Monthly Archives: May 2012

Muffins, Basically

Afternoon.

It’s quite logical to want to bake, to turn on the Shit Oven at the tail end of what is, for England, a rather warm day.  It may well be a result of you having done not much at all.  All that fighting talk of ‘yeah, I can’t drink too much cause I need to go to the gym tomorrow’ that was oft-repeated throughout the party you attended last night actually played out as a day sitting on your ass, in various sun-soaked locations within a 100m walk of your home.

So, here is how to make a basic muffin mix.  I made choc chips today but the basic mix is basic – after you’ve made it you can add all sorts of things.  I like dried apricot and coconut.  I like rasberries.  I like cranberries.  Blueberries.  Whatever you like.  You get the picture.

They take about 5 mins to mix and 20 mins to cook so you’ve not long between having an idea and having a muffin.  Perfect for these modern days.

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The recipe.

You’ll note I’ve failed to add ‘add the egg’ to the milk and sugar mixture.  Make sure you add that egg.

Put the oven on to warm.

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Ingredients, as above.  I didn’t end up using the white choc chips.  I used the choc choc chips.

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I melt the butter in a mug, in the microwave.  This is the mug I used today.  It moved in when the boyfriend did.  He says it came from the SoM theatre premiere wotsit, and that they had been serving mulled wine in it.

*raises eyebrows*

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Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in one bowl.

Mix the egg, milk, sugar, vanilla and butter in another bowl.  So far so basic, like I promised.

Then, in about three lots, whisk the dry stuff into the wet stuff.

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It’ll look a bit like the above.  It tastes ace.

At this stage add your flavours, whatever you choose.

I went with the aforementioned choc-chips as well as the leftover smartie-type things I had for the boyfriend’s b’day cheesecake a few posts ago.

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I don’t have a muffin tin so I just filled some cupcake thingies with the mixture, sitting them inside yorkshire pudding-type tin thing.

Put them in the oven for about 20 mins.

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Voila.

It appears as though those smartie-thingies weren’t made for cooking.  They look, now cooked, like the dried bones of a drought victim. Boyfriend has already taste-tested one and says it’s all fine.

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The dog earlier today, rolling in something awful, but having fun.

An Excellent Snack – Hannah’s Savoury Crumpets

Hello.

If, like me and the boyfriend, you were up and at the gym by 9am, were murdered by a frankly offensively fit youth who coached you around a 30 minute circuit hell-routine and then once home you took the dog for an hour’s walk through the famously gorgeous Wormwood Scrubs (it’s not gorgeous tho’ bits are kind of cool), then you may also deserve a delicious lunch such as that laid out below.

This is a recipe stolen from the amazing Hannah who is a Masterchef finalist and the best baker I know.  Her blog is sweet and delightful – the polar opposite of mine – and you can find it here – http://hannahscountrykitchen.blogspot.co.uk/

Anyway it’s kind of Welsh rarebit on crumpets.  Fast, easy, delicious and absolutely fattening.

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You want:-

Crumpets

Worcester Sauce

Dijon mustard

Cheddar

Seasoning

1 egg

We also like a bit of ham with it – you can put it on the crumpet before all the cheese if you like, but I prefer it on the side with the hot crumpets.  Hot crumpets bit on the side.  Yes.

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Grate the cheese.  If you have a dog they will helpfully catch any flying bits.  If you have any other starving housemates, invite them along to catch.

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We used about half a large block for six crumpets.  You absolutely don’t need six crumpets between two people but we are keen to undo all the good work achieved at the gym and this was just about the fastest way to do that.

Put the cheese in a bowl, and add one egg, a good teaspoon of Dijon, a healthy splash of Worcester (this will all be to taste, you’ll work it out) and seasoning.  Mix together.  Make sure your crumpets are toasting while all this gratery activity is undertaken.

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On the grill tray put your toasted crumpets and pile on the cheese mix.  Stick them under the grill till they go bubbly and brown.  It’s not long.  A few minutes if your grill is any good.  Our grill is about the only good thing about the Shit Oven.

