Homemade pasta

Ah, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve just come back from a skiing holiday in Austria and I am still trying to recover from a silly amount of muscle pain and a salty food and beer overdose. All in all, a successful holiday. Photos (mainly of food and snow) will follow.

I took my netbook with me hoping to write a couple of posts and keep up with a bit of work, but in my search for wifi all I found was giggles from the locals. I managed to locate a computer with The Internet on it, in a hotel basement, but I couldn’t bring myself to stay down there for long when the sun was shining and the pistes were waiting!

Anyway, enough with the Austria talk, since it (probably) belongs to a different post. I though I’d tell you about a little adventure I had before I left. It was after a long day of work so I came back completely exhausted and brain-dead. Alex wasn’t around which can only mean one thing: pasta for dinner! It was going to be an easy, straightforward meal, until I read this post.

I had tried once before to make my own pasta and decided to dive into the most difficult recipe I could find: Soft egg ravioli. Well, the egg wasn’t too tricky, but the pasta was so difficult to roll out that I spent literally hours trying to make half a dozen of them. I decided I would not try it again without a pasta machine. But Dawn claimed that it was pretty straightforward even by hand, and I decided to give it a go.

Well, she was right! It was actually so good and so easy that I made it again the next day. Here is the recipe, although I haven’t done anything different than she did.

Pasta Dough (from Kitchen Travels)

Ingredients (1 egg per slightly greedy person)

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
4 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl or a clean surface. In another bowl, beat the eggs, olive oil and salt until smooth. Mix with the flour until it has all been incorporated. Knead until smooth. 

It didn’t take me more than 10 minutes of kneading until the dough looked smooth and elastic. Wrap in cling film and let rest for half an hour. I took advantage of that time to make the sauce.

Cut in 4 equal pieces and roll each one out onto a thin sheet. The pasta will get thicker when cooked so make sure you make it thin enough. Dust your surface and rolling pin with flour so the dough doesn’t stick.

It only takes 5 minutes to roll out and the dough is very nicely behaved.

I cut it into strips using a pizza cutter but you can use a knife or cut them into circles/squares and fill them with whatever you fancy.

Cook in salted water for about 4 minutes, although it depends on how thick they are. Serve with your favourite sauce.

The taste and texture is so much better than dried pasta (although I’m still a huge fan of course!) or even store-bought fresh egg pasta. You can easily make a very simple tomato sauce while the dough is resting and you have yourself a really tasty and surprisingly quick meal! I had mine with a roast tomato and aubergine sauce and loads of grated cheese on the top. For two days in a row.

I suppose the point of this post is to urge all of you pasta lovers to go ahead and make your own pasta if you haven’t done it before. Do not be intimidated if you haven’t got fancy equipment. Kneading and rolling is pretty therapeutic and the result will be worth it!

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Orange and Chocolate Cake

My love for Nigella is no secret- her recipes always produce great tasting food with not much fuss. But it’s more than that. Her shows are almost addictive, and her over-the-top, almost sexual attitude towards food makes them more fun. I doubt she actually does get up at 3 in the morning, makes some french toast and strawberry coulis and then, leaving the kitchen in a mess, goes back to sleep. I don’t believe it, but I like it. It would be fun if you could do it, not get fat and not wake up to find a filthy kitchen.

I’ve only got one of her books, Feast, although I’m coming to believe that Nigella Express is one of the must-have cookery books. I love reading Feast. I haven’t cooked much from it yet, but I’ve probably read it cover to cover. The way she talks about food would make anyone fall in love with it.

Last year I discovered her Guinness Chocolate Cake and loved it. So dark, with a great texture and the Guinness influence, although not strong, adds an earthy flavour to it. It’s become a favourite and everyone who has tried it has loved it.

A year later, I found myself looking for a recipe for another chocolate cake, for the same friend’s birthday. In Feast, I found the recipe for an Orange and Chocolate cake, a combination that I really like. It looks so simple, it’s almost worrying.

You see, what you have to do is boil some oranges, then pop them in the food processor, and then add all other ingredients in there too. Oh, and bake it. Gregg would stuff it in his mouth and then proclaim that “cooking doesn’t get easier than this”.

