3 May 2008

Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding...Seriously, Anything!

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You know, making your own pasta is no harder than installing an aviary or Olympic-size swimming pool.



Above: I'm not sure if it says more about my skill as a pasta maker or the standard of my machine, but the end justifies the means - thank goodness. It's hard to see it when you are grinding metres of dough through a squealing machine (why does it squeal so?) and flinging jets of flour over your jeans, but homemade pasta is truly, truly transcendent.

Although difficult in execution, last night's dinner was very simple - pasta dressed with butter and nutmeg, plus a vast bowlful of steamed brocolli and roasted cauliflower. Tim and I get notoriously tense when making pasta (the flatmates start to get nervous about visitation rights) but last night we were okay, mostly because the pasta maker wasn't its normal shrieking, squealing self. Considering you have to roll each lump of dough a squillion times, it can be a little jarring on the nerves.



Above: Homemade pasta is lightyears ahead of storebought fresh pasta. I use a very simple recipe of Nigella's, which isn't as terrifyingly yolky as Jamie Oliver's pasta (possibly not as good either, but great for a feasible after-work dinner.) For each person, tip 100g flour into a bowl, followed by an egg. So, for Tim and I, 200g flour and 2 eggs. This stuff is pretty filling but I usually make more than I need per person because it's so good. Stir to mix, then knead until it forms a cohesive ball. Let it rest for an hour, then roll out in your pasta maker and cut as you wish. You only need to cook it for about ten seconds in boiling, salted water before it's done, at which stage you should drain it and add whatever sauce you like. This stuff makes particularly good lasagne, as you don't have to worry about precooking it. Making pasta may be do-able, but taking a photo of it is a pain in the neck. It wouldn't stop steaming up. I took about forty photos, all the while frantically waving my hands to dispel the fog.



Above: Real figs! In our kitchen! At work my boss' wife bought in a whole bag of them from her tree. I took a couple for last night's pudding. It was quick, yes, but pudding nonetheless. Sometimes you just need something more...Aren't they beautiful? There's something about figs, they are so exotic and other worldly compared to, I don't know, bananas. I looked up a couple of Nigella recipes - one from How to Eat and one from Forever Summer and decided to amalgamate the two by putting these pink-and-green beauties in the oven for 15 minutes with cinnamon, cardamom, honey, and a little butter.



Above: Tim didn't really go in for them - as I suspected - so all the more for me. Delicately perfumed, deliciously spiced, kinda healthy, and ever so pretty to look at.


I should have known. In my last post, I talked about pancakes in the title, even though I hadn't made any, and then mentioned that should I actually make some, I'd be stuck for a kicky title. Well here I am. My brain still feels like pancake batter, for what it's worth. Maybe more so...anyhow:



Above: After reading this post on the stunning Use Real Butter blog, I decided to give Chinese Spring Onion Pancakes a go. Very plain ingredients - flour, water, salt, oil, spring onions - are turned into gorgeously moreish flat little parcels. The method is a little fiddly but if you think of it more as "fun" than "labour-intensive" it helps.


First you roll your dough into pancakes, sprinkle with salt, oil and spring onions, then roll up into a cigar. You then twirl this cigar into a coil and then flatten this into a pancake again, which makes a rather satisfying squashy noise.



Above: Roughly, the three stages of the pancake-making. For goodness sakes though, go to Use Real Butter for the recipe and a detailed outline of what to do - my expertise only stretches so far.


Finally you fry the flattened cakes in hot oil, and then serve.



Above: Like I said, there's not much to these, yet Tim and I didn't even make it to the table - we just stood there at the kitchen bench, wolfing these down, sprinkling them with sea salt at every bite. They are intensely good, and would, I think, be marvelous served (sliced in half or quarters) with drinks at your next shindig.



