Posts Tagged With: pasta

Grow You Own… Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Basil - The ultimate sunny window sill companion.

Basil – The ultimate sunny window sill companion.

Probably one of my favourite fresh herbs, along with Rosemary, is Basil (Ocimum Basilicum in Latin).  The smell, the colour, the taste, everything about it is just heavenly and it is the true King of Herbs! I use Basil in all sorts of dishes, I rip it up and put it in pasta sauces, sprinkle it on pasta dishes at the end of cooking, put whole leaves atop pizza, grind it up with some pine nuts to make pesto… it’s just so versatile, and so easy to grow!  All you need is a sunny garden, greenhouse or window sill and you are away.

I usually buy my Basil plants ready grown in a supermarket or garden centre, so I can use them straight away and still allow the plant to grow more leaves afterwards, you can grow it from seed of course, but this isn’t a gardening site, it’s a cookery site so I’m not going to go there! Typically, the kind of Basil you find find in supermarkets will be Sweet Basil, the type most commonly used in Italian cooking, but there are other types too, Thai, Lemon and Holy Basil, which are used in Asian cooking. And while you can buy ready picked basil leaves in packets, it’s definately a better option to spend 20-50p more on a whole plant.  Look for a plant that is bushy and is a beautiful vivid green colour and you can’t go wrong.

When you get it home, pop it into a flower pot and pop it in a sunny spot on a window still such as in the bathroom or more suitably, the kitchen.  Make sure you turn the plant every other day so the leaves down grow away from you, and keep it watered, it’s important to keep the plant from wilting so use a clean spray container and give the leaves a spritz once a day when you are watering the soil.

When it comes to using the actual Basil in a recipe, more often than not you will only need the leaves, take a pair of sharp scissors and cut in the middle of the stems of those which are yielding the largest leaves. This give the stem a chance to grow back and supply you with even more lovely leaves. You can dry it if you wish, take a few stems and after switching off the oven of an evening after dinner, just pop the stems inside as it is cooling, on a piece of tin foil, they will dry out as the oven cools down and by morning you will have some lovely fresh dried herbs for cooking with, just store them in an airtight jar.  Be warned though, Basil is prone to losing a lot of it’s flavour when it is dried and also when it is cooked, hence adding it towards the end of cooking.

You can tear it, or chop it, and either way you will immediately notice the pungent odour, it’s a lovely smell and one that you will find wafting around my kitchen on many a warm day!

So that’s Basil, a wonderful addition to any kitchen window sill…

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Categories: Grow Your Own!, Herbs & Spices | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Strozzapreti

Strozzapreti - made for choking priests

Strozzapreti – made for choking priests

If someone had told me about a year ago that one day I would be making my own pasta and that my whole family would love it I would have laughed at you until I fell over… I always thought that making your own pasta required a massive amount of skill and effort, needing mad crazy tools such as a pasta rolling machine and the like and requiring a ton of space to hang your pasta to dry like an edible indoor laundry but it’s absolutely not! You don’t even need a bowl! Just your ingredients, a bit of time and a rolling pin!

Strozzapreti is a great place to start making your own pasta because it is ridiculously easy to make and form into pieces and when ready, it only take 2-3 minutes to cook.  It tastes great with most sauces and everybody can have a go making it.

The name Strozzapreti is a funny one, it means “priest choker” in Italian and the legends are many, my favourite one though is that in times gone by, the Catholic Church owned much unused land which they used to rent out to families in exchange for food cooked by the wives of the men who worked on the land. The husbands would be so angered by these corruptible and greedy priests that they would wish them to choke whist stuffing their faces with their wives food which in this instance was quick and easy to make for them, hence the name priest choker.  Another is that gluttonous priests would be so enamoured by this type of pasta that they would literally stuff their faces with it, choking themselves, sometimes to death! Geesh, I know I have a good appetite, but please!

Anyway, this pasta is a little different from most in that it isn’t made just with flour, eggs and salt. I actually replace most of the eggs with chopped tomatoes and their juices which give the pasta a lovely flavour.  Of course you can make Strozzapreti with eggs but I prefer it this way. Try using ’00 flour instead of plain, it’s made with a finer grain specifically for pastas.

This recipe gives you a heck of a lot of pasta, 6-8 servings in fact and be warned… it is VERY filling, so if you want to freeze some for another day, then do it in a ball and defrost it when you want to make more.

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g ’00 flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large tinned plum tomatoes and their juices, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  1. Here comes the fun part… Begin by putting a large pan of salted water on the boil.
  2. Tip the four onto your work surface and make a well in the middle, kind of like a flour volcano on your kitchen worktop.
  3. Pour the egg and tomatoes into the  well and slowly start to bring it all together until you have a dough, much like a bread dough.  You might find it becomes either a bit dry or wet, in which case you either add a bit more tomato juice or a bit more flour depending on which it is.
  4. Take about 1/4 of the dough and place it onto a lightly floured surface. Place a cloth over the remaining pasta dough to prevent it drying out while you work.
  5. Roll the dough you have on your work surface until it is about 3-5mm thick. Them using a sharp knife, cut it into strips about 3/4 inches wide.
  6. Take a strip of pasta and using your thumb and forefinger, pinch it together until you can roll it, sort of like a sausage, this will form a long twisted tubes which you then need to cut into 2 inch pieces. Don’t worry about being precise, it’s not about maths!
  7. Place your cut pasta onto a floured board so that none of the pieces are touching, and when you have as much pasta as you need ready (a board full feeds 2 of us happily), tip it gently into the boiling water.
  8. Give the pasta a good but gentle stir straight after it all goes into the water to prevent it from sticking together.
  9. Once the pasta floats to the top of the surface, give it another minutes and add it to whichever sauce you are using (I use my Crazy Simple Rosemary & Garlic Pasta Sauce) along with a splash or three of the starchy pasta water.
  10. Serve in the pan with crusty bread and salad.
Categories: Italian Dishes, Meat Dishes, Pizza & Pasta, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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