Back to Basics…. Handmade Pasta

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There is nothing quite so satisfying as making your own fresh pasta. I love making my own pasta because it takes in so much more of the flavour of the sauce, it makes pasta a whole dish, rather than a tasty sauce on top of a dry pile of bland pasta.

The key to smooth, silky pasta is not to overwork the dough, but to make sure you knead it enough to activate the gluten. Don’t worry if you don’t get it on the first go, it’s all about getting a feel for finding that balance. Here is how I make my pasta-

Step One- Make a mound with 500g of plain flour and a decent pinch of salt and then shape it into a volcano shape with a deep central crater. Add 4 eggs and whisk them with a fork gently, just enough to break the yolk but not to disturb the flour yet.

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Step Two- Continue whisking incorporating a little more flour from the volcano as you go. Once most of the flour has been incorporated and it has a crumbly texture start mixing it together with your hands instead. Make the crumbly mixture into a mound again and add a splash of water and start kneading. Keep adding a splash of water at a time until it makes a slightly sticky dough.

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Step Three- Sprinkle some flour on the bench and continue kneading until smooth and elastic. Add more flour to the bench as needed. When kneading I push and roll with my palm and then rebuild and push and roll and rebuild, over and over again.

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Step Four- By the end it should look like the photo above. Now its time to start rolling. Set your pasta roller to the thickest setting, break off about a handful of dough and work into a disc shape, then you can start feeding it through the rollers. If it sticks and tears, sprinkle some extra flour over the pasta and the rollers. If it is not feeding through easily, but is not sticky, try adding some olive oil- not water. pasta5

 

Step Five- Fold it in half after each go through the rollers and do it on each setting for three rolls, or a bit longer if you have had any tears as you go. Change the settings on the roller to be thinner and thinner until it is at the required thickness. Hang until all of the pasta has been rolled out. I use either a broom between two benches or a small clothes airer. I also put a tea towel underneath to make sure that it doesn’t stick. Once all the pasta is rolled out, continue as required for your recipe. Make sure you have more room in the pot than you would normally use for dry pasta.

Step Six- Fall in love with fresh pasta and never want to use dry pasta again. Actually, I lie, dry pasta is good for dry sauces like oil based ones or just use less sauce. Fresh is best for creamier sauces and ones that are perfect for mopping up with bread afterwards.

 

 

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Chocolate Tiramisu Tart

Chocolate tiramisu tart

Daydream with me for a moment and imagine the crack and crumble of a thin shortcrust pastry, the silky smooth ganache and the rich chocolate hit. Sound good? What if I told you it was super-dooper easy too, that even a 12 year old could cook it? Sounds better, doesn’t it! Would you like the recipe? Ok, I guess I can share it… Just this once though ­čÖé

Chocolate tiramisu tart closeup2

Chocolate Tiramisu Tart

Ingredients-

250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

1 egg

50g butter

Splash of milk

1/2 cup cream

130g dark cooking chocolate

5 drops of coffee essence

1 drop of rum essence

3/4 cup mascapone

2 egg whites

Edible sparkle dust

 

Method-

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Put the flour and icing sugar in a food processor, pulse for a few seconds. Cut butter into cubes and blend with flour mix until crumbly. Add egg and process until it comes together in a rough dough. Add a splash of milk until it comes together in a ball. Roll out between two sheets of baking paper until about 1/2cm thick. Cut and place into mini tart tins. Trim edges. Bake blind until golden (about 10 minutes). Allow to cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in cream, mascapone and essences. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks. Fold egg whites gently into  chocolate mixture. When pastry shells are completely cooled scoop ganache filling into them. Using the back of a spoon make little peaks with the ganache and dust with edible sparkle dust.

Enjoy!

Chocolate tiramisu tart closeup

Caramalised Balsamic Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Caramalised balsamic onion and goats cheese tart text

With goat’s cheese in the fridge and my night to cook dinner I decided to make this easy┬áand simple dish that is perfect for a nice light meal.┬áThe sweetness of the caramalised balsamic onions balances with the slight bite of the goat’s cheese that I picked up at the local food festival. The flaky filo pastry along with the creamy filling makes for a comforting, easy meal.

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Mmmm…. Should have made more….

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Caramalised Balsamic Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Ingredients-

1 red onion

1 clove of garlic

6 tbs butter

1/2 tsp brown sugar

4 tbs balsamic vinegar

200g semi-hard goat’s cheese (I used Sunhill’s Chevrolin)

150g creamy ricotta

4 sheets filo pastry

 

Method-

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Thinly slice red onion and garlic. Fry the onion over medium heat in 2 tbs of butter until soft. Add garlic. Add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Stir frequently over a low heat until caramalised. Remove from heat.

Melt remaining butter and brush over two sheets of filo pastry. Repeat for the second half of the pastry and place over the top of the first. Cut in half to make two long rectangles. Layer these on top so there are now 8 layers of filo. Place the base on a lined baking tray. Crumble ricotta over leaving 1cm from the edges. Add the caramelised onion. Cut the goats cheese into cubes and sprinkle over the top. Fold in the short edges. Bake in oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with fresh rocket and cherry tomatoes.

Caramalised balsamic onion and goats cheese tart