Archive for the 'Italian' Category

Mediterranean vegetable lasagne with ricotta and parmesan

February 2, 2011

Lasagne is one of those fabulous dishes that I don’t think you really need a recipe for or an ingredients list for that matter. You can put almost anything in it. All you need is a tomato based sauce, a cheese based sauce some fresh or dried lasagne and game on! So basically I feel as if there is no need to write this recipe at all. Although I tend to forget that some people actually have never made lasagne or don’t really “wing it” with recipes like I do. So for all you people out there that need a recipe here goes.

Ingredients (serves 8 hungry people)

Tomato sauce

4 tins of peeled tomatoes
6-8 cloves of garlic
1 large red onion
Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Sugar

Mediterranean Vegetables

1 large aubergine (eggplant)
4 red peppers/capsicum (you could use yellow or orange or a mixture – not green)
3 medium sized courgettes/zucchini
1 butternut squash peeled and diced 1 cm (approx 600 grams prepared weight)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Cheese Sauce

2 tbsp plain flour
50 grams butter
1 ltr whole milk
Dijon mustard
100 grams parmesan finely grated
500 grams ricotta

2 packets of plain lasagne sheets (or equivalent of fresh)

Method

Start off by making your tomato sauce. The rule of thumb is the longer you cook the tomato sauce the taster it will be so I recommend at least an hour.

Peel and finely chop garlic, peel and finely dice red onion. Add to a large heavy based non reactive pan. Add a pinch of salt and a generous glug of olive oil (about 3 tbsp).

Heat on a low-medium heat until soft and sweet. This will take 10-15 mins. Do not brown. If it does start to brown remove from the heat and add a little more oil, this will cool everything down and stop the “burning”.

Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil.

Once boiling reduce to a simmer and simmer for 40 mins – 1hr. Add water if it gets too thick and make sure you stir it regularly.

By this time the tomatoes should have broken down, if not help them along by breaking them up with a wooden spoon and cook for a further 10 – 15 mins. Make sure you taste the sauce at this stage and if it is a little bitter at a teaspoon of sugar.

Season with salt and pepper and leave to the side.

While this is all happening you can get on with preparing the veg. Place a char-grill pan on the stove and heat until blistering hot.

Slice the aubergine and courgettes length wise and drizzle with olive oil.

Char-grill until cooked through (a minute or 2 on each side) remove and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.

Char-grill the peppers until blackened all over and soft, place in a large bowl and cover to steam then cool so that you can peel them.

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel the blackened skin off and remove the seeds, you can keep the “juice” and add it to the sauce if you wish (it has a lovely smokey sweet flavour).

Pumpkin ready for roasting

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Pop the butternut squash into a baking dish – ideally a large one so that there is only one layer. Toss in a little oil and season. Bake in oven until tender and a little golden (about 35 – 35 mins)

Cut the courgettes, aubergine and peppers into bite size pieces (about 1cm strips) and add to the tomato sauce along with the roasted butternut squash. Taste for seasoning and add a little extra virgin olive oil for flavour.

Time now to make the ricotta cheese sauce.

Put the butter into a pan and melt over a low-medium heat, once melted add the flour and stir to make a paste. Cook for a minute or two. Slowly add in the milk, little at a time constantly stirring. Once all the milk is added keep stirring and cook until thickened (coat the back of a spoon).

Remove from the heat and add the grated Parmesan, a large teaspoon of Dijon mustard and season.

Once the sauce has cooled a little fold through the ricotta cheese.

You are now ready to layer up the lasagne.

Add a ladle of the tomato and veg sauce to the dish, spread evenly. Layer the lasagne sheets over this. Top with the cheese sauce (about a ladle) and repeat the process until you have used up the sauces and lasagne sheets or until your lasagne dish is full.

Your last layer should be cheese sauce and a slightly thicker layer. Then sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 min – 1 hour or until cooked through and golden brown.

This can be par cooked sliced and frozen. Serve with a big salad.

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Homemade Roast Butternut pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with parmesan cream sauce…..dribble

September 4, 2010

Rolling pasta

I am hoping that the pasta maker will not turn out like the bread maker – 1 month of fun then several years of being tucked away in the back of the cupboard. One week in and I feel like that won’t be happening. Back in Sunny Sydney I made my first homemade pasta with my friend Kate who had been to an Italian cooking course, she arrived at my house Tipo ’00 and pasta maker in hand. We made cracking spinach and ricotta cannelloni. It was sensational and relatively easy. Since then I have had a few pasta making flutters including gnocchi – which, may I add, is VERY easy to make and you do not need any special equipment. (see my recipe for Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts). Other than that the trusty De Cecco Linguine has been my pasta of choice. Until now! My lovely sister decided to by herself (or should I say me) a pasta maker. After a few minor hiccups we managed to produce a rather wonderful roast butternut pumpkin ravioli with a burnt butter and sage sauce. As this was my first venture back into pasta land I didn’t take any photos (doh!!) So decided to do a re run for “the blog” this week. I didn’t have any sage so whipped up a creamy sauce instead which turned out to be rather delicious. By the way you can make pasta with a rolling pin and a bit of elbow grease – worth giving it a bash if you are not sure whether to invest in a pasta maker. However they are not very expensive you can get one for about £20.

