Thursday, 30 October 2008

Cook The Books - La Cucina and a little pasta.

Long to read something besides recipes and how-to's but your heart is still in the kitchen? Join the new Cook the Books Club, a wonderful endeavour created by my friend Deb from Kahakai Kitchen and two other very lovely ladies, Rachel from the Crispy Cook and Jo from Food Junkie, Not Junk Food. "We are foodie friends Rachel, Debbie and Jo and will be taking turns in hosting a new blogging event under the name of COOK THE BOOKS. We discovered that we love reading and cooking very very much so combining the two was ideal."
This month we are reading Lily Prior's La Cucina, "a saucy tale chock full of sex, recipes and murder". Well what could be better than that?

Participants are encouraged to cook something inspired by the book.

To kick things off I decided to make a pasta from scratch. Now, I have made pasta from scratch before, and let me tell you, it is worlds away from dried. Like homemade bread next to Wonder bread. Usually I throw the ingredients into the stand mixer and mix it up in there. This time I wanted to try it the old fashioned way. Pile up the flour, make a well, add the eggs and slowly whisk them - adding in the flour bit by bit. I found a recipe from Mario Batali that called for 3 1/2 cups of flour and 5 eggs. Nothing more. When the dough is brought together, it is kneaded for 10 minutes by hand which is no easy feat. It may seem like a long time for such a stiff dough but by 7 minutes or so you can start to feel the difference under your hands. The dough becomes like the softest leather. I felt like Ann Burrell. This is the finest homemade pasta I have made so far. I did want to take a picture of the well and the eggs but the eggs were trying to escape - note - 5 eggs need a pretty big well. I advise having a dough scraper near by to capture escaping eggs.

I used my KitchenAid rollers to roll the dough fine and cut it on the larger setting. Then hung it to dry a bit on my handy-dandy pasta rack (that hubby built me a couple of months ago) while I made the sauce. Why does hubby build me so many great things for the kitchen? He gets paid in food. Pretty good food, at that.

I have a secret when it comes to making a sauce that I want to add pasta to. I use a giant wok. It is the only thing big enough to toss the pasta into.

For the sauce I just laid out the ingredients that I wanted to include - 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp hot pepper flakes, 2 sliced onions, 6 cloves minced garlic, 2 tbsp capers - divided, 1 1/2 cups small tomatoes - halved or quartered, 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms, 2 tbsp tomato paste, salt, pepper, 2 tsp Italian seasoning (just oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and a little sage) 2 tbsp anchovy paste (trust me) 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, 1/2 cup white wine, 125 grams spicy pecorino cheese. The glass of red wine in the picture is for the cook.

So, start up the pasta pot and begin the sauce.

By eye and by taste - heat up some olive oil and the thinly sliced onions. Add hot pepper flakes. Cook until the onion is soft and starting to brown. Add mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes. Saute for a couple of minutes and add anchovy paste, tomato paste, capers, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, chicken stock, and white wine. Let cook together, adjusting seasoning to taste.

When pasta has cooked in boiling, salted water until al dente, drain and add to sauce, adding a ladle full of pasta water as well. Combine with sauce, let cook together another minute and 1/2 the cheese. Serve with more cheese and sprinkle with additional capers. (Extra capers if you are serving this to Debbie)

This dinner is a labour of love. Homemade pasta isn't something that I would make every week but it is a treat and a delight for the senses. I recommend giving it a try. I also recommend giving the book club a try. Cheers.