Above: For a proper feed after the pancakes, and because I like to keep the intervals between my lentil consumption brief, I made this lentil casserole au gratinee (that is, au grilled cheese) made by simmering diced onion and carrot, tinned tomatoes, red lentils, a bay leaf, and one diced sausage. I added some frozen peas at the end, tipped it into a loaf pan, and sprinkled over some grated cheese before popping it under the grill. I concede that lentil casserole doesn't sound like much of a good time, but it certainly looks inviting - melted cheese can perk up almost anything. This was pretty delish, and even though there was only one sausage, it tasted surprisingly meaty.


You may be surprised to see me blogging so soon after I professed to have a ton of schoolwork to do. Well, I'm 3/4 of the way through my lamentable Media essay and decided I needed a break. I've got plenty to talk about, it just sounds as though it was typed by monkeys ("it was the best of times, it was the blurst of times") As for the photography assignment, I swear it's literally taking years off my life, in the manner of The Machine in The Princess Bride. I don't mean to come off as all "woe is me, I'm a uni student taking exciting specialised papers, now the world owes me a living," but seriously, if I have a heartattack next week, you'll know why. Long story short, we have to print and mount six photos for this assignment due on Tuesday. I printed them out, which was fine (although I'm only satisfied with three of them in print, I've got no time - or energy - to reshoot them) but the mounting is going to cost $60! And it will end up cutting off the detail in one of the photos...and I have no choice but to hand them in. I don't want to be a bore and keep going on about it, but seriously, I was nearly in tears after taking the photos to the framing place. Oh, and I have to hand in some photos and a proposal for my next assignment by Monday.



Above: The lack of baking round here has been driving me nutty so once I got home from work yesterday I thought it wouldn't be so bad if I made a quick batch of biscuits. It's not like I'm banning myself altogether from baking, it's just I really don't have the time. Dinner is necessary, triple layer white chocolate mocha sponges...aren't quite.
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The recipe for these biscuits came from an Australian Women's Weekly chocolate cookbook that I've had for so long that I forget how I came by it. This recipe for fruit and nut chocolate chip cookies never stood out to me before, but I wish I'd thought about it sooner - it is so easy, and delicious, and quick, and fairly cheap, and can stand all manner of alterations. As it is I didn't have any chocolate (would most likely have already scoffed it if I had anyway) but I had dates, and pumpkin seeds, and so strew them through the mixture to pleasing effect. I imagine you could add anything you like - nuts, chocolate, chopped dried apricots, cocoa, whatever. I'll give you the recipe as I made them, because they are seriously good.
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Date and Pumpkin Seed Cookies
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125g soft butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (push it down with a spoon to pack in as much as possible)
1 egg
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
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Heat oven to 180 C. Cream butter and sugar till smooth and fluffy. Stir in the egg, oats, and flour. By the way, the oats seem to melt into the baked cookies- they just disappear. It's amazing! Stir in 1/2 cup dates, chopped and 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, roll into balls and place on a paper-lined baking tray. Flatten with a fork and bake for 10-15 minutes. Let them sit for a bit before transferring to a plate or something. How many you get out of this depends on how big your balls, erm, are, and how much mixture you eat. I know I mention this a lot, but what can I say. I eat a lot of mixture. But really, yesterday I ate a silly amount of the cookie dough, there would have been a lot more if I hadn't...
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They were just right - quick to make, so I could get on to writing my essay without feeling like I'd done too much procrastinating - and almost healthy what with the oats and fruit and seeds.
As Homer Simpson says, "I don't think cookies are gonna make me feel better. Oh, crunch, mmmm, oh god, oh mmmm, they're delicious. Oh, so happy! Oh, go, they're ... They're gone."


