Challenge No. 28 – Pizza

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love pizza! My dad is a pizza supplier and there was always a lot of pizza in the house growing up, so much so that I think my brother and I perhaps share a slightly unhealthy love for pizza.  If I had to choose one meal to live on for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure it would be pizza.  So when my mum suggested this as one of the challenges, I thought it was brilliant.

I had a quick search online and found a recipe for a mozzarella and pesto pizza with homemade base and sauce.  I used different toppings but the dough and sauce recipe was just perfect for what I wanted.  So to make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:-

  • 500g bread flour (plus more for kneading)
  • 1tbsp salt
  • 330ml tepid water   
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp golden sugar
  • 1 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 tsp of oregano
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp of salt

Edited - ingredients

I started by sifting my flour and salt into a large bowl and then made a well in the centre.

Edited - well

I mixed the water, oil and sugar together and then added the yeast.  I gave it a good mix and waited 3 minutes before pouring the mixture into my flour well.

Edited - premixing

I used a metal spoon to slowly stir the flour into the liquid until it was well combined. I ended up having to add a little bit more water as it seemed a bit too dry.  I just added a few drops at a time until it came together as a relatively sticky dough.

I floured my work top and tipped out the dough ball.  I gave it a good knead for about 10 minutes until it was smooth and springy.  I popped it in a clean bowl which I had covered with a fine coating of flour, sprinkled some flour on top of the dough and then I covered the bowl with a damp tea towel.  I put the bowl in the hottest part of my flat, in front of the working tumble dryer and set the timer for 1 hour.

Edited - ready to proove

Practical tip: in case you missed Challenge No. 16, remember to develop your own method of kneading.  This may sound silly but when I first starting making bread, I tried to replicate other people’s kneading styles.  Unfortunately, I have bad joints, particularly bad in my hands and I found it painful to use some of the methods I’d seen on TV.  Instead I found I rolled and stretched the dough between my two hands, using more of the heel of my hand than my fingers.  It takes a little longer for me to knead like this but I always get there in the end and it is less painful 🙂 So find a method that works for you and just go with that.

Whilst the dough was proving, I set about making the pizza sauce.  I drained the juices from the tinned tomatoes and popped the leftover tomatoes into a jug.  I added the oregano, garlic and salt and then blitzed it with my handheld mixer.  The smell was absolutely beautiful and instantly reminded me of a lovely fresh cooked Italian pizza!  Just what you want from a pizza sauce 🙂

Edited - pizza sauce Edited - blended sauce

When the timer went off for my dough,  I turned the oven on to 220 degrees celsius and put in two tray upside down.  According to the recipe I found, this helps crisp up the base of the pizza.

I tipped out the dough onto a well floured surface and divided the mixture into 4 equal balls.  I took the first one a kneaded it for about 5 minutes until it felt right to start stretching.  I gave it a bit of a roll with the rolling pin and then decided that, if I am making pizza, I’m going to do it properly…so I started throwing it in the air, spinning it into a flat oval.  It kind of worked too!! I still had to give it a bit of a stretch to get it to the right size but I soon had a base ready to be topped.  I popped it onto some floured foil and got started on the toppings.

Edited - ball of doughEdited - flat dough

Practical tip: this recipe makes 4 pizza bases.  If you don’t want to eat all four at once, just knead and shape any extra dough.  Layered the extra bases together with foil to separate them and then pop them in the freezer for another day.

I made Dave’s pizza first and added some sauce before layering up some grated cheddar, pepperoni slices, ham slices, some barbecue chicken, some pulled mozzarella and then a drizzle of chilli oil.

Edited - 4

Practical tip: don’t cut your mozzarella, always pull it.  I’ll be honest I don’t know why this is but its something my dad always says to do when topping a pizza and having been in the industry for a long time, I’m inclined to listen to him 🙂

With Dave’s pizza put to one side, I took the next ball of dough to knead and stretch into my base.  I topped it with some of the sauce and then added my ingredients.  I covered a quarter of the pizza with goats cheese, a quarter with gorgonzola, a quarter with mozzarella and a quarter with a cheddar/parmesan mix.   I then topped it all with ham and some chilli oil.

Edited - ham

I put each pizza onto one of the heated trays and put them in the oven.  I set the timer for 8 minutes and when this went off, I broke an egg into the centre of my pizza.  Trust me, don’t knock this until you have tried it. Egg on a pizza is one of life’s little food secrets that no-one should miss out on (although Dave still wont try it!).

