mushroom stew with spicy chive scones

People, life is hard and full of disappointment.

It’s hard to get up in the morning when you know you won’t see daylight except out a window for nigh on nine hours.

It’s hard to live surrounded by boxes, but sometimes it’s harder to unpack those boxes to find out what lives inside.

It’s hard when your life is full of potential but you don’t know where you want to steer your ship.

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wholemeal spring pasta

It’s spring time! Spring means peas.

Peas and sunshine and eating outdoors around a really tiny table because our landlords took their outdoor setting back. How dare they! [insert sarcasm here.]

Spring means fresh flavours and happy eating.

Spring means spring cleaning!

Spring means rain.

Spring means sproutlings! Update coming soon, I promise.

Now, spring also means November. [It’s November!] And this month, for the first time ever, I am registered for something called NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s really supposed to be INaNoWriMo, because it’s not just nationally for the United States any more, it’s international (thank you, internet!) So I’m going to be going a little more than crazy for the next thirty days or so. I will probably be making a lot of sweet baked goods to keep me going but I may be terrible at letting you know about them.

But who knows? I do my best when procrastinating from other things. I should be writing an essay? I clean my room. I should be cleaning my room? I write a blog post. I should be blogging? I organise my hard drive. I should be cleaning up my computer? I get myself ready for NaNo. I should be writing my novel? I bake cookies and tell you all about them.

So prepare for some crazy posts. Like, “I should be writing 2,000 words in my novel right now but my brain’s about to explode. Have some homemade peanut butter cups.

Happy Spring!

Wholemeal Pasta

Pasta is an approach more than a recipe. Take 100g flour for each person, and one egg. Whizz them in a food processor, if you have one big enough. If not, whisk them together and then use your hands to knead, adding olive oil if you need moisture. Don’t add too much, though; pasta dough is supposed to be dry. Knead until it’s smooth, then start rolling it through your pasta machine.

You need to knead [hah!] the dough a lot to work the gluten – that’s why it’s best to use a high-gluten flour, one specifically for bread or pizza or pasta. Part of this is putting it through your pasta machine a few times, although if you used a food processor that does the job for you. I used mostly wholemeal flour with a little pasta flour because that’s what I had.

So it’s best to roll your pasta through the widest setting a couple of times, then start rolling thinner and thinner. I stopped short of the thinnest setting for mine because I love thick pasta.

Fresh pasta only needs to be boiled for about three to five minutes. Boil a large pot of water and make sure it’s well salted. Drizzle with olive oil, toss in your pasta and test it after three minutes. When it’s to your liking, drain and toss with the sauce.

Burnt Butter Sage Sauce

125g butter

a few sprigs of sage leaves

Other vegies or add ins, whichever you like. I included:

three handfuls of fresh peas, shelled

half a lemon’s worth of juice

one orange sweet potato

two red onions

two cloves of garlic

olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 180ºCelsius. Peel sweet potato and chop into small cubes. Peel red onions and slice into wedges. Shell garlic, and toss sweet potato, onions and garlic with olive oil and salt. Place in oven for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the butter until nutty and brown. Add sage leaves, peas, lemon juice and pepper and fry a little longer. Toss through roasted veggies and pour over your pasta. Eat with friends on a sunshiny back porch in spring.

 

[other add ins may include: fetta, tossed through at the end; chorizo sausages, fried and sliced; sundried tomatoes, with the pepper; basil leaves, tossed through at the end; the list goes on.]

leek and potato soup

Ah, leek and potato soup. How I adore you.

I was at my sister’s house on Friday night, and we made this soup. It’s cold over here in Melbourne, and soup is definitely on the agenda, but this soup was so good, I made it twice. Tonight, also, see, because it was my turn to cook.

I love sharing a house and being able to cook for each other. Apart from my housemates being great for when I get into a baking frenzy and start cooking batch after batch of cookies, sharing a meal together is one of my favourite parts about this house.

This soup is filling, it’s very vegetable-y, it can vary by creaminess should you be so inclined to do so (adding more cream, as in our house, or less cream. Like no-one I know would.) And it tastes amazing. Especially should you get sourdough bread and rip it apart with your hands, like heathens, and dip it in.

YUM.

This is especially comforting, knowing that next week I will be living below the line. The poverty line, that is. For five days, I will be spending less than $2 a day on my meals. Less than $2! That’s not much, especially in today’s consumer society. If you’d like to donate money to a great cause, my fundraising page is over here. The money goes to education projects in Papua New Guinea to get people out of poverty for good.

So I was thinking about dinner tonight, and about what I’ll probably be having for dinner for the next week, and I’m telling myself to toughen up because you know what? It’s five days. And that’s not long at all. So I’ll be fine. However, many people in Third World countries, and even in a First World country like Australia, won’t be.

Although I really wouldn’t want to be my housemates come Thursday week. Because me without coffee? Not a great look. If I can scrounge around for some teabags, they may be ok. Maybe.

Potato and Leek Soup

On Friday night we used a recipe; tonight I winged it. It’s pretty easy, but the original recipe is here, if you’re interested.

