Thursday, 7 January 2010

Whatamistakatomaka: A Rant Against Homemade Pasta

Yesterday the ghost of Christmas past came back to haunt me, albeit a couple weeks too late. This is not a proper ghosty mind, it is something that is tangible, heavy and solid. A present that my wife bought me about 5 years ago and has been used perhaps 10 times. On such occasions, when I do finally muster up the enthusiasm to pull it out from the recesses of the cupboard, I am often left frustrated. I don't know why but there is always one small matter that seems to cock everything up. The last time I used it, I became so enraged that I wanted to throw it into the garden, grab the sledgehammer from my shed and smash it into oblivion. This object just seems to induce abject failure and I hate feeling low after cooking mishaps. Saying that biggest low I have ever experienced was losing my brand new Terence Conran chicken brick many many moons ago. I'll never forget proudly washing it up and then placing it up on the shelf in my then small kitchen next to my small but steadily growing collection of cook books. However the added weight of this beautiful terracotta was too much of a burden for the shelf that I had recently installed and the whole lot fell crashing to the floor. My wife came home from work to find me on the sofa practically in tears cradling broken pieces of pottery. When she asked what happened, I could barely croak back in the tinest voice "I smashed my chicken brick".

Sheesh, went off on a bit of a tangent there lets so back to the main object in question, the real enemy and prophet of doom, my arch nemesis, the Imperia pasta machine.

So yes every self styled foodie worth their salt should embrace such a gadget in the kitchen and many do but I just can't get a grip on the bloody thing. Past misdemeanors have included over flouring the dough. By the time I got the rollers on the final setting, the pasta was bone dry and stiff as a sheet, more suitable for limo drivers at airports picking up clients. Another time, I managed to cut the dough fine using the tagliatelle attachment but neglected to then dry it sufficiently so when I fished the pasta from out of the boiling water it had formed into a giant knitting wool ball of gloop. I did succeed once, when I used the machine to make sheets for a simple lasagne. Adjectives such light, silky and smooth came singing into my head that day as I ate this creation of wondrous beauty (I don't like to brag but it was really good). However it hasn't been repeated since. Needless to say, user error is very likely to be the cause of all this strife, I'll admit that. I can't really blame a poor, inanimate, clunk of metal for my ineptitude but where exactly am I going wrong?

Seeing as I was stuck in doors yesterday due to the horrific Arctic conditions currently paralysing our country, my house is currently buried under 43ft of white driven snow by the way, I took it upon myself to have another crack at making some pasta and to finally become the master. Also desperate times call for desperate measures, I had to feed my family somehow and besides we had run out of fusili but there was no frigging way that I was going to try and make that. The method of course is simple enough. Take some eggs, take some flour, mix, knead, leave in fridge for half an hour, take back out, divide into small amounts, run through the Imperia, passing the dough through several times on each setting, folding as you go, lightly dusting with flour if it gets a bit sticky, until you get long sheets of silken pasta which you can then use, cut or shape your hearts desire. Of course this a terribly nonchalant way of describing the whole process and hardly adheres to the slow art of making pasta but my point is that it's meant to be easy, yes? Or maybe that is where I'm going wrong, am I being far too flippant about it all?

Still this time, I am pleased to report that it all went hunky dory. Up until a point. I went ahead with Mr Pukka's recipe for basic egg pasta dough mixing 6 eggs with 600gms of Tipo '00', the finest flour that you can get and should aways use by the way. After a good old knead and bish bash bosh with some time chillin' out, the dough went through the machine fine and I managed to make some very presentable looking tagliatelle with minimum ease, time and effort. I even had some dough left over, which I reformed into a ball and plonked into the freezer. To go with the tagliatelle which was left to dry for about 20 minutes or so, I decided to make some tuna meatballs or le migliori polpette di tonno, another recipe by Mr Pukka and a very good one too.

Now of course, here comes the fall. The tuna balls which I have made plenty of times before were fantastico with a lovely mishmash of cinnamon and lemon zest coursing through the fish. The tagliatelle though, I couldn't help think transported the dish to the far east, having veered into udon noodle territory, having taken on a slightly rubbery texture and were too white for my liking. So again I ask, where am I going wrong? Do I need to buy a particular brand of Tipo '00'? Should I be using egg yolks only? Did I overboil them? (They were in for 2 mins ) Or I have I put homemade pasta on too high a pedestal and should just use the ready made stuff? I need some answers and I need them quick because that piece of facking, crap, junk, lump of shit metal will soon be heading for the bin I tell you.

I hate you Imperia

Finest flour you can get?
Ready to chill

Looking good so far

FU contemplates making a wig from tagliatelle

Boiling pasta, heating sauce

Crap photo, crap pasta, lovely balls

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