Pizza

I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite “treat” foods has to be pizza.  I am not talking about the doughy and often nasty takeaway version, or the hard and mainly unpalatable frozen variety.  I am talking restaurant quality or a darn fine home made version!

OvouMgw+Qw6Gdyak9IT36w.jpg

I have tested dough for some time in my quest to make a pizza base I was happy with.  It has come down to not just technique, but also the types of ingredient.  Using speciality flour has definitely made a difference.  Technique changes have also made for a more tastier base!

Please note that I have placed affiliate links on some items, to help you locate items I use.  It is up to you whether you choose to purchase any item.

Three pizza making items that have revolutionised my pizza’s are:-

Pizza Stone

Pizza Shunt/Peel

Pizza Scissors – (No necessary but if you see the below video, you may be convinced.)

Ingredients:-

500g Tipo type “0” flour  (This link at time of writing, buys you around 10 bags for £12 – It is hard to find this flour in supermarkets, so you could go halves with a friend as a suggestion. It stores and lasts well, so I go through it all…. no shock there)

3.5g Dried Easy Bake Yeast
45g Olive Oil – I find weighing it easier
250 ml of luke warm water
10g salt
10g sugar

Semolina or Greaseproof Paper if using the Pizza shunt/peel as per video below.

Toppings:-

Tin of good quality tomatoes (See my photo below)
Ball of Mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
Freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Plus any other toppings – I like red onion and mushrooms.

The first part to this recipe that I would want to advise you about is dough timing.  I make the dough the night before I eat it, or early in the morning.  This allows the dough to get better flavour and it really makes a huge difference!

I use my Kitchenaid mixer  and this is because I love getting maximum use out of it.  Plus I can be doing other things whilst it mixes the dough.  I use a dough hook and speed 2 setting.

In the mixer, place in the flour, sugar, yeast to one side, salt to the other side (otherwise it can cause problems proving) and olive oil.

IMG_2439

 

Then add 200mls of the water to begin with.  Different types of flour absorb different levels of water.  You may need only this amount or you could find yourself needing more than suggested. Go little by little.  If you find the dough too wet, add a little more flour.  Give the dough chance to come together though, because all of sudden it can go drier. The dough needs to be kneaded for around 10 minutes.  You might have to stop your mixer once or twice, and run a spatula around the edge of the bowl.  This is so all the ingredients get properly added.

IMG_2441

After ten minutes, your bowl should be clean and the dough should be smooth and have some elasticity to it.

Using the bowl you have been mixing it in, rub a little olive oil around the bowl and place the dough back in.  The olive oil helps stop the dough sticking to the sides, whilst it is proving and rising.  Place some cling film tightly over top.  This stops the dough getting a skin.

IMG_2444

Then place a tea towel over the top and let it prove for around about an hour or so, until it has doubled in size.  DO NOT be tempted to place in an airing cupboard or anywhere too hot.  Most rooms around 21 degrees centigrade are a good temperature.

IMG_2443

After an hour or so, when doubled in size, tip the dough out onto a floured or oiled work surface.  Many people use flour, but at this stage I like to use a little olive oil on my hands and work surface as I find it stops the dough sticking.  Everyone has their own preference, and this is mine.  Knock back the dough.  This means turning and almost pushing the air out of it again.

I then make the dough into a sausage shape and score into four.

IMG_2445

I then cut into four pieces and roll each piece into a ball shape.  I place each ball into a lightly greased tray/dish.  I then cover with clingfilm and place into the fridge.  I leave them overnight or all day, depending on when I have made them.  As I state above, the longer the better as this gives the dough real flavour.  Even thought it is in a fridge the dough is still proving but not rising.

IMG_2446

Once you are ready to make the pizzas, I would ensure all your topping ingredients are prepped ready.  Make sure your oven is heated high (240 degrees centigrade) with any pizza stone at the correct temperature.  Be prepared to work quickly if you are using my method of pizza shunts/peels as per the videos below.  The video will explains more.  The last thing you want is your dough sticking to the pizza shunt/peel.  Even if you are not using a pizza peel/shunt, you will still need to be fairly quick to stop the dough getting sticky underneath.

I roll out one pizza at a time and keep the others cool in the fridge.  I use a floured surface for this part, and mainly use my hands to push the dough out.  You can use a rolling pin, but I find my hands better for some reason.  Make sure o rings etc, pierce the dough!

