March 2012

Seafood Pasta making proves a hit at Fifteen Farmers Market

Pasta making with Head Chef, Andy Appleton, and Professional Chef, Ben Arthur, of Fifteen Cornwall, mussel cooking with Jack Stein from the Development Kitchen, and two kilos of delicious Mussels from Matthew Stevens, you could say I was well prepared for the task I’d set myself.

It was a beautiful sunny day at Watergate Bay for the spring Fifteen Cornwall Farmers Market which celebrates the very best of the season’s produce. From spring vegetables to Cornish fish, local meat, and artisan foods, there were plenty of tasty treats to sample before the start of a pasta-making workshop run by Andy Appleton and his highly talented team of Fifteen Cornwall chefs.

While folks waited in line with some trepidation for the workshop to begin, I pondered whether I’d be capable of producing something edible. I’d never attempted to make pasta before, yet I’d set myself the task of creating a tasty seafood pasta dish from scratch that would fill the bottomless bellies of my husband and brother-in-law.

Whilst in line, we were treated to a demonstration by Jack Stein who gave cooking tips for mussels and how to identify those that are non-edible. “The trick is to tap the shells”, he says, “if they don’t shut tight fairly quickly they’re past their best.” The pan-full of mussels he’d prepared for his dish were a good size and far from inanimate, and they gleamed like onyx, as he tossed them through some terrific-smelling cooking juices.

Two of the best Mussel producers in the South West sell these exquisite bivalves. Award winning River Exe Mussels are sourced from Exmouth in waters that are so clean that some areas have been classified at times as “A” Grade, meaning that the shellfish could be eaten without treatment. However, they always use depuration to make extra sure they’re safe to eat. They’re packed using a specially created “protective atmosphere” packaging system using flushed oxygen which extends their shelf life up to eight days.

Fowey Sea Farms set up Cornwall’s first all season rope-grown mussel farm off Black Head, in St Austell Bay. Now we’re able to enjoy mussels all year round with harvests ready after approximately only 15 months. Usually, the process takes between 18 months and two years but the clean flow, water quality, and level of water nutrients in St Austell Bay reduces their grow time.

Ropes are suspended from long-lines anchored to the sea bed. Mussel larvae (or seeds) attach themselves directly to these lines and they mature, producing healthy sized, sweet meats – because they’re not exposed to low tides – they’re able to constantly feed.

We make our way into the past-making marquee and don aprons, surveying the scant ingredients required to make fresh pasta dough. Andy Appleton then instructs us how to mix the dough using concentrated eggs, flour and salt. Mine doesn’t look quite right, but luckily, Ben Arthur – one of Jamie Oliver’s original London apprentices from ten years ago – shows me where I’m going wrong.

We’re then instructed how to roll it out using a pasta-making machine. It’s important to stretch the dough out to a decent length and then fold it over before pushing the machine down a notch and repeating the process, this makes the pasta nice and thin. When we all have nice long sheets of pasta we’re taught how to make Pappardelle, Taglierini, Farfalle, and cheese filled Tortellini.

I make a fair amount of Taglierini which is part of the Granoro Nidi (bird’s nests) range of classic pastas. Its fine strips absorb sauces and flavours beautifully, particularly with juice, liquid or fish based sauces – ideal for cooking Mussels. However, Taglierini also works very well with fresh Scottish Salmon and cream, Hand-Picked White Crab Meat or Oysters.

To make the Taglierini we press small sprigs of Dill into the dough and roll it out some more, before squeezing it through an attachment that looks much like a cheese grater, to create the thin noodle-like strands. At this point, with the end product in sight, I realise pasta-making is more fun than I imagined and if you’ve ever thought of investing in a pasta machine I’d highly recommend it.

At home I make Taglierini of St Austell Bay Mussels, cherry tomatoes, shallots and parsley, which is my own take on a recipe appearing in the pasta workshop booklet you take away with you. It’s easy to cook and quick to prepare as fresh pasta takes little over a minute to cook. It doesn’t take long for us all to clear our plates either so you could say my mission was successful!

If you haven’t got a pasta machine you can buy Taglierini or Tagliolini from any good online stockists or use Vermicelli as a substitute. If you’d like to try this dish, Matthew Stevens sell River Exe Mussels by the 3kg tray through their online shop.

Words and pictures by Jakki Magowan