Journey with spices – Kernels and Seeds


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I recommend reading other 2 blogs on spices:

Bring spices to your life and Journey with spices – Leafy Spices.

In previous blog I was focusing on spices where main parts of the plant used are leaves. Today I will focus on kernels and seeds. In a table below there are (only) two spices that belong to this category; once important, now side-tracked to sweets mostly.

Table 1: Spice origin by plant part

Seeds as spices

Other important seeds we use in kitchen are mustard seeds, sesame, poppy and almonds.

Cardamom holds a reputation as the “third most expensive” spice (after saffron and vanilla). It was already high-priced in Ancient Greece. Pricewise also nutmeg is not lagging behind. During early 17th century the demand for nutmeg in Europe was very high. Dutch had a monopoly on its production and have easily dictated the price. The price has fallen only a hundred years later, when brave Frenchmen have smuggled nutmeg trees from the Spice Islands and broke the Dutch monopoly.

Origin

Nutmeg’s origin was traced back to Spice Islands (Moluccas), now a part of Indonesia. Today the producing countries are Indonesia (East Indian Nutmeg) and Grenada (West Indian Nutmeg); while Indonesian nutmegs are mainly exported to Europe and Asia, Grenada nutmeg mostly finds its way into the USA.

Fig 1: Cardamom seeds

If Finland would be producing (grape) wine we wouldn’t have exported a single drop. We would have drunk it all. Same goes for India. Even if they produce by far the most cardamom in the world, they export only a handful of it because they are perfectly capable of consuming their whole yearly yield.

Use of cardamom and nutmeg

Cardamom is most often found in Oriental rice and meat dishes. It is sometimes combined with cinnamon. In Europe, cardamom is only popular in Northern Europe, where it is used for cookies, sweet buns, and pastries.

Fig 2: Nutmeg

In Western cuisine, nutmeg and mace are more popular for desserts (cakes, crackers and stewed fruits). Nutmeg can be used to spice fondue. It is also use a spice for spinach ravioli filling. By far the biggest consumers of nutmeg in Europe are Dutch.

One not so known quality of nutmeg is its hallucinogenic effects, which include prolonged extreme nausea and long-term hypersensitivity to nutmeg. You would have to eat about half of the nutmeg or about 3-4 grams.

Origins of the name

There are no reliable sources as to where the name of cardamom origins. Nutmeg is a different story. English name comes from Middle English notemugge. Most of the European languages use Latin derivation of nux muscatus (“musky nut”).

Term “musk” is a scent obtained from the musk deer. The name musk comes from Sanskrit mushka (“testicle”), as musk comes only from male musk deer’s special glands that look like testicles.

Let’s speculate a bit. Where does the name of Oman’s, sultanate on the tip of Arabian peninsula, capital come from? There are so many theories, but I just made this one up: we all know that people have traded spices and even wars have been fought for spice domination. Ships with spices and musk have docket in port. People loved the “musk nut” so much that they named their capital Muscat. How do you like it?

There is another Muscat that comes to my mind, muscat wine. A sweet wine produced around the world. It can be also found in brandies, like Greek Metaxa.

Cheers!

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Journey with spices – Leafy Spices


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Yesterday I felt like experimenting again. Since I like noodles and she adores them as well, I knew nothing could go wrong, even if I mix things that don’t traditionally belong together. She liked the sweetness, spiciness, crispy veggies, originality and overall colour. She did recognize the taste though. And that was somehow confusing, but interesting on the other hand. There was a subtle mixture of chilli peppers and chilli paste, soy sauce and ketjap manis, and peanut butter. Carrots and broccoli complemented the colours. The “mysterious taste” actually triggered me to think what spices are really hiding behind them, where do they come from, and how are they associated to our daily lives.

Origin of spices

I would recommend reading my previous general blog about spices. Look at the photo below. Since I live in Finland, most of the spices are bought in local stores and the names are in Finnish and Swedish. Is today a good day for some foreign language lessons?

