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spinach and pumpkin pasta drying

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes from me.

It’s good, good and good.

♥  You get to use real eggs, which makes pasta not just empty calories but a decent protein and nutrient source.  If you use wholemeal flour and vegetables in it as well, it can be super food. Who ever thought spag bog could end up a superfood?

♥  You get to use ethically produced eggs and locally produced and/or organic flour and avoid packaging and food miles and the energy costs of processing and storage. And with some flour and an egg or two in the house, a near empty pantry and a teeny herb garden, you can make something so enticing that takeaways or a quick trip to the supermarket lose their lure.

♥  You get to eat something delicious even if it’s just cooking for one after a hard day when boiling water is about the extent of the energy left in the pot. Or if it’s five unexpected teenagers staying for dinner.  Or if it’s a dinner party with a friend’s new partner who just happens to be a five star chef.

Nearly four years ago I found a pasta machine at a garage sale.  I had been making pasta from scratch before that but rolling it out with a rolling pin, which meant that lasagna and ravioli were much more likely than spaghetti or tagliatelle.   I wrote at the time that “I’m not sure at all whether it will be a stayer.” But it has.  It has joined my (short) list of loved kitchen stuff, along with my pressure cooker, food processor, maca cracker (and a tortilla press has joined since then too, but that’s another story).

Mine has no brand name on it and a dodgy handle that looks like it isn’t original.  This post was inspired by a comment from Katie on the last post asking if I know how to choose one.  I’d love your thoughts.  Do you have one you love? Or know what to look out for to avoid?

There are hundreds of pasta recipes on the internet, and I really use just one varied in a few ways – just whole egg, plain flour (preferably high gluten but any will do), a little olive oil, a pinch of salt, knead to make a soft dough, rest if possible (but it works anyway), fold and roll several times to laminate if possible (but it works anyway), roll out thin, cook in boiling water for just a couple of minutes.

I have just a few tricks perhaps worth sharing:

  • Fast, simple pasta is still way better than bought dried pasta, and it can be made in literally 5 minutes.  Skip the resting, laminating, drying, fancy shapes – just blend, knead, roll, cook.  It isn’t going to impress the chef, but it works fine.
  • A bit of extra effort and you can impress the chef: an egg yolk or two along with the whole egg and it’s a bit richer, rest the dough for an hour or so before rolling it out and it’s a bit more elastic, laminate it by folding it and taking it through the pasta machine a couple of times on each setting and it’s more al dente.  The kids won’t notice but the Masterchef judges might.
  • Flour the bench, the machine, your hands, the pasta dough. Toss the rolled and cut pasta in flour and if you are cooking pretty well straight away you don’t need hang it up to dry.
  • Get the water really boiling before you put the pasta in, and have the sauce ready too. It cooks in two or three minutes.
  • Fresh, home-made pasta is wonderful just tossed with olive oil, finely grated lemon rind, garlic, and maybe some olives or cherry tomatoes or chopped parsley or basil.  Or some cooked pumpkin and crumbled feta.  “Sauce” doesn’t have to be fancy.
  • If you are drying it, a broom suspended between the bench and a shelf, or a clothes horse, or a baby gate all make good drying racks.
  • Blend cooked vegetables with the pasta dough to make rainbow pasta. Silver beet, spinach, pumpkin, carrot, beets, sweet potato all work really well.  If you use high gluten flour, you can add quite a lot and the pasta is a bit more fragile but it works.
  • It goes a long way.  One egg and half a cup of flour makes pasta for two. We had a pasta night at the community centre a while ago, where everyone brought a sauce, and I made pasta for thirty with a dozen eggs and it was eminently do-able.
  • It’s very easy to make a double batch and freeze some for when even five minutes of pasta making is beyond the call of duty.  It cooks really well from frozen.  Just dry the pasta enough so that it isn’t sticky (not too long or it goes brittle).  Twirl it up into little nests like in the photo, freeze the nests in a single layer, then when they are frozen you can pack into a container or bag and take them out as needed.

spinach and pumpkin pasta for freezing

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red claw pappardelle

I have to confess, this recipe has been in my drafts since Easter.  Mostly because I totally know most of you won’t have access to red claw and so right now you will be thinking mean things at me!

