Category Archives: Lifestyle

Why Sundays are Made for Brunch

I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for you today as i’m feeling extremely lazy and I still have a chicken to roast (you can have that one tomorrow, if you behave) and my Jillian Michaels workout to do and I’m struggling to move from the sunbeam I’m currently sitting in. 

Today I was in Glasgow with my Mum for shopping and so on which meant an early start (7am is ridiculous for a Sunday) then a train journey and a lot of walking. Normally, Sundays for me offer a decent lie in and a late breakfast of something that can only be called a cheat, like a bacon sandwich or eggs and buttered toast to last until dinner, so today we opted to have a lazy brunch at All Bar One in Glasgow. However, when we skipped off the train at 10am, we found that most of the shops were closed until 11. 

  

(Note, coffee photo was taken at Willows in Perth, not All Bar One, but it was just so pretty!).

No matter, we just went to brunch a little early and were entertained for a while by the South African waiter who frowned and joked with us when we said we’d prefer to wait til 11 so we could order mimosas. Eventually, we caved and ordered coffee, which came served with a shot glass of Smarties each (I’m not ashamed to say I ate both servings – note to self, don’t skip workout) before ordering Eggs Benedict at 11. Even after the Smarties, it was wolfed down, despite lacking its full complement of lemon. 

That kept me full til just about now. Is it just me, or do poached eggs and hollandaise taste much better when someone else is making them?!

  

There’s something wonderfully appropriate, for me, in the sociable self-indulgence of brunch (or even going out for a late breakfast) for starting off your Sunday. Must do it more often….

Ginger, Honey, Soy Baked Salmon

Hi everyone!

I’m finally back! I’m afraid I’ve been off the grid a bit recently preparing for a ridiculously hard pensions exam. At last, it’s over, and I can start spending my free time on things I actually like doing. Studying on top of a full time job is pretty difficult and exhausting, especially when you’re also trying to fit in your pre-summer workout whilst trying to eat fresh and healthy and not letting your home turn into a dive. 

Thankfully, I discovered this little recipe through a combination of googling and using what I had in the cup airs and fridge and it’s seen me through a good few evenings of fresh, tasty, light dinner. 

  

You will need:

1 salmon fillet per person

Marinade, also per person, so double, triple, quadruple as required 

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp runny honey

1 clove garlic

2 tsp grated ginger

chilli powder or flakes to taste, depending how much spice you like 

1 tsp lemon juice 

  

1. Grate the garlic and ginger. Mix together the other ingredients in a ramekin or bowl. 

2. If you have the time and/or inclination, put the salmon in a freezer or sandwich bag and marinate in the sauce for about 10-20 minutes. If you don’t, cover the salmon in the sauce and place it on a piece of tin foil as far ahead as you can manage. 

3. Bake at 180C for 8 minutes or so. If you don’t wrap it up, the honey should caramelise around the edges, but even if it doesn’t, this is delicious!

Serve with roasted vegetables or green beans and rice.

Mango-glazed Ham

Sorry I haven’t been able to blog for awhile; I’ve been taking a quick holiday on the Isle of Skye and the rules were made pretty clear that we should be keeping work and the Internet to the bare minimum! Ever since then, I’ve been trying to get some new recipes up but my WordPress app has not been playing ball. 

More on our trip another day….

As we were staying self-catering, we went to the butcher on the morning we left. On Sunday afternoon, I made my mango-glazed ham, which always seems to go down well. I’ve made this twice for Christmas and once as a hostess gift and it’s a much thriftier way of acquiring enough cold meat to see you through. You’ll need to pay attention to the cooking time on the packet, as this will depend on the size and type of ham.

You will need:

1 smoked gammon joint

1 litre orange and mango juice

1/2 litre chicken stock 

1 bouquet garni

2 bay leaves

Mango chutney, enough to cover the top of the ham – about 3/4 of a small jar or half a largish jar

Cloves

large stock pot

  

1. Unwrap the ham and remove any film or paper. Check the cooking time suggested. I normally knock off about 10 minutes from the boiling time as it will be baked as well.

2. Put the ham in the pot and add the juice and stock. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the ham, top it up with water until the gammon is just covered. Add the bouquet garni and bay leaves. 

3. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Check on the pot every now and again to make sure the ham stays covered. After the recommended cooking town, allow to cool for 10 minutes or so then carefully remove the ham. 

4. Allow to sit to cool a bit more. Trim off the rind and some of the fat. And preheat the oven to about 190C.

5. Score into the fat, but not all the way through, into a criss cross pattern. Stud each corner of the squares you have made with cloves. Spoon on the mango chutney until coveted. This will require some patience as it will melt and drop off the sides a bit when gravity takes hold – just scoop up and pour back over. 

6. Pop on a foil lined tray in the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the glaze is golden. You might want to take it out half way through to scoop on any chutney that has come off and turn. 

Carefully slice when cool and enjoy with chutney, crusty bread and salad!

  



Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

This weekend, the snowdrops popped out and the sun winked at us for the first time in a good long while. I had a sudden feeling that Sunday might just be the last soup Sunday in awhile. So, for what might be the last hurrah, I had to take on a classic, in a rather majestic way. The secret to the strength of flavour that comes with this smooth, dark orange soup is the oven – pre-roast the veggies and everything intensifies.

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This recipe makes about 6 portions, so plenty to share or put in the freezer.

You will need:

2 large red onions, or 4 small ones

1 1/2 red peppers

3 cloves of garlic

1 large carrot

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

6-8 tomatoes on the vine

12 salad tomatoes

Note: use wherever tomatoes you like in whatever quantity. I tend to mix up the types by what looks good in the supermarket. The salad ones are cheapest and give you bulk, but I like the cherry tomatoes for a sweeter, deeper flavour. Beef tomatoes work well too.

olive oil

chicken or vegetable stock, 2 cubes or about a litre plus extra water

salt and black pepper

oregano, basil, paprika, chilli powder

lemon juice

a pinch of caster sugar

Worcester sauce – just a dash.

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1. Heat the oven to about 200C and line a couple of baking trays with tin foil, then add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and place in the oven to heat.

2. Quarter the onions and chop the the peppers into chunks. Don’t peel the garlic – it’ll roast nicely inside the skin. Chuck into a tray, carefully (don’t burn yourself) and season. Half the tomatoes and add to the trays.

3. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop the carrot into fine pieces and sauté without browning and prepare the stock.

5. Take the first tray out of the oven when the onions are starting to look vaguely translucent and the skin on the peppers is starting to shrivel. Allow to cool for a short time as this will help you to remove the pepper skins more easily. Chop up the onions, peel and chop the garlic and peppers, add to the soup pot and sauté.

6. The tomatoes are a bit fiddly, but it will help everything go more smoothly if you roast them until the skins have started to come away themselves, and if you let them cool a little so you can pull the skins off with your fingers. Then chop the larger ones and add to the pot.

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7. Add the stock and seasoning, stir, put a lid on and allow to simmer on a medium heat for around 40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.

8. As you’ve removed the skins, most of the stuff you would normally need to sieve out has been taken away, however, you’ll still need to blend with a stick blender and sieve out the tomato seeds and any bits of stringy pulp. Be patient – your soup is worth it!

The soup will keep well in the fridge for around 4 days, and is great frozen and reheated.

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Kitchen Chair Cushions

My kitchen came with a tiny square breakfast bar which is perfect for sewing at, eating at, and having extra space available if I’m doing an especially large bake. Trouble was, all the bar stools I could find were far too heavy/chunky for the space. The solution presented itself when I bought my dining set, as it came with 6 chairs, but any more than 4 made the furniture look at bit too big for its space. My Mum suggested moving the extra two to the kitchen, which has been a perfect solution. However, given the breakfast bar is as high as my worktops, the chairs were a few inches too low. My solution was chair cushions, but nothing I could find quite matched my colour scheme or preferred style.

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Although I bought the fabric for these a good few months ago, I’ve only just got round to making them. They can be a bit fiddly (challenging I suppose) but I think the results are worth it. As ever, this was entirely self-taught, so you’ll have to bear with me, but this pattern is a great starting point.

