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 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.

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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Penne in smoked salmon and saffron sauce

As promised this weekend on the Facebook page, here is the rather luxurious recipe for making penne something to right home about. I am aware that penne has become something of a boring choice nowadays when you look at the volume of types of pasta that is now filling the isles of the supermarkets. I do adore this in one respect as I love Italian food, so more choice within everybody’s grasp is great. These days I tend to go for wholemeal pasta’s too as I always make sure that we are eating well throughout the week, with the exception of the odd treat. This is one of those treats.

I will admit its not one for the budget cookbook. Saffron and Smoked salmon are both not cheap ingredients, but it is well worth it!

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What you’ll need:

  • A small pinch of saffron
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150ml white wine
  • 100g smoked salmon, sliced into tiny strips.
  • 250g penne pasta (Cooked to packet instructions, retaining a little of the cooking water)
  • 50g cherry Tomatoes
  • Handful of Spinach
  • 50ml water
  • 50g butter

Method:

  1. Get the water in a glass, and sprinkle in your bit of saffron to the water. Wait for the water to turn golden.
  2. Pour the wine into a pan and simmer on a medium heat. Reduce it right down.
  3. Add the butter and tomatoes to the pan.
  4. Pour in the double cream and add the salmon. Then a quick sprinkle of salt and the saffron/water to the pan, Leaving no saffron strands behind!
  5. Continue to simmer on a medium heat and stir. The sauce will thicken and turn a golden, buttery yellow. This will become more intense as you cook it.
  6. Add the pasta and the spinach and keep on a low heat, stirring to wilt the spinach and get the pasta to bond with the sauce.

Serve with some garlic bread and make sure you serve enough for everybody. Its tempting to keep it all to yourself!

Chorizo and red wine pasta sauce

I’ve always loved a bit of pasta. It can be an easy but satisfying option on a cold winters day or a bright summers evening, whether it be for a quick dinner for one or entertaining guests, you can impress with a good, homely bowl of fussili covered in an alluring, rosy red tomato sauce with some basil leaves and a grating of parmesan. It’s heaven.

This recipe takes a basic tomato sauce and gives it a little bit of a spruce up to create something a little more warming and give you something to get your senses tingling with some great flavours and to give your insides a hug! The combination of the spicy, strong garlic punch of the chorizo and the sweetness of the wine elevate the tomatoes to another new level, providing the perfect accompaniment for a dish of pasta, gnocchi or even spread over meat or fish. I made it with some left over ingredients from the wild boar stew earlier this week.

 

So to start us off you will need;

  • 1/2 a med chorizo sausage. Diced
  • 2 sticks of celery. finely chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 of a cup red wine
  • 1 tspn  garlic granules
  • 1 tspn butter (unsalted)
  • handful of sliced black olives
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil (Basil infused preferably)
  • large pinch sea salt
  • large pinch cracked black pepper
  • 200-300g pasta. I used some great little tortellini with spinach and ricotta.
  1. Boil the pasta in salted water to the pack instructions. Remove the pasta a minute or so before the instructed cooking time to maintain its al dente bite. Retain 1/4 a cup pasta cooking water.
  2. In a frying pan on a medium heat add the oil, celery and chorizo. Gently fry until the chorizo starts to go crispy.
  3. Pour in the wine and keep on the heat until it reduces by around half.
  4. Add the whole tin of tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan and stir well.
  5. Still on the medium heat, cook for 4-5 minutes until the sauce emulsifies thoroughly, stirring regularly.
  6. Stir through the olives and add the butter, pasta and the reserved cooking water.
  7. Turn the heat up slightly and continue to stir the pasta into the sauce for a minute or so until the pasta is well glazed in the sauce.
  8. Serve and enjoy. Great for winter nights this one!

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New beginnings…

Hello everyone and welcome to a new incarnation of my journey into the centre of the culinary universe. Unfortunately I had to close my last site due to the name clashing with a book series on the same subject, as you can see this time we have gone with a much more fresh and unique way of presenting content, hopefully you enjoy scrolling through the pages when they start to really roll out again.

 

To get us started I’m going to be transferring all the MKT posts over here in due course to get all the content back up to scratch and then I have plenty of new articles and recipes on the way for you guys.

 

Have a great day and you’ll be seeing a lot more of us very soon.

 

Phil