Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fresh pasta

I haven't made fresh pasta for quite awhile, but I was feeling inspired by MasterChef so decided to get the pasta machine out and make pasta from scratch for dinner tonight. I employ the assistance of my stand mixer, my beloved pistachio green KitchenAid named Charlotte :), and also my DH. I used to just make a well in the flour on the bench, add the eggs into the middle, and then incorporate them as Jamie Oliver suggests, but in reality Charlotte makes the initial incorporation of the egg into the flour so much easier, and plus I love any excuse to put her to use.

So the recipe - very simple. 100g of flour: 1 egg. In this case, I did 400g of flour and 4 eggs. Jamie suggests 600g and 6 eggs for 4 people, though Nigella says 1 egg per person is sufficient. The sauce I am going to serve it with easily serves 6, but I think 4 eggs worth of pasta will be plenty. The best flour to use is a high protein flour, preferably Italian '00' flour, which is nice and fine. Normally what I have to hand is breadmaking flour, which is high protein, but as I had found 00 flour in my local Woolworths recently, I was able to use that today.

Here Charlotte is working the egg into the flour using the dough hook on speed 1.

Here you can see the pasta dough is starting to adhere. I usually take it out at this point and start kneading by hand on the bench.

Basically you just want to mix the flour and the egg and knead until it is smooth. If you were doing the whole thing by hand, then you mound the flour on the bench, make a well in the centre, and break the eggs into the well. You then start to draw the flour into the eggs until cohering and evenly mixed, and then start to knead. It needs quite a bit of kneading to work the gluten into long strands, and it is hard work! I like to think I am burning off some of the kilojoules I will shortly consume :P . Sometimes you need to add some extra egg (or a little water) or some extra flour. Here is the ball of dough after I had kneaded it until it was holding together and starting to get smooth. DH is stronger than me though and so jumped in and took over to get it to the point where it is at in the pic below.

This is where DH left it. I am sure some people could get it smoother still, but it is pretty smooth and elastic at this point, and will be more so still once it has been worked through the pasta machine. At this point, you want to cover the dough with plastic or a damp tea towel to prevent the dough from drying out and leave it to rest for 30 mins.

My Atlas Marcato pasta machine, which is what I use for rolling out the pasta, though you can use a rolling pin. Today I followed the instructions for rolling out the pasta in 'Cook with Jamie'. Break off an orange-sized piece of dough (half the dough in this case). Run it through on 1 (the widest setting) several times, each time folding it in half before rolling it again until smooth. Then run it through on 2, fold in half, then run through again on 1. Repeat this 4-5 times to work the gluten. Now run it through on increasingly smaller settings until you get to the thinnest setting.

Now fold the length of pasta in half again and again until you end up with a square. Turn it 90°, and run it through on 1 again, and then gradually down to the thickness you want the dough.

For some reason, DH decided my job would be to turn the handle while he manipulated the dough - turning the handle supposedly being the tricky part according to him - yeah right. In our house making pasta is a team effort.

The pasta sheet getting longer and thinner while DS2 supervises from his highchair.

The pasta sheet cut into shorter lengths (thirds) to make it easier to go through the fettuccine cutter and so the resultant strands of fettuccine aren't unmanageably long.


Finished fettuccine dusted lightly with flour to prevent sticking.

Cooked pasta. Fresh pasta is very quick to cook - just a few minutes.

Used to make Nigella's Greekish lamb pasta (Forever Summer).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jamie Oliver's Good Old Chilli Con Carne

I think the very fact that I purchased Jamie's Ministry of Food at all is testimony to what a cookbook addict I am. After all, I have so many cookbooks they no longer fit into one bookcase (that's right people, a bookcase, not a bookshelf). Did I really need another cookbook at all let alone one with basic recipes aimed at novice cooks? And yet I love it and it is currently one of my most used books. It helps that DH likes Jamie too, and finds the recipes easy to follow, as he does at least half of the cooking here these days, often more.

I have other recipes for chilli con carne. I probably don't even strictly need a recipe to make it, yet I am still a person who likes to have a recipe to follow. That's why I don't think I will be competing on masterchef anytime soon! What I like about this particular recipe is the amount of veg in it. This means it really stretches 500g of mince, plus in my case means less points per serve (Weight Watchers) - gotta love that.

Normally we serve chilli with some rice, corn chips and sour cream. DH disconsolately said he supposed we couldn't have corn chips anymore now that we are eating healthily. I suggested no more than a garnish of corn chips, but we dispensed with them altogether. Still, I love the crunch of corn chips with my chilli, so decided to come up with a healthier version using mountain bread. It worked okay - certainly added crunch for very few points, but they aren't as strong as corn chips, so not as good for scooping. You can scoop a little, but too much and they break.

Step 1: Chopping the veg. For me, this is the hardest step as I am not as adept a I could be with a knife. 2 onions, 2 cloves garlic, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and 2 red capsicum.

Step 2: I love the huge amount of colourful veg in the pan! You want to soften the veg for around 7 mins with some olive oil in the pan.

Step 3: Add the spices - 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp of chilli powder. I would suggest you could also add 1 tsp of ground coriander and some cocoa powder - though I didn't this time. I used Mexican chilli powder as it is milder than normal chilli powder, and we don't eat very hot food, especially not with a 15mo baby. But if you wanted it hotter, I would suggest at least 2 tsp of normal chilli powder.