But you could do red claw.  My son has them growing in an aquaculture tank in the back yard of an inner city share house in Brisbane.  Ours were introduced into our front dam just under a year ago as juveniles about 3 inches long.

1-baby red claw 4 july 2013

We submerged some milk crates full of pieces of hollow bamboo for them to shelter in – each one like to have its own little hidey hole – but otherwise they’ve had no feeding or care at all.  Over Easter, just for fun, we set some traps to see how they were faring and easily caught half a dozen.  We threw the females back – theoretically they should breed in our climate – but kept three of the large males about 20 cm long in the body, with big fat front claws. I was planning to make them go around four of us, and then at the last minute two more arrived for lunch.  And like loaves and fishes, three red claw went generously round six people as red claw pappardelle with a green salad and some garlic sourdough on the side.

The Recipe:

This recipe makes 4 generous serves. With a salad, it will go round 6 without feeling miserly. The same idea would no doubt work for yabbies too.

The Sauce:

It is tragic to do too much to red claw.  The meat is sweet and pink and very delicious.  We put the three large male red claw in the freezer for ten minutes, then straight into a pot of boiling water and cooked for just a few minutes. Then we cooled them enough to handle and shell them. While they are in the freezer is a good time to start making the pasta, and while they are cooling is a good time to roll it out.

The tail is the only part with real meat, but it is worth picking the meat out of the front claws too.  The heads and shells went into a pot of water to make stock for another day.

Finely dice a large onion and saute gently in a generous amount of really good olive oil till translucent.  Add three or four cloves of finely diced garlic, then, all at once:

  • a handful of lemon basil finely chopped (lemon thyme would no doubt work too)
  • juice of a lemon
  • a teaspoon of finely grated lemon rind
  • a couple of teaspoons of chopped capers
  • the red claw meat, coarsely chopped
  • good olive oil enough to coat everything

Just heat through, then toss the sauce through the pasta, top with some chopped flat leaf parsley, and serve.

Pappardelle

I have just one pasta recipe, and I’ve posted it several times before, but I’ll repeat it here so you don’t have to click around.

In the food processor, blend:

  • two large eggs (or if your eggs are small, add a bit of water too)
  • 1 cup  flour – I use the high gluten unbleached baker’s flour I use for my bread, but you can use any plain flour.
  • a swig of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Blend until it comes together into a soft dough.  It needs to be not sticky but soft.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, soft, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.  Let it rest for a few minutes covered with a wet bowl or cup, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

For this recipe I cut it into 30 mm thick pappardelle noodles, but you can go for any shape you like.  You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better.  If you go to the effort of rolling it out, then folding it into a block and rolling it out again, you get a denser, more al dente pasta.  Usually i don’t bother but to do justice to red claw  it’s worth it.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled out dough, then roll it into a log.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

If you put a big pot of water on to boil at the same time you start the sauce, the two should be ready at more or less the same time.

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creamy pumpkin pasta

It’s the southern hemisphere Halloween, and I totally get it why Halloween features pumpkin lamps.  I have brush turkeys that relieve me of most of my pumpkins, but still I’m fast cycling all the pumpkin recipes and taking pumpkins with me to Bentley regularly.

Halloween is the final harvest festival, and marks the start of the season of gathering in – firewood, mulch, water, pumpkins, passata, preserves, warm clothes, books, tribe and wisdom. Traditionally, it is a time for celebrating all that has been garnered in the long term – a time for appreciating not just this year’s harvest but the harvest of the ages. A time for major feasting, and for remembering and honouring the ancestors.  It’s interesting that in Australia, of all the historical events we could have chosen, we’ve chosen Anzac Day for honouring the heroism and self sacrifice of our ancestors.  It’s almost like the cool, misty, late dawn provokes reflections about loyalty and legacy.

