Friday, 24 June 2011

Courgette, prosciutto & black olives pizza

To be quite honest I am extremely happy when I have simple margherita pizza on lovely thin base and made with fresh ingredients. However I also like my seasonal pizzas made with fresh veg that I use in my kitchen at that time. This is ho I created my favourite October and May pizzas. 

I know it June is getting to an end, however the season for courgettes only started and It will last the whole summer, so this also could be called: my favourite summer pizza (well, again as much loved as margherita made with fresh tomato sauce and good quality cheese).

I have made the base for this pizza with wholemeal flour; you can use white strong bread flour. I quite like the texture of wholemeal base and it seems to be healthier than 100% white flour base. The key is to leave the dough to rise in a low temperature and long time – If you haven’t tried it yet I strongly recommend this kind of dough resting in a fridge overnight.

Makes 2 medium pizzas

450g strong whole wheat flour (you can use a white one)
level tsp dried yeast
level tsp salt
half tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp olive oil
250-300ml lukewarm water

You can use bread machine to make the dough, stand mixer or your hands. I placed all of the ingredients (dry first, then yeast, then wet ones) in the stand mixer and mixed for about 7 minutes, until the dough was quite flexible and firm. Next leave the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with piece of cling film and leave it in a fridge overnight. 

Next day remove the dough from a fridge, at least an hour before baking and prepare the sauce. 


200ml tinned tomatoes, chopped
tbsp olive oil
clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
small onion, peeled and finely chopped
a splash of dry red wine
handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
pinch of sugar
freshly ground black pepper

In a pan fry the onions with some salt and sugar in the olive oil over a low heat until soft. Add garlic and fry for one minute, next add the wine and leave it to evaporate slightly. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and reduce over a low heat until thick. Add some basil, cook for another 3 minutes and liquidise roughly with a hand blender. Set aside and prepare the oven and the dough. 

Heat the oven to 250 C together with pizza stone (if you do not have one, use baking tray or pizza tray) and divide the dough into two. Shape each part with your hands, flatten it little bit and leave it to rest for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the remaining ingredients.


1 small courgette
8 slices of Italian prosciutto
Handful black pitted olives
2 x 125g mozzarella 

Slice the courgette thinly, cut the olives in halves, and tear ham and mozzarella into smaller pieces. 

Spread the tomato sauce over each pizza base, top with the remaining ingredients and place in the oven. Bake until base is crispy and the cheese on the top is melted and golden. 

Remove from the oven and leave it to cool down slightly, then cut into portions and garnish with some fresh basil. It is lovely hot or cold, so any leftovers you can happily take with you for the lunch next day.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Strawberry & millet pudding (with coconut milk and cardamom)

I have burnt the millet. No, it wasn’t a culinary disaster, it was my new pudding. Strawberries are in season, I have gone mad about the millet some time ago. So I thought I would like to try a new dessert. I use to  place some yoghurt and strawberries on a top of cooked millet and eat it – tasty however not the best looking. I wanted something else. 

I have made it upside down and burnt some sugar on the top. Millet brûlée? Why not! With a hint of oriental flavours – coconut milk and cardamom.

Makes 2 

½ cup uncooked millet
about 1½ cup of coconut milk
2 tsp agave syrup (or sugar, whichever you prefer)
3 whole green cardamoms, skinned, black seeds grinded in a mortar
8-10 strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tsp brown sugar

Rinse the millet under running water.

Sprinkle one tsp of sugar over the strawberries and leave to macerate. 

In a pan boil the coconut milk with cardamom, add agave syrup and millet reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered. Then turn the heat off, cover and leave in a warm place until all the liquid is absorbed and millet is cooked. At this stage you can leave it to cool down or use warm. 

Divide the strawberries between two ceramic ramekins. Cover with millet, sprinkle with the remaining sugar and caramelise with kitchen blow torch. Serve immediately. 

Friday, 17 June 2011

Warm salad of broad beans, peas with chorizo & roast peppers

Today I have another recently tasted salad, this time warm. I am sure it would be as tasty cold, however the aroma coming out of the pan was quite straight: eat it all when warm! So I did. 

I saw similar recipe in “Good Food”, July issue, however it had courgettes and beans and I did not have them at the time. I think they should taste great with all of the salad ingredients, but I decided to stick to less ingredients and I was not disappointed. 

