Herb inlaid pasta

Homemade pasta? Ah, what’s the point? It’s only two ingredients, available everywhere, and inexpensive. But… you can’t buy it like this. There is only one reason to bother making your own pasta, and this is it.


Pretty simple to make, prepare your pasta dough as normal and roll down to a 7 gauge thinness if using a pasta machine or 2mm if by hand (by hand – are you crazy?)

Remove the stems from some parsley and thyme, and pick some small young basil leaves. Sprinkle over a long sheet of pasta. Gently place another long sheet over the top and gently push the two together. Run through the pasta maker on a 6 gauge, and trim the ends off. 

  You can cut this into strips as tagliatelle, or into squares as fazzoletti (below). 

 
Let them dry if using as they are, or stack them individually with a layer of cling film between each piece to keep them pliable if using them to make fagottini bundles. Easy!

Zero Calorie Noodles? (Ramen broth agar noodles)

Thought that would get your attention. Ignore the adverts from supermarkets selling you lo-cal, lo-carb, lo-taste, hi-price ready meals – only last month they were stuffing you full of booze and cheese offers that would make a gout-ridden king balk. 

New year, eat a bit less, drink a bit less, run around a bit more. But never sacrifice flavour and taste, eating is one of life’s pleasures that you get to do everyday. 

Ok, back to the recipe. Calorie free noodles. Essentially, a spicy ramen broth, stabilised and thickened with agar, then piped through a silicon tube. 

The broth is pretty simple, lemongrass, ginger, chilli, garlic, coriander, kombu and a vegetable stock cube. Add a litre of water and bring up to a high simmer – looking to get as much flavour as possible out of these ingredients into the broth. Twenty minutes should do it. 

  
You could stick the ingredients in a cream whipper and do a rapid infusion, but you get great flavour simmering these for a short period of time anyway. 

Rapid Infusions

Strain the broth, and add a teaspoon of xanthan gum and blend into the mixture. This will stabilise the broth and provide a more homogenous texture. 

Next set up your spaghetti making kit. One syringe. One 2m length of food grade silicon tubing. One ice bath. One cream whipper loaded with an NO2 charge. Are you having a laugh? No. Please use responsibly.

  
Weigh the stock – my litre of water produced 700g of stock, enough for one bowl of noodles (They are packed full of flavour though so an entire bowl would be way too rich, this should serve two people). The ratio of agar to liquid is 1.6%, so in this case 11g of agar. Blend this into the stock and bring up to a boil to activate the agar. Remove off the heat to fill the syringe, then slide the pan back on a low heat to keep it from setting.

Attach the syringe to the tube and gently and consistently push the liquid into the tube. A 30ml syringe, and 0.5cm tubing works well, with a full syringe coming close to filling an entire tube. Plunge the tube into an ice bath to set for a couple of minutes. Finally, attach the cream whipper to the loaded tube and very gently, force the noodle out of the tube. Without a cream whipper you can use the syringe I guess to force it out. Maybe. 

Repeat until you’re out of broth! 

It’s a bit of a pain reusing the same tubing, next time around I might order more so I can do batches quicker, but for a first attempt am really pleased. Nobody died.

The end results are fantastic – the noodles are firm enough to hold together and have the texture of cooked spaghetti, but unlike konjac noodles (which are calorie free but basically a non food, that you don’t even digest) these agar noodles are packed full of flavour! They can be eaten hot or cold – although heated above 80deg they’ll melt. Pair them with seared beef and maybe a yuzu dressed salad or spiralised courgette and enjoy!

  

A Cocktail Orange

Like gin? This will change your life (and liver). Complex, bitter, sharp, sweet? Yup, yup, yup and yup.

The days of chucking a glug of tonic in your gin are over. This is a simple upgrade for your standard mixer. Simple to make, but it does take a bit of time to clarify. 

  
Take a bunch of oranges (I used 20 but they were pretty small). Using a veg peeler, roughly peel the skin off and keep to one side. 

