“The Best Pizza outside Italy”

So easy and quick and delicious. Once you get in the swing of making them you’ll never have to have a frozen pizza in your freezer again. My pizzas inspired a friend of mine to get a pizza oven built in his garden. I’m not bragging I’m just so proud of that. In fact he said my pizzas were the best he’d had outside Italy. Glowing I tell you, glowing.

Ingredients

  • 900g white flour (or 600g white flour and some other flours if you want)
  • 100g cornmeal or semolina flour (or just flour of you don’t have those)
  • 1 level tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
  • 650ml / just over a pint luke warm water
What to do now
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together
  2. Add the water and mix into a ball
  3. Put the ball into a big oiled mixing bowl
  4. Flour the top and cover with a plastic bag for about half an hour or so  – it really doesn’t matter
  5. When you are ready to use it, divide into however many pizzas you want
  6. Roll them out 10 mins before you want to use them (you can make them thick and ‘deep pan’ or roll then thin for a more Italian experience
  7. Add toppings  – seriously whatever you like….tomato based, barbecue based, mozzarella, cooked meats, olives, potato and rosemary, add fresh herbs once cooked.
Cook in the hottest oven possible for about 10 minutes or until it looks like you want to eat it.

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Steak and Mushroom Pie

I have only recently got into the swing of slow cookers. They’re pretty handy.

For this recipe use one of those, or a heavy based saucepan or a pot with a lid you can put in the oven on low.

pie top

Ingredients

A chunk of beef roast – it’s hard moving from country to country as everywhere has different names for cuts of meat. Basically you want a chunk of beef that is good for slow cooking. Cut it up into generous chunks.

An onion

4 cloves of garlic

4 carrots

A few bay leaves

Some thyme – fresh or dried

Some mushrooms (never ever bother with button mushrooms because they will add no flavour and they’re a waste of space and money) Pick a more robust one.

A glass or two of red wine

Some English mustard (or whatever mustard you may have)

About a third of a cup of flour well seasoned with salt and pepper

What to do 

  • Roll the chunks of beef in the flour
  • Heat some oil in a heavy based frying pan
  • Brown the meat in the oil
  • Once it is done put it into the saucepan/slow cooker whatever you’re using to slowly cook the dish
  • Once you have cooked the meat, put the red wine into the saucepan to deglaze i.e. get all the good sticky stuff out of the pan using a wooden spoon. Put that into the saucepan with the meat
  • Heat a little more oil and fry off the onions and garlic and carrots until a little softer (just a few minutes)
  • Add to the meat with the bay leaves, mustard and thyme
  • Add some stock (whatever you have – beef/vegetable) or water if you don’t have any stock – just enough to cover most of the meat. Not too much.
  • Simmer/put in the oven on 200 degrees/put the slow cooker on for about an 1.5 hours until the meat is fairly tender…it is going to continue cooking in the pie.
  • Check the flavour and add salt and pepper if necessary, then leave to cool
  • At this stage you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days or indeed freeze it.
  • Or fry up the mushrooms for a few minutes and add to the beef

The Making of the Pie

  • See Ruff Puff Pastry recipe a couple below this recipe….(you will have made this earlier….)
  • Cut the pastry into 2 rectangles, one a little bit bigger than the other
  • Roll out the larger one to about 1/4 inch thick and use to line your slightly greased with butter pie dish. Trim off any excess.
  • Roll out the smaller piece so it will happily cover the pie
  • Spoon in the yummy filling (I’ll give you other recipes later – chicken and leek, rabbit with cider, mmm whatever you like really)
  • Add the juices to about 3/4 way up the meat.  Give the rest to your dogs if you have any. They will love you.
  • You could use egg yolk mixed with a little milk to seal the pastry together or you could crimp it together with your fingers
  • For funsies with any spare pastry you can make decorations for the top….see below! I made a fish for my darling because he is a little bit addicted to his beautiful fish aquarium/s right now.
  • Brush the rest of the egg yolk/milk mixture over the top and it will crisp up nicely like the photograph.
  • Make 2 crosses at each side of the pie with a big knife to allow steam out
  • Bake in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees) for 50 minutes – 1 hour until it looks golden brown.

Mmmmmmm you are in for one yummy treat. Serve with potatoes wedges, mashed potatoes, steamed greens, whatever you like.

And of course you can use the filling to make hand held pasties as well, which is the same pastry just shaped differently. A circle with the filling out on one side and then folded over and crimped closed. These freeze well and then you just take them out and cook them from frozen. Easy peasy.

pie top

Winter Warming Hot & Sour Soup

We have a bunch of logs that we put shiitake spawn into and every now and then (usually after a downpour) they produce shiitake mushrooms. It’s all part of our trying to live off the land as much as possible, avoiding all the crappy packaging, living lightly, working with, not against this beautiful earth, appreciating the changing seasons and enjoying the fruits of the seasons when they happen. So when the other day our mushroom logs exploded with the most mushrooms we’ve ever seen I searched the internet for shiitake mushroom recipes. I found this recipe by Jamie Oliver. As usual, I have altered the recipe because I didn’t have all the ingredients! It was delicious and really excited me as I now have another recipe which I know I’ll be making again and again just with slight variations.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies
  • sea salt
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 250 g shitake mushrooms or some other meaty mushrooms (never button mushrooms because they bore me out of my mind and they will do nothing, I tell you, nothing for flavour, ever!
  • 225 g thin noodles of some kind
  • vegetable oil
  • soy sauce
  • rice wine vinegar
  • Big fat pinch of white or black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1.5 litres hot organic vegetable/ chicken stock
  • 2 spring onions or 1 white onion as it isn’t spring!
  • ½ bunch of chives or something similar
  • 1 or 2 free-range eggs

What next….?

Peel the garlic and take most of the seeds out of the chillies, then roughly chop and place into a pestle and mortar. Bash with a pinch of salt to a rough paste. Peel, finely chop and add the ginger, then bash until broken down and combined.

Slice the mushrooms. Heat a lug of oil in a large wok or heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat, add the mushrooms and fry for 4 minutes, or until lightly golden. Stir in the chilli paste and fry for a further minute.

Meanwhile, mix together 3 tablespoons of soy, 4 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, the honey and a good pinch of white or black pepper. Stir the mixture into the pan and cook for a minute, add the white onion if that’s what you have, then pour in the hot stock and bring gently to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes adding the rice noodles/thin noodles a few minutes before the end so they cook in the stock and yumminess.

Chop the chives or whatever green herb you’re using as decoration and whisk the egg well.

Once reduced, remove the soup from the heat. Using a chopstick, stir the soup in a clockwise direction until you get a little whirlpool, then slowly add the beaten egg, stirring continuously to form thin ribbons. (Mine didn’t look at all like ribbons but added another texture which was yum) Then serve immediately with the spring onions (if you have any) and chives/other garnish you have, scattered on top.

It’s perfect for a cold weather. Ingredients that Jamie Oliver suggested were bamboo shoots and tofu. I didn’t have these but added water chestnuts as I had some tucked away.