Tag Archives: pizza

Winter Vegetables

Well, just take a look out the window. Chances are it is raining, or the sun may be glaring, but you know that it’s freezing outside, that misleading swine. This was the view from our living room window at about 3pm this afternoon. Miserable, isn’t it ?

A couple of friends and I have taken up yoga in an attempt to beat our winter blues (and premature back pain). I realise that it is only October, but for someone who hates this lack of sun and heat as much as I, it may as well already be winter; I’m seriously considering hibernation. As we spilled onto the pavement outside Brighton’s Buddhist centre last Friday evening after a class, limber and supple and refreshed into the chilly night air, we encountered a farmer’s market about to close for the evening. With gleeful excitement we perused the colourful array of tasty and healthy fruit and veg and outstayed our welcome long enough to warrant free figs. We ate yellow baby tomatoes out of a paper bag as we walked home in our leggings, each with our own respective plans to make soup for dinner that evening. It seemed like the perfect way to round off the day.

My choice: chunky vegetable and lentil – just saute an onion, add 500ml vegetable stock, cube a potato and some butternut squash, add a few handfuls of lentils and simmer for 20 or so minutes. Throw in a can of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree, and some chopped leafy greens (I used spinach and kale). Season as you wish.

Freeze what you can’t physically fit into your tiny, cold-shrunk stomach in mismatched plastic tubs. Above is this very soup in its frozen form, a soup-cicle, if you will. It is necessary, as I find myself making a lot of soup recently, what with having developed somewhat of an obsession with fresh vegetables and farmers’ markets.

And another good way of using up a mismatch of leftover veg…

… like I need an excuse to make pizza.

I’ve been experimenting with different doughs. This here pizza is on the gluten-free base I have made previously. It’s nutty and chewy, kind of like a wholegrain, savoury cookie, topped with a plethora of Mediterranean delight.

I went to the Turkish/Greek market near where I live, one of those ones with all the fresh olives and sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes and baklava on display, and you can spoon them, dripping in oil and herbs, into little tupperware dishes and pay per lb; with freshly baked bread, pitta and fruits and vegetables and nuts and yoghurt and all the goat and sheep’s cheese you could possibly want at any one time. Going there is like a trip to the zoo for me. Markets are beautiful.

I bought some halva and some Greek yoghurt, the figs and the feta. A true Mediterranean feast. Though I have never visited Greece, I feel like this was a subconscious effort on my part to ignore how cold and grey and dreary England is becoming. I like to think that the figs on this pizza add a little sunshine to my wintery squash vibe.

Feta and butternut squash pizza with fig and caramelised onion

Roast some butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary for about 25 – 30 minutes on medium-high heat.

While the squash is roasting, caramelise your onions.

When you take it out, mash it up a bit. I didn’t think the figs would go very well with tomato pizza sauce, so I left it out. You can either go commando or make some kind of cheese or white sauce with which to top your pizza (I find a mixture of cream cheese and lemon juice works well on tomato-less pizzas), or just drizzle some olive oil over the top, then spread the mashed butternut squash mixture across your pizza base of choice (Wholemeal, gluten-free, or see below !).

Slice your figs, crumble your feta (any goat’s cheese would work well) and arrange your onions over the top, with an extra sprinkling of rosemary and pepper for good measure (use judgement – too much rosemary can end up tasting soapy, I’ve heard…). I chose to omit the final dash of salt I usually put over my pizzas before baking – mozzarella needs it, feta does not.

Providing your pizza base has been pre-cooked, you should only need to cook your assembled pizza for about 10-15 minutes.

The colours on this remind me of a seventies caravan.

Pizza Fiorentina

So, from Greece back to the homeland of the pizza, tonight I made fiorentina. That’s tomato, mozzarella, spinach, black olives and artichokes all topped off with a poached egg, black pepper and parmesan cheese. It’s perfect.

This is my favourite food to eat of all time.

