Thursday, 26 June 2014

Pizza Pan

Have you ever watched a random TV show that suddenly gets you completely hooked? I spend the first hour after I get home from work lounging on my bed watching random TV, and talking to my dad through the door, who is in the identical position on his bed. We both happened to be watching Gordon Ramsey’s Ultimate Cooking Course one evening, and couldn’t stop watching after.

My husband (oooh I said husband!) and I love making pizza. We love eating it even more, but hey who doesn’t! We bought ourselves a pizza book from Italy, as well as a wooden pizza tray and it makes things so so so fun. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m an over excited cook, and I can’t make something without having ten people over to try it (even though it may bomb completely the first time). Queue pizza and ice cream night….

I’ve obviously not been working much, so I had a day to spend at home with my trusty kitchen aid (Mixie loves being on the counter all the time).

Sausage pizza, ready for the oven
Gordon’s Pizza Dough

You will need
500 grams flour
1 tbsp. sea salt (or fine salt, or any salt)
14 gms. yeast
1 tbsp. caster sugar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
325ml lukewarm water

If you’re using a stand mixer, this is the easiest dough in the world, it kneads itself! If not, there’s always something extremely therapeutic about pummeling dough.

Step 1
Mix the flour and salt together and make a well in the middle.

Step 2
Put the yeast, sugar & oil into a glass with water and leave it to prove. This will become foamy, bubble and extremely yeasty to smell, that’s when you know it’s done. (Should take around 7 to 10 minutes)

Step 3
Slowly add the liquid to your dry ingredients, keeping the mixer on slow. You are using the dough hook, and not any paddle. If using your hands, bring the flour in from the sides with a fork and swirl it into the liquid until it starts to come together.

Step 4
Work the rest of the flour with clean hands, kneading till you have a smooth, springy dough.

Step 5
Put the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl, sprinkle with flour and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm room for an hour until doubled in size.

Step 6
Tip the dough onto a flour-dusted surface and knead it around (i.e. PUNCH IT UP) a bit to push the air out with your hands. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in cling film, in the fridge (or freezer) until required.
(Timing-wise, it's a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don't roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though - if you're working in advance like this it's better to leave your dough, covered with cling film, in the fridge.)

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, why don’t you start working on the sauce? It’s the world’s simplest sauce and takes no time at all.

My homemade Pizza sauce

This recipe can double up as a pasta sauce as well. It’s simple, easy & requires the least amount of monitoring I've ever seen. 
You will need
2 400gm cans of peeled tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 or 6 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
50ml tomato puree
Mixed Herbs to season
Salt & Pepper to season
Olive oil

Step 1
Add some olive oil into a pan and sauté the onions & garlic. You want them to become soft, but not burnt & brown. This should take between 5 & 7 minutes.

Step 2
Add both cans of peeled tomatoes to the pan. You need to pulverize these to make a sauce. I like using a potato masher and really squishing them up. If you’re so inclined, you could put the tomatoes into a mixer and blend them first. That makes the sauce much smoother.

Step 3
Let the tomatoes bubble and boil, and allow the water to evaporate. Season with salt & pepper to taste, and add a handful of herbs. I use rosemary and thyme, but there is really no restriction when it comes to herbs, any and all are wonderful. The pizza sauce should not take more than 25 to 30 minutes to cook, and you don’t really need to stand over the pan. Go take a shower, wipe down your kitchen counters, and maybe lay the table for dinner. It’s not going anywhere. 

A whole lotta passata

Making the Pizza

Pre heat your oven to 180degrees, and get rolling!

All set up and ready to roll
Once you're ready to make the pizzas, divide the dough into balls & keep them covered. The original recipe asked for 4 balls, I made them smaller (owing to the size of my pan & oven) and turned out maybe ten pizzas that day.

Production line begins

The original recipe asks for ovenproof pans, which unfortunately I don’t have. I did the next best thing and slipped the pizzas from my pans onto a silicon baking mat. It worked just fine.

Pizza Toppings

You will need:
2 balls fresh mozzarella, shredded (I was so excited to do this, that I bought 3 different kinds of mozzarella to try out. I wanted to measure the melting point of each, compare tastes, look & feel. If you’re like me, feel free, it makes things much more fun in the kitchen.)
Basil leaves
Olive oil
5 or 6 English breakfast sausages (I took the sausages out of their skins, sliced them into thin discs and lightly fried them, making sure they stayed soft)


Step 1
Roll one ball out on a floured work surface until it's the same size as your pan. (If you have 2 pans, you can do 2 pizzas at the same time, it works like magic).

Roll, roll, roll your dough

Step 2
Add a little olive oil to the pan and add the pizza base, pressing it into the pan. Cook it over a medium heat until the base crisps and the dough starts to cook through and bubble up, about 5-8 minutes. (If you’re Indian, this is going to look very much like bubbly naans while cooking)

Wrinkly old pizza base
Double time

Step 3
Spread 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce on them, and a heaping handful of shredded mozzarella. You can also add any other topping you want. I mixed things up and served my friends margarita pizzas as well as something I’d loved in Italy - salsiccia aka sausage! 

Sausage pizza, ready for the oven

Step 4
Put the prepared pizza on your baking mat and put into the oven until the toppings bubble and the cheese really starts to ooze everywhere. This should be another ten minutes. 

Waiting for the oven
Step 5
Drizzle with more olive oil, top with either basil leaves or rocket lettuce & serve on a wooden pizza tray.

I'm getting hungry again
Not plated yet!

A bit over exposed, but you get the picture
I served the pizza with simple salads to accompany:  Asparagus from a tin, marinated mushrooms, pasta salad and a rocket & iceberg lettuce salad.

