Thursday, 17 June 2010

Dough Balls and Garlic Butter Dip

This is good for using up any leftover pizza dough . I usually use the same quantity of dough I'd use to make 1 pizza.

1 x pizza size quantity pizza dough

For Garlic Butter (makes lots)

6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed.

-Mix together ingredients for garlic butter, cover with cling film and chill for a couple of hours to get the garlic flavours going.
-Shape the dough into walnut sized balls and line up on a greased, floured baking tray.
-Brush the garlic butter over the balls and bake in a hot oven until risen and just golden brown.

Serve with the garlic dip.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Vegetarian Pizza & Toppings

This is a very simple pizza recipe that can be topped with anything. I've adapted a Jamie Oliver dough recipe to serve 4.

Pizza Dough

500g Strong White Flour/Bread Flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast acting yeast
1/2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp oil
355ml Lukewarm water (any hotter and it will kill the yeast. Stick your finger in, it should be just warm.)

-In a jug, mix yeast, sugar and oil into water and leave for a few mins.
-Sieve flour and salt onto a LARGE board and make a well in the middle. (Alternatively if you're like me and ended up tipping yeast mixture all over my stove top because my board was too small, use a large bowl instead, and make a well in the centre.)
-Pour in the yeast mixture gradually, using a fork to mix together into it forms into a dough you can mold with your hands. (you can also use a dough hook attached to a hand mixer, but make sure you mix the flour and yeast together first or you will get lumps) You may not need all of the yeast mix, it will depend on your brand of flour.
-Knead well until soft and springy and chuck around the kitchen if you desire.
-Place into a flour dusted bowl and sprinkle flour on top. Cover loosely with a just damp tea towel and place in a warm area for 1hr or until doubled in size.

My "warm area" usually consists of my oven turned onto its lowest setting and the door pulled slightly ajar, I then balance a very precarious cooling rack which I hook around my stove top so that the bowl of dough sits above the stream of warm air. You can use an airing cupboard (which I don't have) as it is far simpler! Your dough may take more than an hour to rise, mine takes closer to two.

-Once the dough is risen, knead again to push all of the air bubbles out.

You can then fridge or freeze the dough in a large plastic container or a bag. The cold air will make the dough rise a bit more, so make sure you allow room in the container/bag for this to happen otherwise it will escape. When defrosting, don't be tempted to defrost in a microwave, I tried very unsuccessfully and my dough didn't rise. Instead defrost gradually in the fridge overnight or out on a counter top for a few hours, it won't take long. I've kept my dough in the fridge successfully for about 2 days.

-Divide into 4 balls and roll out into 0.5 cm thick rounds. (if using straight from fridge, allow it to sit for about 15-20 mins before rolling.)

My pizza never wants to make a neat round, but this just adds to the rustic feel. For thin and crispy pizzas, roll onto a greased and floured baking sheet. For deep pan, press into a greased and floured pie dish (pressing up the sides too) this will make a lovely thick fluffy crust.

-Top with a tomato sauce and toppings of your choice (taking care not to layer too thick or your pizza will be soggy in the middle)
-Bake for around 10mins in an oven on its hottest setting.

Pizza Toppings

Spinach and Ricotta with Spinach Pesto
(Makes enough to top 1 large or 2 small pizzas)

Small Handful of Spinach
1/4 tub of Ricotta (vegetarian)
Handful of Grated Cheddar

For the pesto
(Makes enough for a few pizzas, keep in fridge with a layer of oil on top. This has a serious garlic kick!!)

1 Large Handful of Spinach
Small handful of basil
Handful of Vegetarian/Vegan Parmesan substitute (I found mine in Sainsbury's)
Sprinkling of pine nuts
1-2 Cloves of Garlic
Olive Oil
Salt & Black Pepper to taste

-To make the pesto, whizz all ingredients except the oil in a blender until just mixed, add the oil a little at a time until you get your desired consistency.

Top the pizza base with tomato sauce, sprinkle over the spinach leaves and cheddar, dot the ricotta around and then drizzle with the pesto. Bake for about 10mins in a hot oven until the base is cooked through and the ricotta has started to melt.

Vegetarian Italian Spicy Sausage balls & Mozzarella
(Makes enough to top 1 large or 2 small pizzas)

3 Vegetarian sausages (I use Linda McCartney)
1/2 ball Mozzarella
Handful Grated Cheddar

For the Sausage Seasoning

1/4 tsp of Black Pepper
1/4 tsp of Mixed Herbs
1/4 tsp of Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp of Paprika
1/4 tsp of Onion Powder
1/4 tsp of Crushed Fennel Seeds
1/4 tsp of Salt
Egg yolk to blend (If needed)

-Crush the fennel seeds with the other spices in a pestle and mortar.
-Break sausages up into chunks and add the spice mix. Whizz up until all mixed together. Test the mix to see if it holds together, if it's too dry, blend in an egg yolk until it holds together nicely.
-Turn out into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and sit in the fridge for a couple of hours (if possible) to let the flavours develop.
-Make into little balls or flat rounds and fry in a little oil until cooked through, but not browned too much.

Top pizza base with tomato sauce, slices of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, top with the sausage balls/rounds and bake for 10 mins in a hot oven until the dough has cooked and the sausages have browned.

Perfect film accompaniment- Amelie. Warm, hearty and delicious.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi- WIN!

Like Sex and the City 2, I wasn't expecting to like this. I'd had Gnocchi in the past, and it tasted a bit like soggy mashed potato, but this recipe is a more pasta like version. Having converted to Vegetarianism a few months back, I'm constantly on the look out for new recipes that are substantial and more importantly taste yummy. Don't skimp on the nutmeg. I found this on the BBC Good Food website.