On my journey to create the perfect pizza base I have had to relinquish some of my health-fascism in the form of using WHITE FLOUR. Well, as I read on a forum wherein the pros and cons of wholemeal flour were being discussed, some things where just not meant to be wholemeal. Pizza dough is one of them. Sure, I will happily make and eat a wholemeal pizza crust, but you can’t compare it to those soft, chewy and smooth white bases that the Italians and a number of UK-Italian restaurants do so well.

So I’m trying this recipe tonight, with the semolina and strong white. It turned out really good, if not a little crispy. At the moment I’m yearning for that stretchy, doughy puffiness that I can never seem to achieve with homemade pizza, especially not in the gluten-free or wholemeal versions. It is so elusive.

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Amy x

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Pizzaphilia

Hi.

Just stopping by to tell you about the pizza I made for dinner this evening.

I left all my exciting new flours in Brighton so this base is standard wholemeal flour, you can use the gluten-free one if you like.

From bottom to top:

Pizza base, pre-baked.
One avocado, whizzed up with garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Spinach, blanched.
Parmesan cheese.
Steamed butternut squash.
Sundried tomatoes.
Egg, poached or fried.
Rocket.

Warm toppings through in oven for about 10 minutes once the base is cooked.

Is there anything more satisfying, nutritious, diverse, delicious and quite frankly perfect than home-made pizza ?

You couldn’t find a more straightforward path to my heart.

Summer is here and the Squirrell family are having a barbecue tomorrow.

See you then x

Gluten, Schmluten

So I’ve done the vegetarian thing for more than 10 years now…

…and some readers of this blog and weary friends of mine will remember my brief encounter with veganism a few months ago…

…but guess what food group I am ill-advisedly cutting out of my diet today !

…GLUTEN !

I have no need to go gluten-free for health reasons. I recently stumbled across a website called Gluten-free Girl and the Chef – the whole deal is just fantastic and adorable, you should check it out. Shauna Ahern has coeliac disease, which means she can’t eat gluten or she gets sick. Like, really sick. Read this post. I felt for her. I also fell completely in love with the website and all the exciting recipes I found there – she writes so passionately about all of them, and I’m happy that she has not allowed her condition to affect her life negatively. I wanted to give it a try for myself (gluten-free cooking that is, not coeliac disease).

I’m not cutting gluten out entirely (I have too many delicious bagels in my freezer that were reduced to clear in the supermarket), I just want to experiment with different cooking methods and ingredients, the challenge being, I’m not allowed to use regular flour ! I’m enjoying the learning experience. I’d never thought of trying gluten-free before but know this: gluten-free does not equal carb-free. You can still eat potatoes, rice and oats, provided you make sure they have been certified uncontaminated.

So what to do when you want a cosy pasta dinner ? Eat lentils or quinoa; they’re much higher in protein and contain more magical disease fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than pasta. And they’ll fill you up more, often for less calories, depending what you choose. You can mix whatever it was you were going to put in the pasta with your new protein-y friends without much difference in satisfaction, in my opinion.

So I’ve been trying to opt for pulses, beans and seeds in favour of pasta and bread dishes wherever possible recently. However, I wanted to make a gluten-free version of a meal very close to my heart; a dish I love so much it could be used to bribe me into doing literally anything; a meal that contains more than its fair share of gluten; one could say it was based entirely on gluten…

Get the pun now ?

Yep, that’s my first gluten-free pizza base right there, complete with obligatory side-salad.

I’d flicked through a fair number of internet recipes that called for many different types of gluten-free flours, some of which I already had. It’s all very interesting – I had no idea you could make flour from so many different things: coconut, chickpea, quinoa, rice, corn, potato. What I loved about Gluten-free Girl’s recipe was that you can substitute flours and starches for pretty much whatever you have, as long as you work within the correct ratios.

I used equal parts (about 50-60g each) of cornflour, sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour and maize starch.

