Sunday, 31 August 2014

Roses Are Red Violets Are... Ummm... Rose Coloured.

Well, it has been pretty much a full month since I last posted. Mostly because it has been hurringly cold! That means most days are spent wrapped up in several afghans, with a warm hat, fuzzy scarf, and fingerless gloves, hugging a hot water bottle. Very hard to do anything craft-y like that! So, yes, I am WAY behind in all my embroidery stuff. And I haven't really done a lot else either - just a lot of reading and knitting a big warm afghan with large needles.
I did manage to knit a cute Minion hat last week on 4mm needles - I was bored and in the mood for a goofy hat.

Towards the beginning of the month I made my first ravioli - it was fantastic. Filled it with my homemade ricotta cheese. I do like the homemade pasta!
When I made the pasta dough (on the last post), I only made half a recipe, but got 7 meals out of it. 3 cups of flour and 3 eggs - 7 meals. Coupled with freshly made home-made ricotta cheese (2 litres of milk), my ultra-fast home made pasta sauces (a tomato one - buy 1 tin budget tomatoes, and 1 tin budget tomato puree; and a creamed greens one), and fresh veggies from the garden for sides, salads and the sauces, I managed to do a week's worth of dinners, surprisingly fast and easy, for a grand total of $7.00. Now that's economical!

I also broke into the first of my hard cheeses - the beer cheese. Oh wow! it was wonderful! Especially with my freshly baked peasant bread, and a glass of my homemade cider.

What I am most excited about though, is the violet blossom jelly I made today.
I can see why it is very rarely done anymore - very time consuming, down on the ground, picking 4 cups of violet flowers!
My garden is overrun with violets, and I regularly pull bucketfuls of the plants out trying to keep the garden clear and stop them overrunning and killing everything else in the garden. Unfortunately, the violets I have are the white ones - no scent at all. Bummer. My neighbour down the back though has a small patch of beautifully scented rose-coloured violets. They are just heavenly! She let me raid her violet patch yesterday for the flowers. I completely stripped the patch of flowers, and just managed to get enough.
After half an hour getting all the ants off the blossoms, I then steeped them in boiling water, left them to cool, and left them to steep overnight. Boy do ants LOVE violets! I put a plate over the bowl to keep 'things' out (you know, all the 'stuff' that invariable fall into whatever you are trying to cook if you don't cover it), and when I came back to check on the flowers an hour after pouring the hot water on, the whole bench was just covered in ants! They were all trying to get into the bowl to get to the violet water. Needless to say, I had to move the bowl to where the ants couldn't get to it.
So this morning I made up the jelly. Ooooo! Heavely! Very delicate flavour, and DEFINATELY worth the effort!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Playing with Pasta and Cheese

The days are still dawning bright and clear, but the crisp is gone, and the afternoon breezes are downright balmy. I was expecting a long winter and late, cool spring, but I think spring may actually have sprung. Further evidence of this are the aphid and the whitefly infestations that have appeared on the brassicas, typical of spring, but not generally of warm winter periods. Looks like brassica season is coming to an end.

This week's cheese is Wensleydale. Wensleydale is a hard cheese, somewhat sweetish, generally served with fruit and dessert wines. It often has dried cranberries in it. Dried cranberries are hurringly expensive, but since you don't use that much, I decided to go ahead and put them in. Pak n Save has a small bulk foods section stocking things from a range called 'Alison's Pantry' - stuff Alison Holst promotes for her baking and recipes. In that range are the most heavenly orange flavoured cranberries (natural orange flavouring, not artificial). They smell so divine, and taste just as wonderful! I absolutely love them, but rarely buy them because of the price. However since I only needed a handful of cranberries for the cheese, I splashed out and got these instead of regular dried cranberries, and it worked out to nice small sum of just under $2.50. They smelled so wonderful as I mixed them into the curd, and you just know the subtle orange flavour is going to permeate the cheese as it ages. This one is going to be fantastic.

Just out of the press, to be turned, redressed and put back overnight at 20kg pressing weight.

A couple of months ago, a book on pasta making that I have wanted since forever on Fishpond (NZ's version of Amazon) dropped in price by 60% for a short time, so I jumped at the chance to get it. It was finally shipped just on a week ago, and should be arriving any day.
So while I was waiting the 1 & 1/2hrs for the curds to drain, I decided to give pasta making a bit of a go as well. I can't believe how fast and easy it is to do handmade pasta! Of course it was just basic, a bit of a play to see how it went, in preparation for getting into it for real, but still. Including the 1/2hr resting time for the dough, I had it made, cooked and eaten by the time the curds had drained and were ready for pressing. Wow!
I now know what real 'al dente' is. With the dried pasta, I find that generally means 'not quite cooked', but with fresh pasta it is quite different. And I can also see why it was such a staple food for so long. Being as much egg as flour, it is very high in protein, and when smothered in (home-made) vegetable laden sauces, it packs quite a nutritional whollop. It is also LOADS more filling than the dried pastas. I only made half a dough recipe, only cut 1/4 of that into noodles and cooked them, and still could only eat half the meal. Definitely fresh pasta is going to become a staple for me, coupling nicely with my home-made cheeses, and home made sausages. Yum!

Here is my first pasta dough

My first noodles.

Freshly made pasta, with creamed greens (kale, flower sprout, komatsuna, perpetual beet, red silverbeet, yellow silverbeet - all freshly picked from my garden), topped with my grated home-made Ricotta Salata, and a steamed Romanesco broccoli from the garden.