Ingredients: [Vegetable Ragu] small handful dried porcini mushrooms, 3 carrots peeled and diced, 4 sticks celery diced, 1 large red onion diced, 1 leek diced, 2 cloves garlic sliced, 5 portabello mushrooms finely chopped, 5 x 400g tins plum tomatoes, large bunch of basil. [White Sauce] 285ml single cream, 500ml crème fraiche, 4 anchovy fillets, handful grated parmesan. [Other] sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, pamesan cheese, 500g cannelloni tubes, olive oil. [Spinach] 680g fresh spinach, grated nutmeg.
I finally managed to select something other than fish! I was delighted to be cooking “Honeycomb cannelloni” (page 76, Cook with Jamie).
First step… find a saucepan or cooking pot suitable for the job. The recipe clearly states that you need a saucepan/pot with a diameter of 20cm and a depth of 12.7cm so the cannelloni tubes can stand upright.
After some searching I found a cooking pot that I thought was suitable… unfortunately it wasn’t quite deep enough but It was too late to return the pot so I pressed on!
I started preparing the vegetables for the ragu. Peel and dice the carrots, leek, celery, onion and portabello mushrooms. Cook the vegetables in a splash of olive oil until soft and add the soaked porcini, portabello, garlic and a wine glass of water. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the tinned tomatoes and basil stalks. Reduce for 45 minutes then add the basil leaves.
The ragu was relatively easy to make but took a lot longer than expected. By the time I’d prepared all the vegetables and reduced the sauce almost 2 hours had past. Despite following the recipe to the letter my ragu hadn’t reduced to the consistency in the photo so I ladled off some of the excess tomato juice (which made a lovely tomato soup).
Next I prepared the spinach by wilting it in a splash of olive oil and seasoning with sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and nutmeg.
The final step before assembly was the white sauce. I mixed the single cream, crème fraiche, anchovies and parmesan. The photo in the book showed a creamy, thick white sauce, what I created was runny and had the consistency of single cream. I contemplated this for quite some time, and even considered going to the supermarket to buy more ingredients, but decided it was all part of the learning curve and challenge.
Finally I was ready to assemble the Honeycomb cannelloni. I poured 1 inch of white sauce into the cooking pot, sprinkled in a handful of parmesan, added the spinach and half the ragu. I pushed the cannelloni tubes into the layers and worked in circles creating the honeycomb pattern.
Unfortunately, as my cooking pot was the wrong size, I ran out of cannelloni tubes leaving a hole in the middle. I spooned the remainder of the ragu into the cannelloni tubes and finished with white sauce and parmesan.
Poped it in the oven for 45 minutes and served!
The outcome was surprisingly tasty and despite wrong consistencies and measurements the final dish worked well. The cannelloni tubes were filled with a delicious tomato ragu and a creamy cheese sauce.
Each mouthful was a different taste combination and the anchovies gave the white sauce an extra dimension.
This dish also helped me understand the process of turning recipe into reality a lot clearer. One of the key lessons learnt is to use the recipe as a guide rather than an exact process.
I need to start using common sense and interpret the recipe, photos and descriptions to achieve the right textures and consistencies. It’s not enough to blindly mix the ingredients in the hope that the outcome will match the photos in the recipe.
I also learnt the importance of preparation before cooking. In previous recipes I’ve tried to prepare parts of the dish whilst cooking others – making the process far more stressful than it needs to be.
Despite the little mishaps along the way this proved to be a very unusual take on cannelloni and I’d definitely try this dish again!