July 30, 2012

Knock, knock

Anyone home?

We went to Open House Melbourne on Sunday. I'm so glad we got around to it!

Open House Melbourne is a weekend of open buildings. Special places, amazing places, eco spaces, places not normally open to the public.

We queued for the State Library tour of the elephant lift (for moving around that spare elephant) - a 1920s wooden panelled lift with, we were told, idiosyncracies.

We peered over the bannisters at the compass rose on the floor under what once was a Foucault's pendulum. Pendulum now lost and, as someone said, probably holding down papers on someone's desk. Beautiful staircase.

Then down into the catacombs, surprisingly bright for channels running into dirt floored wasteland for dead office chairs. Everyone's favourite garage.

And out into the rain of China Town, for a tasty Grill'd burger and a gentle stroll down to Myer for the mural hall, sixth floor ballroom and hall for streamlined 30s types to affect a bored moue at fashion parades. Meh. Darling.

Playing with the mirrors in Myer's Mural Hall. 

Finally, everyone's favourite haunted tin shed -- the portable iron houses of the 1850s still in South Melbourne on a fascinating old street.

Portable iron house, c. 1850, South Melbourne. 

A lovely day. Three very different faces of Melbourne. Hurrah.

View from the freeway bridge as we leave the sunny city. 

July 22, 2012

Pasta play

Today we tried some kitchen craftiness, inspired by the post here over at Cafe Liz.

It's not too hard to make beetroot-red pasta. You roast the beetroot, make pasta dough (a generous serve per person is 1 egg and 100g Type '00' flour, whizzed in a food processor) - then add a slice of the ruby-red beetroot to the pasta dough in the food processor.

Add more flour until it no longer sticks like napalm to everything, and presto, red pasta dough.

Being a nerd, I wondered what I could use to make other colours. And I know a bunch of kids who would love this! Some of those kids have kids of their own, if you get what I mean. Having a reason to play with your food can be fun at any age.

I decided to see if I could make some fun multicoloured pasta with a basic dough and a few additions.

To start:
First I made a biggish batch of plain pasta dough, by dumping 500g '00' flour in a food processor and cracking in five large organic eggs. It works better if the eggs are at room temperature, if you remember...

I then divided my plain basic dough into five portions and started testing. I kept each portion wrapped in plastic wrap so that it didn't dry out before I was ready to rock and roll it out.

Here's what worked!

A handful of fresh parsley leaves, blanched for 1 minute in boiling water, then cooled by swirling in cold water. I squeezed the green lump of wilted leaves hard before adding it to the food processor and blending it with a portion of the basic dough. The dough looked freckly. I wrapped it up and left it in the fridge while making the other colours.

Take two: I picked two leaves of silverbeet (save the stems for something else), then chopped and blanched them for 1 minute as above. Cool, squeeze like mad to get the water out. Squeeze some more. This time I processed the leaves to a sludge in the food processor first with a dash of olive oil. Then I added a portion of the basic pasta dough, buzzed it up and added flour till it wasn't too sticky. (That was a guess: enough flour so it would not stick terribly to the plastic wrap seems to be about right.) Wrap it up and leave to rest.

This one was simple: just a scant teaspoon of turmeric added to a portion of the dough and a dash of olive oil to make it all come together.

For this I cut off a chunk of the yellow turmeric dough (about half), to which I added a 1/2 tablespoon of the beetroot juice from the roasting pan. So I had less orange and yellow, but that's fine.

A slice of beetroot (skinned), added to a portion of dough.

The fifth ball of dough stayed plain, to provide the base for squiggles and other sorts of fun times.

Rolling it was the fun part! This involved rolling sheets of each colour, cutting them into spaghetti with the cutter attachment, then pressing them into a flat piece of a different colour.

That was so much fun that we decided to try sticking two flat disks (just roughly hand flattened) together, end to end. Ran these slowly through the machine on a wide setting and they stuck and became two-tone pasta!

Someone got fancy and it became a patchwork of pasta blobs that got rolled and then sliced...

The silverbeet leaves made a better green because although they were softer and made the dough a bit wet, the green leached out and the whole sheet went evenly green. The parsley dough retained its freckly appearance throughout, which was fun too.

The beetroot fades a huge amount in cooking, and ended up a genteel shade of pink.

The turmeric stayed bright yellow and it really imparted a kick to the taste of the pasta! I quite liked that, just be aware of it when matching your sauce.

We made a simple vegetable sauce and cooked up a batch to enjoy. It was a colourful lunch!

* Post updated to add more images - Blogger updated the date stamp. We don't mind, do we?

July 17, 2012


It suddenly seems as if spring might be hiding just around the corner. It's been a long, dark and windy winter here at the farm and we are still slogging through mud and feeding fires with wood all day, but there are signs, here and there.

I love to think that the earth sleeps like a big giant under us, turning slowly in her sleep till the other side comes to the warmth. Listen quietly, you can almost hear the roar. Plants are ready to push forward.

It'll be a while yet, and there will be storms, but it's coming.