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!

 

The Hungry buck’s ultimate 12 hour lasagne

As you might guess from the title this one is a big recipe for me as it takes one of my favourite dishes and elevates it to a whole new level. A level in which a simple lasagne becomes an experience that warms the soul and soothes whatever worries you may well have… sounds dramatic right? wait until you try it! Beef that melts away from the fork in a rich tomato sauce paired with enough cheese to give a cartoon mouse a migraine and a silky bechamel sauce to glue it all together.

The problem is it all sounds a little run of the mill in terms of lasagne as lets be fair, that’s what they all have going for them and it is the reason everybody tends to love it. The thing that differentiates this lasagne from any old chucked together pasta dish is the ragu… a 12 hour labour of love that makes all the difference!

What you’ll need:

  • 1kg beef brisket/ roasting joint
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 jar of red pesto
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 smoked streaky bacon rashers, diced
  • Large handful of basil, roughly chopped or torn
  • 2 mozzarella balls, diced
  • 100g grated red Leicester
  • 100g grated strong cheddar
  • 16 lasagne sheets (I use wholemeal but not essential!)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

and for the white sauce:

  • 25g butter
  • 30g tbsp plain flour
  • 1 pint milk
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. First of all prep the beef by removing any string or packaging and preheating your slow cooker on low. (You can use your oven on a low equivalent temperature but a slow cooker uses less energy and is so much easier to monitor)
  2. Put the beef in the slow cooker and add the stock and dried oregano… walk away and leave it for 12 hours.
  3. After 12 hours remove the beef. In a tray or bowl, gently tear the meat apart with two forks until it is all shredded. Leave to stand for a minute.
  4. Preheat a pan on a medium/low heat with the olive oil and add the bacon. Fry until browned then add the garlic, celery and onion and keep on a low heat until softened.
  5. Add the beef to the pan with the tomatoes, tomato puree and 2-3 ladles of the cooking broth from the slow cooker, making sure the ragu doesn’t get too loose then stir to combine, turn the heat up slightly and simmer for 10 minutes. If the mixture starts to dry up add more cooking broth.
  6. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees or gas mark 4 and in your chosen lasagne dish spread your pesto evenly across the bottom and layer your first four lasagne sheets across the bottom of the dish.
  7. Put another saucepan on the hob on a low/medium heat and add the butter, when it just starts to melt shake in the flour and whisk well until it comes together completely (it will look a bit lumpy but don’t worry) then slowly start to add the milk, about a quarter at a time until it thickens then add more. Once it has all combined season to taste but I would recommend plenty of pepper!
  8. Take the now bubbling molten ragu and put a thin layer all the way across the pasta. Sprinkle a few little bits of the red Leicester and cheddar across it and drizzle the bechamel evenly to create a thin quilting across the meat. Repeat this to create four even layers and finish off with the last of the white sauce and scatter all of the cheese across the top of the lasagne. Put into the oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese has browned and the pasta has cooked through.
  9. Eat it and forget about any kind of calorie counting for the duration of the meal! I recommend serving with a glass of red wine, a few slices of garlic bread or like I did with some baked stuffed gnocchi and a salad.

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Serving suggestion: Lots of garlic bread, some baked filled gnocchi and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Puff pastry tarts

This weekend made me realise something quite alarming. I haven’t given myself the time recently to have a good session in the kitchen and more so, put anything on the blog. So I made sure I could make something nice for lunch on Saturday for me and the other half that I could share with you all. I have been rather preoccupied as of late due to getting a new job and having a lot of information and new things to process as I have moved to a totally different industry, so Ive been having to prioritise that as you can imagine. Although it is definitely a positive thing as I now work for Marston’s brewery and in all honesty it is a huge step for me as I can now say that I work in an industry I am passionate about. Kind of a dream job as it involves the food and drink industry, its a huge, huge move for me and opens up a whole world of knowledge to me. (Beer/ food combinations are a very interesting topic!)

So anyway back on topic, the good lady has been on at me for a while to make her something from the old blog that I always harp on about as being one of my favourite recipes, and I felt this weekend was quite fitting as on Monday I start a new fitness regime in preparation for our holiday in France. If your going to treat yourself to something you might as well go all out anyway right?