Halloween marks the point where the day length curve flattens out.  The days will continue to get shorter through till the winter solstice on June 21, but only by seconds a day from now on.  They are now pretty near as short as they are going to get. We’re settled in for the night of the year, the season of long evenings in front of the wood fire with a good book and reflections.    And warmly nourishing comfort food.

The Recipe

This recipe makes 2 good serves. You can scale it up easily (though you might want to use a pasta machine if you are making fresh pasta and it’s more than 4 serves).

Tagliatelle

I have just one pasta recipe, and I’ve posted it before, but I’ll repeat it here so you don’t have to click around.  You can just use bought pasta but I’ve become a solid fan of fresh made pasta in the last few years.  It really does take just minutes to make, and besides allowing me to use real free range eggs in it (and thus get all the good stuff in real eggs into the dish) it makes all the difference to the gourmetness.

In the food processor, blend:

  • one large egg (or if your egg is small, add a bit of water too)
  • ½ cup  flour – I use the high gluten unbleached baker’s flour I use for my bread, but you can use any plain flour, including wholemeal or spelt flour.
  • a swig of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Blend until it comes together into a soft dough.  It needs to be not sticky but soft.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, soft, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.  Let it rest for a few minutes covered with a wet bowl or cup if you have time, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

For this recipe I cut it into thick tagliatelle noodles, but you can go for any shape you like.  You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better.  If you go to the effort of rolling it out, then folding it into a block and rolling it out again, you get a denser, more al dente pasta.  But if you are going for quick and easy, rolling it out once is fine.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled out dough, then roll it into a log.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

If you put a big pot of water on to boil at the same time you start the sauce, the two should be ready at more or less the same time.

The Pumpkin Sauce

Put a big, heavy fry pan on a medium hot burner with a good swig of olive oil.

Add a diced onion and get it sizzling.

Then add 1½ cups of pumpkin chopped into bite sized pieces.  Don’t dice too fine or it falls to pieces.

Crush in 3 cloves of garlic.

Cook, stirring occasionally, while you shell and chop ¼ to ½ cup of macadamia kernels.  You can substitute pine nuts or cashews, but macas are in season now and if you can get them fresh in shell, they’re so sweet and, well, nutty.  Add the macas just as the pumpkin starts to get a bit of colour.

Cook a little, then add in a handful of chopped fresh herbs.  Oregano, basil and sage all work well in different ways but oregano would be my favourite.  If you use sage, make it a smallish handful.  Grate in a good grating of black pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally but not so much that the pumpkin breaks up, until the pumpkin is just tender.

Now is a good time to put the pasta on to cook.  It will need just two or three minutes too rise to the top and become tender, then you can drain and serve it into bowls.

While the pasta is cooking, take the pumpkin pan off the heat.  Crumble in about 60 grams of smooth white feta, like goat’s feta or Danish feta.  Stir through gently so it melts.  Don’t put it back on the heat or it might curdle. Add a spoonful of  Greek yoghurt and/or a splash milk  and stir through.  Taste and add salt to taste.  Pile it on top of the noodles and serve with grated parmesan to add to taste.

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It’s a while since I’ve posted a kangaroo recipe. Though I’m very critical of the intensive farming of animals for meat,  I’m not a vegetarian.  If you’ve ever seriously tried to grow enough to feed your own household (let alone enough to fully support it), you will know that food webs include predators, prey, animals, plants, insects, funghi, bacteria – the whole complex web.  If you take animals and predation out of the system, it teeters and falls.  Try to make compost or keep soil fertile without animal manures – pretty quickly you realise that you either go very hungry or use industrially produced chemical fertilisers – a short term fix that leads down a slippery slope.  Life enriches itself, knitting the web deeper, adding complexity and resilience with  every generation but like a Jenga tower, if you remove a critical bit it collapses.

And both herbivores and carnivores are critical bits. You could no doubt build a stable system as a vegetarian, but you’d have to co-opt other animals to be the carnivore predators in the system, and humans are actually capable of more moral distinction in predator ethics than goannas or quolls or eagles or snakes. So I’m comfortable with the notion that being an ethical predator is part of what being human is all about. The ethical questions for me are around whether the animal lives a “normal” life for that kind of animal, whether it is killed cleanly and without cruelty, whether the species as a whole is safe, and whether its part in the whole web is being fulfilled.  Australian beef and lamb are mostly free range and grass fed, but on all these counts, I see kangaroo as the red meat of choice.