  1. Top shelf (from the left): nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, ginger and cinnamon
  2. Bottom shelf (from the left): cardamom, nutmeg, Thai yellow curry, cayenne pepper, Thai green curry, Peruvian pepper
  3. Front (from left): oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary.

Do you know what these spices have in common? Let’s first group them.

Spice wars

Nowadays it’s so easy to get spices. Just go to local grocery and get anything you wish and also try something you never tried before, experiment and discover a new taste. In the past wars were fought over spices; the most notable being the Dutch-Portuguese war, that started at the beginning of 17th century.

Another interesting fact is that in 1592, during the eighty years war between Spain and England, English fleet confiscated a Portuguese ship loaded with 900 tons of merchandise from India and China, worth about half a million pounds (nearly half the size of English Treasury at the time).

Leafy spices

Today I will focus only on 5 herbs: basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Mentioning basil, my first association is Basil Fawlty. Basil, played by John Cleese, is the main character in British comedy series Fawlty Towers. He runs a small hotel and getting into all kinds of troubles with his guests and personnel, especially young Spanish servant Manuel. Funnily, when series was exported to Spain, Manuel suddenly became Italian, named Paolo.

One thing that all five spices (herbs) have in common is that botanically they belong to Mint family. Some other prominent members of this family are: peppermint, spearmint, bergamot and sage.

Marjoram originates from Latin word amaracum. Marjoram was believed to be an aphrodisiac in Roman literature, because of the similarity of amaracum to Latin amor “love.”

Origin of the word oregano is not totally clear. Oregano prefers higher altitudes in Mediterranean climate. Some Scandinavian names also contain similar elements: Icelandic bergminta “mountain mint” and Finnish mäkimeirami “hill marjoram.”

Do you know anything about Simon and Garfunkel? What about Scarborough Fair, traditional English ballad? Rosemary and Thyme are most known for being a part of the refrain:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one, who lives there,
For once she was a true love of mine.

There are many explanations, but I like the following one most: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme refer to the pagan belief that together these four herbs can be a love charm.

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Wor(l)d Travelling


This is a big step into unknown. Leaving Food, my favourite topic, behind and stepping out of the kitchen exploring the world in words. Searching for today’s inspiration I stumbled upon quotes that I really liked and decided to build a story around them, based on my travel experience.

Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.

I wasn’t even two years old when I first time flew. And until age of 35 my luggage was never lost. There were years when I was in the air once a month and it never happened. But after I lost my “lost luggage virginity,” it started to happen at least once per year. Whenever I travel I’m already equipped with extra set of clothes and essential toiletries in my hand luggage, all in bottles of a few millilitres and as light as possible. Not really being a supporter of conspiracy theories, I would like to get to the bottom of it. First time that luggage was delayed was because it was broken. It is almost a basic rule that trashed suitcases will always be “misplaced.” Imagine picking a cracked suitcase off conveyor belt at the airport. You would immediately go flight operator’s counter and report it. If your luggage is delivered to you with two days delay, you are so happy to see the missing piece that you will most likely not pursue the claim. Also the process is so complicated that you will very likely quit before you get anything. Second reason for deliberately lost luggage is that it earns a living to so many people. There is money behind lost luggage and milking it from flight operators is a lucrative business for airport operators and luggage handling companies. To return to the title, buying a sturdy suitcase gives you more chances of getting your luggage delivered together with you to your flight destination.

Kilometres are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometres.

In 2004 we did a mammoth trip around northern Europe in about three weeks. In a small Renault Kangoo we travelled around Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden; altogether around 6.000 kilometres or roughly 3.700 miles. I still have a message in one of my old phones I got from Maya about the magnificent mileage we did together. Unfortunately we were not really saving on gas, since something went seriously wrong with a car and we were using too much gasoline, the whole car smelled like a petrol tank, until the car finally broke down. Why did it have to happen in Norway, one of the most expensive countries in the world? Probably there was a reason. We had a chance to see a beautiful town of Tromsø, which we would have easily skipped.Trip 2004

Trip 2004: 6.000 kilometres, 6 countries, 6 capitals

Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year.

