Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Last minute panic

Whenever the end of year comes around I always find myself saying the same old thing.

'Where did the year go?'

'How is it December already?'

This year,  more than most I am shocked at how we are already less than two weeks away from Christmas.

Ok - I might have just had a slight panic attack as I looked at my calendar to check exactly how far away we were!

Less than two weeks.


I have not bought ONE present.

I haven't even put up the tree.

Oh dear.......

Perhaps I need to get onto it all.

On the plus side.....

My kids have made THE most beautiful wreath ever!
And they have started making lists.......

Asking for gorgeous things like:
  • a magnifying glass
  • a packet of water bombs
  • new clothes
and then this.....
  • Roast Pork and crackling for dinner.
I love my kids!

Fancy asking Santa for that.


It just makes me smile.

I think I am going to re-invent the Christmas tree this year seeing as hubs has gone away O/S for work and won't be back for a week and I can't reach the Christmas tree in the shed on account of being super dooper short and not so good at climbing ladders.

I don't really like the idea of a broken back for Christmas.

I got some really lovely Washi tapes the other day.

Maybe I can do something with that?

What about you?

Are you super organised at this time of year or do you like to leave it to a last minute panic like me?

POSTSCRIPT: Here is what I did with that Japanese Washi tape....looks pretty good huh! The kids love it- they think it looks a little like Elmer the elephant from the kids books. I like that. It will do just fine until Hubs comes home and we get the other one out.....but I really do need to paint that woodwork .......

I had some people ask how to make pasta at home.
I think comparing homemade fresh pasta and the packet stuff is a bit like comparing instant coffee to real coffee.
The texture and taste of  fresh pasta is SUBLIME.
I am only putting the pasta dough recipe here. You can add whatever sauce you like!
Lately we have been making good ol' Aglio e Olio (go here for that recipe) or gorgeous Summery pesto variations - some that the kids have invented  (the picture below is of a gorgeous recipe we made from the fab Whole Larder Love's great online cooking series) & who can beat just fresh tomatoes with a little EVOO &  fresh basil in Summer. YUM.  Fresh ingredients at their best.
In most family households Spaghetti Bolognese would be the dish you could serve to any child with an 'it's my favourite' response.
Not so much in our house.
I have one child out of my five- my most adventurous eater in fact- who has never liked it. Until I started serving it with fresh homemade pasta. He loves it now.
We have been making fresh pasta more and more often over using the packet stuff.
At first it will take a while but as you practice I hope you too see the benefits of making a little extra effort.  It takes a little longer to make but it only takes a couple of minutes to cook!  And this is a FAB ting to do with you kids. I promise you will make just as much mess as them anyway so let them have a go!
At my place there is a battle to help make it. From the goopy dough mixing to the rolling.
Years ago Pasta machines were expensive and hard to find. Now they are relatively cheap & easy to find at any good cookware store- or online.
The key is to use LOADS of flour for dusting and to let the dough rest for an hour BEFORE you roll it through the machine. 
This allows the gluten in the flour to settle and relax.  It will make it MUCH easier.
It is also important to use good strong flour. Buy 00 flour.  It is now easy to get hold of- even some supermarkets carry it.
Following the rule of 100g pasta per person this recipe is for 4.
  • 400g 00 flour
  • 4 organic eggs
  • a little EVOO-extra virgin olive oil ( about a tablespoon)
You could add ingredients to a food processor to amalgamate if you like to help kick start everything or go the old fashioned method of:
Place flour on the bench or table in a large circle.
Make a well in the middle and crack the eggs into the centre.
Using one hand swirl your fingers around so you catch more and more flour until all the 
ingredients are well mixed.

Now knead the dough well with a pushing & rolling motion until the dough feels quite elastic.
This takes about 10 minutes.

Now roll into a large ball and wrap in glad wrap and place in fridge to rest for an hour.

Remove from fridge and place on a VERY well floured bench.

You should be able to feel immediately how much softer the dough is.  It should be quite pliable now.

I roll mine into a sausage shape and cut out the portions. As we are making enough for four, the easiest way to do this is to cut it in half and then half again to get equal amounts.

With your pasta machine secured to the table or bench you need to start at the biggest setting and let your pasta pass through.

Now fold it in half and pass it through the same setting.  (My 3yo is the Master of this job- noone else stands a chance of getting to roll the dough!)

Repeat this step about 4-5 times.

This helps strengthen the pasta.

Now you are ready to pass it through the machine at smaller settings until you get to desired thickness. 

On my machine it goes from 1-9 but I only ever roll it to 8. 
That makes it quite fine.  If it were finer than that it would be difficult to keep intact.

Don't be afraid to flour again and again. 
Flour the machine, flour the pasta, flour the bench, flour, flour, flour!

And especially as you have finished batches you need to flour them so they don't stick together as they are sitting on the bench.

The flour will come off in cooking but if you are not liberal it will get stuck in the machine and make it very difficult to manage.

