Box of “La Mère Maury” ravioles: Le goût du souvenir
To me, the Raviole box pictured above says it all: “The Taste of Memories“. Ravioles bring me back to my childhood in Romans, in the South-East of France, where they are a specialty. They have been protected by a “Label Rouge” since 1998, under the appellation “Ravioles du Dauphiné”. (The Dauphiné is an old French province that used to include the following current departments: Drôme, Hautes-Alpes and Isère).
Ravioles are similar to their Italian cousins, the ravioli, but much smaller and filled with a mixture of fresh eggs, fresh cheese, parsley and Emmental or Comté (quite simply the best hard cheese on the planet). The most common way to serve them is poached with a bit of grated cheese on top, but they are actually very versatile and can also be baked, fried, eaten in salads, etc. The range of fillings has expanded a lot too with a choice of goats cheese, porcini, basil, foie gras, salmon, snails and even chocolate!
The raviole goes back as far as the Roman times, but its current name appears in the 13th century. It then described a “piece of dough filled with chopped turnip (“rave” in French) eaten at Lent”. The name originates from various Provence dialects (raviula, raiolo, revioro, etc).
Ravioles haven been shown to be consumed in Romans from 1807 onwards. In the 19th century, they were prepared for big occasions by special cooks: the “Ravioleuses”, who would travel from house to house to make ravioles. One of them was Marie-Louise Maury, the first, around 1880, to serve at her café the hand-made ravioles to her customers. It quickly became a very popular dish. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the ravioles de Romans appeared on restaurants menus, were produced industrially and sold beyond the Dauphiné borders.
When I came back to Romans for Christmas last year, my sister offered me a book entirely dedicated to Ravioles. All the recipes looked really good, though some of them might have had the Mère Maury raise an eyebrow or two, like the Spinach & Ricotta ravioles with a quinoa, prawns and pink grapefruit salad, or the Chicken & ginger ravioles with coconut milk and lemongrass!
Once I received my raviole mould from France (merci M’man!), I decided to start simple and stick with the traditional recipe: faisselle (fresh curd cheese), comté and parsley. This recipe didn’t mention eggs for the filling. I replaced the faisselle with fresh ricotta, which I mixed with some cream to make the texture lighter and moister and replaced the comté with Swiss gruyère.
But first I had to make the dough, by mixing together: 250g of flour, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon of salt and 80ml of cold water.
1. Sieve the flour
2. Whisk the egg together with the water
3. Mix the flour with the salt, add the egg mixture and work the dough until it becomes smooth and supple, to obtain a texture similar to an earlobe! (sic)
4. Let it rest for 30 minutes
5. Divide the dough into 8 parts to obtain 8 small balls. Spread each of them of your floured work bench with a rolling pin to obtain 8 very thin sheets of dough.
6. If you own an Italian pasta machine, use it to make the pasta sheets as thin as possible.
I started with the rolling pin but got really frustrated and quicky switched to the pasta maker, which was so much easier! The only problem was that the rectangular shape of the dough didn’t match the square mould, so I couldn’t use the mould to its full capacity.
Once I had all my sheets ready, I prepared my filling by mixing the ricotta, gruyère and parsley with a fork.
After sprinkling flour on the mould, I placed a sheet on top of it and put tiny amounts of the filling on the sheet following each square of the mould.
I then placed another sheet onto it, which I sealed with the rolling the pin.
I then detached the ravioles sheet from the mould and placed them in a bowl and started the operation again.
I then placed them in boiling water (the tradition requires to use a chicken stock), and drained them as soon as they came back to the surface (after a minute or so).
Drain and serve immediately with grated cheese!
These ravioles are still slightly bigger than the authentic ones but the taste is pretty damn close! Now the next step is to get better and faster at making them and explore all the other recipes. I have got my eye on the Goats cheese ravioles with a capsicum and piment d’espelette sauce… or a Ravioles in a clear shitake and leek broth… the sky is the limit!