The Recipe

The baking dish I use for this is 30 cm by 20 cm. It makes 6 generous serves with a green salad on the side.  Leftovers are to fight over.

The Pasta:

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • 1 cup plain flour.  I use the same high gluten baker’s flour that I use for my sourdough, but you can make at least half of it wholemeal flour or buckwheat flour or spelt flour  if you like.
  • eggs,
  • a good swig of olive oil. 
  • a good pinch of salt.

You want a dough that is soft but not sticky. If it is too dry it will be tough. Flour the benchtop and knead just for a minute, then let it rest for a few minutes, covered with a wet bowl, while you make the sauces.

The Meat Sauce:

Brown 500 grams kangaroo mince in a little olive oil in a large, heavy pan over a high heat.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up clumps.  When it is brown, add:

  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 capsicum diced
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped fine

Saute until the onion starts to become translucent, then add:

  • 300 grams of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 500 grams tomato passata or about 1 kg of fresh tomatoes.
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil and/or oregano
  • salt and pepper

Allow this lot to simmer while you make the white sauce and roll out the pasta, adding water if needed.  You want a sauce that is fairly wet but spoonable rather than pourable.

The White Sauce

This is a cheat’s white sauce that is much faster and easier, and just as good as the traditional bechamel sauce.You don’t need to wash the food processor.  Blend together:

  • ¾ cup plain yoghurt
  • ¾ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 50 grams of grated mature cheese
  • pinch grated nutmeg

Assembling and Baking

In the baking tray, lay a fairly thin base layer of the meat sauce.

Divide the pasta into three balls, one half the size of the other two, and at least visualise the meat sauce and the white sauce divided into three.

Flour the benchtop well and roll out one of the balls of dough very thin.  If you keep flipping it you should be able to get it very thin.  Trim it to the same size as the baking tray, roll  the rolling pin under it and transfer it to the baking tray.  Add the trimmings to the small ball of dough.

Cover with another layer of meat sauce, then a layer of white sauce, then another layer of pasta.  Repeat.

Cover the final layer of pasta with a final thin layer of white sauce.  Sprinkle grated cheese fairly thinly over the top and bake for around 30 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.

It’s really good hot, but so good the next day that it is worth making a double batch.

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kale pesto

In the scale of foods that are Popeye worthy, kale is about as dense a source of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants as you can get, including Vitamin K which is important for bone density and for brain health, and Vitamin A which is important for skin and eyes. But more uniquely, it’s also a source of some important anti-cancer phytochemicals.

It’s also really easy to grow over winter and we eat lots of it,  in soups and stews, tempura and pakora,  pasta and noodle dishes, stuffed and baked and very lightly steamed.  But this is probably my best recipe for bulk kale in a dish you’re happy to eat regularly.

Spelt Fettucini

It really does only take minutes to handmake small quantities of pasta.  If I had to feed a large family, I might baulk at it, and no doubt it would be better pasta if I used all the Masterchef tricks of kneading and resting and laminating.  But if I am thinking about a quick easy dinner for just us, quick easy handmade pasta is a hundred times better than bought pasta, even if it wouldn’t impress Matt.

I get to use one of our proper free range real eggs, and just for a change I used wholemeal spelt flour for this one.

In the food processor, blend:

  • one large egg
  • ½ cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • a swig of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Blend until it comes together into a soft dough.  It needs to be not sticky but soft.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.  Let it rest for a few minutes, covered with a wet bowl or cup, while you make the pesto and boil the water, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

Kale Pesto

Dry roast ½ cup roughly chopped macadamia kernels by cooking them, stirring constantly, in a heavy fry pan for just a couple of minutes till they get a touch of brown.  Be careful not to burn them. Dry roasting makes a huge difference.