Whisk up about 2 teaspoons of milled flaxseed with a tablespoon of boiling water until you have a thick paste. Then the rest is pretty much like a regular pizza base recipe – set up your yeast and olive oil, chuck some salt in the flour and make a well. Add the flax paste (this acts as a binding agent to help the gluten-free flours along a bit), then the yeast and oil mixture and stir and knead until you have a dough. In a way in which I find it hard to describe, the dough will not be stretchy and you will not be able to throw it in the air and use your fists to shape it – do not be alarmed. Use a rolling pin, or your hands, directly onto your foiled and oiled pizza tray. I was nervous that the dough would crumble under my fingers but trust me, brush that baby with olive oil and pre-bake for about 8 minutes and all your troubles will melt away. Just be gentle.

Today my pizza toppings consist of: meatless balls, kale and red onion, as well as tomato, garlic and mozzarella (well, it just wouldn’t be pizza without these). I dare you to feed this to your friends without telling them it’s gluten free, and see if they notice. It’s just that chewy and delicious.

I almost used dairy-free cheese on this, along with the meat-free meatballs. But I thought that was going too far. Meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free pizza, you say ? Don’t make me sick/laugh/die. My loved-ones will despair of me, I know. I just have to be different.

(I eat most of my food in bed…)

So hey there, everyone, I’m still blogging. And eating. And running. Getting by.

I plan to detail my excursion into the realms of gluten-free a little further. I’m not done yet, no sir.

Until the next time !

Amy x

Of Portobello Mushrooms, Pizza, Pine Nuts and Plastic Cheese

… and other such vegan-related endeavours that do not begin with ‘P’.

So here are some of the dairy-free meals I’ve been enjoying this week:

Baked sweet potato with sautéed spinach, kale and pine nuts – stab your potato with a fork several times. Cover it in olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 200 degrees C for an hour. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add chopped garlic, pine nuts, spinach and kale. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and sauté for about 5 mins. Add to potato.

Spinach is high in iron, which many vegetarian and vegan diets lack due to the elimination of animal products in which iron is rife, particularly red meat. Both greens along with the sweet potato are packed with too many vitamins to list, and the sweet potato itself is a particularly good, non-dairy source of calcium. So it’s good to know my bones aren’t about to disintegrate just yet. And I chucked the pine nuts in for a bit of protein and mono-unsaturated fat.

Grilled portobello mushroom “cheeseburger” – preheat grill to medium-high. Remove the gills and stem from one large portobello mushroom and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Finely chop some olives, garlic and spinach and fill mushroom cavity with mixture. Grill for 6-8 minutes, then top with dairy-free mozzarella or other vegan-friendly cheese of your choice. Bake for a further 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and has started to colour. Serve with ketchup in a wholemeal bun.

Mushrooms, as well as being a good source of B vitamins, and a variety of disease-fighting minerals, are hearty and filling and therefore good for combatting the satiety issues I’ve been experiencing since turning vegan, which thankfully seem to be waning.

… I was too excited to eat this to take a picture.

(Vegan-friendly!) pizza – make some pizza dough and allow to rise for 1 hour. Chop 10 cherry tomatoes and blend in food processor. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add tomato mixture to oil, plus chopped garlic, a tablespoon of tomato purée, fresh basil, salt, pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Heat through and leave to stand. Put some onions on to caramelise on a low heat. When dough has risen, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Roll out pizza dough onto a foiled/oiled baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with tomato sauce, spinach, olives, caramelised onions and dairy-free mozzarella. Bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes.

The not-zzarella is really tasty ! I was a bit sparing with it on the pizza and mushroom in case it was horrible, but it really wasn’t ! I really couldn’t much tell the difference. I mean, obviously it’s not mozzarella and it never will be, but it definitely didn’t feel like a compromise and I enjoyed this pizza as much as I would have enjoyed one with real dairy cheese. I was too scared to use it when I baked the potato but next time I make one I am definitely topping it with this stuff.

Sadly, its protein powers pale in comparison with the real thing, with mozzarella packing 2.2g per 10g serving, and my Cheezly proffering a paltry 0.5g of protein per 10g serving. Not good, but all the vegetables that I piled on top of this beauty seem to have done the job of helping me stay full and feel satisfied tonight.

