How to make a birthday

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When it’s for this particular muso there must be lots of instruments, lots of friends and family and lots of good food. We celebrated another year of Asher with pizza, playing and partying last week and it seemed to come off! People seemed happy and relaxed, enjoying all the different aspects of the night. The birthday boy was pretty wrapt … it may not be last birthday we celebrate like that! Special thanks to my dad for teaching me about all things yeast, including this particular recipe. I’ve even adapted his instructions here. If you would like to make some pizzas like his/ours (or really, like Donna Hays – see Issue 8, Autumn 2003 for the original recipe) read on …

Makes 3-4 thin based pizzas or 2-3 thicker based pizzas. For a family of 5 we often doubled it. 7 batches worked well for this party and there were 20-25 people.

Ingredients:
2 teasp active dry yeast
½ teasp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 ½ C Plain Flour (approx 360g) (doesn’t need to have very high Protein)
1 teasp Salt (6g)

Toppings:
Tomato pasta sauce (or a mixture of this, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste) + Bocconcini cheese + Basil leaves
Basil Pesto + pan fried chicken thighs + shaved parmesan + rosemary leaves
Dad also likes doing garlic + olive oil + rosemary leaves + parmesan and its a bit of a winner too!

Method:
1. Put yeast, sugar and water into a small in a small bowl, mix to combine. Let sit for a few minutes. Check for bubbles – if there are none, the yeast is dead and you need to find more yeast! Otherwise continue …
2. Put the salt and flour into a bigger bowl, pour in the water mixture and then mix till a dough forms. Knead this for 5-10 minutes. Divide the dough into 3-4 (2-3) balls.
3. Preheat oven to 2200C (2100C fan forced).
4. Let this rest for 30mins-2hours (if you are that patient, 30mins is fine though!). Dad says to cover with a damp cloth, I just covered mine with glad wrap. Either will be fine.
5. Roll out each one to desired shape – round or rectangular, on a floured surface if necessary. Dad says in his instructions to get them as thin as you can. I like mine a bit thicker I think, I let them stay about 1-1.5cm thick and they were great too. Depends on which result you want! Thin and crispy or thick and doughy! At this point Dad also makes a border round the edge, pressing with his fingers … its does work, I just didn’t do it this time and it was also fine. Follow your intuition!
6. Spread with desired toppings and cook for 12-15 minutes or till golden and crispy on top and toppings are looking and smelling very tasty!
7. Cut into several slices (we do rectangle pieces – a pizza cutter and or kitchen scissors work well) and share!

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Tomato and Cheese solve nearly every problem …

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… its very true. At least in my life. Even the slightly-too-sour-kind-of-like-a-brick-sourdough from a few posts ago was redeemed in the presence of tomato and cheese. This Bread and Zucchini ‘lasagna’ is mostly based on Matthew Evan’s recipe p40 in Feast Magazine, April 2014 … I did a few things differently though. It was very tasty and a wonderful example of things turning out for the best even when it didn’t seem like they could – redemption at its best!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive (or other favoured vegetable oil)
2 onions
4 garlic cloves
1lt passata
1 small bundle of basil leaves
1/2 stale loaf of chewy sourdough (or the abandoned sourdough trial loaf that was too hard to eat!)
5 zucchini (about 500g)
450g bocconcini
100g parmesan
50g light tasty cheese

Method:
1. Slice the sourdough into thin strips, dice onion finely, crush garlic and shred basil leaves. Thinly slice zucchini and bocconcini.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
3. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute till clear and the room smells delicious! Add the passata and basil and simmer for about 10 minutes or till the sauce has begun to reduce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Grease a 3L baking dish with oil and smear a little of the tomato sauce on the base. Layer the bread, sauce to soak through the bread, zucchini and then cheese – aim for three layers of ingredients. After each of the three sets of ingredients drizzle with oil and a little more salt and pepper. If you forget one layer … it still works fine! Top with parmesan and extra tasty cheese (in case you don’t quite have enough cheesy coverage) and then bake for about 25 minutes or till golden and gorgeous!
5. Enjoy the soul satisfying tomato and cheese combination with a friend and some salad!

 

Cauliflower au Gratin

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… or Cauliflower Cheese. It is originaly from the Australian Women’s Weekly Dinner Party cookbook and has become a family favourite and very yummy. The ultimate comfort food and a great way to jazz up vegetables and to make an occasion of a meal!

Ingredients:
1 small cauliflower

Béchamel sauce
60g butter
1/3 cup (40g) plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg (do this! … but if you are in a rush it is optional and will still be totally delicious!)
2 cups (500ml) milk
125g grated cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons grated parmesan

Topping
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
30g grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons of melted butter or olive oil

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
2. Cut cauliflower up into small florets. Steam or microwave till just tender.
3. Make the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan. Once it has all been melted, add the flour and cook till the flour looks a little like wet sand and the mixture begins to bubble nicely. The nutmeg can be added now.
4. Gradually add milk, stir till sauce boils and thickens. Reduce heat and cook for another minute.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Spread half the sauce over the base of an oven proof dish. Place the cauliflower pieces on top. Cover with the rest of the sauce.
7. Mix up the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the cauliflower and white sauce.
8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or till golden brown.

Playing with Shepherds Pie

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This recipe is very general because I made it a few weeks ago and it was one of those I’ll-have-a-go-at-this-and-vaguely-refer-to-a-recipe-but-mostly-just-go-for-it recipes. It worked out pretty well too! Its genesis was due to the fact that I had a packet of mince that needed cooking and some left over cooked cous cous that needed using up. My mum would be proud of me, using up ingredients I already had! Anyhow, it was my first attempt at cottage/shepherds pie and I was really pleased that it was so well received!

Ingredients:
2-3 cups cooked cous cous
500g beef mince
Olive oil for frying
1-2 onions
2 carrots
3 stalks of celery
1 cube of oxo beef stock
Worcestershire sauce to taste (1/2 a cap full perhaps … its strong!)
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
400g tin of diced tomatoes
Low fat tasty cheese to sprinkle on top
Optional: you could also add a bay leaf to the mince while its cooking or perhaps some garlic. I didn’t and was still very tasty. It’s a very flexible recipe though!

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
2. Finely dice the onion and celery. Peel and grate the carrot.
3. Heat some oil in a frypan or wok and sauté the onion till clear, add the celery and carrot and sauté till beginning to turn soft. Remove and set aside.
4. Heat a little more oil and add the beef mince to the pan, brown. Add the vegetables, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes. Cook till mince is cooked through. Check flavours (if too salty/strong, try to add more vegetables, if too mild add more tomato paste or stock or sauce).
5. Place mince in a baking dish and then crumble the cous cous over it (I did one layer, then sprinkled some cheese, and then another layer and then sprinkled more cheese … I would recommend this method!).
6. Bake till cheese has melted and turned a golden colour.
7. Serve with salad or steamed green vegetables.