Sunday, 15 February 2015

Neapolitan-style Pizza Recipe

Pizza is the ultimate comfort food. It's got cheese, it's got unhealthy amounts of carbs, it's got juicy tomato sauce. You can eat it with your hands. Sometimes it has pineapple on it. What more could you want? 

There's Dominos, and then there's the proper stuff. The hand-stretched base, crispy yet chewy crust, the kind you're supposed to eat with cutlery. Don't get me wrong, there's certainly a time and place for takeaway pizza, but sometimes you want to do things properly.

Italian pizza base recipe

Having tried making my own pizza in the past, I'd always thought you needed a proper pizza stone or some kind of wood-fired oven to get the authentic crispy yet airy Italian pizza experience. My attempts always rose too much, producing more of a deep-pan "toppings on bread" type thing. So, after deciding to make my boyfriend's favourite food for a Valentine's Day feast, I went in search of the ultimate Neapolitan-style pizza base recipe, and unearthed this one from Serious Eats.

The 00 flour really makes a difference - it's a lot finer than bread flour or plain flour, and gives you larger, more varied bubbles in the base, which really sets it apart from normal bread. You can get it from larger supermarkets - my local Morrisons sells it in 500g bags.

Apologies for the picture quality - my attempt to snap a picture of the pizza in low light with a mobile phone! Do food bloggers just always cook during the day when there's plenty of natural light?

Neapolitan-Style Pizza

Italian pizza base recipe

Makes 2 8-10in pizzas 
NB. it's best to make the base the night before (or in the morning), as it needs to be refrigerated for a while.
Adapted from a recipe by Serious Eats


For the base:
280g 00 flour
1 sachet dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
1 tsp sugar
180ml water

For the sauce:
150ml passata
Handful fresh basil
Salt + pepper to season

For toppings:
Grated mozzarella (or fresh if you prefer)
Basil leaves


  1. Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer with dough hooks (or a stand mixer if you're fancy), mix everything together. Slowly add the water until it all comes together in a ball, and there's no dry flour left in the bowl. Leave for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix for 10 further minutes using the mixer. If your mixer isn't very powerful, it's probably best to knead it by hand on a floured tabletop - I'm pretty sure something in my hand mixer melted while I was doing this. Melted plastic is not a smell you want in your kitchen.
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for several hours - ideally more than 8 hours. It will rise a bit. 
  4. Halve the dough and shape each half into a ball. Lightly oil two medium size mixing bowls and place the dough balls in each bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours to rise, until each ball is twice the size.
  5. Prepare the sauce: chop the basil and mix with the passata, and season to taste. That's it. If you're feeling adventurous put a splash of balsamic vinegar in there.
  6. Flour a worktop. Take a ball of dough and flatten it. Making fists, pass the dough between your hands. It should get bigger as you do. Then, place the dough on the worktop and stretch it out. You want it to be really thin in the middle with about 2cm of thicker crust round the edge. It should be stretchy and elastic so you might need to pick it up and coax it a bit. Place your hand in the middle of the dough and stretch with the other to stop it tearing.
  7. Heat your grill to high. Get a large frying pan big enough to hold the pizza - a large hob-safe baking tray will do as well. Coat with a small amount of 00 flour and tap to remove the excess.
  8. Heat the pan on high until smoking. Place the dough in the pan and immediately top with a couple of tablespoons of the tomato sauce, spreading fairly evenly leaving about 2cm for the crust. Sprinkle over the mozzarella and add your toppings.
  9. Turn off the heat and place the pan under the grill, as close as you can to the element (but not touching it!). Keep an eye on it, and take it out when the pizza crust has risen and gets charred spots.
  10. Place back on the hob over a high heat and cook until the base also has the charred look - this happens quite quickly so keep lifting the pizza with a spatula to check.
  11. Repeat with the other pizza, then serve. 
Mine were topped with Italian (style?) prosciutto and coppa ham, with garlic spinach. I took a large handful of fresh spinach and fried it with 3 cloves of garlic, minced, and about 1 1/2 tbsp butter. 
As you can see from my photos, I didn't get them very circular, but they were DELICIOUS.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Crumbly English Fudge Recipe

Say what you want about our (complete lack of) cuisine, but the Brits are damn good at sweet things. While fudge is technically an American invention, it's become a staple at British seaside resorts, especially down South in Devon and Cornwall. Few people are able to resist the buttery, crumbly deliciousness. It's perfect for presents, as well as just to have in the house to occasionally shovel into your face throughout the day.

