Knead to Know (Continued….)

A Simple Pasta Recipe (by hand!)

– this is the recipe, as pictured, in my previous post

2 Eggs

1 Egg yolk

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Olive Oil

192 g Flour

32g Semolina

What you’ll need: pasta machine, sharp knife, two bowls, cling film, pastry brush, two baking trays and a delicious filling for your ravioli.

(Typically, pasta dough would be made on a spacious, clean work surface. However as this is a simple guide let’s do it in a bowl)

Sift your flour and semolina into a large bowl then make a well in the middle.

In a separate bowl add the yolks, eggs, salt and olive oil (*see below to add flavor at this point). Then use folk or whisk to beat ingredients.

Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the well and starting blending it together with the flour mix. It will seem too sticky and at this point I personally wondered if it could ever be a dough…but keep going! Add extra flour if this is the case or a drop of water if it is to stiff.

Kneading…

Once you have a ball of dough, it is time to knead! Very important to take time for this part of the process. Flour your work surface and make sure you have clean, dry hands.

Use the heel of your hand to roll out the dough with your fingers point to the sky, then use your knuckles to knead the dough back into itself in the shape of a ball. This is the chance to really put your heart and soul into the recipe- because you should repeat this for 10-15 minutes! (Great arm work out!)

Resting…

Put the dough ball into a plastic lock tight bag or bowl covered tightly in cling film, then rest for 30 minutes.

(During this time, set up your pasta machine, as mentioned in my previous post).

Shaping…

Roll the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick then trim the edges so it is in the shape of a big rectangle.

I then cut this piece into 3 equal rectangles.

Roll your first piece through the machine on its number 1 setting, then fold the pasta sheet in half and toll again. Then move onto setting no. 2… and so on. You want the pasta to be the width of the machine rollers by the end. It will be pretty long too, so you will need to clear a nice runway for it!

As per my last post, I rolled to thinly in one instance, so I personally would not go higher than setting no. 5 for ravioli! (Each pasta shape will be different).

Filling…

Move the pasta machine out of the way and stretch the rolled ravioli dough out onto the surface and have your filling ready along with a pastry brush and small pot of hot water (this is the glue to stick the edges together!)

Put a teaspoon of filling about 3 fingers apart, all the way along your pasta…. then brush lightly with water down the edge closest to you and down both sides of the filling.

Now, very carefully fold the top edge over the filling and stick down on the water’s edge (closest to you).

Cut down the centre of each gap and and using two fingers press (from the filling outwards) any air bubbles. Make sure each ravioli is firmly sealed and that no pasta filling has leaked out of the side.

I then used a frilled pastry cutter to trim off the edge and create uniform shapes of the same size.

Now you are either ready to place your home made ravioli in a pan of boiling water and serve

or

Place on a floured baking tray and cover VERY tightly until you are ready to cook.

To add beetroot to your pasta dough:

(3 beetroots used for the recipe measurements above)

Keep the skins on your beetroots, trims the leaves off and place on a parchment lined, piece of tin foil. Cover in olive oil and tightly wrap in the foil and put on baking tray.

Roast for 20-30 minutes in hot oven (around 200 C), or until you can put a knife right through them.

Once they are done, leave the beetroots to cool down before rubbing the skins off (I use rubber gloves for this as they can stain your skin).

Pop the cooled down, skinless beetroots in a blender and blitz until you have a great looking, smooth, puree.

*Add a few tablespoons of the puree in with the egg yolks and wet ingredients- then continue with the recipe for making dough as above.

(If you are not ready to make the dough then put the puree into a jar and keep in fridge. Use within two days).

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Knead to Know!

 The Highs & Lows of Making Fresh Pasta

The thought of making pasta from scratch, has always been a daunting one to me! The first hurdle being the machine, the second, making it produce something that vaguely resembles the texture & taste of the Italian staple….Well, for £20 I invested in a very smart looking Kitchen Craft Pasta Machine and it was not only simple to put together (with no instructions might I add) but also looks pretty damn professional too.

