Saturday, March 24, 2012

Homemade Pizzas

Boyfriend and I found ourselves wandering through the markets this weekend trying to decide what we wanted to make for dinner. We walked past some people chowing down on pizza and decided. Yup. Fancypants pizzas for us!

The great thing about being a the markets, of course, is the wide variety of fresh, cheap and delicious ingredients to choose from. Example: 3 bags of garlic for $4. There will be no vampires in our home any time soon, that's for sure.

Unfortunately, they didn't sell any pizza dough at the markets. Big disappointment. They had premade pizza bases, but apparently we're purists who only want pizza if we get to knead the dough. And by we in this statement I mean he wanted pizza dough so I could knead it. Blarg.

Oh well. I spent a good hour or two looking up recipes for pizza dough once we got home I decided to go with a nice simple recipe from for pizza dough.  It was one of the only ones that actually described how much dough it created (this is a bit of a peeve).  So I have one ball of pizza dough in the freezer and we made two medium sized pizzas.

Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 7g satchet dried yeast
1/2 t caster sugar
4 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
4 T olive oil, plus extra

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar. Stir gently to combine then send aside for ~10 minutes (small bubbles should appear after 10 minutes).
  2. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl, forming well in the centre.
  3. Pour yeast mixture and oil into well, mix to combine with a butter knife.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly flour surface and knead for ~10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Return dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning dough to coat fully.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm draft-free area for 30-40 minutes or until doubled size.
  7. When dough has risen, divide into three balls.
  8. Turn out a ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface. Coat your hands lightly in flour and punch the dough to get the air out.
  9. Once air has been punched out of dough, knead the dough into appropriate shape. A rolling pin is helpful here.
  10. Another helpful tactic is to lift the dough up by the sides and let gravity stretch it, then turn the dough and stretch another side. If you're really fancy, you can throw it around like those pizza makers in movies and on TV. Warning: floor pizza does not taste as good.
  11. Any unused dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen.

Pizza Toppings
Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Garlic and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
One Large Red Pepper
One head garlic
6-10 cherry tomatoes.
Olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 230C (~475F).
  2. Peel excess skin off of garlic head, keeping cloves together.  Chop off the tips of the cloves.
  3. Put head of garlic in a ramekin or similar small container, pour a glug oil over top of garlic.
  4. Cover with tin foil.
  5. Put garlic on middle rack of oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.
  6. Rinse the red pepper and slice in half, removing stem and seeds.
  7. Rub thoroughly with oil.
  8. Place, outside up, on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Slide into the oven with the roasted garlic, as close to the top as possible.
  9. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  10. When red pepper looks well roasted and skin is slightly blackened, take them out of the oven and transfer to a ziploc bag.
  11. Set aside bag of peppers for about 10 minutes.
  12. Rinse cherry tomatoes and slice in half.
  13. Place on a baking tray, cut side up and sprinkle with salt and olive oil.
  14. Put in oven for 5 minutes.
  15. Meanwhile, remove pepper from bag and peel the skin off.  
  16. Chop as desired and set aside (congrats! You've roasted red peppers).
  17. Remove tomatoes from oven when they look sufficiently roasted
  18. Let garlic sit for 5-10 minutes after removing from oven to cool down.

Once your pizzas are garnished, bake at ~200C for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is looking golden.
For our pizzas, we went a big gourmet.  We picked up a spicy tomato relish to use as our salt base, along with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt on my pizza.
Boyfriend fried up some grilled sausage meat which he had formed into small balls.  He also had some sliced button mushrooms, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes and finely chopped basil. For cheese, he had sliced baby bocconcini balls and a handful of grated tasty cheese (it's a type of cheddar).
For my pizza, I used some proscuitto, tomatoes, garlic, red peppers and basil.  For cheese, I used the bocconcini balls and some Meffra Garlic Cheddar we found at the markets. I'd never tried it before but it was YUM. I was originally gonna go for a pecorino or similar with the bocconcini, but I'm glad I changed my mind!
Our pizzas turned out freaking DELICIOUS. And the leftovers were awesome for breakfast this morning too!

PS - This was actually last weekend, but then it took me a week to get the photos off of boyfriend's camera.  You know, the ones that are in focus and look nice? The other ones, obviously, are mine.  More baked sweets coming soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ginger Green Beans and Spring Smashed Potatoes

I've had a lot of disappointing adventures in the kitchen recently. I tried making jam, which resulted in me having a strawberry flavoured explosion in the kitchen.  Then I tried to tackle making ravioli. It turns out that pasta is REALLY difficult to make.  Well maybe not so much difficult as finicy? Anyway, it ended up being more like delicious sweet potato filling in a leather wallet. Ick. The recipe for the ravioli and filling is from Petite Kitchenesse and was actually a great recipe. I'm definitely going to try out that filling again. I will be honest, I ended up eating most of it with a spoon :)

So when I finally got something right in the kitchen, even if it's something simple, I wanted to share it with you folks.  Sadly, because I'm horrible at remembering to get photos, there are no photos... but I'm sure you can use your imaginations.

I picked up some big juicy looking Toulouse sausages from the butcher yesterday, and decided to do a lemony potato smash and a green bean dish (thanks to the ladies on Facebook who helped me decide on green beans).

The potatoes were prepared according to this recipe which I posted a few months ago, with a few modifications, see below.

Ginger Green Beans and Spring Smashed Potatoes
Ginger Green Beans
~500g fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1-2" sections
1-2 t fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red chili pepper
olive oil
sesame oil

Spring Smashed Potatoes
4 desiree potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 spring onions
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
1/2 t hot english mustard (optional)
1-2 T butter 
2 T white wine vinegar

Spring Smashed Potatoes
  1. Place peeled, roughly chopped potatoes in a pot of cold water, add a pinch of salt.
  2. Place over med-high heat, bringing to a boil and cooking potatoes for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Clean and chop green onions.
  4. Drain cooked potatoes and toss into a large bowl with butter, lemon juice, vinegar, green onion and lemon zest.
  5. Mix well, smashing potatoes slightly with a large spoon but leaving some textured clumps.
  6. Add hot English mustard, salt and chives to taste.  If potatoes seem dry, add more lemon juice, vinegar or butter as desired.
Ginger Green Beans
  1. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan. 
  2. Add green beans and toss in oil. Cook at medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, ginger and chilli, tossing to coat in oil.
  4. Cook for further 5 minutes, or until green beans are desired level of 'crunch'.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and add a small glug (1-2 t) sesame oil for flavour.
I keep forgetting to include this in recipes - but this makes enough green beans for two and enough potatoes for probably 4, but I love leftover potatoes.  These are simple enough that I'm sure you can figure out how to scale these recipes up to feed more people.

On a side note - I actually much prefer my mashed/smashed potatoes with the skin still on, but the potatoes I picked up this week had really dry and scaly looking peels.  Clearly not the best produce is available at the supermarket in the mall.  Not only does leaving the skin on the potatoes give a nice visual effect, it also provides texture and more importantly, I'm told that there is a lot of good vitamins and minerals directly under the skin.

For the green beans, this is a variation on a recipe I've been toying with for a while - the Chinese 5 spice green beans. I'm constantly changing it around. Adding discs of ginger instead of finely chopped bits, adding bacon or water chestnuts, sometimes some toasted sesame seeds.  It's something that's easy to have a lot of fun with and (unless you have 5 spice to add) requires very little effort towards seasoning. Really, green beans are one of the best vegetables.

Is it weird that my grocery store and butcher are in a mall?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mince Meat Pie

I found myself on Thursday night with a bag of defrosted ground beef and no clue what to do with it. I decided to poll my Facebook friends for their advice, and the wonderful Pixie Kat was kind enough to send me a recipe for Shepherd's pie, so between her and this recipe for Shepherd's Pie I found over at, I was set!

