Teriyaki Tofu

As someone who doesn’t particularly care for sandwiches, one of my aims in the kitchen is to construct a repertoire of foods which are just as good cold as they are hot and so can be taken to university for lunch. If I weren’t so fussy, this wouldn’t be an issue as I could just take sandwiches and make do but I am so I can’t. As a result, I ended up developing a selection of Asian style tofu dishes with different versions of my standard ‘teriyaki sauce’ as I have found tofu to be a very nice cold dish.

The reason I put ‘teriyaki’ in inverted commas is that this is not a classic teriyaki sauce, it has been westernised. A traditional version would have sake or mirin (types of rice wine) in it and would not have the sesame. As sake and mirin were very difficult to get hold of in the West when Asian food began to become popular, substitutions had to be made that would satisfy customers without changing the sauce too much. The replacement of mirin with sesame oil was one of these. The oil emulsifies into the sauce very well and doesn’t split during cooking – leading to a thick sauce packed full of flavour – and salt, so you shouldn’t need to season this at all. I sometimes add a little bit of rice vinegar if I have it in the house as it helps cut through the sweetness so you get a far more balanced sauce.

As with most cooking terms, the word ‘teriyaki’ comes from the combination of words describing the process. Teri describes the shine that this sauce gives to food because of the high sugar content and yaki refers to the actual cooking method of grilling or broiling. This origin of the word goes some way to explaining the reason why there is no ‘official’ recipe for teriyaki sauce in Japan. The only requirement is that it is a soy sauce based glaze. I could make an argument that, using this definition, my sauce is technically a teriyaki sauce as the result is a glossy dish but this version is certainly not authentic and is deeply rooted in western cuisine.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and decide that you want to try it out for your own lunches. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Teriyaki Tofu with Coriander

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Cost per portion: around £1.20

60ml Dark Soy Sauce

60ml runny honey

40ml sesame oil

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp hot sauce (I use sriracha)

400g extra firm tofu

1 large carrot

I bunch spring onions

1 cup frozen edamame beans

20ml vegetable oil

If necessary: 2 tbsp cornflour mixed with 4tbsp water

I bunch of fresh coriander

Remove the tofu from its packaging and drain it. Wrap it in a hand towel and place it on a firm, flat surface with a heavy weight on top (a large cookery book is ideal). This will press any excess liquid out, making the tofu firmer and nicer to eat. (This is, of course, optional depending on how firm your tofu is to start with.)

To make the sauce, grate the garlic and whisk it together with the soy sauce, honey, sesame and hot sauce.

Cut the carrot into 2mm thick rounds and then cut these again to make tiny batons.

Slice up the spring onion.

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After the tofu has been pressed for about ten minutes remove it from the towel

Cut the tofu into 1 or 2cm cubes.

Place the tofu and the vegetable oil into a non-stick pan and fry until the tofu begins to develop a hard crust underneath. This will soften later so don’t be afraid to get a little crispyness on the tofu.

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Toss the tofu and continue to fry until most of it has formed a crust.

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Remove the tofu from the pan leaving as much oil as possible in it as this will be used to fry the rest of the dish.

Add the carrots to the pan. Fry for two minutes on high heat and then add 50ml water. BE CAREFUL – this will spit a little. The water will help soften the carrots.

Fry for another three minutes until the water has mostly evaporated and then add the spring onion.

Fry for another minute before adding the frozen edamame beans.

Add another 50ml of water and cook until the water has all gone.

Tip in the tofu and the sauce mix. Simmer for at least five minutes to ensure the garlic in the sauce is fully cooked.

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If the sauce is still very runny, add one tablespoon of the cornflour mix and stir it through. Continue to add more cornflour, cooking between each addition, until the sauce has reached a thick, oozing consistency. As this can be eaten cold, you do not want to add so much cornflour that the sauce sets when it cools.

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Roughly chop the coriander and stir it through the still hot mixture.

Serve with rice either hot or cold! I like to take this to university with me for lunches as it doesn’t need to be hot to be delicious.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of tofu, check out my ginger tofu recipe, it’s another one which is good cold and my lord is it tasty. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet variety, why not treat yourself to a delicious devil’s food cake? It’s rich, chocolatey and devilishly good.

