Cooking Class: Making Fresh Pasta From Scratch

fresh raviolis picture

Fresh raviolis ready for cooking!

Last week, I attended a cooking workshop to learn how to make fresh pasta from scratch.

The class was held in La medina Hotel in Maameltein. My sister and I arrived at 10 in the morning and met Chef Hanaa Issa who was supposed to tutor us during this 3-hour session. After a small introduction about Italian cuisine in general, we started the experience.

On the menu: how to make fresh raviolis stuffed with spinach and cheese, how to make fettuccine Alfredo and how to make chocolate mousse.

Chefs for a day :)

Chefs for a day 🙂

We started with the dessert, since it needed some time to cool in the fridge. We wanted it ready for lunch, of course!

The Chef used regular milk chocolate bars to show us that this dessert is convenient for unplanned occasions, when you don’t have the time to run to the grocery store.

Then was the part we’ve all been waiting for. Let the pasta making begin!

The chef prepared an easy spinach and cheese stuffing, using Double Cream cheese. Yeah, no ricotta or other fancy cheese!

She also added a boiled potato that she grated, and insisted on avoiding the food processor for such a preparation, since it ruined the different textures of the filling. And to spice the mixture up, she added a pinch of nutmeg!

Once the filling was ready, the fun part of our day was about to start!

Fresh pasta dough picture

Done with the kneading!

Every attendee had a small bowl with eggs, fine semolina and flour. We kneaded the ingredients together until we got a ball of dough, then we flattened it using the pasta machine, numerous times on different levels, until it was really thin.

Ready to shape!

Ready to shape!

We piped the filling on the dough and, using cookie cutters, we shaped our raviolis into squares, flowers and circles.

For the remaining dough, direction pasta machine again, to form long strips of fettuccine.

Fresh fettuccine pasta picture

When are we gonna eat?!!

Once cooked, the chef showed us how to prepare Chicken Alfredo sauce for the fettuccine. Alfredo sauce is a cream and parmesan cheese basic sauce that is usually served alongside different kinds of pastas, on or pizzas as well.

It was finally lunch time! We all gathered around one table and tried the Fettuccine Alfredo first. The pasta was really delicious. Can’t wait to get my pasta machine and try the recipe again!

As for the sauce, and since my sister and I are big fan of spices, we thought it was a bit mild so we added a lot of salt, pepper and cheese.

The raviolis were served in a pink sauce. The filling was amazing, and it was very pleasing to feel its different textures inside our mouths.

The overall experience was great, and we were told that many new cooking classes will be held soon. I am quite excited about them. Actually, I am a fan of workshops that teach you new techniques and not only how to prepare some dishes.

Grazie mille e a presto!

 

Everyone is super focused!

Everyone is super focused!

The pluses:

  • The introduction was brief and interesting: bravo!
  • Everything that we did during the class can be easily replicated in a normal kitchen.
  • The chef only used small appliances that are usually at hand in a housewife kitchen.
  • Even the pasta machine that we used was a small one, and it can fit in anyone’s kitchen.
  • 30 $ is a very acceptable amount you can pay for a cooking class, making it among the most affordable ones offered in the country lately.

 

The Minuses:

  • The 17 slides should be printed on 3 A4 pages instead of 17 useless pages.
  • I think that people who are willing to make pasta from scratch are not beginners. Alfredo sauce is for beginners.
  • Whatever problem there might be, it can be postponed and dealt with later on. Attendees should not have to listen to fights happening in the kitchen (this happened more than once).

Chicken Nashif Recipe

Chicken Nashif picture

A delicious Bahraini stew!

When I first started working in a food website which target audience was in the Gulf, I started discovering the Gulf cuisine. Until then, Kabsa was the only dish I had heard of.

In fact, despite how close is Lebanon to the Gulf countries, and despite the huge numbers of expats residing there, you rarely see a Lebanese asking for or trying to cook a Khaliji dish.

Restaurants serving such dishes are also very rare, and they were initially targeting the Gulf tourists that were numerous in Lebanon at a certain time. Few have managed to stay open until now.

The first Khaliji dish I ever cooked was “Threed lahem”: a stew consisting of cubed meat and large chunks of vegetables, all cooked in tomato sauce. Once done, the sauce is poured over bread loaves, before adding the meat and veggies. I fell in love with this dish, and I’ve prepared it many times since then. I promise I’ll share the recipe one day.

Today, I decided to try a new recipe from a cookbook that’s been lying on my shelves for some time now: “Asayel khalijiyya” for Hala Obeid – أصايل خليجية.

A simple recipe drew my attention: chicken nashif. I was avoiding rice dishes as I am now trying to get back to diet. It’s a stew prepared with chicken and potato pieces that are cooked in tomato sauce. What makes it special is the cilantro that is added to the sauce.

One of the things that you should know about the Gulf cuisine is that dishes are somehow similar between the different countries. They usually differ in their names or in the mixture of spices used. And since the book did not mention the origin of the dish, I did a small online research. It looked like this dish originated in Bahrain. Perfect, I had a Bahraini spice mixture that I received last year as a gift, and I was dying to try it!

I did a very few changes to the initial recipe: I used more potatoes, added canned tomatoes as I believe they get you a richer sauce, and discarded the skin once the chicken was ready. And believe me, this was one of the most delicious chicken dishes I ever tried. Let’s check the recipe together!