  
Halve and juice the oranges, and add the peel into the juice. Blend the peel and juice together. Add a tbsp of citric acid and a tbsp of fructose. Also add a few drops of pectinase to clarify the juice, then pour through a chemex (or other coffee filter).

  
This step takes aaaaaaaages. 

But! It’s worth the wait, the end result is a perfect mixer for gin (or whisky) try it as a replacement for tonic, or into a Negroni. Bliss.

 

I Can’t Believe It’s Nut Butter (and other butters)

That’s because its not butter, it’s bean butter, hahahaha, oh for 🐺 sake. Taking inspiration from chefsteps (again) and their coffee infused butter (see link below), I wondered what else would work using the same process and principle. 

This approach involves sealing together butter and whatever you want to infuse in a vac seal bag and cooking sous vide for three hours (at 80deg) and then strain through a muslin/micron bag. Leave to set.

Whenever setting up the sous vide kit, I always try and experiment a bit if there’s space in the gastro/stock pan, and test a few other flavours or hunches out. Some are amazing and some [scowling] are never spoken of again. You understand?

As Christmas is approaching I thought attempting a few flavoured butters would be a nice idea given the inevitable crackers, cheese and cold cuts to come. 

Seal 125g butter in a bag with one of the following. 

  • 60g fresh whole coffee beans
  • 30g cooked chestnuts
  • Tbsp lavender buds
  • Orange zest & juniper
  • Rosemary & olive
  • Fir tree tips (well, it is Christmas..)

Some mixed results, ah well, can’t all be winners.

Coffee butter, excellent – deep and rich – perfect for a dark rye bread or pumpernickel.

Fir tips also good, lemony and light, would pair well with white or smoked fish, and looking at the size of the Christmas tree, could probably do another ten batches before anyone notices half the tree is missing.

Chestnut was rich and earthy, would be great as a finishing butter on beef or venison. 

Rosemary and olive worked well, adding woody notes and slippery mouthfeel from the extracted olive oil.
Lavender. Hmmn. Not sure what I’d want to eat this with, toasted muffin maybe? But if your grandma needs something to rub into dry skin, I’ll send it over.

Orange and Juniper. In a moment of madness I also chucked in a star anise (was ruining some perfectly good alcohol by making some mulled cider at the same time and got carried away). This was a terrible mistake. Tasted awful and reeked pretty bad and ended up my neighbours bin as I didn’t want to stink mine out. 

Season of goodwill and all that.

Chefsteps Coffee Butter

Gin & Beetroot cured Salmon

It’s incredibly satisfying to fillet and cure your own fish, saves you some cash and you get to add your own flavours i.e. Booze. 

Take one side of salmon, skin on, cut in half widthways. 
Peel and grate a beetroot into a bowl, and add the following: 100ml gin, tbsp freshly ground juniper berries and black pepper, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp brown sugar. Mix thoroughly. Place one half of the salmon in a vac seal bag and cover with the beetroot gin mixture. Place the other half on top of the first, skin side up. Seal and refrigerate for a few days.

Rinse the cure off and pat dry, it should look like the pic below (banana for scale),  and be an amazing deep red colour.

 
If you’re worried about beasties you can freeze the cured salmon (the low temps kills any parasites) or it’ll keep for a good few days in the fridge. 
  
Enjoy! Invite people round and give them all a taste, although once you taste a slice you’ll probably hide behind the curtains and pretend to be out whilst gnawing on it like a fox, barring your teeth and casting furtive glances. I did anyway.

Carroty Carrot Combo

I’ve tasted a couple of exceptional carrot recipes, one from Heston’s In Search of Perfection book, and one from Amass in Copenhagen. Both are amazing in their own right, but they use different techniques in preparation and cooking. So what would happen if we combined both, and chucked a couple of extra steps in just to complicate life a bit more. 

Let’s start with Amass. This restaurant has got to be on your wish list if you’re ever in Denmark, simply stunning, and there’s no smoke and mirrors, the staff happily explain the technical steps and encourage you to try at home. 