Have a good one and I will be back with a recipe for those of you looking to indulge your sweet tooth.

H

Smoked Salmon Risotto

Smoked salmon is definitely a delicacy. It’s relatively expensive which isn’t ideal because I can easily sit down and eat an entire packet in one go. The trick with smoked salmon is making it go further and putting it into a risotto is a fantastic way to flavour a large amount of food without needing too much of the fish itself.

Smoking food became popular as a good way of preserving it. Upping the salt content and decreasing the moisture makes it very hard for bacteria to grow in the food helping it keep longer before spoiling. The process of smoking food has probably been around since humans evolved. Food would be stored off the ground to keep it away from pests but the lack of ventilation in the dwellings led to the build up of smoke at the top of the houses – where the food was stored – and thus the food was smoked. Once people realised that smoked foods lasted far longer than those which were unsmoked, smoking became a widely used preservation method. As it was functional rather than for flavour, large amounts of salt were used to draw out the moisture and the smoking time was often days long. As infrastructure improved, food could be stored in fridges and cold houses. As a result, the quantity of smoke and salt used to preserve foods declined leading to what we have today.

There are several different methods of smoking; the most common types being hot and cold smoking. The process of cold smoking does not cook the meat and because of that, brining and curing must be done before the food is smoked. This is what gives us the classic smoked salmon that you see in a supermarket, thinly sliced and still a bright pink colour. In contrast to this, hot smoking cooks the fish. This means that the food is safe to eat without further cooking as may sometimes be necessary with cold smoking.

The first time I tried this recipe, I was having dinner at a friend’s house and we ended up cooking together. I must admit I was a bit dubious as the idea of placing smoked salmon into a hot saucepan of rice worried me greatly; surely the salmon would just go hard and leathery and lose its flavour? That is the beauty of this recipe. If done right, the latent heat in the risotto should cook the chopped salmon just enough to change its colour whilst still allowing it to remain soft. The remaining salmon is served on top of the risotto keeping it from the heat and therefore preventing it cooking.

This dish really is a treat so I hope you enjoy it.

 

Smoked Salmon Risotto

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 2

Cost per portion: around £2.40

 

1 small onion finely diced

1 clove of garlic minced

175g risotto rice (I like to use Arborio risotto rice)

750ml vegetable stock

Zest of one lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp chopped parsley

60g mascarpone

100g smoked salmon

1 tbsp oil

 

Sautee the onion in the oil for five minutes until it starts to soften and goes translucent.

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Add the garlic and rice and fry for another minute.

Pour in half of the stock and stir everything together. Wait for the rice to absorb the stock stirring regularly.

Once the stock is all absorbed, add half of the remaining liquid and stir it through.

Repeat with the remaining stock.

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After the first addition of stock vs. after the risotto is cooked.

If the rice isn’t fully cooked at this point, add another tablespoon of water and continue to cook over a medium heat stirring regularly to ensure that all the rice is cooked evenly.

Once the rice is almost cooked through, add the mascarpone, lemon juice, zest and the parsley and stir through. Cook for another minute.

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Remove the risotto from the heat and cover.

Chop about three quarters of the smoked salmon into small pieces.

Stir these through the risotto, the remaining heat should cook the salmon but not make it leathery.

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Serve the risotto immediately and top with the remaining salmon.

If you so wish, garnish the risotto with parsley and lemon zest.

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I hope you enjoyed this recipe. It’s a luxurious meal yet still quite light and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated. If you fancy a bit of a more fiery dinner, check out how to make my spicy enchiladas or if you are looking for something a little sweeter, why not make a carrot cake? It’s big, moist and packed full of flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a slightly more basic recipe for some delicious biscuits!

H

Enchiladas

The etymology of food names is a vast and fascinating subject. Some foods are named after the person who invented them, others after an area and some have their names directly lifted from the language of their country of origin.

One example of this is the enchilada. With a name deriving from the Spanish word ‘enchilar’ meaning ‘to season with chilli’ the name of the dish is a direct description of how it is made. In a similar vein, empanadas (a type of pasty) have a name derived from ‘empanar’ meaning ‘to coat in bread’.

