Lemon Meringue Pie

There is no need to cry over lemon meringue pie… that is assuming none of the myriad of things which could go wrong do.

There are a lot of techniques involved in a lemon meringue pie; however none of them are actually too difficult – and almost anyone who has baked before will have tried most of them. The trick is to time the final stages – the filling and the meringue topping – so that the meringue is put onto a steaming hot filling (more on this later).

The main problem that I had making this pie was not me bursting into tears but rather the meringue weeping profusely until it was sitting in a puddle of its own juices. Weeping can happen for a number of reasons and is a classic issue that can arise when making meringue. The first cause of weeping – a universal one – is that the sugar is not properly dissolved into the egg whites. This can be prevented by adding the sugar slowly to the egg whites and giving it a bit of time (twenty seconds or so) between each addition to dissolve. You can test if the meringue is ready after all of the sugar has been added by rubbing a little bit of meringue mix between two fingers and checking that it does not feel gritty. If the mix is smooth, the meringue is ready.

When putting the meringue on to the pie, you want to put it on a hot filling. I have seen recipes where people will make the meringue before the pie filling (because once made, it is very stable)! By adding the meringue on top of hot filling and sealing the meringue around the edge, the steam coming up from the filling will travel through the meringue and cook it from beneath. The heat of the oven will crisp up the outside; the result is a nicely cooked pie without the meringue floating on a lake of lemony syrup – ready to slide off any slice you try to remove from the pie. If the filling is cold when you add the meringue and bake in the oven, the filling is reheated slightly and begins to steam – however the top of the meringue has already crisped up and seals the steam inside. This steam then condenses on the meringue/lemon filling boundary and then slowly begins to dissolve the meringue from beneath.

Finally, meringue pie is best eaten on the day it is make. Ideally you want to make the pie, bake the pie, let it cool out of the fridge and then serve. Chilling the pie in the fridge will also cause the condensation of any steam resulting the sugary lemon soup. The addition of the cornflour should help prevent watery pie but again, this is probably one of those things you need to bake a few times (oh the hardship…) to really get to know your oven and get your head around the recipe.

 

Lemon Meringue Pie

Serves 12

Time: 3-4 hours

 

Pasty:

250g flour

125g unsalted butter

2 tbsp caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch salt

60ml ice cold water (take this from the fridge or even a glass of water with ice in if you have some available)

 

Filling:

Zest 5 lemons

300ml lemon juice

400ml water

65g cornflour

6 egg yolks

250g sugar

 

Meringue:

6 egg whites

12 oz caster sugar

2 tbsp corn flour

Pinch salt

 

To make the pastry:

Food processor method:

Combine all ingredients other than the water in the bowl of the processor and blend until the mixture resembles sand.

Pour in the water while the processor is on and continue to blend for about five seconds until the mixture starts to clump a little.

Pour out onto a bean surface and press the pastry into a ball. Make sure it is smoothly combined.

Wrap and chill for an hour

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To blind bake the pastry:

Roll the pastry out to 3mm thickness and line a tart tin with it.

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Prick the base all over with a fork.

Freeze for 10 minutes

 

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Place a layer of foil or baking parchment over the pastry and weigh it down with baking beads or dried beans/rice (I recommend investing in baking beads as any food stuff you use will not be edible after being baked)

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the baking beads and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden all over.

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Leave in the tin to cool.

 

To make the filling:

Whisk together the yolks, sugar and zest. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the lemon juice and 300ml of the water.

Whisk the final 100ml water together with the cornflour to create a slurry and then whisk this into the lemon water.

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Heat the lemon cornflour mix, whisking constantly, until it thickens dramatically. It will go sort of paste like. Continue to whisk and heat until it starts to boil to ensure the cornflour is fully cooked.

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Slowly stream the thickened mixture into the egg yolk mix while whisking until it is all combined.

Return the lemon filling to saucepan and heat gently whilst stirring until it thickens even more – make sure to keep stirring to avoid scrambling the eggs as this is where you cook them. If the mixture starts to bubble, remove from the heat immediately as it is most certainly cooked!

Pour into the tart case until it comes about 3mm from the top. This lip is important as the meringue will sit inside the pastry which should contain any weeping which could occur.