Usually we tend not to see certain things that are surrounding us every day. A person visiting my town could notice that beautiful old stone church, or enjoy a view of the lake from ice age ridge, or relax in pristine nature just a short walk from town centre or pay only handful of Euros for a genuine Finnish sauna experience together with swimming in ice covered lake. Every town has some freebies, but we usually don’t see them, because we want to go to that expensive amusement park, take a lift to the observation tower, ‘coz it’s fancier and you can also share a photo on Facebook with you and the local tourist attraction. What I’m trying to say is that you can make your life as a tourist pretty inexpensive if you just open your eyes and look for the cheaper alternatives.

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You’re nuts!


Doing something against all odds is considered pretty insane or very stubborn to put it mildly. Some people would call you nuts. Have you ever thought where does this phrase come from? There are numerous sources on the internet but very few definite answers. I liked the one where nut is a metaphor for head. And from head comes the insanity. It first appeared in mid-19th century. “Nuts” also has a positive meaning – being fond of someone or something. Since this article is in food section, I will not write about etymology of words and phrases, but rather focus on nuts from nutrition point of view.

First things first

I absolutely adore definitions. This s probably old school approach where things need to be cemented into memory first and only in later stages applications of this knowledge could be developed. Read the following and try to memorize it. You will only understand it if you have PhD in Botany or Plant Biology:

Botanically nut is a type of single-seeded fruit in which the pericarp enclosing the seed is a hard woody shell. In common usage the term is used loosely for any hard, oil-rich kernel. Of those commonly eaten, only hazel-, filbert-, and chestnut are strictly nuts. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, and coconuts are really drupes. Brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamias, and cashews are really seeds with a hard shell derived from the testa rather than the pericarp.

Good to know about nuts

Nuts that will help you stay young longer are definitely almonds, closely followed by pistachios. They contain lots of vitamin E (which is an antioxidant, which in turn kills free radicals that make you look older). They are also good for your heart.

The best nuts that will keep your heart in mint condition are walnuts, because of their high content of omega-3 fatty acids.

If you are absolutely in love with Italian food it might be because of the pine nuts. They are believed to be an aphrodisiac. Pesto contains quite a considerable amount of pine nuts.

Modern day diets make us fat. And with fat comes cholesterol. The best nutty way to beat it is to eat pecans and macadamias.

Cashews are rich in magnesium, which is needed for strong bones.

Hazelnuts are richest in fibres among all nuts.

The really geeky stuff

We all know, or at least should know, that we need to eat carbohydrates, proteins and also fat. Oh why fat? My doctor said to reduce fat intake. True, don’t exaggerate on fat, but fat contains taste – without fat food is pretty tasteless. And above all fat contains fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin E for example that will preserve your youth.  We know that food contains also vitamins and minerals. We know that balance is essential. What most of you don’t know that there minerals need to be balanced as well. Check the illustration below.

Mineral chart

 

Minerals are interconnected. If your doctor says you have osteoporosis (disease where bones become brittle and chance of fracture is higher), than you would naturally think you need to eat more calcium to strengthen your bones. This is very true. But calcium will not be absorbed to such extent you would like if you don’t get also minerals that are connected to calcium – pretty much all of them, some directly and some indirectly. There is a science behind these, and I will not go too much into details, but it’s good to know.

Healthy meal

I hope you are still reading and you didn’t get scared. 🙂 Every nutritionist will tell you the same thing (wrapped in different packaging): eat moderately, preferably many meals per day. Stop eating at six or seven in the evening (assuming you are going to bed at 10).

