Sunday, 31 March 2013

Be happy and eat more pizza

Pizza comes in many forms, some similar like brothers, others more like distant cousins - who don’t really like each other. I’m not afraid to admit I like most of them, mood dependent, of course. A traditional Neapolitan style pizza baked in a scorching hot wood fired oven can hardly be compared to a Dominos mighty meaty with extra chillies but there is definitely a time and a place for both. Especially when it comes with a pot of that ridiculously good crust dipping sauce. Anyone who says they don’t like it is lying, that’s a fact. Seriously it is - Google it.

Most foodies are pretty snobby about the pizza; it has to be cooked in a wood fired oven, only use buffalo mozzarella, sauce be made with a particular tomato, be blessed by a Neapolitan bearded monk blah blah blah blah…..BORING. I say while that kind of pizza is amazing, up there with one of my favourite things in the whole world (minus the monk), there are times only a slice of stuffed crust will do.

I sometimes have the odd craving for a Dr Oetker, the Dominos app is on my iPhone, there is at least one thin crust margarita in the freezer and I know the Pizza Express menu off by heart. Pizza is just good. End of. Why limit yourself to just one perfect kind. Embrace the dirty pizza, enjoy it for what it is, essentially bread and melted cheese – who doesn’t like that. My only exception is that weird hot dog stuffed crust pizza, I’ll admit I haven’t actually tried said pizza but I’m not willing too, it’s too weird. Also pineapple, it’s wrong, don’t do it.  Have some after if you have too.

That said I have an ongoing challenge with myself to make the perfect ‘authentic’ pizza at home but each time I try I never quite get there. A bit soggy, too much cheese, not enough crust, too much crust – you get my drift. Much to my and my stomachs delight I came pretty close this week.  I purchased a pizza stone from good old TX Max (I love TX Max, nearly as much as I love Pound Land) ordered a pizza peel online for ease of removal from aforementioned stone and made a batch of killer dough using my sourdough starter. Oh yeah, this was happening.

The result was pretty damned good, if I do say so myself (and I do). Lovely thin crisp base, slightly chewy crust and a good distribution of melted loveliness on the top.  I even had a pot of Dominos garlic and herb in the cupboard, as if things could get any better. I went to bed a happy woman that night let me tell you.

The moral of my story, well there isn’t one really. Just be happy and eat more pizza- I am pretty certain the two are linked. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

You had me at bacon

This week I decided to make bagels. Now, I’d been planning these babies for a while, so when a friend called on to discuss my attendance at that evening’s drink-fueled festivities, I politely declined. I didn’t have a bun in the oven, but I definitely had one on the mind and I did not want a stinking hangover on bagel day.

I think my bagel obsession started when I visited New York. The short nature of out trip meant that my Mother and I decide NOT to try and adjust to the time difference. We would be wide awake by 5am most days. Hours were spent wandering the streets during the general breakfasting period of the day and this equated to a lot of bagel eating. Granted, we did miss out on a lot of the night life, and looking back it doesn't seem like my most cunning of plans, but it did happen. 

It's always to my surprise and confusion that most people don’t get even half as excited as I do about bagels, with many even telling me they don’t like them. However after further (slightly irate) questioning the culprit becomes clear. Those awful bags of dry, shiny, rubbish bagels you buy in supermarkets. They make me sad, I bet they make New York sad too. They might look like bagels, smell similar to bagels and yes, granted, they are called bagels….but a bagel they are not. Trust me.

A further incentive to bagel making day; I would be able to eat breakfast for all 3 of my meals. I love breakfast. Obviously the first wouldn’t be bagel based- they take about 4 hours- but I had a bacon joint in the fridge left over from recipe testing, so that wasn’t going to be a problem. I also love bacon.