Orange and Chocolate Cake (from Nigella)

Ingredients

2 oranges, weighing approximately 350 gr
6 eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50g cocoa
200g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda

optional: orange peel to decorate

Boil the oranges (whole) for about 2 hours or until soft. Cut them in pieces, get rid of any seeds or hard bits and pop them in the food processor. Meanwhile, line and butter a round cake tin (23 cm) and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Pulp them until smooth. Let cool for a bit (I left it in the fridge for a few minutes) and add all other ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth batter.

Place in the tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. When it’s ready, place it on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Have you noticed that it has no butter and no flour? Perfect for the gluten intolerant and, although I’m not going to pretend this is healthy, it’s certainly not as bad for you as other chocolate cakes. The oranges make it so moist you won’t able to tell there’s no butter in there and the taste is quite strong, unlike other orange cakes that only use juice or zest. You can make a ganache for it if you like but I don’t think it needs it. Some ice cream would be nice with it, although we had it plain and it was gorgeous.

Apple Tarte Tatin

I absolutely love apple desserts: apple crumbles, apple pies, apple tarts. Saying that, it is weird that I only discovered tarte tatin when, a couple of years ago, I got a French (almost) housemate. She loves cooking too, and one evening she produced the best apple tart I had ever tasted. How had I not thought of this before? Caramelised apple tart. The perfect dessert? Possibly.

I didn’t try it to make myself though. It always seemed a bit of a faff to be honest, and everyone who made a tarte tatin on Masterchef (and Masterchef is never wrong) used some kind of fancy equipment or made it look and sound too complicated.

The other day, I had a lot of apples left and it had been a hard week, so we thought we’d cook ourselves a treat. We made some steaks and some dauphinoise potatoes and I made a tarte tatin for pudding. Well, almost. I completely underestimated how long it would take to cook, so we had brownies for pudding and I decided to finish the tarte tatin the next morning.

And this is the only thing that stops this from being the perfect recipe: it takes a while. But it’s completely worth it. Perfectly sweet and soft apples in the middle, sticky at the edges, with crumbly, buttery puff pastry at the bottom for some texture contrast.

Apple Tarte Tatin

Ingredients

6 crisp medium apples
100 gr butter, softened
100 gr caster sugar
250 gr puff pastry

Peel and core the apples and cut them in quarters. Spread the butter as evenly as possible on the bottom of a round oven-proof bowl, with a flat bottom, about 20cm in diameter. Sprinkle the sugar on the top.

Place the apples, cut side up, symmetrically around the bowl. The bottom side is going to be on the top later on, so make it as pretty as you can. When/if you run out of space, slice the rest of the quarters in 2-3 pieces and place them on top of the apples already in the the bowl. It doesn’t matter if these will look pretty as they will end up at the bottom of the tart anyway. 

Cover with foil and cook in the oven at 170 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Take the foil off and cook for another half hour, making sure the top doesn’t burn.

Roll your pastry in a circle big enough to cover the apples. Place it on top of them (I did that when mine had cooled down, not sure if it makes a huge difference but you’ve been warned) and tuck the ends inside, between the apples and the bowl. With a knife, pierce the pastry in a couple of places to make sure any steam can come out. Cook for half an hour or until the pastry is cooked.

The bottom should now be looking beautifully caramelised. Place a plate on top of the bowl (make sure you don’t burn yourself!) and quickly turn it upside down so that the pastry lands on the plate. The apples should follow.

I was a bit scared of this part but it actually worked fine, almost nothing got stuck on the bowl. Any buttery juice will end up on the pastry, making the edges really sticky. It is genius.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or some creme fraiche. I love it either warm or cold. And now that I know how to make it, it’s my new favourite dessert. It does take time, but you don’t have to do anything as your oven will do all the work. Perfect for a weekend treat or a dinner party as it is definitely a crowd pleaser.

Saffron Yoghurt with Fennel Seed Biscuits (Indian #2)

In my search for different Indian dishes to try, the BBC website has been a big help. Have you ever watched the Indian Food Made Easy show? Although names like that normally put me off (possibly because it sounds like you’re cheating!) I have enjoyed the few shows I have watched and the food always looked really yummy. All the recipes are available online, and quite a few of them are accompanied by a video clip of the particular dish in the show, so it’s very useful and makes it easy to follow.

