Margherita Pizza

Pizza is my favourite food. Hands down. Yes, I might sound like a 6-year-old child, but I stand by my stomach, and the fact that it’s so simple to make from scratch makes it all the more satisfying.

Here is how I made it.

My pizza dough turned out a little crumbly and didn’t have quite have that texture where the thinner end of the slice flops downwards. It was crispy, but also on the thicker side.

For that reason I’m going to point you in the direction of a basic pizza dough recipe here. This uses all the same ingredients I used, minus the semolina but will probably give you better results considering I winged it and also didn’t let the dough prove. (See the opening line about my love for pizza. Also I was hungry).

Tomato Marinara Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried coriander
  • A small bowl of fresh ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated parmesan
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Squeeze of tomato purée

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a simmering heat. Add the coriander, chilli and basil leaves until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes, purée, lemon juice and parmesan and stir. Season well. Keep stirring on a low heat until the tomatoes are more saucy in consistency and it’s the texture of a paste.

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Once you’re pizza dough has been rolled or stretch out into something resembling a circle you can spread the marinara sauce on. It’s up to you whether to go right to the edges, or leave a little bit more of the crust exposed. I prefer the latter.

Cut up some mozzarella into thin slices, not chunks, around 5 or 6, depending on the size of your pizza and place evenly onto of the sauce.

Place the pizza onto a baking tray and into a pre-heated oven (200°C) and bake for 12-15 minutes, or as long as you feel it needs for the mozzarella to melt and the edges to turn crispy.

Remove the pizza from the open when ready and place fresh basil leaves on top. Buon Appetito!

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Redcurrant & coconut sponge

20170618_143142Ever since learning how to bake I’ve been a fan of the one bowl method. A.k.a. Skip all the faff of sieving and separating and just tip all the ingredients into one big receptacle, whisk and bake. As a result its remarkably simple to create an impressive cake from scratch and swap out or add in different ingredients and flavours depending on the season and what’s available.

This recipe is akin to a basic sponge, just a dairy and gluten free version! I swapped out the sugar for agave syrup and butter for olive oil. I would normally use coconut oil, but I didn’t happen to have any this time around. The coconut milk is a deliciously creamy addition and helped keep the sponge light and moist. I used redcurrants just because we had some in the garden to use up, but this could work just as well with any summer berries! That being said, the tartness of the currants worked really nicely with the crunch of the dessicated coconut and its subtly sweet flavour. Enjoy!

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 45-50 mins
Total time: 60 mins

Recipe type: Dessert, Baking
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 175g of gluten free plain flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp of agave syrup
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 300g of redcurrants (or however many you picked)
  • 100g of dessicated coconut
  • 1 400ml tin of coconut milk (I used the essential Waitrose brand. Coconut cream would also work).

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6.
  2. Add all of the ingredients in a bowl, making sure to have washed and de-stalked the currants.
  3. Whisk together until smooth and glossy.
  4. Add to a well-greased cake tin and bake in the oven for 45-50 mins, or as long as needed until golden brown and cooked through. (Mine was quite a deep cake and so took a bit longer).
  5. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar.
  6. Serve with Pimms for a delicious summer treat!

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Salted Caramel Fudge Squares

These were a completed baking whim and I am gobsmacked they turned out so well, considering. Again they’re a little on the messy side – do you see a trend appearing? But in terms texture and flavour, I am downright smitten. They’re squidgy, fudgy and a little bit like miniature sticky toffee puddings, just with less sauce. This batch could probably have done with a touch more salt to offset the richness. And I reckon apple would also work very nicely inside the sponge too.

I find that as long as you keep eggs, plain flour, baking powder & sugar in stock then you can pretty much bake anything as and when you feel like it. I’ve taken to baking much more with olive, or coconut oil instead of butter. And sometimes agave syrup instead of sugar. That being said I don’t make desserts or treats that frequently, so when I do, it won’t hurt to use the basics. Regardless of what any clean eating blogs might tell you. Equally, if you are only going to whack a cake together once a month or so, it’s best to splurge a little more on really good ingredients.

On my list of extravagances are: organic vanilla bean paste, brown rice flour and agave nectar syrup. I also like to keep ground almonds, desiccated coconut, cocoa powder and some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg on standby or any baking urges that might occur.

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 40 mins

Recipe type: Dessert, Baking
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 250g of light brown sugar
  • 150g of plain flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of porridge oats or crunchy granola
  • 1/2 an apple, diced into small squares
  • 1 tsp almonds
  • 1 tsp of hazelnuts
  • Drizzle of maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6.

