Homemade pasta

Some may argue that the fact that you can go and buy hundreds of varieties of pasta off the shelf in any supermarket, is motivation enough to not bother getting flour everywhere and getting your hands dirty to make your own. This is a fair logic however opening up a plastic bag doesn’t come close to the feeling of achievement you get when you are looking at a plate of fresh pasta that you made yourself from scratch, be it tagliatelle, spaghetti or a filled variety it feels great and is incredibly therapeutic.

I am, unfortunately, a known sufferer of health anxiety. Not something I tend to shout about but it stands to reason when I have an episode or period of health anxiety that sometimes I need something to give me something to focus on, take my mind off it and realign my state of mind. Making pasta is brilliant for this as I get so involved in it I do feel relief from my stress and anxiety symptoms for a time.

 

To make a Butternut squash and goats cheese filled Ravioli

What you’ll need:

  • 600g Tipo/00 flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 peeled and diced squash
  • 150g soft goats cheese
  • Fine salt and some cracked black pepper
  • A little water
  • Pasta machine
  • Ravioli cutter
  • Pastry brush

Method:

  1. Put the flour into a bowl with a teaspoon of salt and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and mix the eggs with a fork until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Slowly start to include some flour when mixing, going until the egg is combined with the flour.
  3. Now, get your hands in there and don’t be scared to get a bit messy. Start to combine the mixture with your finger tips and try and combine as much of the remaining flour as you can (Don’t worry if you don’t manage to use it all). When it starts to look less floury and more dough like, flour your work surface and place the dough on the flour.
  4. Knead, knead, knead. I can’t stress this enough. Give the dough a good bashing. Folding, pounding and stretching the dough until it starts to look smooth and silky. Form into a ball and wrap with cling film, pop into the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  5. In a pan of boiling, salted water, add the squash and boil until soft enough to slide off a skewer or fork. Drain of all water and leave to cool, then mash up and add the cheese. Mixing well with a bit of seasoning.
  6. Now for the next part I do use a pasta machine, you can hand roll the pasta but technology is there to help us after all. Cut off about a quarter of the dough and flatten it out a little. Pass through the pasta machine on the widest setting, folding at the top and bottom (A bit like an envelope) then passing it through the opposite way. repeat this about 7 or 8 times. You will notice the pasta change in texture as you do it, this might seem a little bit monotonous but it gives the pasta a much better texture and mouth feel or rather ‘Al dente’ as the Italian’s would say.
  7. Now put the pasta dough through the machine working your way through the settings until you get to the bottom or penultimate setting. If it gets too long don’t hesitate to cut the dough in half to make it easier to manage, as long as the finished piece of pasta allows you to see your hand on the other side (or read a paper through it as they say) …it should flap when you blow under it, just don’t blow too hard and loose it!
  8. The next step is to make sure you have a good piece of pasta in front of you that you are able to fold over horizontally. Simply take your filling with a teaspoon and place it around 1 inch inside the bottom left hand corner, leaving a similar gap in-between each filling right to the end of the pasta, again leaving around 1 inch remaining at the end of the pasta. Brush the bottom edges of the pasta with water and slowly bring the left hand top corner to the left hand bottom edge. Lightly press around each side of the filling to ensure no air remains before working your way along the pasta, repeating the process until finished.
  9. Take the ravioli cutter and trim the edges of the whole piece, then go between each filling, making sure its pressed down well.
  10. Repeat the process how ever many times you need to with the remaining dough. Each quart should have between an 8 or 10 ravioli yield.
  11. In a shallow pan of lightly salted, boiling water, add the pasta and cook for minutes. Pop onto a plate and drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper.
  12. Enjoy with a salad or on it’s own… but they are a lovely little treat.

Tip: Any extra dough left at the end,  you can slot on the cutter to your pasta machine, roll it out 7 or 8 times as stated above, working in down to the 3rd or 4th lowest setting and put through the cutter to make tagliatelle or linguine!