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Heat your oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

 

In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. You could do this with an electric beater or even by hand but this will take significantly longer (and doing it by hand is far too much effort for me.

Add the salt and slowly incorporate the sugar a spoon at a time whisking after each addition. If you do this too fast, you will deflate the meringue!

Whisk through the cornflour.

Spoon/pipe the meringue into a tall dome on top of the hot pie (don’t feel like you need to use it all). Make sure to seal the meringue around the edges of the pie by ensuring that it is touching the pastry case all the way round.

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If you have just spooned the meringue on, use the back of a spoon to shape the meringue into little peaks.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, turning halfway, until the outside is golden all over.

You can also use a mini blowtorch after baking to bring out any detail which isn’t too visible.

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Leave to cool to room temperature and eat within 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the higher chance of weepy meringue!

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy perfecting your meringue technique before you try something a bit more complicated like this, I have recipes for both swiss and French meringue on this site. I also have a selection of simpler tarts too!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious beef and rice dish.

H

Pressed Biscuits

Biscuits have always been – and are still – my nemesis in the kitchen. I have always struggled to get them fully cooked and crispy but not burnt or soft and chewy like giant cookies but neither raw nor overcooked. These pressed biscuits are small enough that you can basically guarantee that you will not end up with a raw centre (unless you underbake them which I have been known to do when I’m desperately trying not to brown the biscuits too much).

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This is the biscuit press!

The biscuit press that I use was my grandma’s and it still works brilliantly. They are absolutely worth investing in because they are not that expensive and, although you may not use them every week, when you need them these presses are invaluable – you can churn out hundreds of identical biscuits with very little effort. Most presses have a single or double setting on them. This basically dictates the size of the finished biscuits but it is worth having a play with yours to get used to it as if the dough is too soft, the double setting on the press can end up with blurry, smudged looking biscuits. It’s a classic example of just getting to know your equipment for the best results.

My biscuit recipe is a classic sugar cookie dough. This is probably the simplest form of biscuit you can make as there are no added flavours or ingredients that could affect the final outcome, it is just flour, butter, sugar, egg and vanilla… (also salt). Lots of recipes use different proportions of these ingredients to get the same style of biscuit so don’t be worried if your personal recipe is slightly different – the changes are usually very minor. Some recipes also use a raising agent however I feel that, if you beat your butter and sugar enough, there is plenty of air whipped into the mixture allowing the biscuits to rise a little and spread in the oven – ensuring that all the different sections are connected – but not so much that all definition from the biscuit press shape is lost. There is also a mindset that you should use icing sugar for this style of biscuit. It would make sense as Viennese whirls use icing sugar for their sweetness but the dough for this recipe has to be considerably tougher than that used for the whirls if only because it has to snap when you lift up the press, it cannot stretch into trails, you want the strands of biscuit to break cleanly leaving a beautiful, pressed result.

For flavoured biscuits, you can replace the vanilla with any sort of other extract or you could replace a couple of tablespoons of flour with cocoa, matcha, or some instant coffee powder for a colourful flavoured biscuit. You can even combine complementary flavours of dough in the press to get a beautiful, marbled result.

 

Pressed Biscuits (Spritz biscuits)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes three to five sheets of biscuits depending on the size

 

335g butter

225g sugar

450g flour (for chocolate biscuits, replace 40g flour with cocoa)

1 egg

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180°C)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

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Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.

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Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined – if you overwork the mixture, the biscuits will be tough.

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Set up your biscuit press according to its instructions.

Select the piped shaped you want at the end and fill the press with one quarter of the dough.

Press the dough through onto a baking sheet to cover it in mini biscuits. It may take a bit of practice with your machine to work out which setting gives the best results. I have found on mine that for some shapes, a single click is enough but for others, you really need the double.

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Bake the biscuits for ten minutes.

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These are chocolate, not a burnt version of the last picture!

Allow to cool for a minute to harden up and then transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.

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These biscuits will stay fresh for a few days if you keep them in an airtight box so don’t feel the need to eat them immediately…. or do eat them, no judgement here. I would not blame you!

