When I first received 30 Minute Meals for Christmas I tore through it, merrily Post-It noting all the ones that looked interesting, like the beef hash, chicken pie, black forest affogato… one that didn’t get the magic yellow sticker was his 30 minute pizza. How on earth can you get a passable pizza in 30 minutes? I was very doubtful it could work.
When the series came round I watched this episode with great interest. He serves it with three salads, and I was amazed that he kicked off by making one of those! He’s only got 30 minutes, and he’s not even using the full half hour for the pizza! Then as per usual, it was a whirlwind of chuck-it-in-the-blender and spread it into the pan. The method reminded me of Heston Blumenthal’s perfect pizza, where he starts it on a hot pan, then transfers it to the grill to finish. And Jamie’s effort looked pretty good, so I relented and gave it a Post-It note.
Then by happy coincidence Domino’s Pizza contact me and ask if I want to try making something that rivals the Spanish Sizzler. The pizza offers chorizo, roast chicken, green peppers and roquito peppers. I’ve previously taken on their Double Decadence with my own pesto pizza to great effect, so rolled my sleeves up in anticipation of another showdown.
Jamie’s dough turned out surprisingly OK. I made it a touch too thick, so next time I would reduce the flour down and add a touch more salt. But jolly nice all the same! How could I doubt the Jamie technique? The toppings themselves were a well-worn combo: spicy, meaty chorizo; milky mozzarella and the pop of tangy fennel seeds. Great!
30 minute Spanish Sizzler pizza (serves 2):
For the base:
1½ mugs of self-raising flour
½ mug tepid water
For the toppings:
150g chorizo sausage, sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 ball of mozzarella (I used Sainsbury’s Basics mozzarella and it’s perfectly good for a pizza topping)
For the sauce:
½ tin tomatoes
About 6 basil leaves including stalks
Pinch of paprika
1 clove garlic
- Whack the grill on high and put your largest, widest frying pan on a very high heat. Get another pan on a low heat. Stick the normal blade in the food processor.
- Put the chorizo slices in the small pan and allow to brown. When crisp on one side turn off the heat while you get on with everything else.
- Pop the flour and water in the food processor, along with a big splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Whizz until it forms a solid, clean ball – shake in a touch more flour if necessary. Remove from the food processor and roll out in a rough circle until approx 1cm thick. Transfer to the frying pan and push out into the edges of the pan.
- Pop the tomatoes, paprika and basil in a liquidizer with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and some seasoning, then crush in the garlic. Whizz to a fine slush then spoon a thin layer on top of the pizza in the pan (leftovers make a great pasta sauce). Scatter over the fennel seeds, dot with mozzarella and place the chorizo crispy-side down on the pizza.
- When the pizza is crusty and starting to blacken underneath, pop the pizza under the grill. Cook for a further 4 minutes or until done.
I had half the dough left over from pesto pizza, and it occurred to me that I’d never made one of my favourite Italian foods: calzone. That lovely folded pizza, like a Cornish pasty spending a gap year travelling.
I was bowled over by how tasty it was. It really was great, especially when paired with a zingy mustardy salad.
For the dough (makes 2 x 30cm pizzas; I used half for two calzones):
500g strong bread flour
100g fine polenta
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7g dry yeast
4 tablespoons olive oil
300ml lukewarm water
100g chorizo, cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 tin tomatoes (a good brand will help you a lot here)
6 pieces baby mozzarella
A few thyme leaves
- In a jug mix the yeast, oil, water and sugar together and leave for a few minutes while you get on with the other dry ingredients.
- For the pizza base, bring the flour, polenta and salt together in a bowl. I use a food mixer which makes the next stage dead easy.
- Pour the wet mix into the dry and let a dough hook do its work for about 5-6 minutes. If you’re doing it by hand push and knead it together until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough with a damp teatowel and leave somewhere warm for an hour – it should double in size.
- When the dough has risen, pre-heat the oven as high as it will go. If you have a pizza stone, get it in now. Otherwise a cheap but conductive metal tray will work.
- Fry the chorizo in a hot dry pan until one side colours. Add the peppers and continue to cook until the peppers have softened slightly. Remove the ingredients to one side with a slotted spoon, leaving the oils behind. Add the tomatoes and thyme to this pan, keeping the heat very high. Let it bubble down and reduce until thick then remove from the heat.
- Push the dough into a thin, round shape on a floured surface. Go as thin as you can. Spread some tomato puree over half the calzone, dot with mozzarella and add half the chorizo/pepper mix. Spoon over a little more tomato sauce, then fold the calzone over, crimping the edges.
- When it’s ready take it to the oven. The pizza will bake for anywhere between 10 – 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your base and the temperature of your oven. (Quicker is better). Serve with a green salad.
Merchant Gourmet have recently been kind enough to send me some of their instant polenta. It’s got a rapid cooking time so you don’t have to spend 45 minutes beating a volcanic pot of yellow. The freebie came with a caveat however; come up with an interesting recipe for them.
I originally thought of crumbing halloumi cubes and frying them, but it didn’t seem inventive enough. I then went through a lasagne-style tower with polenta substituting for the pasta, but struggled to think of a timely way to retain the shape while melting the mozzarella. I then hit on keeping the mince but forming it into patties and making über-cute sliders instead; mini-burgers that are currently all the rage.
