Monthly Archives: May 2010

Fresh From The Oven: Pizza Napoletana

This month’s Fresh From The Oven challenge was chosen by  Lauren from Coffee Muffins and I was very relieved when I discovered she had chosen Pizza Napoletana for us to bake. Pizza is one of my favourite things and is something I make quite regularly so this was the first Fresh From the Oven challenge that I did not feel nervous about. The recipe below is from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The only thing I do not normally do is leave my dough in the fridge overnight to prove so cooking this pizza recipe took a bit more planning and preparation than my usual pizza recipe. Lauren had suggested that we try and attempt to do a pizza toss but I decided I was not brave enough for that. I topped my pizza with a home-made tomato sauce, chorizo, ham, cheddar and mozzarella cheese with a good sprinkling of Italian herb seasoning and lots of black pepper. Overall, I was quite impressed with this recipe and I intend to make it again soon.

I will not be taking part in the next Fresh From The Oven challenge due to work commitments so I would like to wish good luck  to everyone for the next one. Many thanks to Lauren for choosing this month’s challenge.

Happy Cooking! :-)

Pizza Napoletana

From Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

The recipe amounts make 6 9-12 inch pizzas, which I think is rather a lot, even if you can keep the dough in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 months! I made a third of the recipe, which was enough for two perfectly sized individual pizzas. The amounts for 1/3 quantities are given in brackets.

  • 4 1/2 cups or 20.25 ounces (6.75 ounces) of unbleached high-gluten bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons or 0.44 ounces (0.14 ounces) of salt
  • 1 teaspoon or 0.11 ounces (1/3 tsp) of instant yeast (if using active dry yeast you will need to increase this by 25%)
  • 1/4 cup or 2 ounces (0.67 ounces) of olive or vegetable oil, optional
  • 1 3/4 cups or 14 ounces (4.67 ounces) of ice cold water


  1. Stir together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a large bowl. With a large metal spoon (I used a wooden spoon and it didn’t seem to make any difference) stir in the oil and water until all the flour is absorbed. To do by hand, you need to stir with one hand and turn the bowl in the opposite direction with your other hand. You need to do this for 5 to 7 minutes, occasionally changing the direction as to really help develop the gluten. This method of mixing is actually quite a difficult task, sort of like rubbing your tummy while tapping your head, but as long as you are mixing the dough it should work out ok.  To do in a mixer, make sure you are using the dough hook attachment and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes. Either way you mix you should end up with a smooth dough which is a little sticky. It should clear the sides of the bowl but not the bottom. If it isn’t clearing the sides then add a little more flour and mix again. If it clears the bottom then add a couple of drops of water, and mix again. The finished dough should be springy, elastic and sticky but not tacky. If you use a thermometer it should register somewhere between 50 to 55 oF.
  2. Now prepare a sheet pan with baking parchment and spray oil. Flour your counter and remove the dough on to the counter. Using a metal dough scraper (or your hands) create 6 equals sized pieces of dough. (I only made 2 using my 1/3 ingredients).
  3. Flour your hands and shape each into a ball, if your hands stick add more flour and try again. Place each ball onto your sheet pan, spray each piece of dough with oil. Once all pieces of dough are on the tray, enclose it in a food-grade bag and pop it into the fridge. Because I was only making a small quantity of dough, I didn’t use a tray at all, I just added each ball to a food-grade bag which I had sprayed the insides with oil. Then popped each bag into the fridge.
  4. The next day a couple of hours before you want to cook them remove the dough from the fridge. Dust your counter with flour (and your hands) then spray oil on top. Place each ball on the counter and then gently press each into a flat disc about 1/2 inch thick. Top each with a little flour and oil and cover with another bag. Let rest for 2 hours.
  5. At least 45 minutes before cooking put on your oven on at it’s maximum temperature (mine goes up to 250 oC, which worked ok) up to 800oF. If you have a baking stone put it in the oven now. If you don’t have a stone then you can use a normal baking sheet, just don’t preheat it first.
  6. Now comes the tricky part to stretch out your dough, dust your peel or sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Coat your hands in flour including the backs and your knuckles. Gently lay the dough on to the top of your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion. As it starts to spread out you can move to the full toss method (flinging it above your head and hoping it doesn’t fall on the floor – good luck!). If it sticks to your hands at any point lay it out flat and redust your hands, continue stretching until it is the desired width. With my dough I found it really hard to stretch my dough this way (as it kept tearing) so I stretched it gently on a well floured work surface. You can also roll it out using a rolling pin, but this isn’t quite such a good method for working with the dough. Once you have reached the desired width place the stretched dough on the peel or baking sheet.
  7. Now you can top it as you wish. Now that your oven should have preheated, transfer the pizza to your oven. It should only take between 8 and 10 minutes to cook. You might want to turn it 180 degrees after 2 minutes, if you think it might over cook on one side.