I let the pizzas cook for another couple of minutes and then decided they needed a little longer.  I hadn’t made my bases quite as thin as the recipe suggests and I know Dave prefers his pizza slightly overdone.  I ended up cooking the pizzas for about 16 minutes in total and this was just about right for us.

Edited - DA done Edited - done2

These were absolutely amazing!  They was much less greasy than a takeaway pizza and I’m amazed at how simple it was to do.  Once I’ve used the 2 extra bases I have in the freezer, I will definitely be making some more.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 29 – panda cupcakes (gluten free).

Challenge No. 27 – Knickerbocker Glory

This challenge was suggested by Dave, my better half.  We will be celebrating our 7 year anniversary this weekend and a common theme throughout our relationship has been Dave saying “what you’ve never tried/seen/heard this or that”.  Until Dave, I hadn’t tried hotdogs from a tin or corned beef, I hadn’t seen The Breakfast Club, ET, Jurassic Park (to name but a few films that escaped my childhood) and I’d never heard of the Smiths.  But for once, it was my turn to educate Dave; whilst he suggested this challenge, he’s never actually had a knickerbocker glory! This has now been corrected.

A knickerbocker glory was a common treat throughout my childhood and it instantly makes me think of my nan.  My brother and I used to go and stay with my nan every summer and she would always make us this yummy desert.  There was however a caveat, we could only have it if we pronounced it properly! We soon learned to say knickerbocker glory without stumbling 🙂

When I started looking for recipes to make this challenge, I realised they are all very different and really what I wanted to do was recreate my nan’s version.  I text my brother and mum to see if they could remember what was in it and after some input from them both, we decided on the following ingredients:-

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Strawberry jelly
  • Fruit (fresh or tinned cocktail mix)
  • Strawberry sauce
  • Whipped cream
  • Hundreds and thousands

Edited - ingredients

I always remember my nan using tinned fruit cocktail, although I think she would use fresh fruit if she had some in.  I opted for the tinned fruit because this is what came to mind when I tried to remember my nan’s version 🙂

I also cheated a little and used shop bought ice cream but if you’re feeling adventures why not check out Challenge 19 to see how to make ice cream from scratch without an ice cream maker! Just leave out the rum and raisins, unless you want a more adult version of the knickerbocker glory.

Another important aspect of the knickerbocker glory is the serving dish.  I didn’t have anything suitable at home so popped out and bought some special glasses which reminded me of the ones my nan used to use.

Anyway, with all the elements ready, I started building my knickerbocker glory.  Firstly, I added a little bit of ice cream.

Edited - layer 1

Then I added some jelly.

Edited - layer 2

Next up I added some fruit (I drained off the liquid first).

Edited - layer 3

I then put in a little strawberry sauce.  I added more ice cream, jelly and fruit to fill to the top of the glass.

Finally, I added my whipped cream, topped it with some more sauce and then sprinkled over a handful of hundreds.

Edited - done2

Doesn’t it look pretty! 🙂

Now I know this didn’t take much skill but it does hold so many fond memories for me that it was nice to be able to share it with Dave.  He loved it by the way, although he managed to get in a right mess trying to eat it!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 28 – homemade pizza.  I hope to see you then.


Challenge No. 24 – Scotch Eggs

This is another dish suggested by my wonderfully supportive mum. I was back in Peterborough at the weekend and I thought a bit of mother daughter bonding in the kitchen would be fun; so I suggested we make the scotch eggs together.  I started doing a bit of research and all the recipes I found involved deep frying the scotch eggs.  I didn’t really want to do this and I had a vague recollection of previously making oven baked ones in my high school cooking class. Luckily my mum is very organised and has a folder with all my old recipes in so she had a look and found the scotch egg one.

Taking inspiration from a recipe on BBC GoodFood, I’ve updated my school recipe slightly and to make my version of the scotch eggs you will need the following ingredients:-

  • 11 eggs
  • 1,300g sausage meat
  • 3 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp english powder
  • Salt and Pepper to season
  • 5 rashers smoked streaky bacon*
  • Approximately 50g plain flour
  • Approximately 150g golden breadcrumbs

*My soon-to-be-sister-in-law doesn’t like bacon so I made half the scotch eggs without the bacon so Nikki could try some 🙂

Edited - ingredients

The above ingredients will make 10 scotch eggs, 5 of which will include the bacon.