Step 4: Drain and rinse 400g tin of chickpeas and a 400g tin of red kidney beans. Add to the spiced veg mix with 800g of tinned tomatoes.

Step 5: Add 500g beef mince, stir to break up lumps. Add 1/3-1/2 can of water (using one of the emptied out tins). Jamie suggests a whole tin of water, but I have found this too much. Stir in 2 tbs balsamic vinegar plus some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 6: Bring to the boil. Cover with a lid but leave it ajar so that the mixture can reduce slightly. Lower heat and simmer for an hour.

My low fat mountain bread chips

Cut 2-3 pieces of mountain bread lengthwise into 2 or 3 strips (depending on how big you want your chips) and then cut along diagonals to make triangles. Unfortunately my oven is out of commission at the moment, so I used the microwave to crisp the chips. I found one light spray of olive oil on your chosen plate / bowl helped prevent sticking.

I used the lid from my Tupperware OvenWorks 2L round container as this gave the chips a slightly rounded shape to make them better for scooping. Cook for 1 minute on high in batches.


This isn't really proper guacamole, just mashed avocado really. I don't go in for adding tomatoes or spring onions or any spices to the avocado which would be good if you were using it as a dip. I just want a cooling salve to serve alongside the chilli, so all I have done here is mash one avocado, spritzed in the juice of half a lime (could use less if you don't want it too zingy) and stirred through about 1tbs of low fat sour cream.

Here is the cooked chilli - served on a bed of basmati rice with guacamole, sour cream, mountain bread chips and some lime for spritzing over.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rhubarb compote

So I am dieting at the moment... One of the things recommended to keep things interesting is to eat seasonal fruit and veg, and to try out new things you wouldn't normally have. Great idea, except it's winter, and so nothing terribly exciting is in season - just apples and pears really. Anyway, I saw a bunch of rhubarb and decided to buy it. Now I have not eaten rhubarb since I was a young girl in Perth, where my parents grew it in our backyard vegie patch. My mum would stew it, and if I was lucky, perhaps add a crumble topping. I have really really bad memories of that rhubarb. Mum was always really stingy with the sugar so it was incredibly tart and I never enjoyed it at all. So I felt I was taking a bit of a gamble buying this.

Good old Weight Watchers has a recipe for rhubarb compote, but it is using only 1tsp of artificial sweetener for 400g of rhubarb - I cannot see how that will effectively counter the natural tartness, and I am definitely not using artificial sweetener. So of course I turn to Nigella's books, knowing rhubarb to be one of her favourite things :). I find a recipe in Feast which involves roasting rather than stewing the rhubarb, with no water at all added, but heaps and heaps of sugar. 225g of caster sugar for 750g of rhubarb. I decided to use 150g for my 600g of rhubarb, so slightly less than Nigella uses. When I pour the sugar in I am alarmed, and wonder if I have done the right thing or if I should have followed WW's recommendations instead.

Unfortunately when the timer went off, I was upstairs feeding the baby, and so asked Jordan (DS1, 14yo) if he could pull it out of the oven for me. About 10 mins later I discovered he hadn't :0. So instead of being tender pieces still holding their shape, it kind of became a mush, but a delicious mush :). We ate it for dessert with some custard (not the proper stuff, but instead made on skim milk from custard powder - Nigella would be appalled).

Nigella says to keep the juice (which had turned deliciously syrupy with all the sugar) for drizzling over icecream or yoghurt, but DH Hans had washed it down the sink when I went to look for it - nooooooo.....

Anyway, verdict was that it was quite yummy. It was almost like jam, I think I could afford to reduce the sugar still further next time.

I love the pinky-red pearlescence of the outside of the stalks.

Zest of an orange added

Caster sugar added - what have I done?! I reduced the amount Nigella uses in the recipe, and yet it still looks like an alarming amount.

All mixed together and smelling gorgeous with the orange zest; ready to roast

Out of the oven and decanted into another container. This spent at least 10 mins too long in the oven, so unfortunately the pieces had lost their shape and the whole thing had become quite jammy. Still tasted good though!

Served for dessert with warm custard

Moonblush tomatoes

When I was doing the grocery shopping on the weekend, I saw a packet of gorgeous vine ripened cherry tomatoes reduced, and immediately decided to buy them and turn them into moonblush tomatoes, a very simple recipe from Nigella Express. It is basically just involves sprinkling the tomato halves with salt (Maldon, of course!), caster sugar, dried thyme leaves and oil, and then putting them into a hot oven and immediately turning the oven off and leaving the door closed overnight for the residual heat of the oven to work its magic on the tomatoes. Made them on a night when I was cooking dinner in the oven anyway, so I wasn't heating the oven just for the tomatoes. We then had some on pizza the following night - yum!

Let's get started!

I have been toying with the idea of starting my own food blog for years now. After all, I photograph my food all the time, a habit from when I regularly contributed to a private Nigella group for sharing foodie photos, so it was a natural progression. The name, torta alla gianduia, is the very first Nigella recipe I ever cooked, an incredibly rich Nutella cake from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. Unfortunately I have just started back on a diet, so I don't think torta alla gianduia is going to be gracing the pages here anytime soon :(. So for now I guess this will be a document of the efforts of someone who loves to cook and bake living in a world where sadly fat and kilojoules do need to be considered!