Enchiladas were originally eaten as a street food and were unfilled tortillas dipped in a chilli sauce. Since then, they have evolved and been combined with other stuffed foods to created the dish that is known today. There are no strict rules as to what you can fill an enchilada with as long as it is spicy and, as a result, there are many different versions. Enchiladas suizas are topped with creamy sauces like béchamel and were created by Swiss migrants to Mexico who set up dairies to produce milk and cream. Enchiladas Verdes are topped with salsa verde instead of chilli sauce and are filled with poached chicken. Enmoladas are served with mole (a dark spicy sauce) instead of chilli and Enfrijoladas are topped with re-fried beans (the name deriving from the Spanish word for bean ‘frijol’).

The recipes I give below are very simple to make and are easily adaptable. I have found that using large tortillas means one enchilada can be served per person – especially if you serve them with sour cream and other toppings. I am very partial to coriander however, for those of you who do not like it, removing this does not detract from the recipe at all. Both fillings make a decent number of enchiladas and obviously, you can bulk them out more by adding more vegetables to make the meat go further. If you don’t eat meat, it can be excluded from the recipe or replaced by a meat substitute such as tofu or Quorn.

As anyone following this blog for some time may have realised, I love bulk cooking and the fillings for this can be frozen which is ideal because you can get several meals out of these recipes. You can also use them as standard fajita fillings too if you don’t want to go through the hassle of adding extra sauce and baking.

I hope you enjoy the recipe!

 

Enchiladas

Makes: 6-9 enchiladas

Prep time: 30 mins

Rest time: 10 mins

Cook time: 20 mins

 

 

Chicken Filling

2 large onions – finely sliced

2 large cloves of garlic – minced

1 large bell pepper – thinly sliced

2 chicken breasts – cubed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 packet fajita seasoning

½ tsp chilli flakes

2 tbsp oil

 

Beef Filling

2 large onions – finely diced

2 large cloves of garlic – minced

1 packet of beef mince

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 packet fajita seasoning

½ tsp chilli flakes

2 tbsp oil

 

Extras

Large tortilla wraps

1 can re-fried beans

200g grated cheese (100g for filling and 100g for topping)

2 tbsp chopped coriander

 

1 jar enchilada sauce

OR

4 tbsp tomato paste

4 tbsp water

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

1 tsp vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

Pinch of sugar

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

 

For the filling:

Place the oil, onions and garlic into a large pan over a medium heat and fry until the onion starts going soft.

Make a well in the centre and add the meat and fry until the meat is cooked on the outside (about three minutes)

Add the peppers if you are using them.

Sprinkle on the chilli flakes and the fajita seasoning (I love the BBQ one but there are loads of different flavours you can choose). If you like your food on the spicier side, you can always add more chilli and visa versa for a more mild flavour.

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Beef filling for enchiladas

Add the tomato paste and stir through. If the paste won’t spread out, add a tablespoon of water to help thin it down a little.

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Chicken filling for enchiladas (without peppers)

Remove from the heat and leave the filling to cool a little before using (it doesn’t have to be stone cold, just make sure it won’t burn your fingers)

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

If you are making your own enchilada sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.

Take a large baking dish and spread a little of the enchilada sauce over the bottom.

Place a wrap on a flat surface and spread a line of re-fried beans about a quarter of the way up.

Add a line of meat filling on top of this and sprinkle a little grated cheese over it all.

Roll up the tortilla making sure to fold in the ends to stop the filling from escaping. Seal the end with a little water and place seam side down in the baking dish.

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Repeat with the rest of the tortillas.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese over the enchiladas.

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Sprinkle the coriander over the top and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and starting to crisp up.

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Serve with a selection of sour cream, lime wedges, jalapenos, chopped coriander, guacamole or salsa.

These also keep very well if covered in the fridge.

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Chicken enchiladas with sour cream, coriander, lime wedges and jalapenos.
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Beef enchiladas with re-fried beans, coriander, sour cream and lime. 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy something a little sweeter, check out how to make my delicious apple crumble or for a lighter meal, why not make yourself a vibrant bowl of pea soup.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with an amazing recipe for carrot cake. For all of you guys who have had issues making cream cheese icing in the UK because it always turns to soup, this is one not to be missed!

