Mini-Blog: Penne arrabiata

OK, so the last few blog posts have all involved very long methods, a fair amount of fire, risks of explosions, and a small window into my past. This, of course, will continue with a blog soon on homemade beer which requires the reader to have  a large stash of Meccano if they want to try it out…….

But for now I have just finished a long shift of seeing ill patients, admitting 3 in a row to hospital, and I just fancy a quickie………..Something simple, fresh and with a kick.

Pasta arrabiata has to be one of my favourite simple suppers at the moment. Made with fresh pasta, good quality tomatoes and topped with a healthy twist of black pepper, it’s perfect. Of course you can go one extra and make some foccacia if you need to de-stress before eating.

Start the clock running – This is going to take under 20mins……….

*I’m making the Penne pasta but you can just cook either dried or fresh bought*

 

Penne Pasta

Like I said you can get some amazing bought Penne, but if you like kitchen gadgets you can buy a machine to make it. The machine is basically a smaller version of what I once saw in an Italian factory.

 

IMG_5980

Ingredients 

  • 100g Strong Flour (Allisons can I have sponsorship please?)
  • 1 large Egg
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Semolina 

Simply add the ingredients and set to mix. Add a little more oil or flour until a silky smooth dough has been made and allow to knead for 5 mins. During this period you can get on with the sauce.

 

After 5mins of kneading, switch the machine to the extrude setting and watch fresh Penne come out the front. Using a sharp knife to cut to size.

Spread out on a board dusted with semolina to allow to dry for another 5-10mins.

Arrabiata Sauce

OK, this is a super simple sauce and can be made in minutes. You can embellish it by adding in other ingredients such as pancetta, finely chopped courgettes but I’m remaining old school.

Ingredients

  • 3cloves garlic
  • 1 small chillis (seeds removed)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Start by heating a good dash of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan (Le Cresuet to the rescue). When the oil is smoking add in the finely chopped chilli and garlic and lightly brown. (if you are using dried pasta (10-15min type) start cooking this too)

When the Chilli and garlic are lightly brown (but not burnt), add in the chopped tomatoes and stir to start breaking down the larger chunks. Transfer to a lower heat and put the lid on.

IMG_5996

After about 5 mins of simmering on the hob, remove the lid and again stir to combine the flavours, you can add in some fresh basil or pesto or even a dash of balsamic at this point if you desire. Keep cooking for a few more minutes. (start cooking the fresh pasta if you have it)

When the sauce has reached the thickness you like, toss in the cooked pasta and fold into the sauce. The hot pasta sucks up the sauce and makes it taste amazing.

 

Time to eat

So their we have it, fresh pasta arrabiata made within 15 mins using what most people will have lying around at home. I decided to top mine with a generous handful of grated Parmesan and a chunk of warm foccacia………………….

IMG_6008

P.s something like a flinty Chablis goes well with it. Turns out being part of MedSoc Wine tasting was useful x

Magnums, models and proposals…………

  Despite all the recent good weather (in between the rain) I’ve been stuck inside, mainly seeing patients with their ultimate Frisbee related injuries. Most pass through without too much conversation, but my last patient (an elderly gentleman) on Friday afternoon was different. As usual, at the end of the consultation, we stood, shook hands and he walked towards the door. However, just as he was about to leave he said something;

“I used to know a man once, he wore a St. Christopher. Does yours have a meaning or is it just some trinket?”

I must admit I was rather taken aback by this and sat him back down. And so I explained my St Christopher; how, as a teenager, I was part of a group called the MMDS. How we were tasked with designing an engine mount, how this project had got out of control and how by the end,the team I was leading decided to take on the world water speed record.

We all have our own heroes, one of mine is Donald Campbell. Younger generations unfortunately have heard very little about him. Throughout the ’60s he was the undisputed king of speed, taking both land and water speed records till his death chasing his own record in 1967.  He started his love affair with speed at a young age and cut his teeth in the boat bluebird K4 on Lake Garda in Italy before moving into bluebird K7.