You can wipe out the food processor if you like, but you don’t need to wash it.  Blend together, scraping down the sides with a spatula a couple of times:

  •  ½ cup dry roasted macadamia kernels
  • 40 gm parmesan cheese
  • clove of garlic
  • pinch salt
  • 8 cavolo nero kale leaves stripped from their central vein
  • enough olive oil to make a pesto texture

At the very end, add two pieces (about 20 grams) preserved lemon, and just pulse it in to chop it fine rather than blend it in. (Alternatively, you can just chop it fine and stir it in).  If you don’t have any preserved lemon, you can substitute juice of ¼ fresh lemon, but the preserved lemon really works.

Cooking and Assembling:

The pasta dough has been resting while you make the pesto, so the next step is to roll it out.  You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better.  If you go to the effort of rolling it out, then folding it into a block and rolling it out again, you get a denser, more al dente pasta.  But if you are going for quick and easy, rolling it out once is fine.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled out dough, then roll it into a log.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes till they rise to the top.   Drain in a colander then return to the pot and stir through as much of the pesto as you like, more or less as you like it. ( The left over pesto will keep in the fridge for a week, and is wonderful on sandwiches or under a poached egg.) Serve hot with a grating of parmesan on top.

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This Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe uses egg noodles, which are exactly the same as pasta. I’m a relatively recent convert to home-made pasta and noodles.  For years I used to think home-made pasta 1. required a pasta machine, and 2. was just a carrier for the sauce anyway.  In fact I was wrong on both counts. I still don’t use a pasta machine, though I possibly would if I were cooking for a larger number of people.  For a couple of serves, hand rolling pasta is fast, easy, and minimises the clean up.  And I’ve discovered that fresh pasta and noodles are so good they are the stars of the recipe.  But the clincher for me is that when I make my own pasta and noodles, I can use my own, real eggs with all their vitamins, minerals, omega 3, protein, and happy lives.

The Recipe:

Makes two big serves.

There are three parts to this: the noodles, the spice mix, and the vegetables.  Like many Asian dishes if comes together really fast at the end, so you need to have all three parts prepared before you start cooking.

Start with the noodles.

1. The Egg Noodle Dough:

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup plain flour.  I use the same high gluten baker’s flour that I use for my sourdough. Once you get the knack of it, you can start adding wholemeal flour or buckwheat flour if you like.
  • an egg,
  • a spoonful of oil. You can buy roasted sesame oil in little bottles, so strong flavoured that you only use a few drops.  Or you can buy mild sesame oil in larger bottles. It’s still relatively expensive, but it has a nutty flavour that works really well in Asian recipes.  Peanut oil is cheaper and also works well. Or macadamia oil.
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the benchtop and knead in enough flour to make a dough ball. Let it rest for a few minutes, covered with a wet bowl or cup, while you make the spice mix, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better. If you have time and you want to go all gourmet, at this stage,  fold it into a little block, then roll it out again.  You get a denser, more al dente noodle.  But I usually skip this step.  One roll out is plenty.

Flour the top then fold the dough in half lengthways, flour again then fold lengthways again, and once more.  You will have a log of dough 8 layers thick.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

Put a  pot of water on to boil and let the noodles dry a little while you chop vegetables.

The Spice Paste:

Use a mortar and pestle, or the spice grinder on a food processor, to grind to a paste:

  • Big thumb sized knob of fresh ginger and/or galangal
  • Thumb sized knob of fresh turmeric (or ½ – 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • white part of a lemon grass stem
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf

The Vegetables

You need about 4 cups full of julienned vegetables.  I used green beans, red onion, carrots, tromboncino, yellow squash, baby capsicum, and leaf amaranth.  But you could substitute whatever vegies are in season at your place. I’ve made this with snow peas, silver beet, carrots, and broccoli in late winter.

Cooking and Assembling:

Put a wok or a large fry pan over a high flame and get it quite hot.  Add a dash of oil (sesame, macadamia or peanut for preference), then the spice mix. Stir for just a minute, then add all the vegetables at once.