 

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The Bayeux burger

As you may have seen in my recent post ‘Moyaux than meets the eye’ I went to France in July of this year and to be frank, I adored every second of my journey around the region of Normandy and found inspiration at every turn. The local produce was such good quality I actually left Normandy disappointed that I couldn’t stay longer and learn more about how everything was made and just sit one more time in the summer sunshine with a few different bits of cheese and some fresh bread, slicing tiny slithers of soft cheese away and pairing it with locally sourced cold meats and a cold beer. It really was bliss.

While I was there I was inspired to write quite a few recipes as there was plenty of ideas flying in and out of my head when we were exploring the local area but as ever, I am known for my burger recipes so it is only right I try and combine the flavours that Normandy is famous for and fit it between two halves of a bun for you all to experience at home. There are three things that stand out as essential ingredients to this burger and they are Pont l’eveque cheese, Calvados and Brioche. As long as these three things are present then you are onto a winner!

So here’s the recipe that screams out Normandy loud and clear to me while celebrating everything I miss about this beautifully wonderful place.

To make four burgers….

Ingredients:

  • 350G ground beef
  • 2 95% pork Sausages, removed from skins
  • 1 teaspoon dried Tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon herb de provence
  • A jar of large sliced pickles
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 150g wedge of Pont l’eveque cheese (or Brie) sliced into thick horizontal pieces
  • 2 finely sliced red onions
  • 1 single measure of Calvados (or good brandy if you cant get it)
  • 4 brioche burger buns
  • 4 teaspoons of Aioli
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Add the beef and sausage meat to a bowl with the Tarragon, Herb de provence and season well with the salt and pepper. Mix well to form a patty mix with an even consistency.
  2. Split into four even balls of meat mix. Roll, pat and press them into four burgers. (Quick tip: Size them to the buns!) Cover with some cling film and leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove them from the fridge and preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the burgers and place onto the pan. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. In a preheated frying pan on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil and the onions. Season well and stir regularly until translucent and soft. Should take roughly the same time as the one side of the burger.
  5. Turn the burgers in the griddle and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat up on the onions and add the Calvados. This will simmer down really quickly, lower the heat again and leave them ticking over on a low heat stirring regularly.
  7. Turn the burger once again and add at least two large slices of cheese across the top of the burger, cover if you can and add a touch of water to create some steam. Don’t cook for longer than another minute or so as the cheese wont take much melting. Rest the burgers in a warm place for a few minutes.
  8. On the bottom part of each bun, spread the aioli and place onto the bun, cross two of the pickle halves across the cheese and top with a spoonful of the onions.
  9. Cap with the other half of the bun and serve with herby roast potatoes or sweet potato fries for a treat.

There we have it… the Bayeux burger. An oral tapestry of contrasting flavours and my own little dedication to a great part of the world.

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VIVA LA FRANCE!…Apart from in relation to the Rugby World Cup of course…. not even a little bit.

COME ON ENGLAND!!

Super sunday meatloaf

America has gone through quite the renaissance in terms of the worlds perception of their food in recent years, they are now supremely fashionable due to the popularity of their incredible barbeque recipes. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a new pulled pork product or a BBQ 20 hour beef option added to another menu at the bigger chains or even some of the smaller, more independent cafes and restaurants and for good reason.

America knows how to utilise great meat very effectively and create some incredible food. One dish in particular that I have always admired is the quintessential stateside family meal, the meatloaf. As somebody who grew up in the United kingdom watching shows from the USA I had always heard about meatloaf but never fully understood what it was until a few years ago when I put some effort into research. I have been working on a recipe since then and found a few pointers along the way to get the best from it and to be fair I am very happy with how it turns out now when I make it, as the first ones that I made were dry and a little bland. I didn’t really feel like I had captured the essence of the homely experience that the meatloaf represented to so many families across the pond, until now. I am happy enough with it to share the recipe for you to try at home!