H

 

Basic Curry

Tofu is not known for its wonderful flavour. Or texture. Or visual appeal. In fact, most people’s first reaction to the word is some sort of grimace. This probably stems from the fact that, in England, one of the more available forms of tofu is ‘silken tofu’. This has a very gelatinous texture and is incredibly fragile, in fact I have found it almost impossible to cook silken tofu without it all falling apart and becoming some sort of mush – though this is probably just me. Silken tofu is created by curdling soy milk but the liquid is curdled inside the carton in which it proceeds to be sold, whereas standard firm tofu is curdled and then the liquid is strained off before the curds are pressed into a block.
With records dating back to the Chinese Han dynasty, tofu has been around for about 2000 years. One of the leading theories is that it used to be made by curdling soy milk using sea water – the impurities in the water acted as the coagulants needed – and some forms of tofu are still produced like this today. The production of tofu spread around eastern Asia and it became a popular meat substitute as it is far cheaper.
There are several different types of tofu ranging from extra-soft to extra-firm. Extra-soft tofu has so much liquid in it that it barely holds its own shape – think of the texture of ricotta cheese. The next firmness is standard silken tofu. This tends to be used in desserts and sauces or smoothies as it can be used as a substitute for dairy and eggs. When blended into sauces or smoothies, it gives them a very creamy texture.
For tofu to be firmer than silken tofu, it must be pressed during production. This involves straining out the soy bean curds and then squeezing them to remove as much liquid as possible. The tofu produced from this has a much harder texture and tends to be what I use for cooking. You can press it at home to drive off even more of the liquid by wrapping the block in a tea towel and placing a heavy object on top – I tend to use either a pan or an encyclopaedia. The tofu can then be cooked in a variety of ways to give it the texture you want. Extra-firm tofu is incredibly dry. It is a little rubbery and is firm enough to be sliced very thinly without the pieces breaking. It is sometimes shredded and used instead of noodles in dishes.
Standard tofu is bland. It has basically no flavour whatsoever. This makes it perfect for absorbing flavours from other things so you can always marinade tofu in soy sauce or flavoured oils after it has been pressed to give it some taste. When I bake tofu before adding it to curries and such, I like to add some salt, pepper and sometimes a little curry powder before I put it in the oven as that way it will have a natural taste. The other way to avoid this lack of flavour is continuing to cook your curry for five or so minutes after the tofu has been added as it gives a chance for the moisture from the curry to soften the tofu a little bit and also infuse the flavours of the sauce into it.
Nowadays tofu is only really used as a meat substitute Europe and America. In eastern Asia, it tends to be viewed as just another ingredient and is often used alongside meats or seafood in dishes. A lot of people, especially in England, are not exposed to well cooked tofu when they are younger resulting in the reactions I mentioned at the beginning. With proper seasoning and cooking and, most importantly, the correct type of tofu, I believe most people would appreciate it far more and use tofu when cooking on a more regular basis.

Basic Curry (Vegan)

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 40 minutes Serves: 2
Price per portion: £1.30 (for tofu)

Ingredients:
1 block of tofu (400g)
1 large onion
500ml vegetable stock
1 ½ tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 ½ tsp cornflour mixed with 3 tsp water
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
Oil

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 C).
Drain the tofu and if you have time, press it (this step is optional).

Cut the tofu up into small cubes, I tend to do one horizontal slice through it and then cut it to make cubes which are around a centimetre a centimetre and a half long. The tofu will shrink in the oven.

Line a tray with baking parchment or a silicone mat and spread the tofu out on it.

Drizzle over a little oil or if you use a cooking spray, a couple of sprays of that will also work well.

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Season with a little salt and pepper and place in the oven for 40 minutes remembering to turn the tofu every 10 minutes.

After the tofu has been cooking for 20 minutes you can start on the curry.

Chop the onion into wedges (I tend to go for eight of them).

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok and add the onion.

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Once the onion starts going translucent, add the stock, garlic and spices.

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Simmer for 15 minutes while the tofu finishes off in the oven.

Stir in the soy sauce, sugar and cornflour mix and let the curry sauce thicken. If it is still

very thin, add some more corn flour but if the sauce has become too thick, add some more stock.

Take the tofu out of the oven and pour it into the curry and stir through.

