Thursday, October 20, 2016

Theo Randall Italian Cuisine at The Intercontinental

One of London’s best Italian restaurants, Theo Randall is also one of the most famous chefs in England. Inspired by the trattorias and wood-fired pizzas of his childhood trips to Italy, Randall developed a life-long passion for Italian regional cuisine. Randall's restaurant career began at Chez Max in London, where he trained in classical cuisine for four years, then moved to California to work at Chez Panisse under chef Alice Waters for a year, upon which he returned to the UK and spent the next 17 years as head chef at London's celebrated River Café where he gained his first Michelin star - and also trained a young Jamie Oliver. During that time, Randall was credited with creating many of the restaurant's celebrated dishes and made The River Café an establishment that "changed Britain’s restaurant culture for good". Always wanting to open his own restaurant, Randall left when a space became available at The Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane. Opened in 2007 as part of a £60 million refurbishment of the hotel, his eponymous restaurant celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with a refreshed sleek modern light wood aesthetic, including a ‘kitchen table’ and updated menu to complement Randall's signature dishes. 

The chef is a master of selecting the finest ingredients at the peak of in-season freshness and showcasing them in simple assemblies that transmit the essence of Italian cooking where an appreciation of ingredients can transform a simple pasta course into something sensational. Authentic pasta dishes such as Taglierini al Piscatore and Agnolotti di Piccione are made fresh every day using Italian tipo 00 flour and eggs sourced from Genoa, where the chickens are fed a diet of carrot and corn resulting in a stronger coloured yolk and a pasta of rich yellow. As we browsed the menu, a platter of picture-perfect bruschetta with vibrant red roasted Campania tomatoes and warm squishy rosemary focaccia were brought to the table, and without a doubt the best I've ever enjoyed. The Sformato di Fontina, a baked Fontina cheese soufflé with spinach, cream and Parmigiana, was light as air and absolutely heavenly. Having received Theo Randall's cookbook as gift earlier in the year, it provided the impetus to savour his cooking first hand, and we were so very glad we did.

Chef Theo Randall

The modern bar at Theo Randall

In keeping with the Theo Randall colour scheme, a chartreuse candle on our table at the bar

A bowl of juicy ripe Cerignola olives and salted almonds

Our bartender mixing our Martinis

Ketel One Vodka Martini with a Cerignola olive

Hendricks Martini with a slice of cucumber 

The stylish new modern interior of Theo Randall at The Intercontinental

A linen napkin set with the TR logo

The dinner menu featuring classic Italian cuisine

Grilled oven roasted Tomato Bruschetta and warm squishy Rosemary Focaccia

A Vigneti di Belisario Verdicchio di Materica from Le Marche

Soft and full with a golden hue, the Verdicchio was delicious

Sformato di Fontina, a baked Fontina cheese soufflé with spinach, cream and Parmesan

Minestrone verde with fresh borlotti beans, carrots, celery, basil, tomato and swiss chard 

Pojer e Sandri Rosso Faye Vigneti delle Dolomiti from the Trentino-Alto Adige

An elegant Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Ligroin blend 
with notes of blackcurrant and ripe fruit 

Controfiletto di Manzo: Chargrilled sirloin of Hereford beef with fritto mist of delicata squash, zucchini, violet and Jerusalem artichokes with fresh red chilli and parsley 

Chef Theo in the kitchen

Handmade Taglierini al Pescatore with monkfish, trout, squid, prawns, clams, mussels, 
tomato, fresh chillies and parsley

A cup of Darjeeling Tea

Theo Randall's signature Almonds, Pistachio and Hazelnut Biscotti and 
Chocolate Truffles

A Birthday gift from my husband, Theo Randall's 'My Simple Italian' cookbook was the impetus we needed to go to his restaurant while we were in London

Minestrone Primavera
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Theo Randall

5 1/2 oz asparagus, chopped
3 1/2 oz shelled fresh peas
3 1/2 oz shelled fresh small broad beans
5 1/2 oz fine green beans, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 head celery, finely chopped
7 oz waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm/½in cubes
18 fl oz fresh chicken or vegetable stock
2 fl oz double cream, optional
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 oz fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, finely chopped, crushed with a little salt
2 fl oz olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese 

For the minestrone primavera, blanch the asparagus, peas, broad beans and green beans in a pan of boiling salted water for a few minutes until cooked but with a crunch. Drain and set aside on a tray. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan, add the spring onions, celery and potatoes and fry for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Pour in the chicken or vegetable stock, then add the blanched vegetables. Stir in the double cream if using, and season with salt and pepper. Blend with a hand blender, but leave it chunky. For the pesto, place all the ingredients into a food processor with a tablespoon of water and blend to make a smooth pesto. Serve the minestrone in bowls with a drizzle of fresh pesto on top.

Ravioli with Butternut Squash, Marjoram, Sage and Butter
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Theo Randall

4 large eggs
150g of 00 flour
50g of fine semolina, plus extra for dusting

Ravioli filling:
1 small butternut squash
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tbsp of fresh marjoram, chopped
125g of unsalted butter
1/4 nutmeg, grated
100g of mascarpone
salt and pepper

1 bunch of sage, roughly chopped
100g of Gorgonzola dolce latte

For the pasta dough, add 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg to a blender with the semolina and flour. Gradually pulse the mixture until it forms a smooth, firm dough ball that is slightly sticky to the touch. If the dough is a little bit wet, add a little more flour. Split the dough into 2 portions, wrap in cling film and store in the fridge to chill.

Meanwhile, make the ravioli filling. Peel and de-seed the butternut squash, then cut into a small dice and add to a pan of salted boiling water until cooked through. Once ready, drain and set aside in a colander to cool.

Heat half of the butter in a pan until foaming, then add the garlic. Cook until soft, then add the butternut squash and chopped marjoram. Cook for about 10 minutes, gently mashing the butternut squash with a wooden spoon as it cooks. The mixture should dry out as the liquid evaporates; at this point, add the nutmeg, mascarpone and salt and pepper, stir well and leave to cool.

Remove the pasta from the fridge at least 1 hour before rolling out. Use a pasta machine to roll the pasta out as thinly as possible, ensuring the sheet is no larger than 12cm x 60 cm in size.

Place a heaped teaspoon of filling down the length of one side of the pasta, making sure there is enough pasta to fold over the mixture to seal the ravioli and leaving a 1-inch gap around each portion. Brush some water between the piles of filling to help the pasta seal, then fold the length of the pasta over the filling to meet the other edge. Using your 2 little fingers, gently press down the pasta around each ball of mixture to make a seal. Ensure there is no air trapped in the ravioli, or they will explode. Using a ravioli cutter or knife, cut out the ravioli and press each individual raviolo so the seal is tight and all the air has been pressed out. Set aside and repeat the process with the other ball of dough.

 Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the ravioli, cook for 3-5 minutes until al dente. Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan until lightly browned. Add the sage and Gorgonzola and stir though to form the sauce. Drain the ravioli, add to the pan of sauce and toss to coat. Divide the ravioli and sauce onto plates and serve immediately

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