Ingredients

Pasta

500 grams plain flour (ideally Tipo 00)
6 medium sized eggs or 5 large eggs

Filling

200 grams ricotta
50 grams finely grated Parmesan
Approx 800 grams Butternut Pumpkin (squash) whole weight before peeling and de-seeding
Whole nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Sauce

1 clove garlic
1 large knob of butter
Salt and pepper
Splash of dry white wine
100 mls double cream
50 grams finely grated Parmesan

Method

Flour

To make the pasta dough.

Put flour in a large mixing bowl. Crack eggs into a separate bowl or jug and lightly whisk to combine.

Whisked eggs

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg mix.

Mix eggs in with a fork

Mix together with a fork until egg has been mixed in.

Bring dough together with hands

Bring together with your hands into a dough.

Remove from bowl and knead until smooth. The dough will feel relatively dry – don’t worry it will soften up a little.

Dough

Wrap in cling film and rest in fridge for min 30 mins.

Dough wrapped in cling film

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Pumpkin ready for roasting

Peel butternut pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1cm cubes and add to a baking dish. Toss through a little olive oil until coated and pop into the oven.

Bake until soft and a little golden – make sure you check regularly and give the pumpkin a toss around.

Leave to cool.

Mashing pumpkin with fork

Mash with a fork until smooth (ish).

Mashed pumpkin

Add ricotta, grated Parmesan and some nutmeg (about 1/6), mix well to combine. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. If you want you can add more Parmesan.

Add ricotta Parmesan and nutmeg

Once the pasta has rested split the dough into 4 smaller balls. Keep one of the balls and re-wrap the rest and place back int he fridge.

Set the pasta maker to the widest setting.

Roll pasta

Flatten the dough into an oval shape, dust in flour to prevent it sticking and feed it through the pasta maker.

N.B. My first try came out with holes through it, this was because there were air bubbles trapped in the dough. I mashed the dough back into a ball and then rolled it out again with a rolling pin – this helped remove the bubbles and kick start the rolling process.

Turn the pasta maker down a notch and roll again, you may need to lightly dust the pasta again with some flour.

Keep doing this until the pasta is about 1mm thick.

Pasta strips with pumpkin mix

Lie the pasta onto a floured surface and cut into 4 cm strips.

Put a small amount (approx 2/3 teaspoon) at one end of the strip and lightly brush around it with water. Fold the other half of the strip over to create a parcel. Be careful not to trap air inside the ravioli as this will expand when cooked and may burst open.

Making ravioli

Keep doing this and lay them out onto a floured tray, do not pile them on top of each other as they may stick – from experience!!

Ravioli

Once you have used your first batch of rolled out pasta you can continue with the rest of the pasta until you have made as many as you wish. This amount of dough and filling should feel 8 people for main course or 14 starters.

You can freeze the pasta, pop them in the freezer on the tray. Once frozen you can bung them in a tub or a bag. You can cook them straight from frozen.

Ok to cook and serve.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a teaspoon of salt.

Warm a non stick frying pan with the knob of butter and a splash of olive oil.

Butter and garlic

Add crushed garlic and saute for a couple of minutes until soft and sweet – no colour. Add glug of white wine (approx 3 table spoons). Simmer to reduce wine to almost totally evaporated. Add the cream. Simmer until thickened a little then remove from heat and add Parmesan. Stir through and season to taste (you probably won’t need salt).

Add wine

Reduce wine

Pop the pasta into the pot, I probably wouldn’t do not than 4 serves in the one pot.

Ravioli in boiling water

Cook for about 4 minutes then remove one and see if it is cooked. You may need to cook the ravioli for a little longer it really depends on how thick the pasta is – everyone’s pasta is slightly different. Once cooked drain in a colander and toss through sauce, serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Ravioli in cream parmesan sauce

Ravioli

The creamy sauce is great but so is the burnt butter and sage. This is made by taking about 75 grams of butter and heating it on the stove until it is bubbling (this is for 4 people). Do not heat at too high a temp as it may actually burn, you are looking for a nut brown colour. Add sage leaves (about 8 small to medium leaves per person or 4 large). The sage leaves should be crisp once cooked. Pour over the top of the ravioli when it is plated up and top with some finely grated Parmesan.

I am planning on trialing some other filling so will keep you posted!

Aubergine Parmigiana – yum!

July 11, 2010

Aubergine parmigiana

I think the first time I ever tasted this dish was at the Ionian Plaza in Argostoli, Kefalonia. My sister and I spent a summer there “drawing” – or should I say tanning and having fun. We had absolutely no money so rarely ate out. Once in a blue moon we would splash out and grab a bite to eat in the square and out restaurant of choice was the rather “posh” Ionian Plaza.