Cook over a high heat, stirring, for a few minutes, then add

  • a cup of water
  • 2 dessertspoons of soy sauce
  • 2 dessertspoons of brown sugar

Continue cooking over a high heat until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Meanwhile: The pot of water for the noodles should be boiling by now.  Add the noodles and cook for just a few minutes until they rise to the top.  Be careful not to overcook them – fresh noodles take 2 minutes or less.

Drain the noodles.  As soon as the vegetables are crisp-tender, turn the heat off.  Add the noodles, along with a couple of tablespoons of  finely chopped herbs  – coriander, lime basil, Thai basil, and Vietnamese mint all work well.  Toss through and serve.

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The number of   Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes based on pasta isn’t really reflective of how often we eat it.  I’ve featured Pasta Primavera Carbonara and Lemon Feta Tortellini made with home-made pasta, and Pasta Puttanesca and Summer Pasta in Five Minutes, and a couple of Asian versions – Phó Inspired Egg Noodle Soup and Wontons with Ginger Bok Choy Filling, which are really the same concept as ravioli but with Asian flavours in the filling.

But home made from scratch pasta, made with real eggs, meets all the Witches Kitchen definitions of good – it’s high protein nutrient dense good-for-you. It’s made with local, in season ingredients without excessive packaging or storage costs good-for-the-world.  And it tastes very very good.

Unless you’ve had a lot of practice, orecchiette for two only just make it into the half hour.  But it’s a very pleasant half hour, one in which you can chat, have a glass of wine, listen to music, and cook all at once.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves. Recipe doubles easily.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ¼ cup fine semolina
  • ¼ cup plain flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough)
  • a large egg,
  • a dessertspoon of olive oil
  • a dessertspoon of water
  • a good pinch of salt

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

Divide the dough into four and roll each into a long skinny snake about 1 cm thick then cut the snake into 1 cm bits. There’s a knack to the next bit. I just squoosh each little orecchiette on the floured benchtop with a finger, dragging towards me to make the little ear shaped curled cups.

Put a big pot of water with a pinch of salt on to boil and let the orecchiette dry for a few minutes while you make the sauce.

Sauce:

In a heavy frypan, saute a chopped onion and a chopped trombochino or zucchini or squash till just tender.

While they are cooking, blend together

  • dessertspoon olive oil
  • ½ cup (packed) flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 5 macadamias (or you could use pine nuts or cashews)
  • juice and rind of ½ lemon
  • teaspoon capers

 Cooking the Orecchiette and Assembling:

Add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook for just a couple of minutes until they float to the top and are tender.  Drain and add them to the frypan with the onions and zucchini, along with a couple of handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes.  Sauté for just a couple of minutes.  Toss through the blender mix and serve with grated parmesan on top.

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This is a bit of a  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules cheat.  Now the days have started really lengthening, even the geriatric chooks are laying so handmade pasta with real eggs was in my mind. And then I was looking for a cake tin deep in the back of the shelf and came across a fluted flan tin that I forgot I had.  And in a moment of inspiration realised it would work to cut pasta.  So I decided to try hand making farfalle.

The next decision was primavera with the lovely sweet baby spring vegetables, or carbonara which would use up another egg, so I compromised by combining both. The whole meal didn’t take much over the half hour of the rules, and it was quite simple and easy, but if I were making it for more than two and trying to get it done in the half hour, I think I’d go for a simpler pasta shape.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • a large egg,
  • a spoonful of olive oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out very thin.  (If you flip it several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get it very thin without sticking. The thinner the better.)

I put it onto a chopping board to cut, but that will depend on your bench hardiness. You can then cut it into any shape you like. To make farfalle, I used the fluted edge of the flan tin to cut the pasta into strips about 2.5 cm thick, then into 5 cm lengths.  You can fold and stack the pasta and cut 5 or 6 layers at once to make it a bit faster.  I then just squeezed the centre of each little piece of pasta to make the bow shape.  This is the bit that takes time. Kids may enjoy helping.

Put a pot of water on to boil and leave the pasta spread out to dry a little while you make the sauces.

The Carbonara:

You don’t need to wash the food processor.