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Let the curry simmer for another two minutes to so the tofu can absorb some of the flavour and then serve with sticky rice.

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This curry keeps very well so if you are only cooking for yourself, you will have leftovers to eat the next day too. I like to use medium curry powder but if you like a spicy or particularly mild curry, there are different versions available. You can also eat this curry with noodles or bread.

A way to make the curry even cheaper on a budget is just don’t use the tofu! This will also drastically reduce the cooking time and you can replace it with whatever you want. Cubes of carrot work well and you can always throw in water chestnuts and bamboo shoots at the end too to bulk it out. Obviously you can also use meat too but make sure to sear it in the wok before you add the onions and the stock to it.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. For another easy meal, check out my One Pot Pasta or if you are looking to do something a little more flamboyant, why not make yourself a Chocolate and Caramel Cake filled with lashings of cream and delicious caramel.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a yummy shortcrust tart.

H

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Beef Lasagne

Batch cooking is a wonderful thing. It’s how I survive at university. The more food I can make in one go, the less effort I have to expend cooking over the next week which is ideal as the term starts to get harder. Like the majority of the recipes in my Cooking to Basics section, this lasagne a number of meals (depending on how hungry you are)! It’s very simple to make and even better, if you happen to have some bolognaise sauce in the freeze, you don’t even need to go to the effort of making the filling.

This is not a traditional lasagne. For a start, there is no béchamel sauce. This isn’t out of convenience, I just don’t particularly like it as I find that the lasagne ends up rather sloppy with a béchamel sauce and I don’t really like super sloppy foods. Instead, I have replaced it with a thin layer of seasoned tomato puree which does the trick very well and also reduces the time it takes to make the dish. Of course, should you really like béchamel sauce, you can just substitute this in instead of the half tube of tomato paste in the recipe. The lack of the béchamel sauce also makes it very easy to turn this recipe dairy free as you can simply substitute the mozzarella with a dairy free cheese (or even just leave it naked with the tomato on top)

If you are vegetarian, it is very simple to just substitute the beef for some form of soya mince or you can bulk out the sauce with mushrooms and other veg of your choice to make a wonderful veggie lasagne. I will often put a layer of spinach in mine as if I am using pre-made bolognaise sauce for the filling, it reduces the amount I need to defrost!

 

Beef Lasagne

Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes (excluding the filling)

Serves: 4-6                                                           Cost per portion: around 80p-£1

Ingredients:

250ml tomato passata

2 cloves of garlic

One large onion (or two small onions)

One carrot

One box beef mince

One box lasagne sheets

Half a tube of tomato paste

Mozzarella

 

Optional:

A glug of sherry or red wine

Basil

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Chilli

Salt

Pepper

 

Follow the instructions of my bolognaise recipe to make the filling of the lasagne.

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Lightly oil a deep dish.

Place a layer of the lasagne sheets over the bottom and add a thin layer of the filling.

Repeat this, alternating layers of the filling and pasta sheets until there is about 1 cm from the top of the dish (make sure the top layer is the pasta).

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Dilute the tomato paste down with water until it is still thick but you can spread it over the top of the lasagne (at this point, you can add pepper, chilli, garlic, or whatever spices you would like on your lasagne).

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Grate the mozzarella and sprinkle and even layer over the top of the dish.

Bake at gas mark 5 (1900C) for about 45 minutes to make sure the pasta sheets are cooked!

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The lasagne freezes really well which is ideal if you just want a quick meal slightly later in the week. Just wrap up individual portions and pop them into the freezer!

Let me know if you try this at home – give me a tag on Instagram (you can find me @thatcookingthing). If you fancy trying out some lovely warming, soup as the weather gets colder, check out my butternut squash soup or if you are looking of a quick and easy dessert, my tiramisu would be perfect for you!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for millionaire’s shortbread!

H

Perfect Pizza

As a student, I don’t often get the opportunity to make pizza from scratch as I just don’t have the time to make the dough. Of course you could buy in bases or even just pop down to the local take away but the difference in quality is phenomenal! Not only is it far, far cheaper to make yourself, but you can make sure you have the toppings you want on it without having the faff of spending 10 minutes deciding what you want off the menu. This recipe does take time – there are no two ways about that however like all recipes with bread involved, you will have a couple of hours in the middle in which to do what you want.