This is genuinely some of the best fudge I've ever tasted. It's got that beautiful crumbly texture and just melts in the mouth. One batch makes a LOT, so I'd recommend enlisting help to eat it all. It's adapted a little from a Nigella recipe. I really recommend you have a sugar thermometer for this, as it's hard to guess when it's at the right temperature, especially if you haven't done it before. I use this one.


1 tin condensed milk (397 ml)
250g salted butter
800g golden caster sugar (the darker the sugar, the darker the fudge)
2 tbsp golden syrup
175ml milk
1.5 tsp vanilla extract, or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Optional: 200g chocolate/sea salt/raisins/other flavouring of your choice


  1. Get a glass bowl or jug and fill with cold water; keep to hand. Put the milk, butter, sugar, syrup and condensed milk in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. I used a casserole pot - you want one with high sides. Put the sugar thermometer in, if you've got one. Stir constantly, and bring to the boil.
  2. Once boiling, keep stirring (this is important, as if the sugar catches on the bottom it can burn). BE CAREFUL - this gets REALLY hot! It will bubble and froth. NB. If you're making chocolate fudge, I'd recommend popping the chocolate on to melt while the fudge boils. 
  3. When the temperature on the thermometer reaches "soft ball" or 115-118 degrees, get a teaspoon and drop a blob of the mixture into the cold water. If it sinks to the bottom in a squidgy ball, it's ready. How long this will take can vary wildly so just keep an eye on it - from 10 to 20 mins. 
  4. Turn off the heat. Add the vanilla. If you are adding any extra flavour, do it now:
    • For chocolate fudge, pour the melted chocolate into the fudge mixture.
    • For salted fudge, sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt (not table salt) into the mixture. Nigella recommends sea salt flakes; I ground it from the salt grinder.
    • Other flavour suggestions: raisins, espresso, peanut butter.
  5. Whisk the fudge mixture using a handheld electric whisk. This is the bit that makes the fudge go all lovely and crumbly. If you don't have an electric whisk, you can get one cheaply from Tesco. If you try and do this by hand it will probably take you forever. Whisk until the mixture is stiff and no longer glossy - it should resemble a dull peanut butter. Be careful - it's still really hot and will release a lot of steam as you whisk it!
  6. Pour/coax the mixture into a lined brownie pan/flat tin. I lined mine with foil, which did leave imprints on the fudge, so you could just grease a pan. Spread the mixture as evenly as possible.
  7. Leave to cool for a few hours in a cool place (don't put it straight in the fridge as it'll be too warm).
  8. When it feels completely solid to the touch, turn the block of fudge out onto a chopping board and slice it into squares. This stuff is rich, so don't be afraid to cut it small! 
  9. If giving as presents, the best way to package it is in cellophane bags. It should keep well for a week or two, if you can go that long without eating it. 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Hearty Minestrone Soup Recipe

This is my soup. There are many others like it, but this one is minestrone.

The humble minestrone is the perfect remedy for a freezing winter's day - hearty and warming, with chunky veg, beans and pasta to fill you up. Last term I got into the habit of stopping at Pret for a soup before choir, and the Pret A Manger minestrone is one of my favourites. I thought it was time to recreate it!

This particular recipe is adapted from a Food Network recipe. I used black beans because that's all I had, but it's traditionally made (and excellent) with white beans like cannellini or borlotti. Similarly, I didn't have any macaroni so I used orzo. Adding the parmesan shavings in at the cooking stage gives it a lovely depth.


Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
Large handful fresh green beans, chopped (frozen will do)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp dried oregano
Large handful chopped fresh basil
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large tomato, chopped
3/4 cup orzo
1.5l chicken or veg stock
Approx 1/3 cup shavings of fresh parmesan
Salt & pepper to season
Grated fresh parmesan to serve


Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan at medium heat, and fry the onion until translucent.  Add the garlic, then the celery and carrot. Fry these for a further five or so minutes, until the celery has softened a bit and the carrots aren't quite so hard.