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I had it stuck in my mind to make a bright pink, beetroot ravioli for my dinner party, given the Valentine’s theme and the seasonality of the vegetable. A starter that I thought could be impressive and delicious. I have never made pasta before and so a little practice was necessary. Two days before the dinner party, I asked the chef in the restaurant I work what the best recipe would be for beetroot ravioli, to which he replied;

“Go with tagliatelle! Ravioli is going to really stress you out… it takes practice. Trust me.”

– needless to say, I didn’t listen. Stubborn as a mule, I decided I WOULD make ravioli and it WOULD be successful.

I finished work that night at 1am and unable to sleep (riddled with anxiety over this promise to myself) I make 3 batches of ravioli until 3:30 in the morning. “Madness!” I hear you say, but at least by the next day I felt much more confident in what I was doing and relaxed into the idea a whole lot more.

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I googled and googled prior to this, to see what the easiest recipe was out there. Increased desperation as I failed to find one that I thought was suitable;

“How to make fresh pasta?”

“How to make fresh beetroot pasta?”

“How to make fresh, beetroot ravioli?”

“When to add the beetroot in, when making fresh ravioli?”

“What is the best filling for beetroot ravioli?”

….endless! I became crazed with it, until finally, I ended up combining 3 different recipes. One was by Valentine Warner whose filling of beetroot, nutmeg and ricotta (with a sage butter sauce) was by far the simplest and most delicious sounding. Martha Stewart helped with the ‘when to add the beetroot’ part of the process and I used the measurements and technique given on an Italian Housewife’s blog (the Underdog prevailed!)

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The batches I made that night were rolled out, trimmed into rectangles and covered tightly in cling film ready to be put through the machine, fill and cook the next day- the final test!

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Beginners luck?

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So far, so good!

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What a joy to have in front of me a successful trial of ravioli making. I popped them into the water and there was none of the potential ‘explosion’ when they hit the boiling water. The filling stayed tightly in the pocket and colour stayed bright and vibrant.

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They even tasted pretty good too with the basic ricotta filling that I was using for these guinea pigs. This however, is as far as this success story goes…

The Chef is Always Right…

Morning of the dinner party and I follow the exact same steps. I make the pasta dough, cover in cling film and return it to fridge and get on with making the filling. Following Valentine’s recipe, I made sure to drain the ricotta well and the grated beetroot, aware that any excess water could cause damage to the pasta dough.

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At 5pm I start putting the doughy rectangles through the machine but I notice that one of them has formed a slightly hard skin… OH NO!!!  There was a small air hole in the cling film. Exposing the dough to air is a total no-no, you simply cannot work with it when it is dried out. I learnt this the hard way, I rolled it through the machine several times but it looked more and more like crusty playdough, with cracks all over it (I had a habit of not putting the lids on my playdough as a child incidentally so am all too familiar with this texture!) Not ideal. Luckily I had the other two batches and so feeling panicked, I hurriedly starting winding it through and thankfully it looked just as it had the day before.

For some reason, I had rolled the dough far too thin however (I am guessing you do not need to go to the smallest settings on the machine when rolling for ravioli?) so it was much harder to handle and kept sticking. I used flour where possible to help prevent total ruination and kept going. Roll out, fill, brush with water around the edges and fold. I was getting into a pickle because time was ticking… One hour later, I had 3 trays of ravioli’s that looked….well, not at all like they had when I tried it the first time. I decided I would remain optimistic,  put them back in the fridge (VERY tightly covered in cling film) and start to clean up the bright pink mess.

Friends arrive and feeling very anxious about the bloody Ravioli I start apologising in advance. Patiently they all waited at the table while I boiled 3 at a time (now worried they would explode or stick together). I could see the filling through the pasta on some of the rogue ‘thin’ pieces and because some of the water HAD leaked through, they were also sticky! Concurrently, I melted the butter in the frying pan in order to brown the sage leaves and yes, Chef was right, I was stressed! Finally, after 18 beetroot & ricotta Ravioli’s had gone to the table, in all of their flawed glory… the final two batches turned out perfectly. Lucky Emily and Skippy, the last to be served!

