Daring Bakers' March challenge: Lasagne

This month our challenge was to make Lasagne and in true DB's style here is the secret code:

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

We had to make the pasta by hand from scratch. I cheated a little bit and posted a SOS on freecycle. Tatiana came to the rescue, I was able to borrow a pasta maker. Not only did I make lasagne but "Bigginies", newly but adequatly named because they look like very large spagettis and even pasta-only-gnocchis.

It took me a whole afternoon but the result was magnificient. I never tasted pasta dough that thin, it melted in the mouth.

So is it worth making your own pasta? yes is my answer

I would recommend to investigate a little the machines on the market. The one I borrowed was very difficult to clean and so cumbsome that you would need a very large kitchen to host it on a permanent base.

Recipe for Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings,
equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.
  • 2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
  • 10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or
  • 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)
working the dough by hand would require mixing, kneading, stretching and thinning, here are the instructions

Mixing the dough:

Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.


With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.Stretching and


If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.


I have been pinching myself for a week: I have been selected to write on Suite101.
Suite101 is an e-zine which ranks in the top 200 most read sites and here is my first contribution: http://breads-muffins.suite101.com/article.cfm/bread_baking_for_beginners.

Beetroot and Penne Recipe

Another painting means that there was a problem was a "problem" with my photography. This time, the "problem" is very simple, I ate the dish before I got a chance to finish cooking it!

This dish uses beetroot as a pasta topping, though I had the beetroot, I did not have the pasta. Then I got the pasta but I did not have anymore beetroots, This is when I called on my friend Pat.

Pat is usually very thorough and really adventurous when it comes to cooking, so she was the perfect friend in this instance. I email her the recipe here is what she says: " la recette de la betterave ├ętait super" we know that, hence the "problem" then she goes on and rates the mixture beetroot pasta with a "bof" so I didn't miss anything then, she finishes by adding that the cooking time for the beetroot is not long enough. I told you she was thorough.

see what you make of Abel and Cole's Roasted Beetroot Penne
from the Keith Abel's cookbook
700g beetroot
a few glugs of olive oil
400g penne or other chunky past
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 mug of single cream

To garnish
Plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Toasted walnuts, finely chopped
Chopped fresh parsley or basil

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5, Place the whole beetroot in an oiled baking pan, rub with olive oil and cover tightly with foil. Roast the beetroot until fork tender. The cooking time will vary according to the size of the beetroot, but will probably be around 1 h- 1h1/2 when cooked.
Set to cool in the meanwhile
Cook the pasta in boiling water
Peel the skin remaining stems or hard bits cut into bite-sized chunks the garlic in a pan with a few glugs of olive oil for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Then add the beetroot and saute for a further few minutes to ensure it's hot.
Stir in the lemon juice and mix well. Lower the heat and gradually add the cream, cooking for 2-3 minutes until just hot.
Spoon the creamy beetroot mixture over the drained pasta and top with lots of Parmesan, toasted walnuts and fresh herbs if using.
If you have leftovers, try tossing them with a block of crumbled feta or goat's cheese and some olive oil and bake in a greased baking pan at medium heat for 20 minutes.

Readers' recipes

Last year when I called for readers' recipes, I had a great time trying them out. You are now reading this blog in over 30 different countries so I thought it was time to renew the experiment.

e-mail me using this form and tell me which is your favorite recipe, you know the recipe you cook again and again, I will round them up so that every one can have a go at it, and I will try one out at random. You don't have to type the whole recipe, you can send me a link.

Read you soon

What is in Your Damper?

This is a recipe which I found in the Abel & Cole Cookbook reviewed last week. The base is that of a damper to which 1 mug of pumpkin or butternut squash, 1/2 mug of Parmesan, handful of chopped olives, 1 tablespoon of rosemary are added right at the start with the flour.
That made me think: "What else could I add in my damper?" here are some ideas:
  • Garlic and mixed herbs
  • 30g sun-dried tomatoes
The list bound to be endless, so let me know if you have tried and tasted extra ingredients in your damper.

Awestralian Damper

This one is definitely a bread for complete beginners. If you have never made bread before, GO for this recipe, STRAIGHT AWAY. Serve it with a salad or a soup and you will be crowned best cook of the day.

