Tag Archives: Ottolenghi

Perfect tagliatelle: recipe

I’ve never had much luck with my pasta making exploits. A couple of attempts at making tagliatelle, plus a few goes at making ravioli have left me slightly frustrated and wondering what I was doing wrong. My pasta either ended up soggy and claggy, a sticky mess…or too thick and a bit rubbery. Even when I was given a pasta machine last Christmas I couldn’t get it right so I’d given it up as a bad job.

My attempts at pasta making have left me frustrated, but I’m not easily beaten, especially by a lump of dough so I got reading. All the pasta making tips, videos and recipes I could find. They all made it look too damn easy, when I knew it wasn’t!! But then I found a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty which sounded really simple. None of this “roll out fifty times at each thickness on the pasta machine” just simple clear instructions that left even me feeling confident I could do it correctly.

And I was right! The pasta was perfect. OK my cutting was a little clumsy but with a bit more practise I’m sure I will improve. But still I was proud of my efforts as I gazed lovingly at the delicate sunshine coloured ribbons with occasional deep red saffron flecks, hanging out to dry.

Unusually for me I stuck to the recipe like glue, I wanted to feel safe and secure and although the pasta didn’t look perfect, the taste and consistency were spot on, which is the thing that counts as far as I’m concerned. I was wise to stick to the recipe because now I feel totally confident with my pasta making and maybe next time I can experiment a bit.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s saffron tagliatelle:

2 teaspoons saffron threads

4 tablespoons boiling water

4 medium free range eggs

4 tablespoons olive oil

440g or so of OO pasta flour (Doves farm or Shipton Mill are good)

1 teaspoon turmeric

Place the saffron threads in a bowl and pour over the hot water. Leave to stand for 10 minutes or more to infuse. Add the eggs and the oil and beat together.

Place flour and turmeric in a food processor or large bowl and slowly add the egg mixture until a crumbly dough is formed. If you need more oil or flour just add small amounts at a time. You don’t want your dough to be too dry or too sticky.

Dust work surface or board with flour and knead the dough into a ball and continue kneading until you have a silky soft dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill or at least 30 minutes….but you can leave it in the fridge for up to a day.

When you are ready to make your pasta chop the dough into 3 pieces wrapping the other two back up so they don’t dry out. Dust with a little flour and with a rolling-pin flatten the piece into a thinnish rectangle. If you are using a pasta machine set the roller to the widest setting and pass the dough through. Keep doing this narrowing the setting each time and making sure the dough stays dusted with flour to avoid it going sticky.  I didn’t narrow the machine to its thinnest setting as it seemed too thin for tagliatelle. Fold the pasta sheet twice along its length making sure it is still dusted with flour and cut into long strips. Either hang to dry over a pasta hanger as I did or over the back of a chair. If you don’t have a pasta machine you can still achieve the desired thickness by some persistent rolling on a well floured board, all a machine does, is speed up the process.

Repeat this process with the other two portions of dough. This recipe made enough pasta to feed the four of us…with a little left over so I guess it would probably feed five to six people. Leave the pasta for about 10 minutes before cooking in plenty of boiling salted water. It only needs a few minutes and then mix with a sauce of your choice.

I used another Ottolenghi recipe, not entirely sure whether the kids would like it, but I wanted to try it anyway.

500g button mushrooms

200ml white wine

2 bay leaves

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 teaspoon caster sugar

250ml double cream

zest of two unwaxed lemons

2 cloves garlic

a good handful of finely chopped parsley

40g dried breadcrumbs (Panko Japanese breadcrumbs are the best and easily found in oriental supermarkets)

400g purple sprouting broccoli

Saute the sliced mushrooms in plenty of olive oil until just starting to turn brown. Add wine, bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer; the wine needs to reduce to about a third of the original amount. Stir in the cream, season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Mix together lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Keep to one side. In a hot dry pan toast the breadcrumbs until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before mixing with the lemon mixture.

Trim the broccoli and slice any extra think pieces in half. Blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling water then drain. Cook the pasta in boiling water for a couple of minutes and while that is cooking mix the broccoli into the mushroom and cream mixture.

Drain the pasta and mix into the creamy sauce adding a bit of the cooking liquid if it seems too thick. Divide between warmed plates and sprinkle over the breadcrumb mixture and serve.

The verdict? Well I will give you a quote from the teen…

“Mum it’s really nice…it tastes like it’s from a restaurant”.