 

If you are a fan of biscuits and fancy trying something a little bit more intricate than these, why not have a go at making my checkerboard biscuits? They look really cool and are a fantastic mix of vanilla and chocolate flavours.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a vegetarian treat.

H

Chocolate and Raspberry Caramel Bone Cake

After last year’s nauseating brain cake (check out how to make it here), and the spider cake that followed it (not for the arachnophobic among you), I thought I would tone down the horror of this year’s Halloween cake – not least because I still have to travel in public with it. So, of course, I made a cake with lots of broken bones oozing red goo stuck around it. It does not provoke the same level of visceral disgust as its predecessors but I definitely would not view it as plain – there is still an element of gore which is impossible to ignore.

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I have always classed myself as pretty squeamish. I cannot stand watching people get hurt, surgery, pimple popping etc. – it makes me feel faintly sick and go remarkably white (so I am told). I can just about deal with seeing things after the event – blood, autopsied bodies on tv – but watching it actually happen… that’s a no from me. For this reason, I feel that I have nailed a gore cake when it starts to elicit feelings of revulsion from me, its creator.

Squeamishness isn’t actually associated with seeing open wounds and that kind of thing but is actually a description of the feeling which they induce. As a result, the feelings of unease, nausea and even induction of vomiting can be caused by a great many things from watching someone get cut open on tv to seeing certain insects. There is, however, a phobia present in around 3% of the population which has the same symptoms as the squeamish response but is specifically caused by seeing blood, injections/needles and injury. I don’t think I have this because I can deal with blood and I have never fainted at the idea of needles (although I couldn’t go as far as saying that I am totally ok with having a piece of metal stuck into me, it’s not my idea of a good time).

I’ve always viewed my uneasiness around bones as one of those things that is completely natural because we shouldn’t actually be looking at bones, right? They should be safe and sound, wrapped in layers of muscle and connective tissue, all covered in skin; so seeing a large piece of bone – or large quantity of blood – means that something has gone very wrong. There is no reason to have your bones on display other than showing your teeth to someone.

This cake didn’t start cause me discomfort until I began to add the blood to the bones. The wet, fresh look really adds to the revulsion caused but that is a good thing! Normally I like my cakes to look so neat that people don’t want to cut them but when it’s Halloween, I like to go for the “this cake is so horrifying that no one can get near enough to cut it” approach.

Good luck making your cake gory as hell and have a fab Halloween (if you do that kind of thing – if you don’t, I hope you get left in peace all evening).

 

 

Chocolate and Raspberry Caramel Bone Cake

Time: 4+ hours

 

For the bones:

3 egg whites

175g caster sugar

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract – optional

 

For the cake: (a batch of my devil’s food cake recipe)

75g cocoa

150g brown sugar

1 ½ cups (375ml) boiling water

180g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

340g plain flour

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¾ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

 

For the raspberry caramel:

200g raspberries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)

80ml double cream

280g sugar

2 tbsp glucose syrup (or another 20g sugar)

25g butter

 

To fill:

520ml double cream

Raspberry coulis (optional)

 

 

Make the meringue bones:

Preheat your oven to gas mark ½ (85-90°C). (If your oven won’t get that low, select the lowest setting and then wedge the door slightly open with a wooden spoon.)

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are achieved.

Whisk in the salt and cream of tartar.

Add the sugar a spoon at a time until it is all incorporated and has dissolved fully in the egg white. You can check this by rubbing a little meringue between your fingers to see if it feels gritty.

If you are using it, whisk in the vanilla now.

Load the meringue into a piping bag and pipe bone shapes onto a baking sheet.

Bake for one and a half to two hours and then turn the oven off and leave the meringues inside to cool.

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Once cool, box up the meringues in an airtight box and set aside.

 

Make the caramel (as this will have to be cold before it can be used).

To make the raspberry caramel, blend the raspberries with the cream – if you don’t have a blender, you can use a potato masher.

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Strain through a mesh sieve and use a spoon to push as much of the cream through the sieve as possible leaving only a little raspberry pulp behind which can be discarded – you should have just under a cup of raspberry cream.

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Place the sugar, glucose syrup and a quarter of a cup of water into a pan.

Place this on a high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

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Allow the sugar to boil unstirred until it reaches a dark golden colour.