The aubergine Parmigiano was so delicious – I still remember how wonderful it was. It was baked in individual portions in a terracotta dish in a wood fired oven. Silky aubergine, rich sweet tomato sauce, gooey stringy mozzarella and salty parmesan.

Dribble!

It is really a very simple dish to make and so tasty. I actually think that it is best to make the day before so that it has time for the flavours to meld.

Excellent for a dinner party as all you need to do is bung it in the oven and serve it with a leafy salad. Simple!!

All you need to do is sit back with a glass of vino and enjoy yourself.

Ingredients: (serves 6 greedy people or 8 sensible normal people)

5 medium aubergines
2 medium red onions
2 kg of ripe fresh tomatoes or 2 bottles of really good passata
6 cloves of garlic
1 small bunch of fresh sweet basil
5 balls of buffalo mozarella
150 grams of parmesan Reggiano
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil

Method

First things first you need to get the tomato sauce on.

Finely dice the red onion and crush the garlic add to a heavy based pan with a large glug of olive oil and a good pinch of sea salt.

onions and garlic

While the onions and garlic are gently cooking you can peel the tomatoes (if you decide to use fresh tomatoes that is).

Peeling tomatoes

Cut a cross in the bottom of the tomatoes, pop in a heat proof bowl and pour over boiling water.

The tomatoes only need to be in the water for about 30 seconds to a minute. Then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool a little – until they are cool enough to touch. The skins should peel off easily. If not pop back in the boiling water for a little longer.

Remove the cores of the tomatoes, dice and add to the onions and garlic once they are cooked (translucent and sweet – no colour).

Tomatoes added to onions and garlic

Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce to simmer and cook for about 2 hours or until the tomatoes have completely disintegrated and the sauce is “saucy” and thick.

At this point add some finely sliced basil leaves and season with salt and pepper.

While the tomato sauce is cooking you can prepare the aubergine.

Wash and remove the top/stem.

Slice length ways into 3 – 4 mm slices.

Heat frying pan up with a some olive oil (approx 3 tablespoons).

Fry slices of aubergine until golden brown and cooked through. Then drain on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. You may need to keep adding more oil to the pan as you cook the slices – the aubergine tends to absorb quite a lot of oil however it will give back a lot of it to the pan when it is cooked.

Aubergine slices frying

Frying the aubergine slices will take quite a lot of time, ideally you would use more than one frying pan to speed things along. Also remember aubergine will go brown if you slice it and leave it for a while so do not pre-slice all the aubergine at once. Only slice one at a time.

Okay now you have your sauce ready, the aubergine slices are fried and you are ready to layer up.

Use a ceramic or pyrex baking dish “lasagna dish”. Layer up with tomato sauce, the aubergine slices then a sprinkling of finely grated parmesan and tear pieces of buffalo mozzarella and dot over. Then repeat again until your final layer is aubergine top with tomato sauce and then liberally sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If it is browning too quickly you can cover with some tin foil and reduce the temp a little bit.

Remove from oven and rest for 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and a leafy salad. Delish!!!!!

It is great for leftovers too.

By the way sorry about the terrible photo of the finished result – bad lighting (well that is my excuse) next time a make it I promise to take some better shots and upload them.

My most favourite pasta sauce ever

May 20, 2010

Tomato Caper and Anchovy Linguini

I really do think that it is important to have a good selection of “stuff” in your store cupboard for those “I can’t be bothered to shop for dinner” moments. You know the times when you arrive home after a full on day at work, it’s 8pm, and the last thing you want to do is get a dodgy Chinese take away. There is also absolutely no chance you can be bothered to go to the supermarket. All you want is a home cooked meal.

With a few bits and pieces you can easily throw together something fabulous best of all it is easy and quick.

Woo Hoo!

This recipe is my fail safe. I ended up making it yesterday because I was given 1 1/2 kilos of lovely vine ripened tomatoes and they needed used up ASAP. Now normally I would use the tinned variety so don’t worry I am not going to expect you to conveniently have 1 kilo of vine ripened tomatoes on hand.

There is one ingredient in the sauce that is a little controversial. Anchovies.

I am sure many of you are already tuning out at the sheer mention of anchovies however I promise you that it is worth giving this a go even if you absolutely HATE anchovies. Honestly they are only used to enhance the flavour of the sauce and they do not overpower – I promise.

1 kg of fresh ripe tomatoes or 2 tins of good quality peeled tomatoes
4 large cloves of garlic
1 red medium red onion
1 table spoon of salted capers (do not use the ones in vinegar – you can use the ones in brine but I prefer the salted ones)
1 teaspoon of chili flakes
3 or 4 anchovy fillets
Fresh herbs (Parsley or Basil) if you have it
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 packet of Linguine (you could use Spaghetti, Penne etc)
Fresh Parmesan (Reggiano or Padano)

Finely chopped onion and garlic

Finely chop the onions and garlic, add to a heavy based pan with a small pinch of salt and a good glug of oil.

