Pasta for Italian Day

What a great day. I’d forgotten just how much fun it is to make fresh pasta; very satisfying. I’d also forgotten how much hard work is required to knead the dough, especially when you have an audience of 8-year-old schoolchildren. This is the 10 minutes or so between the lovely eggs nestling in a flour well on your work-surface, and that perfectly formed, smooth ball of elastic dough (which is routinely skipped over in every TV cookery show you’ve ever seen).

Nonetheless, it’s a joyous and virtuous task with a far more delicious outcome than a trip to the gym.

Year 4 from St James C of E primary school did a Stirling job helping me roll and shape said pasta into lasagna, tagliatelle, angel hair (capellini) and farfalle. They learnt about the origins of pasta, its ingredients, geometry, gluten, composition and chemistry, the extrusion manufacturing process, not to eat raw pasta… etc. 

Italian day was a blast and has got me thinking about classes for parents too. 

Eggs and flour

The basic principle of making egg pasta is as follows – go on, dig that pasta machine out of the depths of your kitchen cupboard and get the kids involved.

Ingredients:

  • 400g Tipo ’00’ (super fine) flour
  • 4 Eggs

Method:

Beat your eggs and gradually mix in the flour. You can do this on a clean work surface by making a well in your mound of flour (like a volcano as the children cleverly observed) and cracking your eggs into it, or just bung it all in a food processor and pulse it a few times.

As it all starts to come together, give it a good knead as if you were making a loaf of bread. You’ll be surprised how what appears to be a particularly anhydrous mixture will turn into a beautiful smooth dough with a bit of elbow grease.

You’ll know when it’s ready as it’ll become smooth and silky to the touch.

At this point it needs to rest; wrap it tightly in cling film so the air can’t get to it and pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready, you can start to cut it, roll it out (using a rolling pin or a pasta machine) and form it into a plethora of shapes.

measuring pasta

If you’re cooking it fresh it will only take a minute or two in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water (traditionally as salty as the Mediterranean sea), or alternatively, you can dry and store it.

Have fun!

 

pasta machine

pasta shapes

Teach A Man To Fish..

As the adage of much disputed origin states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

That’s exactly what’s going on with Jamie Oliver’s latest venture. He’s teamed up with Hotpoint to not only provide free cookery lessons for children and adults around the country, but teach locals in 6 cities how to become cookery teachers in their own communities. How awesome is that!?!

The Hotpoint Teaching Kitchen started out in London, travelled to Bristol, and is about to transform back into a truck – very robots in disguise – and journey up to Middlesbrough for a couple of weeks before taking in Sunderland, Widnes and a mystery location…

It’s a remarkable piece of engineering and boasts 7 fully-stocked cooking stations and everything that the team needs to get the public, young or old, boshing out amazing dishes. Yes, I have to admit that it puts my humble kitchen to shame.

The crack team from the Ministry of Food are truly some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet; Jimmy, Maria, Mandie and Trish are not only welcoming and engaging, but my word do they know their stuff!

jamie oliver food foundation team

I had the pleasure of catching up with them outside the Ashton Gate Stadium as they put a group of trainees through their paces and helped them to develop their skills – not only to cook Jamie’s recipes, but to lead a classroom, appreciate nutritional information and healthy eating, follow food safety guidelines, field questions and queries, and evolve dishes based on seasonality, availability and personal preferences. I’m so impressed.

demonstration

The depth and detail provides so much more than you can get from a watching an equivalent TV show. The most significant lesson to be learnt is around balance – mindfully balancing food groups, your plate and your diet. Giving students the ‘why’ alongside the base skills helps to embed behavioural change and promote a positive attitude towards food and cooking in general. We’ve come a long way in the last couple of decades, but we’ve still got a long way to go. This shiny cookery school is really making a difference in the community, and the simple fact that it’s on wheels enables the Food Foundation to get out there and disseminate the life skills needed to help people live happier, healthier lives.

nutrition class

Please do check out their journey and show them the support they deserve on social media or in person! https://www.jamiesministryoffood.org/hotpoint-teaching-kitchen/

Hotpoint Teaching Truck

 

p.s. thanks for the delicious Teriyaki Salmon breakfast ;o)

teriyaki salmon

The Great Get Together

I’m starting to think that the best barbecues are the impromptu, last minute variety. Is this true?

Plans were in place for a Great Get Together in support of Jo Cox and the ‘more in common’ movement last weekend, but as happens all too frequently in our household, plans change.