You’ll need:

1 cushion pad, of a size of your choice

cotton or upholstery fabric, cut to about an inch narrower and shorter than the size of your cushion, so that it gives you a nice snug fit while also factoring in your seam allowance

1 fat quarter sized piece of fabric in the same fabric, or in a contrasting colour or pattern. This will be for your piping, ties and covered buttons

1 zip, 4-5 inches shorter than the width of your cushion fabric

1 reel of cotton thread in a matching colour

piping cord, about 4 times the length of the fabric’s side

8 plain domed buttons with shanks

sewing machine, pins, regular sewing needle, large sewing needle (the kind you get for doll making, for stitching the buttons through the finished cushion), thicker thread or polycord

The buttons and ties are of course optional! This pattern makes great scatter cushions – I just adapted it to make them more fit for purpose.

1. Cut 1.5 inch strips from your fat quarter…3 should be enough to cover your piping.

2. Pin the strips together at right angles, pinning on the diagonal from side to corner then sew along the line – when folded back, this should give you a continuous strip. Once you’re sure you have sewn in the right place, trim the excess triangle to reduce bulk.

3. Pin the strip around the binding, leaving you with an even amount of fabric overlapping above and below that can be pinned together – this will be your seam allowance.

4. Change the presser foot on your sewing machine to a zip foot – this is perfect for getting the stitching as close to the piping as you can. Most machines come with a zip foot as a standard accessory, but you should be able to buy one online or at a fabric shop. Sew along the piping fabric, close to the piping , reverse stitching at both ends to secure your work.

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5. Next, pin your covered piping along the edges of what will be the front of your cushion, pinning on the right side of the fabric. The seam allowance will end up on the inside of the finished cushion. I find it helps to notch the seam allowance of the piping fabric a little when you come to the corners to help you get round the corners without pushing the piping out of shape. I’m afraid this photo is from a previous project so the fabric doesn’t match the rest of the photos, but I thought it was a good example.  Getting the ends to match up can be a little tricky.  I usually pin one end down first, pin around the cushion and then match them up once I’ve made it back to the start.  My method involves trimming back the loose end, measuring it up against the piece that’s there.  What you’re aiming to do is trim back the piping inside the starting end of the piping, but leave the fabric intact, whilst also threading an extra couple of cm of the other end into the fabric tube – you may need to unpick the end of the stitching a little.  Then what you want to do is fold the end of the fabric tube inwards to avoid having a cut edge before wrapping this around the other piping tube – you can use either side here – whichever looks neater.  Once it’s nicely overlapping, pin across the join. The stitching you’ll do next will secure it plenty.

6. Keeping your zipper foot on the machine, stitch all the way round the piping, as close to the piping as you can get. Reverse stitch at the start and end to secure. If you’d like, you can zig zag stitch outside the straight stitching to make things extra secure.

7. The ties. These guys are one of the extras I added to these cushions to turn them from regular scatter cushions into kitchen chair cushions. You just need a couple of strips of fabric for each one – length will depend on the width of the chair legs you are tying them around, plus your seam allowance to stitch them in. I just wrapped the fabric round the chair back posts and cut to eye. They need to be just over double the width of the final ties as you are going to hem these bad boys all the way around, then fold each side into the middle. This is where your best hand stitching will come into play! You can machine stitch if you’d like but the stitching would be visible on the visible, right sides of the ties.

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8. Lay the ties on the edge of the piping, facing inwards. The positioning width-wise will again depend on the chairs you are making them for. Try to flatten out the ends so the hand stitched seams face towards each other. Pin, then stitch into place. Leave them facing inwards so they’ll be on the outside when you turn the cushions out.

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9. The zip! On the same edge as your piping joins and your ties have been sewn on (I like to keep the scrappiest parts to one side….they should end up looking pretty seamless, but still!) lay the zip along, centred, teeth and tab facing downwards, so the teeth are sort of buried in the piping. Pin, then see, zipper foot still attached, as close to the teeth as you can manage but bearing in mind the zip will have to run along the teeth.

