Saturday, March 28, 2015

Momma mia, pizzeria!

For me, Friday night is the best part of the weekend...okay not the BEST part but it is pretty darn good. It is full of hope and promise of long mornings laying in bed for as long as humanly possible, using every single app my phone has. Afternoons of exploring the exciting, albeit tourist packed, streets of London and enjoying delicious treats the food stalls have on offer. Evenings of couch cuddles and Netflix movies with Denzel Washington saving the world from taxi driving serial killers or delving into the evils of the food industry, inevitably trying to cover the fact that I have fallen asleep through at least half of whatever we had chosen to watch.

A new Friday night tradition has developed over the past few months, pizza made from scratch. How completely original of us! Unique or not, it is a delicious way to end a long week of glitter and red pens. It has also presented a few challenges. At first I just put on anything (okay, everything) that I love that could be considered a pizza topping. This clearly failed. The importance of the base quality has also become clear. One evening I spent over an hour charring peppers, mushrooms, zucchinis, onions and egg plant, so far it was a success. However, when I put these delicious toppings on a base that was horrendous it was a total failure. My poor husband was about halfway through his first piece when his face revealed the fact that he was about to show to me the pizza which he had just managed to swallow. This pizza was sadly binned.

I am happy to report that my ability to make an edible, and now even enjoyable, pizza base has come a very long way! Our staple recipe was actually found by accident, when I only had self-raising flour left to use. This base is more like a tea biscuit and because it doesn't rise you can roll it out to get a thin crust. Side note: failing to have all crucial ingredients to make a recipe is a lifelong challenge I am currently working to overcome.  

Pizza Base

1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (Yes Mom, salt. Just use it!!!)
1/3 - 1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Create a well in the centre of the bowl, add the water and the olive oil. (Or...just put the flour, salt, water and olive oil in a bowl and start mixing. Let's be honest, on a Friday I ain't making no 'well'!) 
2. Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients, starting from the centre and working your way towards the side. (Or...using whatever spoon you happen to have clean on a Friday, or your hand if nothing else is clean.)
3. Heat the oven to 350 F. Roll the dough to 1/4" thick. Now this rolling business has proved quite tricky for me. Getting it to 1/4" is easy enough, getting it into a circle has proved to be my own personal Everest. It usually looks like a giant paint splat. Last night I spent AGES trying to make it look somewhat presentable so it wouldn't look like I made it with my toes in the photo. Don't judge, it is MUCH harder than it looks. 
4. Bake the plain base for 5-7 minutes (or whenever you realise you put it in the oven and walked off to see what Kim Kardashian was up to on E!, completely forgetting you even put something in the oven).
5. Add toppings, bake as usual.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I scream for...yogurt!!!

I have a friend at work who shares the same feelings about plastic, gmo foods and Monsanto in general and last week she regaled to me the tales of her latest cooking adventure...making yogurt! (And yes, I know to you Brits 'yogurt' is spelt wrong. But I am Canadian and therefore I think it is right). So in my next Tesco order I got some organic whole milk and set myself a new challenge in my quest to avoid all processed food products.

After looking at a few recipes online I decided to go with this one

As with most recipes I did it the "Alicia way". Aka read the recipe, do my measurements in some type of relatively comparable way and hope for the best. This method proves successful about 7 times out of 10. And the other 3 attempts are usually complete flops. Like completely and horribly inedible, with my poor husband hoping that I admit defeat before he has to somehow pretend to eat his dinner type of cooking flops. 

Alicia's version of yogurt!

- 2 pints of milk (or about 4.5 cups to the Canadians out there...remember, using the "Alicia method" means being flexible with exact measurements!)
- 1/4 cup of yogurt (or 60 ml)

I used a pot, a wooden spoon, a large bowl and an even larger pot to make an ice bath, a thermometer, a wisk, a glass measuring cup and a towel.

1. First I poured the milk into the pot, heat it on the stove until it reached 200 F, stirring frequently. Now, as this was done in the land of Alicia I used a meat thermometer (but still had a dial so worked perfectly). However my temperature measurements maxed out at 180 so I just waited for it to go above that and hoped for the best!


2. Next I took it off the heat and poured the milk into an ice bath I made with a Dutch oven filled with ice water and a larger bowl, leaving it until the milk cooked to about 115 F, give or take.

3. Then I scooped out about a cup of the warm milk and whisked in 1/4 c of the organic yogurt, finally whisking into the rest of the warm milk.

4. After that I poured the warm milk into a clean pot, put on the lid, wrapped it up in a blanket and left it beside the radiator for about 4 hours. I am still impressed that I remembered to first periodically stir the yogurt and then check it after 4 hours. Remembering that I had something waiting for hours for me is a miracle in itself!

5. Finally I put my amazing new yogurt to a large glass jar (as clearly evil plastic would ruin my beautiful new creation) and popped it in the fridge. The only thing I will do differently next time is let it sit longer to make the taste a bit stronger. All in all, I am very happy with the result!

Next challenge...cheese!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Here we go again!

Well, as is clearly obvious, I have decided to blog again. I really enjoyed blogging my misadventures when I first moved to this tea-loving nation.  However, as with most of my well-intentioned life endeavours, it got left by the wayside as life and work got busier. Now that I have given my job a slight 'tweak' I find myself with something time! I spent the first few months attempting to lower my stressed-out shoulders from my earlobes and discovering how good it feels not to have a teetering tower of dishes permanently stacked in the sink. Now it is March...and the wonders of a clean house, pressed clothes and an organized calendar have worn off and it's time to start something new! Or I suppose something old...I am going to record the wonders of my life!

Changes made to my life since last blogging:
- Married the most amazing man in a rather complex, 3-part, Scottish/Canadian DIY wedding
- Moved from Birmingham to London
- Now eat mainly organic, almost vegetarian (to be explained better in a future post!) and always as unprocessed as possible
- Bought a DSLR camera and I am currently attempting to unlock its' mysteries

I plan to blog about my London adventures, attempts at photography, our new-found healthy-eating life-style, and my love for anything DIY (as long as it doesn't take too attention span resembles a gold fish).

I hope everyone had a great weekend, fingers crossed better weather is on our way!