My friends all very politely told me that they tasted delicious and so with that boost of confidence (legitimate or not), I shall definitely be giving it another go. It is really fun when you take it slowly and when you get it right, it tastes far superior to anything you could buy in the shops.

There are a couple of lessons here for me though: either I cook better in the middle of the night and should only do so in future or I handle everything with a little more care and precision, check for air pockets, get a much drier filling and try not to lose my cool over the stove. The latter being the likely answer.

Click  here for the simple pasta recipe I used- https://shuffleinthepantry.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/767/
 
Why don’t you give it a try and let me know how your pasta turns out! 

Be My Guest!

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I love hosting and entertaining, getting friends together and enjoying food & drink in an intimate environment is my ‘happy place’! On Friday night, I held a dinner party for a group of my oldest girlfriends from school to celebrate Valentine’s day.

About a month ago, when I first emailed the gang to get a date in the diary I had just bought Supper Club, which is all about the joys of entertaining in your own home. Kirstin Rodgers however, entertains strangers with her Supper Clubs. She is a skilled cook, with much experience in catering for large groups of people, unlike me! She is also responsible for getting the Underground Restaurant craze fired up in the UK! However much I love to cook and bake, a group of more than 5 can come with it’s complexities and in turn, result in lost sleep leading up to the big day. So I came up with some pointers below, that help make the process a whole lot more efficient and enjoyable from start to finish.

In Advance

  • Invites! I personally email my invites to guests, as that is the most reliable form of communication with a large group of friends. As much as I would adore to use pen and paper at all times, it is not always viable time wise and can be expensive. My mum introduced me to the fabulous ‘Paperless Post’ which is ideal for any occasion. You can also see when the mail has been read and the guest can respond by the click of button. It adds charm & ease right from the start of the organising…
  • Putting your menu together– firstly, I would find out if there are any dietary requirements within your party. No point finding out once it’s too late and throwing you into a panic! When you have confirmation of this, start piecing together your seasonal menu using books, magazine tear outs, Pinterest…Keeping in mind your own level of skill and experience (I should mentioned my first attempt at making fresh ravioli on the day of was daring to say the least and resulted in a few fails, disaster! Read my next blog on pasta to hear ALL about that).

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(For Friday night, I printed out my menu’s and on the back of each one I put a different Love poem. Adding a romantic twist!)
  • Music- make a playlist that last lasts at least 4 hours, so you don’t have to worry about fiddling around with the ipod during the night. Bear in mind that this music is for your guests too and so you have to think about what they would enjoy? Choosing something like ‘Death Metal’ wouldn’t be everyones cup of tea for instance…
  • Shopping lists- a few days before the party I go through all the recipes and make a note of ingredients, I then go through the cupboards and start crossing off anything I might already have. Once I have a list of things to buy, I split the list into 3; ‘Fresh Produce’, ‘Supermarket’ & ‘To Drink’. Doing this keeps it all clear and concise and ensures that nothing is overlooked! 

The Day Before

  • Start Shopping– Head to the Supermarket with that list you have made and buy your condiments, juices, dairy produce etc. 
  • Got Everything? Do a count of all your crockery, glassware and cutlery to make sure you have enough. I realised the day before that I was short of one set, so lucky I checked! Phew!

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  • Your table- get your table ready and arrange your seating plan. Name places are lovely ‘extra detail’. Think about who should be next to who, things in common, any newcomers to the group? It is important to give this some thought so that you get the dynamic right.

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  • Drinks– Go on a booze run to your off license with your ‘Drinks’ list; having decided on your menu at this point, go for wine’s that compliment the meal. I asked the lady in the shop near me to recommend good wines having told her my menu and she was unbelievably helpful. We got the task done in under 15 minutes! A bottle of prosecco or champagne as an apreratif is a good starting point, 1 glass each as people are arriving is a nice gesture. 3 bottles of red & 3 white’s for the table for a group of 9/10 people (it is roughly 5 glasses per bottle by the way!) and there is nearly always at least 1 beer drinker in the group, so I like to have a 6 pack in the fridge just in case.