I then move on to use the pizza shunt.  Here is a video is below of me using the pizza shunt.

 

One of the toppings is of course the tomato base.  I like the way the Italians just use tinned tomatoes, but they ensure they are real good quality ones.  Some of the nicest I have tried for pizza is the Cirio Polpa ones (see below).  They take a tablespoon or two of the tinned tomatoes and use this as the tomato base.  Do not go right to edge but leave a plain rim.

IMG_2449
IMG_2452 2

 

Place your pizza into the oven using your pizza shunt/peel or other method you choose to use.  Depending on the topping it will take around 8 minutes to become nice and crisp.  This is why the semolina at the bottom of the pizza shunt/peel and using a pizza stone is so good.  Both absorb moisture which helps eliminate soggy bottoms!

Once cooked, you can slice up.  I HIGHLY recommend the pizza scissors which I demonstrate below.  They are my new favourite gadget.

 

 

Advertisements

Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers – Gemista

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Olympic Palace Hotel on the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes.  The Executive Chef and his team, were working tirelessly to produce utterly delicious food, day after day.  It is certainly no easy task producing this level of food constantly, add in the hot climate and long hours and I think many of us would be exhausted.  To work at this level you have to have skill and dedication to your work. Eating Gemista in Rhodes

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that they must have a real enthusiasm and passion, for the food and ingredients they were using. It was a true pleasure to see!  Being a person who loves to immerse herself in the culture of a country, I could not resist getting the opportunity to meet with the food and beverage team, and find out more about their superb Greek dishes.  I managed to get a recipe from them too, so if you fancy trying their “Gemista” pronounced yemista then scroll down.

Gemista - Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

Still to this day, it never ceases to amaze me at how many tourists go to a country, and yet do not try the national dishes?  To me, the whole point of visiting a country is to explore not just the surroundings, but their way of life.  So I urge you to be a little more adventurous and head to the specialist food sections and restaurants, where local and national cuisine is on offer.  Great food is worth exploring!  For more information on the Olympic Palace Hotel (which is a super place to stay by the way) go to:-

www.olympicpalacehotel.com

 

Greek Feta CheeseEmily at workExecutive Chef and the Food & Beverage Manager of the Olympic Palace Hotel With Emily

Ingredients

6 large tomatoes
3 Green Peppers
1 Egg plant chopped small dice (Aubergine in the UK)
1 Pumpkin chopped small dice (Small Butternut Squash in the UK)
12 Tbl of Carolina Rice (Long Grain Rice in UK)
1 White onion finely chopped
Salt & Ground Pepper
1 1/2 Cups of Olive Oil
1 Leek
Handful of fresh parsley finely chopped
Handful of fish mint finely chopped
1kg Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky moon shape

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Wash the vegetables.  Slice a 1cm layer from the top of the tomatoes and peppers.  This makes a lid, so keep them for later.  Remove the inside of the tomato (carefully so you do not split the skin) and reserve the insides for the next step.  Discard the inside of the peppers.

Sprinkle each tomato with a little salt and turn upside down on a tray so that any excess liquid can come out.

In a deep pan take 1\2 cup of olive oil and fry the chopped onion and leek for around 2-3 minutes.  Then add the aubergine and butternut squash and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Add the rice and combine all together well.  With a hand blender, blitz half of the insides of the tomatoes.  Add this puree to the pan, along with 1 cup of water.  Add some salt and pepper for seasoning, and continue cooking on a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and add in the chopped herbs.  The filling will be quite loose and juicy.

Place the mixture to 3/4 height of the tomatoes and peppers.  You need a little room at the top, as when the rice cooks it will expand.  Place the lids on the peppers and tomatoes, and place in a deep baking dish close to each other.  Place the potatoes around the edge.

Blend the other half of the tomato insides with the remaining cup of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and then place over the potatoes.

Cover the baking dish with tin foil and place into the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.  Then remove the tin foil and continue cooking in the oven for a further 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check that it is cooked by gently prodding the potatoes with a knife.

This dish is served both hot and cold in Greece.  In fact they often like it at room temperature the following day.  This will intensify the flavour even more.

Needless to say it is delicious with feta cheese, but another way is to remove the tops and add a slice of mozzarella, then place under the grill until it melts.  However if you are vegan then you can take away any cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower Curry Recipe

This may sound unappetising but trust me, those curry spices get right into the cauliflower, making a bland vegetable into something super tasty.  It serves 2 and is approx 354 calories per serving, so not bad!