Muesli bar, hazelnuts, pistachios

Include many fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals, because of vitamins, minerals and fibres. And also include some nuts here and there. If you are a vegetarian or practicing some other diet that is omitting certain types of food, then extra knowledge about food balance is essential for your health and wellbeing. You need to know what nutrients are not parts of your regular diet and where to find them. It could be either dietary supplements or nuts. Nuts contain almost all you need to survive. Go ahead be nuts and enjoy (being) nuts!

 

 

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Bring spices to your life


Sometimes life gets boring and you need to spice it up! Since I am not a psychologist or shrink, I cannot offer you a solid advice on solving your potential issues. I am also not a fan of Spice girls and cannot recommend where to go for a dance with that last bit of positivity that you possess. But I do know that I love spices and how wonderful world this is.

Dull definition

Spices and herbs are in most cases dry or fresh leaves, flowers, berries or plant roots. They have an important part in nutrition as they are changing and complementing taste and this way also stimulate appetite and digestion.

Boring facts

Best tasting spices and herbs are fresh ones. There is nothing that can beat fresh aroma of vanilla pod, fresh basil together with mozzarella and tomatoes is an all time winner. But we cannot always have a luxury of fresh spices at home. Shelf life of dried ones is relatively short. Through time they lose colour, taste and aroma. The best way to figure out if they still have their potency is to crush them between your fingers and if you still sense something then keep them, otherwise throw them away and make space for new ones.

Fresh herbs and spices

Breaking traditions

When I was young every Monday we always had beef soup (the one that you properly cook for 3 hours or more), sautéed potatoes and onions with beef, and salad for lunch. When coming from school the lunch was waiting for me; I only had to heat it up. At first I was happy with the taste of potatoes, but through time it became boring, so I started adding herbs while reheating the meal. Grandmother did not like it, saying “we have always had it this way and everybody likes it.” Sounds familiar? I began with basil. Sometimes I added too much and taste was overpowering, sometimes too little and I didn’t even notice it. Then I tried marjoram. This was a winner. Since then I always add at least a pinch of marjoram to every potato dish, except French fries. Oven baked potatoes and potato wedges are simply not right without rosemary and garlic.

Experimenting

Most of the inventions we live with nowadays are results of experiments. The best, and at the same time also the worst ones, are usually results of the experiments gone wrong. There are many cooking shows you can follow on TV or YouTube where chefs are adapting basic recipe and adding a twist, some call it fusion because of adding an ingredient or applying a cooking style from different continent. They all have one thing in common. They are experimenting with taste, smell, aroma, appearance or overall perception of the dish.

A Fool and a Genius

There is a proverb saying “Smart people write it down, fools are remembering it.” When you are happy with your experiment, try to write it down for future. Although it might seem obvious to you at that moment what you did, I could bet you will not be so sure in a year or two.

Sautéed potatoes

  1. Cook whole potatoes on low heat, simmering them up to 30 minutes
  2. Rinse cooked potatoes in cold water, peel and slice
  3. Heat a spoon or two of oil in a pan and
  4. Add coarsely chopped onions. Cook slowly, for about quarter of an hour, until they brown and become very soft
  5. Add potatoes and stir for another 20 minutes.

The basic recipe almost calls for some modification. You can add herbs, cream, and even some chunks of meat. Personally I would add marjoram and some coarsely chopped bacon.

Dober tek!

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Food and friends


I have this great idea for this great meal. I was about seven years old and attending this great gala dinner in a big hotel. My memory is a bit pale when it comes to all the food served, but I remember these flambéed crêpes. You know how children love playing with fire and seeing this blaze of blue fire and no smoke was just exhilarating. This will be something that I will definitely do when I grow up. Well, even 33 years later I still didn’t grow up. Apparently I’m still childish and I intend to keep it this way, so playing with fire will have to wait. 🙂

Good food is best shared

Of course you can brag about great food you made, but the best promotion is word of mouth. Literally in this case! Invite some friends over and let them taste your inventions. Possibly also share your recipe.

