When Nothing Goes To Plan!

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Helen Jackson

With Father’s Day yesterday, Daisy (9) decided she wanted to make homemade chicken tortellini followed by lemon meringue pie for Ed (I feel she has been watching too much Masterchef antics).
As she has been asking to make her own pasta for some weeks now I decided that Sunday afternoon would be an opportune time to do so.  Thankfully I didn’t succomb to the $10 bag of Italian strong flour that she thought she needed from our local NW.

After 15 minutes of scrambling around the corner in my pantry cupboard amongst more dadddy long leg spiders than I have almost ever seen and some shameful mouse droppings, I finally found the still boxed, never been used, pasta maker – bought around the same time as I entered my South East Asian phase and we switched from pasta to rice as our staple.

The Cooks Companion (Stephanie Alexander) has fool proof recipes for everything so we followed the recipe of 400g flour, salt and eggs.  The dough was quickly made and then wrapped to rest for 1 hour.  We then poached chicken breast fillets and pulsed them in the food processor with pesto, parmesan, a little butter and seasoning – the mixture tasted just fine.

The pasta maker we screwed onto the table and followed instructions of setting the rollers at 1.  Unfortunately I didn’t use logic of inserting the dough and “shoved” it in the wrong place initially which then jammed the rollers and took a lot of hot water and poking with a skewer to dislodge.  Unperturbed I then set it up again and was completely ready to start rolling perfect pasta.
The instructions said to roll it 5-6 times but by the 6th roll we were still rolling funny looking dough with lots of holes in it and all stretched and bumpy looking.  The pasta maker somehow was putting big black smudges onto the dough and there was flour and dough everywhere.  It looked nothing like the pictures!

A big pot of water went on to boil and the ready made pasta pulled out of the pantry.

I quickly made tomato pasta sauce and decided that the chicken filling from the ravioli would mix in nicely with the pasta sauce – result was very unattractive pink gloop!
Freddie (6) sat down to dinner and promptly said “Mum this looks like vomit you don’t seriously expect us to eat it do you?”

Meanwhile I had raced to the garden, picked spinach, made spinach and feta triangles for Ed and I in record breaking time and got Daisy organised to get a lemon meringue pie into the oven.
Dinner for the kids was essentially dessert that while eaten it wasn’t quite what Daisy thought she was making – she was hoping for a cake!

After a massive cleanup and into bed feeling quite shattered – Ed then says “It is really quite amazing how much mess you can make when you cook…..”

Anyone got any tips on making pasta?  We need them!

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12 thoughts on “When Nothing Goes To Plan!

  1. I used to use the dough setting on my breadmachine, and the pasta was great, the children keep asking for it, as they enjoyed using the pasta machine to roll out the pasta.. I can remember folding and putting it through the thickest setting for several times, and I also cut the longer strips in half towards the end of rolling . ..but alas… I no longer have the bread machine, and will have to do it by hand. Thanks for the prompt to get the pasta machine out again.
    So, 1 egg to 100g flour, how many starving urchins does that feed, I have an 8yr old and 5 yr old.

    Have fun

  2. I have no problem with the high grade flour either. I mix 100g with 1 egg in the food processor and then with wet hands knead and knead, rest at room temperature and then “squish” dough down to fit through the biggest setting on pasta maker, then fold it in on itself and feed it in biggest setting again. Masterchef – which I too watch much of as well – says to do this about 10 times, to get the gluten working, but I am far too impatient and only do this a couple of times.
    Another tip – once pasta gets really long and hard to handle, cut it in two and put each sheet through machine separately.
    Took me quite awhile before I mastered the pasta making, but now am pretty confident.

  3. I used high grade or plain flour for a couple of years, and that was OK. But when I finally got around to giving Tipo 00 a try, I noticed a huge difference in terms of ease of working with it (the recipe worked without me having to add more fluid, and the dough was much more elastic).

