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Monday, 22 August 2011

August and everything after

It’s always reassuring when you use a gadget more than once; it does feel like its purchase has been justified!
 The pasta maker has (reassuringly) been getting a bit of a workout over the last month.
 First up was the aforementioned Prawn Ravioli, which was quite decadent and yummy (if a bit fiddly to make). It was also a great pasta-making-learning-experience for me, mainly that pasta expands when it is cooked! So even if the size looks OK and that sheets are not too thick when you are assembling said Ravioli, it will get bigger and thicker after cooking! Oh well, not a grand drama; it mean they were more mega-entrée sized rather than classy dinner party main meal size pasta parcels!
 But taking that all on board, I next made some fresh tagliatelle again to go with a Tobie Puttock Leek and Prosciutto pasta recipe.
 And it worked a treat.
I can now recognise when the pasta has been compressed enough for the machine to go the next thickness (or thinness, as the case may be) level, and have settled on ‘2’ as the proper size for my pasta (might use ‘1’ but only for angel hair spaghetti). I was also very liberal with The Dusting of Flour.
 And I have found making pasta to be very calming and therapeutic.
 Something about turning eggs and flour into gorgeous strands of pasta coupled with the rhythmic turning of the handle… . I wonder if there is there is room in the New Age World for foodie meditation??
Another Pasta Making First was hand-made gnocchi. I didn’t have the specified potatoes (recipe asked for Sebago) so was a bit worried they would be a bit heavy and gluggy (as some gnocchi can be). I also didn’t have a ‘potato ricer’ and even had to jump on Google to find out what one was.
 Basically it’s a glorified big garlic press, that a foodie friend assured me “it gives you the perfect texture for much less work”. I used my trusty old masher and some elbow grease and it seemed to turn out fine. I can see the advantage of one though – especially as there are ones that peel and mash all in one (!!!) but I think I’ll survive without that gadget for a bit longer.
 But my gnocchi was light and fluffy, and even tastier as the recipe called for it to be pan-fried before adding the pancetta-based carbonara sauce (so definitely not a Heart Tick recipe). Pity Son 1 and 2 weren’t enthused … or maybe it’s not (more for us!!)
 Next up? Lasagne with fresh lasagne sheets (the last one I made was still using up the dried (Shudder!!) sheets in the cupboard)
 In other cooking adventures, I made Gumbo at the weekend.
 Hubby has been watching the TV series Treme, which is set in post-Katrina New Orleans and has a big focus on the culture of the region; food, music etc. Which naturally led me to flick through the ‘Louisiana’ section of my Jamie’s America cookbook.
 He describes Gumbo as a stew-cum-soup (or a stoup!). There is no set recipe for traditional gumbo, as the idea is to thrown in whatever you have around (meat and veges). The most important thing is that it has a roux made with fat (usually from the meat) and flour,  and the ‘holy trinity” of onion, celery and peppers. He lists a Surf & Turf gumbo (with prawns, crabmeat and sausage), but I lent towards the Spicy Meat Gumbo. The first step was to cook the meat and I knew that we were onto something good then.

Have you ever smelt chicken frying with bacon and chorizo?? Mouth-wateringly enticing.

And really with that combo, whatever else you add will be icing on the cake.
I probably didn’t cook the roux for long enough (some people cook it for up to an hour to get the colour dark enough, but who has time to do that?) and it would probably have thickened up if I had’ve let it cook longer, but there was a hungry crew to feed. And surprisingly, Son 2 loved it! As did we - a mixture of yum made it much more interesting than any of the stews I had as a child (sorry Mum!)
So with that success, I may give the Surf n’ Turf one a Go (if I can find some okra and crab claws), but the next Cajun delight I’m planning on tackling is Jumbalaya (they have such cool names of things!! 'Jambalaya' is French for 'jumbled' or mixed up' - it's a rice and meat and veges dished based on the whatever-you-have-around philosophy).
 Other new and successful Recent Recipes of Note – Hot and Sour soup (thai style noodle soup with prams and chicken), Conchiglioni - which are giant pasta shells filled with a meat sauce (Hubby called them Pasta Pirate Ships to get Sons 1&2 to eat them... successfully!)  and a massaman curry, which seemed to get milder after sitting it the fridge for a few days! Go figure!
And as a variation on a popular theme, I will say Keep Calm and Keep Cooking

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