To make a nice neat slider the size of it all comes down to your mozzarella. Whatever width slices you can carve out of your cheese, make your mince and polenta rounds roughly the same size.
The great thing about this recipe is you can adapt the mince part to your taste and whatever you have in the cupboard. I’ve gone for an Italian-style flavouring to reinforce the heritage of polenta. A slice of tomato works well in there too, providing sweet juiciness. Give them a try!
Polenta sliders (makes 8 sliders):
50g quick-cook polenta
200ml beef stock plus a couple of extra tablespoons
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
400g beef mince
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
150g ball mozzarella, cut into 8 thick slices
Green salad, to serve
- Preheat the grill to high.
- To make the polenta, bring 200ml beef stock to the boil and slowly pour in the polenta, whisking all the time. Turn the heat down low and continue to stir for another 2 minutes. Spread on to a baking sheet to a thickness of about 5mm. Sprinkle with parmesan and pop under the grill. Keep an eye on it while you make the burgers – you are looking for it to form a crisp crust.
- Combine the beef, puree, oregano, breadcrumbs and garlic in a bowl and season well. Form into golf-ball sized chunks and flatten to form patties (you may find it easy to do this with damp hands, it prevents the meat from sticking).
- Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the burgers for 3 minutes on each side (this will cook them medium-rare, cook slightly longer if you prefer). As they finish spoon over a little leftover beef stock to keep them moist.
- Your polenta should be out of the grill now; put this to one side. Top the burgers with a slice of mozzarella and pop them under the grill so the mozzarella just starts to melt (this should only take a minute).
- Cut out rounds of polenta to roughly the same size as your meat (I used a circular pastry cutter). Put a slice of polenta on the plate, meat & cheese on that, and top with a final slice of polenta. Serve with a green salad.
An upcoming Ottolenghi recipe calls for scamorza, or smoked mozzarella. You can buy it, but I thought “pfft. I’ll smoke it myself”.
I don’t actually own a smoker, yet recipes not involving them don’t really seem to exist that I could find. What I could find is that pecan nuts are the main smoking ingredient. My mind wandered to the Chinese method of smoking duck and chicken breast, suspending them over tea-leaves and other aromatics. You need a good wok with a lid.
It’s un-nerving cooking this way as it’s one of those methods where you can’t look at the result mid-way – you’ll lose the smoke – you just have to drum your fingers on the kitchen counter and wait. The result was nice and piquant – just what I was after.
(PS. This is the recipe I used it in)
50g pecan nuts
Sprinkle of smoked sea salt
- Leave the mozzarella uncovered out of the fridge for half an hour before starting and sprinkle with smoked sea salt. This allows it to dry and form a slightly tougher skin.
- Wrap a wok in a couple of layers of tin foil, and get it going ruddy hot. Wrap the lid in foil also to ensure a good seal. After a few minutes toss the pecan nuts into the bottom of the wok and leave them undisturbed until you start to smell the nuts getting toasty. Turn them over and wait for steam to start coming off the nuts.
- Move the wok off the heat. Either use a metal trivet or arrange wooden skewers as above so you can balance the cheese above the nuts. Clamp the lid on and leave for at least twenty minutes. Don’t peek!
- Wrap the cheese tightly in cling film until you need it.
A tale of two halves here: cheeky Essex boy meets Eastern-influenced vegophile.
Jamie Oliver’s current series Jamie Does… visits different cities and squeezes the food out of them. I’ve scribbled quite a few of them down, but his recent Andalucian pork chop recipe really connected with me. He cut a slit in a pork chop, then stuffed it with a juicy raisin stuffing. Mine is simplified to my store-cupboard. I couldn’t quite manage the meat pocket, my chops were more steaks and I couldn’t get enough knife in to stuff without going through. I instead plonked the marinade on top after cooking on one side on the barbecue. The flavours were there but I imagine it would be sensational properly stuffed. Next time I’ll get proper fat chops.
The other part of the dish was courtesy of Ottolenghi’s new book Plenty. I was fortunate enough to get one of these courtesy of their Twitter competition and couldn’t decide where to start, it’s stuffed with great ideas and brilliant (yet simple) invention. I started simple: mozzarella rendered to fluffy, yummy gooeyness. Fennel seeds popped in the mouth among the creamy cheese. Simply delicious.
Jamie Oliver’s original recipe for the pork chops can be found here.
Moorish pork chops with marinated mozzarella and tomato salad:
For the pork:
4 pork steaks
A handful of raisins
A good splash of sherry vinegar
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
A couple of teaspoons of thyme leaves
For the mozzarella salad:
A couple of tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
A couple of teaspoons of thyme leaves
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
Zest of 1 lemon
- Fry the fennel seeds in a dry pan until they pop. Put them into a pestle and mortar and crush lightly. Add the thyme, garlic, oil and lemon zest and toss with the mozzarella. Leave this alone while you get on with everything else.
- Combine the raisins, vinegar, oil and thyme and leave for a few minutes so the raisins absorb the juice.
- Cut a slit horizontally in the side of the pork. Push some of the stuffing into the gap.
- Barbecue the pork on each side until nicely browned. Serve with the mozzarella and tomatoes, garnished with a drizzle of oil.