I saw this recipe for Fennel Seed Biscuits and I thought I’d give them a go. For some reason, I had imagined them to be shortbread-style, but after reading the recipe I realised they were nothing like it. For starters, they needed frying rather than baking. As mentioned in the recipe, they go nicely with creamy desserts, so I decided to make this Saffron Yogurt to go with them. I love using saffron, just because it looks awesome, and it seems like an extravagant thing to do. Pity I don’t have a clue where to use it! This recipe was starting to sound perfect for me.

Sweet Saffron Yoghurt (Shrikand) (recipe adapted from here)

Ingredients

500 ml greek-style yoghurt
2 tsp milk
1/2 tsp saffron
icing sugar (to taste)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds

Heat the milk in a cup in the microwave and crumble the saffron strands in it. Let the saffron infuse for 5-10 minutes. Every now and then, use the back of a teaspoon to crush the saffron into the milk.
Mix the icing sugar with yoghurt until it’s sweet enough for you. I don’t like it too sweet actually, especially with the biscuits, so I think I must have used 3 tbsp. 
Add the saffron milk (I discarded the saffron but, thinking about it, I probably should have kept it) and the ground cardamom seeds. Leave it in the fridge until ready to serve.

Note that the recipe calls for you to drain excess water from the yoghurt by draining it for a few hours in the fridge, using a tea towel and a sieve. I skipped that step as I used a tub of Total Greek yoghurt, which is already quite thick. If you use thinner yoghurt, you probably want to follow that step and also use more than 500 ml as it will lose water and reduce in volume.

Fennel Seed Biscuits (adapted from here)

Ingredients

80g plain flour, sifted
70g caster sugar
140ml milk
1½ tsp fennel seeds, ground to a powder in a pestle and mortar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp butter, melted
4 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil, for frying

Mix all the ingredients (apart from the oil/ghee) in a bowl and let them rest for 10 minutes. Heat the oil or ghee in a small frying pan and drop tablespoons of the mix in it. Fry for a couple of minutes, turning once. You want to have the oil hot enough so that they don’t absorb too much oil, but not too hot because the edges will brown too much. When cooked, place them on some kitchen towel to get rid of excess oil.  

I’m not sure whether these two are served together traditionally but I think the biscuits went very well with the sweet and fragrant yogurt. I’m sure you could have them separately or use them in different combinations. We actually had some of the yogurt by itself the next day, but it would also be very good with a sprinking of nuts.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
King Prawn Puri 

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Trying to use up all those prawns. They turn out great.

King Prawn Puri (Indian #1)

Do you know how the famous Chicken Tikka Massala was invented? Apparently no Indian chef has been able to claim it. Instead, it was first made in London, when a Bangladeshi chef added tomato sauce and spices to a Chicken Tikka to satisfy a diner who asked “Where is my gravy?”. Not sure if that makes it English or Indian and I’m undecided on whether that Londoner should go down in history as an ignorant diner or, in a sense, the father of the most popular Anglo-Indian dish. Possibly both.

So where does one learn about Indian food? If the story about Chicken Tikka Massala is anything to go by, visiting a curry house is probably far from an authentic Indian experience. I’ve been trying to do a little bit of research on the internet but it’s not always easy to distinguish between traditional Indian food and a spiced up English stew.

Having said all that, the first thing I’m making is a curry house favourite: King Prawn Puri. I’ve combined a few recipes off the internet, picking the best (i.e. easiest) bits from each one of them.

King Prawn Puri

For the puri

250g wholemeal flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
Lukewarm water
Oil for frying

Mix the oil, flour and salt, and slowly add water to make a dough. Knead until smooth, place in a bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise for about an hour. I find that it’s better to roll each one out as you go, rather than preparing them all first and then frying, as the dough gets quite sticky. 

 

Heat some oil (or ghee) in a wok or some other deep pan and drop a puri in. It should puff up, either a little or possibly fully (the one in the picture is my most successful one, but they all tasted good!). They only need a few seconds on each side, do not let them brown or they’ll turn crispy. You want them cooked but still soft. Put each one on kitchen paper to get rid of any excess oiliness and prepare the next one.