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Pour the raspberry cream into the sugar. BE CAREFUL because the water in the cream will flash boil and could splatter a little.

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Stir the cream through and add the butter.

Boil this for another three or four minutes to make sure the caramel will be thick.

Pour into a heatproof container, cover and leave to cool.

 

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3.

Grease and line three eight-inch tins with butter, cocoa and baking parchment.

Place the brown sugar and cocoa into a bowl and pour the hot water over them. Stir until combined.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a separate bowl.

Add one egg and a spoon of flour and beat to combine.

Repeat with the other eggs to mix them in.

Add the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder along with half of the remaining flour.

Turn the mixer onto slow to avoid covering the kitchen in a cloud of flour.

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Once this flour is almost fully mixed in, add the rest of the flour and beat again to combine.

Finally, pour in the liquid chocolate from earlier and slowly mix together until you have a smooth, glossy, chocolatey batter.

Divide this batter between the tins and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cakes have risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

Turn the cakes out onto a wire cooling rack and leave until they are cold.

 

 

Once the cakes are cool, you can begin to assemble.

Whip the remaining cream to hard peaks (be careful not to overwhip as it will become butter).

Place a slice of cake onto your cake board and top with around a quarter of the whipped cream.

Drizzle over a couple of spoons of raspberry caramel.

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Add the next layer of cake and repeat before topping with the final layer of cake.

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Spread a thin layer of cream over the top and sides of the cake.

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Arrange the meringue bones around the outside of the cake. You can snap them in places to give a slightly jagged effect if you want.

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Drizzle some of the remaining raspberry caramel and raspberry coulis to give the bones and cake a more bloody appearance.

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Serve.

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If you are not eating this cake immediately, it must be kept in the fridge as it has a large quantity of cream and you do not want it to go bad!

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I love doing themed cakes and I had seen a couple of bone based cakes on the internet so decided to give it a try myself. Let me know if you have a go and how it turns out!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a nice, simple dish with a good amount of chilli.

H

Bulgar Wheat and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

What is a salad? It sounds like a simple question but have a think. Does potato salad (cooled boiled potatoes in a mayonnaise/yoghurt based dressing with the occasional onion) have any relation to the recipe below other than the fact that neither are served hot? If you look on the internet for the definition of a salad, you will find many different answers. Personally, I like the description of pieces of food, ready to eat, that are small enough not to need any more cutting, with a dressing of some description. This happily encompasses most salads that I have come across in the past and also describes both this salad and the aforementioned potato one too.

Using bulgar as the base of a salad is something I would never have thought of doing until a couple of years ago when I helped with preparation for a party and was asked to make the recipe which this is based on – Mary Berry’s Herbed Quinoa and Bulgar Wheat Salad with Lemon and Pomegranate. That recipe is delicious and I would recommend trying it. The recipe below is close but not the same as I ate this quite a lot at university and ingredients like chives and pomegranate syrup (or molasses) were not easily available without driving out of the city. This led to a couple of ingredients being removed from the recipe, a few proportions being tweaked (because I love sun dried tomatoes and feta) and more dressing being included because I love this dressing. I also started substituting some of the olive oil in the dressing with the sun-dried tomato oil because I didn’t want to waste it and sun-dried tomatoes are not exactly student friendly when it comes to budgeting.

I feel as though I believed all salads were leaf based with lettuce, spinach, cabbage etc. forming the main constituent of the dish. I had ignored things like pasta and potato salad because I cannot stand mayonnaise and both of them tend to be coated with the stuff. It seems odd that I never thought much about this because I have known what Israeli salad is for a long time and I just classed the word “salad” as part of the name and not a description of the dish itself. Of course carbs like cous-cous or bulgar or barley (I’ve seen that one before) can be used as the base of salads. They turn the salad from a side dish into the main course as the carbohydrates help fill you up. They also tend to have lots of herbs and flavour which makes them wonderful to eat.

The recipe with today’s post does not contain either cucumber or raw tomato which is one of the reasons I like it so much. It proves you can have a delicious salad without either of them which is important as I feel that most people view both cucumber and tomato as staple ingredients in a salad. They do not have to be!

Let me know what you think if you try this one for yourself.