My mum had a mini freak-out that I was going to die of malnutrition, so I blinded her and consequently you, Dear Reader, with my unnecessary stores of food-science-knowledge. I think I managed to convince her that protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals are available in a wide range of non-animal-derived foods and it is possible to obtain them all with the exception of vitamin B12, which remains elusive in the vegan world save for fortified cereals… and Marmite. And so Mama Squirrell bestowed upon me the biggest tub of Marmite I have ever laid eyes upon. And I had some on my toast this morning. So all is well, and I remain alive and kicking indefinitely.

I hope this post goes towards proving that you absolutely can follow a balanced and varied diet without consuming animal products. At least, you can for a week. We’ll have to wait and see what the next three have in store…

Until next time,

Amy x

Carbophobia II: Green Pizza

Featuring:

Wholewheat pizza dough
Goat’s cheese
Mozzarella
Broccoli
Asparagus
Artichokes
Walnut pesto
Rocket

For those who aren’t partial to a bit of pomodoro, or just fancy a pomodoro-less pizza today. Or if, like me, you have loads of green vegetables in your fridge just begging for their vitamins and minerals to be put to good use. Or if your favourite colour is green (mine is !)

You can use any pesto. It just happens that I have walnuts, and no pine nuts.

Makes 1 medium pizza – make sure you roll the dough out nice and thin, not just to ensure it cooks properly but in order to fit more tasty tasty vegetables on top ! At 640 calories for the lot this pizza is so angelic you can eat the whole thing in one go, and it’s nutritionally complete so you can have it on its own, or with a rocket salad to garnish (in case you hadn’t already reached greens-overload).

How to make Green Pizza

For the dough:

65g wholemeal flour

Pinch of salt

1 tsp yeast

Sprinkle of sugar

1 tsp olive oil

40ml warm water

For the topping:

25g soft mild goat’s cheese

1/2 mozzarella ball (about 60g)

Handful each of broccoli and asparagus, roughly chopped

¼ jar artichoke hearts in oil

For the pesto:

15g walnuts

1 small clove of garlic

2 or 3 generous pinches of fresh basil

2 tsps olive oil

2 tsps parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

To garnish:

Rocket salad

What to do:

Add yeast, oil and sugar to hand-hot water (between hot and lukewarm), stir and leave to stand

Mix flour and salt, pile up in bowl and make a well in the centre

Pour liquid into well and bring in flour from sides with a fork, then use your hands to form a dough

Knead until springy and no longer sticky (add a dusting of flour if too wet; a drop of water if too dry but don’t overcompensate !)

Place in floured bowl, cover with damp cloth and leave to rise for 1 hour

After an hour the dough should have doubled in size. Knead again and roll out onto floured surface

Transfer to foiled and oiled baking tray

Preheat oven to 190 degrees

Make the pesto. Crush walnuts and garlic finely. Blend with other pesto ingredients

Spread thinly across pizza base (it may not look like a lot but don’t worry, pesto has a very rich flavour)

Tear mozzarella and lay over pesto base

Brush broccoli and asparagus with a tiny bit of olive oil and scatter onto pizza

Dot goat’s cheese and a few artichokes around surface

Season with black pepper

Bake for 10-15 minutes

En-to-the-joy, my pretty ones.

Amy x

Little Update

I just want to make a brief reference to the weekend’s vlog experiment. My friend, Ellie (whose ever-eloquent, intelligent and insightful blog you can read here) said to me on Saturday night: “I watched the videos on your blog. It was kind of like just watching someone go completely insane,” which, I think sums it all up perfectly. I also take this entirely as a compliment.

So instead of my weekly visual food diary – which I haven’t done for reasons that will later be outlined – I thought that I’d just post a few little updates as to the culinary treats I’ve been keeping myself busy with in addition to the ones documented in the videos.