Serves 4

* 200g young spinach, washed
* small handful parsley leaves, finely chopped (I omitted this)
* 1 garlic clove , crushed (I used 2)
* 140g ricotta (Vegetarian)
* 85g plain flour
* 2 eggs
* 100g grated Veggie Parmesan-style cheese (I used red Leicester instead)
* freshly grated nutmeg (or powdered)
* olive oil and rocket, to serve

1. Boil the kettle. Place the spinach in a large bowl and pour boiling water over it. Leave for 2 mins until wilted, then drain thoroughly. Leave to cool, then wrap a clean tea towel around the spinach. Hold it over the sink and squeeze out as much water as possible. Finely chop.

2. Place the spinach, parsley, garlic, ricotta, flour, eggs, cheese and a generous grating of nutmeg into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Use a fork to stir very thoroughly until everything is completely mixed. Using wet hands, form the mixture into walnut-size balls. Place on a large plate or tray and refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

3. When ready to cook, heat the oven to warm and bring a large pan of water to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and drop in batches of about 8-10 gnocchi at a time. They will sink to the bottom, and when they rise to the top give them about 1 min more, then remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you cook the rest. Serve the gnocchi on warm plates drizzled with olive oil and scattered with rocket and more cheese.

This tastes amazing on a bed of roasted veg.

Perfect film accompaniment- Julie & Julia. This is guaranteed to keep your hunger at bay during this wonderfully gastronomic film. (At least until the part where she makes the amazing looking chocolate cake with all the almonds around it.)

*image courtesy of the BBC Good Food Website

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Sex and the City 2 - FAIL.

I like my films like I like my food - Not incredibly fancy, but nonetheless satisfying.

I don't want to spend two hours trying a new recipe only to find out it tastes like paste, neither do I want to waste two hours watching a new film that leaves a decidedly bad taste in my mouth.

I'm not ashamed to say that I liked the first Sex and the City movie. I think I was just surprised that it didn't completely suck, as so many TV to movie transitions do (*cough* SIMPSONS) I'll save that rant for another day... After skimming through some very bad reviews whilst trying not to ruin any major plot points, I didn't expect it to be good, but I didn't think that after nearly three hours I would be as ("I'm not angry, just...") disappointed as I was. It was bad. Very very bad, on so many levels.

It started bad, but at least forgivable. Why? Why would Stanford and Anthony get married when they've never even liked each other? They did it so well in the series. The whole misconception that just because "my friend's gay, he'll want to date your gay friend, because they're gay" was done so well. Why ruin it!?

After the sticky start, and Liza's grandma rendition of (Single Ladies) "Put a ring on it..." (although the lady can still move!) there were some interesting character story arcs that could have made for a really great film. Charlotte had been a domestic goddess throughout the series, and now she has a child who won't stop screaming and she has to lock herself in a cupboard to cry! Carrie's storyline was also looking good, her and Big were representing couples who get married, and don't want kids. Not Ever. No surprise pregnancy in the end that makes them realise they wanted kids all along (A possible storyline for SATC3 methinks), it's "Me and You, Just us two." Samantha's going through menopause, also potential for meaningful yet comedic storyline goodness. And Miranda... well hers is clearly tacked on, but could have been interesting had they concentrated on her character's struggles with the fact that she's a mother who loves to work, and not made her a walking exposition guidebook for all things Abu Dhabi, including religion they blatantly disrespect, and a dress code they repeatedly ridicule.

Think Borat, but without the satire, written by Paris Hilton and with lots of pretty clothes.

Seriously, they spend about fifteen minutes staring at a woman on the next table marveling on how she can eat french fries under her veil. A conversation more suited to a bunch of Reebok wearing fifteen year olds in a Burger King! Then there's the karaoke. Oh dear god! In what seems to be an effort to empower the women of Abu Dhabi into shirking their veils and silly religion, all five of them get on stage and sing "I am woman, hear me roar". The most blatant shove-it-in-your-mouth ridiculous attempt at faux-feminism since the Spice Girls first screeched "Girl Power". To borrow a response from a very well written article in The Guardian, "Sorry, I think I just burned my fingers while retrieving my bra from the fire."

After Samantha gets arrested for indecency and down right disrespect, the girls return to a market where Carrie has left her passport, and Samantha then proceeds to piss off a load of men heading to prayer by flapping around in shorts, dropping her bag containing condoms on the floor and then giving them the finger while thrusting her hips shouting "Yes, I HAVE SEX!" Not surprisingly they give chase, and the girls are forced to follow a group of veiled women into a shop. Long story short, they too are reading a very vacuous book on menopause and take off their robes and veils only reveal designer labels. The message here clearly states that these women may seem repressed, their beliefs archaic, but it's OK they're wearing Prada.

Not since the film He's Just Not That Into You (A phrase coined by Sex and the City writers and then completely ruined), have I ranted for so long on a film that hails itself as empowering. The series was something to be proud of, it finally represented women truthfully, ignoring all of the outdated models that have existed on screen for decades. It's sickening that one of the biggest selling franchises aimed at women reduces them to no more than marriage crazy, fashion crazy airheads. It's like the last few decades of female liberation never happened and the only female role-models left on screen are nothing but living barbies that come with their very own accessory kits. Weddings, Fashion shows, Parties, Domesticity and if you're lucky, Work.

The tagline for the movie should have perhaps read-

Sex and the City 2- autonomy not included.