Food presentation

I have seen so many blogs about preparing great food, including some great recipes and even better photos, but most of them (including my previous ones) are lacking the final touch. How will you present the food? What will you serve it with? We usually forget these little things when we are inspired and letting it out. It is always good to sit back a little bit and think about the big picture. First that would come to one’s mind are side dishes, garnishes. Then there are plates to think about. Is pasta best served on a big plate or in a deep one? Parmesan cheese goes with pasta of course. Did you know that you will spoil waiter’s day if you will ask for parmesan with seafood pasta?

Food and wine

What about accompanying drinks? There are simple rules which wines go with certain dishes. White wine (dry, semi-dry) should complement white meat (fish, poultry); red wine goes with all other types of food. This is only a basic rule, which almost calls for breaking. If you are not brave enough to do this in a restaurant, try it at home. Go to the shop, buy some wines and try different combinations with your dish. Keep the cork to close the not finished bottle(s). You can always have some wine next day. Or you could use the remaining wine for some delicious recipe next day. You can make wine sauce from red wine, or add white wine to zucchini sauce, or just coarsely chop veggies (if they are finely sliced, they will not be crunchy after cooking), add big chunks of chicken meat, combine it with wine in a pan, and let it simmer for about half an hour and you will get an amazing dish. Try it! Yummy!

Creating a meal

Now we have a nicely arranged plate, we know which wine will go with the dish. Do we have all we need? Entertaining in style requires more. You need to arrange dishes in some sort of order. You can start with appetizer, have some soup, serve main course, and round it with mouth-watering dessert. Serve wine(s) with the dishes. Don’t forget water and soft drinks. Also different glasses for different drinks are a good idea.

Atmosphere

Depending on the time of the day, or occasion you can arrange the dining area appropriately. Candles are suitable, but they need to provide enough light for eating, unless your dish didn’t really work well and you want to hide the burnt glitches. Indirect light is a good idea as well. Table arrangement is a whole science, but let’s not complicate too much. Just try to have enough cutleries on the table and some napkins, maybe some flowers here and there. It should be enough. Don’t forget about some background music. You are good to go.

Final touch

There are always added extras that can impress your guests and disturbing ones as well that will steal your guests’ attention. I remember a guy who kept starring to my digital photo frame. I admit the slideshow is really attractive. 🙂 It’s good to shut down DPF for a while or set the frequency to 1 photo per 10 minutes at least during the meal. You can also have some salt and pepper mills on the table. For a special touch you can have a baseball bat shaped one or extremely long mills as seen on the photo – for an idea how long they are there are the following coins in-between them: 1Euro and 4 crowns, namely Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Estonian ones. This is the hint for my next big blogging chapter – Travelling and Photography. Stay tuned.

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Homemade pasta – A tribute to Italian grandmas – Part 3


Thanks to our friends Petra and Aylwin we have a brand new pasta machine. I still think of it as a toy and not a serious tool. It takes all the manual work away and lets me experiment. I have done metre long spaghetti, enormous lasagne sheets fitting perfectly to lasagne pan, and my all-time favourite tagliatelle, all in three different colours, plain white, spinach green and tomato red.

Why do Italian grandmas have arms like Sylvester Stallone?

If you ever tried to make pasta at home and I am not talking about cooking it, but rather making it from scratch, meaning mixing flour and liquid (eggs or water), than you would know that it takes an enormous power. Making dough is fairly easy. Basic recipe requires only two ingredients: flour and water; possibly eggs instead of water in case flour does not have enough proteins to make the dough stick together. Mixing it is also not a big deal. It gets a bit harder towards the end, but you can do it. But rolling the pasta dough manually is a daunting task that requires regular visits to fitness studio and lifting an equivalent of a whale per day for at least a few months before you try it for the first time.

Italian grandmas did not know about machines when making pasta and they don’t need to visit any fitness. It’s their lifestyle. They’ve been doing pasta for generations and their big arms are probably in their genetic pool already. Now, Sylvester is of Italian origin and I bet his mama was making pasta. That’s where his muscles come from.