Adapted from Taste.com

Slosh of olive oil

1 large brown onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 leeks, chopped

4 potatoes (We used Desiree), peeled and cubed

1.25 litres boiling water

1/2 stock cube (optional)

1/4 cup cream (more if needed)

Sourdough bread, to serve

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large heavy based saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and cook over low heat until soft. Add the leek and potato and cook until the leek is soft, stirring often.

Fill the pot with the boiling water, until it just about covers the vegetables. Stir in the stock cube. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat, and gently simmer until potatoes are soft, about twenty minutes. Blend with a stick blender; add the cream and blend to combine. Serve with the bread and more cream, to taste.

pizza and photos of pizza

Oh my Gosh I Can’t beLieve it. There are officially photos on the cookie cutting blog. It’s amazing.

So, here at this juncture I must explain the lack of photos thus far. I have a digital camera. It’s approximately ten years old (ok, I’m being dramatic – it’s maybe five or six?). Therefore, I don’t use it. I haven’t for eons. I may have to dig it out at some stage but I suspect that the photo quality will be poor. SO. No food photos.

I lament over this, I really do, but I’m a student and so have no money, and I had other things to ask for this Christmas. Like, a bed to sleep on this year. I’m sorry.

However, I do enjoy photography, and I do love food. So of course the first photos on this blog will be of food. Pizza, to be exact.

I love making homemade pizza. And the funny thing is, there are so many recipes for the perfect pizza base out there. I used one from Mediterranean Kitchen and although the recipe says it makes two thirty centimeter pizzas, I managed to stretch it to four. Not only do I love a crispy base, but I had a lot of mouths to feed. Seven, to be exact.

The best thing about pizza, of course (pasta, too, if you don’t use a food processor) is that you have to knead it for about a century so it gets that smooth, elasticy exterior, not sticky but dry. So if you have a problem to think about, something you need to worry over, or even just someone who you think needs a good kick up the you-know-where, pizza is great therapy.

So here it is.

Basic Pizza Dough

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 pkt instant yeast (or 2 tsp dried or 15g fresh)

3 2/3 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp olive oil (I feel terrible here. I had no olive oil. It was not to be found. So I used vegetable oil instead. I do not recommend this to anyone. Get the real deal.)

cornmeal(optional)

Place the sugar, yeast and 80ml warm water in a small bowl and lightly whisk together. Put aside and wait until it froths some. If it doesn’t, it’s dead. Throw it out and start again.

Put the salt and flour in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the yeast mix, oil and 135ml warm water and mix together until lightly clumps together. Dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 mins or until it’s dry to the touch and elastick-y.

Rub the inside of a large bowl with olive oil and roll the ball of dough around in it until it is also coated with oil. Leave the dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or in the fridge for 8 hours. I left mine on the trampoline in the sun; if you turn your oven on to about 150ºC and then turn it off when it’s reached that heat and then put your dough in, it works quite well.

When it’s about doubled in size, press down on it gently, then divide into 2 or 4 portions. One at a time, press or roll them out to about 30cm discs. Cover with your favourite toppings and bake in a preheated 230ºC oven for about 12 mins if thicker or 5-7 mins if thinner. We put tomato paste mixed with garlic and basil as a base, then scattered home grown tomatoes, olives and mozzarella over. The meat-eaters in the family added bacon and pepperoni.

ricotta gnocchi and the most amazing tomato sauce

Although I had originally planned a whole host of things to do today – washing, baking; general wholesome, homemaking things like that – sometimes plans get changed. SO instead of baking a cake, I made gnocchi with tomato sauce.

Gnocchi is my favourite type of pasta ever. I love it. I also love fresh ricotta, although I have no way of knowing if that’s what was used in this.

No, I didn’t wimp out and buy gnocchi (as if you could buy ricotta gnocchi anyway… I’ll have to check that actually…) but I also didn’t make this ALL by myself. I work at a cafe, and we serve lasagne. We make it ourselves and there was some leftover bechamel sauce with parsley, ricotta and cheddar mixed in (which tasted amazing on its own incidentally… I bet the lasagne was even better.) I got to take it home because I’m awesome, and I turned it into ricotta gnocchi by adding flour.

Thus, I don’t have a recipe for the amazing gnocchi. I do apologise. I suggest that you start with a basic bechamel sauce, add ricotta, finely chopped parsley, a little bit of grated cheddar and a whole lot of flour. When it’s kinda sticky but dough-y, scoop up teaspoonfuls and drop into boiling, salted water. When they float, let them cook about a minute more and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon; put them in a colander to drain, then serve with this.

Ah, tomato sauce. Add sugar? Salt? Red wine, garlic, tomato paste, basil, oregano, fresh tomato, olive oil… No. The very first time I read Smitten Kitchen was for this sauce, and, frankly, I’ve never looked back – neither for tomato sauce nor my favourite food blog. This stuff is amazing.

I’ll let Deb tell you all about it, but just so you know – once you’ve started, you can’t stop. It’s been on Amateur Gourmet with Adam, Orangette with Molly, Rachel Eats with, well, Rachel…Marcella Hazan, you clearly are a genius.

Make it. And then tell me about it. And then dance in the summer rain.