Today I just wanted to share with you some photos I took over these last few weeks. At the start of the summer I bought a couple of Basil plants. At first I wanted to try growing some herbs from seeds but these two beauties were too lovely for me to give them a miss. So I got them and they have been sitting on my windowsill ever since. I have repotted them and they now live in colourful terracotta pots; the first two photos were taken on the day they came home with me. You see, I didn’t want them to die on me before I took some sort of a record. I don’t have green fingers.
Around three weeks ago J noticed a teeny white flower growing on the Greek Basil plant. I read that these should be disposed of (or pinched off!) but again, looking so pretty they almost asked to be in a picture. So before I chopped its head off, I took a snap. And here it is.
Then I did a kinda *off with their heads* thing. Finally I give you one of my favourite suppers of all, courtesy of these two lovelies which have brightened up this house, until we take good care of them that is…
I wrote about and made pizza quite a few times so you can find my recipe and method right here. Hope you like the pictures as much as I do. Enjoy!
I love a good pizza – always have and always will. It’s something that I reserve for the weekends, when time is my friend. Since moving to the UK we never found a good place where to get it, and even though I cannot replicate the ones I had in Rome, I now opt to make and eat it only at home. It takes some work but I find handling the dough most therapeutic and unlike shortcrust, pizza dough is very forgiving. My latest thing is to top it up with some fresh greens once it’s out of the oven, but I wavered that last Saturday and topped it with my trusty old chum: chorizo. There’s nothing more comforting other than a bowl of soup or minestrone in this gloomy cold weather, and the heat the oven gives off is very welcome on a Saturday night in. That, and Il Comissario Montalbano, of course! (oh my!)
I never have time to prepare something like this for a weekday lunch, because it does take a little bit of work (unless I don’t have some ready made dough in the fridge/freezer). But during the weekend, when I have a little more time to potter around in the kitchen I am always up for focaccia. And it’s even better when you have someone else prepare it for you. J recently whipped this up a few weekends ago while I was running some errands one Saturday morning. He made some dough (read more about this here) and topped it up with pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes. A quick and easy lunch idea. Simple but yummy. Enjoy!
In Comfort & Spice, Niamh Shields says that potato became her one of her favourite pizza toppings since her first trip to Rome. Not to worry – I *did* tell Niamh that the Maltese love that too. I remember a visit to Gozo a long time ago (I must have been around 21 I think..I did say ‘a long time ago’) while looking for somewhere to eat I was directed by a local to a lady who made the “best pizza”. I really cannot recall where this was, and I don’t know if it really was the best pizza. To tell you where you can find that I would have to get back to you. What I will say now is that it was really good.
When I’m homesick I love to recreate recipes which take me back to the islands for a little while and a really quick way of doing that is to make a basic pizza dough and put plenty of thinly sliced potatoes on top. Make sure it doesn’t dry up on you, so add plenty of olive oil. I do have a recipe for pizza dough in this blog. Whatever you put on your pizza is up to you. Traditionalists will pull their noses up and not look at these pics, but I don’t really care. Apart from the classic Napoletana, which I think is similar to the Margherita, I love it with Maltese sausages and/or potatoes. That’s how we roll in Malta.
I’m also posting here some photos taken on a recent visit to Malta – I managed some to do some cooking, including some pizzas for lunch. A few were made with goat’s cheese (ġbejniet) and the traditional zalzett Malti. Hope you enjoy them as much as much as I did.
Since I moved to the UK almost four years ago, from a large kitchen to a very small one, I learnt to make do with the basics. I wasn’t sure if I would get used to being cramped in a small space. I got some equipment with me but I left most behind, especially my very much missed Kitchen Aid. However, I now beat almost everything with a normal whisk or with an electric hand whisk, which (when working well) is a life-saver. (I must admit though that recently, I beat some zabaglione by hand. Then I swore I would never do that again!)
One thing which I didn’t have at all is a bread maker. I’m just an amateur cook so you chefs out there please forgive me for owning one, even while you cringe. But now, we can enjoy freshly baked bread everyday. That is what J enjoys most. Long-life super fluffy sliced bread isn’t an option. I have to say though that most supermarkets now have their own bakeries in store that offer good-quality bread and that’s great, but I still prefer making our own. I wouldn’t recommend using it to bake cakes. However it’s perfect for fruit loaves.
Thanks to our bread maker I’ve been making pizza on average once a week, especially on Saturday evenings. I love the feel and elasticity of pizza dough and it’s so easy to roll out. It beats shortcrust pastry, not in taste obviously, but I don’t have to worry about it falling apart on me. Fact is that pizza dough is easy to make with or without the machine. *With* means less mess; all you need is a little flour for rolling it out onto your working surface. The ingredients remain the same for whichever method you prefer.
A note before you start: there is the need for salt in this recipe. Omitting it here is not an option. For two square pizza trays you’ll need:
- ½ teaspoon dried active yeast (I use Allinson)
- 300g strong white bread flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 170ml water
The above is the order in which the ingredients go in the machine. By hand try the following:
- Prepare two trays sprinkled well with semolina. This will help you to slide the pizza easily onto your serving plate later.
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7, but consider more if you’re using a non-convection oven.
- Combine the yeast with the water (warm this up, not too much), olive oil and salt in a large bowl and stir until the yeast and salt are dissolved. After a couple of minutes add half of the flour and mix well. Add the rest of the flour and mix well with your hands.
- Put the dough on a clean floured surface and work it well. This dough can take it! Then leave it to rise in an oiled bowl or tray, covered with a damp towel. Once it’s doubled in size take it out of the bowl on to a surface once more and divide it into two. Roll each piece of dough and place on the two trays. (You could use pizza stones instead of the trays. These will work better in a very hot oven.)
- Top your pizzas with anything you like. I am partial to mozzarella or goat’s cheese, some mushrooms, slices of chorizo and onions, oregano and some more olive oil. I generally slice some tomatoes as a base when they’re nice and fresh instead of tinned passata or polpa. This is obviously a guide. Do whatever you want!
If you want to make focaccia, then all you need to do is to spread all the dough onto a well-oiled baking tray and leave it to rise a little (leave out Step 3). Puncture the dough with some fresh rosemary when you can find it. If not prong it with a fork, spread some more olive oil and top it with some onions and again with anything that you like. There’s your Saturday evening dinner sorted. Enjoy!