All posts by George

I'm no chef, but I enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I first started to cook properly (as opposed to fry-ups and not a lot else) about 10 years ago and it has been a long journey from there to hear. I'm hoping the recipes and tips that I share, will help others to fall in love with cooking the way that I have.

Not Junk food goes Mobile

I’m very happy to announce that Not Junk food is now optimised for mobile web surfing.

Assorted smartphones.

Yes, that’s right, as of today you can access all our recipes and content with your internet enabled mobile phone.

There is a valid reason for doing this as opposed to just because I could or because the mobile web is where it’s at etc. *yawn* A mobile phone takes up a lot less counter space in the kitchen than a laptop or netbook. Which means that when you want to try one of our recipes, you don’t have to go to the hassle of memorising it, printing it or risk having a laptop in the kitchen.

Why not give it a try, by going here on your phone of choice, it should re-direct you immediately to the mobile version but just in case, I’ve put a link at the top of the sidebar which will switch you across. Once you have it, just bookmark it and you’ll have it for when you’re hungry and in the kitchen :)

I’ve only been able to test it on a Nokia N95 and a Nokia 5800 so please let us know what phone and browser you were using and how you found the experience in the comments below.

Recipe: Pizza Base

A naked uncooked Pizza base

Ingredients;

1kg of strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar
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

Line

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, sugar 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 flour the top of it. 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 (simply using passata and cheese) 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 and enjoy.

You can wrap the cling-filmed pile of bases in tinfoil and put them flat in your freezer to be used later.  The bases, once dressed, will cook from frozen in 8-10 mins as well – perfect for a quick dinner when coming home late from work.

Pizza

This is one of my weaknesses, when ordering a delivery my preference would always be for pizza as it’s one of my favourite foods, but I have a tendency to overeat when ordering pizza from Domino’s. Partly because the pizza would always have a thick base (I don’t like the other base options) and partly because Domino’s pizzas are either a little bit too small or a little bit too large for me and I would usually go for the option that was a little too large…

Ferrari factory entrance
Ferrari factory entrance

On our first trip to Italy (as part of our honeymoon), we discovered a fantastic little restaurant near the hotel we were staying in, that served the most delicious thin based Italian pizzas at a very reasonable price.

In fact it was so good that when we returned to Italy last year with a friend, we booked into the same hotel on the first night just so we could go back to the same restaurant. I think Anto (yes, I do know Anto ;)) was a bit worried that we were a little too fond of this restaurant. Well at least until his Calzone arrived and he became a convert as well. We ate there almost every night we were in Italy, even driving a 100km plus round trip to get there on a few occasions!

Once we got home from our honeymoon, I had to try to make my own. Along the way I discovered a few things, first if you want to make pizza you need either a stone oven, (not terribly practical for most of us) or a pizza stone to put in your own oven. I’m not sure why this makes such a difference but it does. Also cornmeal sprinkled on the pizza stone or baking tray before placing the pizza on it to cook stops it sticking and allows it to slide effortlessly onto a plate when done.

And the three best things about making your own Pizza?

    * You can put anything you want on it
    * It’s a great way of using up those little bits and pieces you have leftover in the fridge
    * It’s way more cost-effective than ordering in

One final note, when you’re rolling out the bases, if they’re not perfectly round, don’t worry about it, it makes them appear more rustic and home-made 😉

Recipe: Basil and Tomato Soup

Great on a cold winters day

Ingredients;

1 anchovy
1 clove of garlic – very finely sliced
1 small onion – finely diced
1 large carrot chopped roughly
2 sticks of c
elery chopped roughly
500g of ripe tomatoes – cores removed and chopped roughly
3 large handfuls of fresh basil – leaves ripped up roughly, stalks kept and chopped finely
400g tin of plum tomatoes
1L chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

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In a large saucepan, gently fry the anchovy and garlic until the anchovy breaks up and starts to vanish. Do not let the garlic burn, but a little bit of browning is okay.

Add the carrot, onion and celery and fry gently till soft – about 10-15 mins.

Add the fresh tomatoes and let them stew for about 5 mins while stirring slowly.

Next add the tinned tomatoes and stir.

Add the chicken stock – enough to cover the mix and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins, stirring at 5 minute intervals.

Take this opportunity to tidy up, trust me it’s easier than having a messy kitchen to clean and tidy later!

Finally, add the basil leaves and chopped stalks and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

At this point, allow it to cool for a few minutes and season well with salt and pepper.

Now, it can get messy if you’re not careful, grab a ladle and push it down into the soup gently so you fill it with liquid, but try not to get any of the solids in it, using this method remove (and keep) as much of the liquid as possible, this will allow you to control the ‘thickness’ of your soup in the next step.

Next pour the remaining ‘soup’ into a blender, avoid an enormous mess akin to a Freddy Krueger slashfest by NOT over filling the blender and also placing your hand on top of the blender when starting it. Blend it until it’s smooth and creamy looking and pour into a saucepan, keep doing this until all the soup has been blended and you should have a bowl of really, really thick soup. Now start stirring this and adding back in the liquid that you removed until you get the ‘thickness’ you want and you’re done. If you add all the liquid back and your soup is still too thick use some more stock to thin it a little more.

Simply heat the soup and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil or cream, a small sprig of basil and serve with some chunky ultra fresh bread or Crostini with pesto.

Soups, sauces and the freezer

SMEG #2

The next recipe will be coming up shortly and it’s a little twist on one of my all time favourite soups. My basil and tomato soup is one of those “accidents” that happen every so often, but the result was so good that I continue to use the “accidental” recipe. This recipe can be frozen and kept in the freezer ready to serve.

There’s not a lot else to say about this soup but I want to discuss the kitchen freezer a wee bit. It’s not just a place to make ice and store your processed food, it can also be used to store food you make yourself.

Most soups and sauces can be frozen and stored for weeks once they have been fully prepared. There are just two things to remember when freezing food.

If raw meat has defrosted don’t refreeze it unless it’s been cooked fully.

If cooked meat is defrosted don’t refreeze it, either eat it or bin it.

For soups and sauces we have found a great way of maximising the storage in your freezer. First you will need a flat surface in your freezer so this usually means re-organising it a bit, for me anyway. Then you will need some re-sealable freezer or sandwich bags.

Once your soup or sauce has been fully cooked and had time to cool completely, put some into a freezer bag and then half seal the top, lay it on a flat surface holding the still open end up, gently squeeze the bag until there is no air left inside and seal it fully. Then place it on the flat surface in your freezer to freeze. Naturally the thicker the soup or sauce the easier this bit is.

For soups we put two portions into a bag, that way there’s enough for Elly and myself, but if we have an extra mouth or two coming for lunch/dinner we can just pull out another bag.

The other great thing about freezing soups and sauces this way is that you can take them out of the freezer and put the bags in cold water to defrost the contents. This usually takes no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Then for soup, just heat it up and you’re ready to serve.