When you’re young you think you can take on the world and win! So with a team, a design, and a sense of invincibility, I found myself by Lake Garda planning an attempt. We spent most of our time in a little cafe by the lake. It was here I first had dolcetti.  These little desserts, served with espresso are a wonderful lasting memory of that trip and project………………….

One of my all time favourite dolcetti was, in essence, a mini magnum. With a crisp outer shell of milk chocolate covering vanilla gelato it complimented the surroundings perfectly. Unfortunately I can’t control the weather, but I can have a go at making ice-cream……..

Vanilla Ice-cream

Francesco once told me that ice-cream originated, like all good things, from a bit of experimenting. Someone basically tried to freeze custard and found the result appealing. Ice-cream isn’t actually as complex as you could imagine, its basically  a mix of sugar, cream, egg yokes and whatever you want to flavour it with.

 

Ingredients

  • 1.5L cream (mixture of single and double)
  • 4 eggs
  • 175ml water
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 1vanilla pod

Start by mixing the creams together in a large heavy bottomed pan. Place on a low heat and, paying constant attention, gently heat to around 70c. This scolds the cream but doesn’t cause it to turn into cheese……… If that occurs, start again 😉

 

 

Once scolded, take the cream off the heat and split a vanilla pod, scraping the Beans out and add these and the pod to the cream. Now it’s a bit of a waiting game, fridge overnight to cool and allow the vanilla to infuse into the cream…………. (P.s start freezing your icecream maker too if you have one)


Ok, now that you’re well rested and craving ice-cream, the vanilla should have worked its magic. Mix the sugar and water together and boil till reduced to a light syrup. In the kitchenaid (love this so much) whisk the egg yokes until pale.

Now, being gentle, pour the  slightly cooled syrup in a small fine continuous stream into the yokes with the kitchenaid on full.
You have to be careful during this part as adding the hot syrup too fast will shock the yokes and cook them. Adding it slowly tempers them and produces a light and frothy mix.With the Kitchenaid still running, but at a slower speed, add in the cool cream mix and allow to combine. And now pop it back in to the fridge………..

When everything is nice and cold you can start to churn. Ice cream makers come in varying prices; I looked into buying a Gaggia one for the tea room once but it was over £400. So I went for a cheap but cheerful magimix and its been soldiering on for 10 years now.


Pour approx 300ml of the cream mix into the churn and set off as per the manufacturers instructions. You can either churn till its solid and make normal ice creams or get about half way and make magnums…………

 

 

Mini Magnums

Ok, so this is what the whole blog post is really about. But life’s all about the journey as well remember

IMG_5849

Ingredients 

  • Vanilla icecream mix
  • Chocolate (lots of milk, dark and white)
  • Topping:
    • Caramel
    • Freeze dried raspberry jam
    • Cacao nibs
    • Smarties
    • Jazzies
    • White chocolate stars

To make mini ice creams you are going to require a couple of small moulds. These are cheap and easily sourced from Amazon. They even include the little sticks.

IMG_5703.jpg

When you have churned the vanilla mix to the consistency of runny icecream it’s time to get to work. Using a dessert spoon transfer the icecream into the moulds and pack around the stick. At this point if you want to add jam or any topping to the mix then go for it. Then, using a knife, level the mix with the top of the mould.

 


Now transfer the ice-cream back to the freezer. It takes about another 4hrs to make it solid enough to work with. You can turn them out and start again till you have used all the mix and stockpiled a mountain of minis…………

Now the fun begins and you can let your creative side out. Make whatever your heart desires, I made the following:

  • Milk chocolate with vanilla centre topped with cacao nibs
  • Milk chocolate, vanilla centre with smarties or frazzles
  • White chocolate and caramelised pecan chunks
  • Dark chocolate and caramelised pecan chunks
  • Milk chocolate, cookie crunch core and frazzle toppings 
  • While chocolate and raspberry topping 
  • White chocolate with a strawberry core and raspberry topping

I think you get the picture…………
Making them couldn’t be simpler. Slowly melt the chocolate and temper as per the previous blog. Transfer this into a deep mug, this allows you to fully dip the cores. Then in one swift action dip the mini cores into the chocolate of you choice and withdraw. The chocolate starts to cool and set in about 30seconds, but you can twist it round a times to allow an even covering.