On Monday night I made pizza with spinach and caramelised onion. Which I’ve eaten now so uh, no pictures. Also, Tommy left his camera at home so now I will have to make do with borrowing his iPhone instead of his swanky camera… like that’s a hardship compared to my total lack of camera/smartphone…

I made way too much dough. So then I made garlic flatbread and a few dough-balls with the aforementioned garlic butter to keep in the fridge until I fancy them. Had the dough balls with an avocado salad, with enough dough left for garlic bread to have with some baked cod tomorrow night ! Divine.

I used Jamie Oliver’s dough recipe, subbed the white flour for wholemeal and with all quantities halved… then halved again. This was still a COLOSSAL amount of dough. I recommend halving again ! Although his recipe was for 6… maybe I should get some more friends…

I also made oat cookies (with cinnamon, figs and dark chocolate) which I ended up taking to an impromptu Christmas gathering at my friends’ house (the ones who own the guinea pig !).

What was freaky about this was that in the space of about an hour I got the spontaneous urge to bake, stumbled almost immediately across a low-cal oat cookie recipe for which I already had all the ingredients (whose link I have already lost), and no sooner had I put the cookies in the oven did Will from over the road call to invite us over later for sherry and mulled wine. Great, because it means I won’t eat them ALL (despite having a cold and not being able to taste one lousy bite when I had a sneaky sample. Ultimate disappointment. Tommy and Priya said they were good, but they can hardly say otherwise, can they … ?).

In other news, I’m trying so very hard to stop calorie-counting. I know in the long run it makes me miserable, but not knowing exactly how much I’ve ingested each day makes me incredibly nervous. In a horrible way that I’ve never before experienced, I’m sort of dreading the Christmas period and how I choose to handle it; will I gorge myself and feel insanely guilty and depressed for a long time afterwards ? Or will I restrict and deny myself throughout and end up ruining my and everybody else’s good time ? I can already feel the temptation, nay, expectation for me to stuff my face “because it’s Christmas” creeping closer and closer; my mother posted my chocolate advent calendar to me the other day, parties and meals are being planned, all the shelves in all the shops are full to bursting with chocolate and everywhere I look there are adverts for low-price festive food and drink.

I know a lot of people gain weight over the holiday and that’s fine. But I just don’t know if I can handle the guilt and self-loathing that will inevitably come when I step on that scale on January 1st 2012. Just don’t weigh yourself ? you say. But I will.

I am a total hypocrite, I know (see Alarming Thoughts and Love and Advice) but it’s just the way I think and I can’t help that. Giving other people the nutritional advice that I have stumbled across during my rocky relationship with food makes me feel good, but it clearly doesn’t mean that I’ll necessarily follow it myself. It is certainly very tricky, although hopefully if I deal with the obsession in the right way, it will gradually get better with time and positive thinking, and ultimately I will learn to not be so uptight…

This is why I haven’t drawn a food diary. I think, whilst cute and fun in small doses, that my keeping such a close eye on what I’m eating is becoming just a little bit damaging. So I deleted my food diary/calorie counts from my computer so that I couldn’t look at them and made myself forget exactly what I did eat last week, so therefore am unable to draw a food diary today. I hope to be able to do one next week though !

So plans for this week:

1. I bought a bit of goat’s cheese to have in a bagel with my fig jam… I do hope this cold clears up so that I can taste by the time I decide to dig in !
2. I may have to make some kind of potato gratin-esque dish (although I will obviously have to substitute something for the cream… no no no) because I have leftover mozz from the pizza I made and some potatoes that are about to spoil. I’m sure I’ll make something up.
3. For my birthday in October, Tommy bought me a set of posh jams, of which I have polished off the raspberry. This week, I start the marmalade. I am excited.

And lastly, prepare for a spot of relief from my greasy-haired, baggy-trouser-ed hippie vegetarian culinary escapades in the form of my bouncy blonde, full-face-o-makeup, clean-shaven nubile sister, Meg. She is also a wise cooking owl and has been baking for many years; she will be making Christmas cupcakes as an Amy Eats guest. Watch this space !

Ciao for now, my pets.

Amy x