When the opportunity to go to the Agrarian Kitchen for the handmade pasta masterclass, I quickly asked for, and gratefully granted, a day off work. I was so excited to be invited back in the kitchen.
I think pasta is a bit underrated. Think aisle of bottled sauce; blandly cooked pasta; cafeteria-bain-marie pasta swim-a-thon. Bleh. But when it's done right, it's so simple and so amazing. Needless to say, I love pasta in all its forms.
The menu had 5 pasta dishes, a great showcase of the variety of different ways you can make pasta: gnocchi, tortellini, lasagne, tagliolini and pici noodles.
We started off by making a simple fresh pasta dough: eggs, flour and a tiny dash of water. I love cooking at the Agrarian Kitchen -- we used eggs so fresh that they were still warm. I've been suffering from chicken envy for a while now, it's about time to get a few chooks for my garden. They are the ultimate food bin, converting scrapings into delicious eggs and food for the garden. Soon... soon I hope.
While the dough rested, we had a look around the garden and harvested some fresh and tasty vegetables for lunch. The garden was full of life. There seems to be a different herb in every available space, and plants, plants everywhere. The polytunnel was full of trestles of tomatoes, with eggplants, chili and cucumbers that smells incredible. We nibbled on fresh, super sweet and juicy corn off the cob as we walked through the garden.
There are tomatoes, and then, there are these tomatoes (it's an Italian variety, but I can't recall the name now), grown specifically for making sauce. They are unlike anything that I have eaten before. Sweet without any of the tartness in like a cherry tomato with a dense texture. Slicing them with a knife gives a satisfying feel and they make a brilliantly red passata.
Do you know what a carrot smells like? I didn't until we dug some out from the garden. There was this unmistakeable waft of carrot. As daft as it sounds, it tastes exactly like how it smells. It was another one of those moments when I realise how disconnected I am from food.
We got back into the kitchen and got started with cooking. First was learning to roll out the dough with the pasta machine for the saffron tagliolini. Instead of using the usual herbs like coriander, we opt to use some shiso (the purple bush in the above photo). It was a bright and fresh pasta that was the perfect introduction to our long lunch.
It was followed by gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes, and tortellini with agrodolce burnt butter. The gnocchi was really soft and comforting. I think I might make some of that during the colder months. The tortellini was great too -- I mean, you can't go wrong with butter, freshly made ricotta and butter.
A small break and then it was to the heavier dishes: the best lasagne and pici noodles with a lamb ragu. The pici noodles was great fun to eat. The texture, as one of the guests had commented, was similar to udon. Unlike other pasta, it wasn't lost in the thick lamb ragu -- it was as much a part of the dish as the sauce. Maybe that's why I liked them so much.
I had a rather full belly by the end of lunch. But before we went home, we said hello to the farm animals. The goat is so cute!
Thank you again to Severine and Rodney for inviting me back to the Agrarian Kitchen. I always, always learn something new.