Monday, August 2, 2010

This weekend was one of mixed success for me in the kitchen. I experimented with different recipes and ideas – each with varied degrees of success. For example, Saturday night I thought it would make a real change to make burgers for dinner. Not just any burger - my burger. I decided that in order to make these burgers really special, I would start by making the bread rolls. Hmmm. Lesson one – if you are going to do this, have a Plan B, i.e. some spare bread rolls from the shop! I have a great bread recipe (which I will share with you one day), but on this day, I decided to adapt this trusted recipe slightly and substitute half the flour with polenta (Italian cornmeal). All went well with the first proving as the dough doubled in size wonderfully. Then I beat the shit out of it (as I always do) and waited patiently for the second proving. Nothing. No worries, I thought, thinking the rising would take place in the oven. Yeh right. The result? Biscuits. Enough said, moving on…luckily I had my wife and most honest food critic on hand to rush to the shop to get us some nice fresh rolls. However, there was one success of the whole burger saga and that was my “polenta hash browns” which worked really nicely. Basically, I whipped together a pot of polenta, added some cheddar cubes to make it really cheesy, and then I poured the polenta into a muffin tin and let them set. Once cooled, I turned them out of the tin, flattened with my palm, rubbed a little olive oil over them and grilled them in the oven. So simple, and an awesome addition to the burger. In a way, they made up for the bread disaster. But (I tell myself) the important thing is to keep learning. After all, it is through these great disasters that the best lessons are learned.

Sunday rolled by, and I was still feeling the urge to “play”. I popped into Carlucci’s to see what I could find. Damn it, good food is expensive. I want it all! After putting the caviar and block of authentic Parmiggiano Reggiano back on the shelf, I walked out of the store with a tin of anchovies, a tub of fresh artichokes in brine and a little jar of capers – all very Sicilian style ingredients and entrenched deep in my veins. So anyway, like the burger story of the night before (but not entirely disheartened by the saga) I decided to make the pasta myself. My family all nodded with straight faces as I announced that the pasta would be made from scratch…

Surprise!! The pasta was amazing! There is absolutely no substitute for the real deal, and I cannot see myself going back to the dry packaged stuff again. It brought a totally new dimension to the meal – made it feel so wholesome and honest. Wow. I am blown away! Okay, let me tell you how I did it:

PASTA RECIPE (serves 4):

275g pasta flour
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
Tablespoon olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together until they form dough, and then knead for a further 15 minutes on a floured surface until smooth. Put to one side and let rest for about 1-2 hours.
Once the dough has rested, roll out (either through your pasta machine or in my case with a rolling pin and muscle power) cut into manageable sheets and slice with a sharp knife by hand. Remember, this is hand cut pasta so they don't have to be perfect. Space out on a large table and get straight into making the sauce…


6-8 artichokes in brine
1 tin anchovies sliced up
3 heaped tablespoons capers
Two large handfuls of cherry tomatoes
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic – crushed
45ml cream

Place the onions, garlic and one anchovy fillet in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cut the artichokes into thin slices and add to the onions. Throw in a few more glugs of olive oil to keep the whole thing nice and shiny. Add the rest of the anchovies and then, lastly, the cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper –(not too much salt – remember the anchovies!!).

Now put the pasta into vigorously boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes. Add the cream to the sauce and gently mix in taking care not to mush up the tomatoes. With a spider ladle, remove the pasta from the water straight into the sauce pan and fold in gently. Serve in a large bowl and top with fresh rocket and grated Parmesan.

Buon Appetito!

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