Dampers are very similar to soda bread or scones. Originally from Australia devised by people who lived in the bush, cooked over low fire or in the ashes. I recently saw a recipe for damper cooked in a flower pot. But let not go cracker/cracking pot.

all you need is
375g of self raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
90g butter (either kind salted or not)
125ml milk
  1. Preheat oven gas mark 6-7 (210C)
  2. Put the flour and salt in a bowl
  3. Make a well
  4. Pour milk and butter in the well
  5. Stir until combined
  6. Add water if needed
  7. Place the dough on baking tray
  8. cut a cross the dough on the top with a sharp knife
  9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes
  10. Reduce temperature to 180C
  11. bake for further 15 minutes
  12. Get out of the oven, let to rest on a rack, serve warm
    And come back on Monday to get ideas for bits to add to it.
recipe from the wonderful Leanne Kitchen's "The Baker"

Diary of a Paper Palate Reviewer:

Day 1: A new book to review: “Oh great, Abel & Cole Cookbook:” the people who home-deliver organic produce up and down the land, with their little vans have written a book.
Next step: Open the book. When I say open, I forgot a step: Flip and open the book. I always start reading the last chapter first. Novels too. It never makes sense, not having read the start, but I can’t stand suspense. In this instance, there should not be any suspense since it is a cookbook… but you never know.
My quirkiness pays off since the recipes are ordered seasonally, last chapter: Winter. A few pages in and I am diving into the kitchen. Getting the beetroots out of the cupboard for Roasted Beetroot Penne: simple recipe, easy to make, delicious. Tomorrow I will be reviewing the book.
Day 2: Open the book, determined to start to review. “Oh picture of a pheasant” or rather I think it is a pheasant, it might be a partridge, the recipe overleaf is for pheasant or partridge. Conclusion: this book is not for vegetarian only, I’d better start reading from the beginning. Keith Abel’s style is really fun to read, his approach to cooking is rather cosmic (comic too!), measurements are in glugs, handfuls, splash, little bit of this and that. You can skip ingredients or use substitutions: No onions? Use leeks or shallots. Talking about shallots, there is a unfussy ”Caramelized Shallot Croutons” recipe which is inspiring. I am going to start cooking. Tomorrow I will be reviewing the book for sure.
Day 3: Driven by the book, I visit a farm-shop. It is a turn of phrase, the book was not really heading towards the motorway at the wheel of my car, I was. I am looking at the farm-shop with new eyes, having read the introduction and the ethical guide. I get a few things and I am very surprised that I am not spending much more than at my local supermarket. Now that I have got this huge round butter-squash…. yep! mouth-watering “Pumpkin and Parmesan bread,” really I should invite a few friends. Promise, tomorrow, I review…..
Day 4: You know this book also tells you what you can do with the leftovers! fantastic. Tomorrow…..
Day 5: Deadline, you know the easiest would be if you get “The Abel & Cole Cookbook” for yourself, published by Collins (£12.99). It is rather cute too; the cover looks like a cardboard delivery box. Previously published in hard-back as ”Outside the Box” hard back.

A Curious Post: Chorizo and Beans

There is nothing curious about Chorizo and Beans, indeed this recipe from Dinner Diary's is a splendid little gem, A heartwarming last fling with winter recipes. What is curious is that I did not cook it, nor did I find it. He did.

So in few words I had nothing to do with it. My only contribution was to curl up on the sofa and wait with delight for the call.

Mixed Up Spice

What is the difference between Mixed Spice and All Spice?

Till a few weeks ago, I had NOOOO idea. I was happily cooking "my way", substituting a bit of this for a bit of that. No onion, use shallot or leek. No chicken use fish. Till that other recipe which called for All Spice, none of that on the rack, I dived for Mixed Spice... BIIIIG mistake.

So let me share my newly found knowledge with you, so that you don't end up in the pickle.

Mixed Spice is mostly for sweet dishes and pickles. It contains Cinnamon, Coriander Seed, Caraway, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves.

To be used in fruits crumbles, pies, cakes and biscuits


All spice is no mixture at all, it is a spice derived from the dried unripe fruit of the Pimenta dioica , a tree native to the West Indies, southern Mexico and Central America.

It is an important to Jamaican and Middle Eastern food especially Palestinian cuisine. It is used in curries and casseroles though it can be used in juices and fruit salads.

Chocolate Valentino or the February Daring Baker's challenge

I never made a cake without flour or if I did, I don't remember doing so. It makes great photographs but I am a not so sure about the taste. I think I got the wrong kind of chocolate. Yes I can hear you say is there a wrong kind of chocolate. Well may be there is because these valentinos were not lovely.
The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. "We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan. Recipe comes from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan
  • 16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs separated
Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds.
Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and
bake at 375F/190CBake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.



Related Posts with Thumbnails