Chuck in the green beans and herbs, salt (this brings out the flavour), season with a bit of pepper and cook for another few minutes.

Pour in the tinned and fresh tomatoes and stock, and turn up the heat to bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium/low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tinned beans, parmesan shavings and orzo and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the veg is cooked.

Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Local Hero: The Step, Bowes Park

In the extremely diverse neighbourhood where I live, you're never far from something good to eat. The huge Turkish, Greek and Cypriot populations of Haringey and Enfield have built a paradise for food lovers - I dare you to order a lamb Iskender from a Turkish restaurant and not fall in love immediately.

A fairly recent addition to the arsenal of eateries in the area is The Step, a little cafe bar which opened up a little couple of years ago on sleepy Myddleton Road in Bowes Park. In recent years the road has been going through a bit of a revival - there's a lovely community garden and a fantastic quarterly market.

Inside The Step

First impressions would suggest it's just a coffee shop, but take a look at the menu and you'll soon realise they've got really good pub fare. On the brunch menu you can choose from their phenomenal breakfasts, hearty sandwiches or a proper burger - no frozen rubbish in sight - or, later in the evening, it's a proper dinner menu with burgers, steaks, fish and salads. There's an ever-changing range of cakes on offer, a cracking Sunday roast, and the glorious Meantime Pale Ale on tap. Well worth a visit.

The best picture I could get without making it obvious that I was one of those tossers who takes pictures of their food at restaurants
Don't miss: The pastrami & emmenthal sandwich. Less of a sandwich, more of an experience. (£5.50)

The Step: 101 Myddleton Road, London, N22 8NE. Open evenings Mon - Thu and all day Fri - Sun.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2015: Introducing the £3 Real Deal

I decided to set myself some vaguely realistic goals for 2015, given my track record of making New Year's resolutions every year and never keeping any of them. I think I've been vowing to give up junk food for 15 years, but somehow pizza just finds its way into my mouth and I can't do anything about it. Finishing off the chocolate coins and swearing, "I'll definitely cut out bad food tomorrow after I eat the last of the Christmas junk". But tomorrow is the same story, and all we're left with is defeat and little foil wrappers.

Sure, we could all do with eating a little less rubbish, but cutting out nice food completely isn't the answer. I've looked into those popular fitness diets that the internet loves, like keto (aka Atkins 2.0) and paleo - but these diets, aside from really only being suitable for high-activity lifestyles, really don't appeal to me. For one thing, I point blank refuse to cook with coconut oil (I'll stick to removing my makeup with it thanks). But that aside, let's be honest with ourselves. Cake isn't the same without wheat flour (the only wheat-free cake I've ever enjoyed is the Meringue Girls' flourless chocolate cake at the Hackney Picturehouse - gooey perfection). A rich, tangy pomodoro sauce is defeated when poured over spaghetti made from courgettes. If you like it, more power to you, but it's not a lifestyle I could get into. (And I've tried it - I went gluten free for a month to see if it helped my eczema. It didn't, and it was rubbish.)

It's my (entirely unqualified) belief that you don't need to go Soviet to eat healthily. An occasional slice of cake or sneaky brownie is not going to make you suddenly inflate into Violet Beauregarde.

Oompa Loompa doompadee-doo, you shouldn't have had that pizza should you?
Cooking with butter is OK now and again. Low fat often means low flavour, and sometimes can be just as bad for you as the full fat versions. But eating things like pizza, pasta and sandwiches day in day out is going to do you no favours. You don't have to entirely cut out the things you love in order to be a bit healthier (unless the thing you love is meth, in which case it's probably best to) but be reasonable about how much you eat. Cut down portion sizes - I'm not talking Masterchef size portions here, but don't eat for two when you could freeze the other half and get two meals out of whatever it is you're eating. And despite what your parents may have told you when you were growing up, you don't have to finish everything on your plate. You're supposed to eat until you're not hungry any more, not until you feel stuffed. And for god's sake, go for a walk. Get off the Tube a stop earlier. Walk to the station instead of getting the bus. Get up off your arse. (This is directed at myself more than anything else.)

