Reviews, recipes, ramblings and other gourmet bites. A food blog of indulgence...

Monday, 8 November 2010

No apologies

I have a hunch that our dear Nigel Slater might have some competition for the role of this little blog's favoured chef. At least for a while. Nigel, forgive us, you have done nothing wrong ... it's just that I have recently acquired this.

Now, I am aware that I am late enough to this particular party for it to be bordering on the ridiculous, but I have not really come across Elizabeth David until now. I mean, of course, I knew who she was, but I'd never read her food writing or tried her recipes. Which is, as I have quickly realized, a crying shame.

At Elizabeth David's Table is therefore the perfect game of catch up. There are enough recipes to fuel dinners and dinner parties all year round, plus snippets of Ms David's food writing (I don't feel we're on first name terms just yet) that give you a glimmer of her zest for life, her wisdom in the kitchen and her love both of travel and of the feeling of coming home and sharing what she'd learnt.

There's something very warm and personal about her writing. Take, for example, this snippet about her dream kitchen (a concept that I highly approve of as a subject for an article, and something that I'm now designing in my head every night before I go to sleep):

'All the colours in the dream kitchen would be much as they are now, but fresher and cleaner - cool silver, grey-blue, aluminium, with the various browns of earthenware pots and a lot of white provided by the perfectly plain china. I recoil from coloured tiles and beflowered surfaces and I don't want a lot of things coloured avocado and tangerine. I'll just settle for the avocados and tangerines in a bowl on the dresser.' pp 157.

She also makes for great bedtime reading at this time of year, when we're sprawled uncomfortably between fireworks and Christmas lights, and you can see your breath through the drizzle on the grey walk to work. Her pieces on the French wholesale markets at Cavaillon, or the dusky, sun-soaked fish markets in Venice can hoodwink you back to the summer, just for a few minutes.

So on to a recipe. We made her middle-eastern style pizza, and very tasty it was too. The dough is not what I'd call conventional pizza dough, it was rather dense and quite salty, but it carried the spiced meaty filling well, and added a further depth of flavour. The result is a fragrant, spicy Bolognese-via-Morocco sort of affair, which would probably be equally delicious on top of buttered spaghetti or tagliatelle.

We hardly adapted this recipe at all, apart from using fresh mint instead of dried mint, and adding about half a teaspoonful of hot chilli powder to give it an extra kick.

Pizza In The Middle Eastern Manner

Serves 5-6 as a starter, or 2-3 as a main course (with a crunchy salad on the side)


For the dough:

5g dried yeast
Approx 10 tbsps whole milk
250g strong white bread flour
2 tsps salt
1 whole egg
2 tbsps olive oil

For the filling:

1 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
200g minced lamb (we used leftovers from a joint blitzed in the MagiMix)
2 cloves of garlic
4 large pinches of salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
2 heaped tsps cumin
2 tsps black pepper
250g chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
Small handful of shredded mint

  1. First, make the dough. Mix the yeast together with the milk.
  2. Warm the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl in the oven for a few minutes, then add the yeast mixture, the egg and the olive oil.
  3. Mix well, using your hands pretty much straightaway, until the dough is elastic and smooth.
  4. Make the dough into a ball, sprinkle it with a little more flour, place it in a covered bowl and leave it somewhere warm for 90 minutes until the dough has risen and feels puffy.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry off the onion until translucent.
  6. Add the meat and turn the heat up until it starts to brown, then add the crushed garlic cloves, salt and spices.
  7. Add the tomatoes and put a lid on the pan. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the mixture has darkened and thickened.
  8. Taste, and add more cumin and salt and pepper if necessary (it was necessary for us). Then add the sugar and mint.
  9. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7
  10. Once the dough has been left for the required time, spread it over a pizza stone or large, oiled platter, then leave it for a further 15 minutes.
  11. Spread the meaty, spicy filling over the pizza, leaving a thick crust around the edge.
  12. Put the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 190C/Gas Mark 5, cover the pizza with an oiled piece of greaseproof paper, to keep the filling from drying out, and bake for a further 15 minutes.
  13. Eat while it's steaming hot.

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