I have only done this a couple of times at university because of the time constraints however homemade pizza is a good home recipe too – especially in the holidays. Be careful though as it is very easy to overeat these as they are just so delicious! I like to have mine with chilli, sweetcorn, chicken and I’m getting into onions too. Whilst personally, I am very much against pineapple on pizza, I do appreciate that for some people, it is a fantastic topping and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make personal pizzas that don’t need sharing so no one can complain! I would always advise using precooked meats just in case as you don’t want to eat raw meat and get ill – especially if you have to study for exams.

This is a particularly good recipe for house meals as you can just make the pizzas larger and share them around and they are genuinely so much better than the ones you would buy on the way home from a night out. I love a good greasy take-out pizza however these can be far healthier – using low fat cheese or even cheeseless pizzas can be a good way of using up leftover vegetables and meats without too many calories.

The recipe I use includes a technique I have not yet covered on this blog – rubbing in. This is where you combine flour and fat in a way which keeps the fat from melting and makes sure the mixture is light and airy. Using the tips of your fingers, take a little of the mix in each hand and lift them above the bowl. Use you thumbs to brush the mix back out of your hands and into the bowl rubbing the fat into the flour as it falls through your fingers. Repeat this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It may look like nothing is happening at the start but trust me, it will all come together in the end. Just remember, if you really can’t get a technique to work for you, YouTube it! I have learnt a lot of new techniques by watching videos because I find it far easier to understand when I can see what is going on.

The dough also freezes nicely so if you are cooking for two, the third portion can be popped in the freezer – just make sure to defrost it fully and let it warm up to room temperature before using – or it can be used to make a garlic bread (spread over butter, minced garlic and parsley if you have it) or doughballs! If you want to cook for 4 people, multiply the recipe by one and a half but don’t increase the yeast! Once sachet can be used for up to 750g of flour – it might take a little longer to rise but it will still have an amazing flavour.

 

 

Serves 3 – about £1.30 per portion

Preparation – 30 minutes, Rising – 2 hours, Cooking – 15 minutes

 

Dough:

500g Strong white flour

50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)

300ml water

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Optional

Garlic/onion power

Grind of pepper

Grated hard cheese like parmesan

 

Toppings

500ml Tomato Passata/ 1 tube of tomato paste

A few cloves of garlic

375g Mozarella grated

 

If you are using passata, heat it in a pan and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of sugar.

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Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.

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While the passata is cooking, place the flour in a large bowl, cube the butter and rub it in until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. (If you wish to flavour the dough, stir in the extra ingredients now!)

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Make sure the fat you use is cold when you add it to the flour to help prevent it melting during the rubbing in
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After rubbing in, the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs and will have a light yellow tinge

Make a well in the centre, pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the outside of the bowl at even intervals.

Pour in the water and oil and mix to combine.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

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Basic ingredients for a Margharita pizza

 

Turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Pour out the dough and divide into portions.

Roll the dough out until it fits the pizza pan you are using or until it has a radius of about 10 inches.

Spread out the thickened passata onto the pizza bases leaving about half an inch around the outside. Alternatively, if you are using paste from a tube, squeeze it into a bowl and add some water to thin it out a bit so you can spread it over the pizzas.

Sprinkle on the mozzarella trying not to get it on the dough around the edge of the bases

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We have a large pizza dish which holds two portions and a smaller one which is a single portion

Add toppings of your choice.

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Sweetcorn and mushroom pizza. I also like adding jalapenos however my dad isn’t fond of them so we go half and half
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

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This meal is so amazingly yummy, I wish I could have it more often but it isn’t economical. It is however, perfect for a special event like having friends over or a date night or even if you just deserve a treat!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo in the comments! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last Cooking from Basics recipe – an amazing Mushroom and Chicken Pasta Bake or here if you fancy making some super fudgy, gooey Chocolate Brownies.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week for my death by chocolate tart which is sinfully delicious looks like it’s been bought from a professional bakery!!!

