Tag Archives: Tomato sauce

Recipe: Pizza Base revisited

A naked uncooked Pizza base

Ingredients;

1kg of Farina Tipo 00 Flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon of honey
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
625ml of tepid water (tepid = 2 parts cold to one part boiling)
1 handful of cornmeal

Makes 6-8 Pizza bases


One of the earliest recipes I published on NotJunkFood was for pizza bases, that recipe is a good recipe to use if you do not have access to pizza/pasta flour (also known as farina tipo 00). Thanks to Roma, Superquinn and Dunnes Stores, farina has become much more widely available in Ireland recently and as a result I have had the chance to experiment with my original recipe and I’m happy to say that the following is my updated pizza base recipe.

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl or onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle of it.

Mix the yeast, honey and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork (or your hands) start to stir the liquid in the well while bringing in the flour until the dough starts to come together. Then work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and dust the top of it with some flour. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Now place the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead it around for a 2-3 minutes to push the air out. As you are doing this, work the dough into a giant sausage shape. Divide the dough into six or eight pieces (eight if you like a thin and crispy base) and put them to one side.

Take one of the portions and make it into a ball, then stretch that into a roundish shape about 3-4 inches across and place on a floured surface and grab your rolling pin. Rolling away from you and turning the pizza regularly, roll the pizza base out until it is thin (about an eighth of an inch or less) then flour the pizza base and place on a baking tray lined with cling film – if you don’t have a suitably-sized baking tray, you can substitute with a chopping board or any flat surface that will fit in your freezer.

Fold the cling-film back over the top of the pizza base ready for the next one to be placed on top and repeat until all the portions have been rolled out.

At this point, you can dress one of the pizza bases using some Italian tomato sauce and your preferred toppings, on a baking tray or preferably a pizza stone, either way you will need to sprinkle some cornmeal on before placing the pizza on it to prevent it from sticking.

Then place in a hot oven (approx 220 degrees C) for about 8-10 minutes, sprinkle with dried oregano and enjoy.

Recipe: The All-Day Irish Breakfast Pizza

Bacon, Sausage and Goats cheese pizza
Bacon, Sausage and Goats cheese pizza

Ingredients;

1 x pizza base
100ml Italian tomato sauce
2 x streaky bacon, chopped into strips
1 x cooked pork sausage, chopped

5 x slices of goats cheese
Small handful of freshly grated parmesan
Large pinch of dried oregano
Cornmeal

Serves 2


This recipe is not really a breakfast pizza so much as an homage to the Irish Breakfast Roll, for those unfamiliar with the concept, think of taking a large fried breakfast and packing it into a larger bread roll with ketchup and/or brown sauce and eating it at any time of the day or night as a snack.

Unlike the original, this recipe tends to be a bit less heart attack in a roll, a bit more meal for two. Plus it’s a good way to hide the leftovers/evidence from a guilty pleasure breakfast that you know you shouldn’t have indulged in :)

Heat your oven to the maximum temperature with your pizza stone inside.

Once up to temperature, sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and place your pizza base on the centre of the stone. Quickly spread a generous amount of sauce up to roughly half an inch from the edge.

Next, sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the sauce. Then sprinkle the bacon and sausage pieces on top of the parmesan and place your goats cheese slices around the pizza.

Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown, sprinkle with oregano, slice and serve. Occasionally the goats cheese colours up in a really nice way that looks a lot like a miniature fried egg, this always gives me a little thrill when it happens and I claim it was by design and not accident 😉

Recipe: Ragu Giorgio (aka the best spag bol)

Ragu
Ragu

Ingredients;

Extra virgin olive oil
3 x carrot, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x celery sticks, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x onions, finely diced
3 x garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 x anchovy
5 large tomatoes
50g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped or blitzed in a blender
150g tomato puree
2 x large handfuls of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground cumin
500g lean mince beef
2 x bay leaves
500ml water
250ml wine
300ml Italian tomato sauce


Once you have completed all the preparation, get a large saucepan, pour in a generous lug of olive oil and get it onto a high heat until the oil just starts to smoke. Add the anchovy and fry this hard until it starts to break up and disappear. At this point add your carrots and bring the heat down to a medium heat.