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Voila.  Freakin’ delicious.  See below for bitten version – all the cheesy goodness melts into the crumpet fjords, it’s religious.

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Lazy Person’s Pasta

Evening.

I’m sure you’re all watching the football.  I’ve just had a tutorial from the boyfriend about the myriad competitions that soccer is involved in here in the UK and in Europe.  It seems unnecessarily complicated.  In Australia we have Aussie Rules Football, we have the Premiership, and that’s the only national competition going.  We like to keep things linear in Oz.

Anyway the below is easy pasta which is guaranteed delicious and which is for making if you’re either feeling chilled out or are intrinsically a lazy arsed human being.  I cooked it whilst the boyfriend was having a bath, and he came down to a ready supper and the soccer on telly.  I am winning major points on the girlfriend front tonight.  I haven’t yet decided what I’ll cash them in for.  Probably money.

This should take 30 mins MAX from getting  your stuff together to stuffing your face.  Any longer and you’re being a bit special.

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My lazy person’s pasta always involves pasta (any shape you like, but I prefer spaghetti for this one), pancetta, mushies, garlic, red chilli, onion and olive oil.  Seasoning is important, as is some parmesan.

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You’ll want only two pans so not much energy needs expending here.  One big saucepan for the pasta and one frypan for the bits.

Put salted water on to boil in the big saucepan and throw in your pasta to cook when it’s boiling.

On a high-ish heat put the pancetta in the frypan and cook till it goes golden.  While it’s cooking chop your onion and finely slice the garlic and chilli.  When the pancetta’s golden lower the heat a bit and gently cook off the onion, garlic and chilli.  Slosh in some more olive oil at this point.  You want it looking greasy, cause once it’s on the pasta the grease will dissipate and you won’t realise the vast volumes of oil you’re shovelling into your face.  You’ll just think it’s well lubricated and delicious.

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While the other stuff is cooking, peel (if you’re that way inclined, I usually am) your mushrooms.  I hate prissy mushies that taste of nothing but hardish bland, so at the very minimum I hit up some chestnut ones.  Peel, and finely slice.  Helpfully I’ve demonstrated the three basic stages above.  I’ve gone to extra effort tonight because I have the time.  I’m not that interested in the soccer.

When the onion and stuff has cooked down and starts to look like you fancy scooping great spoonfuls of it into your mouth, stir through the mushrooms and continue to cook.  Season.

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Keep cooking till it looks something like the above.  At this stage I stirred through about 2/3 teaspoon of quite posh and syrupy balsamic vinegar but you don’t have to.  Heathens.

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Test the readiness of the pasta on the dog.  I had hopes of the dog becoming one of those famous internet dogs upon which you can balance everything from thumbtacks to small children but alas she will not comply.  It’s very disappointing.

By this stage your pasta will be ready.  Drain it but don’t get all evangelical about making sure EVERY BLOODY DROP OF WATER has been drained off. It doesn’t matter and a little water is a good thing.

Throw the drained pasta back into the saucepan and tip in the contents of the frying pan.  Stir through well with a generous handful of grated parmesan.

Serve.  Serve with alcohol if you have any left.

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Extremely Tasty Chicken & Vermicelli

 

 

Made this last night.  It was Really Very Good and so you should make it too.  It’s a take on a Bill Granger recipe (ie: pretty much a Bill Granger recipe) except I added some leftover asparagus and left out the cashews.  Also, because Bill looks so nice and clean and I imagine smells like soap I always cook with ‘Will You Marry Me Bill?’ in my head.  He won’t, because he’s already married and I shouldn’t because I already have a perfectly nice and good-looking boyfriend, but the lyrics remain.

I like the smell of soap.

Anyway this is chicken and vermicelli and stuff.  It’s easy and delicious.