On The Day

  • Get cooking! Anything you can cook in advance and put in the fridge, then do it! I made the fresh ravilioli & filling, chocolate puddings and herb crust for the lamb as early as I could, that way I had an organised mise en place and was ready to go once guests have arrived.
  • Flower arrangements- do it yourself! It is a really nice touch to have fresh flowers on the table and I like to buy a few bunches from the market and put little posies together myself. I think 3 different flowers, with some sort of greenery works perfectly. Old jam jars are the perfect vase for a small arrangement and add a rustic flavour…buy flowers on the morning of, otherwise they will start to look a little sad.

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(I used Anenomies, Hyacinths and Roses brought together with Solidago. It’s colour theme was romance but that hint of yellow remind us that spring is on its way!)
  • Fresh produce-Your 3rd and final list. It is so much more cost effective to buy all your fresh fruit and vegetables from either a green grocer, or if you are lucky… a fresh fruit & vegetable stall in a local market or farmers market. On the day, I wake up at 7am and get straight to my local to pick out the best before it goes. You can sleep tomorrow… so an early rise is definitely necessary to get everything done.
  • Hoover! I am a messy cook, so once everything is set, it is essential that I hoover the kitchen/living area and make sure the kitchen is looking acceptable (especially as my kitchen and living room are all in the same space). Get rid of any bin bags and dirty tea towels too, very off putting.
  • Atmosphere. Just before the guests arrive and once you are dressed and ready, it is time to get everything just right. Music on, not too loud. Turn the lights down a bit and get  some candles going (just be careful not to put them in any precarious places).

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Now It’s Showtime!

We Ate…

Starter

Beetroot Ravioli with Ricotta & Sage Butter

Main Course

Herb Crusted Lamb with roast potatoes, Kale & Beetroot Top

Dessert

Molten Chocolate Pudding with Amaretto Cream

&

Cheese Board with Chilli Jam

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We Drank…

Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial

Glorioso, Reserva 2006 & Cosme Palacio, Rioja 2008

Pazo Do Mar, Ribeiro Blanco 2010

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We Listened…

My love-themed playlist starting with 1940’s early blues, moving onto 1950’s (Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone…), then the swinging 60’s with Elvis & Ray Charles. The tempo progressively became more energetic, which coincided perfectly with the gradual volume increase and liveliness of my guests.

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We Played…

‘Apples to Apples’ provided by my friend Parker, the Games Master. A hilarious game, especially when tipsy.

P.S. It definitely helps to know your opponents in this one!

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And One For The Road…

Mmmm, Amaretto Sours

(Made by me but special thanks to my friend & colleague Chris who kindly text me the recipe, on demand, at 01:00 a.m. Gotta love him!)

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Why don’t you let us into some of your dinner party secrets….

Thank you Molly, Emily, Parker, Charlotte, Simon, Rupert, Lara & Skippy for being wonderful guests.

(Readers, I apologise for the lack of quality and of photographs but I was having far too much fun to snap!)

Pancakes For Everyone!

Today is Shrove Tuesday, or as it is deliciously known… Pancake day!!

Falling the day before ‘Ash Wednesday’, it is the meant to be our last day of indulgence before lent. Shrove comes from the word shrive, which means ‘to confess’. So I must confess now, that I LOVE pancakes..

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When I was at school, we would celebrate this day by selling pancakes on a trestle table outside the H.E. room, to the other classes. Choice of Nutella or lemon & sugar would greet us along with a paper plate that was soon to become very soggy and unappealing. Unless I am mistaken, if you had no change, you could put your name down as though it were an ‘honesty bar’. For weeks they’d chase us for that £1.50 (or whatever it was), the pancake ladies hunting each fellow classmate down like hardened professionals. It was always the best cooks in the class chosen to be in charge of batter and ‘flipping’. The lesser experienced of the class would sit with the tupperware boxes of change, clip board of names (of the soon-to-be-in-debt) as well as organising the long lines of very greedy school girls. I mainly remember taking the indulgence bit to the extreme as though I had never been fed and I am guessing it has had a lasting effect on me.

