7 Apr 2015

Perfect Homemade Pasta Top Tips

Let's be honest here: homemade pasta takes time to make and it's so much easier to buy that stuff from the supermarket.
But making pasta at home has it's perks. You can add whatever you want to the dough, you can experiment with shapes and colours and sizes and stuffings. The world is your oyster when it comes to homemade pasta and it makes you feel so damn good about yourself.
After my successful pasta making experience, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a few tips to make the experience that little bit easier for you.

1// Have extra flour to hand
There is nothing worse than making pasta and realising that your hands are covered in sticky dough and you need more flour. Chances are it was already put away or you measured out the exact amount you needed and no more. This is a big mistake.
When making pasta, especially with eggs, you might need to adjust the recipe ever so slightly to allow for smaller or larger eggs, the temperature of the flour and the humidity in the air. So having extra flour to hand is going to make life so much easier and all of your possessions significantly less doughy.

2// Buddy up
While you can make pasta by yourself, it's not quite the same. When you roll the sheets out using the pasta machine, it's easier to have two sets of hands. You cannot do everything and this is a prime example.
Depending on what pasta you're making, you might even wish and pray for a third set so be kind to yourself and ask someone to help you. It'll reduce the stress factor by 78%.

3// Bowl it over
Pasta dough can dry out pretty quickly. You don't want to be stuck rolling out another 1kg of dough when the already rolled sheets are drying out before your very eyes. The easiest solution (thanks Martha Stewart!) is to pop a mixing bowl over your pasta dough. The dough isn't going to rise (there's no rising agent) so you don't need a huge bowl but it will stop the drying process significantly and buy you some time.

4// Early bird gets the pasta
Start early. I'm not talking 6am but if you want to eat at 7pm then make sure you start around 4pm to give yourself plenty of time to make the pasta, cook it and add it to dinner. The drying process can take a while or not long at all depending on humidity levels and the heat of the day so make sure to take this into account.
Making pasta is not a twenty minute job so don't be caught short!

Have you ever tried to make homemade pasta? If you have, let me know below how it went and if you have any tips and tricks to help the process along.

28 Mar 2015

Handmade Chicken and Bacon Beetroot Carbonara Pasta

When we first moved to New Zealand, everyone told us quite loudly how amazing beetroot is and how they love it in their burgers. Well I do not love it in my burger and I do not love it when you tell me I should have it in my burger.
But the fact remains that beetroot is still bloody good for you. And the good news is that there are tons of amazing ways to eat it that don't involve pickling.
So naturally I decided that beetroot pasta would be a fantastic way to incorporate beetroot and all of it's amazing properties into my meal. Who doesn't love pasta?

I used the new LeaderBrand ready-to-serve beetroot packs. They're these fantastic packs of beetroot that you can eat cold out of the packet or heat up in the microwave or on the stovetop. LeaderBrand's new range also include sweetcorn and potatoes which I am yet to try but I'm sure they'll be just as good as the beetroots were.

A quick note about this pasta recipe, it can be made vegan. You can find out how here and then use the noodles as you normally would.

1/2 Bag LeaderBrand Ready-to-Serve Beetroot
250g 00 Flour
2 Medium Eggs
Salt and Pepper

1// Pop half the bag of beetroot into a food processor and blend until you've got puree. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the puree and blend until smooth.
2// Add the eggs and flour to the food processor. Blend until just combined. You can add a bit more flour if the mixture is still too sticky.
3// Turn the pasta dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until firm.
4// Wrap the dough in cling film and pop into the fridge for 30 minutes.
5// Using a pasta machine, you need to roll the pasta into thin sheets. I went to 6 on the pasta machine before the pasta began to tear.
6// I hung the pasta sheets on wire coat hangers to let them dry for 30 minutes.
7// You can either cut the sheets up with a very sharp knife to create noodles or you can use the pasta machine attachment to roll out noodles.
8// Pop the noodles back onto the wire coat hanger and let dry for another 30 minutes.
9// Cook the noodles like you would normal pasta in boiling water with salt for around 5 to 10 minutes.

You can pair this with whatever sauce you want but I made a carbonara sauce because it's quick and easy and let the beautiful colour of the beetroot through.
You'll notice how amazing the colour is in the uncooked noodles. It will disappear a little when you cook the noodles but they stay pink which is gorgeous and they'll go so well with a white or cheese sauce.

1 Large Onion
4 Rashers Bacon
2 Pieces Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
Salt and Pepper
100ml Cream

1// Dice the onion, chop your bacon into medium size pieces and your chicken into thin slices.
2// Pop the onion into a large saucepan and allow it to cook until soft.
3// Add the bacon and chicken and allow to fry until cooked through.
4// Pour in the cream, add some salt and pepper and allow to simmer until the cream reduces to a sauce.
5// Add the cooked noodles and stir until fully coated.

