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.

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