Goats cheese and balsamic onion puff pastry tart

What you’ll need

1/2 roll of shop bought puff pastry

100g goats cheese

1 red onion finely chopped

balsamic dressing

green pesto

handful of rocket

small sprinkle of lemon juice

salt

pepper

olive oil

egg wash

Chorizo jam and spring onion puff pastry tart

1/2 roll shop bought puff pastry

1 jar chorizo jam

3 finely chopped spring onions

handful grated mozzarella

salt pepper

egg wash

Method

  1. Unload the pastry out of the box and roll out flat. Leave out of the fridge for 2 minutes before use. Preheat your oven at 200 degrees. Put a little oil in a frying pan and on a medium heat, lightly fry down the onion until translucent and soft, add 1.5 tablespoons of balsamic, the lemon juice and a good helping of salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to the lowest heat and stir well. The onions will take on the balsamic and become dark and aromatic. Take off the heat and leave to rest.
  2. cut into two equal square parts and fold over around all edges to create a barrier and a bit of a wall around each tart.
  3. lightly prick with a fork in the middle/base of the tart and brush both down with the egg wash.
  4. Place in the oven for 5 minutes until the starts to rise. When this happens remove them from the oven and on the first one add a tablespoon of pesto, spread evenly over the pastry. Followed by the onions and a few big slices of goats cheese… On the second tart spread the chorizo jam (dont be shy with it!) around then add the cheese, followed by the spring onions.
  5. Place back in the oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees or until golden/brown.
  6. Remove and serve with a big salad and dress the goats cheese tart with a few spring of rocket

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As always a simple concept that makes for a really satisfying meal for you and the rest of the family… me and my fiance ate both on our own so be warned, if you have a family of four or more, double the volume. You will need it!

I will hopefully get round to doing that second part of the York article I promised this week so I will do my best to sort it out!

Have a great week everybody!

Phil

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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!

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.

The Honu burger

As some people are aware I am very much associated with burgers. Everybody always asks me if I have any new burger recipes or if I still cook the recipe I took to the battle of the burgers final in 2013, this in fairness is completely justified as I do love making and eating a nice burger! There are so many flavour combinations that can be slotted under an equal amount of buns or breads, its the gift that keeps on giving.

 

I have a huge passion for food as you can guess, but I also have an equal amount of passion for animals and wildlife. Birds and sea life in particular. I have been reading for the past few years about the decline in the sea turtle or “Honu” population and it was heart breaking to come to terms with the fact that they had got to a point where they were near extinction. Such a gracious, docile and beautiful creature driven to the precipice of oblivion, not surprisingly accelerated by the western world starting to haunt the shores of Hawaii. However there is an upside, populations are making a gradual recovery thanks to designated conservation sites and a huge effort from the sort of people who don’t want to see the beautiful gifts the earth has given us disappear.

You can read more about this here if you wish: http://www.wildhawaii.org/marinelife/turtles.html

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So its for this reason I have decided to write a recipe and name it in honour of an icon of Hawaii. A symbol of conservation in the western hemisphere and a wonderful creature that deserves our attention to keep it around for the next generation to appreciate. The fact it is slightly easier to pronounce than the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a burger also is a contributing factor! (The Hawaiian state fish)

Which brings me onto the ‘Meat’ of this sandwich. The recipe. It uses the zingy fresh tang of tropical pineapple to cut through the luscious beef patty and salty smoked bacon, creating an all round enjoyable experience that should hopefully bring a little bit of sunshine to meal time! Recipe should cover approximately 4 people.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 medium wholemeal buns.
  • 600g beef mince.
  • 12 pieces of smoked streaky bacon.
  •  4 rings of canned pineapple, chopped.
  • Your choice of salad leaves.
  • 4 slices of Emmental cheese.
  • Worcester sauce.
  • Salt and pepper.

Method:

In a bowl combine the mince with a tablespoon of Worcester sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper. Mix well with clean hands until well combined however try not to overwork it as the burgers will become tougher to eat. Get both hands in the bowl and work into a ball.

