Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Getting Fresh with some Cool Chicks

Insalata di Cavatini di Farina di Ceci, con Limone, Menta, Senapa Rossa e Piselli 
Gram Flour Cavatini Salad with Lemon, Mint, Red Mustard Leaves and Shredded Snow Peas

Fear not my foodie-friends, the title of this blog entry is referring to the chick-pea flour I used to make the home-made pasta for this refreshing Summer dish! So- no inappropriate goings-on here- on the contrary! There is always something pretty tasty going on in my kitchen!

But be warned- you have to really want to make this pasta! Gram flour is the stickiest substance in the universe when it gets wet! Nothing, but nothing on Earth will prepare you for the fun you have in store! So read on... and again- fear not! It will all be more than worth it in the end...

I have been tinkering around with gram flour over the past couple of months and have grown to love its flavor... and today I had the notion of trying to make pasta with it. I knew very well how sticky it would get, as I have already mentioned, so don't say I haven't warned you!

This is one of those things where it is a case of learning by doing, but I will make an exception to my rule of only describing the procedure and ingredients and leaving the quantities up to you- to avoid you any psychological despair and drama!

I used 3/4 of a cup of gram flour and 1 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour to make this. I sifted the 2 flours together and then added 1 whole egg. Making a well in the flour, I pinched the egg yolk and kept on "pinching-in" the flour to form a dough. I knew it would get very sticky until all of the flour was absorbed, but at the same time, I also knew that once there was enough flour to make a firm dough, it would become very, very hard and almost impossible to knead- I have seen similar dough being prepared to make Indian flat-bread.

At this point, with the dough feeling a little too firm, simply add a little warm water and keep kneading as best you can. Little by little it will be absorbed and it will begin to soften the texture. We are talking about 9-10 minutes of work here- no more and no less, but it is worth it!

It is a good idea, if you have someone close by to help to get them to assist with adding flour as required- as your fingers will be very sticky for quite a while! otherwise, pour yourself some extra flour into a small bowl to make it easier to handle.

Once you have a smooth, pliable dough, roll it out into lengths which have about the thickness of your finger. Cut small slices from these rolls of dough and now the fun begins! Sprinkle a little dough on your work surface and then squash the little pieces of dough down flat with your thumb, then roll them off the work surface. This gives them their characteristic folded shape. It is actually all good fun and you may want to get friends or children to help!

Bring a pot of well salted water to the boil and then add the cavatini. Boil until they float to the surface and then for a further 3-4 minutes. The dough is a little more dense that a regular pasta dough so it will take a little longer. Once the cavatini are "al dente", remove from the heat, drain and sprinkle with a little sesame oil and some vegetable broth. Add some sliced spring onion whilst the pasta is still hot, so that the residual heat partially cooks the onion for you. Add plenty of finely chopped mint, the juice of half a lemon, a little nutmeg, crushed garlic, finely chopped parsley and of course, season with salt and pepper. Next come the snow peas, which I cut very finely on the diagonal. Peas and mint go wonderfully well together and combined with lemon and the final ingredient, red mustard leaves, goes to make a winning combination! The red mustard leaves were more of an afterthought, as I just so happened to have a few left in the fridge... but the flavor worked so well, that I would definitely go out of my way to make it this way again!

Serve with a last squeeze of lemon, a light drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of lemon zest, which has previously been blanched to take away the bitterness and any chemical residues. Serve at room temperature or chilled from the fridge... and I do hope you enjoy!
That's what this is all about!

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