Chili being added to sauted onions and garlic

Saute until sweet and soft, add anchovy fillets (mine were massive so I only used 2), teaspoon of chili and rinsed capers. It is really important to rinse the capers well as it can make the sauce too salty if you do not.

Anchovies and capers being added

You can adjust the chili amount to your taste – 1 teaspoon will give the sauce a bit of a kick but will definitely not burn your head off.

Cook anchovies until they have melted.

Tomatoes being added

Peel the tomatoes by cutting a cross in the bottom of the tomato and popping into boiling water (I put the tomatoes into bowl and poured boiled water over them). Leave them in the hot water for a minute of two then peel – the skins should come off easily – if not pop them back into the boiling water for a minute of so longer.

Once peeled roughly chop them and add to the pot, bring to the boil and then simmer.

Cook sauce until all the tomatoes have disintegrated and the sauce has thickened and become lovely and “saucy”. This should take about 25 – 35 mins.

Sauce reduced and ready to mix into cooked pasta

Cook pasta (500 grams) using the recommended cooking time on the packet, make sure you always cook pasta in a big pot with lots of water with a large pinch of salt. You do not need to add oil.

Pasta added to pot of boiling water

Once pasta is cooked drain well and put back into the pot, add sauce to pot and mix through.

Add a handful of chopped herbs in you have some at hand – it is always worthwhile having some parsley or basil in the garden for these occasions. Season to taste – you probably won’t need salt.

Pasta with tomato anchovy and caper sauce

Serve immediately with a drizzle of good extra virgin oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan.

A total winner when you are needing an easy quick dish to fill your empty tummy.

Deliciously light gnocchi with rich Gorgonzola sauce and roasted hazelnuts

May 17, 2010

Gnocchi with creamy Goronzola sauce

My sister is a huge fan of anything creamy, cheesy or creamy and cheesy so when I suggested “Gnocchi with a creamy Gorgonzola Sauce” as an option for dinner I knew before I asked what the answer would be.

“YES PLEASE!!”

Normally I shy away from such creamy cheesy decadence however there was a tub of Mascarpone in the fridge left over from making Tiramisu and a wedge of Gorgonzola – realistically the choice was already made….

Now the thought of making homemade gnocchi I know is making you feel a little panicky already but I promise you you do not need to be a budding Gordon Ramsey to be able to pull this dish off and wow your friends.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Gnocchi

1 kg floury potatoes (Maris Piper, Golden Wonder, Sebago) – this is unpeeled weight
200 grams plain white flour ideally a stone ground organic one
1 egg (free range organic preferably)
Salt and Pepper

Gorgonzola Sauce

250 gram tub of Mascarpone
200 grams Gorgonzola
Small bunch of Chives finely chopped

Skinned and roasted hazelnuts (or walnuts)

Steaming potatoes

First off peel and chop the potatoes into 2 cm cubes, steam until cooked which should take about 10 – 15 mins depending on how good your steamer is. Mine took about half an hour because it was not the more effective of steamers. Annoying!

Cooked potatoes passed through a fine sieve

Once the potatoes are cooked pass them through a fine sieve into a large mixing bowl, you can use a potato ricer if you have one. Add the egg, a large pinch of salt and several grinds of the pepper mill, add the flour in and mix into a soft dough.

Sieved potatoes with egg, seasoning and flour

Turn out onto a clean and lightly floured surface.

Split dough into 4 portions. Take one of your potions and roll into a long thin sausage shape – approx 1 1/2 wide. Take a butter knife and cut the sausage into small pieces approx 2 cm long and place on a lightly floured plate or tray. Do this with the rest of the dough.

Gnocchi dough rolled into sausages and cut into small pieces

**** once you have made your gnocchi you can press it lightly with a fork to make it ridged, this is good as the gnocchi will hold onto sauce better. It is not essential, I didn’t do this as I was in a rush.

Freshly made gnocchi (uncooked)

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add a large pinch of salt.

Warm a ceramic dish.

Dropping gnocchi into rapidly boiling salted water

Take the Gnocchi and in pop the little dumplings into the water one by one (you will probably need to do this in about 4 batches).

As soon as the dumpling pop to the surface they are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and pop them into the warmed dish.

Mascarpone being heated

While this is all happening take a small pot, ideally a heavy based one, and add the tub of Mascarpone. Once it starts to bubble crumble the Gorgonzola through and stir. Leave on a low heat until Gorgonzola is thoroughly melted, add some freshly ground pepper and the finely chopped chives.

Gorgonzola being added to the heated Mascarpone

Once you have cooked all your gnocchi pour the sauce over the top and pop under the grill until it bubbles and is golden brown.