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Get together the following:-

6-8 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (6 thighs = two large portions, 8 thighs = 4 much less greedy portions)

3 tablespoons Nam Plan (fish sauce)

3 cloves of garlic

chillis – I think Bill recommends a couple of red ones chopped up, I didn’t have any so used dried chilli flakes which worked fine

cracked black pepper

2 teaspoons caster sugar

vege oil

AND…for the noodles and dressing

vermicelli (I used a ready packet from Waitrose but they’re easy to get from most supermarkets)

cucumber

asparagus (if you’re me) or crushed cashews (if you’re Bill, raw ones)

mint (didn’t use)

lime juice (I used 3 limes)

4 spring onions

another 2 small tablespoons sugar

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In a bowl put the fish sauce, crushed garlic, chilli, your personal preference in regards to amounts of pepper and the 2 teaspoons sugar, whisking till the sugar has dissolved.  Pour half over the chicken thighs and let them hang out in the marinade for about half hour at least.

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In another bowl add the rest of the sugar and the lime juice, again whisking till sugar’s dissolved.  Bill recommends a HEAP more sugar than I added.  I reckon I’m right on this one, which may mean I can never marry Bill even if he gets divorced, abandons his three daughters and I break up with my good-looking boyfriend and move back to Australia.

The whisking takes a few minutes.  I used the time to catch up on twitter.

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At this point you either pour some boiling water on your dry vermicelli as per packet instructions, or if you’re me you chuck them in a bowl with the raw asparagus and chuck them in the microwave for 2 mins.  When they’re done rinse in cold water so they come back to room temperature.

Don’t leave them all hot and bothered, they’ll totally gloop up and you’ll have very little to eat.

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If you test the noodles for done-ness, entertain yourself by giving gormless, noodle-themed smiles to your phone camera.

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Cucumber.  Slice them up – above you’ll see demonstrated one cored and one un-cored cucumber.  Core the cucumber, using a teaspoon.  It’s interestingly satisfying, you’ll be glad you did it.

Slice up the asparagus, if you’re using it, or anything else.  At this point chuck in the mint as well as the sliced spring onions.

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Mix through the noodles, with most of the dressing.  You may need to use your hands for this, as vermicelli does not, I find, wish to share its space with intruding vegetables, preferring rather to sit in sulky clumps.  You must force its hand with yours.

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In a hot pan cook the thighs, weighing down with a plate or lid as demonstrated above.  It helps with crisping.

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Crispy thighs, much like mine get after too long in the Aussie sun.  Mine are much less delicious, I’m afraid, when crispy.

Serve, drizzling a bit of the leftover noodle dressing over it all.

IT’S GOOD.

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Cheat’s Frittata

Afternoon.

My friend K came over for lunch today.  I had a session at the gym to survive this morning (I did survive, although it was a close, sweaty and ugly thing)… and so needed something easy but tasty to cook.  Tasty because K is married to a very good cook and has high standards.

I made cheat’s frittata.  It’s kind of a layered omelette.  Or a cheaty frittata.  You choose.

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Use whatever you like.  The non-negotiable ingredients include eggs, seasoning, butter and milk.

I used some sweet potato, potato, asparagus, antipasto type capsicum and chorizo, pre-sliced.  It’s pretty cheaty.  I also had some parsley to stick on after it was all cooked (high standards, remember?) and some pre-grated parmesan to put in the egg mixture.

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Microwave your root vegetables – I did 5 mins on high.  Your oven might have some fancy pre-set thing that sorts this out for you.  Mine does, too, however I’ve not the faintest clue how to get it to work.

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Slice your veg up.  See above.

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Layer.  Put a good slosh of vege oil in the bottom of an oven-proof frypan, swoosh around so it’s covered all the base.  I layered the sweet potato then put on a layer of chorizo.  Then asparagus and potato, as you can see.  Then another of chorizo and then the rest.

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Pretty, innit?  This is the best it will ever look so take a minute to appreciate it.

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In a bowl crack 6 eggs, put generous amounts of seasoning and cheese, and a slosh of milk to loosen it all up – you want it loose like my friend K gets after too much gin.

