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Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

A little bit of gluten free…

In Egg, Pasta on February 2, 2013 at 8:50 am

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I know, I know. I’ve been away. I’ve been lazy, and this blog seems to be dying a slow and painful death. But I’ve also had a lot on my plate! My grandmother is still in hospital, I’ve still been without kitchen for the most part and not been cooking much. Yet this is an overdue post. In early December, I became interested in gluten free cooking. Now, I’ll admit I don’t have any reason to go gluten free….and I used to laugh at all those people who did it voluntarily without a doctor’s recommendation – yet I’ll admit, I was curious to find out what the hype was all about and to see if I would, in fact, feel much better on a gluten free diet as many of the gluten free advocates claim.

Last week I made gluten free pizza (base seen in first photo) and a few days back I attempted fresh gluten free pasta for the first time. Before that, I did some research and outfitted myself with gluten free flours – the standard ones (cornflour, rice flour) and some less commonplace ones – sorghum flour, tapioca flour and potato flour. I retrieved recipes for a gluten free pizza base and gluten free fresh pasta from Jim Boswell’s New Zealand Gluten-Free Cookbook, which was kindly lent to me by a friend. I expect to make both again and will post with the recipes, as I don’t have the book with me currently. But I can assure you, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to make both the pasta and the pizza base. Making fresh gluten free pasta took HALF the time than making normal fresh pasta….true it made a smaller portion, but let’s not quibble, ok?

You’ll be hearing more soon. I didn’t have enough interesting ingredients to make a pretty pasta sauce or toppings, but I’ll make it to the supermarket eventually!

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Pumpkin Gnocchi

In Egg, Main meals, Pasta on May 23, 2012 at 3:44 am

Making gnocchi is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. I’ve been wary of it in the past. As a teenager, my mum implanted this idea in my head that gnocchi were nasty and rubbery – not worth bothering about at all! But ever since I rekindled my interest in food and started reading food blogs, I noticed that gnocchi seemed to be quite popular. Then a few months ago when I got Jo Seagar’s Italia and saw her lovely rustic gnocchi, I knew the time had come – it was just a matter of when. My friend Theresa coming around for dinner (and my friend Amanda tomorrow) gave me the perfect excuse. Interestingly, I didn’t end up following Jo’s recipe but instead opted for a recipe I found on a blog I only recently discovered, Happyolks. The recipe is accompanied with a video and lovely photos – so you should definitely check it out! I went with this recipe simply because I had a pumpkin to use up, and liked the sound of pumpkin gnocchi rather than potato – though Jo offers a recipe for olive gnocchi that I just might need to try as well.

Anyway, the tips offered in the Happyolks recipe are good ones.  I think this was definitely a case of KNOW YOUR PUMPKIN. I actually used a mixture of two – the 99c quarter pumpkin from Pak’n’Save and half a butternut squash that I stole from Emma. I wasn’t really sure how much the two would make; at first I thought I would have too little, but I think in the end I had too much! I also probably didn’t have a fine enough sieve, because my pumpkin was still very moist and I couldn’t seem to get rid of the moisture. As a result, I had to add quite a bit more than the 2 cups of flour that the recipe suggests. However, the most difficult thing I found about the whole process was cutting the gnocchi to a uniform size! I’m sure there is a more efficient way than the way I did it; grabbing handfuls of dough, rolling into long sausages and cutting into sections of 1 inch with a ruler next to, cutting them down when they seemed to big as my dough sausages weren’t always that even. Anyway, if anyone has any tips about how to make this aspect of the process easier, do share!

I definitely have issues with cutting things to a uniform size. I’ve always been an eyeball it type of girl and that was a little counter productive in this case. The whole process took rather a long time, but in a very pleasant way. I managed to eat about a quarter of my gnocchi as I was cooking them so by the time it came to serve them I wasn’t all that hungry! Oops.

I served them with a basic buttery sauce, following the suggestion of the original recipe. Basically it was just a bit of olive oil and butter (I didn’t fuss about quantities) with a generous amount of washed thyme, cooked in the sauce to give it a bit of flavour. I then tossed the gnocchi in the butter until it was well coated and topped with grated parmesan. It was definitely a winning recipe for a cold winter’s night!

I was also worried about how the gnocchi would look once photographed. It’s true, gnocchi are not the mostly beautiful looking things to look at – but still, I highly recommend you all try them. Invest in the time – the recipe makes enough for several meals/servings, depending on how many are eating it. It is also something easily prepared in advance. They taste delicious – not at all rubbery and nasty like my mum led me to believe. Shame on you, Mum! I’ve been converted to a gnocchi fan.

Tea Party for Theresa

In Baking, Cheese, Entertaining, Pasta, Snacks on April 14, 2012 at 4:35 am

Part I: Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes

Today we celebrated our lovely friend Theresa’s 23rd birthday with a tea party! We made all sorts of goodies, but one of the main features were these cupcakes. The recipe is courtesy of the wonderful Smitten Kitchen website. It is an AMAZING recipe – I highly recommend it. However,  you could probably make the alcohol portions a bit stronger, as despite the three different kinds of alcohol in these cupcakes, the taste of it isn’t strong at all! (Possibly that is a good thing, as far as the Guinness is concerned)

Seeing as it is a Smitten Kitchen recipe, there’s no point in reposting it – you can find it here.

I also made some marzipan roses to decorate the cupcakes – I don’t want to go into detail how I made them right now, though I might post about that later.

Below are a few pics of the cupcakes in various stages of their creation:

Plain Cupcake, without ganache filling or icing

Cupcake with ganache filling and icing

Cupcakes with Baileys frosting, filled with ganache and topped with marzipan roses

Cupcakes on tier

More cupcakes

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Part II: Other Goodies!