 

Chicken Nashif Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium chopped onions
  • 1 tsp Bahraini mixed spices
  • 1 tsp curcuma
  • 1 tsp red hot chili powder
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 400 g canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into medium cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

 

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry in the onions with the mixed spices, the curcuma and the chili powder, until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes (both fresh and canned) and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.
  2. Add the chicken pieces along with the cilantro, the potatoes and the tomato paste. Toss the ingredients well to coat the chicken and potatoes with the sauce. Cover and cook for 40 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add the water and salt. Cook for 15 minutes. Discard the skin (optional) and serve hot.

So what do you think about this recipe? Would you try it? Are you a fan of Gulf food?

Tomato Chicken Stew Recipe

Spanish chicken picture

A delicious stew. Perfect for wintertime.

This recipe is dear to me.

When I was 16 or 17, I was visiting my aunt when I saw a cookbook of Chef Ramzi Choureiry.

I remember I copied around 10 unconventional recipes and decided I wanted to try them. Among these recipes were some Chinese ones – I had tried Chinese for the first time few weeks ago – and this chicken recipe.

The first time I tried it, it was a hit. Even my dad, who’s somehow traditional when it comes to food, loved it. He said it reminded him of the Poulet Basquaise he used to have in France.

I think I made some changes to the original recipe that I lost – removed the hot dogs, replaced the canned mushrooms with fresh ones, more veggies, less chicken… But it still tastes as good.

Here’s how I made it this week!

 

Tomato Chicken Stew Recipe

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 sliced medium green red bell peppers
  • 2 chopped leeks
  • 3 chopped celery stalks
  • 3 carrots cut into circles
  • 12 sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 800 g canned crushed tomatoes
  • 700 g boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes
  • 1 cup canned corn
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

 

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a pot on medium fire and fry in the onions until tender. Add the garlic and fry for 3 minutes then add the bell peppers, leeks, celery and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes then add the mushrooms and tomatoes cook for 5 more minutes.
  2. Add the chicken and cook, stirring from time to time, until all chicken cubes turn white. Add the corn and cook for a further 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir to coat the ingredients well then add the chicken stock and cook until chicken is done. Season the dish with salt and pepper according to your taste.
  3. Serve hot with white rice.

Mixed Beans and Vegetables Soup Recipe

mixed beans and vegetables soup

Colorful and delicious

Did I tell you that I am on diet? It’s been one month already, and I have already lost 4.5 kilos! I don’t think I need to say how happy I am…

In case you’re interested in knowing how I am doing this and what I’ve been eating, I’ll say: soup!

For a month now, I’ve been preparing two soups per week: lentils, beans, chickpeas, all kinds of vegetables, some rice, pasta or vermicelli and no fat at all! These soups, I can have them for dinner or lunch.

But this does not mean that I am not eating anything but soup. Whenever I am at my parents’ or my boyfriend’s parents, I would eat anything that they’d serve me, and try to skip the dessert or opt for fruits.

I have almost stopped eating chocolate and chips, and when eating out, I am usually choosing light options: grilled chicken breast (I actually ask to remove the fries), light sandwiches… I am also preparing some other healthy meals at home (salads, baked veggies…).

I really hope that I will be able to lose 8 more kilos, to get back to the “normal weight zone”.

For today, I’ll be sharing with you this soup I made last week. It was delicious, filling and oh-so-easy to make! All you need to do is to put all your ingredients in one pot and let them cook for almost one hour.

Adding the parmesan rind gave the soup a cheese hint that I loved. It’s optional of course, but I recommend you try it. Did you know that you can freeze parmesan rinds until you need to use them?

Let’s check the recipe together!

 

Mixed Beans and Vegetables Soup Recipe

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can mixed beans, drained
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 carrots cut into cubes
  • 3 marrows cut into cubes
  • 2 chopped leeks
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • 1 potato cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup pasta
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 vegetables stock cubes
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp mixed spices
  • 1 tsp herbes de provence
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Parmesan rind

 

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients except for pasta and beans in a pot and cook on medium heat until water boils. Reduce heat and cook until vegetables are tender, around 35 – 40 minutes.
  2. Add the beans and pasta and cook for further 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

Spinach Lentil Soup Recipe

spinach Lentil soup

Don’t forget the lemon!

If you’re Lebanese, you have surely tried the “Adas bi Hamod”, a soup prepared with lentils, swiss chard and potatoes or pasta.

The recipe that I am sharing today is somehow similar, but I prepared it in a very healthy way, using no oils at all, and I replaced the chards with spinach, since I had some in my freezer and wasn’t ready to go to the market. I also did not use any potato or pasta. You can use them, but think of adding some additional water.

I loved the result! A delicious filling soup that you can eat without any guilt!

It’s prepared with just super foods (lentils and spinach with garlic and onion) and, guess what?! The only preparation that you’ll need to do is to chop the onions and mince the garlic! Don’t forget t add a squeeze of lemon juice in the end!

I am now looking forward to trying some new alike soups! Meanwhile, let’s check the recipe!

Spinach Lentil Soup Recipe

Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients:

  • 25 cups lentils
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tsp mixed spices
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Lemons to serve

Method:

  1. In a large pot, combine the water with the lentils and cumin. Place on medium fire for 20 minutes, then add the spinach, garlic and onion and leave for 20 more minutes, stirring from time to time.
  2. Add the mixed spices then the salt and black pepper according to taste. When the lentils are tender, serve the soup with lemon wedges.