As part of my ‘health binge’ that I’m currently embarking on after the carbtastic Live Below The Line challenge followed by scarcely and sleep and a lot of crap sandwiches to power through a General Election, I decided to experiment and see if I could make gluten free pasta. I’m not a fan of ‘gluten free’ flour, having used it a few times in the past and being decidedly unimpressed with the results – and pasta being one of my absolutely favourite foods, I wasn’t going to run the risk of something that tasted like wet cardboard spoiling one of my favourite experiences. And so, the big bag of gram flour came down from the top of the fridge again, and I decided to have a play.
I’ve made pasta with ‘ordinary’ flour in the past (once!), using a simple ratio of 1 egg to every 100g of flour and a splash of oil for good measure – so I applied a similar theory here to see what happened, upping the egg ratio for no good or fathomable reason other than because it felt like the right thing to do. A lot of my cooking is like that, instinctive and unexplainable – if you’ve read the Roald Dahl book ‘Matilda’ (or indeed, seen the film), there’s a line in it where Miss Honey asks Matilda how she manages to do such difficult sums in her head, and Matilda can’t explain it. That’s kind of how I am with food – often food friends and chefs and writers with a world of experience ask me why I make some of the culinary decisions I do, and I just shrug. I don’t know. Some of it is meticulously planned and executed, but mostly it’s guesswork, trial and error, and an enormous dollop of instinct. So I upped the eggs on my gram flour pasta. Maybe the flour looked denser, or something. I don’t know.
And boy oh boy oh boy was this a treat. I was expecting to make it a few times, to tamper and tinker and fiddle with it, but it worked first time, and delightfully so. I had mine with a mushroom pesto (dried mushrooms reconstituted with herbs, oil, garlic and cheese – yummy!) and wilted spinach folded through. Making pasta is a bit of work, but the first batch is always the hardest. The second batch went like a dream, and took a third of the time – probably because I wasn’t photographing every stage for my Instagram account! And if you ever make your own bread, well, pasta is about the same amount of effort. And this gluten free high protein version packed full of nutty delicious flavour, is totally worth it.
Made approx 275g dried weight, serves 3 at 17p each
150g gram flour, 20p (KTC gram flour £1.30/kg, Sainsburys)
2 free range eggs, 27p (6 mixed weight free range eggs, 95p, Sainsburys)
1 tbsp oil, 2p (Sunflower oil £3/3l)
a pinch of salt, <1p (Sainsburys Basics table salt, 5p/750g)
a little cornflour for dusting, 2p or more gram flour (Cornflour £1.20/500g)
First grab a large mixing bowl and a small mug of lukewarm water. Sift your gram flour into the bowl – regular readers may be raising their eyebrows as I rarely sift anything but I believe it makes a difference here, especially as gram flour has a tendency to lump and clump together after it has been opened.
Make a well in the centre of the sifted flour and crack the eggs into the middle. Add the oil and salt and beat together to form a dough. If it’s too dry, add a tablespoon of that lukewarm water. If it’s too sticky-tacky, add a tablespoon of flour.
Dust your surface with more gram flour, and your hands too, and knead as you would bread dough, pushing your knuckles and palm into the dough to stretch it, folding it back together, then turning it a quarter-turn and repeating. Knead for a few minutes (you may have to add extra flour to your work surface) – just to soften and smooth the dough, there’s no need to do the full ten minutes usually required for bread baking as there is no gluten to activate in this one, but kneading it evenly distributes the ingredients and gives it a smooth consistency that will be apparent later on as you roll it out. When you’re happy with it, pat it all over with the worktop flour and loosely wrap in clingfilm or pop into a bowl and cover with a damp teatowel to rest for an hour.
Once rested, dust your worktop with cornflour (or more gram flour if you have no cornflour) and split your dough into four pieces. Take one piece and roll it out to around 2mm thick. Cut into strips, and then into rectangles. Pinch the middle of each rectangle to form a ‘bow’ shape, and carefully transfer to a floured tray. Repeat until all the dough is used up – if your dough starts to stiffen from being out in the open, simply add a few splashes of water and work them in before rolling it out.
Leave your pasta pieces on the tray(s), covered with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel, to dry overnight. (See above photo)
Once dry, gently shake off any excess flour (I put mine in a sieve and shook gently to loosen it) and store in an airtight jar or container until ready to use.
To cook from dry, pop into a pan of boiling water and cook for around 8-10 minutes on a simmer, and serve with a sauce of your choice. And enjoy!
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