Monday, 14 February 2011


Sometimes you get to do what you want, be selfish and act on whims. Sometimes you have to go along with anothers plans to make them happy or because you owe them one. And then there is compromise.

For two people that are so similar (love a charity shop bargain, hated Hot Tub Time Machine) Bo and I can be very different too. The night we met I asked him the question on which I base everything, what would you have as your last meal on earth? This question has be debated within our family for years, mine changes with my mood and consists of pre-dinner snacks, starter, main and desserts with drinks to match each course. Bo's answer; well done steak with Colman's pepper sauce and chips. If he wasn't so handsome...

Our meals at home are usually separate (odd working hours don't help) although we try to eat together as much as possible. With two people with such contrasting views on what constitutes and decent meal this can be tricky. We have about five combo meals that can be split into our personal tastes; curry where he can have the meat and sauce and I can have the sauce and veggies etc. But I get bored. Cooking the same thing week in, week out is the foodies equivalent of Chinese torture.

While flipping through cookbooks trying to find spring roll recipes to bring in the Year of the Rabbit I stumbled upon a Donna Hay spring magazine that Hen bought me during our last trip down under. Donna Hay is the Aussie Jamie Oliver but a girl. I really like her books and although her whole vibe is a bit Martha, the recipes are simple and delicious. Two things that I wholeheartedly support. This week I asked my sister to stockpile me the magazines so I can take an empty suitcase next time I visit, her reaction 'Oh god, not Donna Hay - she's everywhere Em.' Donna Hay = not cool enough for Bondi.

Anyway within the (very glossy) pages there it was, a new Emma and Bo meal. Pizza! It's fun to make, he can have ham, I can have courgettes, its yummy - score!


A note on cups, do not shun their crazy American ways - embrace them. Go forth to the nearest pound shop and make your life a little bit easier.  Also another note on tomatoes, in December we went to the Foodies festival where we watched the wonderful Mary Contini from Valvona and Crolla who made the most delicious tomato sauce with the barest of ingredients.  The key, according to Mary, was the quality of the tinned tomatoes so no more skimping in this house.  Mary was mad by the way, but nice mad.

Makes about 4 pizzas

Basic pizza dough
1 tbsp dry yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups (525g) 00 flour - plus extra for dusting
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tbsp olive oil

Tomato Sauce
1 tin of good quality tinned plum tomatoes
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
oregano - fresh if you have it but dried is fine
a good pinch of chilli flakes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

fresh mozzarella
a selection of toppings

Firstly crank up the oven as high as it will go, the higher the heat the crispier the pizza.  Place a large baking tray (or even better a pizza stone) in the oven so the heat will transfer to the base of your pizza.

Begin with the sauce, heat a good glug of the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add the garlic and chilli.  Squish the whole tin of plum tomatoes into the pan, fill the empty tin with water and add this too.  Leave the smaller leaves of the oregano whole and roughly chop the rest, add this to the pan.  Turn the heat down to the lowest setting, cover and leave to simmer until needed.  Occasionally use the back of a wooden spoon to mash down the tomatoes and add a little water if its looking too dry.

For the dough, place the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside in a warm place (beside the kitchen radiator is a good place) for 5 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface.  Bubbles mean that the yeast has been activated.

Place the flour, salt and olive oil in a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Add the yeast mixture and mix together with your hands until you have a well formed dough.  We found the DH's dough recipe far too wet (in Bo's words 'it's gone all Sloppy Giuseppe') so we added at least another cup of flour.  Add more if you need it.  The dough should be easy to handle and not stick to your hands.  Flour a work surface and kneed the dough until elastic and stretchy.  Divide it into equal balls depending on how many pizzas you are making.  Place on a floured tray and cover with a clean, damp cloth.  Set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until they have doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen take the sauce of the heat and check it for seasoning.  Get your toppings and mozzarella ready at hand  Press each dough ball into a round and roll out on a floured surface to the desired size and thickness.  Stretching by hand is easy too.  Thin is good!

Now here you have to work quickly, carefully take the heated tray or stone out from the oven (if you are using a baking tray it is advisable to lightly oil it). Place your rolled out dough onto the tray, take a spoonful of the tomato sauce and smear it over the top, add your topping and scatter over nuggets of the mozzarella.

It needed a little more cheese but otherwise it was perfect.
Place back into the oven and cook for 5-10 minutes.  The cooking time may vary depending on how hot your oven can get.  Keep an eye on it and remove when the base is golden and the mozzarella is melted.


artichokes, egg, olives and mozzarella
courgette ribbons, chilli, lemon zest and goats cheese
rosemary, garlic, potato and pecorino
prosciutto, rocket and mozzarella
field mushrooms, thyme and mascarpone
chargrilled aubergine, roast peppers, courgettes and mozzarella

Happy Valentines Day

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hello Springtime!

Poached Rhubarb

200g rhubarb (about 2 stalks)
juice and zest of half an orange
1/2 vanilla pod, seeds removed (or 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract)
25g soft brown sugar
25g caster sugar

Heat the oven to 300F/150c/Gas 2.

Cut the rhubarb into 1 inch/2.5cm pieces and lay in a thick ovenproof dish, make sure you choose a dish that will tightly pack the rhubarb in a single layer.

Sprinkle both sugars over the rhubarb.  Mix the orange zest, orange juice and either vanilla seeds or vanilla extract.  Pour over the sugared rhubarb, adding the leftover vanilla pod if used.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes until soft to touch - remember that it will cook further when cooling.  Turn the rhubarb and leave to cool.  Will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Will go perfectly with rice pudding, ice cream, shortbread and cream, pancakes... but this morning it goes perfectly with granola and greek yogurt.