Pasta made easy

I like being practical. Some people would call it lazy, but I enjoy using kitchen tools especially if they take manual work away from me, leaving me to rethink my next steps and enjoy all these different creations. The first step towards making a positive fresh homemade pasta experience is buying a simple pasta maker. If you are not sure if you would like to do it many times, you can also borrow it from a friend. A simple pasta maker on the photo below can roll the dough to desired thickness (seven steps) and also cut two different shapes of pasta, tagliatelle and noodles.

This simple invention can also assist you partly with making the dough. Instead of kneading it all over and over again, you can just let it through the rollers at the maximum thickness, and thus making the texture more even. Next step after the dough is ready is to roll it to desired thickness. The machine above allows seven different levels of thickness. I would recommend levels 2 and 3 for tagliatelle or lasagne sheets, and level 1 for noodles. After you cut/slice the pasta dough you are ready to go.

I cooked enough pasta for the whole army!

The first mistake you are going to make with fresh pasta is the amount you will cook per person. We are all used to dry pasta. If you are not a sumo wrestler or Italian, you will need about 80-100 grams of pasta per portion. The difference is the perceived volume. Dry pasta will absorb the water and expand while cooking; fresh pasta will as well, but not to such extent. Some people weigh the pasta before cooking – which is smart by the way, but most of us know the amount we need to fill us up. If you are cooking fresh pasta for the first time, I strongly recommend weighing the portion(s). It will save you the embarrassment.



No man is lonely eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.
~Christopher Morley

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Homemade pasta – Name associations – Part 2


Yesterday I was introducing the term boutique manufacture, related to making fresh dishes like pasta or ice cream at home instead of buying already made ones in local store or supermarket. Where lays the difference between manufacturing and simple cooking? For every coin there are always two sides, two approaches, two or more different interpretations. Let’s say that cooking is meant for personal use and manufacturing is more large scale production that can also cover one’s personal needs and at the same time also produce enough products to sell on. One might argue that restaurants chefs are also cooking and therefore not manufacturing food, which is only partly true, because no chef in the world will tell you that (s)he mass-produces the dishes, since each one of them is unique, a masterpiece, one of a kind. This argument war can go on forever and I will let you chew it and spit it out when you are ready. Boutique manufacture is still making more than one needs but the excess is not vast and can be highly personalized and has a large value added.

Boutique pasta

When large food corporations are bringing products to the market they analyse the target population, do countless surveys, and make tons of test products in the lab. Somebody is getting fat on all those food tastings in testing labs and small scale production lines. J The end product is carefully selected composition, preferred colour, most wanted texture, well-balanced taste, “fresh bouquet,” and above all one single uniform shape of the end product.

On the other hand boutique production is to some extent manual, which results in “wanted mistakes” that can include small irregularities in colour, shape, hopefully not taste and texture though.  But these products are all unique. Additionally small production also implies high customizations of the products. Also surveys can be ditched, since you are talking to your local customers on daily basis and see where the trends are moving. You can also your customers to taste your test products and see what is preferred most. And above all, when producing on small scale, you can produce countless variations of the product. You can have 5 shades of fresh green pasta, not only the most preferred one.