Gorgonzola sauce poured over cooked gnocchi

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce grilled, adding roasted hazelnuts

Serve with chopped roasted hazelnuts sprinkled on top, a bitter leaf salad and some crusty bread.

Tucking in to the gnocchi

Yummy!!!!!

Tiramisu Jamie style with a few tweaks

May 12, 2010

Tiramisu

My sis, her hubby and a few mates rented a lovely wee house in the middle of nowhere for New Year. It was really rather snowy and was touch and go there for a while whether or not they were actually going to make it. On there first night Euan woke up in the wee hours of the morning to a faint hissing noise and knew immediately that there was a “problem”.

The pipes had burst and there was water pouring everywhere – yes it was that cold!

Euan (who happens to be a plumber) came to the rescue and with a torch and a shovel managed to dig his way through the snow and ice to the decking where the water shut off valve was.

Well done Euan. The next day he wove his magic and repaired the pipes.

Anyway the whole point in this story is that due to the water dramas the owners offered the crew a free weekend, how lovely.

The free weekend was last weekend and I was invited.

What an excellent excuse to cook. There were a few likes and dislikes to attend to so we settled for a simple Italian menu.

Tomato and basil Bruschetta

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
Watercress, Rocket, Fennel and Apple Salad

Tiramisu

I have only made Tiramisu once before and that was for my 30th and was for 80 people….what a laugh.

My sister and I had watched Jamie Oliver’s “Venice” show during the week where he made Tiramisu so this recipe is inspired by Jamie.

Ingredients

1 1/2 x packets Savoiardi biscuits (sponge fingers)
500 grams Mascarpone
6 free range eggs
Approx 5 – 6 table spoons caster sugar
150 ml double cream (make sure it is not thickened cream)
Pinch of salt
Madeira wine (Pedro Ximenez sherry would also be nice)
1 cup of strong coffee (ideally freshly ground)
300 grams of good quality dark chocolate 70% cocoa solid (I like to use Green and Blacks but Lindt will do)

Finely chop 200 grams of dark chocolate, gently warm cream in a small pot – when hot but not boiling take off the heat and stir in chocolate. The chocolate should melt and create a beautiful smooth chocolate sauce. Leave off the heat to cool.

Separate eggs, yokes into one mixing bowl and whites into another. It is VERY important to make sure that the bowl for the whites is spotlessly clean – if the bowl has a hint of oil the whites will not whisk.

Egg yolks whisked with caster sugar

Add sugar slowly to egg yolks while whisking, whisk until pale yellow and creamy – this should take about 5 – 8 mins. I have said 5 – 6 table spoons of sugar because it really depends on how sweet you want this dessert to be. I like it to be sweet but not sickly. Taste as you go, you can always add more sugar but you can’t take it away. Remember the biscuits, chocolate and Madeira are all quite sweet.

In a separate bowl beat the Mascarpone with a wooden spoon until it is smooth, add in the egg yolk mix and gently stir through.

Whisking egg whites with pinch of salt

Add pinch of salt to egg whites and whisk until forms stiff peaks. Stir egg whites through egg yolk and Mascarpone mix. Taste for sweetness.

Egg yolk and Mascarpone mix being added to egg whites

Choose a low dish ideally glass but not essential, layer 1/2 the biscuits on the base. Sprinkle the 1/2 the coffee over this layer followed by a healthy slosh of the Madeira wine. Once the chocolate sauce is cooled (can be warm but not hot) pour 1/2 over the biscuits. Top with the Mascarpone/egg mix then follow with another layer.

Layering sponge fingers

Dollop the creamy Mascarpone mix on the top and then shave chocolate all over the top.

Dolloping the Mascarpone mix as a topping

Pop in the fridge and leave overnight for best results.

Eat in large quantities and try not to feel sick (like I did).

Tip: I honestly recommend that you do leave it in the fridge overnight – I know it is tempting to eat it straight away but it is so much better when it has been left for the biscuits to soften and the flavours to develop.

Pizza from scratch

May 10, 2010

Homemade mushroom, courgette and mozarella pizza

I don’t know why but my friends are always seriously impressed when I make pizza “from scratch”. Instead of admitting it is laughably easy (which is what I usually do) I probably should soak up the praise and say nothing. However that is just not me – I like to share.

You will need to have a little bit of time on your hands but other than that – easy!

Pizza Dough (2 large pizzas)

2 cups of plain flour (I like to use a white spelt flour but wheat will do)
1 sachet of instant dried yeast (7 grams)
1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of white sugar
warm water (blood temperature)

Bung all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, slowly add warm water combining it with your fingers until a soft dough forms (not too sticky). I find that if you separate your fingers and almost comb through the dry ingredients whilst mixing in the warm water stops too much of the dough sticking to your fingers which can be a right pain.

Pizza dough

Once you have a soft dough turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. You should feel the dough getting smooth and soft – this is the gluten being released from the flour.