What you’ll need:

  • 400g lean minced beef
  • 400g lean pork mince
  • 6 good quality pork sausage, removed from skins (I used pork and red onion sausage with 85% pork)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic finely sliced
  • 1 medium egg
  • 75g wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 100g smoked streaky bacon
  • 4-5 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

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What to do:

  1. In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic and fry until slightly softened and the onions start to become milder in colour. Take it off the heat and leave it to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees or equivalent.
  3. In a large bowl mix the beef, pork and sausage meat with the breadcrumbs, egg, parsley and season well with the salt and pepper. Add the now cooled veg from the pan and mix well to combine.
  4. In an oiled loaf tin pack the mix in to the top and turn out to reveal a nice uniform shape onto a lightly oiled baking tray.
  5. Wrap in the bacon so it is tightly packed in around the sides, leaving both end pieces exposed.
  6. Brush the maple syrup over the top of the bacon and around the sides and top with a bit of pepper.
  7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. until crispy on the outside or it reads around 77 degrees on a skewer.
  8. Remove from the tray carefully, and slice into even slices to serve to your family and friends! Best served with gravy or like I do with a sour cream and chive sauce, roast sweet potatoes and a big salad. Heaven.

As always play around with it and see what you can make of it yourself, this is but a blank canvas to get your juices flowing but it does certainly work as it is, so I implore you to give it a try.

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Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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14 hour pulled pork with green goblin BBQ sauce

This week was a week that just seemed to come together quite well. I was looking for something to inspire me to write a new recipe for the site, then my mom came through the door with a big chunk of pork shoulder and asked me to cook it on Sunday. Problem solved.

A few years ago I tested a recipe for pulled pork and took it into my work at the time and managed to feed 8 people, it was a resounding success but I have always wanted to tweak it but never got round to it. So today I give you the fully tweaked and improved recipe for a very satisfying and very fun meal that can provide something different at your BBQ’s this year or put a new spin on your dinner parties… By the way, this one is best done before bed as it cooks while your asleep!

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What you will need:

  • A slow cooker
  • One 500ml bottle of green goblin cider (or preferred alternative)
  • around 2kg of pork shoulder. Fat removed.
  • 1/4 bottle of Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons garlic granules
  • 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 100ml quality chicken stock
  • Salt
  • White pepper

To add for the sauce:

  • One tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tube of tomato puree
  • 3 teaspoons of cornflour

Method:

  1. Make sure the pork fits into the slow cooker, if not cut it down a little. Add the cider (take a sip just to make sure its not poisonous!)
  2. Add all of the other ingredients and mix well to create and intriguing little bath for the pork. Delicately place all of the pork into the slow cooker and put the lid on. Turn the slow cooker on to ‘slow’. Go to bed.

Day 2

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  1. After 14 hours of cooking I removed the pork (slowly and carefully as by this point it just falls apart) and put it onto a separate plate. Remove the cooking elixir and pour into a saucepan on a high heat. Add all of the additional sauce ingredients apart from the cornflour and reduce for 15 minutes.
  2. Transfer the pork back into the slow cooker and tear apart with a pair of forks. it wont put up much of a fight by now!
  3. Now mix the cornflour with a little water and add to the sauce, simmer on a medium to low heat for an additional 5 minutes until it thickens. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add a few ladles of the sauce back into the pork and mix well.
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14 hour pulled pork

Serve it however you like, its very versatile. On taco’s, in wraps, a big wholemeal bun…anything. Either way its very simple and effective way to feed your friends and family. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

TIP: You should have quite a lot of sauce left, so bottle it and make sure you use it for any meat that needs a pick me up. Ribs, steak, sausages or anything else you find appealing. Also if you want it a little bit (or a lot)  spicier don’t be afraid to just whack in a good helping of dried chili flakes when you first start the process with the pork. Alternatively use some of this beautiful stuff, available online here http://www.mysecretkitchen.co.uk/products-passport/index.html to add a real southern American kick.

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Simple cod burger with gnocchi sardi salad

So, its now April apparently and it very much seems like March was one of those months that disappeared faster than a horse running at the national. The months seem to fly now that the clocks have changed and even though it is incredible to be having some lighter evenings to relax outside, it just seems like time goes a little bit faster when your enjoying yourself in pub gardens and having barbeques at home.

