Handmade Pasta

I spent a while looking for an egg pasta review with enough positive reviews to speak for its reliability, didn’t require strong flour (I’ve only been able to buy plain) and didn’t list a pasta machine as essential. I couldn’t find one covering all bases, so I stuck a few together to create a Frankenstein’s recipe that worked pretty well.

Having made pasta without a machine I’d advise against getting one unless you’re going to be making pasta on the reg. It’s super easy to roll the dough to an adequate thinness, so unless you’ve got cash and kitchen space to burn, it’s not really worth it.

The following recipe made more than enough pasta for two or three people, but you might need to scale up for four.

Ingredients

4 medium eggs
280 g plain flour

Method

  1. Sieve the flour onto a flat surface and make a well in the middle. All the guides say to use a flat surface, though I suspect a large mixing bowl would work equally well and mitigate Step 4. I’ll be trying this next time.
  2. Beat the eggs and pour into the well until it’s almost full.
  3. Use a fork to start mixing in the flour around the edge of the egg. Once the egg starts to mix in, and there’s more space in the well add more egg and keep mixing.
  4. If the egg starts to run out of the well, panic mildly. Do everything that you can to build a flour dam to stem the flow of the egg.
  5. When the very runny egg has mixed in, you’ll have a gooey mess. Now’s a good time to get in with your hands and roll the gooey mess in the remaining flour until you have something resembling dough.
  6. Continue until all the flour has been absorbed or the dough seems reluctant to absorb any more flour. It should be springy to the touch and not sticky. I had a reasonable amount of flour left over (25 grams, maybe?) but figure it’s best to start with too much. The dough will tell you when it’s had enough flour.
  7. Sprinkle a load of flour on the counter and knead the dough for 7 or 8 minutes. Kinda pull it a bit and then push it down with the heel of your hand.
  8. Wrap in cling film and stick in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The recipes I found on line were inconsistent in the maximum time that they said you could leave it for, some had an upper threshold of around three hours, others a day. I left it for three hours and it was perfectly fine, so suspect it would be okay to leave quite a bit longer.
  9. Flour your surface and roll the dough out super thin. You basically want it to be thin enough that if you hold it up to the light, you can see your hand behind it. This is probably about 2 mm and was a perfect thickness for pappardelle.
  10. When I cut strips of my pasta I hung it over a drying rack to dry out for about thirty minutes. It didn’t feel sticky, so I think this was a bit overkill, but it kept its shape really well when cooking, so maybe it helped.
  11. When you’re ready to cook, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook it until it rises for the top for al-dente (about three or four minutes).

We served the pasta with Tom Kerridge’s beef ragu which I found a little bit bland, but nothing a handful of parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley couldn’t fix. The pasta was actually really tasty, far better than its store bought equivalent and easy to make if you don’t mind a bit of faff and clean up.

Lockdown Ballotines

I’m a bit mean to chicken. I unkindly consider it a ‘weekday meat’, a cheap filler for fajitas and supermarket curry mixes for when we don’t want to put too much effort into dinner. Since forgoing meat in the week, meanness has turned to neglect; with the exception of a roast chicken maybe every other month, we almost never have chicken anymore.

However, my attitude towards chicken is perhaps unjust. With the right cut and a little bit of time and attention, chicken can be incredibly tasty. A perfect example is these Parma-ham wrapped ballotines from Great British Chefs which are wonderfully flavoursome and deceptively simple to make.

We ate these with a side of dauphinois potatoes, which I worried might be a bit too creamy with the addition of creme fraîche at the end of the recipe, but that wasn’t the case at all.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

4 chicken thighs, deboned
4 slices of parma ham
16-ish dried apricots
150 ml white wine
600 ml vegetable stock
5 round shallots, halfed
8 button mushrooms, halfed
1 clove garlic, chopped
Handful spinach leaves
Dollop creme fraîche

Method

  1. Prepare the ballotines by wrapping two dried apricots in each thigh, and then take your Parma ham and wrap it around the chicken. Now wrap the Parma parcel in clingfilm and put in the fridge for a couple of hours. Wrap wrap wrap!
  2. Add a big glug of oil to a large pan and fry the ballotines over a medium heat, starting with the join in the Parma ham to seal it. (The big glug of oil is important: I didn’t use enough and the ham stuck to the pan and the ballotine started to come loose. If this happens, just use a couple of toothpicks to keep the ballotines together while they’re cooking).
  3. When the Parma ham is nice and crisped, remove the ballotines and set them on a plate.
  4. Add the shallots to the pan and fry them for a few minutes until they’re starting to brown, then add the mushrooms and garlic until they’re soft and brown too.
  5. Add the wine and let it reduce to about two thirds. When it has, return the chicken to the pan with around 300 ml of the stock. Cover and leave for 20 minutes.
  6. Add the remaining apricots, and leave for another 20 minutes, this time uncovered. By this point almost all of the stock will have evaporated, so keep adding to the stock to keep the volume in the pan at around 100 ml.
  7. Remove the ballotines and stir in the spinach and creme fraîche. Cook on low for another 5 minutes, then plate up.

Lockdown Takeaways

When you start a blog, one of the repeated pieces of advice you’ll see is to find a niche and stick to it. Well, you want a niche? Takeaways that deliver to the LS13 area of Leeds. There’s a niche for you.

In lieu of being able to go out for dinner, Sam and I have been trying the takeaway offerings of nearby restaurants. It’s great to see so many businesses adapting during the lockdown, and supporting restaurants by ordering out means that getting a takeaway is basically a civic duty.