Rinse out your mixing bowl dry and lightly oil. Pop the dough back in and cover with a damp tea towel. Put the bowl in a warm draft free area. Leave for about 40 mins or until it has approx doubled in size.

While the dough is rising you can make your sauce.

Pizza Sauce

1 medium red onion
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 kg of ripe tomatoes (or 1 tin of best quality tinned tomatoes)
Basil
Sea salt and pepper
Good quality olive oil

Finely dice the onion, crush or finely chop garlic.

Chopped onion and garlic

Add to heavy based cold pot or frying pan with a good glug of olive oil (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons) and a large pinch of sea salt.

Pop on a low – medium heat and saute until soft and sweet (do not brown).

Finely dice the fresh tomatoes removing any tough cores.

Add finely diced tomatoes (or tinned tomatoes) to onion and garlic and cook on medium heat until tomatoes have broken down into a thick sauce. This should take between 25 and 35 mins.

Fresh tomatoes added to onions and garlic

Pizza sauce cooking

At this point taste for seasoning and if it is slightly acidic add a small amount of white sugar (maybe 1/2 teaspoon). Add in finely sliced fresh basil about 1/4 of a cup.

Also add salt and pepper if needed.

After your sauce is cooked check on the dough. If it has risen to approx double size it is done!

****Note: if your dough has not risen check the use by date on the packet it might be out of date – actually do that before you even begin. If you are a wee bit worried about the yeast not working you can add it to the warm water with a teaspoon of sugar and it should foam up after a few mins – this shows that the yeast is alive. Another reason that your dough might not rise is it has not been left in a warm draft free area.

Bring the risen dough back into the kitchen and knock back – this is the fun bit.

Basically “knocking back” means punching the large pillow of dough in the middle to knock out some of the air.

Pull the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead for 2 mins. Split the dough into 2 balls before you roll out.

Pizza dough being rolled out

Your oven should be on, preheated to as high as you oven can go approx 250 degrees celsius. At this point and all your toppings prepared, oven hot and ready to go.

I like my pizzas very simple, give me a buffalo mozzarella tomato and basil any day!!!

I think the key to success with a good pizza is do not overload your pizza with toppings and as I say with pretty much all cooking – Keep It Simple Stupid.

I prefer a thin base for my pizzas. So I roll out the dough as thinly as possible, I then put it on some baking paper so that it can easily be transferred to the oven. Ideally onto a piping hot pizza stone but if you don’t have one that is fine – straight onto the racks or a thin pizza tray.

Sauce being added to pizza base

Once you have rolled out the dough get a large spoon and spread out a thin layer of sauce over the base – don’t put too much on or it will make the base a bit wet. Now you can do whatever you like with your pizza here are a few options:

Tomato buffalo mozzarella and basil – I start off finely grating some Parmesan Reggiano over the top, not too much. It just enhances the flavour. Tear pieces of buffalo mozzarella and dot them over the pizza, add some whole basil leaves and if you want to you can pop some super sweet cherry tomatoes (make sure they are the best ones – if you can’t find good ones leave them out)

Mushroom, courgette, mozarella pizza

Mushroom and courgette – start with the Parmesan as above and dot with a cow’s milk fresh mozzarella, use a speed peeler and peel ribbons of courgette onto the pizza, sprinkle with very finely sliced mushrooms – I like to use Swiss browns or chestnut mushrooms (small ones).

Roasted butternut pumpkin with feta and baby spinach – very quickly wilt the spinach in a frying pan with a little olive oil, roast cm cubes of the butternut pumpkin until soft and caramelised. Prepare pizza with sauce and grating of Parmesan – pop the pumpkin, crumbled feta and spoonful dollops of spinach onto the pizza bake until ready.

Now just a little point on the timing for baking – this totally depends on your oven temp, if you have a pizza stone and how thick your base is so if I were you I would put your timer on for about 7 minutes and then keep checking it.

All the cheese should be melted and a little golden and the base should also be cooked through and ideally a little golden on the underside.

Just before I serve the pizza I like to pop on some fresh basil and drizzle over some top-notch peppery extra virgin olive oil – or a chili oil.

There are just so many pizza topping options it is ridiculous.

Salami
Prosciutto and rocket
Artichoke, ham, mushroom and olives
Aubergine and goats cheese

And so many more….

Leftovers:

By the way I made some pizza on the weekend and woke up with a little bit of a hangover the next day. I was looking in the fridge thinking “I have to eat eggs!!” and thought I really fancied a Huevos Rancheros. However I didn’t have any of the ingredients I needed apart from the eggs.

All of a sudden I had a bit of a brain wave. I need to mention at this point please bear with me and don’t judge!!!

I fried 2 eggs, warmed a large slice of pizza (it was a mushroom and courgette one). I popped the soft fried eggs onto of the warm pizza, sprinkled it with a bit of freshly chopped Italian parsley and some Maldon sea salt. Joy on a plate. I felt MUCH better after I had that!!

I strongly recommend you try this – I know you are thinking that I am mental but PLEASE give it a go.

Risotto to make you happy

May 10, 2010

Mushroom and asparagus risotto

Many people are frightened of risotto and I was too until I made my first one with my friend Liz many many moons ago, I seem to remember that we used almost a whole bottle of wine in it. It was slightly stodgy (a bit winey) but in our opinion a raging success none the less.

Risotto is my favourite comfort food, it is super easy to make and with a large glass of vino and a couple of episodes of Sex and the City will turn any bad day into a great day – guaranteed!!

I think one of the scary things for people about risotto is the “constant stirring” element. To be perfectly honest – I love it, it is therapeutic almost meditative. AND….it is very important to note that if you don’t stir the risotto for a couple of minutes the world will not end.

Risotto is very versatile, I have chosen mushroom because I had quite a lot of mushies to use but there are many many many different kinds of risotto you can try. I usually use what ever I have in the fridge. A few good suggestions are:

– Spinach
– Herb and Lemon (parsley, basil, rocket are good)
– Roasted butternut pumpkin (with spinach if you like)
– Left over roasted chicken thrown in with some lemon or herbs
– Peas and a wee bit of fresh mint
– Mushroom, pea and asparagus
– Asparagus and mint
– Roasted cauliflower
– Char grilled courgettes, fresh corn and oven roasted cherry tomatoes

There really are so many different options!

Anyway I will get onto the recipe:

300 grams arborio rice
Vegetable or chicken stock (I usually used 1 1/2 stock cubes)
1 medium brown onions
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine (ideally one you would drink not “cooking” wine)
1 – 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan as finely grated as you can (Reggiano is best but Padano will be fine) please do not buy pre-grated, fake Parmesan (non-Italian) or dried Parmesan.

Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Fresh Thyme leaves are good)
Mushrooms approx 500 grams (swiss browns, chestnut, button, Portobello, field whatever you have or a mixture)

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Good unsalted butter (lightly salted will do but unsalted preferable)

****TIP: If I have some wine left over which I know won’t be drunk I pop it in a small freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This is perfect for risotto. If you don’t have wine a dry vermouth will work just as well.

Use a heavy based medium to large pot or heavy based large (deep) frying pan. Add a decent glug of olive oil to the pot (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons), finely dice the onion and garlic and add to the pot with a good pinch of salt. I usually add the onion, garlic and oil to a cold pan then warm up – tends to prevent it browning. Saute until soft and the sharp onion smell has gone and been replaced with a lovely sweet smell. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not brown the onions – so keep on a low heat.

Onion and garlic being sauteed

***TIP: If the onions/garlic do start to brown add a little bit more olive oil which will immediately drop the oil temp and stop the browning, take off the heat for a minute or two.

Add rice and stir until coated in oil and warmed through, rice should be hot. Add a glass of white wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed fully by the rice.

Rice added to onion and garlic

Now add piping hot stock about 1 cup at a time. I cheat with this by boiling the kettle and adding in the stock cubes direct to the pot pouring boiling water from the kettle on top.

I actually find this works best as you know exactly how much flavour (stock) you have added and the amount of liquid is on an “as you need” basis. However if you have lovely home-made stock definitely use that!!

If you are using liquid stock heat it up and keep it hot and ladle the stock one ladle at a time.

Keep stirring the risotto adding about 1 cup or 1 ladle of stock/hot water at a time. Make sure the stock is almost fully absorbed before you add your next cup/ladle of stock/water.

While you are doing this saute the sliced mushrooms in a separate pan, ideally a large frying pan DO NOT ADD SALT this will draw out the moisture and make the mushrooms stew. If you do not have a large frying pan do them in 2 batches. Saute in some butter and a splash of olive oil. Once they are cooked add Salt and Pepper and some chopped herbs. Or you can bake sliced mushrooms in the oven with butter, olive oil until they are cooked through – approx 25 mins at 190 degrees celsius. Once they are cooked keep the mushrooms to the side.

Sliced portobello and chestnut mushrooms with butter, olive oil and fresh thyme

Keep doing this for about 20 mins, I usually start trying the rice to see if it is cooked about this time. Keep going with the stock until you are happy with the rice, it will need to be cooked until it has a little bit of a bite “al dente”.

The consistency should not be to stodgy, if it is, add a little bit more liquid.

Add mushrooms, a knob of butter, any chopped herbs and Parmesan. Stir vigorously shaking the pot at the same time. If it is getting too thick add a little bit of extra boiling water.

Taste and season if necessary.

This should serve 3 – 4 hungry people. Serve with a lovely fresh leafy salad.

I normally serve this is a low pasta type bowl with a drizzle of best quality peppery extra virgin olive oil on top.