Blend together:

  • egg
  • 80 grams of low fat feta
  • 2 big dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese

The Primavera:

They are all fresh vegetables that take no time to cook, so this will come together in 5 minutes;

In a heavy frypan, with a little olive oil, add (in more or less this order, giving it a stir with each addition)

  • a small leek, finely chopped
  • a handful of  single shelled broad beans
  • 4 or 5 leaves of kale or silver beet, or a couple of each (just the greens, not the stems)
  • a big handful of shelled fresh peas
  • a big handful of snow peas, chopped into bites
  • a dozen or so olives, roughly chopped
  • half a dozen spears of fresh asparagus, any woody bits removed and roughly chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a heaped dessertspoon of chopped fresh mint. (The fresh mint really changes it – it’s not essential  but really worth adding)
Take the pan off the heat and put a lid on it to conserve the heat.

Assembling:

  • Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water until it rises to the surface, which will be in about 2 minutes.
  • Reserve a little of the cooking water and drain the pasta, then return it to the hot pot.
  • Blend a little of the cooking water in with the carbonara sauce to make a cream consistency, then gently toss it through the pasta in the hot pot. Put the lid on and leave for a minute for the egg to just coddle a little and thicken the sauce.
  • Add the vegetables, toss through and serve, with a grating of parmesan and black pepper on top.

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I love my kitchen. It has a great big central kitchen bench in the middle of an otherwise very compact space (in a very compact house). I means cooking can be a social activity – several people can chop and stir and roll and fill at once.  Kids can sit up at a stool and be involved, and if they play it right get to listen in on adult conversations.

It only works though if it is not cluttered.  There are bowls of fresh fruit and veg, and a vase of flowers, and a few tools in daily use, like my garlic rock and mortar and pestle,  allowed on the bench, but nothing else.

Which brings me to my pasta maker.  I’ve just got one, yesterday, at a garage sale. I’m not sure at all whether it will be a stayer. The Rules of the Bench mean that it has to live up on a shelf and there are very few kitchen tools that are valuable enough to be taken down and used regularly to earn their space. Mostly I find the effort of washing up, putting away, pulling down, setting up is more than it’s worth.

With pasta, up until now I’ve always just gone with a rolling pin.  Lasagna and tortellini are easy peasy.  Tortellini are even easy and fast enough for the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge. I’ve been playing with a few different tortellini lately, but this has been our favourite.

The Recipe:

Makes two big serves, or three normal ones.

Pasta by Hand:

Put a kettle full of water on to boil. You will need a big pot of boiling water to cook the tortellini.

In a food processor, blitz until the dough just comes together (just a few seconds)

  • 1 cup of bakers flour (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dessertspoons (or 1½ US tablespoons) of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, then leave it to rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.

Lemon Feta Filling

You don’t need to wash the food processor.  Just blend together until smooth-ish

  • 160 gm feta (low fat is fine)
  • 4 dessertspoons (or 3 US tablespoons) plain yoghurt
  • 8 – 10 green olives (or you could substitute capers)
  • a good teaspoon of lemon rind ( I like a heaped teaspoon, but I really like citrus flavours)
  • Grind of black pepper
  • A tiny bit of fresh chili or chili powder

Assembling

Divide the pasta dough into 15 little balls about the size of a large macadamia in its shell.

Flour the bench well, and with a floured rolling pin, roll the balls out very thin.  (If you flip them several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get them very thin without sticking.)

Put a spoonful of filling on each circle. Use a pastry brush, or just your fingers dipped in water to wet the edges.  Fold the tortellini over and seal together like a little pastie.  With the fold towards you, bring the two corners round towards you and squeeze them together.

Cook in a big pot of boiling water for just a couple of minutes till they float to the surface.

The Sauce

And while they are cooking, again you don’t need to wash the blender. Just blitz together:
  • a tomato
  • a good handful of sweet basil
  • a little swig of good olive oil

Drain the tortellini, divide into bowls, spoon over a few spoonfuls of sauce and gently toss, and top with a grating of parmesan.

Have you been doing the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge? Links to fast, easy, healthy, midweek vego recipes are welcome.

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