What began as, “let’s make some pasta and throw bacon on it,” quickly turned into the enormous headline of today’s post. Caroline and I were invited for dinner (to cook), and the kitchen we used was already filled with super-fancy ingredients which we took full advantage of.
This could be a vegetarian dish, but you’d have to leave out the bacon. You’d have to leave out the bacon. You’d have to leave out the bacon.
Everything was made from scratch, so this is essentially four recipes in one. If you only want to make one of these delicious things, jump to the appropriate section:
These recipes (joined together) will feed five hungry humans.
For the pasta:
500 g white flour
1/2 cup of dried porcini mushrooms
We used a pasta maker. If you don’t have one, then you can use a rolling-pin, a knife, and a pinch of steely determination.
First, you must soak the mushrooms in boiling water. This soaking process takes about one hour. Make sure you continuously watch the mushrooms during this time, lest they escape. When Caroline’s friend opened her container of porcini mushrooms, several moths flew out and fluttered away. Be warned.
When they’re nicely soaked, drain the water and toss your ‘shrooms into a food processor. Blend into a delicious mush.
Mix the mushroom mush in a bowl together with the flour and eggs. Knead your concoction for several minutes until you get a ball that’s not too sticky; one that springs back a little bit when you depress it.
Wrap up your ball in plastic wrap (cling film? Glad wrap? Whatever.) and throw it into the fridge for half an hour. This will make it all cold and clammy – just the way I like it.
After you withdraw your sweaty ball from the fridge, separate it into eight small balls. Working with one ball at a time, give it a few rounds in the pasta maker on the thickest setting. Fold. Repeat. Fold. Repeat. Soon you will have a lovely smooth sheet. Run the sheet through your pasta maker getting incrementally thinner as you go. Finally, slice it into fettuccine and hang it to dry.
Fresh pasta cooks in seconds, so make sure the cooking part is the last thing you do before serving your meal.
Fill a large pot with water and add plenty of salt. When the water starts boiling throw in the pasta, stirring for about 30 seconds. Strain and serve, splashing in olive oil in to prevent it sticking together.
For the Creamy Bacon and Porcini Sauce:
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 handfuls of dried porcini mushrooms
4 rashers of bacon (or more. You can never have too much, right?)
300 ml of fresh cream
1/2 cup of milk if needed (this is just to thin the sauce a bit. You can throw in as much or as little as you like)
Just like in the pasta step (see above), you need to soak your ‘shrooms for about an hour in boiling water. Strain afterwards, reserving half a cup of the liquid.
Throw that bacon into a frying pad on a medium heat. There’s no need to add oil or butter here. Inhale. Life is better now. Crisp it up then set it aside. In the resulting bacon fat, fry the onions and garlic. Do it slow. Yeah. Like that. Cook it for a few minutes, adding a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the already-fried bacon and cook a while longer, then add the mushrooms followed by the mushroom liquid you set aside earlier. Add another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook! Cook! Cook!
Now it’s time to get mega-fat. You’re going to stir in all the cream and cook it very slowly. You don’t want the cream to boil, but you do want it to take on the colour of the dish.
If you want to make this dish healthier (ahem), add in some full cream milk. This will thin the sauce, and is also a suspected cure for *insert ailment you have here*.
So I just looked at that delicious picture above and saw green things in it. These are herbs (tarragon, to be precise). At some point during the cooking you should add these. It doesn’t matter when. Stop being so damn methodical and live a little.
Time to eat! Slop the sauce all over your fresh pasta. If you’re feeling super-flash you can drizzle truffle oil over each dish. This goes very well with the mushrooms.
For the Ciabatta Bread:
500 g flour
450 ml lukewarm water
.5 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
11 g pack of dry yeast
Olive oil (a drizzle or three)
This bread is kind of freaky. It requires no kneading, and gives the impression of being completely wrong until it actually emerges from the oven. It’s really, really, really easy to make.
Mix all your dry ingredients together in a bowl. If you live in a cold country, warm the bowl first (run hot water over the outside, fill it with cats, lick it – whatever). I’m in Malaysia right now which means everything is already warm. Anyway. Warm bowl = good.
Pour the water in and mix everything together with your hands (I just use one hand because it gets very sticky). Your dough at this point will look more like batter, and you’ll go, “What is this crap?” Trust me, it’s fine.
This is kind of hard to explain – ‘pull’, ‘stretch’ and ‘slap’ the dough, picking it up in handfuls and slamming it back down into the bowl. Scrape the bottom of the bowl as you go, slapping and slopping. This aerates the dough and after five minutes the texture will be noticeably smoother and silkier. Click here for a pop-up video.
Drizzle olive oil over the surface – about a tablespoon or two. Put some cling film over the bowl and leave it in a warm place to rise. Again, I’m in Malaysia so ‘warm place’ is ‘everywhere’. If you’re in a cold place, put it next to a radiator or in the hot water cupboard.
After an hour, your dough will probably have risen a lot. It may even be touching the surface of your cling film. Good! It’s ready to be cooked alive.
Get the oven going at 200°C. Pour your puffed-up batter into a large baking tin (one with sides) lined with baking paper and throw it in the oven.
I don’t want to give a strict oven time here, but around 30 minutes is okay. Just keep an eye on the bread. It will develop dark spots, and eventually the surface will become a lovely brown colour.
Caroline’s friend (the one with all the fancy ingredients) made truffle butter by mixing butter, truffles and tarragon together with a pinch of salt. Holy happiness, Batman.
For the Orange and Pistachio Salad:
1 onion chopped thickly
Some pistachios (the more the better, obviously)
Some green leafy stuff
2 large, preferably delicious, oranges
Balsamic and olive oil for the dressing
This is another very easy thing to make, but it takes a bit of time to make it delicious. First, caramelise the onion. Properly. This means add a small amount of butter and oil to a pot on a very low heat. Your onion is cooked in this pot for 1.5 hours until it becomes sweet. Yes, hours.
Toast the pistachios in the oven. 180°C for about ten minutes.
The rest is easy peasy. Segment your oranges and mix them with the greens, pistachios, and caramelised onions. Make a dressing of balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, salt and pepper, mixing everything to taste.
this is usually a blog about traveling, but occasionally a recipe will get thrown in (because why not?). All the above photos were taken on a phone. If you want fancy photos, take your own.