 

 

 

Bulgar Wheat and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Work time: 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking and cooling time: 2 hours

 

300g bulgar wheat and quinoa (most stores now sell these mixed but if you can’t find that, just mix the two together with a 1:1 ratio)

150g drained sun-dried tomatoes (keep the oil they come in as this will be used later)

150g feta

Seeds of half a pomegranate

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped mint

2 tbsp chopped basil

3 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp honey

1 ½ tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tbsp sun dried tomato oil

 

Cook the quinoa and bulgar wheat mix according to the packet instructions. Tip into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the cooled carbs.

Crumble the feta into the bowl and gently stir everything together.

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Sprinkle over the herbs and the pomegranate seed and stir again.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey and both oils before pouring this all over the salad.

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Season with a little salt and pepper. Mix again and serve.

This can be stored for a few days in the fridge but make sure that the herbs don’t go off as they will be the limiting factor.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I don’t have any other similar recipes to this uploaded yet but I hope to pup some more up in the future. If you are interested in other dishes that work well as a cold lunch, check out my recipe ginger tofu – it’s packed with flavour, is easy to make and if you follow a plant based diet, you will be happy to know that it is completely vegan.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with some sort of meringue-based treat.

H

Sourdough Pizza

I finally bought a pizza stone a couple of months ago after restraining myself for years. I had never cooked with one but they are supposed to make your pizza better and I had been having issues with a soggy and undercooked pizza crust for quite some time. The result? Crispy crust, quick cooking time, all round better pizza in my opinion.

Question: what is a pizza stone? Answer: it is a relatively simple way of recreating the conditions found inside a pizza oven without having to go out and build yourself a new, extraordinarily expensive piece of kit. The moment the dough hits the stone, it is exposed to a huge amount of heat which makes the yeast go crazy giving a super puffy, air-filled crust. The pizza stone retains its heat well so the addition of a (comparatively) cold pizza on top of it does little to lower its overall temperature. This causes the base of the pizza to cook fully and quickly, giving a solid, crisp base that will not be soggy. Any sections of dough which may be a little wet quickly dry, as the pizza stone is porous and thus pulls moisture out of the base of the crust again leading to a crispier base… I think there may be a pattern here. Basically, this can all be summed up as: the pizza stone ensures the crust is cooked quickly and properly and – most importantly – fully before the toppings begin to burn.

I have used metal trays for baking pizza and, while they do work, the best method I know still involves preheating the tray and then transferring the pizza onto it. Unlike the stone, metal is not porous, so any steam which may escape through the base of the pizza is trapped against the dough – causing it to be reabsorbed and softening the dough. Some methods of cooking use both a pizza stone and a metal sheet. The pizza goes on the preheated sheet and the stone rests on a wire rack directly above the pizza. Again, this is recreating the conditions of a pizza oven where extreme heat is being blasted at the pizza from all directions, the base of the oven, the roof, even the walls all help cook the pizza.

When it comes to hand stretching dough, I have found that the best way to learn is watching online tutorials. Written instructions are ok but it is so much easier when you can see what is going on. It may split the first time… or the second… or even once you think you know what is going on but this is fine – I just stitch it all back together and after the cheese is added, no one will be able to tell. Stretching the dough by hand, in my experience, is the best way to get a puffy crust on the pizza. When you stretch it, the dough from the centre of the pizza is slowly transferred to the outside. This can weaken the centre of the pizza though so make sure to keep an eye on it and if any bits seem dangerously thin, try and avoid stretching them any more than necessary.

Sourdough pizza (like normal sourdough bread) takes time and you need to plan ahead if you want to eat it. Luckily, the majority of the time needed is resting and proving so it is not too time consuming when you are actually making it. I prefer the taste of sourdough bases but let me know what you think if you try it. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can always make your own or you could get some from a friend. I am sure there will be someone in your local area with one who would be happy to donate a little to you.

 

 

Sourdough pizza:

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Rest time: 16 hours

 

To reactivate the starter:

½ cup sour dough starter

1 cup strong white flour

1 cup water

 

For the dough:

75ml water

500g flour

2 tbsp olive oil

10g salt

 

For toppings: tomato passata, mozzarella, any other toppings of your choice

 

Mix the starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Cover and leave overnight. You can use the starter straight from the fridge, no need to warm it up as that is what this step will do.