Here’s a selection of some of the other goodies we served. Leave me a comment if you want the recipe for any of them as I can’t be bothered copying them all out for the sake of it! Other things we also ate (but I didn’t photograph) were pesto filled cherry tomatoes, mini BLT sandwiches as well as egg sandwiches. There was also sparkling punch made with orange juice, pineapple juice, gingerale and cider.

Stuffed Giant Pasta Shells - filled with soft buffalo feta and spinach

Potato, Apple and Camembert Terrine

Spiced Pumpkin Mini-Scones

Spongey/Butter Cream and Jam Sandwich Cake

All together, it was a great team effort from all of us – Theresa, Emma and I – so well done us!

Photographing Lasagna just might be the hardest thing in the world

In Cheese, Main meals, Meat, Pasta on February 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Lasagna - being very unphotogenic!

I grew up with lasagna – it was one of those dishes that my mum just nailed every time. Plus we usually had homekill mince to make it with, so that probably made it even nicer! In fact, I’m not sure I remember eating lasagna that wasn’t made with homekill mince. Anyway, I probably would have refrained from posting about this (yup, running out of bandwidth again) but a friend of mine was wanting a lasagna recipe and I want to try to keep in the flow of posting fairly regularly.

I learned a few things when undertaking this lasagna – the foremost being, lasagna is REALLLY hard to photograph well. It’s just not a very attractive dish (well, meat lasagna anyway) and I was a tad over eager when I took it out of the oven dish (note: let lasagna stand before cutting!) I also made it in a slightly unorthodox order, having the mince sauce already made quite a bit in advance….and was kind of following the recipe from memory/making it up as I went along. But I shall endeavour to bring everything together coherently. Lasagna is a simple, filling and very cost efficient dish – and this is how us kiwis (or this kiwi, anyway) make it.

Mince sauce:

250-500 g mince (I can’t remember the exact amount as mum just gave me a bag of mince, but I estimate it would be between this weight range. It’s probably better to cook your sauce with more mince, as if you have mince leftover you can always make spag bog with it!)

2 cans crushed tomatoes/tomato puree – whatever you fancy, depending how strong you want the flavour to be – OR you can do a mixture of canned tomatoes or a few tablespoons of tomato paste, be creative. Use what you have around.

onions, to taste (probably about 1-2, but it’s my opinion you can’t overdo it with onions and garlic)

garlic, to taste

oil, for sauteeing

Chop onions and garlic and sautee in the oil. Add mince, breaking it up with wooden spoon to avoid clumping. It should start to brown very quickly; when it is all browned, add the tomato and stir until well combined. Turn heat down to med-low and leave the sauce simmering to reduce down, I probably left mine for about 30-45 mins? You can leave it  on the stove and do something else (like watch food network with a beer) provided you come back and check on it, giving it a little stir every 5-10 mins and keeping the heat on med-low. The last thing you want is the sauce to reduce down too much and for the mince to burn, but you don’t want the sauce to be too liquid either. Once the sauce is done, set aside and leave on the lowest heat setting or put on a an element that isn’t on, so that the sauce is being kept hot, but is no longer really cooking.

Now, for the next bit I diverged from what my mother used to do; I wanted to give lasagna sheets a try instead of lasagna noodles, which are what she always used. I had been all revved up and was going to make some lasagna sheets with my pasta machine but ended up buying some instead (so cheap!). Anyway, next grease your  oven dish, turn the oven on to 180 degrees celsius and get the lasagna sheets all ready and set them aside.

All that is left now is sorting out the cheese! I can’t remember whether my mother used to make a white sauce with cheese, or whether she just added cheese directly to the mince. I decided to make a white sauce.

2 tbsp butter, approx.

2 tbsp flour

1 cup milk

125-200g cheese, you decide! (I used tasty and mozzarella cheese)

Put approx 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan, let it melt and then add 2 tbsp flour. Stir for a minute or so, making sure it doesn’t go lumpy.  Reduce heat, then start slowly adding 1 cup of milk, little by little, stirring as you go so the sauce gets thick and smooth. If the sauce stops thickening, stop adding milk! You don’t want it to be too runny. Add about 125-200 g grated cheese, I used a combination of tasty and mozzarella. Once this has melted and the sauce is smooth, thick and cheesy – season with salt and pepper and set aside. Time for assembling the lasagna!

Make the first layer of mince – around 1/2 cup, depending on how big your dish is. Basically you want to cover the bottom. Then put a layer of lasagna sheets – for me it was about 2 – or use lasagna noodles if preferred. Top with white sauce, then repeat with another mince layer etc. Make as many layers as desired, or possible – which will depend on the size of your dish. Top with additional grated cheese, you could try something with a stronger flavour – like parmesan – if you had it. I just used more mozzarella.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 mins, or until it is cooked (you can generally tell when it is cooked, use a skewer if you are unsure). This will depend on your oven; some are much more fierce than others! Leave to cool a little before cutting – trust me! Let the cheese harden a little. This is also a dish that tastes just as good (if not better!) the next day, so you could even set it aside until then.

Obviously, there are endless variations one could try with the basic lasagna – adding more vegetables to the mince sauce (like diced carrot or courgette) or introducing individual vegetable layers. Online, I’ve seen some people put ricotta in theirs, but personally I’m really not sure about the mince and ricotta combo! I would say the most important thing about lasagna is having good mince and not stinting on the cheese. I also think lasagna noodles are probably easier to use than lasagna sheets, but the sheets are more aesthetically pleasing (and no precooking is required, hurray!). Just make sure they are completely covered with sauce so they cook properly.

Ok, Morshed – I hope these instructions are useful 🙂