Friday, 23 April 2010

Wednesday Night Pizza

One of the things I dread most is a dinner rota. It's Tuesday, it must be spaghetti. Thursday night is curry. And Sunday? Sunday is the dreaded roast dinner, with the same meat and vegetables as we cooked badly last week.

Individually, there's nothing wrong with any of these for dinner. The banality comes from the inevitably of the same seven dishes wheeled out each week, rather than the food. Back in catered halls, I was initially impressed with the variety and quality of the menus. It was only after a few months when vegetable bake rolled round yet again that I began to dismay.

We didn't have a full rota when I was child, but there were some days that had dinner assigned. Saturday would be fajitas (My father eats everything with a knife and fork, even fajitas. He would go out on Saturday nights so we would take the opportunity to eat with our hands.) The horror of the Sunday roast, followed by a light dinner of taramasalata and pitta bread.*

I looked forward to Wednesday though. Wednesday was pizza night. My dad always cooked on pizza night, using a slab of stone to get extra heat in the oven, and gently pushing the dough to fill the pizza trays. I'd help make the tomato sauce, or mix the dough. I'd be first to volunteer for cutting up the kabanos, sneaking the end slices in to my mouth when I thought no one was looking.

Pizza with peppers, kabanos, olives, mushroom & an egg.

This recipe is far from authentic. It features the aforementioned kabanos (usually we'd buy it from the Polski Sklep, but in this part of Scotland I have to make do with ambient kabanos. Nice.) and a tinned tomato sauce. I'm sure most Italians would probably laugh in disgust. It's invented by a man who hadn't tasted pizza until his late twenties, and garnished with whatever leftovers can be scavenged from the salad drawer.

Ambient Kabanos. Next week - trance wiejska

*looking back, I realise this is quite a weird thing to have for dinner once a week for around 10 years.

Wednesday Night Pizza
Serves 2

175g plain flour
pinch of sugar and salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried yeast

1) Place all the ingredients in a bowl, and add a splash of warm water.
2) Mix until a smooth dough is formed - you may need to add more water.
3) Knead for around 5 minutes until soft and supple. Place in a oiled bowl, then cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise for at least 30 mins.

Tomato Sauce
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 can of chopped tomatoes
Sprinkle of dried oregano
Salt and pepper

1) Chop the onion and garlic as finely as you can. Gently fry them for 5 minutes, until soft but not coloured.
2) Add in the anchovy paste and tomato puree. Cook for 1 minute.
3) Pour in the chopped tomatoes, oregano and season.
4) Bring the pan to a gently simmer, and stir occasionally.
5) The sauce is ready once it's very thick and the chunks of tomato are almost totally broken down. Dragging a spoon through the pan should leave a clean line. This usually takes around 20 mins.

Thick tomato sauce

I like kabanos, peppers, anchovies, capers, fresh egg, olives, mushrooms and mozzarella. Not necessarily all at once.

1) Preheat the oven to the highest setting.
2) Gently stretch the pizza dough over an oiled baking sheet*. You'll need to prod and poke it in to place. Make it slightly bigger as it will shrink a little as you put the toppings on.
3) Spread a thin layer of sauce on the dough, and add your toppings.
4) Blast in the hot oven for 8-10 minutes.
*If you are really clever, you can stretch the dough on to a floured plate, and slide it directly on to a scorching hot baking sheet. This makes for a crispy crust, but runs the risk of your pizza disintegrating in to a heap.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Rhubarb & Ginger Ice Cream Tart

I wanted to make something with rhubarb and ginger, and I was feeling inspired by the DB tian last month. I still had some of the pastry discs leftover (they keep really well), so I decided to make something a bit similar.

I stewed a little rhubarb, and then stacked this with plain ice cream (not vanilla, plain. It's amazing.) stem ginger and one of the pate sablee discs.

Rhubarb & Ginger Ice Cream Tart

It wasn't the prettiest dish, but it was so tasty. I loved the texture of the crispy pastry against the soft the ice cream and rhubarb. The spiciness of the ginger balanced nicely with the ice cream, and the tartness of the rhubarb.

None left

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Easter Cake

Having not one but two wedding cakes to make in the foreseeable future, I thought I should probably learn how to deal with fondant or royal icing. We were also visiting T's parents for Easter weekend, so I took the opportunity to make a bigger cake than I would normally and palm some of it off on them.

I started with the Simnel cake in from the April edition of Delicious. I didn't read it through before baking it, so I didn't realise you had to bake a layer of marzipan in to the cake. I didn't have any marzipan, and I don't like the stuff, so I skipped this step. I thought this might make the cake a bit dry, so I soaked the cake in marsala, lemon juice and sugar syrup before icing it.

I initially planned to do royal icing, but life got in the way and I ran out of time to do the icing in stages. Each stage has to be left 24 hours to dry, and I only had one afternoon. I went for fondant instead.

Trusty old Leith's came out. Syrup was boiled to the soft ball stage, then kneaded on the worktop with a spatula. It then stuck to the worktop, and made such a pathetically small ball of icing when I did prize it away that I gave up and binned it. Then I spent 15 minutes chipping the remaining sugar off the worktop with a knife. On the plus side, they played "Sit Down"by James on the radio and I still know all the words. That makes me feel very old indeed.

I decided to give another recipe a go before giving up and buying ready-made icing. This was much more successful; soon I had a rather large ball of sugar paste, and a kitchen covered in icing sugar. It took me several attempts to roll the icing out large enough to cover the cake, as it kept sticking. I only used icing sugar, but with hindsight I should have used some cornflour too to make it stick less.

Once I'd done the cake, I smoothed off any bumpy bits and tears with wet fingers and a paring knife. Classy.

I dyed the remaining icing into several colours to decorate the cake with, and went crazy with some miniature cutters I was given at Christmas.

Fondant confetti shapes

They were still a bit dusty at this point from the cornflour, but I'll brush that off later when it's hardened.
Fondant chick

I had loads of icing left over so I tried to make a hatching chick. The egg part fell to pieces but the chick survived.

Easter Confetti Cake

Given that this is my first time making this type of icing, as well as my first attempt to cover and decorate a cake, I feel quite chuffed. The surface isn't entirely flat, and the shapes aren't uniformly spaced, but it looks like vaguely good.

Fondant Icing
Makes enough to cover & decorate a large cake.

450g icing sugar
50g glucose
1 large egg white
flavours and colours
cornflour for dusting

1) Put the icing sugar in a bowl, sieving it if it's very lumpy. Make a well in the centre.
2) Add in the egg white, glucose and any flavourings and colours you want to use (such as lemon, orange flower, peppermint etc).
3) Knead the mix in to a smooth dough.
4) Dust a large surface with icing sugar and cornflour, and roll the icing to the desired shapes.

- You can use the white icing to cover a cake, and then colour and flavour the offcuts to use as decorations.
- A drop of blue colouring makes white icing seem even whiter.
- Keep the icing in an airtight bag or covered with a damp cloth when you are not using it - it dries out quickly.
- If it does start drying out, add a drop of egg white or water to the paste to make it more malleable.