All the more reason to make the most of all this sunshine were currently having! The bank holiday was an absolute beauty weather wise and there certainly was no shortage of people taking their chance to have a pint by the canal at my local, the Fox and Anchor near Coven.

It is not very often I rave about a chain pub but I do love the Fox as it has a great ambiance in the winter when they light the log fires and even more so when they are buzzing with summer beer garden seekers. I even got a little bit sunburned. Which is not exactly hard as I burn like an ant under a blow torch.

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Now that we have all emerged from our wintery cocoons its time for some lighter food to compliment the bottles of Corona on the lawn (slice of lime optional but advised). White fish comes to mind as its quick, fresh and light on the pallet while being full of protein and really satisfying, paired up with this pasta salad which is the true star of this dish,makes a great meal. Enhanced further by the fact that its full of all the good stuff you can fit in without it becoming unbalanced, you’ll be feeling very pleased with yourself afterwards. No guilt. No hastle.

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Try this recipe on for size next time your feeling lazy on one of these warmer evenings.

Serves 4

For the burger:

  • 2 cod loins. Both halved.
  • 4 wholemeal buns.
  • Tartar sauce.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Pepper.
  • Few salad leaves of your choice.
  • Olive oil.

Pasta salad:

  • 400g gnocchi sardi.
  • 1 small box of cherry or small variety of tomatoes, all halved.
  • 1 courgette, diced.
  • 1 red and 1 orange pepper, diced.
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn.
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped.
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 5 tablespoons of zero fat Greek yoghurt.
  • 5 tablespoons light mayonnaise.
  • 1 tablespoons dijon mustard.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta to pack instructions.
  2. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and stir in all of the other ingredients apart from the courgette.
  3. Preheat a frying pan on a medium heat, add a tiny bit of oil and fry the courgette until it starts to brown a little, then remove and mix into the salad.
  4. Give a good few turns on a salt and pepper mill.
  5. Chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Use the preheated pan and add a little more oil.
  7. Add the cod loin halves and fry on a medium heat for around 4 minutes. Turn over and repeat.
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add a tablespoon of soy sauce, give the pan a shake so it reaches all of the fish, do this for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  9. Cut the rolls and put around a teaspoon of tartar sauce on both halves. Lay a few leaves on the bottom half, followed by the soy fried fish, along with anything else you want to add. (Go crazy, its a blank canvas).
  10. Finish with one big sprinkle of black pepper, cap it off with the top half of the bread and serve with a big spoon full of the pasta.

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Its another very simple but very effective recipe to fill a void after a hard day at work when the evening is best spent enjoying the sunshine outside!

Ultimate baked pasta

Hi all, today I find myself in the peculiar position of sitting in a Mcdonald’s eating breakfast (Only some porridge and a tea) waiting for my ride to work and taking advantage of their free WIFI facility. Peculiar only due to the fact that I am present in one of their ‘restaurant’s’ as I usually find their take on food as totally abhorrent and something I would never partake in, however I feel I’m safe with tea and porridge. Possibly. Cue the e-mails about their porridge oats being genetically manufactured in Scotland by mad scientists dressed as clowns.

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I am finding it hard to find slots in my time to physically sit down and write blog posts at present as I commute long distances for work but this is a good example of how I’m trying to fit it all in, between lifts and shifts. one could say I have an undying commitment to the cause, although this may possibly be a minor over-dramatization to the alternative of ‘fitting it in when I can’, so at present I would say a post every few weeks is a realistic target.

As some of my older posts have shown I am really keen on Italian food, I have always found its ability to combine artistry with simplicity incredibly attractive. Whether your an outright novice or an experienced veteran in the kitchen its a type of cooking that offers something for everybody. This dish present you with a relatively simple method but offers a show stopping flavour and combination of textures that elevate it beyond the typical ‘Pasta bakes’ of Homepride and Dolmio fame. The ingredients can be as cheap or as expensive as you can make them and you can finish the entire dish in around an hour, definitely one to please a few house guests at the weekend.