Its Crumble Time!

A short while ago, I was contacted by Jacqueline from McCann asking if I would like to try Four Rose’s Bourbon and think up some recipes that you could use it to cook with. Jacqueline sent me the yellow version of  the bourbon which is quite similar to Jack Daniels in taste and can be  put with coke or ginger ale to make a refreshing drink.   I tried it myself in a drink first to see what flavours it might work well with and decided to try it first, with rhubarb from my Nan’s garden that has recently come into season.

I decided to make an old favourite of mine, a crumble which I have been making for as long as I can remember and watched my nan and my mom making it when I was a child. The recipe is very straightforward and can be made with or without the bourbon added. There are no quantities to this recipe except for the bourbon as it depends on the size of the dish you will be cooking the rhubarb in and how much rhubarb you have, so just go with the flow and it will all turn out great in the end.

Rhubarb, Stem Ginger and Four Rose’s Bourbon Crumble


  • Rhubarb, ends chopped off and chopped into 1cm chunks
  • 2 balls of stem ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon of stem ginger syrup (from the jar)
  • plain flour
  • butter, cold and chopped into chunks
  • Demerara sugar
  • 2 tsp bourbon


  1. Put the chunks of rhubarb in a bowl, and sprinkle over some sugar (amount is up to you but also depends on how sweet rhubarb is). Put in the stem ginger pieces and pour in the stem ginger syrup and add the bourbon. Give it a stir and make sure the rhubarb is coated in everything and let it stand while you make the crumble topping.
  2. Make the crumble topping by putting flour a bowl with the butter at a ratio of half fat to flour and rub together using your fingertips until you have a breadcrumb like consistency. Add sugar to taste and mix well together.
  3. Put the rhubarb in an oven proof dish and put the crumble mix over it. Put the dish on a baking tray (in case of leakage of rhubarb juices) and put in a preheated oven set to 180 degrees C and let it cook until slightly golden brown and bubbling.
  4. Let it cool slightly and then serve with ice cream, custard or clotted cream and enjoy!

I will be making more recipes with the bourbon in the coming weeks so if you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks to Jacqueline for sending me the bourbon. It is much appreciated.

Hope you have a great weekend

Happy Cooking! :-)

Gourmet Life

As I am sure you all know by now, I like local and seasonal food and I especially like supporting local food producers. Therefore, today I  have decided to tell you about a scheme I have signed for myself that lets you support local food producers and get money off for doing it. This scheme is called Gourmet Life, which is run by James who also does the fantastic local foodie site called Eat The Midlands, which I am going to write articles for, as well as this blog and Dine With Us, which promotes great places to eat out in the Midlands.

Gourmet Life is the region’s only ‘ethical’ dining card. Helping people to support the region’s producers, by choosing to dine at  specially selected venues who must source more than 20% of their a l carte menu ingredients from across the region (within a 50 mile radius where possible). By going to these venues, and dining with them at certain  times, you can enjoy 20% off your a l carte food bill.  All you have to do is, tell the venue you have a Gourmet Life card and dine with them on a Monday to Friday, lunchtime or evening. Its as simple as that.

In addition to getting 20% off at some of the finest dining establishments in the Midlands, you also get the following additional benefits:

  • 20% off your dining bill at almost 100 of the region’s top dining venues
  • Monthly invites to gourmet nights
  • Additional discounts off meals at selected venues, up to 2 for 1 at selected venues
  • Discounted foodie events
  • Savings at Deli’s, and farm shops of 10%
  • 20% or more off overnight breaks, including Birmingham & London!
  • Exclusive tasting menus also available, specially made for you!
  • and even more benefits coming soon!

