Thick Pizza Sauce

As most thing we do, my pizza sauce is going through a perpetual rebirth. 2011 draws to a close and this is now my favourite. This recipe makes for about 3-5 pizzas, depending on how long you let it simmer and how much you use. Worry not if you make too much, it makes a perfect pasta sauce the next day.

Pizza Sauce version: #6 // Dec 2011

Ingredients

  • Clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • Tin of plum tomatoes (400 g)
  • 30 g tomato pure
  • Olive oil
  • Chilli flakes
  • About 10 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

  1. Fry the garlic in the oil for a few minutes on medium heat
  2. Mean while, pour the plum tomatoes in to bowl and properly crush them with your fingers
  3. Add chilli in with the garlic and then the tomatoes
  4. Mix well, add tomato pure and mix again
  5. Add sugar in small increments, tasting each time to make sure it doesn’t go too sweet
  6. Season
  7. Throw in your chopped up basil leaves and let it simmer till excess water has evaporated

Preparation time: 1 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minutes(s)

Number of servings (yield): 3-5

Gherkin Soup with Dill

Last summer, we had a lovely dinner at Fishers in the City, a very nice fish restaurant in Edinburgh. I can’t remember what I had but Darina’s starter was much more memorable; gherkin soup. I had never heard of such soup before and apart from few recipes online, it’s not well know. Perhaps that’s because gherkins aren’t as popular in much of English speaking world as they are in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

This recipe is a sort of a combination of the few I could find, taking the best bits and keeping it very simple. Unlike many vegetarian soups I think the gherkins bring a bit more body and distinct flavour.

We had this as the soup course on our Christmas meal this year. It’s great as it’s easy to make, I’ll make mine in the morning and heat it up for serving.

Polish Gherkin Soup with Dill

Ingredients

  • 120 g diced onions
  • 150 g diced potatoes
  • 150 g diced carrots
  • 150 g gherkin, sliced into strips
  • 5 tbsp cream
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • gherkin brine
  • 1/2 tbsp dill
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

  1. Heat butter in a small sauce pan and lightly fry the onions in it for 3 minutes or until soft. Be careful not to brown them
  2. Add potatoes and carrots, and generously cover with water
  3. Bring to boil and let it simmer till carrots are almost cooked
  4. In a small bowl, dust the sliced gherkins with flour so they’re covered and then add to the pan
  5. Add cream, stock and seasoning to taste. Omit dill if gherkins are preserved with it. You can also use a splash of gherkin brine to enhance the flavour
  6. You can also add a little bit of finely chopped red chillies to add warmth
  7. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4

Carrot and Swede Casseroles – Finnish Christmas Classics

These two casserole dishes are must-haves in Finnish Christmas table. They’re side dishes to the main but especially carrot casserole would make a great vegetarian main anytime of the year.

Carrot Casserole

Ingredients

  • 75 ml rice
  • 200 ml water (or water carrots were boiled in)
  • 350 ml milk
  • 500 g carrors, sliced and boiled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tbsp syrup
  • 1 egg
  • breadcrumbs and butter for crusting

Method

  1. Start by boiling the carrots in barely enough water.
  2. Keep the water and use it to boil your rice. Once rice has absorbed all the water, add milk and simmer on lowest heat for 45 minutes.
  3. Mash your carrots and add other ingredients. I usually add rice last, little by little, and make sure there’s not too much of it. You can make this as little or much ‘carroty’ as you want.
  4. Divide in batter into two, buttered, tin foil trays. This will make two roughly 400 gram trays. Level the tray and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 45 minutes in 200°C with a knob of butter on top.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 50 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6 as a side

Swede (or Rutabaga) Casserole

Ingredients

  • 650 g swede, diced
  • 120 ml cream
  • 40 ml breadcrumbs (plus extra for topping)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of white pepper
  • butter

Method

  1. Boil your swede and mash when ready
  2. Add other ingredients and mix well
  3. (Sometimes swedes (and Swedes) can be a bit bitter, if so add more syrup)
  4. Divide into two buttered tin foil trays. This should make two 400 gram trays
  5. Level the tray and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 45 minutes in 200°C with a knob of butter on top.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8 as a side

Pizza Night at Rönkkös

Here’s some photos from our pizza night next door at our family/friends place next door (well, next door once you’ve traveled to my home in Finland). I got to try making pizzas in a traditional Finnish ‘leivinuuni’, a type of bread oven. How was it? Well, I’ve called off all my meetings/work next week and we’ll be building one!

UPDATE: I actually have spent a large portion of last year designing a new type of wood fired oven called Uuni

Relatively Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

Following on from my dough recipe last week, it’s time to spread some sauce on our pizza.

Relatively Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

The sauce is a balancing act between sweet, salt, heat and, of course, quality of the tomatoes. It might take a bit of experimenting and trying out but as long as you don’t boil it for too long and are careful with seasoning, you’ll be fine.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • clove of garlic
  • 2 tins of good quality plum tomatoes
  • 140 g tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chillie flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauce pan, add roughly chopped garlic and onion.
  2. Fry for 3 minutes or until they start changing colour a little.
  3. Add sugar and stir until the onions start caramelising, minute or two at longest.
  4. Pour in your tinned tomatoes and stir so the tomatoes break up. (Get the best plum tomatoes your money can by. Napolitana are available in most places and are pretty good.)
  5. Mix in tomato purée.
  6. Add seasoning, chillie flakes and basil, simmer for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Blend very well with a hand blender

 

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Enough for about 8-10 pizzas.8

Vegetarian Mushroom Pâté

Want that special vegetarian friend or wife to love you even more? Try this excellently simple and pretty quick mushroom pâté. You can serve it hot straight off the pan or keep it in the fridge for a fair few days. Excellent on top of some toasted French bread.

Vegetarian Mushroom Pâté

Ingredients

  • 150 g oyster mushrooms
  • 150 g button mushrooms
  • Basil
  • 3 Spring onions
  • 2 shallots
  • Garlic
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Coarse mustard

Method

  1. Fry chopped mushrooms, spring onion, garlic and shallots in a bit of butter and on low heat until they stop giving moisture. Be careful not to let them get brown.
  2. Half way through above, add basil, thyme and seasoning.
  3. Mix in mustard and sour cream.
  4. Take off the heat after about a minute or so
  5. Divide into ramekins and garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4

Near Perfect Pizza Dough

Every pizza has to start with the dough. No dough, no pizza. Obviously.

I started making pizzas about year and a bit ago. With ‘started’, I mean that before that I’d only make them occasionally, couple of times a year. It turns out that there’s a lot to it if you’re critical of what you’re doing and aim to make better pizzas than 95 % of pizzerias offer.

Back home, in Finland, a home made pizza used to consist of flattened bread dough with ketchup working as the sauce and fried mince, tinned pineapple, tomatoes and mild edam as toppings. That’s how my grandma used to make them. Today, I think people also have some olives on top.

I know that’s a bit harsh and that’s not everybody’s experience of home pizzas but I think that experience is what made me try harder. Try to make pizzas that actually kick ass and you would hesitate ordering another pizza in a restaurant as you know that you can make better ones at home. It’s a bit like with steaks. Most restaurant steaks are pretty average as it’s not hard to learn how to grill ‘the perfect steak’.

This is why we’re starting Month of Pizza with the dough. With a bit of trial and error, anyone can make a kick-ass pizza dough that’ll rival anything you can whack ten quid on in a restaurant.

Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 500 g of Type ’00’ flour – available in most supermarkets. Use strong bread flour if not available
  • 300 ml luke warm water
  • 8 g dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 25 g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 10 g (2 tsp) salt

Method

  1. Mix salt into the flour in a large mixing bowl
  2. Mix water, yeast, sugar and 2/3 of oil together in another bowl
  3. Make a well in the middle of the flour, pour water in that and let it sit for 10-20 minutes until the yeast start working
  4. If you’re using a kitchen mixer such as a Kenwood Chef, mix the dough on low speed for 10 minutes.
  5. While the doing is being mixed, add remaining oil to keep dough from sticking too much.
  6. If you’re hand kneeding, mix the dough by hand in the bowl and pour on your kitchen surface. You should kneed the dough for about 15 minutes and no less to ensure right kind of consistency. There’s plenty of good videos on YouTube to show you how.
  7. (personally, I really like my 1970s Kenwood Chef I got of off eBay.)

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 3-6

Proving

If there’s two important stages to making dough, first is kneeding, second is proving. When the dough is rising, yeast eats and burns sugars from the flour to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The CO2 expands the dough and stretches the gluten, thus making it stronger.

There’s two proving methods I use. First one is quick, just leave it in a mixing bowl and let it rise , covered with cling film or towel, for an hour or until it’s doubled in size.

Cold proving pizza dough

The second is to divide the dough into smaller portions, about four or five, place them into containers with enough room to grow and put them in the fridge. This is called cold proving. I’m not sure of the science and and mechanics of it but it seems like the slow pace the fought tales to rise, it adds to the texture and flavour of the final product. You’ll need to leave it in the fridge for at least 12-24 hours. Many pizzerias that use this method leave the dough to cold proof for up 36-48 hours.

Yes, it’s a lot slow process but results are worth it.

If kneading and rising is done properly, you’ll end up with a dough that can be stretched till it resembles graphene in its thinness. (Your mileage may and will vary.)

Once the dough’s been proven, you need to knock it back. In other words, drop it back on the surface and gently kneed it until most of the air bubbles are gone.