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After sitting overnight, the starter should be very bubbly.

 

In the morning, add the flour for the dough, 25ml water and oil to the reactivated starter. Mix until it forms a shaggy mess – it need not all stick together at this point. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

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Sprinkle over the salt and the rest of the water and knead to combine.

Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

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Cover and leave to rise for six or seven hours. I would set this up before work and leave it in a cool place throughout the day.

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About an hour before making the pizzas, split the dough into four and shape each quarter into a ball. Cover and leave again for half an hour to let the gluten relax.

 

Place a pizza stone into the oven and turn your oven to the highest setting (mine is gas mark 9 at around 250°C). ALLOW THIS TO HEAT UP FOR AT LEAST HALF TO THREE-QUARTERS OF AN HOUR.

Take one of the balls of dough and flatten it using your fingertips. Stretch the dough until it is the same size as your stone. This can be done by picking it up at the edge and rotating the dough so its own weight stretches it. This ensures the dough in the middle of the pizza is nice and thin and the edges are a bit thicker so you get a good crust. You could also use a rolling pin if it is easier for you.

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Spread the tomato paste out from the centre until it is half an inch from the outside of the dough.

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Grate/thinly slice the mozzarella and sprinkle it over the pizza. Top with your favourite toppings.

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Using a single, swift motion slide a peel underneath the pizza. (A peel is just a large, flat paddle. It might be worth practicing getting the pizza onto and off of the peel before you add the toppings (as in when it is just the base)). You cannot build the pizza on the peel as it will stick if it is left there too long. If you do not have a peel (like me) you could use a cake lifter or even make the pizza on baking parchment and slide this parchment from a normal baking tray onto the pizza stone.

By gently shaking the peel, slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for five to ten minutes (depending on your oven temperature). When the pizza is done, it should be able to be tilted by lifting up one side as the base will be cooked and a little crispy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you would like to have a go at normal, non-sourdough pizza, check out my recipe. The crust is super light and fluffy and it tastes amazing. I have been known to lightly brush the outer crust (without the toppings) with garlic oil and give it a sprinkle of sea salt for extra flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious sweet treat.

H

 

 

Vegetarian Dumplings

The biggest issue I have faced when creating vegetarian dumplings is that the filling does not stick together. When meat is cooked, the pieces bind together as they cook but this does not happen with vegetables. You can buy an enzyme called transglutaminase which will bind meat together when it cooks and can be used to make some very Frankenstein-esque meals, but no such thing exists for vegetables (as far as I am aware). The best way I have come across to bind fillings together is by using egg and flour. Both of these will help prevent your filling from tumbling out of the dumpling after you take a bite.

These dumplings fall under the heading of potstickers. This means that have been steam-fried. The dumplings are first lightly fried on the belly (the plump base away from the pleats) before water or broth is added and they are covered and allowed to steam. Once all the liquid has been absorbed the dumplings are again cooked uncovered, allowing the base to crisp up again to provide a wonderful contrast of textures. The dumplings should be cooked in a non-stick pan because I can guarantee that, if they are cooked in a regular pan, they will stick and tear. You could also cook them in a steamer or plain boil them – both of these methods work – but I think they are far nicer if the base is crispy.

There is some disagreement about overcrowding the pan when making potstickers. If the dumplings are pushed up against each other they will lightly adhere to their neighbours. This means that you can flip out the entire pan of potstickers onto a plate and they will stay in their beautiful formation. The counterargument is that, when the dumplings stick together, they will then tear when you try to serve them. This has never been too much of an issue for me – I find that they generally come apart without tearing and you can serve the entire batch on a central plate and people can take what they want. I have even seen recipes when people add seasoned cornflour water to the pan which cooks and crisps up a layer on the base of the frying pan and dumplings, which really does stick everything together and results in a more “tear’n’share” kind of meal.

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Of course you can use any filling you like with this cooking method. I used to eat a lot of turkey dumplings at university because the minced turkey was often reduced in shops, meaning that the meal was incredibly cheap – we are talking one to two pounds per person. I am also partial to beef dumplings but I do find that the quality of the minced beef is really noticeable in the final product. Pork and cabbage or kimchi is another popular filling, as is shrimp, so you can see how versatile these dumplings can be.