So what's the easiest way to eat healthier? Make it yourself. No contest. A homemade dish is not only better for you but also 900% less depressing than that Tesco microwave lasagne. Eating out, while a lovely treat once in a while, isn't great for the waistline if done regularly - one reason it tastes so good is that chefs use lots of butter in their dishes. And ditch takeaways. Make it yourself, it tastes better, and it's not full of neon coloured mystery oils.


But most importantly, don't beat yourself up about it. Food guilt is poisonous. It can lead to all sorts of problems and a really unhealthy relationship with food. Food is wonderful. It's tasty. It should be exciting. You just need to do it right.

And, well, I haven't been.

This year I started a Masters course, and I've just dropped the ball. I'm back to my student ways and I'm committing the cardinal sin of convenience eating. I need a quick fix, something that I can chow down in 15 minutes to satiate my hunger and get on with my day.

You've done it. I've done it. I'm talking about the Meal Deal.

These days, for a mere £3 you can get an entire meal from a supermarket. The problem is that we all seem to forget that you can make a fantastic meal for a whole lot less than that. Don't tell me you don't have time - in the evening, take the 20 mins you'd spend on Reddit or Netflix and chuck together something in the kitchen for your lunch the next day. You can even do it WHILE you are watching Netflix. I KNOW RIGHT.

It's a choice between 20 minutes of your time and delicious goodness, and two pieces of soggy bread with soylent green in the middle and little nutritional value.

This is my New Year's resolution. Death to the Meal Deal. I'm going to make my own lunches. I have my arsenal of food storage at the ready.

Sophie's Angels
On the left we have the Sistema Klip It To Go salad box. This is fantastic for transporting salads as it has a little shelf that sits in the top with a pot for dressing and space to put extra veg. I put tomatoes in the top to be added to the salad at time of eating, so they don't make the rest of the salad soggy.

In the middle is my trusty mini Thermos - a Paperchase one - although it's a little on the small side for soups. It fits half a Covent Garden soup, and let's be honest, they're lying when they say 1/2 a pack is a portion.

And on the right, the newest addition to my team: a Thermos food flask, courtesy of Santa. I don't have microwave facilities at uni so any means of transporting hot food is a blessing - it's also a massive time saver for preparing lunch as all I need to do is heat up leftovers in the morning. This should comfortably fit a portion of food and keep it toasty.

So for me, this is an exercise in not only saving money but also eating healthier. I'm going to try and keep this blog updated with interesting lunch recipes that I make (and find) to hopefully inspire others to do the same. This, friends, is the dawn of the £3 Real Deal, my quest to show you that it's possible to make an infinitely better lunch with the £3 you would have spent on disappointment and cardboard.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Blue Peter chocolate brownies, homemade chocolate slabs, and other Christmas foodie gifts

You'd be forgiven for thinking I'd abandoned this blog two posts in. The (very abbreviated version of the) truth is that I got really busy at the beginning of December, basically didn't cook anything, and then as soon as the term was over I came down with a cold which turned into a mystery virus which turned into full-blown tonsillitis. I'm only just getting over it now, and my diet for the past two days has consisted mainly of meat and chocolate.

While I was suffering with what can only be described as the feeling of swallowing shards of glass covered in even smaller shards of glass, I did manage to bake some lovely foodie presents for my family. Of course, I didn't take any pictures of them all packaged up because it was basically dark at 4pm and I was hopped up on painkillers. I did, however, think "I'll take pictures on Christmas Eve before I give them to people" and then was so ill on Christmas Eve that all I could think was "fucking motherfucker, can I take any more ibuprofen without getting a stomach ulcer at this point?".

So instead I'll furnish you with some links to the recipes for the nice foodie presents I made, and you will have to imagine them packed in little cellophane bags. (I ran out of cellophane bags towards the end so some people got some artfully packaged Morrisons sandwich bags instead).

Handmade food gifts always go down so well at Christmas. Even if you're a bit strapped for cash it's a lovely token and people always appreciate something you've made, even if it looks like your dog trod in it. 