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Gently pour the eggy mix over the layered stuff – not too tsunami-like else you’ll shift those carefully placed layers and you can no longer legitimately call it a frittata.  Plonk on some butter.  Cook it over a gentle heat on your stove-top for a bit.

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When you see the edges start to come away, like demonstrated above, it’s time to stick it in the oven.

Sorry – forgot to say – warm your oven up – around Gas Mark 4/5 (180C or so).

Stick it in the oven.  This is why it’s important you use an oven-proof saucepan.  I didn’t just suggest that for the fun of it.

At this point I went to blow dry my hair.  If I don’t do it soon after showering my fringe gets very upset and I just don’t have the right medication to deal with it.  Anyway, basically I’m saying you’ve time to do something like go blow dry your hair for a bit.  Or whatever else it is you men do in the bathroom.

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I guess this was about 7-10 mins after being in the oven – it won’t be entirely fully PROPERLY done yet but it’s almost there.

Cute.

Finish off under the grill, if you can bear it, for a further 5 mins or so or until just ready to the touch.

We ate it with some rocket and balsamic because today we are being middle class.

Forgot to take a photo of the dished up product so below is the leftovers – you can see it loses a little volume as it cools but it tasted bloody good.

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Sausages & Mash

Afternoon.  Or, I suppose, Evening.  I’m confused by these long evenings, and especially so today with the miraculous appearance of the sun.

I’ve not had time to do more than tear a few good looking recipes from various magazines this weekend, so instead you’re gifted with a pictorial record of what I cooked for supper just now.  So just now that the contents of this blog are still oven-hot and resting quietly in my belly.

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Get some sausages, some potatoes, an onion and yes, some gravy granules.  It’s allowed.  You’ll also want some seasoning, butter and milk.

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Above are two examples of potato peelers.  The blue one was brought to London at vast expense from Australia.  It’s my preferred peeler type.  The one on the left was bought at vast expense at a kitchenware shop in Chiswick. It works fine but it makes me feel a bit cack-handed when I use it, so the cheapy blue one wins nearly every time.  Every time except when I have to peel butternut squash.  That bitch of a vegetable needs a hardcore blade.

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Peel and slice (not too small unless you’re into watery mash) your potatoes.  Put in some salted, boiling water.  Cook.

It’s very complex this dish.

Put your sausages on to cook AT THE SAME TIME.

Can you handle it?

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Whilst you contemplate whether you can indeed handle it, take a look at the interesting sign I found on a door in the next street, just the other day.  Then go slice the onion.

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After your sausages have cooked and your potatoes have boiled, put your sausages on a plate and into the oven on a v low heat, to keep them warm.  Cook your onions in the pan the sausages cooked in.

Add a big knob (fnar) of butter and a good splosh of milk in the potatoes, as well as some generous seasoning.  Mash.  Mash and mash and mash.  Obv you’ll never get all the lumps out if you haven’t used a ricer.  I haven’t used a ricer cause (i) I don’t have one and (ii) I don’t think I would ever use a ricer unless I was cooking for, I don’t know, Lady Di or someone. Someone likely to choke on the infinitely small lumps left.

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Turn on the heat under your mashed potatoes.  Keep it low, get a spatula and stir and press, stir and press – do this for as long as you can handle.  Ten minutes would be good.  This makes your mash nice and fluffy.  I promise.

Do it.

Add about a cup of hot water to your onions, and when it’s bubbling add a sprinkle of gravy granules.  Revel in the feeling of using such a low-grade ingredient.  Goes nicely with your posh sausages, actually.

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Serve.  Looks good, eh?  It was good.

Here is the dog enjoying a pizza crust.  She’s so easily pleased.

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Lamingtons

Hi. I’m back again. It’s me.  With, once more, thanks to the guest posters for filling in whilst I was gone.

So, I’ve already pissed off the boyfriend with the now-traditional post-trip-home talk that mostly goes ‘insert word here is better in Australia’ so I thought I might as well cut my losses and get him to help me make lamingtons. These are Aussie cakes of legend and if you’re really interested in the hows and whyfores and stuff then google the Country Women’s Association (Oz’s version of the WI) for more info about sizes and whatnot, if you’re intending to compete in country fairs with yours.