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10. Once you’re happy with the zip – if it’s not as perfect as you want it to be, feel free to unpick and redo it (a seam ripper is best for this job) – the next stage (we’re nearly there…sort of) is to stitch on the back panel. Take the panel you’ve been working on and lay it out on a flat surface, making sure the seam allowance and piping seam
allowance are folded out flat too, inside of the zip facing upwards. Lay the other panel on top and pin all the way round, skipping the zip. I find it easiest to start at the non-zip tab end of the zip and pin all the way round to the other end of the zip. Leave the gap unpinned for now. You’re aiming to sew all round the outside of the piping, again, with the zipper foot, as close as you can get, so try to feel for the piping when you’re pinning. When you reach the corners, take extra care. You may wish to leave the needle down and lift the foot when you’re cornering to avoid the fabric gathering. If there are uneven gaps between the corners and the stitching, you may wish to go back over things so your corners look neater when you turn the cover out.

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11. Here’s the really complicated part! This is where we sew the other half of the zip to the back panel. The photo above shows how the pinning should work. You want to pull open the the unsewn part of the top panel, push the top of the zip downwards, and pin where the two naturally meet. To sew this, you might want to unzip the zip after it has been pinned in place. I’ve tried this both zipped and unzipped and find it easier to see unzipped, but it can cause issues with visibility of the ends of the zip when you turn the cushion out if you’re not super careful. After you’ve stitched the zip, fold everything back down and secure the ends of the zip from the top panel by stitching back across to the corners.

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12. Cut across the excess fabric on the corners (cutting off a triangle of fabric layers from each corner but still leaving a bit of seam to keep things secure. Unzip and turn out. You may need to grab the zip tab from the inside by pinching it in a bit of the fabric to work it loose. Give it a good iron and it’s ready for your cushion pad!

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13. Stuff the cushion in, zip it up and you’re ready for the covered buttons, which are of course optional. I forgot to take photos when I was making these though I’m afraid, but this is a handy tutorial. You could buy them instead, of course, if you find the right colours. I just made them so I could get them to match the piping exactly. I bought plain domed buttons on amazon and traced around a milk bottle cap to get the right size of fabric. Then, I tied a knot in some thread and tack stitched all way round, keeping the needle in when I was finished. Then I popped the button in the middle and pulled the fabric circle right and sewed through the ruffles to secure.

14. Again, I didn’t take photos of this part, but I learned from this tutorial. Using those principles, measure the cushion to make sure your buttons will be evenly spaced, whether you’re using one or four, and mark with tailor’s chalk. You’ll need to do this on both sides. Take a medium doll-making needle and thick thread or cord, double over and thread the doubled end through the hole in the button shank. Thread the end through the loop and pull to secure. Loop round again and tie. Thread the loose end through the needle and push the needle through one of the chalk marks, finding the corresponding spot on the other side and pull through. Your button should be pulled snugly in so the cushion will puff around it. Thread through the other button and knot as close as you can. I like to wrap the cord around a couple of times and see into a knot. Cut the cord and repeat for the rest of the buttons – sorry it’s a but fiddly.

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15. If you used the handmade ties, cut strips of Velcro and stick to either side, bearing in mind they well wrap around each other so one strip should be on the smooth outside whilst the other should be on the sewn inside. You could use ribbons instead, of course, meaning you’d just tie these to the chair rather than velcroing, but I didn’t want loops hanging at the backs of my chairs. So here’s the finished product! Sorry this was a lot to take in. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments section, or tips if you have any better techniques to share!

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Happy Valentine’s (from one without a Valentine)

So here’s to another February 14th. I know that most people have a love/hate relationship with this day (or a hate/hate relationship if your name is Charles) but nevertheless, happen it will every year.

I, personally, forego this holiday every year because my boyfriend doesn’t believe in its commerciality. It’s fair enough, he treats me better than any girl deserves, but still, I love love and if we think we’re a good together, then we should be nailing Valentine’s Day, not shunning it. And all girls like to find a man on their doorstep holding a bouquet big enough to block out his head.

For those of you who criticise the commerciality of the day, spare a thought for the local florists, gift shops, butchers, bakers and restaurants who rely on this day every year to make up for the January slump. It is always lovely to see a man walking down the street with a stunning bouquet for his lady. Supermarkets, confectioners and Hallmark, though, you guys are vultures. If you’re going to do it, gentlemen, here are some tips for you:

1. If you’re going to buy her flowers, go for a single rose from a local florist, or a completely unrelated bouquet variety.