Despite crepes being my absolute favourites whether it is Shrove or not, I found this incredible vintage inspiration courtesy of Aunt Jemima. Her thick buttermilk pancakes with bacon! An absolutely must-try when next cooking up a storm for breakfast.
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…and just incase any of you are feeling extra-specially fruity today, here are some other great recipes to try out from some modern day domestic Goddesses.

Beetroot Crêpes with Blood Orange Sauce (pictured below)

Classic crêpes suzette

Ricotta Pancakes 

Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce 

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Somewhere else in the world people are celebrating…

“Powder Day”

It is a tradition in a village called Tolox in Malaga, Southern Spain, to throw talcum powder at each other the day before lent during a huge celebration they call El Dias de los Povlos! It is said to be a tradition for young men to seduce girls (a questionable tactic!) and originated in the 16th Century when a Moorish girl and Christian girl who lived in this village were fighting over the same man. The girls both worked as bakers and began to throw more & more flour at each other as the argument escalated. Today men use this as a chance to proclaim their love for local ladies and will try with all of their will to track them down and talc them up!

A far cry from all of us stuffing our faces with gluten and sugar but whatever rocks your boat I suppose!

Excellent Choice, Madam.

Two of my favourite wines from a selection tried in January. Enjoy!

A Gulp of Spanish Red…

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Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso Reserva 2006

Region: Rioja, Spain.  

Classification: DOCa Rioja

Grape Variety: Tempranillo

ABV: 13.5%

Vintage: 2006

Initially discovered at Christmas thanks to my dad, Glorioso Reserva really was the wine of the festive period for me. Quaffing it along with cheese platters, foie gras and red meats but really very perfect on its own too. From the Bodegas Palacio in Northern Spain (not far from Pamplona- famous for the running of the bulls!) it is aged in Bordeaux style barrels of French Oak. I stopped to pick a bottle of it up last week on my way to a friends for dinner and she was a huge fan. It is so easy to drink, silky smooth and really coats the whole mouth with a welcomed warmth. Dark, fruity and delicious.

Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso Crianza 2007 is also worth a try and in my opinion, a wine best enjoyed with food. Also medium bodied, fruity and elegant with a touch more tanin about it than the last.

Interesting Fact: Spanish Wine

Spain’s strict wine laws ensure cultivation, production, ageing and quality of wine is maintained in the ever growing industry. There are two categories that Spanish wine’s may fall under; ‘Table Wine’ or ‘Quality Wine’, the latter generally being held in the higher regard.

DOCa stands for Denominación de Origen Calificada and is the credit given to wines that have achieved the highest quality over a long period of time. The only two regions to be considered worthy of this status are Rioja and Priorat in South West Spain.

…and a Splash of French White!

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Domaine La Condamine L’Evêque

Region:  Languedoc, France. 

Classification: IGP Côtes de Thongue

Grape Variety: Viognier 

ABV: 12.5%

Vintage: 2010

Produced by a family run vineyard in a village called Nezignan L’Eveque in the Rhone Valley, Southern France, this Viognier was recommended to me in my local wine shop. I was really looking for a dry white to go with fish and this full bodied, aromatic wine did fit the bill.  If you aren’t keen on rich, heady wines that are more yellow in colour, then this is probably not for you and my boyfriend and I both agreed that while this is a wine we loved with food, perhaps we wouldn’t necessarily chose it as an aperitif.

Having never heard of it before, only a few days later I found it again on the wine list in my local Pan-Asian restaurant and I felt very confident in choosing it with this meal. Turned out it was an absolutely perfect match for spicy tuna, seabass sashimi and  fragrant chicken curry.

Interesting Fact: The Viognier Grape

Pronounced ‘Vee-ohn-yay’, this varietal is a real challenge to grow! It is susceptible to disease and unpredictable so the producers work hard to get it right and this can be an expensive & timely process. It is because of this that it is considered one of the most prized varietals. 30 years ago,  this wine was almost extinct but in the last few years has become a more fashionable, popular choice.

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I bought both the Rioja Reserve (£13.00) and the Vin de Pays/ Viognier (£9.50) from Oddbins

http://www.oddbins.com