For the prawns

500g raw king prawns
2 tbsps tomato puree
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsps of mustard seeds
2 tsps of turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Salt to season
A little oil or ghee (clarified butter) for frying
Some chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Move away from the pan and let them fry until they pop! Add onions and garlic and fry until soft. Add the rest of the spices, the prawns and when they are looking cooked (i.e. pink), add the tomato puree and some water to make it saucy. You don’t want too much liquid, but it shouldn’t be completely dry either. Cook for a few more minutes until the prawns are cooked through and the flavours are combined.

Serve each puri with some of the prawns and the sauce. I forgot the coriander leaves, as I was quite panicky with all the frying (big containers of hot oil scare me a little) but it was still very good. The puri is soft and chewy and perfect when combined with the juices of the sauce.

I haven’t got any onion in mine as I had run out so I think it looks a bit drier than it should, but the flavours were brilliant. Serve with a squeeze of lemon: I love the acidity of it as it cuts through any oiliness that you get from the fried bread. Prawns and lemon are best mates anyway!

I’ll therefore declare my first Indian dish a success, and move on to the next one with a lot more confidence! If you have any suggestions or tips or just some more knowledge on authentic Indian food, please leave a comment!

Next time on Round the World in 100 recipes: My first Indian dessert!

Rice Pudding (Greek #10)

Ah, hello beautiful feeling of achievement! Sometimes I forget how good you feel. Both in my work and in this blogging business (alright, hobby) I got myself into, days can go past when nothing feels right. Food that isn’t worth writing about and maths that doesn’t mean anything no matter how hard you squint, or scale, or both. Today isn’t one of those days, I think. The sun helps too.

But is a bowl of rice pudding worth blogging about? And how challenging can it be to qualify as part of a challenge?

Well, I haven’t cheated. I’ve never made rice pudding before, not the Greek kind, not any kind. And this is about me learning, right? And it was totally worth it because when I tasted it, it made me feel like a kid again. It was exactly right. Now, you might like your rice pudding a specific way, and I don’t blame you. This one is the one I grew up on. It’s a bit different to English rice pudding; first of all, it’s supposed to be eaten cold. It tastes better cold. And secondly, you sprinkle cinnamon on top. No nutmeg, no jam. It’s got to be cinnamon.

The recipe comes from the Greek Delia as I like to think of her, or Vefa as is her real name. I’ve changed quantities a bit as I didn’t like it as sweet and I thought the amount of cornflour was a bit on the extreme side.

Greek Rice Pudding (adapted from here)

Ingredients (makes 6 portions)

1/2 cup rice, washed
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups milk
1 tsp cornflour
1/3 cup sugar (or up to 1/2 cup, depending on how sweet you like it)
vanilla extract
ground cinnamon

In a pot, bring the water to boil and add the rice. Cover and let it simmer until all the water has been absorbed. In 1/4 cup of the milk, add the vanilla extract and the cornflour and dilute. Bring the rest of the milk to boil (or warm up in the microwave which is what I did) and add it to the rice, together with the sugar. Let it simmer for about 20 mins. When it’s done, thicken it by adding the cornflour-milk-vanilla mixture, bring to boil and cook for another 5-10 mins while stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. Let it cool and split it into 6 bowls. You can keep them in the fridge until you serve them.

You know the thing I said before about cinnamon? Don’t listen to me and my food pedantry. Rice pudding is the easiest and friendliest and least pretentious pudding in the world. Have it with whatever you fancy!

Doing these 10 Greek recipes has actually been harder than I initially thought- I cook Greek stuff all the time and it was quite tricky (but also very exciting!) to try and come up with things I hadn’t made before. You can argue that a couple of the things I made were just borderline acceptable, but it was fun and I learnt stuff! Next country is going to be India because a bit of spice is going to help us get through the end of the winter. I’m really looking forward to it; in the meantime, if you would like to have a look at the other Greek dishes I made, here’s a list:

Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie
Pork Souvlaki
Homemade Pita
Rabbit Stifado