Now it’s ready for rolling, pushing, tossing and stretching into the best pizzas you’ve ever made. These days, I use this amount of dough to make four pizzas but it’s possible to carefully roll up to 8 very very thin pizzas out of this. Once rolled to size, you can leave the base to rest for 10-15 minutes until adding toppings and baking.

If you do end up using this method, please leave a comment and perhaps even a photo on our Facebook page or below!

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Gin

This is one the cakes made for Oskari’s naming party. I’ve since made it a few more times and done some changes to the original recipe. As with most things in life, you can make them better by adding a drop of alcohol. With the lemon drizzle cake, the natural companion is gin.

To prepare the lemon gin liqueur, squeeze juice from one lemon in to a medium size jam jar, mix in 50 g sugar and place to halves of lemon on top. Then fill up to the brim with gin. Close the lid, shake for 30 seconds and leave for at least a week. This will make for an incredibly bitter sweet ‘juice’ to use for moistening the cake.

Now, on with rest of the recipe.

Kristian’s Lemon Drizzle with Lemon Gin Liqueur

Ingredients

  • 225 g soft butter
  • 255 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 255 g self raising (or plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
  • grated zest of a lemon

Topping and moisten

  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 15-20 cl lemon gin liqueur
  • 50 g sugar
  • 15 cl icing sugar

Method

  1. Pre heat your oven to 180°C
  2. Mix the sugar and butter until fluffy and creamy.
  3. Continue mixing while adding eggs one at a time.
  4. Add lemon zest and then flour.
  5. Pour and spread dough into a cake tin and bake for 40-55 minutes depending on how deep the tin is. Use skewer to find out if it’s ready.
  6. Take the cake out of the tin and on to a cake base
  7. After about ten minutes out of the oven, use a dessert spoon to slowly infuse the cake with the lemon gin mixed with 50 g of sugar.
  8. Make a runny icing and mix in the remaining lemon zest
  9. Generously, spread the icing over the cake while letting it drip over the edges

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: up to 50 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12-16

Coarse Pork Liver Patè

We’re back from our holidays and it’s time to get some more recipes up. During our trip, I got started in planning our Christmas meal. Yes, I know, it’s a bit early but we’re hosting it for the first time ever so it’s kind of a big deal. Over the next few months, I’ll be testing out recipes for dishes I’m thinking of offering. You can follow the progress via this tag: The First Christmas. This week, I’ll start with something that’s surprisingly quick and easy to make liver patè.

I’ve made it with port liver, but I’m sure it’ll work just the same with chicken or venison.

Coarse Pork Liver Patè

Relatively easy to make liver patè.

Ingredients

  • 400 g pork liver
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 50 g butter plus some for frying
  • 1 tsb mace
  • 1 tbsp thyme, chopped
  • a few sage leaves, chopped
  • pepper
  • salt

Method

  1. Cut off all the membrane left on the liver
  2. On medium heat, fry the liver and onion in the butter
  3. Add seasoning and herbs
  4. Fry on both sides till the liver is still a little pink inside
  5. Take off heat and let it cool down a bit
  6. Mix in rest of the butter to add moisture
  7. Now, take half of the livers and blend in a small blender until smooth
  8. Blend rest of it only a little bit so that it’s more like a mince
  9. Mix both halves together and pack into ramekins. Try and get rid of as much of the air pockets as possible
  10. Melt a large knob of butter and use it to seal the patè

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

Stinging Nettle Pancakes with Morel Mushroom Stew


For a long time, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with stinging nettles. Nettles is one of the first plant of the spring you can forage for food. It marks the beginning of the summer as it’s often the first thing in our garden to end up on our plates. Unfortunately, it just keeps growing ever bigger and in larger quantities. It attempts to infiltrate its stingy stems everywhere, between the raspberry bushes, strawberries and any free space you can find in the garden. I’ve been trying to turn my hate for into love by using it’s stems for colouring wool, but the colour only ends up being a bleak greyish-green.

Luckily, nettle pancakes, by themselves or with mushroom stew, are delicious!

Nettle Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 3 litres of small nettle leaves, washed
  • 30 cl plain flour
  • 10 cl barley flour
  • 80 cl milk
  • an egg or two
  • 1/2 tsb salt

Method

  1. Mix the dough until smooth and add finely chopped nettles
  2. Let it sit for an hour
  3. Cook on a hot skillet with butter

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Morel Mushroom Stew

Ingredients

  • 200 g morel mushrooms (boiled twice to remove poison)
  • 35 g butter
  • 1/2 onion
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 20 cl cream

Method

  1. Fry the mushrooms on a dry frying pan for a moment until excess water has evaporated
  2. Add butter, onion and salt, and fry for a few minutes
  3. Add plain flour and fry a bit more until slightly browned
  4. Finally, add cream and let the stew sit for about 10 minutes until serving.

Preparation time: 1 hour (if using fresh morels)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4