Let me know how you get on if you try them as I love hearing about your cooking!

 

 

 

Vegetarian Dumplings

Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

 

400g firm tofu

2 bunches spring onions

5 garlic cloves

1 inch peeled ginger

1 medium heat chilli (or more if you prefer)

1 medium carrot

Half a cabbage

150g mushrooms

1 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp plain flour

1 egg

A couple of grinds of black pepper

1 tsp salt

Two packets of dumpling skins

 

Crumble the tofu into a sieve and then gently press on it to squeeze out lots of the liquid. You will get a good third to half a cup of liquid out of the tofu. Tip this squeezed tofu into a large bowl.

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Finely chop the spring onion, chilli and mushrooms and add these to the tofu.

Finely slice the cabbage, grate the carrot and add to the rest of the veg.

Grate the ginger and the garlic into the vegetable mix.

Whisk together the egg, soy sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, cornflour, salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mix over the vegetables and tofu and use your hands to mix until everything is coated.

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Fill your dumpling skins and pleat the edges. For instructions on how to pleat properly, see my recipe for beef dumplings. You can also just fold them over and crimp the edges with a fork if you don’t want to go to the effort of pleating the entire batch.

 

Pour a thin layer of a oil to the bottom of a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. MAKE SURE THIS FRYING PAN HAS A LID FOR THE NEXT STEPS.

Add the dumplings to the pan belly side down. Try to pack the dumplings in so they are touching each other. Overcrowding is not an issue!

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Fry for three minutes until the base of the dumplings are a deep golden brown.

Pour in 100ml water and cover immediately. Be careful as this water will spit when it hits the pan.

Cook covered for about three to five minutes until the water is fully absorbed into the dumplings. The skins should have started to turn translucent. If they haven’t, add another few tablespoons of water and cook again.

You want to make sure the pan has basically boiled dry as this will allow the bases of the dumplings to crisp up again.

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To serve, place a large plate upside down over the pan and quickly invert the frying pan to flip the dumplings onto the plate.

 

For a delicious dipping sauce, allow people to mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli sauce (I use sriracha) in a little ramekin to make their own personal sauce.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of dumplings, check out my recipe for the beef variety and you can even use my turkey burger filling in them!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for an absolutely stunningly good tart (and it’s even vegan – but you wouldn’t know from the taste).

H

Decadent Mushroom Pasta Bake

This post marks the end of the second year of That Cooking Thing’s existence. When I started back in August of 2017 I had no idea that I would still be creating weekly recipes two years later. Many blogs seem to fizzle out within a few months of their inception and, to be honest, that is kind of what I expected to happen with this one. I was going into the Master’s year of my undergraduate degree and really didn’t have the time to spend writing weekly posts and making pretty dishes for the Instagram but here we are – procrastination is a powerful motivator for things you do not have time to do. I am now coming towards the end of my second degree and even with the working life looming ahead I hope to continue this blog for the foreseeable future.

I thought that it would be nice to revisit an old recipe and jazz it up for the final post of the year. This recipe was the second savoury one I posted: a chicken and mushroom pasta bake. I like to think that I have come on in my techniques and cooking ability since then, and this updated recipe hopefully shows that. The biggest difference from the original recipe is that this one is vegetarian; there is no chicken to be found in this dish. You could, of course, add chicken if you so wished and it would still taste excellent, but with the growing number of vegetarians and vegans in the world I like to make sure that my recipes are as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. I still eat meat (although with the current political climate and possibility of a significant change in the UK’s food standards, I cannot say that this will not change in the near future) but lots of people don’t and I like to make recipes which do not come across as meaty ones that have just had the chicken or beef etc. removed. Vegetarian recipes should not need meat to be delicious!

