When you have friends over for dinner, what do you enjoy cooking for them? The words sharing, laughter, delicious, special, impressive and fun come to my mind. You want to enjoy the moment, accompanied by fine wines, good music and candlelight. The key to a successful dinner is cooking something that everybody will like, making them feel special, having bought the most sought-after ingredients from the best places possible. After all, you are showing your appreciation of their friendship through food.
That is what Ludovic Le Goardet is all about – sharing his passion for food. Ludovic is the charming chef at ‘Café Lavinal’, a gem of a bistrot located in the village of Bages, just by the gates of Pauillac. Home to the prestigious Lynch-Bages vineyards and estates, Chateau Lynch-Bages wine is a grand cru classé and a personal favourite of mine.
The village of Bages is my ideal weekly getaway in Médoc. You can’t get more excellence in one tiny square. There’s the Café Lavinal bistrot, the butcher Yves Bruneau (elected 5th best butcher in France by the Gault Millau guide), the amazing bakery and grocery store ‘Le comptoir d’Andrea’, the Bages bazaar concept store. These are the ingredients for a luxurious rustic retail therapy.
Ludovic is a bon-vivant from Fouesnant, Brittany. Growing up in a gourmet environment where his father was a baker and mother a ‘crêpière’ (pancake chef) – Ludovic was influenced at an early age to cook with love and joy, something you can really feel when you meet him. His cooking experience around France and Switzerland has given him an enthusiastic approach to food which is truly contagious. I particularly liked his story on how he had a two months vacation from his chef’s duties in Geneva, and instead of taking time off he ended up working in a trattoria in Rome. He fell in love with the food and wanted to learn the tricks of the signora’s cooking, so he offered to work in exchange for her culinary secrets. We spent an enjoyable afternoon in his kitchen at Café Lavinal, along with his sous-chef Lionel Luflade. Ludovic shared one of his favourite summer recipes – ravioles de langoustines à la sauce vierge (prawn raviolis with a virgin sauce). He said this was a typical dish he would cook for his friends on a Saturday night, something he chose because of his love for fresh langoustines from Brittany, and a virgin sauce inspired from his Roman holiday.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
2 kg langoustines/prawns (approx 36 prawns – shelled)
1 bunch basil (chopped)
1 carrot (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (sliced)
30 g pine nuts
30 g black olives (pitted and chopped)
250 g cherry tomatoes
A bunch of thyme
1 bay leaf
4 handfuls of rucola salad (for serving)
Fleur de sel
Piment d’espélette (Espelette pepper)
32 chinese ravioli/wonton pasta sheets
Remove the prawns from their shells – keep 16 prawns for the filling and 16 full prawns. Keep 4 prawns shelled (without the heads), and slice them in half (they will be used as a topping – see photos).
Part I – filling
Place half of the shelled prawns, 2 egg whites, 2 pinch of salt, pinch of Espelette pepper, 30 g chopped basil and 2 g fresh grated ginger (1 tsp) in a food processor. Process for 5 minutes until you get a smooth paste. Set aside for 1 hour in the fridge.
Part II – making the raviolis
On a clean surface, prepare pasta sheets. Scoop 1 tsp of prawn stuffing on the ravioli, place one prawn on top, followed by a sliced leaf of basil. Brush the borders with water and seal with another pasta sheet. Press together, firmed around each mound to make sure you have squeezed out all the air. Set aside in refridgerator for 15 minutes.
Tip: If you don’t want to waste the prawn shells and heads, Ludovic recommends making a consommé. Boil 1 liter of water, prawn shells and heads, one chopped carrot, one quartered onion, salt and pepper for 30 minutes. Discard the shells and heads. You can use this consommé as a base for a noodle soup with vegetables.
Part III – virgin sauce
Chop tomatoes in 4 quarters. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil, fry onions for 3 minutes, add ground garlic and pine nuts and fry for 2 minutes. Take away from heat. In a bowl, mix tomatoes and onion mixture, add olives, basil, season with salt, pepper and parmesan shavings. Mix gently and set aside.
Part IV – frying
In a large pan, heat olive oil and fry chopped carrots until golden. Drain the carrots and set aside. With the remaining olive oil, fry the sliced prawns flesh down for 3 minutes, then turn on the other side and fry for 1 minutes. Sprinkle with Espelette pepper. Set aside.
Part V – cooking the raviolis
Boil 3 liters of water with a few sprigs of thyme and bay leaf. Place raviolis in batches (8 at a time) in the boiling water, making sure they don’t stick together in the water. Cook for 5 minutes.
Tip: To keep the raviolis warm while you are cooking the next batch, place them on a deep plate covered in a ladle of boiling water and cover with cling film.
Place raviolis on a plate (4 raviolis per person), sprinkle with carrots, rucola, virgin sauce, fried langoustines on top, and drizzle with lemon, Espelette pepper, salt and pepper.