Sunday, 27 March 2016

Pizza - Homemade pizza pie!

Most of us love pizza. It is one of those homely satisfying things that is easy and fast. Originally a peasant dish, artisan pizzas now have a proper and well deserved place in high end cooking. A third of the pizza that we eat in the UK is take away and the rest is frozen or fresh from the shop, which is a real shame. Pizza is so cheap and easy to make, Making your own means you can get the perfect balance of ingredients, it is also a great way to get rid of some of those leftover veg or bits of roast chicken. The only special equipment you need is a pizza tray, which is £4 from any of the large supermarkets. Alternatively you can get a pizza stone if you are more serious, but do be careful this those they are HOT!

Making the pizza dough is the most laborious part, that will take you - or your mixer - about 10-15 minutes to knead and then another 40 minutes to an hour to proof. You can freeze all types of pizza dough. All you have to do is let it rise fully, portion it out into single portions, wrap it in cling film loosely and put it in a freezer bag. It keeps for about 3 months. To use take it out the freezer and pop it in the fridge the night before and hey presto you can have fresh  homemade pizza in no time at all.

Ingredients - makes 4 thin 12 inch pizza bases

2 teaspoons active dry years
A pinch of sugar
350g strong plain flour and extra for dusting
2 teaspoons of olive oil plus extra for kneading
150ml water
½ teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the topping

Tomato pasata or homemade tomato sauce
Anything you want on top of your pizza
Grated mozzarella or any other cheese you fancy - beware oily fatty cheeses can spoil your pizza.


1. Mix the yeast and the sugar with 3 tablespoons of warm water and leave on the side for about 5-10 minutes. It needs to be all bubbly and foamy before you use it. Try not to stir the years during this time, and avoid metal spoons they make it grumpy (yes yeast can be grumpy, it is alive and therefore not vegan!)

2. Put the flour, salt and olive oil in a bowl - make sure the salt is on one single spot towards the size of the bowl - add the yeast mixture away from the salt and slowly start adding the water while mixing with one hand. Make sure your dough is well combined in the bowl, it will be quite a sticky wet dough.

3. Now here is a tip from the master himself Paul Hollywood, oil a clean surface with plenty of olive oil, turn the dough over onto it and start kneading. Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes, it will feel silky, smooth and stretchy. Put the dough back in an oiled bowl and leave the dough with clingfilm or a towel in a dry warm place for 40 minutes to an hour until it doubles in size.

3.1 If you have a food mixer with a dough attachment put all the ingredients in, turn the mixer on and watch it do its thing for about 5-10 minutes - check your machine’s instructions as most of them come with a wee cookbook and times on how long to knead the different types of dough.  

4. Separate the dough into 4 equal balls. Flour a surface and  your rolling pin and roll it out, ones it gets quite thin you can push it out with your fingers. Flour your pizza tray, you can use a mix of flour and semolina if you like, less likely to stick. Drape the rolled out pizza base over your rolling pin so you to transfer easier onto the tray.

5. Put some tomato sauce on top, don’t put too much on it makes it soggy and it drips. Put your toppings in any order you want, top with any cheese you want and bake for 10-15 minutes on a super hot over 230-240C’ that you have of course pre-heated. Pizza in a cold over = no pizza!

I hope you try this because it will save you a lot of money and it will taste so much better than the takeaway horror that we get these days!

Bon Apettite!


Monday, 7 March 2016


I love food, if you know me you will know this already. I like making my own food and rarely find a ready made or a restaurant dish that I don’t feel can be made better at home. Not that I can make it better at home per say but that it would benefit from the tender loving care of a home kitchen.

Falafel is one of those dishes. I find that store bought  falafel is very dry, and can be lacking in flavour. I like my falafel herby, and I like to have a big more cumin in there too. In addition my friend Mandy pointed out to me this week that 2016 is the year of pulses, so falafel seems a good way to start. a good falafel sandwich can be comforting and it is actually quite healthy, you have a bit of bread, plenty of fiber and protein in the chickpea and some nice salad. You can add feta cheese or yogurt sauce so a bit of calcium in there too.

MY favourite part is building the falafel sandwich, cramming it full of lettuce and tomatoes and drizzling lots and lots of garlicky tahini sauce.

If you want to make everything from scratch the below instructions will take a total of about 2h including cooking and cleaning time. I would suggest to just buy the pita bread 99.9% of the time then it takes only 40 minutes from start to plate.


For the Falafel
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 x 400g/14oz can chickpeas
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp chopped parsley
  • ½ tsp chopped mint
  • 1 lemon or lime, zest grated
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten

For the Tahini Sauce

  • 3 tbsp of Tahini paste
  • about 100 ml of water -you may need more
  • 4 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • ½ close of crushed garlic
  • salt to taste
For the Flat Bread

  • 300g plain wholemeal flour
  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (optional)
  • ½ tsp chili powder (optional)
  • 250 ml water
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil

Method for the Falafel

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Fry the onion over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for a further two minutes and remove from the heat.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. If you have a food processor put them all in alternatively transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the sautéed onion and garlic and blitz together OR crush together with a potato masher until the mixture is broken down.
  3. Add the cumin, mixed herbs and lemon zest and whizz for a few second to combine. If you are doing this by hand make sure the herbs are finely chopped. Now is the time to taste and season with salt and pepper because next you will be adding the egg and mix together.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Using a tablespoon to measure out the mixture form into patties and place on a non-stick baking tray. Rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, this helps them hold together better.
  5. Remove the falafel from the fridge, drizzle with the remaining oil and bake for 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown. Turn occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Method for the Flat Bread

This flatbread is very hardy, it is perfect for picnics and camping it carries sauces very well and it is absolutely delicious. You can prepare it in advance and take it with you cooked, or you can have it all rolled out, separated by clingfilm - make sure you flour the bread so it doesn’t stick - and cook it our on the fire when camping or on the BBQ later on. 

  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bow and slowly add the water while mixing with the other hand until it starts to form a dough - get your hands in! It is important to know what the dough feels like, that way you will know when it is ready, if it is too wet or too dry.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and bring it together kneading for a  couple of minutes. IT makes quite a solid robust dough.  
  3. Separate the dough into about 14 equal pieces - put all of them under a towel so they don’t dry out as you work with them.
  4. Roll each piece into a ball in your hands, then roll out each ball to form a 5mm thick round or oval. Brush one side with a little olive oil
  5. Cook oil-side down on a hot griddle pan, barbeque or dry frying pan for 1 minute, Brush the top with oil and turn over for another minute.

Method for the Tahini Sauce

  1. Put all the ingredients in a jar, close the lid tight and shake.  
  2. Check the consistency of the sauce and give it a taste add anything that you may want, salt, lemon, garlic up to you. If you want it a little looser then just add more water

TIP - Now not a lot of people will know this but adding acid to tahini paste makes it thicker. This is why you need quite a bit of  water, when you are putting as much lemon juice in the tahini paste as we are here you need a lot of water.

Now that you have all your parts it is time to put it together a glorious falafel sandwich! How you do this is entirely up to you! Just make sure you have plenty of salad and sauce because falafel is inherently quite a dry thing. It is lovely with the tahini sauce but it is just as nice with a yogurt and mint sauce. 

Bon Apettite!