IMG_1489

 

Ingredients:-

Approx half a medium sized cauliflower broken into segments par boiled for about 6 minutes until still slightly firm but starting to cook. Drain off properly.
Olive Oil
1 Large onion chopped
2 Good handfuls of chopped mushrooms
2 Cloves of Garlic chopped
1 Red/Green Pepper chopped
100ml of chicken/vegetable stock
15g of Medium curry powder (or hotter if you wish)
40ml of double light cream (or substitute accordingly)
120g of Wholegrain brown basmati rice.
Salt

Start cooking your rice as per the pack instructions.  Brown rice usually takes longer than white, so its worth getting it on early.

In a large heavy bottomed pan add a good couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Then add in the onion, mushrooms, pepper and garlic.  Place on a low-medium heat until the onion starts to soften.  Add the curry powder, then the stock and mix well. Place in the drained cauliflower,  and gently turn it into the mixture so that it gets coated in the sauce.  Cook for a few minutes and then add the cream, making sure you are gentle around the cauliflower.  Make sure you add the cream on a low heat otherwise it will split.  Continue gently cooking until the desired consistency with the sauce is reached.  Sometimes you may need a little extra water to loosen, or cook a little longer to thicken.  Test for seasoning.

Serve on brown rice and with mango chutney of you have it.

 

 

 

 

Garlic Chicken & Mushroom Pasta

This is a real tasty dish which is surprisingly good on the calories at approx 540 calories per person.  This may be because it’s not swimming in cream like I often find so many pasta dishes!  This recipe serves two adults.

IMG_1309

Ingredients:-

150g Wholewheat Spaghetti
1 tsp Fresh lemon zest plus half a lemon juice.
1 tbsp of Olive Oil
200g Chestnut Mushrooms sliced
4 Spring Onions sliced
2 Cloves of Garlic sliced
30g Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese grated
6 Sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
150g cooked chicken breast
Optional (2 tbsp) of single cream

Begin to cook your spaghetti as per the instructions.  In a large wok or frying pan place the olive oil, mushrooms, onions, garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on a low-medium heat.  Add in the cooked chicken breast, lemon zest and juice, 2/3rds of the Parmigiano cheese, a ladle full of water from the spaghetti which is cooking, and stir round to heat through and combine.  If using the cream add this now too.  Taste to see if you want to add any salt and pepper.

You can either add the spaghetti to the pan once it has cooked, or place the spaghetti in the dish and add the chicken and mushroom mixture on top.  I like to do the latter, as then you get more equal amounts of the chicken and mushroom mix.  I then combine the spaghetti and chicken and mushroom mix whilst in the bowl.  Then sprinkle over the remaining 1/3rd Parmigiano cheese over both bowls along with the flat leaf parsley.

 

 

Pasta, Tomato & Sardines

I used to make this for myself as one of my healthy eating low-calorie foods, but it has fast become a favourite with others in my family.  You could swap sardines for tuna or mackerel if you want, although the tinned sardines in tomato sauce just make this dish taste even better.  The quality of ingredients should be top-notch, as they do all the hard work.  I love Parmentier sardines in tomato, they are just delicious!

IMG_1154

Ingredients (Serves 2)

2  Tins of sardines in tomato sauce
150g of Bucatini or Spaghetti
2 Cloves of garlic sliced
10 Cherry tomatoes in quarters
1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 Red pepper sliced
Salt
Bag of rocket leaves
1 Lemon

Boil your bucatini/spaghetti as per the instructions in salted water.

In a large wok or non stick pan, place the olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, chilli flakes and red peppers.  Cook and stir for around five minutes.

Once the bucatini/spaghetti has cooked, remove two ladle full of the water and place into the pan/wok.  Drain the bucatini/spaghetti and add it to the wok.  Add in the sardines and break into chunks, gently mixing it around.  Squeeze in half the lemon, take a handful of rocket and add it to the frying pan, season with salt and mix around again.

Cook for a further couple of minutes, so that the rocket begins to wilt slightly.  Place the spaghetti in bowls.  You will notice some of the ingredients are at the base of the pan, so pour equally onto the spaghetti.

Take the rest of the rocket, squeeze some lemon over, grind a little salt and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Mix to combine and coat the rocket, then add to the spaghetti bowls.

Delicious!