20 Mar 2016

tomato-tuna pretend pizza

When I first started making this dough, I was sceptical: this ain’t going to go very far, I thought. I’ll be lucky to have a tomato biscuit. But as I started rolling out this small but elastic round, I got excited: it was the perfect size for a single girl’s pizza!

I love good pizza: thin crisp crust and simple, fresh toppings. Good tomato sauce and in-season, ruby-red tomato slices; basil and a bit of garlic, and some rounds of stretchy mozzarella. Maybe a little chilli every now and then, but essentially, that classic red-white-and-green of the Italian flag makes me very happy.

But most recipes for pizza dough cater for ravenous families of dozens of people (or so it seems). I had trouble downsizing recipes; and really, leftover pizza doesn’t always translate that well. I’m also pretty hopeless at working with yeast. Some times of the year in Hobart, finding a warm spot for the dough to rise is difficult. So, I gave up making pizza.

Then I found this recipe I’d squirreled away for this time of the year when tomatoes are in abundance.

It’s the simplest dough possible, and the lack of yeast means you can knock this up and have it in the oven faster than you can think ‘what can I make for lunch that’s quick and delish and pretty healthy?’.
And I will admit, this made a little more than this single girl can eat all at once; but having pizza (and a green salad) for only two light meals instead of four or five was pretty wonderful. Another time I made it, for lunch for me and mum (dad was at the cricket), I over-rolled and overstretched it and it definitely served two people, but the base was too thin, which made the slices a bit tricky to handle.

Okay let’s face it: this is not a pizza, it’s a tart. Or it's stuff on a flatbread, more probably. But it looks like a pizza, a wonky-shaped homemade one. And yes there’s tuna — something I would never order on a pizza — and no, there’s no sauce or cheese (next time). Okay, it’s not a pizza! But it’s close enough to satisfy those cravings. Those single girl pizza cravings.

Here's one I made for mum and me, using chunks of orange tomatoes. I used my pizza stone this time, but I over-rolled the dough to make it fit that larger size, and then the base was too thin. And using the pizza stone didn't make that much difference to the base's crispness.
Tomato-tuna pretend pizza
Makes enough for one hungry single girl, or two people, or two light meals. Reheats surprisingly well. Adapted from (I think) a Better Homes and Gardens recipe.
  • Preheat oven to 200 and line a small baking tray.
  • In a food processor, whiz up 1/2 cup plain white flour, 1/2 cup plain wholemeal flour, 2 tbspns olive oil and 1/3 cup warm water.
  • Take out this wet sticky mess and on a floured surface, knead to bring together, then roll out to make a wonky kind of shape that would fit your small baking tray (my best pizzas were about 20 cm by just under 30 cms). Go thin, but not too thin.
  • Top with finely sliced spring onions, basil or other herbs, thinly sliced garlic, most-to-all of a 185gm tin of tuna, and thick slices/chunks of fresh ripe tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and lightly drizzle with more oil.
  • Pop in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serve with a few more fresh herbs scattered over the top.

13 Mar 2016

baking favourites

What's new? Not much. I didn’t bake much over the summer, but when I did turn the oven on, I mostly pulled out recipes for long-forgotten favourites: puddings and cakes and bikkies I made with a crush-like frequency months or even years ago, but I haven’t touched since.

Melting moments — with or without that daub of rich goo — were the first things I baked. I'd been craving these magically short little biscuits for weeks, so much so that I bought one at a cafe. A disappointing move — dry and hard; definitely stale (do you ever find the stuff you make is far superior to what’s in the shops?). I wouldn’t be satisfied until I made my own. Once I did, I decided that I really should have a tin of these in the kitchen at all times, like a sweet staple!

But then I moved on … to bread and butter pudding. B&Bs aren’t obvious summer fare, but when there’s rich stone fruit and other sweet stuff growing, it makes sense. I’d cut a handful of rhubarb stalks, and rather than stew it up for brekkie oats, I couldn’t get the idea of pudding out of my mind (probably because a foray into my chest freezer revealed I had about four panettones stashed away). And because ginger pairs well with rhubarb, I soaked the fruity panettone slices in some ginger wine. Such extravagance!

Then one evening I wooed my lovely friends with jammy cheesecake cake. I'd really forgotten how good that is, which its moist plain base and just-rich-enough cheesecake and jam layer. It  made enough for oohs and aahs on the night, and seconds to take home (which V had for breakfast the next day. Cake for breakfast — what a champion!).
And most recently I’ve been indulging myself with those dark fudgy spelt brownies (so much so that I forgot to take a picture this time around). Next on the wishlist is the speckled prettiness of currant-studded shrewsbury biscuits.

As a blogger, I probably should be trying new recipes all the time, so I’m writing about new things for you to read about. But in real life … I’m in the mood for the familiar and cosy, for enjoying those fondly-remembered flavours again (and not worrying if the new recipe will turn out!). However, because these forgotten stars are (shamefully) not on high rotation, it’s not ho-hum (and how could ginger-wine spiked pudding be ho-hum?!).

Like a comforting hug from your mum, or a laugh on a Friday night with friends, these kind of recipes serve a very important purpose in one’s life.

I would love to know: what goodies have you neglected, that perhaps need to be baked again?

6 Mar 2016

summer tabouli

I remember the first time I had tabouli as a young kid. Or rather, I remember standing in my mother’s kitchen with the brown pantry doors open, looking at a box of gritty burghul, and feeling sorry for mum. Because she’s tried something new, this gritty stuff served with loads of raspy parsley, and none of us seemed to like it. Or at least — and you can tell by my choice of words, gritty and raspy — that I didn’t. But I felt bad, that mum had tried to be adventurous and we failed her.

This memory also makes me think of the ingredients and foodstuffs that, in the decades since, have found their way more successfully into our pantries. Olive oil is out of the medicinal cupboard and into the pantry, in many incarnations. Spices and herbs have proliferated and represent many cuisines of the world; there’s more than just Keen’s curry now! There’s more varieties of pasta than you can poke a spaghetti strand at. And there may not be burghul, but there’s couscous and freekah and the now-commonplace quinoa. Who’d have guessed!

But back to tabouli. In theory, it’s a lovely, refreshing idea — and a perfect solution to the abundance of cucumbers coming out of dad’s garden, and my own healthy supply of tomatoes. But something had to be done about the burghul. I remembered a recipe using brown rice, but on warm summer days, brown rice seems too heavy (and takes too long to cook).

So I’ve substituted wholemeal couscous, which takes a mere blink to make, and is soft and definitely not gritty. While it’s softening, you can cut up the green and the red — these are the colour of summer, vibrant green beans and basil, and ruby-rich tomatoes.

I’ve been using spring onions, and great handfuls of baby-tender curly parsley and basil; then lots of juicy, seedy cucumbers from dad. The tomatoes are the pure red of a roma-style mamma mia, or the darker black krim or stripey orange big beryl (I have a girl crush on her this season!). I’ve also been adding lightly steamed green beans (because I have loads of those) and occasionally, some juicy red capsicum for some extra crunch. Then a drizzle of olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon juice; and strangely, never salt – all this homegrown produce tastes so fresh and cool, I don’t need any seasoning.

I got all art-director fancy for the top photo, arranging the tomatoes in a line; but mostly my tabouli is a big jumble, more like this: