Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Pasta Virgin No Longer

I lost my pasta making virginity on the last day of 2006.

Yes, really. I've been claiming to be a foodie in league with the best of them, but it is only shy of three months ago I ventured into the land of pasta-making. Why no sooner? Surely, pasta is easy to make?

Guess I just never saw the need, really. I love my De Cecco pasta. Of course, you don't get that with interesting stuffing, but I'm all about sauce anyways - preferably something creamy and clingy. So what's with the idea of making dough, leaving it to rest, roll it, thinner, thinner, and then just a little bit thinner again, and then spend ages making neat little packages out of them?

Well - that - spending ages making little packages, is exactly the point of it all, if you ask me. The fact that I'm using my Kitchen Aid attachment - hereby sticking to one of my 2007 dares - makes this even better, and faster and easier, too. If you haven't already tried, do so. It's worth it (and you can still put a creamy sauce on top - just wanted to make sure we're clear on that)

The fact that you can put anything you could ever want into these makes this no less fun. I'm very much still a novice in the tortellini-ravioli-what-have-you-department - but I am definitely a convert. There's no looking back. Making pasta is so the new kneading.

I've made two kinds of stuffed pasta so far - the pasta dough itself - well, we use 300 g. flour to 3 medium eggs - I know a lot of recipes use all egg yolks, but I haven't gone as far as to experiment with the pasta itself - for now, I stick to stuffing-fun!

The stuffing picture, above, was what I used for our New Years Dinner Ravioli Course - it's lobster meat, mascarpone, dill, chives, lemon zest and salt and pepper. The ravioli were served in a lobster consommé and garnished with a little dill. These were kinda big ravioli, so I used a teaspoonful of stuffing for each and each guest had three. Lovely - and makes lobster go far!

The tortellini pictured in the beginning of the post we made this Saturday. Martin sautéed some sliced serrano ham, shiitake mushrooms, brown mushrooms and a little dried, but rehydrated, morels. We had some majoram around, so it got a shot of that, too. Left it to cool, and then we mixed it with a really nice fresh goat's cheese and used about half a teaspoon stuffing for each tortellini. The method for making them came straight from Jamie Oliver (the second book, I think it was) and worked a charm. I love their little puffy bellies!

As I said already - not the last you've seen of pasta around here!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Homemade Granola? You bet.

I'm a snob. Wait, make that a snob and a half. When I was a kid, there was this one bully-type boy that used to tease me about always wearing Lacoste polo's - hey, it's not like I had a say in that and at least mine kept their color unlike his!:-P

But really, I was often accused of being a snob when I was younger. One of the reasons probably stemmed from me not getting my glasses until I was 13. I would walk by people on the street, not recognising them, because I COULDN'T SEE THEM! Yes, I'm still a bit traumatised by it - there was more than one person getting pretty huffed about the fact that I obviuosly felt so superior I couldn't even say hello. In the end, before I got the glasses, it resulted in me waving hello to a lot of people I didn't even know, just because I thought I'd recognised someone and didn't want to be accused of being a no-hello'er again.

The other thing that added to the title was one that I think a lot of teenagers are victims of - I was shy. Not in the hide-behind-mamma's-apron kinda way, but I just didn't walk up to people and started talking to them, if I didn't know them. I still don't. I'm working on it, but saying the first sentence in a conversation just isn't one of my traits. Usually, I'd wait until someone else got the ball rolling. And I wasn't the one telling big secrets or gossiping about who went out with who, and I'd rather crawl under the sink than start elaborating on myself. Really makes for a hard conversation in teenage-land, doesn't it? The fact that I got a steady boyfriend at a pretty early age added to the whole mysterious girl/snob labeling - I only very seldom attended parties with my peers and I rarely, if ever got drunk with them and did all of the fooling around they did.

I didn't have a lot of friends. I had a couple that were really, really close to me, and then there was a group of people we hung around. You know, a crowd that attended the same parties, interchanged girlfriends and boyfriends. Teenagers! I never considered them friends - acquiantences, you might call them. But for me, a friend is something very different from an acquintance. Maybe I was a snob.

Wikipedia gives the definition of snob my Mom also told me when I was younger: that it is when someone looks at someone else and think them inferior. I would never, ever, do that. I hope, and believe, I haven't ever done that, consciously. But in retrospect, I suppose not saying hello to people on the street would put you in that category. Teenagers are so fast at categorizing. But being the teenager I was, I think it was more like I felt inferior to everyone else.

But you know? I am a snob. Not in the people department, though. In the granola department? Yes, siree. I can honestly say I will look at any other granola than this with a scoff and a shrug of the shoulders - 'cause this is the one, the only. This here, is superior.

Andy's Fairfield Granola - only slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast.

I've made granola before, but the thought of putting apple sauce in the mix was entirely new to me. And I love it. It adds a sweet-sour note and gives you a totally butter-free experience - the other recipes I've used usually had butter in them. Considering this is breakfast, I like for there not to be butter (I rather want a thick smear on my roll for lunch, heh!) Also, this granola makes perfect crunchy clusters, the spices add a lovely flavor and are not over-powering at all, as I was afraid they might be and you know - just make it. There's a little snob in all of us :-)

450 g. rolled oats
60 g. sunflower seeds
120 g. sesame seeds
175 g. apple compote or apple sauce (I made my own, straining it to make it completely smooth)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
120 g. golden syrup
4 tablespoons runny honey
100 g. light brown sugar
150 g. almonds (with or without skins as you prefer), coarsely chopped
100 g. hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Maldon salt
300 g. raisins

In a BIG bowl, mix the dry ingedients, minus the raisins, add the wet and give a good stir. That was pretty hard, huh?

Divide on to rimmed baking sheets and put in a 170 degrees celcius preheated oven. Leave for about 10 minutes, then give both sheets a good stir, maybe swapping their places in the oven. Let the granola in there for another 10 minutes, stir, swap. Keep this up for about 30-40 minutes in total, until nicely toasted and golden. Leave to cool, then mix with the raisins. Enjoy on yoghurt, tykmælk or by the handful as Nigella suggests. But enjoy, you will!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Procrastinating with Potato-Wholewheat Bread

I learn so much from blogging. Like the word "procrastinate". I love that word. It's one of those words that lie really well in your mouth when you say it out loud.

What I don't like about it is that it's not really a positive thing to do, you know? I just checked Wikipedia for the REAL explanation of the word - I wouldn't know how to translate it into Danish, but I certainly had the right vibe about it - and people, it ain't all rosy red. So let's set things straight - I'm not procrastinating because of the perfectionism-thing. I'm simply reading to many other blogs and am busy procrastinating with my studies to be able to do all these blog-post things.

I digress (That's another word I've learned from blogging - see, blogging does make you wiser!) What I really wanted to do today, is tell you about this bread I made a couple of days ago. I've been trying out a couple of different potato-based loaves the last couple of months, and this here - mmm-mmm-mmm. Flecked with bits of potatoes and a certain sweetness/nuttiness from the whole wheat flour, it was eaten by the half-loaf, not slices.

I bought HomeBaking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World when Martin and I were in the States (oh! It's exactly a year ago we left Denmark tomorrow!) I already had Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet and it's not like I ever cooked anything from it, but it is so pretty. Ditto on HomeBaking - purdy, purdy.

I came home, schlepped out the book, made a bread. And hated it. It was a pretty standard sandwich loaf, but made with a biga, so I was expecting some sort of flavor. It was just flat, dull and ugh. A lot of it may have to do with me using standard flour (yes, I did - it was before the experiment) but still. It was so dull I froze it right away, just wanting to forget about it. And I put the book back on the shelf, wondering why on earth I'd gone through the extra luggage of 2 kilos for that.

And then. Molly to the rescue. What she made from the book was a cake quickbread, but on hearing her loving that (and the book) so much I thought I'd better give it just one more chance. Even though lately, I've been procrastinating in the bread baking department also. Out the book came again, I flipped it open on some random page, and there it was. Tender Potato Bread. So you see, it was a wake-up call of sorts - this recipe begged to be made.

So I did. And I ate half of it on the first day. I think that's about all I need to say. If this is what comes out of procrastinating, I have to do it some more ;-)

Tender Potato Bread - from HomeBaking by Naomi Duguid & Jeffrey Alford

4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used 10 g. fresh yeast, dissolved in a bit of water)
6½ to 8½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour

Put the potatoes and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, hlaf covered, until the potatoes are very tender. Drain, reserving the potato water, and mash well.

Measure out three cups of the potato water - add extra water if you haven't got enough potato water to make three full cups. Place water and mashed potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let cool to lukewarm - cool enough for it not to kill the yeast once you put that in.

Which is the next step - add the yeast to the potato-potato water mixture and let stand for five minutes.

Add 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and mix for 1 minute. Change to the dough hook and sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, add the butter and whole wheat flour, and mix briefly. Add 4 more cups unbleached flour, little at the time, then knead at the lowest speed for 6 minutes. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly. The dough will still be very soft.

Place the dough in a large clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. (I let mine rise in the fridge for about 2 hours and then 1½ hours on the counter, because that was what matched my schedule - worked super) It will more than double in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky. Divide the dough into the amount of breads you would like - I got two smaller ones and one big one. You could also make all rolls or a foccacia, even. Shape as desired and leave to proof under plastic wrap - a large loaf will need 30-45 minutes, smaller rolls about 30 minutes. (Again, mine was left for about 1½, but I think I used a smaller amount of yeast.) They will double in size and should look puffy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Dust your loaves or rolls with flour and slash the loaves a couple of times. Into the oven they go, rolls will need about 30 minutes, a large loaf 50 minutes - once that time is over, remove the loaves from their pans and let them have another 5-10 minutes without it. Tap it underneith - when it sounds hollow, it's done (and if you're anything like me, you probably need to give it an extra ten minutes when you think they're done - I don't know what it is with me these days, but I have underbaked so many loaves the last couple of months I've lost count. Doh!)

Leave to cool for 30 minutes, or eat warm if you've made rolls.