Pasta Povera

One of my online friends was interested in a recipe for an egg-free home-made pasta that I’ve been using for a good few years.

The recipe comes from a pocket-sized Sainsbury’s cookbook of Italian vegetarian recipes by Sara Heathcote-Laing , published in 1992, before the second major foodie revolution, and from a time when it was well-nigh impossible for amateurs to source pasta flour, arborio rice, and other present-day supermarket staples.

This recipe uses plain flour instead of pasta flour, but I have made it with pasta flour and got good results.

So, here goes. this will make about 500g of pasta that you can then roll and shape.

Ingredients

300g plain or pasta flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
about 150ml water

  1. Put the flour in a bowl with the salt and make a well in the centre.
  2. Add the olive oil, then gradually add the water, working it in until all the flour has been incorporated into a ball. Do not allow the dough to become too sticky or it will tend to dissolve during cooking, but if it is too dry, it may break up when rolling.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for at least 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and firm but elastic.
  4. Put the dough in a covered bowl or polythene bag, and leave it to test for about 30 minutes.
  5. Use the dough as you will; in a pasta machine, or roll out by hand and cut.
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Kale Caesar spaghetti

http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/3678417-kale-caesar-spaghetti

We always have a huge pile of kale in the organic bag from school. I can’t bear the stuff in its natural form, so I usually bin it or make far too much pesto that sits in the fridge for aeons, winking self-righteously at me.

This recipe looks rather interesting though. It’s by Veronica Culver from California. A bit of Californian sunshine is a nice thing to have during the cold, rainy kale season…

Lemon Drizzle Cake

The school Christmas fair is today, and I have promised the cake stall a lemon drizzle cake. I made this cake about three times in a month last year, and then forgot all about it, what with everything that happened in 2010.

I want to blog this recipe because the booklet it came from has disappeared during the move. That means it’s up in the attic and lost for eternity or until Charlie decides to get organised in rebellion against her deadbeat parents.

Luckily Mum has a copy.

The original recipe is lost in the mists of the 80s, but the author (a lady called Becca who famously makes cakes for the Choumert Square Open Day, and has published her recipes in the aforementioned booklet that I have lost) says it was passed to her by a friend in Essex. So it has to be good.

I make no apologies for the imperial measurements: I’m a child of the 60s.

Ingredients

Cake

4 oz softened butter (I used Lurpak Lighter)

Rind of 1 lemon, finely grated

7-8oz caster sugar, depending on your sweet tooth

2 eggs

1/4 pint milk

6 oz self-raising flour

Syrup

Lemon juice (use the lemon you just grated)

Caster sugar to taste

 

Make ready a 2lb loaf tin, but not the Jamie Oliver silicone one, because it’s rubbish (see below)

 

Process

DSCN0751Blend together the butter, lemon rind, sugar, eggs and milk until you have a nice batter. I use a stick blender in a bowl to save on the washing up.

Fold in the flour, spoon by spoon.

Pour the batter into a loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven for 45-50 minutes. I’m still getting to grips with my fancy fan-assisted oven, but 35 minutes at 160 degrees seemed to work nicely.

Remove from the oven and leave in the pan until cool, or there will be terrible consequences.

While the cake is cooling, make the syrup. Boil the lemon juice and sugar together until clear and syrupy.

Pour the syrup over the cake while it is still in the tin.

When the cake has cooled down, remove from the tin and eat. Or take to your local school Christmas fair.

Why you shouldn’t use the Jamie Oliver silicone loaf tin

DSCN0753

Martin’s a pretty keen breadmaker (part of that grrr!_I’m_not_metrosexual_thing), and he has been campaigning to junk the Jamie Oliver silicone loaf tin (on the right) for several months. He says it doesn’t cook the loaf properly, and stuff sticks to the bottom, even though it’s not supposed to. I’ve resisted because it a) cost a bit, and b) maybe it would be good for cakes.

Today’s baking session afforded me the opportunity to test the tin against a bog-standard Tefal loaf tin (on the left). And you can see what happened.

I’ve got a fan-assisted oven that I admit I’m still learning to use, but even so. These cakes were from the same batch of ingredients, cooked in the same oven at the same time, and for the same amount of time. I tested both cakes twice, and when it came to turning them out…

DSCN0754

…and this is the result. The Tefal cake is lovely and springy and whole!

The JO cake is broken and unfit to present to the Ivydale League of Friends. Which is fine, because it’s still delicious and my family have already confiscated it.

Lamb and Sweet Pepper sauce

Ingredients for lamb and sweet pepper sauce
Ingredients for lamb and sweet pepper sauce

In the interests of Waste Not Want Not, I used some running-to-dodgy organic lamb fillet in an unusual pasta sauce that I found in the Fat Free Italian cookbook (ISBN:1-84309-006-6). I’ve never seen this book in any shop or on Amazon, but it is rather good.

