Posts tagged ‘pizza’

January 30, 2012

Odd food favourites and a bit of nostalgia.

Recently, I’ve been a bit off my food. I know, it’s clearly a first world kind of problem and I am very grateful that I have a fully stocked fridge. It’s just that I’ve spent the past few days unable to taste a bloody thing because of a rotten head cold and so unless I’ve had a really growling tummy, I’ve just not eaten with the same greed as usual! This is probably A Good Thing, but it’s making me a bit miserable. To summon up a bit of enthusiasm for eating (as my lovely husband thinks I need to eat so I have the energy to get better) I’ve been trying to think of my very favourite foods and have been amused at where this thought process has led me. I have some odd food favourites…

I mean, I’ve tried to like grown up food like olives. I really have. One of my favourite things to eat ever is good bread with olive oil and expensive, treacly, balsamic vinegar but I cannot bear olives. I even once had a picnic with an enforced olive tasting session, but it didn’t work. I’ve since realised that trying to train myself to like food that I don’t like is silly, when I am so fortunate to have so many other options. So, no more olives.

The truth is that I’m beginning to think that many of my favourite foods are not really food at all. I mean, beyond having some kind of calorific value, obviously. Take raw cake mix. It’s ace. I could quite happily eat half a cake’s worth on my own. One of the hardest things about baking when pregnant was not being able to eat raw cake mixture because of the eggs. Quite put me off the whole thing. I know that raw eggs aren’t exactly great for little kids either, but I’m not the kind of mum who isn’t going to let them lick the spoon…

Another of my favourite foods is pizza crust. Not the middle, lovely, oozy cheesy bit of pizza. The crust. The bit that half the pizza-eating world happily leave on their plate. If I’m out with people to eat pizza I have to remind myself that stealing the crusts from other people’s plates is not good manners. So it’s a good thing that these days I’m more likely to get take-away pizza ( I have no scruples about stealing from family) or making my own – take a look here for my recipe. I quite like burnt-on cheese too, which often happens when I make pizza at home. You know, that bit of cheese that oozes off the side, sticks to the baking tray and goes all bubbly and crispy. Mmm. You can make Parmesan crisps in the same way. Just grate some Parmesan cheese and then put it in little piles onto a baking tray. Cook in the oven until they do that bubbling, crisping up thing, and then take them out, leave them a bit to go hard and cold before taking off the baking tray and eating. Nice with a cold glass of prosecco.

My last favourite food that’s not really food is scraps. By which I mean those bits of fried batter that you get from the fish and chip shop. I’m sure they have lots of other names depending on which part of the country you’re from. Once of the reasons for this is nostalgia though. When I was younger I had a pony. ( I know!) I started horse riding when I was seven, after my mum took me to a local stables. I’m fairly sure she just thought I’d be interested for a bit then give it up, but it stuck. She always says it was the most expensive decision she ever made.  I went there every weekend and spent all day doing stable duties in return for a free lesson each week. Then, one day, they announced they were closing down. My lovely grandad had given me some money that had been put into savings and so I was allowed to use this to buy a pony, on the condition that I looked after her properly and worked as much as I could to keep her.

And so, I became the proud owner of Lisa (not named by me, I hasten to add), a Welsh Section D chestnut mare with a blaze and a flaxen mane and tail, and the rather less-than thrilled employee at both a local fish and chip shop and fruit and veg stall. I worked on Friday nights in the chip shop with another woman. We used to amuse ourselves when it was quiet by trying to fry the biggest scrap in history, which we then used to eat in a bread-cake. Seriously, my arteries are ruined. RUINED, I tell you.

Still, it was worth it. Look at how beautiful she was. Sadly she died when I was at agricultural college and it broke my heart. Still makes me cry now. As does looking at my hair in this rather vintage photograph…

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November 28, 2011

Easy Peasy Family Pizza

Family Sunday often involves making food with the kids, who, like many others, are pretty fussy when it comes to food. One thing I have noticed, is that the more involved they are in the making of the food, the more likely they are to eat least try some of it once it’s ready for eating!

The one thing that always goes down well with everyone is pizza. I’ve made this lots of times now, for adults as well as children and it always gets a good reception, plus by knowing exactly what is in it, you can be reassured that it’s far better than shop bought ones.

To make the dough:

400g strong white flour (bread flour)

200ml warm water

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon salt (you could use a little less if you’re worried about salt content, but don’t leave it out, there is no salt in the tomato topping, which reduces overall amounts to less than shop-bought pizza)

1 and a 1/4 teaspoons fast-acting dried yeast. This comes in little 7g packets in the supermarket.

3 tablespoons olive oil.

A scattering of semolina for the outside – sprinkle this onto the work surface when you’re rolling/stretching the dough out.

Add all the ingredients together and mix until you have a firm dough. I use my trusty (best Christmas present ever) KitchenAid with the dough hook on, but I have made it by hand in the past. Once it’s all come together, you need to turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about five minutes. Use the heel of your hand to push the dough away, turn it at a right angle, fold over, and turn it away again. You will find that it doesn’t take long to come together in a nice, stretchy ball of dough. The put it into a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave for about an hour. Smear some more olive oil on the inside of the clingfilm in case the dough rises enough to stick to it.

After about an hour, the dough will be roughly double it’s original size. Take it out, and give it a quick knead again before breaking into chunks for individual pizzas. This amount of dough makes about 4 pizzas. Be warned, the gluten in the dough means that as soon a you stretch it out, it springs back again, so you have to persevere with stretching it out – I usually just use my hands to flatten and stretch it out, rather than a rolling pin. You could always have a go at being a proper pizza chef and do a bit of twirling in the air!

Once it resembles something like a pizza base, you’re ready to add the topping. For the sauce, we heat through some basic tomato passata, with a little extra tomato puree and a dollop of ketchup or sprinkling of sugar to take the sharpness away. Add a few dried herbs – oregano or an Italian mix and a grating of black pepper. Leave it to cook through, raw tomato puree is horrible! Make sure it’s nice and thick.

Then the fun part can begin – the building of the pizza. We usually chop a variety of vegetables, cheeses, meats into little bowls and then let everyone choose their own toppings (which brings out the inner ‘TV cookery show presenter’ in everyone!) The kids really enjoy this bit, and it’s a lovely way of getting them to try a variety of vegetables, maybe even something new, amazingly. Make sure that all the toppings don’t end up in a little mountain in the middle of the pizza otherwise that will still be cold when the outside is burnt.

The pizza takes about 10-15 minutes in an 180 degree celsius oven, but keep an eye on them whilst cooking, as they may take even less. Then eat it all up!