2. If you’re going to buy her a trite old teddy bear or other cliched gift, think again! Get her something she would want any day of the year: a book, perfume, a candle, something for her home. True romance is about what’s in your heart, not your wallet.

3. If you’re going to feed her, take her to a local restaurant (not a chain!) or make her something from scratch (not a dine in for two meal deal!) preferably from local produce.

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4. Don’t watch 50 Shades of Grey.

5. Don’t propose! It’s just as clichéd as a New Year proposal.

So what do you do if you aren’t in a relationship and that ‘secret admirer’ hasn’t turned up to surprise you at the last minute? Don’t wallow! Remember, the ones who are taking part are probably doing so reluctantly, or because they want something from their special lady. If they can’t love you every day or treat you as you deserve, they’re not worth your time.

Have the girls over, put on a DVD and drink wine. Maybe cocktails. No ice cream. Ice cream is for wallowers. If all your girls are on dates, treat yourself, on your own. Cook yourself your favourite dinner, have a hot bubble bath with music, a book, candles (don’t burn the house down) and a glass of wine. Don’t cry. Make yourself pretty, put on your favourite pjs and watch a comedy. Or a horror. Whatever. Don’t cry. It’s just a day. Tomorrow will swing around soon enough. And if all else fails, it’s Pancake Day on Tuesday!

Turkey Tacos

I happened upon some turkey fillets at the local farmers’ market at the weekend, and then stumbled upon corn taco shells at the supermarket.  Add peppers and onions from the fridge and you’re pretty much there for a delicious Mexican supper!

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You will need:

turkey, chicken, beef or pork, sliced into strips

1/2 red pepper

1/2 onion, red or white, whichever you have or prefer

2 tsp cornflour

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp parsley

salt and pepper

olive oil

1 tsp tomato puree

taco shells (3 if smallish and you’re greedy like me) or tortilla wraps, flour or corn, folded or rolled

sour cream, guacamole, grated cheese and salsa, to serve with, optional

salad to serve alongside, optional

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1.  Slice the onions and peppers and chuck into a hot pan, medium to high heat, in a little oil.  Stir occasionally to keep the veggies moving, to avoid burning.

2.  When almost done, lower the heat and stir in the tomato puree – cook out for a couple of minutes.

3. Whilst all that is going on, mix up the herbs, spices and cornflour in a bowl and cut your meat into strips.  Toss in the spicy flour mixture and turn the heat up under the pan.

4. If using crunchy taco shells, turn them upside down on a tray and put in the oven to heat up – this will make them crunchier.  Remove from the oven, lay on their sides and sprinkle grated cheese inside then pop them back in the oven.

5. Add the turkey to the pan and fry ’til taking on colour and cooked through – this shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes – stirring back into the vegetables for the last few minutes.

6.  Now it’s time to construct them!  Once the cheese is nice and melted, fill with the turkey and veg filling, layering with sour cream, guacamole and salsa if you wish (which I do), or you can keep those as dips for the side if you prefer.

7.  Serve with salad and a heap of napkins – you’re going to have to eat these with your hands!  Buen provecho!

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Salad Drawer Soup

In winter, I like to make soup on Sundays to keep me in healthy lunches throughout the week. Soup is great because it’s hot and filling, but it can also get lots of vegetables into your day! Add a box of your favourite fruits and you’re well on your way to making your 5-a-day. I had a big old glut of soup in the freezer so I’ve been trying to whittle that down a bit over the last week or so, so although I wanted to make something new this week, I didn’t want my usual monster batch of blended tomato or squash. As I already had a bag of carrots, a couple of onions and fresh parsley in the vegetable drawer, I picked up a leek at the supermarket and threw together something that my nana usually makes (only, she adds turnip…not a fan!), but you could make this with any of your favourite veg. It would be great with some cubed new potatoes added if you fancied something a bit heartier.

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You may want:

1 litre of stock, I used half a litre of homage chicken stock I had in the freezer, plus 1 stock cube dissolved in hot water

3-4 carrots, chopped

1 white onion, sliced relatively finely

1 leek, sliced finely

a couple of handfuls of frozen peas to finish

a spelling of fresh chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the rootier veggies and sauté in a little oil or butter, until the onions and leek are translucent.