When the chocolate is still tackie, sprinkle over the topping of your choice.

IMG_5860.jpg

To make the pecans, simply heat 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1 teaspoon of water and cook till you get a dark caramel. Remove from the heat and mix in the pecans. Leave to cool.


Once you have completed one mini, return it to the freeze to fully freeze again, say about 30mins-1hr.

Time to relax

By the end of this you should have a massive stash of ice creams which look posh enough to impress. All you have to do is enjoy with friends…………

IMG_5866.jpg

Oh I nearly forgot, that patients friend………. Well it’s always an honour to meet someone who was a friend of your hero……

 

“We’re going to need more fire – its pizza night”

Lets face it, most people have tried pizza. It’s a food that transcends age, culture and class. Originating in Italy it was rumoured to have been created out of left over pasta dough which had started to ferment with natural yeasts……….. or at least that’s what I remember from a Latin field trip in year 8.

I have lost count of the number of pizzas I have eaten or made throughout the years. They have become part of my go-to food when tired and needing emotional comfort. Indeed they have very happy memories linked to them, including creating a heart shaped pizza for the first Valentines day with my girlfriend Zena. As it turns out Rufus from Gossip Girl was right, Dom and double pepperoni do work well together.

Making pizza is relatively simple, its just a dough made of flour, salt, yeast and water, sauce and some toppings………. but because of it’s simplicity, each component has a big impact, from the yeast you use to the mineral content of the water. In fact they think the main reason NYC pizza has its iconic taste is the city’s water. Another big factor is how it is cooked, proper Italian pizza ovens are akin to nuclear reactors, heated by burning fuel they range in temp from 300-500C.

Of course most people don’t have a wood fired pizza oven, in fact I didn’t till about 2 months ago. However as well as being a doctor and running a tea room I was part of a group called the MMDS at school and we did a bit of engineering. Now, with a few other projects winding down and a point to prove to a couple of idiots I was once friends with, I decided to build one out of the contents of a local skip……………..

 

Pizza Oven

In its most basic term a pizza oven is a structure, usually brick or clay, which contains a fire. It absorbs  heat and then radiates it back to cook whatever you put inside. The best are fired to about 300-500C using wood. So to make one should be simple, a base, a few bricks and some wood………………

But where to get that all from? Well luckily a house in the village is currently being redecorated and extended which means a skip full of material. Lots of bricks and also some clay ties and a pair of rusty barn door hinges. To make the oven is simple, just pretend you are 5 again playing with building blocks (bricks) and stack them up to make a box with an entrance. Use the iron hinges to support the roof and the entrance and the tiles to make the base……….

IMG_1407.jpg

 

Then all you need is some wood to fire it with.

IMG_5513.JPG

Tomato Sauce

I’m not going to lie, you can just buy this. Times have moved on since I was young, amazing tomato sauces are out there; you can easily get your hands on sun dried or slow roasted tomato puree……………. But where’s the fun in that. If you’ve gone to the effort to make dough and a pizza oven then you should really make the sauce.

I decided to make a simple roasted tomato puree. But seeing as you can now get so many wonderful varieties of tomatoes in the supermarket I went a bit over the top.

IMG_5316.jpg

Ingredients

  • Lots of tomatoes
  • Lemon
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Garlic
  • Salt and pepper

 

Cooking is relatively simple. Place all the tomatoes on a large roasting tray with whole cloves of garlic. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon zest and roughly torn thyme and oregano.

IMG_5319.jpg

Slowly bake in a low oven (approx 80C) till the tomatoes have started to dry out. This slow roasting partly caramelises the natural sugars and also helps to intensify the tomato flavour. It takes a while though………. I left mine overnight 😉

When you’ve got bored and the tomatoes start to look like the ones you can buy in jars or at the deli counter then it’s time to take them out. Transfer the oven roasted tomatoes into a blender (saving a few to top the pizza later) and reduce down to form a puree……….. If you are feeling adventurous you can add in the garlic too, but remember to remove the husk.