High praise indeed coming from two kids that apparently hate mushrooms. That Ottolenghi knows his stuff 😉

Leave a comment

Filed under British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, Italian food, local produce, recipe books, Recipes, seasonal food

It’s those simple things…

A simple supper

I can cook up the most extravagant, adventurous feast, using every exotic ingredient known to create something really special for supper club and dinner guests.  I take my time, take extra care to produce something that looks as beautiful as it tastes and really give it my all. I love doing this. I love experimenting and trying out new things, but there are times when less is definitely more. Sometimes its the simplest of things that leave a lasting  impression. No fuss, complex dressings, drizzled sauces or coulis, just fantastic fresh unadulterated food.

A MASSIVE (half eaten) Manchego from Spain...yum with some home-made onion relish

As I lazed in the sun on Sunday afternoon, with a Tanquaray and Tonic clutched in my hand, it was simplicity that I craved. The lingering heat and appearance of some fiery Welsh sun shine inspired a supper with a distinctly Mediterranean feel…. some Spanish Manchego brought back as a thank you present by friends whose boat we looked after while they were away, some seriously strong black bomber left over from Saturday’s produce market; home-made onion marmalade and beetroot relish, new potatoes with lashings of butter and mint, herb-marinated mozzarella and tomatoes and a hearty salad of lettuce from the garden, cucumber, olives, very lightly steamed mangetout from the weekly veg box, crisp chorizo and a good glug of Welsh Rapeseed oil.

The food disappeared in no time and even the little-un steamed in for more. At the end of supper I was about as satiated and happy as I would have been if I’d eaten something more elaborate.

Marinated mozzarella and tomato: An Ottolenghi inspired favourite (serves 2-3)

250g good buffalo mozzarella

A couple of large ripe local tomatoes

half a teaspoon fennel seeds, zest of a lemon or a teaspoon of white wine vinegar , small handful of shredded basil leaves, 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, 2 tablespoons Welsh Rapeseed oil 1 crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of Halen Mon salt and black pepper.

Dry roast the fennel seeds until they begin to pop. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind roughly. Place in a bowl with the other ingredients. toss the sliced or roughly torn mozzarella with the marinade and leave for 10 minutes or so, Serve with sliced or wedges of tomatoes as a starter or part of a cold supper.

mmmmmm....dinner 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, welsh cheese

Family al fresco dining and a very full tart

Wales is well known for its high rain fall, so whenever we are blessed with a little window of sunshine we take the opportunity to soak up every last ray. That means we have been eating an awful lot of dinners on the patio (now that it’s finished) and doing much more al fresco entertaining. The experience is even better in the knowledge that much of the food on our plate is there growing around us and all we have to do is nip to the bottom of the garden to pull a few lettuce and rocket leaves for our salad, or to the hen-house to collect a few eggs for a tart. I don’t know about you? but I think free food tastes so much better!

a vegetable, ricotta, feta 'pie', salad and new potatoes

So at the tail end of the half term holidays I ended up with a couple of visiting (vegetarian) teenagers, the little one, and us (and no money left having been eaten out of house and home). I needed to use as many of these free resources as possible.  A Ottolenghi inspired tart / Quiche/ call it what you will (I called it a vegetable ‘pie’ because the teen doesn’t like Quiche!!) with a couple of hearty salads did the trick!

“Did you like it”? I inquired at the end of the meal…I noticed that the teenagers had all pushed their vegetables to the side of the plate, eating just the pastry and filling…

“It was nice, but I’m not keen on vegetables said Erin. I do like the pastry bit of Quiche though” she said with a smile.

“I thought you were vegetarian?” I asked

“I am” she replied bluntly.

My teen glared at me “Was that Quiche then?” she frowned. “You told me it was pie and you know I hate Quiche. Why do you always try to trick me?” .

I looked at her plate, she’d eaten the same amount as her friend. Once again her teenager logic left me lost for words.

A very full, Ottolenghi inspired pie (tart in disguise!!):

serves 6

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, 1 eggplant (aubergine), couple of small courgettes, 2 red onions, 2 bay leaves, a hand full of thyme sprigs, leaves picked from them, a handful of washed shredded spinach, chard or even kale whatever if ready to harvest, 150g ricotta and 120g feta cheese, a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved, 3 medium to large eggs, 200ml double cream, salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees (gas mark 8). Chop peppers into 4 removing the stalk and seeds and chop the eggplant into largish chucks. Place in a roasting tin and toss in a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the chopped and washed courgettes to the tin  and toss in the oil and return to the tin to the oven. Cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the peppers are beginning to turn brown/blackish in places. Remove from the oven and allow peppers to cool a little before removing the skin and tearing into strips.