Now, I have a quick confession to make before we get started.  Before I attempted this challenge, I had never boiled an egg before! Yep, at the age of 26, I had never cooked a soft or hard boiled egg.  I’ve previously made scotch eggs but my mum got the ingredients ready, including providing me with hard boiled eggs.  At the weekend, I confessed this embarrassing fact to my mum who was deeply ashamed but laughed at my expense. 

So, on with my first attempt at cooking a hard boiled egg.  I put 10 of the eggs into a pan and filled it with cold water, making sure the eggs were sufficiently covered.  I then popped the pan on a medium heat and put the lid on to bring the water to a boil.  Once the water was bubbling away, I set the timer for 5 minutes.  When the timer went off, I decided to give them another minute and then plunged them into cold water.

Edited - eggs in the pan

Practical tip: to check whether the eggs are done, take one out of the water and if the water evaporates quickly it will be done.  if the water takes a while to disappear, give the eggs a little longer. (This tip was provided my mum 🙂 )   

While the eggs were cooking, I had prepared the sausage meat.  I put the meat into a bowl and added the worcestershire sauce, mustard powder and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I then mixed it up.  I tried to use a spoon but this just didn’t work so I got a bit messy and used my hand – this was actually really fun! 

Edited - sausage meat and ingredients

With the sausage meat ready and the eggs cooled, I set about peeling the eggs by gently tapping them on the worktop to break the shell and then pealing it off.  I dipped each pealed egg into a bowl of water to make sure all the bits of shell were washed off. 

Edited - pelled eggs

Next up, I cooked the bacon rashers.  The recipe on BBC GoodFood said to bring a pan of water to the boil and then to drop in the rashers, turn off the heat and then remove the rashers using tongs by which time they will have cooked.  I did exactly as the recipe said and I have to be honest both me and mum were amazed that this worked! Such a quick and neat way to cook the bacon!

Edited - cooked bacon

I then set up the ‘stations’ for the next stage of the recipe.  I put my eggs on one plate, bacon on another, some plain flour into a shallow bowl and I measured out 10 spoonfuls of the sausage meat mixture onto a chopping board. 

Edited - meat portions

I started with the non-bacon scotch eggs and rolled the eggs into the flour, shaking off any excess.  I then took one ball of the sausage meat mixture and squashed it flat onto the palm of my hand before adding the floured egg.  I worked the meat round the egg until it was fully encased and put it to one side as I carried on.

Edited - step 1

To make the bacon scotch eggs, I wrapped the bacon around the egg before rolling it in the flour and then adding the sausage meat mixture casing.

Edited - bacon wrapped eggs

Practical tip: make sure the sausage meat mixture is sealed all the way round the egg to ensure it doesn’t break open in the oven. I didn’t quite manage this with all of them and I had a few breakers but it just makes them look more homemade 😉

Next up it was time to add the breadcrumb coating.  If your kitchen is big enough, you could do this in with the last stage by just adding two more bowls to the ‘stations’ – one with a beaten egg in and one with breadcrumbs.  I was making these in my mums kitchen which had the benefit of size, however, as I needed to take photo’s and this gets a bit messy, I thought it best to do this bit as a separate step.

Practical tip: to avoid waste, don’t put all the breadcrumbs into the bowl before you start.  Just add a small layer and top up as necessary.

Edited - stations

With all the hard boiled eggs wrapped in the sausage meat mixture, I took one at a time and rolled it in the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs before popping it onto a tray to cook in the oven.

I cooked the scotch eggs in 2 batches so I could know the difference between the ones with bacon and the ones without.  The first batch I just put on a lined baking tray, however, they went soggy on the bottom.  So the second batch, I put on a rack on the tray and these cooked a lot better.

Edited - pre oven Edited - cooked

I cooked the scotch eggs for a total of 33 minutes at 190 degrees celsius.   After 30 minutes, I turned the scotch eggs over to allow the bottoms to brown for the last 3 minutes.

Once the scotch eggs were cooled, I chopped them up and my family and I enjoyed them as a starter before a yummy BBQ in a bit of rare English sunshine.  Everyone said they were very nice…even my brother who doesn’t like hard boiled eggs tried the meat and breadcrumb element and said it was a good texture and flavour. However, I think my nan liked them the most.  At 86 her appetite is definitely not what it used to be but she kept going back for more of these scotch eggs!

Edited - on a plateEdited - chopped up 1

Personally, I thought the bacon was a nice extra and made them a little bit special.  However the ones without bacon were also lovely; so much so that I’m not sure which one I prefer – I just wanted to eat them all.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 25 – sweet potato brownies.