Chorizo sausage with its distinctive smokiness and deep red colour from dried smoked red peppers is one of my favourite ingredients. I hope you enjoy it! 

Serves 2-4 

200g chorizo sausage, skinned if possible, halved and sliced
2 tbsp red vine vinegar
cup of boiled broad beans (skinned if you like)
2 cups of garden peas, boiled (I actually used petit poise)
2 bell peppers, roasted, skinned and sliced into strips
freshly ground black pepper 

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook for few minutes, until it is cooked through, bit crunchy and has released its oil. Take chorizo out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. 

Take the pan off the heat, whisk in vinegar, put back on the heat, wait until it bubbles and remove from a heat again. Next add broad beans, peas and peppers, season with little salt and some pepper, then add chorizo and mix gently. Keep on the heat for about one minute, until it is warm. Serve immediately. 

It is very tasty and filling on its own, but if you need some more food on a plate you can always add some roast new potatoes on the side or crispy rustic bread or ciabatta.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Spinach & raw asparagus salad with strawberries & goat cheese

The end of the asparagus season is coming. For the last week I was trying to cheer myself up by eating lots of fresh strawberries that happened to be slightly cheaper and affordable (for the quantities that I eat). This time I tried to marry my favourite baby spinach, goat cheese and strawberry salad with raw asparagus that I have never tried before. I have to admit that raw asparagus is extremely tasty – crunchy, refreshing; definitely will eat it raw again. 

I know… it is a salad again. I cannot help myself; I simply fancy salads more than anything at the moment. Yesterday I had lovely salad from “Two Greedy Italians”, today I am going to make another one, so for the next few days there will be a lots of salads on my blog. 

Serves 2

2 large handfuls of baby spinach washed and ready to eat   
10 green asparagus, bottoms removed, spears sliced diagonally into quite thin strips
10 strawberries hulled and quartered
120g crumbly goat cheese  
half lemon juice
few mint leaves (optionally)  

For the dressing:

3 tbsp olive oil  
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar*
half tsp honey* 
freshly ground black pepper  

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and set aside. 

Drizzle the asparagus with the lemon juice, add little salt and set aside for about 15 minutes, to marinate. 

Next mix the asparagus with spinach, strawberries and dressing, arrange in the bowl or on a plate, crumble goat cheese on the top and finish with some freshly ground black pepper and mint leaves. Serve immediately. Walnuts or pecans go well with this salad, but unfortunately I did not have any at the time. 

* If you are lucky to have the original balsamic vinegar, aged in barrels for years, and it tastes great and cost bloody fortune you do not have to add any honey. Otherwise you have to make the vinegar bit more sticky and sweeter.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Duel & two dinners - flashbacks from Poland

I dedicate this post to my friends thanks to whom I am never bored in Poland. Thank you very much!


This was a dinner, in a fact, two dinners the same night cooked by my friends Guzik and Staszek (remember his name as he might be famous poet one day). They had an argument in a club one night, in the front of me, who can cook better. So they decided they are going to cook a dinner for me and I will decide which one of them is better cook. We agreed to meet on Friday night and my best friend Ela and I were judges in this culinary duel.

Ela (my friend for last 25 years) is brilliant judge as she works in food business and she tasted many, many things in her life, as she does it for living. She has excellent taste buds. She came especially to see me, as she lives far away from my Mum's place at the moment. Therefore I asked her to join my judging panel. We got some alcohol and went to Guzik’s flat.

He was already busy in his tiny kitchen, preparing chips. Handmade, homemade, oven baked – I love them. His girlfriend was taking care of music; his friend was wandering around the flat. I have to mention two cats: Cinnamon and Behemoth, they were quite interested of what was happening in the kitchen. We had lovely, relaxing time, waiting for Staszek, who soon joined us.

First dinner cooked by Guzik was: baked salmon (he has done something to it before pan frying and baking, he used some secret marinade), steamed broccoli, oven baked chunky chips and homemade pesto of rosemary, anchovies and some other tasty ingredients. It was light, tasty, well presented. I was impressed, however happy I am not full yet and I could enjoy second dinner, cooked by other lad.