Left overs:

If you have any leftovers, you can roll it into small golf ball sizes, use wet hands to prevent sticking. Roll in some flour, egg and then bread crumbs then deep fat fry until golden brown. You can also add a small piece of mozzarella into the center for a little bit of gooey fun. These can be served as an entrée with garlic aioli or with a tomato and basil sauce and a salad as a main course. YUMMY!

Mushroom risotto (and other suggestions)

April 30, 2010

Many people are frightened of risotto and I was too until I made my first one with my friend Liz many many moons ago, I seem to remember that we used almost a whole bottle of wine in it. It was slightly stodgy (a bit winey) but in our opinion a raging success none the less.

Risotto is my favourite comfort food, it is super easy to make and with a large glass of vino and a couple of episodes of Sex and the City will turn any bad day into a great day – guaranteed!!

I think one of the scary things for people about risotto is the “constant stirring” element. To be perfectly honest – I love it, it is therapeutic almost meditative. AND….it is very important to note that if you don’t stir the risotto for a couple of minutes the world will not end.

Risotto is very versatile, I have chosen mushroom because I had quite a lot of mushies to use but there are many many many different kinds of risotto you can try. I usually use what ever I have in the fridge. A few good suggestions are:

– Spinach
– Herb and Lemon (parsley, basil, rocket are good)
– Roasted butternut pumpkin (with spinach if you like)
– Left over roasted chicken thrown in with some lemon or herbs
– Peas and a wee bit of fresh mint
– Mushroom, pea and asparagus
– Asparagus and mint
– Roasted cauliflower
– Char grilled courgettes, fresh corn and oven roasted cherry tomatoes

There really are so many different options!

Anyway I will get onto the recipe:

300 grams arborio rice
Vegetable or chicken stock (I usually used 1 1/2 stock cubes)
1 medium brown onions
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine (ideally one you would drink not “cooking” wine)
1 – 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan as finely grated as you can (Reggiano is best but Padano will be fine) please do not buy pre-grated, fake Parmesan (non-Italian) or dried Parmesan.

Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Fresh Thyme leaves are good)
Mushrooms approx 500 grams (swiss browns, chestnut, button, Portobello, field whatever you have or a mixture)

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Good unsalted butter (lightly salted will do but unsalted preferable)

****TIP: If I have some wine left over which I know won’t be drunk I pop it in a small freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This is perfect for risotto. If you don’t have wine a dry vermouth will work just as well.

Use a heavy based medium to large pot or heavy based large (deep) frying pan. Add a decent glug of olive oil to the pot (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons), finely dice the onion and garlic and add to the pot with a good pinch of salt. I usually add the onion, garlic and oil to a cold pan then warm up – tends to prevent it browning. Saute until soft and the sharp onion smell has gone and been replaced with a lovely sweet smell. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not brown the onions – so keep on a low heat.

***TIP: If the onions/garlic do start to brown add a little bit more olive oil which will immediately drop the oil temp and stop the browning, take off the heat for a minute or two.

Add rice and stir until coated in oil and warmed through, rice should be hot. Add a glass of white wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed fully by the rice.

Now add piping hot stock about 1 cup at a time. I cheat with this by boiling the kettle and adding in the stock cubes direct to the pot pouring boiling water from the kettle on top.

I actually find this works best as you know exactly how much flavour (stock) you have added and the amount of liquid is on an “as you need” basis. However if you have lovely home-made stock definitely use that!!

If you are using liquid stock heat it up and keep it hot and ladle the stock one ladle at a time.

Keep stirring the risotto adding about 1 cup or 1 ladle of stock/hot water at a time. Make sure the stock is almost fully absorbed before you add your next cup/ladle of stock/water.

While you are doing this saute the sliced mushrooms in a separate pan, ideally a large frying pan DO NOT ADD SALT this will draw out the moisture and make the mushrooms stew. If you do not have a large frying pan do them in 2 batches. Saute in some butter and a splash of olive oil. Once they are cooked add Salt and Pepper and some chopped herbs. Keep to the side.

Keep doing this for about 20 mins, I usually start trying the rice to see if it is cooked about this time. Keep going with the stock until you are happy with the rice, it will need to be cooked until it has a little bit of a bite “al dente”.

The consistency should not be to stodgy, if it is, add a little bit more liquid.

Add mushrooms, a knob of butter, any chopped herbs and Parmesan. Stir vigorously shaking the pot at the same time. If it is getting too thick add a little bit of extra boiling water.

Taste and season if necessary.

This should serve 3 – 4 hungry people. Serve with a lovely fresh leafy salad.

I normally serve this is a low pasta type bowl with a drizzle of best quality peppery extra virgin olive oil on top.

Left overs:

If you have any leftovers, you can roll it into small golf ball sizes, use wet hands to prevent sticking. Roll in some flour, egg and then bread crumbs then deep fat fry until golden brown. You can also add a small piece of mozzarella into the center for a little bit of gooey fun. These can be served as an entrée with garlic aioli or with a tomato and basil sauce and a salad as a main course. YUMMY!