Naming conventions

I did some search for the most comprehensive list of pasta and found a reasonably good one in Wikipedia: Acini di pepe, Agnolotti, Alfabeto, Anelli, Anellini, Barbina, Bavette, Bavettine, Bucatini, Calamarata, Calamaretti, Campanelle, Cannelloni, Capelli d’angelo, Capellini, Capunti, Casarecce, Casoncelli or casonsèi, Casunziei, Cavatappi, Cavatelli, Cencioni, Chifferi, Ciriole, Conchiglie, Conchigliette, Conchiglioni, Corallini, Creste di galli, Croxetti, Ditali, Ditalini, Elicoidali, Fagioloni, Fagottini, Farfalle, Farfalline, Farfalloni, Fedelini, Fettuccine, Fettuce, Fettucelle, Fideos, Fideuà, Filini, Fiorentine, Fiori, Foglie d’ulivo, Fregula, Funghini, Fusilli, Fusilli Bucati, Fusilli lunghi, Garganelli, Gemelli, Gigli, Gnocchi,  Gomito, Gramigna, Lagane, Lanterne, Lasagne, Lasagnette, Lasagnotte, Linguettine, Linguine, Lumache, Lumaconi, Maccheroncelli, Mafalde, Mafaldine, Maltagliati, Maltagliati, Mandala, Manicotti, Marille, Marziani, Mezzani pasta, Mezze penne, Mezzelune, Mezzi bombardoni, Mostaccioli, Occhi di lupo, Occhi di pernice, Orecchiette, Orzo (also, risoni), Paccheri, Pagliaioni, Pappardelle, Passatelli, Pasta al ceppo, Pastina, Pearl Pasta, Pelmeni, Penne, Penne lisce, Penne rigate, Penne zita, Pennette, Pennoni, Perciatelli, Pici, Pierogi, Pillus, Pipe, Pizzoccheri, Quadrefiore, Quadrettini, Radiatori, Ravioli, Ricciolini, Ricciutelle, Rigatoncini, Rigatoni, Risi, Rotelle, Rotini, Sacchettini, Sacchettoni, Sagnarelli, Scialatelli or scilatielli, Seme di melone, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla chitarra, Spaghettini, Spaghettoni, Spirali, Spiralini, Stelle, Stelline, Stortini, Stringozzi, Strozzapreti, Tagliatelle, Taglierini, Tarhana, Torchio, Tortellini, Tortelloni, Tortiglioni, Trenette, Trenne, Trennette, Tripoline, Tuffoli, Vermicelli, Vermicelloni, Ziti, and Zitoni.

Attractive naming

When making pasta you can follow the list above or you can give them your own names. When making spaghetti, the dough was a bit too wet and spaghetti were stuck together like morning hair. I had to apply quite some flour to separate them. I named them Frizzy morning spaghetti. This name will not sell, because it is associated with something unpleasant and also who eats spaghetti in the morning? Since the pasta on the photo is green and green is ecological and also associated to spring, you have plenty of ideas. Or you can put a silhouette of Shane on your label and just name the product Spaghetti Western.

When making macaroni you have to be quick, consistent and quick again. Otherwise you might end up with all different lengths of macaroni.  This is exactly what happened to me. Making macaroni reminded me of babysitting. Children require constant attention. Suggestion of the day: Naughty macaroni.

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Homemade pasta – Boutique manufacture – Part 1


A boutique is a rather small shop that is specialized in high-end and fashion items such as clothing and jewellery. It comes from French and it means simply “shop.” Nowadays the term is a bit abused. Look around or surf the web and you will quickly find boutique hotels, boutique pastry shops, and even boutique pubs, offering or serving items that you cannot easily find nearby. They are one-of-a-kind establishments selling you something that will “touch” all your five (or six?) senses and leave a lasting impression.

By definition Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labour to produce goods for use or sale. In early days it was usually “one-man-band,” an artisan making the products for local market. Later artisans formed guilds, trade-groups that were specialized in their craft, allowing artisans to improve their products, keep the secrets for themselves, and above all increase their sales. Did you know that from “students’ guild” the University of Oxford emerged?

Let’s coin a term “boutique manufacture.” I did some search in Google and found only 1.340 hits. It appears not to be a very widely used term. Could it be that term “boutique” is associated only with sales or service sector, meaning it suits high-end, haute-couture, one-time-use gala dress shops or niche, seven-star, all-you-can-dream-of exquisite hotels? What about handicrafts? Nobody wants to work anymore? Or maybe the tradition of creating something with your hands that was passed from generation to generation does not need such a high-flying name? Perhaps modern artisans have tried this term before and found out that old name evokes feeling of tradition and too modern sounding one is almost for sure a fake? Who knows…?

