I’m a simple kind of girl. It really is the simple things in life that make me happy. The Little Paddler fell asleep in the car on the way home from granny’s. I took full advantage of the situation. I watered the tunnel and transplanted some chives and coriander. I even planted out some more snapdragons. Then I cut a load of flowers and headed for the sleeping baby. There is something about a vase of fresh cut flowers on the table. It’s not something I used to do. My aunt used to always be picking a few bits here and there and putting them into a little glass of water on the table when she would visit. I find myself doing that more and more often. Sometimes, its a few buttercups and daisies mingling with some branches of fuchsia. Sometimes it’s a single lily. Today It was the handful of snapdragons mixed in with some foxgloves, lupins, Shasta daisies and a lone white iris that I spotted lurking beneath a canopy of lupin leaves.
It looks fancier than it is. I love when things turn out fancier than they really are. It makes me look more capable than I may feel.
If we have friends coming over and we are keeping it casual and fuss-free, I love making pizza. Homemade pizza is delicious. And it is so forgiving for the cook who perhaps, starts cooking before she checks to see if she has all the ingredients. Speaking of no blogger in particular….. You can do up whatever sauce you like. From scratch with tomatoes and a handful of herbs; a leftover jar of pasta sauce; ketchup and tomato puree smooshed up together; you get my drift. And you pop whatever toppings you like on to it. Butternut squash, fresh sage and goats cheese? Chorizo and extra cheese? Aubergine, peppers and olives? Or put bowls of toppings out and let guests choose for themselves like a pick and mix. The world is your oyster.
1 sachet dried yeast (15g fresh yeast)
1 tbsp honey (sugar will also do)
300ml warm water
1 lb strong flour (I have also used gluten free flour here – it makes for a strange dough when kneading but still works out ok)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tin chopped tomatoes
handful fresh herbs
1 tbsp tomato puree
whatever toppings you fancy (usually that means whatever is leftover in the fridge or press)
Start by pouring your water in to a mixing jug. Getting the temperature right for yeast is the only real tricky bit. What I do is boil the kettle and pour 100-150mll freshly boiled water in to the jug. Then I stir in the honey or sugar. This is the food for your yeast and dissolving it makes sure it goes through all the water so there’s an even distribution. Then I add in the remainder of water straight from the cold tap. Mix it up and let it stand. Put your finger in to check it. If it feels warm, then it’s probably too hot still. You are looking for blood temperature water. So you shouldn’t really be able to call it hot or cold.
Then you stir in your yeast until it dissolves or at least doesn’t look as grainy. To be honest, it looks like a bit of scum floating on top the water. Don’t panic. Leave it stand for ten minutes or so until it forms a lovely frothy head – a bit like a pint of Guinness. If it hasn’t formed a head, then one of two things is wrong. Either the water was too cold, in which case the yeast hasn’t activated (woken up) or the water was too warm and it’s killed the yeast.
Pour the yeast mixture in on top of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir it in as much as you can. Then tip the whole thing out on to a floured surface. Put a little bit of oil on your hands before you start kneading to stop the dough sticking to everything. Now you knead it until it all comes together and eventually forms a smooth ball of dough which springs back slightly to the touch. It’s hard to explain how to knead but never fear, there’s a YouTube video for everything.
Then, place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it. I tell Mr. Fairweather’s nieces the yeast is alive and you need to be nice to it. So we give it a lovely dinner (honey/sugar), give it a bit of a back rub (kneading) and then we give it somewhere comfy to sleep (bowl). And in order to sleep it needs to be warm and snug and dark. So I cover it with a tea towel and leave it on a warm window sill until it has doubled in size.
In the meantime I make some pizza sauce if I am organised. A tin of chopped tomatoes, random fresh herbs, salt, pepper, bit of tomato puree (or ketchup or homemade chutney – whatever is lurking in the fridge). This all goes in to a dish and is bunged in the oven at 190C for three-quarters an hour or so.
When the dough has doubled, you tip it back out on to a floured surface and roll it out to desired size or thickness. Then top with sauce, toppings and cheese. Cook for fifteen minutes or so at 200C. If you have it loaded up with toppings, or rolled quite thickly, it might need slightly longer too cook in the middle.
Once you get the hang of the kneading, it’s actually quite easily made. The biggest part of this is the waiting for it to rise. I like to spend that bit drinking coffee.