2. Add stock and seasoning and simmer for a good 40 mins or so.

3. Taste and season if necessary – this will probably need a bit more salt and pepper than usual.

4. Add frozen peas, not long before serving, to make sure they don’t overcook.

Friday Night Carbonara

This one comes with only half the guilt, you’ll be pleased to hear, which is perfect for a quick Friday night supper to be accompanied by a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio, and it can pretty much be whipped up with whatever’s in your fridge. I included sautéed onions to make a change, but they were a bit too sweet with the wholewheat spaghetti, especially as it was unsmoked bacon I had to hand.

I have to give credit to my wise old boyfriend, Charles, (who, by the way, has a cracking B&B
and picture framing business in the Scottish Borders) for teaching me how to make this, though I’ve since changed some if the technique to make things easier for myself and to help to avoid scrambling.

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For 1 decent portion, you’ll want:

2 rashers of bacon, smoked is best

optional clove of grated garlic

2-3 tablespoons full fat creme fraiche (or half fat if you really must but I don’t get it!)

1 medium egg

a sprinkling of fresh or dried parsley

salt

cracked black pepper

a grating of nutmeg

your usual helping of dried spaghetti (they say 75g usually, but who weighs pasta?!), I used wholewheat

olive oil to fry the bacon in if it isn’t fatty enough

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1. Chop the bacon into squares or strips and fry until it’s as gilded as you’d like. If you decided to include the garlic, cook it along side the bacon, but try not to burn it.

2. Meanwhile, boil up a kettle of water and get your pasta on with a decent pinch of salt in the water. You don’t need any oil to stop it from sticking; just give it a few stirs in the first couple of minutes of cooking and it shouldn’t stick. The spaghetti is best when it isn’t too well cooked, but cook to taste; the sauce has to wait for it anyway. It should take between 10 and 15 minutes.

3. While the spaghetti is cooking, spoon the creme fraiche into a bowl, loosen off with your spoon a little, then crack in the egg. Give it a good mix until you have a sort of raw custard. Add parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix again.

4. When the spaghetti is ready, drain and put back on a low to medium heat to steam out any residual water. You don’t want the hob to be too hot at this stage as you are about to add your eggy custard, and you don’t want that to scramble!

5. Quickly pour in the egg and creme fresh mixture and rapidly stir the spaghetti around in it, then tip in the bacon. I find silicone tongs best for this as you can really control where the spaghetti is going. Keep swirling until the egg mixture has thickened and coated the pasta. Make it as well done as you like. I prefer mine silky and creamy but Charles likes his slightly scrambled.

If it isn’t saucy enough for you, you can add some extra creme fraiche at this stage before serving.

Enjoy!

Cheese and Chorizo Pizza

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t bought a supermarket pizza since learning how to make this little baby (because everyone needs to be lazy every now and again) but I’m certainly more inclined to make them from scratch.  For me, it’s all about the base (’bout the bass, no treble…).  That’s what makes or breaks a pizza for me.  Most supermarket pizza bases are pretty soggy and fibrous, and taste as bland as the syrofoam they’re packaged with, (though if you really want to buy one, the Pizza Express supermarket range and the Co-op’s versions are pretty good).  After that, they’re hugely versatile.  You can stick anything you want on there – mix it up, find out what you like best.  These recipes usually call for a very hot oven and a baking stone for best results, but to be honest, the concept of an oven hotter than 200C combined with a slab of dry stone terrifies me a little, so I don’t always use it.  This might be a good time to tell you that I’m still working out a lot of things myself – bread being a key theme – but I think I’m getting better.  As such, due to being all fingers and thumbs, I sometimes find it easier to bake the pizza off for 5 minutes or so until it’s rigid enough to shoogle onto the hot baking stone, but have made a mental note to remember to invest in a pizza peel.  Those in the know would have you turn a tray upside down and cover it with lashings of polenta/semolina flour, but this doesn’t help with the shaping process in the slightest.  Anyway…to the baking stone!

