Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pasta most worthy

When making a pasta sauce from your home-grown veggies, it seems only fair that the pasta it's presented on is worthy of such an honour. And naturally, the only pasta worthy is going to be home-made. It's actually surprisingly easy.

I use a pasta machine, which is a lovely piece of equipment to have, but not essential - you can substitute it's use with a rolling pin and some elbow grease (it will take longer, but you'll save money on a gym membership - swings and roundabouts).

The result is a bowl of delicious, yellow ribbons of eggy pasta; the perfect companion for your sauce. This time I made double the quantity I needed and froze the remainder for a speedy meal in the future.

Pasta (serves 4)
Measurements for this recipe are easy, just allow one cup of flour and one egg per person. This pasta is far more filling than regular dry pasta, so you'll need less per meal. Also, I'm making pappardelle here, but you can make any style you wish.

4 cups plain flour
4 eggs

Pile the flour on your work surface and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well and sprinkle with salt (approx. 1 pinch of salt per egg).

Use a fork to break the yolks and work the flour into the eggs. Continue with the fork until the combined, then you can get your hands in and start kneading. The dough will be be quite firm, but keep kneading until its texture is smooth and silky to the touch, then divide the dough in half. Now you can let the pasta machine do your hard work.

Place the machine at the largest setting and roll the dough through. Fold the sides into the centre and roll through again. Repeat this process a few times. Then you can begin to pass it through each of the narrower settings, one at a time (I skip the smallest as I find this makes the pasta too thin and easy to tear).

Lay your thin sheet out flat (you may want to cut it in half to make it more manageable) and sprinkle with flour. Loosely fold the narrow edge of the sheet in about 10cm and keep folding it in until you have a small square of many layers. Use a knife to cut along the long edge - forming ribbons (about 2cm in width). Unroll the ribbons and hang to dry. Repeat this process with the remaining half of the dough.

This pasta freezes well - simply dust the ribbons with flour, set on a tray in the freezer til hard, then break up and place in a plastic bag and return to the freezer for easier storage.

Of course it can also be cooked immediately in a pot of boiling, salted water and will only need about 5 minutes in the pot. Drain and and serve with your equally worthy pasta sauce (stay tuned for recipes)!

From the garden: eggs

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sad Days

Well, as I am sure you are all aware We've been having a terrible time here in Victoria with the bushfires. The air has been thick and pungent with that characteristic smell every time we have northerly wind. The sun has been covered with a golden fog making everything look eerie. The tragedies of Marysville, Kinglake, Flowerdale, Strathewen, Narbethong etc. are ever present in peoples minds. There have also been some great stories of survival and heroism. Today, as I write, we are suffering another high risk day with temperatures in the high thirties and strong winds but still not like what they now call black Saturday when it hit 46.5 with wind gusts up around 100kph. Here in Brunswick West we are safe as it is very close to the city. We are counting our blessings a little though since we have spent the last year looking for land around Kinglake and Flowerdale and had not yet purchased. The people we have met on our search are ok with varying degrees of property damage. It has been a reality check for us and fire safe considerations have now hit the "what to look for" list in number one position and I've turned my mind to looking for fire resistant plantings such as saltbush etc. We haven't changed our thoughts on where we were looking as wherever you head you face the risk, besides it will be an important part of our lives to watch and play a part in a community rebuild.

The two photos on either side are pics of the last two blocks of land we visited, one in Kinglake and one in Flowerdale, a couple of weeks before the fires, following a visit to st. Andrews market & a jug in the Kinglake pub. The argument in the car on the way home was which one we loved more.

On a more positive note the garden has picked up following the intense heat and provided a magnificent harvest of Tomatoes and Zucchinis, I can't wait to see what Sarah does with all of these...
Love and best wishes to all in our fire affected communities.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lemon sorbet

My new obsession with aioli has left me with an excess of egg whites that couldn't go to waste.
Neither Aldrum nor I are particularly keen on meringues, so I needed another idea and the recent heat has led me to crave something cool and refreshing.

I didn't think you could make any decent sort of ice cream without an ice-cream maker, but that's simply not true. Lemon sorbet is easy to make and the result is tangy, refreshing and has a soft, cloud-like texture, without being hard or icy.

To be honest, I didn't even use a recipe for this, I just made it up - it's that easy. Here's what I did:

Lemon sorbet
2 egg whites (at room temperature)
1/2 cup of sugar
juice and rind of 1 lemon

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, a little at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy. Add the lemon juice and rind. The lemon rind here is optional - it won't be fully incorporated into the sorbet, so if you don't like bits, leave it out. It does add an extra tang though.

Put mixture in sealed plastic tub in the freezer. After half an hour, take it out and beat it again. Then after another hour, do the same. Finally, allow it to freeze fully.
Scoop out and serve.

From the garden: eggs, lemons

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Saucy Tomatoes...

Ahh... Faith in vegetables.

Even though it's been up to 45.1 degrees c this summer which has resulted in:

This sun damage to the growing tips of the toms ==>

and this scalding damage to the fruit==>

We have still managed to harvest more "Tommy Toe" and "Grosse Lisse" tomatoes than we could need, and considering the "Tigerellas" are a later season Tom and are currently covered in unripe fruit we are hoping for a few more yet!

At least enough so we can share with all those interested anyhoo==>


New potatoes

Our first ever potato harvest yielded several handfuls of tiny baby potatoes, about the size of your thumb knuckle. Clearly too small to peel; I was unsure what they'd be good for.

Then it dawned on me - their delicate flavour and texture would make a perfect potato salad and surely give these bite-size babies a sense of purpose. Especially when swathed in a silky cloak home-made aioli.

New potato salad with herbed aoili

Several handfuls of new potatoes, washed (cut any larger ones to match the size of the smallest)
1 egg yolk
100 mls olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (and rind of half)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbs capers
2 tbs dill
salt to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking, place the egg yolk and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Have the oil in a small jug that allows controlled pouring.

Sit in a comfortable position where you can wedge the bowl between your thighs so you can free one hand for whisking while drizzling in the oil with the other hand. Pour the oil in very slowly, just a tiny bit at a time while whisking vigorously. This will emulsify the egg and give you a smooth, gloopy mayonnaise*. Continue until all the oil has been added, then stir through the garlic, salt, capers and dill.

Place your potatoes in a bowl and smother with the aioli. Serve.

* Tip: If the emulsion happens to split, add a little of the mixture to another egg yolk in another bowl and start again, slowly adding the split mixture to the new yolk. I've never had this happen though.

From the garden: potatoes, eggs, garlic, lemon.