 

You can either use it like this, or pass it through a sieve to remove the bits……… I did.

IMG_5352.jpg

 

Pizza Dough

So, as I eluded to earlier ,pizza dough is relatively simple. It’s basically a bread dough which is proofed once and then stretched thin, covered in toppings and cooked. If you’ve been following my blogs you’ll know I have a massive block of yeast (bought from Sainsburys) but I’ve also been experimenting with brewing and this has its own yeast types…….. So lets play.

IMG_5510.JPG

Ingredients

  • 1lb Strong bread flour (Allisons again to the rescue)
  • 2oz Semolina
  • 2tbsp Olive oil
  • Yeast (approx 1oz)
  • 100mlBeer (Yes, I brewed that!!!)
  • 1tbsp Salt
  • 200ml Water

As you can tell I really do like my Kitchenaid. Combine all the ingredience and knead with a dough hook at medium speed for about 10mins.You can make the dough by hand in exactly the same way. What you are looking for at the end is a smooth elastic dough.

It’s then a case of letting time escape for a while. The cooler the dough the longer it will require to proof. However if you leave it just a bit cooler than room temperature (a crafty doorway perhaps) for about 2-3hrs then you get a fantastically flavourful base but without having to wait forever.

IMG_4578.jpg

Lets make Pizza

About 1.5hrs before decide you want to eat its time to light the oven. Start by building up a small fire using sticks and small cuts of dry wood. This allows you to get a rapid fire started. After this its a case of stoking the oven every 10-15mins with more wood. The idea is that as the wood rapidly burns it releases its heat into the bricks which absorbs it. The only problem is it is a bit like feeding a donkey strawberries……………

IMG_5514.JPG

 

Just a quick word of warning – if the wind changes direction then fire tends to lick out the front of the oven and can burn you, or in my case your hair.

*For legal reasons I should warn you that playing with fire and heating bricks up is dangerous and you do so at your own risk*

IMG_5521.JPG

 

When the pizza oven feels about as hot as the sun and your guests are starting to moan about you being a child and playing with fire……..it is time.

On a well floured board divide the dough into 4 equally sized pieces. Roll these out to approx 5mm thin and then gently stretch till you have halved this thickness again.

IMG_5518.jpg

Transfer the base on to a pizza paddle (mines from Aga) which has been dusted with semolina and add the tomato puree base we prepared earlier.

IMG_5519.jpg

Working fast spread the puree out thin and add toppings of your choice. I made 4 different pizzas this time – 3 red and 1 white..

  • Mozzarella and serano ham on a tomato base
  • Mozzarella, roasted pepper, chorizo, olives, Italian fennel pork (blog to follow) and red onion on a tomato base
  • Serrano ham, fennel pork, red onion and mozzarella on a white base using fresh ricotta
  • The Works – Everything above all on one base

Now you have to be brave. Working as fast as a surgeon trying to find a lost swab, move the hot embers to the side of the oven. This is best done using a garden hoe or small spade. Then  sweep the base of the oven using a straw brush or bunch of rosemary.

Now it’s time to cook. In one swift motion slide the pizza off the paddle onto the floor of the oven and watch the magic happen. Initially it will appear as though its all failed and then, just as you are about to cry it starts……….

The outer crust starts to rise and bubble first, then the cheese starts to melt and turn brown. After about 30seconds one side will start to look likes its almost done with the crust turning golden.

As you can tell I got rather excited at this point…….. Boys and toys etc. But you have to remember to turn the pizza through 180 to brown the other side. If you want to be really professional you can hold it up to the roof of the oven for about 10 seconds to brown the cheese some more too.IMG_5540.jpg

And all too quickly its over, about 1-2mins if she’s hot enough………………….

IMG_5539.jpg
All that remains is to cook the remaining pizzas and serve to your guests. Perhaps with a light salad and some wine.

P.S – You can make the pizzas in a standard oven, just cook on an oven tray scattered with Semolina at 230-250C for approx. 10-15mins or until the base is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbling……..

OK, so perhaps you won’t be able to do this one at home…….. but their are lots of skips about…….. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this one, I did. Soon I’ll show you how to make beer x