What you’ll need:

300g short tube pasta (Macaroni, ziti etc)
200g lamb mince
1 heaped Tbspn dried oregano
100g sliced salami
100g sliced pepperoni
Handful of red Leicester cheese
Large handful of fresh spinach
1 ball of mozzarella cheese
3 large fresh eggs
olive oil
salt
pepper

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons of red pesto
1 tin chopped Tomatoes
1 Tbspn mascarpone
handful of basil leaves
Salt
Pepper

Method:

1: In a bowl, add the lamb mince and the oregano with a little salt and pepper to taste. Combine well and roll into small meatballs. Around 1.5 inches in diameter.

2:Add pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook to packet instructions. Approximately 20 minutes in salted, boiling water.

3: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and on a medium heat, lightly fry the meatballs until browned. This will take roughly 3 minutes. You don’t want to fully cook them yet. Remove from the pan to rest, leaving the fat in the pan. (We need it shortly)

4: In a blender blitz the tomatoes with the basil leaves. Add it to the frying pan on a medium heat with the reserved lamb fat. Add the pesto and the mascarpone, stirring well until well combined then leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

5: By now the pasta should be cooked, drain the pasta while reserving a little of the cooking water. Reintroduce the pasta to the pan with the reserved water and add the sauce and spinach. Mix thoroughly.

6: Preheat oven at 180 degrees or equivalent temperature. Beat the eggs together well in a cup or bowl.

7: In a medium to large lasagne dish, add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the bottom and create a layer of the pepperoni and salami in nice tidy rows. Add a big spoon of the pasta and spread evenly. Repeat until the dish is full, ending with a layer of pasta. This usually covers around 3-4 layers dependant on how big your dish is!

8: Add the meatballs to the top of the pasta and push in so they are half submerged in the pasta. Tear the mozzarella and scatter around the meatballs, then sprinkle on your red Leicester.

9: Take the beaten eggs and pour over the whole dish nice and evenly, it should seep through all the gaps and go down the sides of the pasta. Gives a few prods with a fork so it totally penetrates the pasta, it will bind together into a perfect harmony of cheesy, pasta goodness. Now add it to the oven and bake for around 30-40 minutes.

10: Remove from the oven and check the eggs are cooked through with a skewer or a knife, it should come out without any raw egg on. If still not cooked cook for further 3-5 minutes and check regularly.

11: Indulge it with your family and friends. Your onto a winner. Guarantee you’ll make it more than once. Best thing is it’s adaptable so make it your own, go to town add what you want and experiment.

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One pot: Part one – Sausages

I realise I have been fairly quiet for a few weeks but I hope you will agree, for good reason, as I have been developing some new recipes for the blog. As I mentioned in an earlier post I received a cast iron pot for Christmas from my future in-laws, and thought as I seem to be using it a hell of a lot that I should share some of the things that are coming out of it.

So this will be a series of three recipes all in made in under an hour in one pot, keeping the washing up down and keeping the whole family happy… I’m struggling to see a downside on this one! Unless you don’t like sausage. Then that’s a big downside.

Ingredients:

  • 8 good quality, pork sausages. (95% pork or more)
  • 1 can of Butterbeans
  •  2 red peppers, finely sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • sliced button mushrooms
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp. Worcester sauce
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • A little water (about a 1/4 of a cup)

Method:

  1. Start by putting the pot on a medium heat and adding the oil.
  2. Add the sausages in and cook for 5 minutes until browned.
  3. Remove the sausages and add the onion, garlic, peppers, sage, mushrooms, worcs. sauce and tomato puree, season well with the salt and pepper (to taste) and keep on a low heat for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the water, reintroduce the sausages and pop the butter beans in. Stir well.
  5. Put the lid on and leave to simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes. Check the pot every now and then and stir to stop any sticking or burning. Add a splash more water if really needed. (Be careful not to over do it)
  6. Serve with brown rice or potatoes and dig in!

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As you can see it is superbly easy and it is honestly really good, hearty food. One down, two more to come. The next recipe is a chilli that is packed full of veg and has heaps of everything good to keep you ticking over nicely as we start to creep towards the slightly warmer, brighter, spring months.