    Look, I have no vested interest. All I can say is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Yes, you can make great pasta using standard flour, but I found the Italian flour much better – and I was cynical that there would be any difference.

  4. Oh, another tip is once you’ve given the dough a quick knead (until it’s smooth), make it into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for half an hour to an hour. It gives the proteins time to ‘rest’ or something (been watching too much Food channel!).

    Good luck,

    • Yes I did let the dough rest – Stephanie Alexander said room temperature for 1 hour which is what I did.
      I do need to buy the good flour and will do so in the next couple of days. Ed is due to go fishing in a few weekends time so may do it when there is no one to fuss over the mess.

  5. I always used High Grade flour to make pasta until I finally bought a bag of Tipo 00. Makes a world of difference – it doesn’t look like a string vest when you’re doing the initial fold and roll. It also is the right consistency when doing 1 egg to 100g flour, whereas with bread/plain flour it’s waaaaay too dry.

    The black smudges were just because you hadn’t used the pasta maker before – it stops doing that after the first batch or two.

    The other amazing tip I got from this forum was to buy some of that no-slip matting (I got a bit from The Warehouse for next to nothing) and put that under the pasta maker and clamp. I stop using mine because I was frustrated by the slipping, but the mat (I think it was Lorna’s suggestion) made the world of difference :)

    • I didn’t buy the Tipo 00 but wonder if I should have.
      I did use 1 egg per 100g flour but the dough was like mesh as opposed to lovely smooth pasta.

      I think we may have to revisit this another weekend – starting early and not counting on it for a meal unless we are very lucky!

      • Go for it! The flour does make a difference, something about protein content. Why not try a simple form of pasta at first, like lasagna sheets which is what I mostly make? I roll it down to the thinnest level and can get 4 layers of wonderfully thin pasta in a lasagna out of 100g flour (to 500g mince). The texture is so much better than dried or even fresh shop bought, which I find flabby and rubbery.

      • I beg to differ. I have only ever made pasta using all purpose flour. I think the trick is in the kneading. I use the food processor to combine the eggs and flour but then knead by hand adding more and more flour until it is the right consistency. The kneading can sometimes take a long time but you will know when the dough comes together and feels right. Only then should you start rolling it.

  6. So funny Helen – no pasta tips here! – although I have made it successfully in the past – maybe just sticking down the wrong hole was the problem! My Daisy has been watching far too much Masterchef also! She decided she wanted to make Heston Blumenthal’s perfect burgers (no less, I was feeling less than energetic, but in my desire to encourage any kind of creativity that doesn’t involve computers, agreed. Well of course we didn’t have three cuts of beef including wagyu lurking anywhere near, we did have some shin in the freezer, and while I dont have a state of the art (read kitchen-aid) mincer, I did have (somewhere) the mincing attachment to a very (very very) old Kenwood mixer that still serves me well.
    I had never used the mincer, so wasn’t sure whether this was going to be an unmitigated disaster, or a fluke of culinary brilliance. Of course it was a disaster.

    The mincer blades and (whatever those round things are called)were rusty, so out with the wire wool – I also sharpened them with a diamond sharpener – looking good!

    We got the attachment attached (as you do) and started putting the semi-frozen shin through – all good – for about 20 seconds, then the sinew got caught in the blades and nothing was coming through. Ok – undo the whole workings, clean it out and start again – every 20 seconds – about 6 or 7 times – by this stage we had about 20gms minced meat – somehow, and I still don’t know how – we ended up taking semi minced meat out of the spiral – but it was all covered in black grease – grrrrrr. So everything we managed to mince was now totally inedible.

    To cut a long and stressful story short, we cooked up the shin for the dog and got a packet of mince out of the freezer…..I loathe to blame my tools….but I blame the old Kenwood – should have put it out to pasture ages ago – and also here’s a tip for novices – don’t start a Heston Blumenthal recipe just before dinner time – with a 13 year old whose life is lived in, text speak, sound-bites and 30 second youtube clips.