Anyway, here are the ones we’ve tried. You should check them out too.

The Agora

Traditional Greek/Turkish restaurant based in Horsforth. You can order by phone (they’re not on Just Eat, Uber Eats, etc.) and they deliver to small radius or you can take out. They were cash only when we ordered, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve visited a cash machine in advance.
I had borek and fruity lamb, Sam had mussels and guvek (spicy beef). All decent and great value at £15 for two courses, plus the staff are insanely lovely.

Feed, Pudsey

Modern European/bistro style food from the same guys as Vice and Virtue. We were a bit sceptical as we came away from V&V slightly underwhelmed (sorryyy!), but that was a long time ago. This is now, and Feed is great.
Deep fried brie and jalapeño starters were fantastic, and mains of Thai green king prawns (pictured – their presentation is much better than my photography skills) and mushroom stroganof were solid. Massive portions, which meant leftovers for lunch the next day. Also well worth it for the doodles on the boxes.
Find them on Uber Eats.

Once Upon A Vine, Horsforth

Friendly wine and charcuterie. We’ve been visiting in person as they’re still open and convenient for us to visit after grocery shopping, but they also deliver. They’ve got a fantastic selection of wine and are doing cheese boards to take away. (By the way, has anyone else’s wine game been significantly improved by lockdown?)
Delivery seems pretty chill, phone them or message them on Facebook and they’ll advise you on what wine to get based on your tastes and budget.

I’ll update this as we try more. If you have any recommendations, let me know below.

Lockdown Sushi

Before Coronavirus spread across the UK and lockdown became a thing, I told Sam that I was going to start a restaurant review blog. “Ah, like all those other things you’ve started? Like the video game you were going to make and like the book you were going to write?” he asked.

“Heh…” I replied.

We went out for food once since I made the decision to start a restaurant review blog and then the Coronavirus lockdown happened which kinda put paid that plan. So State of Taste is for the foreseeable future going to be much less the restaurant review blog I’d envisioned, and more a general cooking/drinking at home blog. And if there was ever a time when I needed to up my home cooking game, it’s now.

Which is why we’re making sushi! Sushi is mad easy to make (assembly job ftw!) and falls into the low-risk, high-reward category, which is perfect for when you want to get super fancy at home. And yeah, this probably isn’t going to be on par with the best of the best sushi you’ve ever had, but it’s for sure as tasty as Yo! Sushi and you end up with an absolute tonne of it.

If you’ve not made sushi before, the rice can be pretty scary. There’s so much advice on what to do: leave the lid on while it cools, don’t leave the lid on while it cools, add the seasoning immediately, add the seasoning when it’s cooled, don’t stir it with a metal spoon, blah, blah, blah… Realistically, as long as you add a sensible amount of water so that doesn’t go mushy, the seasoning will cover 99% of those nuances anyway.

Ingredients (makes 4 rolls)

Rice
250 g sushi rice
330 ml cold water
4 nori sheets

Seasoning
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Fillings
These are just ideas, you can use whatever you want. We used really small quantities of each ingredient, so tried to incorporate them into our weekday dinners for the next week.

Smoked salmon
Prawns
Tuna
Crab
Onion
Red pepper
Asparagus
Avocado
Cucumber

Equipment
Bamboo sushi mat. You can probably get by without one in a pinch, but they’re like £2 on Amazon, so worth getting.

Method

  1. Cook the rice. I rinsed it in a sieve for about a minute, added cold water to the pan, brought it to the boil, then covered and turned down to simmer for 8 minutes (this was probably a minute too long as some stuck to the pan, so I just transferred the rice that hadn’t stuck to a fresh pan and fluffed it up with a fork for the next steps).
  2. Leave to cool. I left the lid on because the packet said so, although I don’t believe this makes any difference. (Proof: Sam wanted to use the fifth nori in the pack so made a bit more rice but didn’t leave the lid on and it was indistinguishable). It took about an hour to reach room temperature.
  3. Season. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt so that the sugar and salt dissolve. Then stir it into the rice. This initially tasted a bit sweet to me and seemed to make the rice go too lose, but I left it for half an hour or so until it was nice and sticky again and the sweetness seemed more muted.
  4. Prepare the rolls. Stick your sushi mat down and cover with a layer of clingfilm. Put the nori on the clingfilm and put some rice on. You want to leave a gap of around 1 cm all around, apart from at the top, where you need about 3 cm to seal the roll. I aimed for about 0.5 cm thickness of rice, which it’s easiest to use your hands for, otherwise you end up smushing it all down. Add your fillings in a line about 5 cm from the bottom.
  5. Roll the rolls. Starting at the bottom, use the mat to pull the clingfilm and nori over the fillings, then use the mat and the clingfilm to kind of guide the nori into a roll. This sounds harder than it is, but it’s pretty intuitive when you try it, and the clingfilm makes it easy to readjust if you find yourself going wrong. Just make sure that you’re using the mat to keep the rolls tight, then wrap in clingfilm and stick in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Use a sharp knife to slice the rolls. When you’ve cut the scraggy ends off, you’ll probably end up with about 8 or so sushi pieces per roll. Plate up however you want to serve them and leave for half an hour or so.
  7. Serve. Use whatever sushi accompaniments you like. Soy sauce, picked ginger and wasabi are classics. Because it’s the end of days I haven’t been able to get wasabi, so we used horseradish as a substitute for the mustardy nose-burning sensation.