Instead of a stock and cornflour-based sauce, the sauce for this bake is based around mushroom paste. The first thing you do is blend mushrooms until they are almost a puree (a far finer chop than you would use to make a duxelle) and then cook them to drive off all the liquid and really intensify the mushroom flavour. This mushroom paste, when mixed with cream cheese, will become the base of the sauce. It should be noted that this sauce can be put on anything you like – it doesn’t have raw egg or cornflour so you can just eat it as it is. You could even serve it as a mushroom pate! The remainder of the mushrooms are then cooked down and the liquid they release is collected and stirred into the sauce to slacken it. All this liquid will be absorbed into the pasta when it cooks in the oven giving it a far stronger mushroomy flavour. I went a bit wild and bought some posh woodland mushrooms for this as I wanted it to be a bit celebratory and didn’t want to use just the standard mushrooms but obviously the recipe does work just as well with those.

Cheese is an important part of this dish. Whilst most pasta bakes have a crust of cheese on top, this one also has chunks of mozzarella stirred into it so when the bake comes out of the oven and is served, all of the stringy goodness can be seen and it is really satisfying finding a big blob of cheese in the middle of your portion. Other cheeses could be added too: goat’s cheese works well with mushrooms, parmesan is always welcome in this kind of dish and cheddar is good too if you don’t want to go out and buy special cheese just for this. The final decoration on top of the cheese crust – finely chopped parsley and basil – is sprinkled over the bake after it comes out of the oven. This prevents the herbs from burning but also means that the aroma isn’t driven off during cooking. The heat from the pasta bake will wilt the herbs and cause them to release their fragrances before propelling the smell of fresh basil through the room as the herbs heat up.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog so far and that you use the recipes. If you do, let me know in the comments or tag me on Instagram @thatcookingthing – you could also use #thatcookingthing because I seem to have commandeered the hashtag. If you have friends who would like these recipes, let them know about the blog because I would love to help and inspire more people in the kitchen.

See you next week for the third year of That Cooking Thing!

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Decadent Mushroom Pasta Bake

Serves 5-6

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients

750g mushrooms

1 large onion

50g cream cheese

20g parmesan

400g mozzarella

1 mushroom stock cube

4 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic

30 ml milk (optional)

250-300g pasta

5 grinds black pepper (or more to taste)

3 large basil leaves & a few sprigs parsley

 

 

In the bowl of a food processor, blend 250g of the mushrooms with half an onion, two cloves of garlic and 60ml water until it is a thick paste (it doesn’t have to be fully pureed).

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Pour this out into a large pan and cook until the majority of the liquid has boiled off (about 10 minutes). It should be rather sludgy at this point.

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Tip the mushroom paste into a bowl and add the cream cheese. Stir to combine.

Finely chop the rest of the onion and sauté it in a pan with the remaining oil.

While the onion is cooking, chop the remaining mushrooms into quarters (or sixths depending on their size).

Once the onion turns translucent, add the mushrooms and another 60ml water. Cover with the lid of the pan and leave to simmer for five minutes. Give the mushrooms a stir and let them cook for another five minutes.

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While the mushrooms are cooking, start cooking the pasta. You want to take it off the heat and drain it about two minutes before the packet says it will be done as it will continue to cook in the oven and you don’t want it turn mushy.

Drain the liquid from the cooking mushrooms into the mushroom paste and stir it through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. This will become the sauce.

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Once you are happy with the seasoning, stir in the cooked mushrooms.

Grate two thirds of the mozzarella and chop the rest into 1cm cubes. Finely grate the parmesan. Set the cheese aside.

Drain the pasta and stir through the sauce.

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Allow to cool for a minute and then stir through the chunks of mozzarella, the parmesan and half of the grated mozzarella. Do not stir it too long as the heat of the pasta will start to melt the cheese. You just want it evenly distributed.

Tip the pasta into a greased dish and top with the rest of the mozzarella.

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Bake for 40 minutes at gas mark 6 (200°C) until the top of the bake has turned golden and crispy.

Finely slice some fresh basil and parsley and sprinkle this over the top once the pasta bake is removed from the oven. The heat of the bake will cause the herbs to release their oils and the aroma will come out without the herbs drying and burning as they would in the oven.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. I have made this several times recently because it is just so good! I also take it for lunches because it tastes fab cold as well as hot. If you like mushrooms, you should have a look at my mushroom carbonara dish as it is amazing – you could even make your own fresh pasta for it.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with an amazing recipe for a truly celebratory cake.

H