Happy helper making the pasta salad
We approve

So I usually sign off with a bad pun or two. Want to hear a joke about pizza? Never mind, it's too cheesy. 


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Count Couscous

I’ve been intrigued with couscous for a while. Not the kind you get in hotel buffets which is completely dried out and ice cold, but the actual warm, soaked in chicken stock kinda salad. So what does a tired, hungry vegan (yes I have been vegan on and off for a while) eat on Sunday nights when everyone else is having chicken curry? You pull out a box of couscous that you bought over a year ago, any vegetables you can find and make a go of it. The results can be surprising. 

I’ve tried two different couscous brands with varied results – pearled couscous, which is slightly larger and resembles ermmm…pearls, has to be boiled in salted water for ten minutes before its ready to eat.

The other kind seems to be more traditional, no cooking, just soak it in either boiling water or hot chicken stock for ten minutes and voila!

I’m pretty sure you can mix cous cous with anything you want, however I’m partial to a vegetable mix of red and yellow peppers, carrots, garlic and onion. We try to stick to quantities, but it’s just so hard when you’re a greedy gump. Any that’s left over is usually finished the next day before lunchtime, so it’s actually ok if we make too much.

So healthy
What you need
I packet pearl OR 1 cup regular couscous
1 red pepper (cut into thick slices)
1 yellow pepper (cut into thick slices)
2 large red carrots (sliced length wise)
1 or 2 small whole onions
5 or 6 large cloves garlic
Olive oil
Lemon juice

Step 1
Preheat your oven to roasting temperature (around 200degrees C). The printed temperatures wore off my oven ages ago, so I am assuming it’s around that!

Step 2
Put the peppers, carrots, onion and garlic on a baking tray and douse liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for 30 – 40 minutes or until the carrots are soft and sweet (go on, you know you can taste them if you want to).
All prepped
Step 3
If you’re using pearl couscous, put a pot of salted water to boil and add the couscous when the water is done. Leave for ten minutes or until you can taste the doneness with your teeth (this is the identical process to boiling pasta).

Step 3 again!
If you’re using regular couscous, you don’t need to make chicken stock from scratch (because life’s too short to make stock!). Use stock cubes, no one will blame you and more importantly – no one will know!

Stock piled

Step 3.1
Put one cup of couscous in a glass bowl and cover it with 2 cups of boiling hot chicken stock. (If you’re going with the vegetarian option, you can use veggie stock or even plain water.) I like my couscous fat and fluffy so I add more liquid than most recipes call for. You can alter to your tastes. The less you put, the dryer it grain.

Absorbing the stock
Step 4
Roughly chop the peppers and carrots up into pieces that are around the same size. SQUOOSH the garlic out of its skin so it comes out soft and sticky, and make sure you peel the onion layers away from each other. They’ll fall apart at the slightest touch, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Step 5
Add the vegetables to the couscous and mix well. Drizzle olive oil on the top and serve. Optional garnishes are lemon juice and parsley, which I leave entirely to your discretion. You can eat this as a meal in itself (which I do, all the time!) or serve as a salad accompanying fish, chicken or mutton.

It’s delicious, decadent and not so heavy on the tummy though I promise you, you will be full to bursting by the time you’re done eating.

I'm super excited with how bright these pictures are!
Pearl couscous

Giant portion for 1 
Ignore the spoon! 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Wah Wah

Have you ever bitten into a burger and wished you could spend the rest of your life with it?

It was our last night in Bali, and we were done with Indonesian food, and hotel food and we just couldn’t find a McDonald’s. IM KIDDING! (My brother, who is a chef, has just begun plotting my demise.) We remembered seeing a burger place on one of our explorations, and decided to give ourselves a last taste of phenomenal beef before we left. And we were so glad that we did! 

The restaurant was completely empty and we had our choice of seating. We sat outside drinking beer and watching the activity (or lack of) on the street we were on. I have to say that this was one of my 2 favourite meals on our trip. The food was so good, it almost made me cry. Imagine how exciting it must be to walk into a place that is titled 'The Wagyu and Wine Bar'. Yes please! 

We started with Seared Foie Gras on a crispy toast with berry reduction. It was so soft it melted the second it hit my tongue.
To die for
We also ordered the very ‘standard’ Chicken Masala Satay, which turned out to be satay sticks with grilled chicken, mango and pineapple, accompanied with their curry mayo and rice. Very nice, very different from the normal chicken stay one eats.
Add caption
The biggest choices and of course, the biggest dilemma was which burger to order. The lovely folks at Wah Wah don’t make it easy – there are 3 sizes! How can I not order the biggest? You can order a 60gm, 120gm or 180gm burger. I really wanted to go with the 180, but knew I'd waste more than I'd eat. 

I had a 120gm Classic Burger – wagyu beef with tomato reduction, 'ww' wild honey mustard mayo and onions. (Of course, I picked out the onion).

Mon Classic Burger 
My partner-in-dine did one better and ordered ‘The Works’ – a wague beef patty with crispy prosciutto (mmm), parmigiano shavings and a quail egg. It was too heavy for me, one bite was enough to know that, so I happily stuck to my classic burger washed down with a side of Truffled Parmigiano French Fries *

Side view of the Works
Truffle Parmesan Fries
The burgers aren't cheap, but then again, if you're eating wagyu you can't really expect it to be cheap. All in all a fantastically delicious meal, one I would repeat over and over again. The menu is completely whacked out - I couldn't believe half of what was written in it (the prude in me kind of exploded), but it's a really fun place and one where you will definitely enjoy yourself. 

If you're ever in Bali, look it up, I promise you won't regret it. Go on then, it's your moo-ve. 

Our divine meal