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Hello, Ducks

25/04/2014 09:17 BST | Updated 24/06/2014 10:59 BST

I bought half a dozen duck eggs in my local deli the other day. Then I sat and looked at them.

Yes, my life is one long dizzy social whirl. Having got them I couldn't decide how to cook them.

I'd like to have done a simple dish of fresh asparagus and Jersey Royals topped with a poached duck egg, but neither the asparagus nor the spuds were in season yet.

A rummage in my store cupboard revealed a tin of confit duck legs, left over from last time I splurged in a French hypermarket. Duck meat and duck eggs. Perfect.

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For some time I have been meaning to make ravioli the easy way, using Chinese wonton skins. That was the plan anyway. Then I looked in the freezer and realised I had none left. Oh. This wasn't going well.

I know, I thought, I'll make my own ravioli. How hard can it be?

You know when they say all Italian grandmas make their own pasta using a rolling pin and wouldn't have a pasta machine in the house? All I can say is that the grannies must have biceps like Geoff Capes.

My first attempt (rolling pin and weedy biceps) was a disaster because I didn't roll it thin enough. The ravioli were like lead sinkers. I could have sunk a battleship, let alone a fishing line.

So I gave in and bought a pasta machine. The resulting ravioli were a rather peculiar shape and a bit wrinkly but the pasta was as light as a feather and the finished dish was voted a success by my guests.

Confit Duck Ravioli With Duck Eggs, Spinach and a Parmesan Cream

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Ingredients for the filling:

2 confit duck legs

200g ricotta cheese

20g Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta:

300g Tipo "00" flour (or plain flour) plus rice flour or fine semolina for dusting

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

1/2 tspn olive oil

For the Parmesan cream:

200ml double cream

40g grated parmesan

To serve:

450g spinach, cooked until wilted in 15g butter

Grated Parmesan and a few basil leaves or sprigs of parsley, to garnish

Method:

To make the filling, wipe all the fat off the duck legs and remove the skin. Mine were an alarming shade of pink but I think that's because they're marinaded in salt before being cooked in their own fat. I never said this was a diet recipe.

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Shred the duck meat then mix with enough ricotta to get a good filling consistency - I used about 200g.

Mix in the chopped parsley and grated Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in the fridge.

To make the pasta, either put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until it comes together.

Or put the flour in a heap on a large wooden board and make a well in the middle. Then break the eggs into the centre and beat them with a fork.

Add the salt and oil to the eggs and mix, drawing the flour into the beaten egg and incorporating it a bit at a time.

Either way, once it has all combined, knead it for around 10 minutes or until it feels elastic and voluptuously silky. Ahem.

Rest it in the fridge, wrapped well in cling film, for at least half an hour.

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Then put it through your pasta machine and roll it out thinly. Thinly, I say!

Put it on a large flat board dusted with rice flour or fine semolina (less easily absorbed by the fresh pasta dough).

Begin cutting it straight away as it dries out really fast.

Wrap any you are not working with in cling film or cover with a clean damp tea towel.

Taking one long piece of rolled pasta put small dollops of filling, about two finger-widths apart, down one side.

Brush the far edge with a little water, then fold the pasta in half lengthways to enclose the fillings, gently pressing out any air.

Using a ravioli stamp or small pastry cutter, press out your ravioli around the filling. You can re-roll any offcuts.

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Dust the ravioli with flour to stop them sticking to each other and lay them on a clean tea towel. Use immediately or freeze in a foil tray dusted with flour and cook from frozen.

To make the Parmesan cream, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over a medium heat then whisk in the Parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper.

Simmer for 3-4 minutes or until reduced to a thick sauce. Keep warm.

Just before you want to eat, put two pans of lightly salted water on to boil. In a third pan, wilt the spinach in the butter and keep warm.

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Put the ravioli in one pan of water and cook in batches for around 3-5 minutes or until they bob to the surface.

In the second pan, poach the ducks' eggs for about three minutes - don't overcook as the whites have more protein than hen's eggs and can become rubbery.

Serve the ravioli on a bed of spinach, with a poached egg on top, drizzled with the Parmesan cream. Garnish with a light dusting of Parmesan and a sprig of basil or parsley.

Eat, reminding yourself of how awesome Italian grannies are.

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