Friday, 29 April 2011

Homemade Pizza!

Pizza is something I usually reserve for the weekends - it takes a little while to prepare so it's best made with plenty of time to hand - but it can be enjoyable to make too. I put the radio or tv on while I knead the dough, grill the peppers and prepare the mozzarella.. This recipe serves four - but I quite like splitting it between three people as it allows each person a very generous slab. Perfect eaten outside on a summery day, with drinks to hand.


1 400g packet of Ciabatta mix: follow instructions on pack
3 mixed peppers (the red, orange and yellow ones if possible)
1 tin of good chopped tomatoes
1 small red onion
a generous hunk of mozzarella - I use two of the smallish packets or one large bag
a handful of olives (as always I use the kalamata variety)
Olive oil - a swig used to grill the peppers and a couple of swigs to line the pizza tray with
Salt, pepper and dried oregano
Fresh basil to garnish

This is so easy to make that it hardly merits explaining. A pack of ciabatta mix works really well and should have basic, easy-to-follow instructions on the back: in this case, I simply add 350ml of warm water to the mix, knead for about ten minutes before leaving to rise in a warm place, with a tea towel lain over the bowl. Put your peppers, halved, onto a tray, rub some oil over them and grill them until the skins are completely charred and can be easily removed.

Chop all of your ingredients accordingly while the dough is rising; generously coat your chosen tray in olive oil. When it has risen, simply spread it out onto and up the sides of the tray (to form a crust); I use a very large tray so that I can spread the dough as thinly as possible. When it cooks it will practically double in size, so allow for some room. Season your dough with pepper, salt and a shake of dried oregano, before adding your chopped tomatoes (I run the tomatoes through a sieve beforehand to get most of the juices out). Throw on your grilled peppers (sliced however you like), mozzarella, olives and onion and put in the oven (pre-heated at about 200c) for fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Toss on some basil leaves and serve with a big crunchy salad and cold beers!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Sausage and Lentil Sunny Day Supper

A very good sunny-day supper of sausages, lentils and tomato sauce.

This is a variant of a Jamie Oliver recipe. According to him, sausages and lentils are the Italian version of sausage and mash. This dish offers the same substantial comfort as the British alternative, but with a lighter edge. It is also perfect for feeding a crowd as the quantities can very easily be adapted to make enough for everyone.
This is perfect served with lots and lots of parsley on a balmy evening with a glass of red wine.

Ingredients (makes enough for two:)

Lentils - allow 2 spilling handfuls per person.
1 Packet of good quality sausages (ie - 3 sausages per person.)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 diced red onion
1 glug of red wine
1 glug of balsamic vinegar
A generous amount of olive oil (or chili oil if, like me, you love it)
2 crushed cloves of garlic
Salt & Pepper
Generous amount of fresh parsley.

I shall discuss each component in turn - each is very straight forward. Prepare it all at the same time and then just bring it all together at the end.

To cook and prepare the Lentils:
I have used simple green lentils, however I have a feeling any type would work well. Cook the lentils according to the packet instructions.
Dress them with a good swig of oil (I use chili oil because I love the stuff,) a dash of red wine, salt + pepper and a generous handful of parsley.
Keep them warm until ready to serve.

To cook and prepare the sauce:
Sweat the onions in olive oil over a medium heat with the garlic. Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinegar to give it a sweet, syrupy edge. Season to taste with salt and pepper and parsley. Simmer away until ready to serve.

To cook and prepare the sausages:
Cook according to packet instructions, I tend to bake sausages as it is the easiest and leanest method.

Serve each component on a plate sprinkled with lots of parsley.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Incredibly Easy (and Rich!) Chocolate Fondant

This chocolate fondant made many, many hungover University nights a whole lot better; it only has a few ingredients and there is very little physical activity involved in making it. We used to make sure that we had the ingredients on standby in case an intense sugar rush was called for... One thing I should warn y'all about is that it is probably quite (ok, very) calorific. If you are endeavoring to watch your waistline then a small sliver of this shouldn't do too much damage.. as for myself and B, well we pretty much used to split the entire thing between us over a couple of days. Which = more butter consumption than I'm proud of... I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but it actually came out of a copy of Easy Living from way back when.

The last time we made this, we shared it with friends/brothers and watched 'Psycho,' with a dollup of whipped double cream and home-made ruharb compote. If it collapses on the plate, as often happens when we make it, nevermind - it's like a giant chocolate fondant, gooey in the middle. If refrigerated it takes on the qualities of a tart and will be lovely with a spoonful of creme fraiche or some ice cream.. mmmm.

Here's the recipe:

200g Dark chocolate (Green & Blacks recommended here)
200g Icing Sugar
200g Butter
5 Eggs
1 tbsp Self raising Flour

To make, simply melt the chocolate and butter in a large bowl over a pan of boiling water; when done, add the eggs one at a time, before stirring friskily until smooth. Add the flour and icing sugar (I suggest sieving it in), and add the lot to a greased cake (or tart) tin, before putting in in the oven for about 30 mins at 180. Serve and watch it disappear!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Foodie-Movie of the Week: Marie Antoinette

If ever there was a film to make you drool, it would have to be Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst as the cake-eater herself. The film captures the indulgence and excess of 18th Century Versailles - beautiful clothes, shoes, ridiculously over-the-top wigs and, of course, incredible food. One of my favourite parts of the film is when 'Antoinette' has her (18th, is it?) birthday - champagne fountains and general debauchery. If I could feasibly afford it I would totally recreate that party in the future! If you haven't seen it, I advise getting it out on dvd ASAP; it's stunningly shot and aesthetically really inspiring.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Pasta for a Fresh Spring Day:

Another Jamie Oliver recipe - Farfelle Carbonara with peas and mint.