When he starter with peeling the potatoes we thought the dinner will be served around 1 am, and we weren’t much wrong. Never mind, tasty food is worth waiting for. He was busy! Washing, chopping all the ingredients, typically Polish: potatoes, cabbage, bacon, sausages. Finally he layered them in a big pan lined with cabbage leaves, covered and braised for about 1 hour. He was carefully listening what noises it makes, the pan was alive! It remains me something very tasty and made over an open fire on picnics or camping in a cast iron pan – it is very popular in Poland along the BBQ. 

Dinner was served! Very filling, tasty, very aromatic one pot dish. Perhaps not as good looking as the first one, but what the hell – it was so tasty! And then we had to choose a winner. You can imagine it was very difficult. They both done very well, and quite honestly they have cooked dishes that were completely different and we simply could not judge them in the same competition. Therefore we decided to go for a draw and have another round when I am next time in Poland. Second round will be different – they will have to cook dinners from a list of ingredients chosen by me.  I cannot wait! 


Thanks very much lads for this lovely nigh and great food. I genuinely enjoyed it. Also great thanks to Ela who came despite all the kilometres and rushing to the other part of Poland to see her parents.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Chicken, avocado & tomato salad

This salad is perfect when the weather is good, it is quite warm outside and you don’t feel like cooking or eating. Perhaps when you go for a picnic or a bike ride and do not know what to prepare for your re-fuelling snack. It is great to take with you to work, and have on your lunch break. It tastes as good with cold or hot meat, therefore very practical, also for those watching their figure, but do not want to fade away from hunger. This salad has good carbohydrates, healthy fat and some protein. More importantly it tastes great.

Serves 2

For the  salad:

2 avocados
juice of half lemon or lime
10-15 cherry tomatoes, halved  
handful basil leaves, torn if big
2 spring onions, chopped
few green asparagus, wooden bottoms removed, rest halved  
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, slightly bashed on the thicker end  
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp smoked paprika  
1/4 tsp chilli powder
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil  

For the  dressing:

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar  
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the dressing ingredients together and set aside.

Boil the asparagus in salted water for about 3 minutes, drain and leave to cool down in cold water, then dry and set aside.

Cut avocado in half, remove the stone and take the flesh out of the skin. Drizzle with lemon juice so it doesn’t become dark and dice. Mix with tomatoes, spring onions, basil, asparagus and dressing. 

On a plate mix sweet and smoked paprika, chilli, salt and pepper and toss chicken breast in the spices until covered all over. Heat a frying pan, add the olive and fry chicken on both sides. Timing depends on chicken breast size. Medium doesn’t need more than 4-5 minutes one side and then 3-4 minutes on other side, so it doesn’t become dry. Remove from the pan, set on a chopping board and leave it to rest for about 5 minutes. 

Arrange the vegetables on a plate, top with sliced chicken breast, sprinkle with some more pepper and some basil leaves.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Warm salad of asparagus, bacon, duck egg & hazelnuts

I know what risk and living on the edge is - I ate duck eggs (should I add juicy: bitch!). Obviously I am kidding, but I have to say after I read all those stories on the internet about poisoning with duck eggs, people dying etc I had a second thought on a recipe that I have found in "Good Food", May issue. I wondered if I should swap duck eggs for hens or quail eggs, I wasn't even sure if I will be able to buy duck eggs locally. I was very tempted because I did not have duck eggs before.

I saw fresh, local, free range duck eggs in local posh delicatessen and I decided to go for it. I have changed the original recipe slightly and I waited about three weeks to publish this post to make sure nothing happened to me. What I imagined after reading all those nasty information about duck eggs was at least diarrhea but I also had a picture of my family and friends mourning at my coffin. So lets be clear: I am alive, and I found duck eggs very, very tasty. As much as this combination of flavours.

Serves 2

2 duck eggs
12-16 green asparagus spears, wooden bottoms removed
4-6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
handful of hazelnuts
little olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:

4 tbsp mild olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Cut the bacon into bite size pieces and place onto baking sheet.

On another sheet place asparagus, drizzle with little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven, together with bacon. Roast until bacon is crispy and asparagus al - dente (about 15 minutes), preferably turning half way.

In the meantime dry roast hazelnuts in a frying pan, until crispy, place in the mortar and crush slightly.