While the vegetables are roasting finely chop the onion and cook with the bay leaves and a pinch of salt on a medium heat, in a couple of tablespoons olive oil for about 20 minutes until turning soft and just golden brown. Set to one side.

Turn the oven down to 180 degress (gas mark 4). Line a 22-24cm loose bottomed greased tart tin with pastry (shortcrust pastry recipe below) so it just hangs over the rim, then line with baking paper / parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 30 minutes after about 20 minutes remove the paper and let it bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes until just turning golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Spread the base with cooked onion, roasted vegetables, herbs, shredded spinach and then scatter the cheeses and tomato halves on top. Whisk the eggs and cream together and add some salt and pepper. Pour carefully into the tart case adding a last sprinkle of thyme and then bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until cooked through and golden on top. Leave it to rest for a 10 minutes before removing from the tart tin and serving. I added a small handful of torn basil leaves to finish.

*Basic shortcrust pastry: The rule of thumb is equal parts flour to fat….so for this I used 200g Shipton Mill plain flour, a good pinch of Halen Mon sea salt, 100g Rachel’s dairy butter, 100g lard and enough cold water to bind into a dough.

Rub the fat into the flour and salt, then gradually add cold water a little at a time until the pastry just comes together into a ball. Do not over work the pastry as it will become dense. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before using.

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, British food, family budget cooking, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, Organic meat, Uncategorized

Local food, foraging and an Autumn supper

One of the things I have noticed since I started hosting supper club is that I use the supermarket less and less…not just when sourcing for suppers but for all of my everyday purchases. Okay, there are some things I struggle to get elsewhere, or at least for a competative price, but the majority of the food that now enters my house is locally produced. As a result of this we as a family eat better, have great foodie contacts and are no longer drowing in a sea of plastic (since I stopped supermarket shopping my plastic recycling has been cut by two thirds). Carbon footprint successfully reduced!!

This weekend was the epitome of local. Hosting a harvest supper club made the most of everything local and seasonal…from the Nantmor wild mushrooms, to foraged blackberries and Bramley apples. Vegetables came from Moelyci as usual and extras from Hootons home grown in Anglesey…while over that way I bought sea salt from Halen Mon, arguably the best salt I’ve ever used and well worth the drive over (or the order on the internet). The chicken and dry cure bacon came from my usual Butcher Willams & son and the extras I used for experimenting with vegan dishes from a local whole food shop in Bangor.

We entertained a group of seven (one person was unable to join us on the night) with one vegan guest and two having travelled over from Chester (a good hour away!!) traeting them to five courses of hearty harvest fare.

The menu was as follows:

Margarita cocktails and Focaccia

Surprise Tatin with mixed leaves (another winning recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook, although I changed the goats cheese for feta cheese on this occassion)

Chicken with dry cure bacon, wild mushrooms and marsala (a recipe I have made for supper club previously,  but since it is wild mushroom season I thought I’d reprise it)

Mushroom and Leek risotto (adapted from a recipe in an American Vegetarian book I was given years ago as a present called Fields of Greens) , buttered Kale

Blackberry and apple crumble with home made vanilla custard (the crumble was perked up with some mixed pumpkin and sesame seeds, pine nuts and flaked almonds and a hand full of rolled oats)

Local strong cheeses (Golau Glas, Caws from Rhyd y Delyn and Black Bomber) with apple chutney and spiced courgetter chutney) and coffee

Although we were entertaining a relatively small number, we ended up a bit stretched this time and I had a bit of a panic over the main course, which required me to have two sets of hands to keep everything stirred, turned and evenly cooked. The teen was still on crutches, leaving Sean to do the bulk of the running about,  but she bravely worked on (her choice, I did tell her she didn’t have to but her desire for pay outweighed the pain) and she did her best. She finally conked out after dessert, collapsing in a heap in the lounge upstairs.Pain got the better of her although I also wondered if the Margarita’s she’d mixed on the sly had contributed.

The Ottolenghi  tatin was amazing, even if I say so myself! I was so impressed at how well it turned out I had to take it out to show the guests. One said ‘wow, it looks fantastic’ and I replied ‘sorry, you can’t have it it’s not vegan’. She looked totally crestfallen, until I told her i’d made her some individual chick pea blinis with tomato and lime salsa which cheered her up again.

With the main course I realised that cooking too many things on the top of the stove at the same time was a monumental error. It almost led to the risotto spoiling, but mercifully with lots of shaking it stayed nice and wet and only stuck to the pan a tiny bit. I served the vegan portion before ladling in the butter, which added to the richness along with the wild chanterelles, shitake and chestnut mushrooms.

Dessert was a good old fashioned blackberry and apple crumble with some added nuts, seeds and oats in the crumble mix served with fresh vanilla custard. I wasn’t keen on using the vegan butter alternative. I’m sure it doesn’t taste as good and it feels like a bit of  cheat sometimes so I contacted Emma at Earth kitchen for some ideas on making vegan mousse, whips etc. She sent me a recipe for Anglesey Delight; a vegan, raw food dessert using coconut oil and Agave syrup as thickeners and sweeteners. I did a bit of experimenting and substituted slowly cooked blackberry and apple puree for her Avocado and Mango. The coconut oil, melted by warming in a bowl of hot water, whilst still in the jar, certainly thickened the fruit mixture and made a lovely smooth whip, but although it was nice tasting I thought the coconut overpowered the fruit taste too much. To tone it down I made a simple blackberry and apple compote and marbled the two together. I explained to our vegan guest that it was an experiment and if she wasn’t sure about it she could just have some compote. Thankfully she liked it. She liked the undertones of the coconut and said that it gave the dessert a creaminess that you obviously don’t get with a simple compote.

Later, while the others tucked into cheese (well those who still had enough room) Debbie, the vegan enjoyed her own little individual red pepper, almond and garlic pate.

Lessons learned. Don’t let the teen make Margaritas; don’t try and cook more than three things, on a four ring domestic cooker all at once and make sure any experimenting is done well in advance to avoid shredded nerves on the night!

cherry tomatos halved and ready for roasting

potatoes, tomatos, feta and fresh oregano layered and then covered with puff pastry

the cooked tatin

plating the tatins, with green mixed leaves and herbs and the vegan chickpea blinis with tomato lime salsa

plating chicken with dry cure bacon and wild mushrooms on risotto and kale

layering the blackberry and apple with crumble being sprinkled on

cooked and bubbling blackberry and apple crumble

our dinner guests enjoying dessert

The following day, instead of having a nice Sunday lie in, I was up bright and early and off to spend the day wild food foraging with Simon Maskrey, the Ray Mears of the Welsh Mountains. My hope was that in addition to spending a sunny day in the fresh air, I would learn more about edible wild plants and where to find them. In particular I wanted to learn more about wild mushroom habitats.

Anyone around these parts that likes food and foraging, and knows where to find wild mushrooms, especially chanterelles, tends to shroud their knowledge in a veil of secrecy! Dare to ask anyone where they get chanterelles and they will turn quickly away and tell you in no uncertain terms to go find your own patch. I have tried both stealth and innocence when attempting to ascertain the best location, “oh look at them, where did they come from then?” with an innocent look on my face usually has little success…so you can imagine my surprise when Rosie (one the other course attendees) happily chatted about the chanterelles she’d picked and when asked where she found them proceeded to give me the location of ‘her’ patch. I didn’t hint at my excitement. A little later Simon started to talk about mushroom foraging. He too explained that most people refuse to tell others about their secret locations. It was at this point that Rosie turned to look at me, the penny finally dropping as to what she had done. After staring long and hard she finally said “of course, you do realise I will have to kill you now”?

The course gave us the opportunity to find and pick a variety of edible wild plants, the type that I wouldn’t have usually thought of using and at the end of our collecting I made salad for my lunch. Most foragers are well aware of the usual finds; blackberries, damsons, plums, crab apples, sloes, ramsons (wild garlic) and even sorrel. But I always thought for example that yew berries were poisonous; it’s actually only the stone that’s poisonous, but to be honest I’d have to be desperate to want to eat them as they have the consistency of slug slime and snot. We did pick a variety of plants and herbs (sorrel, bitter cress, fat hen, chickweed and something I’ve forgotten the name of but it looks like a navel!!). We also found burdock (the root can be used in the autumn for dandelion and burdock and of course all parts of the dandelion can be used) and got very wet feed searching for wild mint but unfortunately found no edible wild mushrooms.

The most important lesson I learned was that the best time to pick plants is according to the growing season, for example, in the spring the plant puts its energy into producing new growth, therefore in the spring pick the fresh shoots and leaves, in the summer it’s the flowers and in the autumn and winter the fruit, berries and then roots.

Bitter cress

a sorrel leaf

The bizarely named 'fat hen'

navel wort

bitter cress in situ

foraged salad in he woods...with Moelyci tomatoes (the best toms I have EVER tasted)

1 Comment

Filed under baking, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, local produce, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, underground restaurant, welsh cheese