Following on from my slow-cooked suppers few weeks ago, I have another couple of introductions to make.
Say hello to my pasta machine:
I love homemade pasta. My only problem is that my kitchen is teeny tiny, so I have to make it on my dining table.
I have also become re-acquainted with pig cheeks. I first met these at Comptoir du Marche a few years back, cooked en cocotte. They were delicious, but I wanted to do something a little different with them so they’d pair up well with my parpadelle so I made a ragout.
For most people, this would scream a red wine pairing, and let’s be honest any Italian red would work well here. I was feeling a little experimental though, and decided to pair it with a Premier Cru Chablis…
I can practically hear the French crying out in outrage from across the channel.
Here’s the thing though – tomatoes are acidic. Chablis is acidic. And the theory is that if you have acidic food your wine needs to be at least as acidic if not more so to balance it out. Thus this is the perfect combination then, right?
Well, it was ok, but after the first glass I decided that next time I better stick with a good solid red, and leave the Chablis for the oysters.
- 1kg pork cheek, trimmed
- 500ml good red wine
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 10 sprigs of thyme
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 bulbs of fennel chopped
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 celery sticks chopped
- 3 fat cloves of garlic chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 30ml red wine vinegar
- Handful chopped flat leaf parsley
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Grated Parmesan to serve
- 500g papardelle (recipe below)
- Combine red wine, fennel seeds, peppercorns, 5 sprigs of thyme and pork cheeks in a dish and leave to marinate for as long as possible - overnight would be ideal.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C, Gas mark 1. Heat oil in a large casserole over a high heat. Remove pork from marinade, pat dry and strain and reserve marinade. Cook pork on both sides until it is well coloured. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Lower the heat and fry the onions, fennel, and celery until soft. Add the garlic and lemon zest and fry again till fragrant. Add the tomato puree and fry again for a minute.
- Pour in the wine and let it bubble, scraping off any caramelised bits of pork from the bottom of the pan - these give real flavour. Pour in tomatoes, sugar vinegar, seasoning and the remaining thyme and bay leaves and add the pork and its juices to the pan. Submerge the pork in the liquid and cover with a lid. Cook in the oven for 4 hours until the meat is cooked through and falling apart.
- Skim off any excess fat from the ragu with a spoon, remove the pork from the sauce - shred and return to the sauce. Scatter over the chopped parsley
- Cook pappardelle, drain and serve with sauce and grated Parmesan.
- Any good local butcher, and I have also started spotting them in supermarkets such as Morrisons.
- 600 g Tipo '00' flour
- 6 large free-range eggs
- Place the flour on a board or in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth. Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. Knead the pieces of dough together – with a bit of work and some love and attention they'll all bind together to give you one big, smooth lump of dough!
- You can also make your dough in a food processor if you've got one. Just bung everything in, whiz until the flour looks like breadcrumbs, then tip the mixture on to your work surface and bring the dough together into one lump, using your hands.
- Once you've made your dough you need to knead and work it with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour, otherwise your pasta will be flabby and soft when you cook it, instead of springy and al dente.
- There's no secret to kneading. You just have to bash the dough about a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, pulling it, stretching it, squashing it again. It's quite hard work, and after a few minutes it's easy to see why the average Italian grandmother has arms like Frank Bruno! You'll know when to stop – it's when your pasta starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury. Then all you need to do is wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour before you use it. Make sure the cling film covers it well or it will dry out and go crusty round the edges (this will give you crusty lumps through your pasta when you roll it out, and nobody likes crusty lumps!).
- First of all, if you haven't got a pasta machine it's not the end of the world! All the mammas I met while travelling round Italy rolled pasta with their trusty rolling pins and they wouldn't even consider having a pasta machine in the house! When it comes to rolling, the main problem you'll have is getting the pasta thin enough to work with. It's quite difficult to get a big lump of dough rolled out in one piece, and you need a very long rolling pin to do the job properly. The way around this is to roll lots of small pieces of pasta rather than a few big ones. You'll be rolling your pasta into a more circular shape than the long rectangular shapes you'll get from a machine, but use your head and you'll be all right!
- If using a machine to roll your pasta, make sure it's clamped firmly to a clean work surface before you start (use the longest available work surface you have). If your surface is cluttered with bits of paper, the kettle, the bread bin, the kids' homework and stuff like that, shift all this out of the way for the time being. It won't take a minute, and starting with a clear space to work in will make things much easier, I promise.
- Dust your work surface with some Tipo '00' flour, take a lump of pasta dough the size of a large orange and press it out flat with your fingertips. Set the pasta machine at its widest setting - and roll the lump of pasta dough through it. Lightly dust the pasta with flour if it sticks at all. Click the machine down a setting and roll the pasta dough through again. Fold the pasta in half, click the pasta machine back up to the widest setting and roll the dough through again. Repeat this process five or six times. It might seem like you're getting nowhere, but in fact you're working the dough, and once you've folded it and fed it through the rollers a few times, you'll feel the difference. It'll be smooth as silk and this means you're making wicked pasta!
- Now it's time to roll the dough out properly, working it through all the settings on the machine, from the widest down to around the narrowest. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour every time you run it through. When you've got down to the narrowest setting, to give yourself a tidy sheet of pasta, fold the pasta in half lengthways, then in half again, then in half again once more until you've got a square-ish piece of dough. Turn it 90 degrees and feed it through the machine at the widest setting. As you roll it down through the settings for the last time, you should end up with a lovely rectangular silky sheet of dough with straight sides - just like a real pro! If your dough is a little cracked at the edges, fold it in half just once, click the machine back two settings and feed it through again. That should sort things out. Whether you're rolling by hand or by machine you'll need to know when to stop. If you're making pasta like tagliatelle, lasagne or stracchi you'll need to roll the pasta down to between the thickness of a beer mat and a playing card; if you're making a stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortellini, you'll need to roll it down slightly thinner or to the point where you can clearly see your hand or lines of newsprint through it.
- Once you've rolled your pasta the way you want it, you need to shape or cut it straight away. Pasta dries much quicker than you think, so whatever recipe you're doing, don't leave it more than a minute or two before cutting or shaping it. You can lay over a damp clean tea towel which will stop it from drying.