However… right on cue, some dear friends invited us round to their house for a last-minute Sunday-night barbecue. Perfect little get-together me thinks. Now, living in an apartment with no garden, I can’t begin to explain how delightful it is to receive such an invitation.

So, what’s in the fridge? Some, I expect, might feel a little daunted by this prospect, however I absolutely love the freedom that an open fire brings – take what you have, and make what you can. Expectations can’t be too high can they? Moreover, you have before you the most devilishly ideal creator of flavour known to mankind, the humble fire.

weber coal starter

I’m fairly certain that a planned barbecue merely leads to anxious over-purchasing in the search of perfection, and ultimately greater food wastage.

Anything goes – as long as you cook everything sufficiently, it’s all good. Think about the garnishes, embellishments and rifts that will transform the ordinary into the extroadinary with a kiss of smokey char.

Classic new potatoes with rosemary from their garden, smashed garlic cloves, olive oil, unwaxed lemon peel, salt and pepper.. I even parboiled them before walking over. Wrap them up in foil and chuck them on the heat for a while to get gnarly.

bbq potatoes

Got a pineapple to hand? A splash of olive oil and a twist of black pepper takes it to a different level once it’s had a few minutes over the waning white coals.

Felix cooking up a storm

Good job little man.

BBQ Pineapple

Get outside and get together folks – make the most of everything you have and celebrate friendship. Jo was right.

Sunday BBQ

The Great Get Together is a campaign of the Jo Cox Foundation and partners, supported by Jamie Oliver and the Food Revolution. The Jo Cox Foundation is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1170836). Registered address: 40 Bowling Green Lane, London, EC1R 0NE

The White Spoon

Long past are the days when I’d pop out from the office to grab something to eat in my lunch break, but I distinctly remember the options, or lack thereof..

An overpriced, plastic-clad sandwich or unimaginative pub fayre, unless you’re willing to pay through the nose for restaurant cuisine of course.

Competition certainly seems to be hotting up with so many new restaurants opening in Cheltenham this year; those looking to stand out are raising their game and bringing a new level of quality dining at an affordable price.

The White Spoon, tucked away on Well Walk, is offering lunchtime diners two courses in rather splendid yet welcoming surroundings, for as little as £12. Their set menu is written weekly, and makes the most of the freshest local and seasonal ingredients.

Chris White and Purdey Spooner clearly project their own style and friendly ethos to make this a relaxed and comfortable restaurant, supported by their attentive staff who I found to be particularly well-versed in every aspect of the menu.

Highlights for me? Dreamily transformative Applewood Smoked Butter, wonderfully fresh and respectfully handled shelled broad beans, and mashed potato the likes of which I’ve never experienced before: so light and airy you’d swear it was crafted from Altocumulus clouds by nimble-fingered angels.

Dreamy mashed potato

Pork Chop on Broad beans

I’m looking forward to exploring what their evening menu has to offer.

 

The White Spoon

8 Well Walk, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 3JX

01242 228 555

dine@thewhitespoon.co.uk 

http://www.thewhitespoon.co.uk/  

 

Emily Watkins

Chef Proprietor of the award-winning Kingham Plough, Emily Watkins, kindly took time out of her bustling Cotswold pub kitchen last night to demonstrate three of her favourite grain recipes to a room full of eager Whole Foods customers.

Part of the ‘Eat Real Food’ series, this class was laid on as a special event, with all proceeds going to the Whole Kids Foundation which admirably educates local children and families in healthy eating and nutrition.

Emily inspired and captivated the room with tips and tricks interspersed with stories from her fascinating career, training in male-dominated Italian kitchens and working under Heston Blumenthal at Bray’s Fat Duck. Majoring on under-used yet beautifully delicious grains, we had the joy of experiencing how a professional chef glides around the kitchen and improvises to deliver perfect dishes with minimal fuss.

Courgette ‘Spaghetti’ with Millet, Preserved Lemon and Pesto, Heritage Tomato and Pinhead Oatmeal Risotto with a Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil Salad, and Fava Bean and Smoked Bacon Casserole… yes please. Oh how we wished we’d skipped our earlier dinner though.

 

Sourcing gorgeous ingredients from the store, Emily lectured on a concept that’s dear to my heart: “a recipe is just an idea”. You’ve got to approach cooking with an open mind and evolve recipes to suit you and your family – there’s no need to freak out when you’re missing an ingredient, trust your initiative and substitute or simply omit.

If you’re cooking seasonally with stunningly fresh local ingredients, simplicity is king.

Good on you Emily, you’re a Food Revolution hero.

AHL and Emily