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!


  1. Fresh pasta is the MOST inspirational thing ever! Yes, I will hunt for my machine. It's somewhere...
    I can taste those photos...

  2. This looks great...I have been using a pasta recipe from one of Jamie Oliver's first books but I will have to try this one, it sounds pretty simple. We are also enjoying pesto/tomato variations at the moment! Don't panic about the Christmas stuff, the important things will get done :)

  3. Well you know I'm a planner but I also like last minute decisions to do things. I love the tree you've created Ruth, it's easy to put up and take down too! I take gift giving very seriously too cos I like the gift to be liked. It's birthday season for us too so I have all those gifts to consider too & it fries my brain to have to think of all that at the last minute. I admire people who can wing it immensely and think they have enormous style.

  4. Oh & of course the pasta looks divine. One of my earliest memories is seeing all the pasta drying on brooms around my Nonna's house. She's a witch but man the lady can cook! ;)

  5. Oh Ruth, I'm literally drooling. I'm in the middle of a goddawful kitchen reno and it's looking like my kitchen won't be ready by Xmas. I could not be bothered tonight and I made my girls fried eggs in a little electric pan, and I just ate watermelon :(
    I love what you did with the tape, that's a beautiful alternative to a traditional Xmas tree. With the reno, I've hardly organized anything Christmassy. Haven't shopped for pressies either. Think I'm in trouble!
    I can't wait to make homemade pasta in my new kitchen (I'm still holding on to that beautiful lamb with eggplant sauce recipe you posted a couple of months back, can't wait to make that too). And I just adored your little ditty, very cool sounds. Thanks for sharing! xxx

  6. I'll be remembering this post when i finally get my act together and start making pasta. Maybe I should ask Santa for a pasta maker for Christmas? Your tree is super ace and I love the boys ideas for pressies..everyone should have a magnifying glass. Nice to see you in blogland, as well as the crazy land of Instagram xo

  7. LOVE the wreath!

    What gorgeous kids, all those items seem achievable without sending you broke!

    and yes, please don't have a broken back for xmas!

  8. There's so much goodness here Miss Ruth, where do I start?
    We don't do Christmas. Its not our thing. So its kinda strange every year to watch the whirl wind take over and be quite seperate from it all.
    I do like it so much when families embrace the handmade and homemade and practical tho. I love your kids' list.
    And we adore fresh pasta. We used to have a ritual of making it together and sitting down and eating it together every sunday. Its been hard to buy the plastic wrapped stuff on the road. There is nothing similar about it.
    And you didn't even mention the teacher's pesto prezzies-the best ever idea fo a gift. Or maybe you ded while we were Nullaboring. I am so doing that next year.
    Hugest love to you xxxx

  9. i have come to the "i am organised enough" state of mind. i agree - no point getting ourselves all worked up at this time of year. we have been so busy with other activities that i will be glad to just stop for a day. just last night our daughter asked for pork crackling for christmas too! and that is exactly how we make our pasta. thanks for the broomstick idea for drying out the leftovers. i love your christmas tree! have a lovely time x

  10. Love the tune you've selected today.
    My 14 year old nephew asked his Grandmother for Christmas this year, could he have her trifle recipe all written out so he can give it to his wife when he gets married!!??
    Horrified and proud all at the same time.
    He's actually a good cook but sometimes some dishes don't taste good unless someone else makes it for you.

  11. Beautiful! My pasta never looks that good!!!

  12. Finally made it over here from instagram, where your photos make me drool every single day :-)
    Love your post about perfection, am bookmarking the ones about homemade pasta, a new interest round here, and putting you in my google reader so I can go back and drool some more. good luck with the christmas shopping. That's how I'd be if I didn't have to get in the car on Tuesday and drive for two days!


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