Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Spoils of Country Living

One of my favourite things to do on a spare afternoon is make fresh pasta.  I cannot remember the last weekend I had free to do this at my leisure.  It has usually been a rush to the finish with friends due to arrive for dinner at any minute and the pasta still not rolled through the machine!  So it was a rather delightful prospect for me to have an entire day before me with nothing but a kilo of strong pasta flour, some gorgeous free-range eggs and my somewhat neglected pasta machine before me.  I made my pasta in two batches, for ease of kneading, resting and rolling.

Perhaps it was the aforementioned aspect of more time, that in turn meant a longer and more effective kneading time, that produced what I believe is some of my best pasta ever!  The dough was beautifully silky, but not sticky.  

I made the majority into fettucine, that I – cleverly, I thought – decided to bundle into portion-sized mounds to dry, so that I could easily ascertain how much pasta I needed when I went to cook it. 

Not a good idea, as it turned out.  The weight of the pasta turned the mounds into patties, and the warm, wet weather we have had here meant that the pasta did not dry properly and has gone mouldy.  Oh, well, at least we had one batch of the fettucine for dinner fresh the following night.  With the rest of the pasta, I made spaghetti, which I hung to dry on the rack Grant bought me many moons ago.  What an investment!  The spaghetti has dried perfectly and is in an airtight container in the pantry ready to be used when I have thought up a suitably delicious saucy topping.  Will see what the farmers’ market this weekend turns up…

Speaking of farmers markets, we made it to the Kyneton market on Saturday morning, bright and early as it started.  Which was a good move, as the day was already very warm by the time we were leaving at 9.30am.  While small, the selection of produce and stall holders was good, and we were able to purchase a wide variety of in-season fruit and veg to stock us up for the week.  I know I promised photos, and indeed I took my camera, however negotiating other shoppers, bags of goods and an excited puppy was more than enough to manage without pulling out the camera as well!  I did, however, take some pics of our haul once we got it home.

Our list for supermarket shopping was satisfyingly small and restricted almost entirely to canned goods, toiletries and dairy.  Our menu this week has included Caponata (Sicilian Eggplant Stew), Beetroot burgers (made with homemade bread rolls and home grown alfalfa sprouts) and Grant’s famous pasta dish of parsnip, zucchini and carrot in a carbonara-type sauce served with my fresh pasta…Yum!

Kyneton is very fortunate to have many of it’s streets lined with lovely old fruit trees.  One street a block from us is lined on both sides with cherry plums.  While we were walking Jessie late last week, we noticed how heavily laden some of these trees were with fruit, so hurried back armed with a plastic supermarket bag that we filled almost to bursting with these lovely little fruits.  In total, we gathered just over 3kg. 

I decided that I would make jam with this profusion of fruit, so spent some time online searching for others who may be able to share a recipe or some insight into the quality of the fruit for jamming.  Having found many sites that swore by cherry plums as a great beginners jam fruit, I felt confident to proceed.  So, on Saturday afternoon, while Grant worked on rebuilding his mountain bike, I sat down to the mountain of cherry plums to de-stone them prior to jamming.  Two and a half hours later, with sore hands and a stained apron, I had a huge bowl of fruit ready to be made into jam.  I will post on that separately, with a blow-by-blow account in case any others are interested in trying their hand at jam-making.  It really is very simple, and very satisfying.  I now have 13 jars of gorgeous, ruby coloured jam ready for gifting…Scones anyone?

At the request of the lovely Julie, I am going to finish this post with the recipe for pizza dough I always use, and used for our BBQ pizzas on New Year’s Eve.  I picked it up years ago, and cannot for the life of me remember who to credit with it.  If you are using a pizza stone, you can reduce the cooking time to 5 – 8 minutes per pizza.  This recipe makes enough dough for two good sized pizzas, but I made three for the sake of variety.  I made all the pizzas with an olive oil base (no tomato sauce) and toppings of:
  1. Bocconcini, fresh tomato and fresh basil
  2. Ricotta, zucchini (cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler), goat’s milk feta and chilli
  3. Roast pumpkin, caramelised onions and gorgonzola

Pizza Dough (makes 2 large pizzas)

  • 1 sachet dry yeast
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 2 ½ cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • Place yeast, sugar and 2/3 cup of warm water in a bowl.  Combine, then leave for 5 minutes or until yeast is bubbling.
  • Place flour and salt in a large bowl and made a well in the centre.  Add olive oil to the yeast mix and pout into the flour.  Using your hands, work the liquid into the flour until it forms a thick dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is shiny and elastic.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and stand in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  • Preheat oven to 180C.  Roll out thinly, place on a pizza tray and cover with a clean tea towel.  Leave in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
  • Add your toppings and bake for 15 minutes or until base is cooked and toppings are bubbling and golden.

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