Fry these for about 5 minutes, then add the onion and celery and reduce the heat to a low heat and continue to fry this until the onions begin to caramelise (usually twenty to twenty five minutes) stirring occasionally.

While this is happening you need to skin, quarter, core and de-seed the tomatoes. To skin them you will need a pan of boiling water and a bowl of ice cold water. First score an X on to the bottom of each tomato, with the water boiling hard, carefully pop the tomatoes in for about 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of ice water to stop them cooking and make them easier to handle. Now you should be able to remove the skin by simply tearing from where you made the X. Next quarter the tomatoes and using a teaspoon remove the core and seeds in one go, you only want the flesh of the tomato. Remember to keep an eye on the main saucepan while you are doing this.

If the onions are starting to caramelise by now, simply remove the pan from the heat. Begin to fry the mince, with a pinch of cumin powder, in a large frying pan over a high heat. You want to brown the meat as quickly as possible, making sure that you brown all the meat.

Depending on the quality of the mince you may find that it releases some water once you start to fry it, if this happens keep the heat as high as you can and keep turning and moving the mince until all the water boils off. This can take a bit of time so don’t forget about the other pan, and remove it from the heat if the onions start to caramelise before the meat is done. You want to keep frying the mince until it is completely dry looking and starts to stick to your frying pan.

At this point your onions should have started to caramelise and you may have removed them from the heat, if you have, get them back onto a low heat for about a minute then add the meat. If the onions haven’t started to caramelise then turn the heat down on the meat and give it an occasional stir until the onions start to caramelise and then add the meat and stir the lot together.

By now there may well be some mince and fat stuck to your frying pan, this is great because that’s pure flavour. Add a good splash of your wine to the frying pan and using a wooden spoon or spatula gently stir and scrape those little bits off the pan, the heat and wine should make this very easy and in less than a minute all that flavour should have combined with the wine which you can now pour into the saucepan.

With regards to the wine: The conventional wisdom is to use red wine. If you have some available great, however the day I came up with this recipe, I looked at our collection of unfinished bottles and there were no reds, as I didn’t want to open a bottle of red just for this, I picked up a bottle of white wine, a Sauternes (very sweet wine) that had been open too long and had started to vinegar a little. A quick bit of measuring and in it went.

Now if my mum was still alive I would have gotten an earful, not only letting such a good wine start to vinegar but also for using it for cooking, that is until she tasted the end result, this gave the whole dish a different flavour than if I had used a red wine and exaggerated the caramelised flavour of the veg in a way that’s hard to describe.

Next you will need to add all the tomatoes, tomato purée, the blitzed sun-dried tomatoes, Italian tomato sauce, oregano, the rest of the wine, basil, bay leaves and stir gently.

Now bring this up to a medium heat and start to add the water, while stirring continuously. You want to add enough water so that the sauce is slightly thinner than you want the end result to be. In my case this turned out to be 500ml almost exactly but depending on the water contents of your ingredients you may require less or more. Once you’re happy with the consistency bring it to a very gentle simmer and cover the pot.

You want to simmer this for at least an hour stirring it occasionally. After an hour give it a good stir, if it’s still a little thinner than you like leave the lid off and let it simmer for a few more minutes and it should thicken up. I’ve had this Ragu simmering for up to 3 hours on occasion and if anything it just improves the flavours.

Finally, taste it and season it with salt and pepper if required and stir in 2 tablespoons of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.

I like to serve this with fresh Tagliatelle and some Parmesan cheese, grated fresh over the top at the table.

Thankfully this recipe freezes really well and is ideal for freezing in bags as described here, 150ml is a serving so we tend to freeze it in bags of 300ml for the two of us. Alternatively, we’ve found the leftovers make great pizza. just spread some on your pizza base, add some cheese over the top (crumbled Mozzarella if you want to be really decadent) and cook as usual.

My Experimental Kitchen

Some of the top restaurants and chefs in the world keep a seperate “Experimental Kitchen” where they try out and develop new recipes and dishes until they are happy and ready to add them to the Menu and transfer them to their main kitchen.