So, I began to make my Shepherd's pie, but once I got started I realised I only had two potatoes, clearly not enough to make the necessary mash.  So instead of covering my mince meat filling with mashed potatoes and baking, I covered it with puffy pastry (thanks Jamie Oliver for teaching me another way to be a lazy cook).  It was delicious :)

Mince Meat Pie
~300g ground beef
2 brown onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup frozen peas
2 cups salt reduced vegetable stock.
1 T salt reduced tomato paste
1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce

2 T flour
1 t oregano
1/2 t cumin
2 bay leaves
1 sheet puff pastry
olive oil
small bit butter
salt and pepper

  1. In a large sauce pan, cook onion, carrot and garlic with a small glug of olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add ground beef, breaking up into small bits, cook for 5 more minutes.
  3. Add oregano and flour, and stir until well coated, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Add stock (I used 1 cube of veg stock to 2 cups boiling water), bay leaf, cumin,Worchestershire sauce, frozen peas, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients and simmer on low for 20-30 minutes or until reduced.
  5. Meanwhile, defrost and then roll out puff pastry.
  6. Preheat oven to 190C
  7. Remove bay leaves, then pour mince mixture into a pie dish, top with puff pastry.  Trim edges to puff pastry and poke hole in the middle.
  8. Brush pastry with a small portion melted butter (or olive oil if preferred).
  9. Bake for ~30 minutes on lowest rack of oven, or until pastry is golden.

Best served with ketchup and bbq sauce. Yum.  A vegetarian version could be easily made by swapping out mince meat for chickpeas, potato, or more vegetables (frozen corn is also good).  Makes delicious leftovers (it's really good cold as well as reheated).
To make this a proper Shepherd's Pie instead of a pastry-based pie, simply use 4 or so large potatoes to make mashed potatoes, and spread that over pie in place of pastry and bake for ~20 minutes.  Also good in a deep casserole dish.

PS - I really am a terrible photographer, but I'm blaming it on the fact that we currently have no kitchen lights.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

So it's Lent I think, which means it's Hot Cross Bun times. These are one of my favourite seasonal treats, they taste so good lightly toasted with butter and jam. YUM.

I keep eyeing them at the grocery store, but they're $4.50 a pack and I'm still fairly poor. I don't wanna spend all my extra money on tasty bread. That's the money I save to spend on wine!

So I dragged poor boyfriend all over the mall on Saturday looking to replace my 2L Pyrex mixing bowl which I had dropped on the floor a few weeks back. Turns out they are sold out all across the mall. Except for one store, which had them, but was selling them for twice the price that other stores carried them. I had a little mini breakdown in the mall. I totally threw my shopping list at boyfriend's head and had a hissy fit in the grocery store too. Bread flour. WTF is bread flour because they certainly don't sell it at grocery stores here. 
So, weary and triumphant we finally left the mall, then I blew up some strawberry jam in the microwave (not awesome to clean up by the way) and made some hot cross buns. They did not turn out beautiful, but they definitely turned out delicious.
Hot Cross Buns from Recipes+ magazine
4 cups plain flour (or bread flour), plus 1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 7g packet dried yeast (2 tsp)
1 t cinnamon*
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t allspice
200g raisins**
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups warm milk
60 g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 can apricots in juice

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, yeast, spices fruit and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix  milk, butter and egg.
  3. Form a well at centre of flour mixture, pour milk mixture into well and stir until dough is just mixed.
  4. Either turning out onto a lightly floured surface, or using dough attachment for your hand mixer, knead dough for ~10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  5. Place dough in bowl cover with clean tea towel, and set aside in a warm draught-free area untili doubled in size (~1 hour).
  6. Grease a 23x23cm slab pan (or similar).
  7. Scrape dough from bowl using a spatula and turn onto a lightly floured surface. 
  8. Divide dough into 16 small balls (20 if using a larger, rectangular slab pan).
  9. Place balls side by side into slab pan and set aside in a warm draught free area for 30 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200C/180C fan forced (375/350F).
  11. Combine 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl and mix to form a paste.  Transfer to a ziploc bag and cut a small (really small) hole in the corner.
  12. Pipe crosses onto the dough.  Let me tell ya, this was strangely tricky.
  13. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked.
  14. Heat a small bowl of syrup from canned apricots in microwave, brush tops of buns with the sauce.***
* The recipe calls for 'mixed spices', which is actually a thing you can buy at the grocery store.  However, all it is is cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice mixed together. I happen to keep all these things on hand anyway.
** Raisins are our preference, but dried fruit mix is also pretty commonly used in hot cross buns, I just don't like it much.
*** Recipe calls for warm, strained apricot jam, however I don't like apricot jam so instead I simply used the syrup from canned apricots and ate the rest. Yum. Apricots are good.

These made for a fantastic breakfast with some homemade strawberry jam.  My jam, however, needs some work.