Break the ball of mince into 4 and squash into round shaped patties of equal size (around 1cm or so thick). Leave in the fridge for a minimum 30 minutes to rest. Make a small thumb print in the middle of the burger to stop it popping up too much during cooking.

pre-heat a frying pan and a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the patties. Add the burgers to the pan 2 at a time and fry for around 4-5 minutes a side. Pop the bacon in the griddle pan and dry fry until crispy on both sides (or to your own preference).

On the last turn of the beef, add a tablespoon of chopped pineapple, toped with the cheese. Turn the heat off and allow them to rest for a minute or two in their own juices. The cheese will relax and spread over the fruit, locking it to the top of the patty.

Remove the bacon and leave on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb any unwanted grease or fat.

Cut the buns, add a dollop of mayo or ketchup on the bottom half (your choice, go wild!) and a few of the leaves. Cross 3 pieces of bacon over the salad and sit the burger on top.

Pin it with a skewer so it doesn’t all try and escape…And your done! I served mine with roasted new potatoes for a healthier option to chips or fries.

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So there you have it. The “Honu” burger! A burger that in my opinion makes meal time a little sunnier. A tip of the hat to an ancient and very awesome member our oceanic heritage. Here’s to you turtles!

Throwback Thursday: The chilli pepper.

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The Trinidad scorpion pepper, this one is a mean customer

This is an old post from the previous blog that was very popular when I first wrote it. Thought some people might find it useful or interesting… plus its very much in the spirit of ‘#tbt’

So, the chilli pepper. One of my favourite natural ingredients (garlic being another) and usually ends up in my sauces, salads, chopped up in wraps or sandwiches or scattered over the molten cheese of a pizza. I’m getting hungry just writing this! Here’s some interesting facts about the chilli.

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  • The chili has been used in the Americas since around about 7500 BC and one of the first Europeans to experience the fiery kick of a chilli was actually Christopher Columbus.
  • They were used for medicinal purposes in Spain after they were brought back by a member of Columbus’s crew.
  • They were traded with the Portuguese and spread through colonies throughout Asia, including their introduction into Indian cuisine.
  • New variations of chilli are still being created today.

What can I do with them though?

Everybody knows you can cut them up and put them in chilli’s or curries, that’s a great application for them as they have become a staple in the countries of those dishes origin. But how about getting a little more creative with it? Try these quick little ideas sometime or simply use them to inspire your own creations. these are just a few of my favourites.

Devils grilled cheese on toast

ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of good quality bread. (bloomer/tiger bread is good cut into slices around 2cm thick)
  • 60g strong cheddar cheese
  • 60g red Leicester cheese
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
  • 1 tea spoon of mild chilli powder
  • 2 jalapeno chilli peppers, finely chopped (keep the seeds!)
  1. Preheat the grill at a medium to high heat.
  2. Mix the tomato puree, Worcester sauce and the chilli powder well.
  3. put the bread under the grill until it starts to brown on the one side.
  4. remove the bread from the grill and evenly spread the spicy puree evenly over both slices
  5. scatter all the cheese and chopped peppers over the untoasted side of the bread, return to grill and toast until melted, then remove and enjoy!.

Habanero hot sauce

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 habanero peppers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • Pinch of white pepper
  1. Add the water and vinegar to a saucepan and bring to the boil on a medium heat.
  2. Add the sugar, garlic, peppers, ginger, paprika, white pepper and ketchup.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Strain into a serving dish to serve.

This works great for a BBQ or even a dip for a Saturday night in watching a movie or some really bad TV. Very warming on a winters eve but equally inviting in the heat of summer. perfect.

Are they good for me?

Red chilies contain large amounts of vitamin C and small amounts of carotene. Yellow and especially green chilies (which are essentially unripe fruit) contain a lower amount of both. In addition, peppers are a good source of most B vitamins. So in short, yes. they are. They are also said to kick start your metabolic rate, which could help fat burning.

Hottest chilli out there?

They’re measured by something called the scoville scale. check it out below

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Now that’s a little snippet of what the chilli is all about and how you can use it, next time you get chance jump in your kitchen and use it in something new. Throw them in an omelette or through some noodles or salad. They’re really versatile, and add a third dimension to many a dish. Don’t be scared, get cooking!

Phil