I served this with garlic bread and would probably add mushrooms to the sauce if only other people in the house ate them too.
I hope you all enjoy this recipe and enjoy a serving of beetroot with your dinner. And the plus side is that you'll have half a bag of beetroots left to add to a colseslaw for putting on burgers if you really desperately need that in your life.

18 Mar 2015

Winter Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies

This may sound a bit Game of Throne like but...winter is coming.
And it's going to be a cold one people. But I'm totally ok with that because winter brings with it soup for lunch and warm chocolate fudge cake for dessert and pies. PIES. I am so excited about pies.
I like to serve pies with chips or mash potato. Sometimes there's salad but mainly just a potato based side dish. Then I let them cool and I take them to work the next day to eat cold at my desk. Seriously, it's the reason I look forward to winter.
With Cyclone Pam breezing past this weekend, I decided it was a good idea to make some pies and cosy up while the rain poured outside. And we all know that Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies are just right for rainy days.

Winter Chicken and Veg Pot Pies PlanetBakeLife

Winter Chicken and Veg Pot Pies PlanetBakeLife

This is a creamy Chicken Pot Pie that's incredibly easy to make.
That's because there's a slight trick to these. We're going to make them with ready made pastry and we're not even going to feel guilty about it at all. And if you start to feel guilty then you should have another glass of wine and get on board the care-free train.

Winter Chicken and Veg Pot Pies PlanetBakeLife

1 Medium White Onion
Roast Chicken Seasoning
400g - 500g Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
5 - 6 Medium Potatoes
250g Mixed Vegetables
2tsp Plain Flour
Whole Milk
Pre-Made and Pre-Rolled Puff Pastry

Winter Chicken and Veg Pot Pies PlanetBakeLife

Winter Chicken and Veg Pot Pies PlanetBakeLife

1// Dice your chicken breast into small pieces (about 1cm squared), peel your potatoes and dice them into similar sized pieces to the chicken.
2// In a small bowl, cover your chicken with the roast chicken seasoning and the flour. Make sure it's covered evenly.
3// Finely dice your onion and chuck it into a pan with a little bit of olive oil. Let the onions sweat until they're soft.
4// Add the chicken to the pan and let it brown.
5// Now it's time to add the mixed veg. I used a bag of frozen mixed vegetables but you can use any seasonal veg (fresh or frozen) that you have available. Add the potatoes last.
6// Once the veg doesn't look frozen anymore, add a splash of milk and stir the mixture. This will create a creamy sauce for the chicken and veg. Add more or less milk depending on how thick you like your sauce. I always eye ball this stage as I like the sauce a little thinner than most people do.
7// Flour a surface and roll your pastry a little thinner than it already is when it comes out of the packaging. You can do this while the filling cooks further. You can even turn the pot off and let it cool a little bit while you make the pastry casing.
8// Cut the pastry out to fit into a Texas muffin tin, including lids.
9// Fill your pie casings with the chicken filling and then crimp the lids closed (you can find out how to do that here) and pop the pies in the oven at 180°C for 45 minutes.

Winter Chicken and Veg Pot Pies PlanetBakeLife

Winter Chicken and Veg Pot Pies PlanetBakeLife

See how easy that was?
Now you have perfectly individual Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies to serve with as much potato as you feel is necessary.
I hope you enjoy these as the winter rolls into the Southern Hemisphere and we all bunker down for cold weather and some rain. It'll be my year anniversary here in Auckland this June and I've loved the first year of the big city. A lot has changed but it's been mostly good and that's a plus in my book!

11 Mar 2015

Free Printables to Make Your Walls Beautiful

Can you believe how quickly this year is marching on? We moved into our flat in October already! It's crazy but we're still getting everything in order. There are still some things I look at and realise they don't really have a place in our home yet but the one thing I'm determined to get done is a gallery wall.
Unfortunately prints are quite expensive and I don't have a huge budget for making my walls pretty. So I've had a look around and found some lovely free printables that with a good printer, nice paper and a photo frame can spruce up any blank wall.

1// Roasted Veggie Print
This is not only pretty but it's informative too! I'd love this A3 print on my kitchen wall as a guide to cooking roast veggies and for the pretty illustrations.

2// Botanical Prints
These botanical prints would be beautiful in a bedroom or library or even a breakfast nook. They'd look really good next to each other as a set of A5's or A4's if you have the space.

3// Deer Print
This link is full of amazing free printables like this one. I honestly love every single print featured here. I also like the idea of having festive prints for different times of the year as an easy way to decorate for a holiday.

4// Raindrops
This print would be lovely in a bathroom or in a kid's room. Either framed or hung up as a poster.

5// Flamingoes
Flamingoes and pineapples have been super trendy this year and these flamingoes in different standing positions is fantastic for a quick spruce up of an old and tired space.

If you're looking for affordable frames, The Warehouse's Necessity range is only a few bucks and goes up to size A3.