I’m not. We just used the good old Aussie Women’s Weekly recipe and bashed these out in under an hour.

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Ingredients (all pictured above, apart from caster sugar and milk):-

6 eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup cornflour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
2 cups (180g) coconut, approximately

Icing
4 cups (500g) icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
15g butter, melted
2/3 cup milk

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Here are six eggs.  You must now beat them for 10minutes with an electric mixer.  I used a handheld which I think is faster than a kenwood or similar, so I only did it for 6 mins.

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Your eggs will get all fluffy and creamy.  As above.  This is good.  Fluffy and creamy is not so good in other parts of your life, but here it’s what you’re after.  Add the sugar in stages, mixing well to dissolve it as you go.

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You need to triple-sift the 3 types of flour here, no cheating allowed.  You might get your boyfriend to do it.  He will make a big mess and, if you look carefully, will even manage to get flour rather accurately on the dog’s nose.  He will not learn his lesson and will repeat the errors again and again, all whilst wearing a black sweater.

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Fold the flours carefully into the beaten sugar and eggs, which will have massively increased in volume.  Pour into a 23cm slab tin (according to the Women’s Weekly), or if you’re our house, into a greased and lined square cake tin of aout 20cm.  Cook in a moderate oven (I used gas mark 4) for as long as it takes.  Took me 10 minutes but I have a Shit Oven.  May take you up to 30 mins.

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Sit down, take a break, read the paper.  Or the paper’s magazine, which is the same thing.  Admire your pyjama pants.

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Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool.  Most lamington recipes say you should use day-old cake for lammos.  So if you can be bothered, do.  We were not going to wait, oh no.

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Slice the edges off the cake and slice into whatever size you want.  The CWA has rules on this, which today I have Absolutely Not Followed.  I’d also recommend you fork or skewer the base and top a bit, so the chocolate mix has a chance to absorb there.  Don’t have to, it’s just what I do.  And of course I do things very averagely.

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Get your boyfriend to sift together the icing sugar and cocoa, making a huge mess as he does.  Then add the melted butter and milk, mix through and put over a simmering saucepan of water until it all liquifies nicely and thins to a consistency you can imagine working for you.  We went for syrupy.  I remember making lammos with my mum, aged about 8, and am sure I remember a rather watery choc mix.  8 was a long time ago, I might be wrong.

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Set out your sliced cakes, your choc sauce, your coconut and your tray for setting.  I put some kitchen roll under the tray as there are Big Drips and Heaps Mess guaranteed.  Seriously, if you have children I’d not recommend you make lammos with them.  Not unless you are looking for reasons to lock them in their rooms for a week.

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A wooden skewer is handy here.  Dip and soak the cakes generously in the choc mix, then transfer to the coconut.  Expect mess.

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Cover in coconut.  Be generous, not mean, with the amount of coconut in your coconutting bowl, it’ll make your life easier.  Do as the boyfriend does and hoover up any coconutty chocolate bits as they happen.

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Voila.  Let them set a bit and wonder what the hell you’re going to do with so many lamingtons.

Below is a photo of the dog who will be looking displeased and refusing eye contact as a result of your having stepped on one of her frankly numerous toes.

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Guest Post – Pizzas, Ones You Make Yourself

Hullo.  I’m back in London but I’m jetlagged to all hell so you’re all the lucky recipients of another guest post.

See the above picture?  That was my megaplane from Dubai to London.  Although A380s are the king of economy travel comfort there is still something discomfiting about their sheer size.  That and the faux wood loo seats.

I bought a rather large stash of Australian goods home with me.  Goods, or, arguably, goodies.  Anyway in there are some Very Good Things.  Delish.  And not health-conducive.  Don’t care.

Dog looking impressed at my return.  Bloody whippets.

I promise I’ll be back to cooking averagely some time this coming bank holiday weekend, but for now I’m just about managing to prop my eyes open and send some no-doubt badly worded work emails.

