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PIZZA NIGHT

Homemade pizza is a fantastic thing to make in your own kitchen. It’s simple, it never gets boring as you can have a different topping every time you make it. Kids love getting involved (you can guarantee they’ll always want strange ingredients on top). It tastes delicious hot out of the oven or even cold the next day. I love making it for weekend lunches or better still, for a Friday night in whilst watching a film with the kids (with plenty of popcorn and icecream to follow).

So, to turn your kitchen into the best local pizzeria around, do not fear, you don’t any special equipment, like a wood burning stove or need to be a champion dough thrower. All you need is a basic dough and simple tomato sauce recipe and you can go from there. Pizzas can be made any shape, all you need is a baking tray or pizza stone if you have one.

I have suggested a number of toppings to serve in your pizzeria, you can of course try your own (keep hold of the numerous menus that no-doubt come through your letterbox if you ever need any inspiration).

 

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

Don’t let the long method put you off – it really is very simple…

Makes about 4 medium sized pizzas (about 28cm diameter), or 12 small calzone.

FinishedPizza.jpg

500g strong white bread flour

2tsp salt 300ml warm water

1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

1tsp caster sugar

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

FLAVOURS TO ADD TO THE DOUGH

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

A large handful of finely grated parmesan

2tsp dried or 2tbsp chopped fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, marjoram, rosemary)

1-2tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1-2tbsp finely chopped olives

METHOD

Stage 1: sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, or onto a clean work surface, and make a well in the middle. Mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the warm water and leave for 5 minutes, then pour into the flour well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid until it all comes together. With floured hands, knead on a work surface until you have a smooth, springy dough – 5-10 minutes. Additional flavours (see list above) should be added to the dough when you are kneading. Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and sprinkle the top with more flour. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for about 11⁄2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Stage 2: once it has risen, knead the dough on a floured surface, knocking out the air. The dough can now be used straight away or wrapped in clingfilm and stored in the fridge until the next day, or frozen.

Stage 3: divide the dough into servings, keeping it covered with a damp tea towel. Roll one at a time on a floured surface to about 5mm thick and sit on an oiled and flour-dusted baking sheet, then leave for 10-15 minutes, before adding the topping. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/ gas 7. Evenly spread some tomato sauce on the top of the pizza and then add your toppings. Season and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil, then place in the oven to cook for 10 minutes.

PS…

Raw pizza dough can be wrapped well in cling film at the end of stage 2 and frozen for 1 month, alternatively if you have the space, you can shape it into pizza bases (or dough balls), layer up between pieces of greaseproof paper and freeze until needed. Defrost at room temperature before adding your topping and baking.

 

TOPPING SUGGESTIONS (see below for simple tomato pizza sauce)

Simple tomato and mozzarella is always a winner (scatter torn pieces of half a ball of mozzarella over your tomato sauce), but why not customise each pizza? Here are just a few suggestions to add to a basic tomato and mozzarella pizza:

Parma ham, artichoke, black olives and basil leaves (pictured above). Arrange all the ingredients, except the basil, on top of the pizza and cook. Top with basil.

Cooked prawns, anchovies, capers, olives and chilli flakes. Arrange over the top and scatter with parsley when cooked.

Ham, rocket and parmesan. Scatter rocket over the top of your parmesan and ham-topped pizza just before serving.

Four cheeses. Use a combination of mozzarella, parmesan, dolcelate and gruyere to top the pizza before cooking.

Spinach, egg and pinenut. Top with wilted spinach leaves, pinenuts and thinly sliced red onion, then break an egg into the middle just before baking.

 

SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE

TomatoSauceMix2.jpg

Makes enough for 8 pizzas

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

1 small handful of torn or chopped basil leaves

 

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and gently cook the onion and garlic for about 8 minutes until they are softened but not coloured.

 

Add the bay leaf, oregano, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes until you have a rich thick sauce.

 

Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and then remove the bay leaf.

 

PS…

The finished sauce can be used straight away or left to cool and stored, covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It can also be divided into smaller portions and kept in the freezer.

 

Photography: Gareth Morgans

HEARTY MINESTRONE SOUP

HEARTY MINESTRONE SOUP

 

article-1131711-033BAEF3000005DC-819_468x286This is a perfect soup for midweek when you are in need of something comforting, satisfying and full of goodness. The recipe makes plenty, so stick the leftovers in the freezer, divided into individual portions, then defrost on the day you know you’ll need an instant meal.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6-8

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

200g/7oz smoked bacon, cut into thin strips

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

1 courgette, finely diced

Quarter of a savoy cabbage, finely sliced

400g/14oz tin borlotti, cannellini or mixed beans, drained

400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 litre/35floz/4 ¾ cups chicken stock

100g/3½oz small pasta shapes

6 tbsp good quality green pesto

Parmesan shavings to serve

 

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, bacon, garlic, carrot and celery for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not coloured.