For the salted caramel:

  1. Fill a large pan with water, so that the bottom is completed covered and bring to the boil on a medium heat.
  2. Add the 250g of brown sugar and the 2 tsp of salt. Stir until the sugar melts and is a liquid-y, caramel-y brown. Take off the heat.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, flour, baking powder and olive oil.
  4. Add the salted caramel mixture and stir together until smooth and glossy.
  5. In a greased square baking tin, pour in the mixture.
  6. Cook for 25-30 minutes, until a deep golden-brown.

For the topping:

  1. Blend the oats or granola, apple, almonds, hazelnuts and maple syrup into a sticky, crunch topping.
  2. Once the cake has been removed from the oven, cooled and cut in squares, spoon a little bit of the mixture onto each of the squares.

Eat and feel smug.

Spinach & Farfalle Pie

So I’ve got more spare time on my hands than usual at the moment and one of the things I wanted to do with it was more cooking. Especially more experimental cooking. I’ve gotten into a bit of rut with my repertoire of recipes and as tends to be the case when you don’t have an unlimited budget, you develop a roster of quick, easy, reliable and affordable meals that you return to repeatedly. Which is fine for busy weekdays when you just need to get some food down your throat stat but which can get a bit boring in the long run. And thus began my endeavour to branch out.

Quick shout out to The Smitten Kitchen, a blog that has quickly become a favourite for inspiration and recipes ideas. I came across this unbelievably handsome spaghetti pie and an obsession took hold. Why had I never thought of putting pasta in a pie before? It’s genius.

However, I’m terrible at following a recipe. Namely, in that I don’t. If I’m cooking for people, I’m a fastidious measurer and weigher and pourer of ingredients. But if I’m just cooking for dinner for myself, I’m very much a ‘let’s see what I’ve got in the cupboard and can concoct’ kind of person. Which leads to all manner of strange combinations and often something which tastes good (and occasionally doesn’t) but which won’t win any beauty prizes.

That method created this dish, which to be honest, I was very ready to throw in the bin. But luckily it turned out ok in the oven and though I’d be a bit red-faced about serving it to any guests, or indeed any real chefs, I figured I’d share it on here anyway. Because cooking is all about messing up, wiping the counter, making adjustments and starting over again. And if it’s edible, then you’re half way there.

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Total time: 40 mins

Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Gluten-Free
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 large handfuls of washed spinach
  • 250g tub of ricotta
  • 250g of farfalle pasta
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6.
  2. Bring some water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the eggs, ricotta, salt and pepper in bowl. I also added some crushed chilli flakes because I put chilli with everything. I then added all of this to the blender and add a handful of spinach for the intense green colour, as well as later adding the rest of the spinach for the leafy texture.
  4. Pour a kettle of bowling water over the spinach and once drained, add to the mix.
  5. Once the pasta has boiled and also drained, stir all together.
  6. Add to a pie dish and put in the oven.
  7. Bake until crisp on top. Around 30-35 minutes.

So this is super easy to bring together. My worry was that the mixture looked incredible runny when I poured it into the pie dish and I wasn’t sure it would be serve-able. Advice to my future self and anyone trying this would be to make sure the spinach is fully drained. Absorb any excess moisture with some kitchen roll. Or try steaming the spinach.

Regardless of the amateur aesthetic of the food, it did taste pretty darn good and I’ll definitely be refining and trying different types of pasta another time.

Sweet potato fries with a spinach, pine nut & chilli dip.

God I love me some sweet potato fries. They’re substantial and carb-y and feel like a treat, but retain that colourful glow of goodness. Plus they’re really easy to bung in the oven and share with friends, so its a cooking win. The spinach dip is an optional addition. Just as good served with homemade guacamole or mayo.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Recipe type: Side, snack.
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Gluten-Free
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric
  • Salt and pepper

For the dip:

  • 1 Tbsp of pine nuts
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbsp of cornflour
  • 2 Tbsp of crème fraîche
  • Crushed chilli
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6.
  2. Rinse your potato under water. No need to peel.
  3. Slice the sweet potato into thin strips or small wedges.
  4. Arrange on a baking tray so they’re evenly spread.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, turmeric and paprika.
  6. Pop them in the oven for 30-35 mins, or until crisp and cooked through.

Whilst they’re cooking, you can prepare the dip.

  1. Blend the spinach, crème fraîche, pinenuts, chilli, lemon juice and salt & pepper until smooth and creamy.
  2. If the consistency is too watery, you can add the cornflour and heat in a pan to thicken it.
  3. Otherwise, serve in a bowl and add some extra pine nuts to garnish.