Most machines will have the option to make spaghetti or tagliatelli- so you choose what shape you would like.

My kids like Papardelle which is the very thick long strands.  I love it too.
The pictures below are of Papardelle.  

To do that you just roll out pasta to desired thickness and then cut free hand with a knife.

Once you have rolled out all your pasta you need to get a LARGE pot onto the boil with a generous pinch of salt.

The size of the pot is important here as you want your pasta to be able to roll around in the pot freely.  
It also means the temperature can rise again quickly to a rolling boil.

Once the water is at a rolling boil add your pasta and cook for about two minutes- taste a little and check.
As I have said before I add my pasta to the pan that has the sauce so that the last bit of cooking time is in the sauce. It allows the sauce to incorporate into the pasta itself making for a much more delicious result!

If you have made more than you need- just sit the rolled out spaghetti over a (clean) broom handle and let it dry overnight.  Now you have your very own dried pasta!
Papardelle Bolognese
Tagliatelle with Pesto, Roast Cherry tomatoes & Fior de latte 
Todays tune is courtesy of my eldest boy....such great rolling out pasta music don't ya think! Pasta tastes much better with a bit o' Bossa!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Perfection is a dream

I think sometimes about what people imagine goes on at my place.

I wonder if they imagine a pristine & silent place.

Or if they know it is a place of happy noise and chaos.

I wonder if they imagine me serving a gourmet meal to a table of perfectly groomed and well behaved boys who eat everything I serve.

Or if they know that a lot of the time I will be serving weet-bix to a straggling crowd of begraggled and noisy boys.

I wonder if they imagine that I wash the sheets on Thursdays every week.

Or if they know that I am lucky to ever actually get to the sheets after the umpteen other loads that need attention first.

I wonder if they imagine that I have a calender where I have everything written down that I need to remember.

Or if they know that I forget lots of things as I am lucky to even get the time to write in my calendar let alone look at it.

I wonder if they imagine that my house is kept tidy and ordered and that when the kids ask for something I will know exactly where it is.

Or if they know that my house is a home and not a showpiece and so along with that comes mess and a disshevelled order and that I can dream up a million other things to do other than housework.  And that some days I truly dream of being one of those super neat freaks (and i am guessing that Hubs might just dream of me being one of those too)....and then I wake up from my daydream and remember I am me! And Hubs comes home to the same gal he fell in love with a hundred million years ago.

I wonder if they imagine that I am level headed ALL the time and speak softly and lovingly to my children all the time.

Or if they know that I lose it too.  When the constant demands on me become overwhelming and I am drowning in doing everything for everyone. ALL. THE. TIME.  And that shouty mumma gets let out.  And that very soon after regretty mumma makes an appearance , embarrassed at her childish behaviour.

I wonder if they imagine that I love what I do all the time.

Or if they know that like every single person on the planet I have days where I think a million other people would be better at my job than I am.

We all set an idea of PERFECTION.

What it looks like.

How we achieve it.

But on those days when I give myself a hard time about not doing a very good job, I try to remember what I tell my kids ALL the time.

Perfection is a non-reality.

It is something imagined.

Something dreamed up.

Something unachievable.

It is ok to  drop your bundle.

It is ok to not be doing a great job all the time.

It is ok to not cope with everything all the time.

It is ok.

It really is.

This is one of the QUICKEST and BESTEST meals to serve when you have dropped your bundle and serving weet-bix AGAIN seems a bit much! Or at any other time. It is incredibly nutritious and delicious.
My kids all LOVE it.
If your kids like Garlic Bread they will love this.  Us grown ups love it too.
It is a gorgeously simple Pasta dish that's origins I have read to be either from the Naples or the Abruzzo region of Italy- it is quite probable like all regional cuisine that there are varieties for each region.  
Variations include the addition of chilli, anchovy fillets or sometimes fennel seeds.
It is a classic example of simple is best!
The rule of thumb for pasta portions is 100g per person.  
Make the sauce about 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked and transfer the pasta into the cooking pan with a ladleful of the water and cook in the sauce for the last 2 minutes of the cooking time.  This is true of most pasta dishes. The pasta absorbs the sauce and it makes for a more delicious meal.
This recipe is for 4.

  •  5 tblspoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped extra fine.
  • S & P
  • parmesan or pecorino cheese to grate.
On a medium heat in a nonstick fry pan heat EVOO until warm.  Add garlic.
Fry gently for about a minute- just long enough to be fragrant. It is VERY important not to burn the garlic as it will be very bitter.
Add the parsley.
Add S & P.
Stir through.

Transfer pasta into the frypan and cook through for last 2 minutes of cooking time.

Serve with grated cheese.

And today's listening pleasure is a favourite of mine from way back. Just perfect to cook too, to dance in the kitchen to or to eat to. My family love him. Hubster and I watched an amazing doco on him probably over ten years ago now. It was love at first listen.  We passed on the doco to our extended family who all fell in love as we did..... An amazing man- Ladies and Gentleman please meet Mr.Paolo Conte.