So, their carrots were first dehydrated, and then rehydrated in carrot juice, then roasted. Dehydrating and reducing the water content, then reconstitung it with carrot juice should intensify the flavour, and it really does. Does mean you use three times as many carrots and end up with… carrots, but does this make sense so far? 

This reminds me of a time I tried to create spherical olives using a calcic bath and an alginate solution of olive juice. I spent a week on this and managed to create about 6 liquid ‘olives’. Told one of my colleagues the steps it took and they looked puzzled and simply said “but you already had an olive?”

Anyway. We’d all still be bashing coconuts on rocks if we didn’t experiment a bit, am I right?

  

Start by dehydrating 400g trimmed carrots (serves 4). Try and get the smallest, straightest ones you can, all of a similar size, as you’ll be pan frying them whole (eventually). Wash and gently scrub if needed, but no need to peel. Dehydrate at 45degrees celsius for ten hours, checking every few hours. They’ll look pretty shrivelled and like they’ve perhaps had one too many fortnights in Benidorm, but like the six million dollar man and Lego, we can rebuild them.

  

Use a juice extractor to juice 2kg of large carrots and [optional] add a few drops of pectinase to clarify the juice. Go a step further [also optional] and run it through a chemex or coffee filter to get it super clear. This clarifying and filtering isn’t essential, but the first time I tried this the carrots absorbed the carrot juice but left an unappetising slurry of fibres in the container which needed rinsing off the carrots. 

Pour the carrot juice over the dehydrated carrots and leave in the fridge at least overnight and ideally for 24 hours, until they’re plump again.

Enter Heston, stage right. Even if you can’t be bothered with the above steps, use this recipe as a game changer for your Sunday roast. Let’s call it a thank you for reading this far. Well done you. The process is very simple, cook very gently in butter, in a covered pan. That’s it. There are a few more details and a good explanation of the science in the link below. The principal difference is that cooking in water removes most of the flavour (and vitamins) as they are lost to the water. So by using butter, the flavour compounds that are leached out during cooking are retained in the oil and absorbed back into the carrots as they slowly cook. Temperature must be low, the plan is to gently cook not fry them, so will take around 30 minutes. These will taste like the sweetest carrots you’ve had, guaranteed

Heston’s Carrots

So, now our dehydrated-hydrated carrots are ready, put them in a large shallow pan in one layer (essential) with 100g of butter, cover and cook on a gentle heat for 30-45 minutes. 

  
End result is sublime. Incredibly rich, complex depth of flavour, super sweet and other than a bit of time and wasting some carrot pulp, pretty cheap too. Worth combining all the steps? I think so, both recipes are exceptional and raise a simple side dish to be the star of the plate, and combining both takes it to another level. Give it a go!

   

Amass, Copenhagen

Spherical Olives recipe (el bulli)

Raindrop Cake

It’s never normally too long before a Brooklyn food fad hits London, but I’m surprised I haven’t seen these anywhere in the UK yet. Back in April thanks to a few blog posts and social media, they went viral and there were queues round the block for them in Williamsburg (where else?)  Maybe my coffeeshop will be the first in the UK…. Hmmn. Baby steps though, let’s get it right at home first.

Recipe is simple enough, although a couple of ingredients were bought online. 

Start mixing 250ml spring water, with one tsp sugar and 1/2tsp Agar Agar. Stir and bring to a mild simmer until the agar has fully dissolved. Pour into a silicon mould and leave to set for an hour or so in the fridge. That’s it! I tucked a sprig of apple mint into each one, Sakura blossoms would work incredibly well, if you can get hold of them. 

  
The accompanying ingredients are Kinako and Korumitsu. Kinako is roasted soy bean powder, often used to sprinkle on Japanese desserts. Kuromitsu is a dark brown sugar syrup, like a mild thin molasses.

  
At least I hope that’s what they are and I haven’t just eaten powdered wallpaper paste and some axle grease.

End result looks and tastes great, I have perhaps used a bit too much agar, get the ratio perfect and it should be crystal clear. Best part though? The agar cake dissolves in 30 minutes. Perfect for those guests you want to clear off, sharpish. If they still don’t get the hint, make a giant one with their coats in it.