Once the fries are cooked, serve in a bowl. For best results eat with your fingers!

Spinach, squash & quinoa scramble

Confession time. Up until yesterday evening I wasn’t sure what ‘hash’ was (in food-related terms). After a bit of googling, turns out its a skillet-based, typically breakfast dish involving meat, potatoes and eggs and great for using up leftovers. Well, this recipe includes none of those ingredients but considering that ‘hash’ seems to be a catch-all terms for incorporating whatever you feel like cooking and tossing it together in a pan, then that’s what I’m calling this dish. Either that or a scramble. Ok, I’ve gone with scramble. It feels more like a scramble. Ultimately, what this boils down to is a super easy and very healthy way to combine a bunch of vegetables and some grains and call it dinner. You could probably whack an egg on top or add some tofu too if you need some additional protein. Bon appetit!
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten-Free
Serves: 1 hungry person, 2 moderately hungry people
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive or cooking oil
  • 3 handfuls of washed spinach
  • 1 handful of frozen butternut squash
  • 3 Tbsp of frozen sweetcorn
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice flour
  • 3 Tbsp of quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed chilli
  • 1 handful of broccoli florets (cut into small pieces)
  • Rocket and pine nuts to garnish

Instructions

  1. Blend the spinach, butternut squash and sweetcorn together.
  2. Add the chilli, salt and pepper.
  3. Tip into a bowl and mix with the flour to create a slightly firmer consistency, almost like a batter.
  4. In a separate pan, bring some water to the boil and add the quinoa. Turn down to a simmer and leave for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, I really like this Bulgar Wheat, Cracked Soya & Red Quinoa combo from Morrisons, which I’m sure they have variants of in most supermarkets.)
  5. Add the broccoli to the quinoa or steam separately.
  6. In a frying pan or skillet, heat up the oil.
  7. Add the spinach batter and stir constantly like scrambled eggs.
  8. Once cooked through, drain the quinoa and broccoli and add to the mixture, stirring through so its all mixed together.
  9. Tip into a bowl and garnish with rocket and pine-nuts.
  10. I reckon some avocado would also work nicely on top.

 

March Culture Round-Up

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WATCHING

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a couch potato kind of month.

TNM

The Night Manager – A suave, and savvy rendering of John Le Carre’s political thriller as Olivia Colman’s Angela Burr is forced to use backwater channels and sly tactics to bring down the villain of the piece, played with debonair wit and a sinister fickleness by Hugh Laurie. Susanne Bier and the BBC brought out the fireworks for all but the finale, which was a little too polished for my liking. Still, when you’re treated to six concurrent weeks of taut, titillating drama with the added benefit of an oft-shirtless Tom Hiddleston, then I’d say that’s a production budget well-spent.

Girls, Season 5 – Girls is back and on top form. Aside from THAT wedding episode, their narratives have been much more disparate of late and it’s a storytelling technique I’m very much enjoying. With the news that this will be the penultimate season the writing has appeared to possess a renewed sense of purpose and certainly the characters feel less aimless (aside from Shoshanna whose taken to working in a Japanese cat cafe) and more as if they’re finally learning from their mistakes rather than accumulating a string of ridiculous anecdotes. The maturation of these four women (and the men who populate their lives) has provided as much awkwardness as it has entertainment, but one’s investments in their unravellings has finally started to feel like its paying off.

House of Cards, Season 4 – As the Underwoods reign appears to unravel, the 4th instalment of this wickedly smart Netflix series feels like a resurrection of sorts. The show had become a little dense, and dare I say it, boorish. This time around, whilst retaining the tongue-and-cheek wit for which the show has become renowned, it sheds flabby sub-plots and political minutiae in favour of character development and sees Claire come into her own. With the added benefit of new cast regulars (Neve Campbell as a campaign manager, Joel Kinnaman as a Republican rival and Ellen Burstyn as Claire’s mother), there’s plenty to get your teeth into. Perhaps the highlight is the show recognising that it truly soars when the Underwoods are allowed to do what they do best; scheme.

 

READING

wheelemenWheelmen – Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell

If you’ve ever founded yourself lacking in knowledge on the topic of Lance Armstrong and the doping scandal, this is the book for you. Comprehensive doesn’t quite cover the level of detail and context that journalists Albergotti and O’Connell (of The Wall Street Journal) provide in outlining the endemic culture of cheating that plagued cycling in the late 90s and 00s – and the profit that was to be made as a result.