Prepare dressing by mixing all of the ingredients until smooth.

Boil the duck eggs - hard boiled need some more time than hens eggs as they are slightly bigger, about 8-10 minutes. You can cook them little bit shorter for some soft centre. Remove from a pan, leave under cold running water, dry, peel and cut in half.

Arrange asparagus and eggs on the plate, add bacon crisps, hazelnuts and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

My subjective guide to culinary books, part 2

I have to admit for the last few weeks I have been obsessed with Italian food. Since we know where we are going to spend this years holiday, like a pure maniac I read and watch anything that has something common with Italy. I always loved Italian food, although it is quite difficult to describe Italian cuisine as a whole, it has some many different regional specialities. Finally as an adult with mature taste I can go to Italy and enjoy their food. I was dreaming about this for years.

I mentioned about my holidays because it happens to be connected to my new cookbook and TV series that was on BBC recently. I love BBC series because they are very interesting and well produced, but when I first heard about new series about Italian cuisine, I wasn't overexcited. Until I saw first episode. 

Picture: BBC

Antonio Carluccio i Gennaro Contaldo, are well know in UK. Over 30 years ago separately left their native Italy for Britain where, in time, they met, worked together. Antonio was a teacher and mentor to younger Gennaro,  he has written thirteen books and developed successful restaurants  Carluccios. Gennaro is highly respected chef in London, one of the most likable people appearing on TV, and he is also know as the one who taught Jami eOliver all he know about Italian Food. Both Antonio and Gennaro established themselves as leading authorities on Italian cooking.

"Two Greedy Italians"   really touched me so I simply had to buy book written to accompany this primetime BBC series. It is not the first time that I followed the TV series and bought a book that accompanied it, this is quite common in UK with cooking shows, as you can see it is quite easy to swallow the bait.

First of all few words about TV series. It clearly was not a show about cooking or beauty of Italian landscape only (the views are stunning! I love Campania cost) , but it was rather sentimental and amazing journey back to their homeland to reconnect with their culinary heritage, explore past and current traditions and reveal the very soul of Italian gastronomy based upon history of this country and social observation. Exploration sometimes sad and mournful as they discover that women nowadays do not want to cook, young generation don't know how to make homemade tortellini, and not every family gather together for a meal. This is a tale about what created Italian cooking -  regional ingredients, local and fresh whatever sea of mountains offer or perhaps what at the time grew in orchards or olive groves.

Picture: Amazon
Both gentleman with this typical Italian passion talk not only about food but also about history, but first of all they share their autobiography, take a trip down memory lane, mention their mothers and grandmothers. This spark in their eyes when they see attractive woman in red dress, this sheer joy of meeting old places and people from the past, this warm welcoming anywhere they went that I almost envy. This is what made me watch the series and still coming back to it. This and also tasty and simple recipes convinced me and I bought a book.

And how about the book itself? First of all it is beautifully illustrated. It contains lots of pictures (my favourite ever genious Chris Terry!), however not every recipe is accompanied by a picture. Instead there are some lovely pictures of people and places that makes the reader feel like a journey to Italy. Also it has lots of notes on socio-cultural aspects of Italy and its food and dining culture.

There are over 100 recipes, clear and short, arranged in four sections: starters, first courses, second/main courses, vegetables, fruits and desserts and snacks. I like the idea of original names of the dishes, that are translated into English underneath. Thanks to this I managed to learn some new Italian words that can be quite handy on holiday. Please note that not every recipe that was on the TV show is in the book, however there are many that did not appear on TV. Perhaps it would help to get the whole picture if they release the TV series that accompanies the book on DVD (if they are going to release one).

I am rather experienced cook so I do not have to cook anything from this book to recommend it. I cam see it is book about genuine Italian food that Italians cook. It is a good book for somebody trying to get into Italian cuisine, home made like Italian Mamma would serve, it is nice guide to real Italian cooking. It is also great book to read not only for using the recipes in the kitchen.

If you are, just like Antonio and Genarro greedy for food (and cookbooks!), greedy for life and passionate about not only Italian cooking I am sure you will like this book.

Antonio Carluccio, Gennaro Contaldo "Two Greedy Italians"
Quadrille Publishing Ltd, 2011
Hardcover, 208 pages