Homemade Pasta

Homemade pasta

I can’t tell you the tantrums I’ve thrown making my own pasta over the years. I just could not get it to work. I used a pasta machine, but the strands always stuck back together in a clump, or when I did get them as far as the pan, it turned out blubbery and unappealing.

Then there is the mess of course. I’m not the tidiest cook I admit, but the kitchen looked a disaster zone and after getting such disappointing results, I wasn’t sure it was worth it. I’m also a fan of dry pasta, being much better for the types of dishes I prefer (tomato or oil based). I gave it another go though, being a little more experienced (read: older) these days.

In theory, it’s simple of course being a mixture of flour and water, or eggs. I went for a fresh egg pasta style based on Jamie Oliver’s recipe which basically comprises 600g ’00’ flour and 6 beaten eggs. I basically reduced the amounts down to 200g flour and 2 eggs for two servings. Very generous servings in fact.

The difference I found this time though was in kneading it thoroughly – at least 5 minutes before leaving to rest in the fridge. The result was drier, much easier to cut and more importantly, much better to eat with a definite bite. It was a bit paler than convention dictates but then this is down to the colour of the eggs themselves. Next time, I’m going to try using just yolks to improve this though.

Veggie January has relaxed a bit to include fish, I just couldn’t do without. So I made a quick (low fat) creme fraiche based sauce with smoked salmon to go with it and it actually worked very well! I confess to using a small knob of butter though, essentially adding the fat that was removed from the creme fraiche, but it was a little bit ‘sharp’ and was better for it. Unlike my waistline….

Ingredients:

Pasta

  • 200g (just under a cup) ’00’ grade flour
  • 2 eggs beaten

Smoked salmon and creme fraiche sauce.

  • 2 tsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp whole capers, then chopped.
  • 150g smoked salmon
  • splash of white wine
  • 3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche (I used low fat but…..)
  • 1 small knob of butter – very much optional!
  • Salt (if needed) and black pepper.

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Making the pasta

I used a small food processor for speed. Simplicity itself really, just blitz the eggs and flour together until you get ‘crumbs’. Then take it out and bind it together with your hands into a ball.

Then the hard bit – knead it! Five minutes minimum, but you do notice when it’s ready, becoming very smooth and pliable. Wrap it thoroughly in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes at least.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil now as it may take a while.

I used a pasta machine to roll it out, starting at the widest setting and finishing a number 2. To make it more manageable, I split the dough in two. Use a little flour to prevent the sheets sticking.

Rolling pasta

After the first roll, it’ll be a long oval shape, so just fold it up, like you would a tea towel and put it back through. It’s tricky but practise makes perfect I’m guessing.

Finally, I used the smaller cutter on the pasta machine to make spaghetti sized strands. Technically I believe its spaghetti alla chitarra (thank you Wiki), being square rather than round, but after cooking you can’t really tell.

Cutting pasta

At this point I recommend you make the sauce, as the pasta cooks in a couple of minutes:

Simply fry the smoked salmon and capers in the oil in a small sauce pan for a minute then add a splash of wine. Reduce it for a couple more minutes and stir in the creme fraiche. Heat through and season with black pepper and salt if it needs it – the smoked salmon was salty enough for me. Stir in the butter if you want to ;).

The water should be rapidly boiling so drop the pasta in, separating it with your fingers as you do. Stir well with a spaghetti spoon to ensure they stay separate. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to cook and slightly underdone is much better than well overdone so you need to keep attentive.

Once done, drain it and return to the pan. Stir in the sauce and mix well with the spaghetti spoon.

Sphaghetti with smoked salmon and creme fraiche

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Sarah’s Homecured Bacon

Our good friend Sarah visited us over Christmas and came armed with all sorts of great stuff to eat, including her latest batch of homemade bacon.

Now, in an attempt to reverse the effects of the sheer volume of pork products we got through over the festive break, we’ve decided to go vegetarian for January. More on that later of course.

So, as a last hurrah to 2012, I got Sarah to send over the basic recipe she followed which is itself based on a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The skill is to cure the meat thoroughly, but without making it too salty, which I think she achieved nicely here. So, you’re left with the satisfaction of homemade bacon without the added water and added preservatives.

There are many versions out there but the basic method followed was:

Take a suitably sized piece of belly pork with the loin still attached. Score and pierce the rind and rub in plenty of salt, paying attention to the nooks and crannies. Leave it on a rack for 24 hours with a plate underneath in a cool place (but not the fridge).

Water will be drawn out of the meat into the plate so pour it away and reapply the salt.

Repeat for about 5 days.

After that, rinse the salt off thoroughly. Sarah said she soaked the meat for a couple of hours to help keep the saltiness down. Leave to dry.

It’s then ready to slice – she has a home slicer which makes it much easier! Of course there are other cures with ketchup, brown sugar, berries etc to experiment with.

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