Easy, Waste Free, Wholemeal Dried Pasta

Who knew that pasta was so simple to make?

I have never been a great fan of pasta, but my son absolutely loves it – he would eat pasta and pesto every single day if I’d let him.  But in the UK it is difficult to find pasta without plastic packaging, particularly if you want to buy in large quantities  (there are some options mainly in card but with a small plastic window).  Having heard it was easy I thought I should give it a go – and it really is easy – and it got the taste approval from my fussy child. You can easily buy flour in a paper bag which you can either recycle or put in your home compost.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups wholemeal bread flour
  • 1 cup hot water

Method:

Making the dough:

  • If you are using a food processor fit the dough attachment.
  • Add the flour, pour in the hot water and switch it on.  It will turn to breadcrumbs to start with but stick with it and it will soon come together into a dough.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface.
  • If you are making the dough by hand place it in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the flour and pour in the hot water a little at a time and mix together  either with your hands or a wooden spoon.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it comes together in a dough.
  • Press the dough down into a flat round.  Divide into 4 quarters  (this will make it more manageable to roll out later).
  • Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.
  • You could freeze all or some of the dough at this point for later use if you wish.

Now you can begin to turn it in into your desired shapes:

  • Working with one piece of dough at a time roll it very thinly.
  • Then you can get creative and cut and shape to your heart’s desire – but be warned, this bit can take a long time.   I like to look on it as something therapeutically undemanding on the brain to do while listening to some muscic but you could get the kids to help or invite a friend round for a natter while you work. Slicing into lasagne sheets or into strips for tagliatelle is probably the quickest.  I tried to make spirals on my first attempt but decided this time that bows might be easier.    For bows I rolled the dough then cut into strips which I then cut across into small rectangles as shown below.  To turn into bows you simply squeeze them together in the middle.

Drying your pasta:

  • If you don’t want to use your pasta straight away you can dry it for storage.  As I have an electric dehydrator I used that but if you don’t you can just spread them out and leave somewhere airy until dry.
  •  The time it takes to dry depends on the size and thickness of the shapes you have made – I dried the small bows for 3-4 hours at 50 degrees C.  The first batch of spirals were larger and took 4-5 hours.  The best thing is to keep an eye on them and remember to swap around the trays from time to time since the different levels may dry at different speeds.
  • Once fully dry you can transfer to a storage jar until needed and cook as you would shop bought dried pasta – around 8-10 mins.    If you skipped the drying part you’ll need to shorten the cooking time.

Now I know how to make basic pasta dough I’m next going to try to sneak some vegetables into the ingredients –  as he’ll happily eat shop bought green pea pasta, and red lentil pasta without realising.  I have seen people making pasta from pumpkin puree and flour as an example – but any recommendations on things to try are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedgerow Harvest, Damson Gin, Plum Vodka and Prunes

The trees and hedgerows are certainly laden with a bumper crop this year.  I remember last year having to reach high into the trees for a few damsons, but this year there are so many.  Whether they are fully ripe yet I’m not sure, but I’m just too impatient to wait any longer and panicked about someone else beating me to it and stripping the trees bare.  Little hope of that this year I think.  Anyway, I left them in the kitchen for a couple of days in the hope they would ripen as swiftly as the huge amount of plums we gathered last week did.IMG_20130906_175944

Last year I made damson gin and also a lovely damson, cardamon and vanilla jam recipe from Alys Fowler’s book. Opened the last jar for my toast this morning to help me decide what to do with this year’s damsons, but realistically there is only so much jam one person can eat (rest of family not keen) so will save that one for next year.  Husband prefers the alcohol!

There are also some lovely apple trees by the brook near to our house, but sadly, the remaining sweet apples are hanging way out of reach across the water, those on the bankside having long gone.

Anyway, after a couple of days I have popped the damsons in the freezer ready to make some damson gin.

This morning I gathered another 8-10kg of plums from the allotment so have spent the afternoon sorting them into varying degrees of ripeness, popping some into the dehydrator, some into some vodka, and leaving the rest to ripen.

Damson Gin Recipe:

450g damsons

200g sugar

70cl gin

Wash the damsons and either prick the skin or each or pop them into the freezer for a couple of days before using.  This will help break the skins for the juices to mingle better.

Sterilise a large jar (see previous blackberry vodka recipe for instructions on how to do this).

Add the damsons, sugar and vodka. Close the lid and give it all a shake to mix the sugar.

Come back to give it a shake every day or so to help it all mix together.

It should be ready to drink after about 3 months.  You can leave the damsons in or sieve out if you prefer, but best not to leave them in for more than 6 months.

Plum Vodka

You can of course do pretty much the same with plums – in either gin or vodka.  This is what I did:

Wash approx 500g plums and half to remove stones (you can probably leave them whole but ours were large plums and I wanted to check they were all maggot free).

Preparing to make plum vodka
Preparing to make plum vodka

Mix with 200g sugar and 70cl vodka in a sterilsed jar.  Shake every day or so to mix as with the damson gin recipe above.  Strain the plums out after 2-3 months and store the vodka in a sterilised bottle.  You can of course then eat the plums too.

This is the 1st year we’ve tried this one so fingers crossed it’s a good one.

Plums and vodka before shaking
Plums and vodka before shaking
After initial mixing
After initial mixing

Prunes 

I posted about making prunes last week so this is just an update on how they came out.  Most of the instructions I could find said they would take anything between 12 and 36 hours.  I think ours were almost certainly at the upper end of that – they seemed to take all week.  The end resultIMG_20130906_175507 is pictured.  They ended up a little on the hard side as I went off to work leaving my husband babysitting.  When I came home he had not remembered to give our son a bath or even to give him dinner, but for some reason thought to turn the dehydrator on for another 6 hours!

Anyway, I have this time quartered the plums in the home they will be ready a little quicker as I’m at work more this week so can’t keep an eye on them readily.

I also picked a few more blackberries today so have tried bottling for the first time.  Little nervous about all the comments on the web about botulism if you don’t do this properly so started with a very small amount, to see if it works, and if it’s worthwhile.

Bumper crop of fruit sadly not matched by our allotment vegetables – we have already run out of garlic, having pulled that, and the onions, up too late so that they had started to go rotten in the ground.  So many weeds I can hardly spot the beetroot, carrot and parsnips that are still in the ground.   On the plus side, the leeks are all doing pretty well in their raised bed, where they are relatively weed free.

Plums, plums and more plums

Well, the plums have certainly arrived unlike last year.  I foraged some growing by the brook near our house last week and then found the 3 trees at the allotment heavily laden too.  Sadly, many of the first fully ripe ones picked turned out to be well occupied by plum tree moth maggots, and the brown flecks a quick Google search told me was the excrement of said maggot.  Think I’d rather not have known! Especially as I’ve probably used similarly afflicted plums in jam before.

Anyway, seems the key is to pick them slightly underripe and ripen at home as it only seems to be the ripe ones that are affected so today picked 2 carrier bags full of slightly underripe plums, plus enough ripe ones to stew for tea and try out in the dehydrator.ImageImage

For drying out to make prunes, which my son absolutely loves, I used the fully ripe plums, all cut in half so I could discard any maggoty ones. They’ve been in the dehydrator for a couple of hours so far but seems they could take as long as a couple of days as they are rather large, so will see how they turn out.

Rest will be left to ripen a little more while I decide what to do with them – freezer, jam, may try bottling but I’m going to have a go with some blackberries first as haven’t tried this before and only have a couple of small jars left after all the blackberry vodka I’ve got filling the kilner jars.