 

Add the courgette, cabbage, tinned beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken stock and pasta.  Bring to the simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and then season with salt and pepper.
Serve into bowls and finish by adding a spoonful of pesto in the centre of each one, and shave over some parmesan cheese and serve.

 

PS…

For a vegetarian version of this soup – the smoked bacon can be left out all together and vegetable stock used instead of chicken stock. You could add a pinch of smoked paprika when cooking the soup to give the smokiness the bacon was providing.

photography: Gareth Morgans 

Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Ham and Tomato Twists

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE SOUP WITH HAM AND TOMATO TWISTS

This can all be made in advance and kept in the fridge, or even frozen, providing you with a wholesome quick lunch or a ready-made supper after work.

Serves 6

For the soup:

50g butter

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 bay leaf

1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets (you need about 800g florets)

1 baking potato, peeled and chopped

500ml milk

700–900ml vegetable stock

1 tsp English mustard

200g extra mature Cheddar cheese, grated

For the Ham and Tomato Twists:

150g ready rolled puff pastry

2 tbsp sundried tomato paste

50g wafer thin ham

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp milk (egg wash)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook until it is softened but not coloured. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, cauliflower and potato. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure the vegetables don’t brown and if they are sticking, then add a splash of water to the pan.

Remove the lid and pour in the milk and 700ml of the stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower and potato are tender and beginning to break up.

While the soup is cooking, you can prepare the Ham and Tomato Twists. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan ovens/gas 5.

Spread the tomato paste on top of the pastry then lay the ham, in a single layer on top.

Cut the pastry into approximately 24 x 1cm thick strips. Gently twist each strip and lay onto a couple of non-stick baking sheets, keeping them just slightly apart. Brush with beaten egg wash and scatter over a little sea salt and a twist of black pepper.

Place in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until they are light golden brown.

Remove the soup from the heat and take out the bay leaf. Cool slightly, and then blitz in a food processor or blender until totally smooth. You’ll probably have to do this in two batches. Return the soup to the pan and stir in the mustard and Cheddar until the cheese has melted. Season with salt and pepper. The remaining 200ml of stock can be added if the soup seems particularly thick.

Serve the soup hot with the Ham and Tomato Twists on the side.

PS…

The Ham and Tomato twists can easily be prepared ahead, frozen and cooked when needed.

Extremely Simple Beef and Ale Casserole

I can’t bear this cold weather again. I keep thinking we are heading for some warmer day’s but yet again – today is a chilly one. I have just raided the freezer and seen I have some stewing beef needing to be used, so tonight we will be having my failsafe casserole for dinner. It’s from my In the Mood for Food book, under the Comfort food chapter – and that’s exactly what it is. A hug in the form of a casserole.

EXTREMELY SIMPLE BEEF AND ALE CASSEROLE WITH HORSERADISH DUMPLINGS

The best thing about this casserole is that there is virtually nothing to do. Fry a few onions, add the rest of the casserole ingredients and let it cook while you get on with your jobs, or simply do absolutely nothing! The only bit of effort required is to throw together the fluffy dumplings. Tuck into the casserole either just as it is or with some buttery cabbage or curly kale.

takes 2 hours to cook

in the mood for a drink? a pale ale is ideal

serves four

for the casserole
2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
2 large onions, thickly sliced
750g braising steak, cut into 2–3cm cubes
3 tablespoons plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sticks of celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato purée
500ml ale

for the dumplings

75g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
75g butter, cubed
1 tbsp hot horseradish sauce
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/fan 140ºC/gas 2–3.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and add the onion. Cook until they are starting to colour.

Toss the beef in the flour and season well with salt and pepper. This can either be done in a bowl or, to make the job really easy, toss together in a large freezer bag. Add to the casserole with all of the remaining casserole ingredients. Stir to mix everything together, and then bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 11/2 hours.

When the casserole is close to the end of the cooking time, you can make the dumplings. Place the flour, breadcrumbs and butter in a food processor and blitz to a crumb consistency. Add the horseradish, thyme, egg and seasoning. Briefly blitz until the mixture forms a fairly moist dough. Using floured hands, shape the dough into eight balls.

After 11/2 hours, remove the casserole from the oven and sit the dumplings on top of the meat. Sprinkle their tops with a few flakes of salt and return the casserole to the oven for a further 30 minutes, without the lid this time.

Serve the casserole just as it is or with some lovely buttery cabbage or curly kale.

PS…

You don’t have to make the dumplings to go with the casserole, mash or baked potatoes are a great accompaniment. Alternatively, if you want to transform the casserole into a pie, bake for 11/2 hours, transfer to a pie dish and top with ready-rolled puff or shortcrust pastry. Brush with a little milk or egg yolk and bake at 200ºC/fan 180ºC/gas 6 for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.

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