The reason I like breakfast so much, well, what’s not too like? The possibilities are literally endless. Especially if you can hold out until brunch o’clock, you can literally have ANYTHING you like, even a cocktail. Oh look, it seems to be 11am….Bloody Mary anyone? I reiterate, what’s not to like? There’s nothing quite like some hard alcohol, before the consumption of any food, to get you in that weekend mood. Plus, as the first meal of the day, there’s zero room for food guilt. In fact, aren’t we encouraged to eat like a king in the morning? I say go for it; you had me at bacon.

So back to the bagels, they went well. I seem to have the technique down now, it’s been a long road we’ve travelled together – but we got there in the end. Predictably I was covered in flour and dough by the end….but surely that’s all part of the fun.  

If you’d like the recipe, do get in touch.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Are you going to eat that??

Growing up with two brothers, you have to learn to eat fast or go hungry. Their fork already hovering over my plate, spearing the last morsel that I was saving until last, I’d hear the words “are you gonna eat that”. YES, I WAS. Arghhhh. Gone, before I could even think about a counter tackle. I thought about eating all my meals with the steak knifes we saved for best, just in case of a plate intrusion, but this didn’t go down too well with the mother, they weren’t dishwasher safe, you see. It made any sharing based restaurants a complete no no, the buffet on the other hand, well that was our save haven, an argument free zone.

Now that I have flown the nest you’d think my eating habits would have changed, I would amble over my dinner with a relaxed grace, safe in the knowledge that my plate was free from attack. Incorrect. I still seem to eat way faster than most of my dining companions. This can lead to all manner of strange looks and assumptions and is one of the reasons I avoid the first date dinner scenario. Eating on a first date is nothing short of hell. Why does anyone put themselves through that minefield?

Speaking of dates, when people find out what I do they seem to develop a fear of sharing any kind of food based scenario with me. They assume I must be super critical, eat only the finest produce or some other ridiculous notion. Incorrect, again. While I love cooking with fresh, seasonal produce I am also partial to a bit of trash; spaghetti hoops, always when hungover, chip shop chips with close to a bottle of malt vinegar on top (why do restaurants give you balsamic vinegar with your chips, I mean, really??) pickled onion monster munch and my particular favourite, the Munchie. I always carry a pack in my handbag (it’s true, feel free to bag raid).

I might love food- but I’m not a food snob. So any potential dates out there, feel free to feed me, just not on date one, and whatever you do, DO NOT ask me what my signature dish is, especially if there is a steak knife around….

Friday, 1 March 2013

How deep fried is your love....

So, week 2 of freelance went well, managed to avoid purchasing any cats, adopting an imaginary friend or turning on a slow cooker, thumbs up all round. I even ventured into the big smoke for a meeting with the editor of the BBC Good Food website about some more work, so all in all, a success.

I did find myself with some extra time on my hands yesterday, so what did I do? A bit of exercise? Spring clean the flat? Take in some culture. No, don’t be silly, I deep-fried what already is one of the most unhealthy dishes around. Obviously.

I love macaroni cheese, pasta – good, cheese – good – pasta and cheese together – better. However, often while eating this wonderful dish, I find myself thinking ‘how can I make this more unhealthy?’ I had already tried adding bacon, and while this was good, I felt there was more I could do. More saturated fat to be added, more artery clogging to be aimed for, just generally more. Cue the birth of the macaroni cheese croquettes. (I am not actually naive enough to think I invented this but for the purpose of this blog lets just say I did- it was all my brilliant, genius idea)

The result. Oh. My. God. It takes a bit of effort but the end result more than justifies the means, plus I was having a break from work (cooking) so it was only natural that I would do more cooking. Oh and I used four cheeses in the sauce because a) I had them in the fridge and b) why wouldn’t you. I didn’t however have any macaroni so I had to cut up cooked penne with my kitchen scissors.

I urge you to try it next time you need to put on a few extra pounds to slip into your fat day jeans. 

4 cheeses, ready to make the sauce

Infusing the milk

Ready for the fryer

Salsa pre blitz

Mac n Cheese croquettes with roasted habanero salsa