Ingredients for 6 servings

15ml olive oil
250g boneless lean lamb neck fillet, diced into 1in chunks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves, torn
250ml dry white wine
4 ripe plum tomatoes, skinned* and chopped
2 large peppers, deseeded and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a medium frying pan or saucepan. Add the lamb and a little salt and pepper. Cook over a medium to high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned all over. Though I have just left it and spent 10 minutes hanging out the washing without any discernable ill-effect.
  2. Sprinkle in the garlic and add the bay leaves. Pour in the wine and let it bubble until reduced by half
  3. Add the tomatoes and peppers, and stir to mix. Season again. Bring to the boil, and then allow to simmer gently, covered for around 45 minutes, or until the lam is very tender. Check occasionally,and give it a stir. Add some water if the lamb becomes too dry.
  4. Serve with maccheroni alla chitarra or any long thin pasta.

My grandmother always made a coconut tart for family occasions. She was officially the World’s Worst Ever Cook, and coconut tart and apple pie were the only things she could make well.

We haven’t had a coconut tart at family occasions since she died, but in honour of Rebecca’s visit, I decided to revive the tradition.

Only being a much better cook than Grandma, I used a more traditional Cape Malay recipe for individual tartlets, with a filling of coconut, sugar, cinnamon and cardamon.

Coconut tarts (Klapperterjies)
12 oz shortcrust pastry
6 oz dessicated coconut
8 oz caster sugar (you might want to tone the sugar down a bit)
5 fl oz water
1 inch stick of cinnamon
3 green cardamon pods, bruised.
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6.

Roll out the pastry to around 5mm thickness. Use a 2-3 in biscuit cutter to cut out the pastry shells. You’ll get about 30 tart cases out of the pastry.

Tip the other ingredients, apart from the egg, into a small saucepan, and cook gently for about ten minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until slightly warm, but not cold. Beat in the egg until the mixture is an even colour.

Probably a good idea to remove the bits of cinnamon and cardamon as well.

Add equal amounts of the mixture to each tart case.

Bake in oven for about 10 minutes, or until the top is nice and brown (the best bit), and the pastry cases are cooked through. Remove from the tins and cool on a metal grid.

More cooking!

CREAMY SAUSAGE PASTA
Tonight I had about half an hour to do dinner for the family, so I resorted to The Blessed Nigel for inspiration. I had some Paul Rankin Irish sausages to use up, and some rather ropey looking salad ingredients. Nigel suggested a variation on his soothing pasta supper which I varied a little further.

I measured out penne along WW lines (3 oz per person – plus a bit extra for Ceej). That went into a pan of boiling water

I took the skin off three sausages, and crumbled them into a non-stick frying pan with a drop of olive oil. Actually, when I say crumbled, they were so meaty, they fell into nice little lumps, like mini meatballs. Hmmm….meatballs.

There were five ripe tomatoes on the windowsill, so I chopped those up, leaving the skins on because I can’t be faffed with all that peeling nonsense, and chucked them in with the sausage lumps. I also added the leaves from a good sprig of thyme and let everything simmer gently until the tomatoes disintegrated into a thick, mushy sauce.

The pasta was nearly done by this time, so I added a tablespoon of low fat creme fraiche, and gently heated everything through.

Once the pasta was ready, it was drained and mixed in with the sausage mixture. The rest of the dodgy salad veg went into a salad – well my creativity was about spent.

Mr P proved as appreciative as ever. Ceej did her usual mini-tantrum because it wasn’t one of the Approved Foods, but we persuaded her to nibble on a couple of penne, and she even chewed and swallowed a bit of sausage. That’s not bad…for Ceej

Wondered if it was worth my while to occasionally blog our (very) minor cooking adventures…might do something about that if we get the time. Perhaps even with pictures, eh?

Mr P got a rather lovely book by Angela Boggiano called Pie with lots of recipes for …well … pies. BOTS came for dinner, and so I decided to try out the chicken and mushroom pie recipe, but with a few variations. I replaced the rich shortcrust pastry with ordinary shortcrust, and used all chicken thighs instead of chicken and breasts. We didn’t have any marsala wine, so I used Shiaoxing rice wine instead, and I replaced the cream with creme fraiche. I also made one big pie with just the topping rather than lots of little pies. The rest of the recipe pretty much followed the template in the book.

Based on:
Chicken and Mushroom pies, Pie by Angela Boggiano
10 oz shortcrust pastry (made with 10 oz flour, 5 oz Lurpak Lighter, and a little water)

3/4 oz dried wild mushrooms
1 oz butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 chicken thighs, skinned and cut into bite-sized chunks
8 oz chestnut musrooms, sliced
3 tbsp Shiaxing rice wine
1 oz plain flour
2 tbsp creme fraiche
small bunch flat leaf parsley.

Preheat the over to Gas mark 4/180 degrees C

Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for about 20 mins. Drain the mushrooms and reserve around 7 fl oz of the soaking liquid. Chop finely.

Heat the butter and oil and gently cook the onion until softened and golden. Stir in the garlic, chicken and chestnut mushrooms and cook on a high heat for a further six minutes. Add the rice wine and simmer rapidly for about a minute.

Reduce the temperature and stir in the flour. Add the dried mushrooms and simmer for about five minutes. Add the creme fraiche and cook for a further 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the chopped parsley, season, and pour into a pie dish. Remember to put the egg cup/wee birdie thing in the middle.

Make a strip of pastry and line the rim of the pie dish. Roll out the pastry and cover the top of the pie dish. Press down the edges with the fork and brush the lid with beaten egg. Shove in the oven for around half an hour. Serve with spuds and veg.

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