Does fashion belong to kitchen?

Did you ever wonder why bakers are always dressed in white clothes? It’s obvious isn’t it? Flour does not stand out from light coloured clothes. Usually all the food stains are least visible on dark clothes. This makes me think a little bit. Should I now have at least two aprons, depending on what I’m doing in the kitchen, a white/light coloured one for baking and a black/dark coloured one for all other tasks? This is only apron. What about other clothes? I like dressing up in matching colours. It brings a sort of harmony to my soul. Should I dress up for cooking as well? Eventually every cook has to come out of kitchen and you don’t want to be a laughing-stock for your guests, do you?

Project green

Since I come from more technical field, and cooking is only my favourite pastime activity, I almost feel an urge to start the paragraph in more work-related terms. All preconditions have been well described. User is familiar with terms boutique and manufacture. Cognitive dissonance has been achieved by coining a term using two latter ones and further enhanced introducing fashion to kitchen idea.

Subproject pasta

As mentioned in my previous blogs, pasta is by far my favourite food. Making pasta at home can be considered a big waste of time. Any dry pasta cooks in less than 10 minutes, most of them are ready in 5 to 6 minutes. So why should one make it at home and spend hours making the dough, forming the pasta, drying it, finding suitable storage containers or packaging it. There are so many arguments in favour. For me number one is taste. There is no pasta on the market that comes close to the taste of homemade one. Second one is freshness. Yes, you can buy fresh pasta in the local market, but it’s not fresh. It can be few days old. Did you ever try fresh homemade ice-cream? If you did, you will never buy a supermarket one again. Freedom of expression is the third argument. You can make all the shapes you want. Be creative and let it all out. You could find a pasta sculptor inside you. 🙂

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What Noodles are to Asia, Pasta is to Italy


In Wednesday’s blog I started writing about Pasta and ended-up with Noodles. Today I will go back to Pasta and let’s see where my inspirations will bring me this time. During writing my Sunday’s blog I got an inspiration to prepare colourful meals this week.

What do Italy and Mexico have in common?

Italian and Mexican flag both look pretty much the same, with one exception; namely Mexican one has a coat of arms on the white (central) part. They are Green, White and Red. Three colours, or in Italian Tricolore. Let’s stay in Italy. I have seen many Italian restaurants offering starters of three selected dishes on one plate. A combination is called Tris. It comes from Three of course.

Let’s learn some Italian

I tried to search for “tris” in Google in English. There were no food related hits on the first page. Mhm? I do not really speak Italian, but I do know some words. Everybody knows Pizza, or FIAT, or Spaghetti. Next try was “tris ristorante.” Ristorante stands for Restaurant in Italian. I got 9 hits about restaurants called Tris and only 1 hit about tris that I was searching for. Next step was a bold one, for a non-Italian: “tris mangiare.” Mangiare is a verb and it means “to eat.” Now I got plenty of different combinations, tris made of pasta, salads, citrus fruits…

Back to Pasta

When mentioning Pasta most of us would think about Spaghetti, maybe ready to fill Cannelloni, or Lasagne sheets, or already filled Tortellini. Not so many would think of Gnocchi. Gnocchi belongs to the big family of Pasta and is made of flour, eggs and secret ingredient – potato.

Gnocchi are soft dumplings (=cooked balls of dough). They are best served with simply with butter, green pesto or red pesto. Now you probably already see where I’m hinting.

Today’s recipe – Gnocchi pesto tris

Ingredients:

Gnocchi
Green pesto
Red pesto
Butter
Pinch of salt


Preparation:

1.       Cook gnocchi until they float on the water. Usually a minute or two. Drain.
2.       In a pan melt butter and add 1/3 of gnocchi, mix well.
3.       Mix another third of gnocchi with green pesto.
4.       Mix last third of gnocchi with red pesto.
5.       Combine on a plate in a nice Italian/Mexican flag colour style.

Buon appetito!

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