Occupying two shophouse units in the bustling Telok Ayer district is MICHELIN Plate restaurant Gaig, the first international outpost of the famed Gaig in Barcelona. As warm and inviting as the home of a Catalan family, the Singapore restaurant run by the daughter of celebrated chef Carles Gaig, Nuria Gibert, and executive chef Martí Carlos Martínez.
Passed through five generations of the Gaig family, the recipe for the restaurant’s signature Catalan cannelloni dates back to the restaurant's beginnings as the Taberna d'en Gaig in 1869. The creamy meat-filled pasta dish is traditionally enjoyed by Catalans during the Christmas season, particularly on December 26 when Saint Stephen’s Day is celebrated.
For Martínez, the smells and flavours of the dish transports him home. "Having cannelloni reminds me of being in my father's home town,” he reminisces. “The day after Christmas is a public holiday in Catalunya and we would celebrate Sant Esteve at my grandfather's house. My grandfather would be sitting at the end of the table, my father on his right and my aunty on his left... If I close my eyes, I can see this picture perfectly.”
Although tradition dictates that cannelloni be cooked with leftover meats like turkey or roast chicken from Christmas Day, the rendition at Restaurant Gaig is more indulgent with the use of beef chuck roll, pork collar, as well as the incorporation of foie gras. The meats are cooked low and slow and then used to fill tube-shaped pasta sheets which are then covered in creamy béchamel and baked. “You can add red wine when the meats are being stewed. This helps tenderise and flavour the filling,” the chef shares.
This is a dish that can also be prepped ahead of time. The meat filling can be prepared a few days in advance and kept chilled before the béchamel is added, says Martínez. On the day it is to be eaten, slather the filled cannelloni over with béchamel and pop it into the oven to serve. “And if fresh pasta sheets are not readily available, wanton skins make a good substitute!”
Gaig’s Traditional Cannelloni
Serves 8 (3 cannelloni per person)
24 fresh pasta sheets or lasagne sheets, cut to approx. 9cm by 6.5cm
For the meat filling (makes 2kg):
1kg beef chuck roll
500g onion, sliced
100g foie gras
1kg pork collar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 litre water
Fine salt and ground black pepper to taste
For the béchamel (makes 1 litre):
1 litre milk
60g plain flour
For the truffle cream:
1 litre cream (35% fat)
20g truffle paste
To make the béchamel:
1. Bring milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to a boil.
2. In another pot, melt butter and add plain flour to make a roux.
3. Pour milk mixture into the roux and cook till the mixture thickens.
To make the meat filling:
1. Dice pork collar and beef chuck roll. Season both with the fine salt and black pepper powder.
2. In a pot with olive oil, pan sear pork collar till it is golden brown. Set aside once it is done.
3. In the same pot, pan sear beef chuck roll till it is golden brown.
4. Once the beef is browned, add back pork collar, sliced onions, water,
then stew for 2 hours.
5. After 2 hours, stir in the foie gras till it is mixed well.
6. Strain the meat and keep the juice.
7. Blend the meat and add the juice back in.
8. Add 250g of béchamel
9. Season to taste.
10. Store the meat filling in the chiller until it is needed.
Tip: If the dish is not ready to be served within the next few days, the meat filling may be kept chilled before béchamel is added. Add béchamel the day it is going to be served.
To make the truffle cream:
1. Reduce 1L of cream to half.
2. Add truffle paste and salt. Mix well.
3. Reserve till needed.
1. Lay a pasta sheet lengthways, scoop the meat filling onto the pasta sheet, about 1cm away from the edge, and roll into a cylindrical shape.
3. Lay the cannelloni on a baking tray and pour enough béchamel to cover them.
4. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes at 200 degrees. The surface of the cannelloni should be covered by the béchamel to prevent it from burning when baking.
4. Transfer onto a plate and serve with truffle cream on top.