The tone is sometimes wistful, sometimes stern and shows a deep-seated admiration for Armstrong as an athlete, regardless of his Machiavellian reign and devilish manipulation of cycling authorities and public opinion. But with the facts, stats and science laid bare Wheelmen offers invaluable insight into the story, no matter how much you think you’ve heard before.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/

I also read this brilliantly insightful report; ‘The Obama Doctrine’ in The Atlantic, whereby Jeffrey Goldberg examines the current President’s handling of foreign policy since his election. It contains excerpts of conversations had with Obama himself, but never feels like its airbrushing or acting as a mouthpiece. There’s a refreshing frankness to its exploration of Obama’s reticence when it comes to military intervention. And if nothing else, you came away with the keen sense that for all his perceived failings, Obama is a measured and intelligent pragmatist, and regardless of whom replaces him the US will be a lesser country without his guidance.

 

LISTENING TO

MEGMAC EP

MEGMAC-EPI caught wind of this Australian songstress after the song ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ from her eponymous EP appeared in an episode of Girls. If Lena Dunham’s paying attention, then I figured ought to be too.

The five-song-strong EP is deliciously anthemic and optimistic. Exactly the kind of music you’d want to soundtrack a strut down a busy street; sultry, stomping and soulful, with the empowering vocals of Macy Gray and the earnestness of Laura Marling. Mesmerising.

EATING

Madeleine Shaw’s Raw Chocolate Tart.

The recipe can be founScreen Shot 2016-04-03 at 14.33.15d here.  I altered the ingredients slightly, adding dates and banana to the chocolate cream centre instead of in the base and forgo-ing cashews. The result was insanely good. The two textures compliment one another beautifully, with enough crunch in the base and smoothness in the centre to differentiate the layers. It was both sweet and rich enough to satiate dessert cravings, but without the sickliness of some chocolate recipes that prevent you go back for seconds. Or thirds. I even ate a slice for breakfast because it was there, and it has banana in it and well, who gives a fuck.

 

DOING

Curtain Call at Queen of Hoxton.

Sponsored by DIY Magazine and located in Shoreditch, this undeniably hipster band night gives the up-and-coming Kodaline’s and Wolf Alice’s of the world a chance to show a bearded and Vans-wearing crowd what they’re made of. The bands in question this time were Cut Ribbons (think Two Door Cinema Club or Of Monsters & Men) and headliners Tall Ships.

Cut Ribbons kicked proceedings off with ‘We Want To Watch Something We Loved Burn’ which made up for the lack of catchiness in its title with a soaring, synth-laden hook. The set continued to showcase their talent for energetic, electric songwriting, even if their performance demanded slightly more of these qualities. Still, it’s always a good sign for a band to leave the stage with the crowd wanting more. New to the circuit they may be, but this Welsh quintet sure as hell know what they’re doing.

Tall Ships came to the stage with the tall order of doubling-down on the effervescence that preceded them. And like all good men, they followed through. Their tunes are more meditative and sway, than crowd-surf, inducing. The set continued in polished, percussive fashion and the Cornish four-piece showed a serious capacity for delicate dynamism.

BUYING

Vichy Skincare

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Writing about skincare is overwhelmingly banal. The fact that Beauty Editors make an industry out of it is incredibly admirable (what else do you write other than moisturisers smooth your skin and facial wash cleans it?) But this month I decided to grow-up and invest in some beauty products other than the Simple range, so here I am writing about skincare.

Confession – I am one of those people that will ‘borrow’ expensive ointments and treatments but never purchase them myself. Whenever I go home I delight in using my mother’s Body Shop Vitamin E facial wash and luxuriously rich anti-ageing creams (I like to tell myself it’s the reason I still get ID’d) and it excites me no end to use the expensive hand-creams that are oft a feature of fancy establishments. But to part with £50 for the sake of using them regularly? Out of the question!

But recently, my usually reliable complexion has been a bit erratic, so I decided to splash out. Armed with very little knowledge and limited time, I dallied in the expensive aisle before settling on Vichy for no other reason than it looked nice. I bought the Normaderm cleanser, the Idealia Life serum and Aqualia Thermal Rich Day Cream because they promised to hydrate and revitalise and repair stressed skin and basically they sounded like little miracles in little bottles and it was too early for any other kind of de-stressing fluid that comes in a bottle so I chose them.

It claimed that it was good for both sensitive and dry skin, which translated to win-win from my ignorant perspective. And since trying them? So far so good. The products are all very fancy. They feel expensive and indulgent, and lo-and-behold they leave my skin feeling clean and soft. I have no idea whether it’ll impact the inconsistencies in my complexion, but damn do I want to keep touching my cheeks. 

Ps. If you happen to be using my bathroom in the next couple months, hands off.