This pasta is perfect for a warm Spring day - it is one that provides all the comfort of a good old pasta dish whilst being light on the stomach and fresh tasting. It's the kind of pasta dish that will give you a spring in your step, rather than weigh you down - plus mint is supposed to be great for complextion and digestion.
This dish is best served in a big bowl in the middle of a table (preferably outside) so it can be meandered through at whichever pace pleases you...

Ingredients: (Enough to serve 4)
500g Farfelle pasta
1 Egg
100ml double cream (single will also do.)
1 packet of pancetta OR sliced bacon of course.)
3 handfuls of peas (frozen or fresh, certainly NOT tinned.)
2/3 handfuls of fresh chopped mint (absolutely necassary)

To Cook:
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta - cook for 12mins.
In the meantime, fry your pancetta/bacon until golden and crispy. Then, mix the cream and egg together - and season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is nearly cooked, add the peas. (Cook for about 2mins if fresh, 4mins if frozen)
Drain the water from the pasta and peas the return to their pot and add the pancetta and most of the mint - stir together.
Whilst the pasta is still very hot, add the cream/egg mixture - quickly stirring.
Garnish with the remainder of the mint.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Mexican Breakfast/ Homemade Guacamole

Mexican Breakfast

Around about this time last year we started making Jamie Oliver's 'Mexican Breakfast' - an absolutely spot on hangover meal. We came to refer to 'Mexican Breakfast' fondly, almost as though it were a person that we were greatly looking forward to seeing again; needless to say it is a cracking recipe and ideal for a brunch/lunch with friends or family. The actual name for the dish is huevos rancheros, and the recipe consists of:

Olive Oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, deseeded and finely sliced
2 fresh red/ orange chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
1 dried large chilli
3 fresh bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 large tomatoes, sliced
6 large eggs
6 tortillas
150g cheddar cheese

(picture taken from an old issue of Style magazine)

This should feed six people. All you need to do is fry the onions, garlic, peppers and chillies with a glug of olive oil, the bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Cook while stirring for 15 minutes to soften the veg, before adding your tinned tomatoes and breaking them up with a spoon or potato masher - bring to the boil and cook for another 5 minutes to reduce the sauce. You can now toss in your fresh sliced tomatoes; make small wells in the sauce using a spoon, before cracking the eggs into the sauce so that they poach in the stew. Now, I find this sort of thing stupidly difficult so I cracked the eggs into a bowl before slipping them in - less mess and no chance of egg shells. When you're done with that, simply add further seasoning (if it needs it) and cover the pan with a lid so that the eggs can cook for 3 to 4 minutes...

Heat up your tortillas in the meantime - microwaving them for 40 seconds is probably best. Your eggs should be cooked now so all that is left to do is a bit of cheese grating - and that's it! We had ours with a splodge of soured cream/ yoghurt.. so delicious.

Homemade Guacamole

Now for my homemade Guacamole! My mum's recipe, this is pretty basic, but I am such a massive fan of guacamole and can't stand the shop bought stuff - it just isn't the same. It is so fresh and healthy - and avocados, as we all know, are fantastic for your skin and hair. To make (serving four people):

1 or two spring onions
5 ripe avocados (do a feel-test on them. They should be squidgy)
1 LARGE bunch of coriander
2 LARGE tomatoes
2 LARGE limes
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
Splash of tobasco
Salt and pepper
Shake of cumin
Shake of paprika

Ok: first of all, skin and de-stone your avocados. Put them in a suitable serving bowl and chop or mash with a fork. Slice your chilli and spring onions; put your tomatoes in a separate bowl and cover them with freshly boiled water. After a couple of minutes remove them and take the skins off - they should fall off quite easily. Finely chop these and add to the avocados, along with the chilli and spring onions. Chop up some coriander and throw this into the mix; squeeze two limes and toss in the juice, before adding a quick douse of tobasco, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika. Garnish with extra coriander and serve with tortilla chips - or toasted pitta breads.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Comfort Eating at it's Best: Stodgy Cheesy Pasta Bake

So... I have been having a rough time at one of my (two) jobs: following an exhausting period of working with an extremely difficult boss at a shop I disliked, I built up the courage to tell her (or rather, text her) how I felt; in short, I quit. Like starting a new job, leaving an old one can be very tiring and all-consuming. And, as always, the greatest comfort comes in the form of dinner... So this pasta-bake was just the thing for me - laden with melted mozzarella but not too heavy, being interspersed with chopped olives, parsley and a light tomato sauce. Read on for the recipe, and prepare to sit down with a big bowl of it in front of a movie...

Ingredients (to feed three generously):

2 x cans of good chopped tomatoes
drizzle of olive oil
1 garlic clove to flavour oil only
small packet of cubed pancetta
large handful of parsley
likewise kalamata olives (again!)
shake 0f dried oregano, salt and pepper
500g of Conchigilie or other pasta shape
1 LARGE packet of mozzarella

To make:

Simply throw a whole garlic clove into a pan of olive oil - once it has browned a bit remove it. Add the pancetta and let this golden before throwing in two cans of chopped tomatoes; dice some olives or add them whole, along with the oregano, salt and pepper. Divide your chopped parsley into two heaps and add half now. Meanwhile the pasta needs to be only part-boiled, and then thrown into the pan with the sauce and mixed around, before dolloping the whole lot into a big enough dish to bake it in. Lastly I roughly tore up the mozzarella into chunks and poked it into crevices, in the middle and on top of the pasta. When it has been cooking in the oven for about 3omins (on 180c) take it out and throw on the rest of the parsley: the cheese should be stringy and spread throughout the dish. Serve up and enjoy. (PS basil would also be wonderful in this sauce).