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To make 1 amply sized pizza base, you will need:

125 g strong white flour

2g yeast

2g sugar (caster or granulated are ok)

2 tsp olive oil

163 ml luke warm water

1. Put the flour in a bowl or on a spankingly clean worktop.  Add the salt and sugar on one side and the yeast on the other and mix into the flour.  This is important.  If you immediately dump salt all over the yeast you will kill it and you’ll end up with a doughy, Styrofoam base (then you might as well have bought it).

2.  Add the olive oil and water and stir together to form a dough.  If, like me, you don’t mind this being messy, I think it’s better to do this part with your hands.  If someone comes to the door or phones you,  they’ll just have to wait.

3.  Once the dough has come together, put some oil on the board and on your hands and knead for a good 20 minutes.  There are too many schools of thought as to how you should knead.  In my experience, the important part is just getting the dough moving, tearing and stretching it as much as you can before putting it back together and starting again.  It’s about friction and getting warmth into it to wake the yeast up, and you’ll start to feel it turn into something more lively.  The perfect smooth, elastic finish is not critical for a pizza base as it’ll be too thin to form a noticeably bready crumb.

4. Place back in the bowl and cover with cling film (that’s plastic/Saran Wrap, America!) and leave to rise while you get all the other things together.  Again, as this isn’t a loaf of bread, the hour rise isn’t necessary.  20 minutes to half an hour should do the trick.  Any longer and the process starts to lose its nifty beauty.

To make the sauce, you will need:

1 tub/jar of pasata

1 clove garlic, grated

salt and pepper

a squeeze of lemon

a pinch of sugar

a variety of herbs and spices – I like parsley, oregano, basil, chilli and paprika

5. Put your pizza stone – rubbed down with oil and sprinkled with polenta – in your oven at 200C (or as hot as you dare).  If you’re not using a stone, just crank your oven up as hot as it’ll go to pre-heat.

6.  Fry the garlic in a little oil for a minute or so – do not burn it! Add in the passata, salt, sugar, herbs and lemon and cook down for as long as you like, but a few minutes is enough – It will get cooked again once it’s on the pizza.  Leave to cool for awhile.  You won’t need anywhere near all of this but it freezes really well for the next time.

7. Once you’ve made your sauce, retrieve your pizza dough and knock it back with your fist.  If you want to be professional, look at someone else’s blog!  My technique for turning this lump of dough into a delightful disk is pretty fly by the seat of your pants, but it works for me, and you don’t need any skill to make it work; just patience. Squash it out flat onto a round tin, board or peel and try to keep it vaguely circular.  You might realise that I haven’t advocated a second prove yet – in my experience leaving it for a few minutes here and there then having another bash at shaping the dough is enough for it to pillow up as much as you’d want it to – unless you want a fat, deep pan base, of course.  I usually stop when it gets to the size I want then start putting the topping on.  If you want, you can attempt to have a sporting try at spinning it and pulling it out in your hands, but I only do this when I have lots of time on my hands as you have to start again if you put your nail through it by mistake!  Anyone else’s tips would be welcome – but I’m trying to keep this speedy enough to be suitable for a weeknight supper…..

Toppings!  For this pizza, you may want:

1/2 onion, red or white, sautéed in a pan for a while to start the softening process

1/2 pepper, colour of your choice or mixed (the jarred, roasted peppers you can buy in supermarkets or delis are great for this)

8-10 slices of cooked chorizo

1 handful of grated or chopped cheese of your choice.  Even cream cheese works really well.  I used some grated, strong cheddar.

8.  Spread on a few tablespoons of the sauce and spread out with the back of the spoon.  I like to take mine right to the edge, but feel free to define yourself a nice crust.  If you really like a crust, you can mark one out with your thumbs whilst you’re shaping your base – that way the outside will be deeper than the middle, but I like mine fairly uniform.

9. Add your onions, peppers and chorizo all over the top, add a crack of black pepper and sprinkle the cheese over everything.

10.  Shuffle this onto the stone or chuck it into the oven on a tray and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the fat is bubbling in the chorizo.

Random tip: when removing it from the oven, try to shuffle it back off the pizza stone then turn off the oven – rapid changes in temperature will risk your stone cracking.  Also, you’re likely to get a bit of steam when you open the oven door, so if, like me, your smoke alarm is just outside the kitchen door, shut the door or you’ll risk annoying your neighbours immensely!