If you would like more information on this, please visit the Gourmet Life website here. If you would like to join the scheme, please email at with your address and I will send you a leaflet and a free Gourmet Life Taster Card so you can try the scheme for yourself before you sign up or you can simply join up on the website here, just please say that Jo of Jo’s Kitchen sent you.

I will be back soon with another post, so until next time,

Happy Cooking! :-)

Cookbook Review: Gourmet Food For A Fiver by Jason Atherton

I love collecting cookbooks. I have so many they are trying to take over my house so at the moment, I am having a massive sort out of them, however I could not resist getting a copy of the new Jason Atherton book when Quadrille Publishing asked for food bloggers to review it. The title sounds tempting: ‘Gourmet Food For A Fiver’ but would it live up to name and large promises of Michelin style food for just £5 per head?

Jason Atherton is the head chef at Maze, a Michelin starred restaurant that is part of Gordon Ramsay‘s empire of restaurants. It is located in Grosvenor Square in London and is recognised as one of the most innovative restaurants in the world.  Jason’s first cookbook was published in 2008 and was called ‘Maze: The Cookbook’. It sold over 50,000 copies. Jason regularly does TV appearances including Market Kitchen and Great British Menu.

My first impressions of the book were quite good. There are pictures of all the recipes in the book and the text is well laid in a good sized font making it easy to read and understand while cooking. The variety of the recipes is impressive and includes chocolate brownie with vanilla salt and chocolate sorbet, braised lamb with celeriac purée, and chicken and chorizo paella.  The recipe titles make you want to cook them but then, looking at the (sometimes, quite long)  ingredient list, you realise that you need a very well stocked store cupboard to make a majority of the dishes.  For example, do you have crayfish tails in a tin in your cupboard? I do not and I am not sure many people will.  This is the only major drawback of the book. On the other hand, the basics section at the back of the book is excellent as it tells you how to make things like stocks and basic sauces quite simply and without much effort.

As ever with my cookbook reviews, I always cook something from the book and this time I gave myself a real challenge by making my very first paella, a chicken, chorizo and squid one. Jason is quite an expert at Spanish cooking as he spent some time working at El Bulli, and the recipe in the book is virtually the same as what he learned over there.  I adapted the recipe slightly by cooking de boned chicken thighs actually in the paella itself and I added in cooked salmon at the end, as I happened to have some in the fridge.  As my Facebook and Twitter followers will know, I was very nervous about making the paella and I was really happy when it turned so well. Stuart, a great lover of anything with seafood in it, really liked it too.  I am sure I will be making the dish again and again. Thanks Jason for giving me the confidence to make paella. Overall, I think the book is a great success and will sell many copies I am sure.

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for sending me the cookbook to review :-)

Gourmet Food For a Fiver

Jason Atherton

192 pages

Quadrille Publishing

April 2010

You can purchase it on Amazon UK here

Spring Time Brunch

Image from Flickr

I love this time of year. Spring is in the air with lots of blossom on the trees, daffodils are everywhere and lots of new seasonal produce starts appearing. My personal favourites for this time of year are rhubarb, purple spouting broccoli and asparagus. Last weekend, I had a bit of quiet time to myself so I decided to treat myself  to a special spring time brunch of asparagus and poached eggs.

To make this seasonal easy brunch it is so simple, its hardly a recipe.  All you need to do is take your spears of asparagus and break the ends off them (the woody end at the bottom, not the head). If you apply pressure, it will break off at the most tender point. Then taking a small knife, carefully peel away the little notches that appear all over the asparagus stalk. Some chefs use a speed peeler to do this, however in my opinion, you end up wasting too much expensive and delicious asparagus that way. Once prepared, cook the asparagus however you like, I griddled mine with salt, pepper and olive oil but you can boil or steam them until tender. Its the same with the eggs. Cook them however you like. I cheated and did my poached eggs in a microwave egg poacher but feel free to cook them the traditional way in boiling water if you prefer. Serve everything together on a plate with extra salt and pepper and a big knob of butter if you like and enjoy!

A bit of a short post today but I will be back soon with more.

Happy Cooking!   :-)

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