You might not hear from me for a bit, on account of all the schoolwork. Or you might hear from me every five seconds, because of procrastinating...(our room really does need a tidy) Also if you can, spare a thought for Tim, who is currently having mad toothache. The dentist gave him a list of things that need to get done to him, which will cost somewhere in the region of $4000. Which is basically how much we have saved to go over to England. The irony, it makes my teeth hurt. Seriously it's great that we have free dental care for kids under 18 in New Zealand, but what on earth makes the powers that be think that turning 19 means you are suddenly able to fund a root canal? What makes them think that university students are able to find $4000 down the back of their couches? Really, what?
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Am currently drinking a mug of "Zen" tea (green tea and peppermint blend) but at this stage I'm feeling so un-Zen that I'll have to start snorting the tea leaves to feel an effect. Nevermind; The Food Show is coming to town in a couple of weeks, the assignments will get handed in, and then I can stop feeling so sorry for myself and bake something ridiculous!

17 comments:

  1. Where hemisphere are you in? I didn't know figs were in season! I am so jealous, I love figs....hard to come by in Upstate NY!!!

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  2. OOoooh, Sympathies to Tim. Having just spent 5 of my holiday hours in the dentist's (very comfortable) chair I am totally with you there Tim. (Go for the injections and regular doses of Arnica and Rescue Remedy). Hey, as I paid my last bill, the dentist gave me a very nice bottle of wine. What a lovely surprise - I think it was for good behaviour. I'm still on soft food and something squeaks in my head when I chew.....

    Made my famous corned beef (soft food essential) and worked out what the difference was from last time - whole cloves! I bought some more and threw in about a tablespoonful. (Opened packet and shook it.)

    Love the look of your biscuits and pasta.

    Good luck with your assignments. (Try some of the Rescue Remedy yourself). Your blog photos are definitely looking great (evidence of the uni paper achieving its purpose).

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  3. New Zealand - therefore Southern Hemisphere - sure we have figs, but we are also coming into winter right now! can't have it all I guess :)

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  4. Laura I just love reading your blog. You are so full of life.:):):)
    The food looks great and I love your pasta making it's so 'real'. The pics are amazing. Congrats on the figs one making TS. I love them baked with honey.Mmmm
    xxx

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  5. Oh man...everything here just looks awesome!

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  6. Those figs are gorgeous! Well all of your photos are but those figs, WOW!

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  7. Mum: Might have to invest in some RR. Feeling very jittery! Didn't realise your teeth were still giving you grief...luckily your corned beef is soooo tender! :)

    RG: Thanks :):):) the figs were so beautiful, I didn't have to fiddle with them or anything, just pointed and clicked LOL.

    Alejandra: Likewise...:)

    Madeline: Hee, everyone likes the figs. I love the contrast btw the green and pink. Thanks for stopping by :)

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  8. bravo for making your own pasta! The photos of the figs are beautiful~!

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  9. Wow what a tour de food! I need to get a pasta maker... Actually I need to get a bigger kitchen and then get a pasta maker.

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  10. Oh figs are so hard to come by here in the UK at all, and even when I can locate them, they so very very expensive.

    Homemade pasta is the best isn't it. I love how you've shown making it, everything is brought to life.

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  11. Lina: thankyou :)

    marc: if I can make pasta in my flat's sock-draw of a kitchen, anyone can!

    George: Yes, it is, you're right. Hopefully you too can befriend someone with a fig tree!

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  12. Well done on the pasta Laura. I can't wait to try making some however I know it will definitely be a stressful affair for me. It make well end in tears. The figs look stunning!

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  13. Congratulations on the 9000. Very proud of you - and somewhat humbled that you still rate my corned beef and home made (dog bone) soup as superior.

    Hope the assignment well well and that you can relax into some cooking and baking.

    Great to see you're being read around the world.

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  14. WOW! Laura, you are on such a roll, well done! I love the look of the figs especially!

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  15. I have been wanting to get a pasta maker so that I can try making my own pasta for a while now. Those figs look so good!! I saw and bookmarked that post on Chinese Spring Onion Pancakes as well. They sound really interesting!

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  16. i've seen jamie prepare homemade pasta on tv once and he made it looks so easy. i really should try it sometime.it must taste worlds different from storebought ones. x

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  17. Those figs look so yummy. And yes fresh pasta is transcendant! I made my own lasagna noodles and it was so heavenly when it cam out of the oven.

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