream as the basis for this type of dessert. Buy a sample tub from each of your local supermarkets to see which you like best, it may not be the one you expect. My favourite comes from a well known German supermarket chain.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RAVIOLI

For 4 people

The pasta – 40 grammes 00 flour

2 large egg yolks

good pinch of salt

The filling – Half a medium sized butternut squash

30 grammes butter

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

an egg white

50 grammes grated cheese

Salt and pepper

Another egg white for sticking the ravioli

The sage and lemon butter

                   50 grammes butter

                   grated zest and juice of half a large lemon

                    teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage

To serve – finely grated parmesan cheese

Firstly make the pasta. Put all of the pasta ingredients into a small food processor and blitz until you have a lumpy dough that will stick together. Remove dough and form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge until needed.

The filling. Peel and deseed the butternut squash and cut into rough cubes about 2cm square. Place in a saucepan with the butter. Cover and gently stew in its own moisture until tender, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking.When done put in the food processor and puree. Add the egg white, breadcrumbs and seasonings. Pulse to mix. Add the grated cheese and pulse again. Check seasonings. Put aside in the fridge for the breadcrumbs to absorb the moisture and bind the mixture.

Using a pasta machine roll the pasta in the usual way and roll into thin sheets – number 7 on my machine.  Cut into squares of the desired size – mine usually end up about 5 cm square. Put a blob of the butternut mixture in the centre of the squares, brush with egg white around the edges, put another square on top and gently squeeze the edges together. Dust liberally with flour and put in a tray in the fridge until needed.

Prepare the sage and lemon butter. Put all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover until needed.

All the above can be prepared some time in advance. Shortly before serving bring to the boil a large pan of water to which you have added salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. When boiling add the ravioli – they will only need three or four minutes to cook. Meanwhile put the sage and lemon butter on a low heat and swirl regularly to combine the ingredients. You do not want this to boil, only heat enough to amalgamate the ingredients then turn off the heat. Drain the ravioli and add to the pan containing the butter and swirl around to coat the ravioli.

Serve on warm plates and sprinkle with finely grated parmesan.

SOPHISTICATED SUNDAE

 Vanilla ice cream, raisins soaked in rum, bitter chocolate sauce topped with a coffee meringue and maple syrup. This turned out to be an absolute wow with my guests. Remember to put your sundae dishes in the freezer to chill them down at least two hours before they will be needed. They look so pretty with the frosting of condensation on the cool glass and help keep the sundae from melting before it gets to your guests.

For  coffee meringues for four, beat 5 egg whites until really stiff having added about half way through the beating half a sachet of instant expresso coffee powder. To this I beat in 250 grammes of caster sugar.

To bake the meringues, heat the oven to 180 degrees F. Line your baking tray with baking paper and make mounds of meringue. This amount of mixture made 14 – more than was needed – but they do keep.

Once the oven is hot put in the meringues and turn the oven down immediately to 140 F. Bake for one hour by which time they should be crisp and crunchy on the outside and still a bit gooey on the inside. Let cool before removing them from the tray and using or storing.

It is very easy to make your own chocolate sauce and it gives you control over the sweetness or richness that you want for your dish.

For this sauce put a couple of heaped tablespoons of good cocoa powder – the unsweeted one – in a small saucepan and add black coffee bit by bit to make a thin sauce. At this stage add a dessert spoon of brown sugar. Heat slowly until the sauce comes to the boil. Continue cooking on a low heat for 20 minutes stirring regularly. The sauce will thicken and darken during this cooking time. If you think that it is too thick add a bit more coffee. Taste the sauce and add more sugar to your taste if you like but stir the sugar in well to dissolve it.

Once cooled this sauce will keep quite a long time in a jar in the fridge. It can also be frozen for an intense sorbet. If you want a richer sauce to serve hot you can add a knob of butter at the beginning.

To assemble the sundae start with a spoon of the vanilla ice cream, a dribble of chocolate sauce, a spoon of raisins with some of their rum. Repeat these layers then top with a coffee meringue and a drizzle of the maple syrup. Enjoy!

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