H

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes have been a staple of my lunches since going to university. They are relatively economical, can be made with pretty much anything you have (including leftovers) and are delicious. You can use them to make a small amount of meat go very far which I have found to be a life saver when you are living off a student loan. They tend to freeze well and are also quite sturdy so once cooked, portions can be cut and put either in boxes or just wrapped in Clingfilm before being put in the freezer as the pasta has enough structural integrity to hold its shape when cool. This meant taking a slice of it in my bag to lectures was a simple task and provided me will a filling lunch during the day.

One of the things I find really interesting about this dish in particular (and to be honest, any dish involving mushrooms) is how they cook. As the fruiting bodies of a fungus, mushrooms hide beneath the soil and once ready to produce spores, they absorb liquid – rain in the wild – and sprout. They can appear out of nowhere overnight but this property is also what leads to them being very easy to burn when cooking. When you first add the mushrooms to an oiled pan, they absorb all the oil up too resulting in basically dry frying them. This can cause them to burn if they aren’t stirred constantly which is a faff if you are trying to get on with another part of the meal. To avoid this, small amounts of water can also be added which again, will be absorbed but if you manage your proportions well, can leave just enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms get to a certain temperature, the heat breaks down the cells holding in the liquid resulting in the mushrooms releasing any water, juice and oil which is contained in them also causing them to shrink which is why the reduce down so much in volume whilst cooking.

The other interesting part of this dish (from a science perspective) is the cornflour. When I was younger, I used to be allowed to play with cornflour as a treat if I was well behaved. Whilst this was a messy, messy endeavour for all involved it did have the benefit of being an introduction to quite a complicated bit of science, the non-Newtonian fluid. As a small child, few things were more exciting than this bizarre mixture that ran through my fingers and I could sink my hand into but if I tried to jerk it out again, the mixture would turn solid and shatter with enough force. Even now as a 21 year old, I find it fascinating! In this recipe, you can only have this fun before the cornflour is added to the sauce as the moment it is mixed in, it thickens up massively giving the sauce a smooth texture.

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Chicken Pasta Bake    –     about £1.90 per portion, makes 6 portions

2 Large Onions (or three medium/small)

500g mushrooms roughly chopped

2 chicken breasts – cubed

½ cup of milk (125ml)

Chicken/mushroom stock

4 tbsp of cornflour

Oil

400g pasta shapes – I use spirals normally

Cheese

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Optional

Garlic

Basil/parsley

Salt and pepper

 

Dice up the onions and sautee in a pan with a small amount of oil.

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Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and a small amount of water (I would go for about two tablespoons). This helps prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their liquid. (Should you wish to add garlic, one or two cloves either diced or minced should be added at this point)

Add the chicken and stir until it is sealed (that is to say that the outside of all the chicken has gone white.21104359_1686135108084854_1141188406_o

Add the milk and bring to the boil

Add the stock – if powder, just sprinkle it in and if it is a cube, crumble it up into the mix and stir it through

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Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to create a slurry and add it a bit at a time to the mixture making sure that you stir well after each addition and wait for the sauce to thicken up before you add more. If there is more liquid in the sauce, you will need more of the cornflour but you may not need it all!

Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and add the basil or parsley at this point

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC) and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the bag.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour it all into an ovenproof dish pushing any exposed pieces of chicken down below the surface

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Add a layer or grated cheese over the top and place in the oven. Personally I use cheddar for this but you could use any cheese that you like (though I would avoid blue cheese in this scenario as I don’t think it would go with the chicken and mushrooms particularly well!)

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Bake for half an hour or until the cheese has melted and the top layer has gone crispy.

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For a vegetarian alternative, use more mushrooms instead of the chicken! It is still delicious and will reduce the price too.

This can be eaten cold and freezes well.

 

Whether batch cooking for yourself or making dinner for friends, this recipe is wonderful for many occations and is super versatile. You can add or take away ingredients or even change up the sauce completely to keep things fresh. Personally, chicken and mushroom is a favourite of mine so I tend to make this one quite a lot!

Let me know in the comments if you try this one yourself and pop a picture in if you can!

See here for the last recipe in the Cooking From Basics series – a delicious bolognaise sauce – or if you fancy trying your hand at some bread making, why not have a look at my recipe for Artisan Bread from last week.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a super chocolatey recipe that you do not want to miss!!!

H