Anyway your guest poster today is D, a man with whom I shared the best (and only) cup of apple tea I’ve ever had.  Today he’s talking you through homemade pizzas.  Gloop included.  Enjoy.   It’s quite wordy, this post.  You’ll cope.

B

Back when I was at university I made an important discovery: if I managed to get a girl I liked back to my place, my chances with her improved dramatically if, rather than just ringing out for something cheap and greasy, I vanished into the kitchen and cooked something for her instead. Cheese on toast wouldn’t cut it, it had to be a meal.

Needless to say: within thirty seconds of that discovery I had learned a dozen or so recipes for meals which were designed to be quick, easy, tasty and filling.

Just like me, in fact.

Anyway, with Ms B on her hols she asked for people to clutter up fill her blog with complete rubbish cookery writing, and if there’s one thing I’m good at it’s writing complete rubbish cooking.

Pizza. Everyone rings out for pizza and nobody makes their own, which is weird as they’re easy to make and much cheaper than the guy down the road who pretends to be Italian but is in fact from Guildford.

For your pizza, you’ll need four things: your base, your tomato-y goop to put on top of it, a selection of toppings to go on top of that, and an oven. You can buy your own bases pre-made or you can make your own and, to my eternal shame, when I was cooking this time I bought pre-made bases. To be honest, making your own base is the most time consuming part of the whole process and I didn’t want to miss Game of Thrones but I did make my own tomato-y goop. For this, you will need:

1-2 tomatoes per pizza

1-2 cloves of garlic per tomato

Something to give it a bit of zest. Lea & Perrins or Balsamic vinegar is good. A dash of that. Don’t use red wine as that will water the mix down too much, but you can use a very small splash of port if needed.

Black pepper

Tomato puree. Depending on how many tomatoes you use, you’ll need anywhere between a splodge and a splurge of this. Those are technical measuring terms. Honest.

To prepare your tomatoes, score through the skin with a sharp knife and put them in boiling water for a few minutes. This makes the skin loose and then you can just peel it off. Pop the peeled tomatoes and the rest of the things in a mixing bowl with the other ingredients and use a mixer to whizz it up.

I’m going to digress for a moment here. When Jamie Oliver does this, he says something like “Just wazz it up wiv the mixer, like, guv’nor squire chim-chiminee cheroo” in his horrifically phoney accent. This has got him book contracts, television series, fame, and a beautiful woman to call his own. I warn you that if you say the same thing in the same accent it will be met with a look of weary contempt and a suggestion that you give everyone a shout when you’re finished.

Anyway. Tomato goop wazzed, pop it in the fridge for a bit to thicken up. Whilst you’re waiting, chop your other toppings. The great thing about pizzas is that you can use pretty much whatever you’ve got in the fridge so long as you don’t work in a mortuary or a sperm bank. For the two pizzas I cooked, I used:

¼ Chorizo sausage, roughly chopped

½ red onion, sliced.

1 courgette, ditto

2 x Portobello mushrooms, ditto.

1 x Pepper, similarly chopped

1 x green chili pepper for the masochistic

Look, a picture of ingredients!

You will also need between ½ and 1 fresh ball of mozzarella per pizza depending on how greedy you are and how much you love cheese. Get out your bases, and scoop tomato goop onto them until they look fairly well covered. Then neatly arrange your toppings on them before crumbling the mozzarella all over the top. You should end up with something vaguely looking like this :-

Put your pizzas on a non-stick baking tray and then cook. Oven to 220oc, make sure it’s heated, and cook for 10 minutes before you look at them, Chances are they’ll need a few minutes longer, but recipes always say ten minutes so make sure to be on the safe side. Eventually, you should end up with something which looks vaguely like this:-

Then serve piping hot and eat.

Back when I was a student, my memory is that this would result in my companion saying something like “That was delicious. Should I take my top off now?” These days, it just results in my companion saying “That was delicious, are you going to do the washing up as well?” and glancing meaningfully at the sink. I can’t help but feel this is less satisfactory in some way.