This was something I never really thought that much about until I watched Heston Bluemental’s cookery shows and it became clear that he wasn’t cooking in a studio or The Fat Duck’s Main Kitchen. It makes some sense, why distract the rest of the Kitchen with edible insects and the like, when they should be getting on with preparing the dishes for people in the restaurant.

My Experimental Kitchen is the same kitchen I use every day, well it’s not like I have dozens of diners and a staff of chefs is it? :) Some days, I try to create something from an idea I had while eating, the memory of a dish I ate in a restaurant, a recipe I’ve been using for ages but have decided to try and make better or like my most recent experiment, something I’ve never tasted and only ever heard about.

That latest experiment was rather adventurous, I tried to make a meat based ice cream (bacon to be precise), I mentioned it on our Facebook page much to the horror of one of our vegetarian readers. Unfortunately this became the first batch of ice cream I’ve ever made that even I could not eat, it was horrendous, salty and sweet all at the same time, just too many things going on for the tastebuds to cope with so I’m back to the drawing board with that one.

A few months back I was trying to re-invent my Ragu (aka Spag Bol) recipe as it was essentially my “Italian tomato sauce” with some vegetables and mince thrown in, great to have this recipe as I always have the sauce in the freezer and I can rattle the rest together in a few minutes but it’s not something I would dare serve to a lover of Italian food as Ragu, if you get where I’m coming from.

So a few attempts have been made to refine it and I’m almost ready to invite Gino D’Acampo round to see if he approves :) I am going to try one last little tweek to the recipe in the next week and if that works well you can expect to see the recipe arriving shortly afterwords.

I’ve wandered a bit on this post but what I’m trying to get across is that anyone can be an “Experimental Cook” you don’t need a special kitchen or rare, expensive ingredients, I find myself being less adventurous in this situation for fear of wasting them. All you need is an idea of what you want the end result to be, a little imagination and a willingness to not reject an idea without at least trying it once.

The last part has been the longest lesson for me to learn, but since I’ve made that leap of faith, I’ve found that my enjoyment of cooking, my ability to surprise myself (and others) with my results and the diversity and difficulty of the dishes that I’m attempting and succeeding with has multiplied exponentially.

So what about you? Do you consider yourself to be an “Experimental Cook”? Let us know your best successes and worst failures in the comments below.

Cooking for one – Part I

Is a cookery skill in itself. Most recipes, including a lot of the ones on this site are aimed at making meals for at least 2 or more people. Cooking for one can seem a bit bleak, so what can you do if you are only cooking for one? Starve? Stuff yourself?

Alone

Well neither is a good idea, obviously. If I were cooking for myself and no one else these days I would most likely not cook for one. Confused? Well allow me to explain…

So long as you have a reasonable sized freezer, soups, sauces, curries and stews can all be made up in bulk and then frozen in portions. We do this regularly anyway and we’re cooking for 2 people most of the time.

When I was working full time, I’d spend a few hours most weekends making up tomato sauce, soups, stews, meatballs and pizza bases. Anything that wasn’t eaten over the weekend would be frozen so that they can be pulled out of the freezer on the way out the door to work and they would be defrosted by that evening. This meant that all that was needed in the evening was a reheat. So even when tired coming in after a long day, it wasn’t a chore/hassle to reheat some stew or soup or put together a quick pasta and meatballs.

And for those days when you forget to pull something out of the freezer, there was always frozen Pizza bases. Put the oven on to heat up with the pizza stone in it, once it’s up to temp, lift out the pizza stone, put a frozen pizza base on it and in the length of time it takes to add some sauce and toppings, the base will have mostly defrosted. Into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, slice it, eat it, delicious.

We keep a jar in our fridge with some of our tomato sauce in it at all times for exactly this reason (and for quick bolognese, pasta and meatballs etc.). When it gets empty we simply take some more out of the freezer and refill it.

The best way to cook for one is actually not to a lot of the time. But there are other options as well and I’m going to expand on these a bit more in future posts as well as some tips for freezing different types of meals.