Crumbly English fudge (everyone I gave this to was floored by how delicious it is. THANKS NIGELLA) Crumbly, buttery, just how I'd hoped. None of this chewy American fudge rubbish that you get on Pinterest or in the pick and mix in Wilko.

Parmesan and rosemary sabl├ęs  - buttery but in a different way; the savoury token in my gift box.

Decorated chocolate slabs

OK, no recipe here. Just melt some chocolate (double boiler method works best), pour into moulds, smooth out with a palette knife, then sprinkle over toppings. I chopped up some of the fudge I made, some chocolate brownies, hazelnuts and raisins. For more topping ideas you could take a look at Martha Stewart or Hotel Chocolat.

The finished product!
For the mould, I used a brownie pan which I divided into sections using foil folded into thick strips. I then lined these sections with foil. For a more refined, professional look, I'd suggest using a silicone mould.
Avocados not included. You'll see I actually lined the whole pan with foil and then put the dividers in - this didn't work at all, so I lined each section with foil for the next ones.

 Blue Peter Bonfire Brownies

These brownies are the stuff of legend in my family. Since I first got the recipe from Blue Peter when I was about... 9? they have been given as gifts, made on rainy days, made for parties, you name it. We've managed to lose the recipe several times, so I think it's now loitering on a faded sheet of fax paper in a ringbinder somewhere. These brownies are gooey, moreish and generally delightful. They're also delicious frozen, which I discovered when I used to sneak them from the freezer when my mum wasn't looking.
I also made them for a Christmas party a couple of years ago, where I topped them with melted chocolate and crushed candy canes.
No picture for these ones either, I'm afraid, but I solemnly swear I'll upload one next time I make them. Trust me when I say they're flipping fabulous.


225g golden caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
40g cocoa powder
50g self raising flour
50g chocolate chips


  1. Grease/line a brownie pan and preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a medium to large bowl until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, take off the heat and then sift in the cocoa powder.
  4. Add the butter mixture to the sugar mixture, and mix well.
  5. Sift in the flour and add the chocolate chips. Mix well (again).
  6. Pour into the pan and bake for around 18-20 minutes (depends on how thick they are - keep any eye on them and don't let them burn!). 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Black Bean, Butternut and Feta salad with Smoky Chipotle Dressing

Ever since I first sunk my teeth into a Barburrito burrito in my first year at Manchester, I've been obsessed with Mexican food.* Or, at least, as close as you can get on our rainy island the other side of the Atlantic. From home cooked burrito feasts to a bowl of creamy guacamole heaven, if it's Mexican it's going on my plate.

Sometimes it's nice to bring those Mexican flavours into lighter meals, and this salad is just that. Adapted from a recipe by Eats Well With Others (though it seems there are lots of similar ones all over the internet!), this is really easy to make and perfect for lunch.

*Sure, I know a burrito made in Manchester is probably about as far as you can get from authentic Mexican, but I take what I can get. It was delicious, anyway.

Black Bean, Butternut and Feta salad with Smoky Chipotle Dressing

Serves 6


2 little gem lettuces, shredded (or any lettuce of your choice)
A couple of handfuls of rocket
1 tin black beans, rinsed and drained
1 butternut squash
100g feta
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive Oil
(Optional: 1 avocado)

For the dressing:
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Chipotle sauce to taste
2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and chop the butternut squash into small pieces, approximately 1/2 inch size. Put the pieces in a bowl and add a little olive oil, enough to lightly coat the butternut. Sprinkle on paprika, salt and pepper, and mix to evenly coat. Spread out on a baking tray and bake until done (this took me about 20-25 minutes, but it depends on the size of the pieces. Keep an eye on them, don't let them burn). When they're done, allow to cool.

2. Drain and rinse the black beans thoroughly. Sit them in a sieve or colander. Place the shredded lettuce and the rocket in your serving bowl and add the beans when they've drained.

3. Add the cooked butternut and top with crumbled feta.

4.  At this point you can add anything else you want to put in. I chopped up an avocado and chucked it in as well, but red onion would be nice as well.

5.  Prepare the dressing: combine all the dressing ingredients together and whisk until evenly mixed. Once you're ready to serve, drizzle the dressing over the salad.