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science & cooking - quite similar in some ways

Or at least, they are, the way I do things :) 

(Had a busy weekend that included spending much of yesterday out here at work running a Scholarship preparation day for local bio students - hence the lack of posts & my desire to do something light & fluffy today!)

Anyway - many of our dinner guests will vouch for the fact that I'm an experimental cook. In other words, I make stuff up & try it out on them :) But I don't do it in an uninformed way - otherwise we'd probably have very few people keen for a second visit. In the same way that science builds on the observations, data & theories developed by their predecessors, cooks start with books of recipes and a body of knowledge about what works & think, I wonder what would happen if...

In other words, when I was playing around with our new pasta machine (pasta... mmm nom nom nom!) & wondering what to put in the ravioli I was intending to make for dinner (nothing like aiming high from the start), I didn't start from scratch. I had a fair idea of what ingredients work well together & what might be a total disaster. So the leftover roast chicken could be matched with herbs, plus some ricotta - because I wanted something moist to bind the other ingredients - & parmesan (to give a bit of 'bite').

And you learn from your mistakes. The only other time I've ever tried my hand at pasta, I didn't have a clue (no benefit of prior experience that time!) & the recipe I followed wasn't actually all that helpful. It didn't mention kneading the dough, for example, nor did it emphasise the need to roll & fold & roll again, multiple times. (It was a bit like a bad science book that assumes the reader knows all that background stuff & leaps right into the details.) If I'd thought about it, my bread-making experience - of which I have lots - would have told me that kneading the dough was going to be essential to 'work' the gluten in the flour; ditto the rolling. But alas! I didn't bring that bit of information across to a new context & as a result that lot of pasta was tough as old boots! As I remember it was takeaways at our place that night.

funny pictures-even kitteh doesn't like  your cooking

This time, having learned by experience, I kneaded my nice eggy dough until it was sensuously smooth & then I used our lovely new toy to roll it & roll it & roll it into silken sheets of pasta. Although - I also know that rather than yield to my Significant Other's impatience for his dinner I should have used the setting for the very thinnest dough. Because, after all, pasta does expand on cooking & one's ravioli casing ends up thicker than it otherwise might...

So there's always room for improvement and refinement - and now & then, for trying something new. (Like those pork-mince cannelloni we had a couple of weeks ago, only instead of pasta tubes I used grilled slices of eggplant - therein lies another recipe!)

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I tend to experiment a bit, too. Mainly as I like to try new things... These days I have learnt to mainly stick to small variations... One worked out pretty well the other day. I like to make big lasagnes (extra size so that I can freeze them for later eating, to justify the effort). I have my own recipes, lasagne takes pretty much anything that bakes and works as a combination. A recent variation I tried to liven up the meat sauce was to add some lightly cooked spicy venison brat-worst (a bit like chorizo). Yum :-)

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