Alsatian Pizza

Fellow dog lovers, fear not.  Absolutely no German Shepherds were harmed during the making of the following pizza.  The name refers to this pizzas origins in the Alsace region of France rather than any canine connections.  Indeed, some may even question the naming of the dish “pizza” as there is no Italian connection nor any tomato sauce and only a smidgen of cheese is used in the rich and creamy topping.  Can this really be pizza?

Dunno.  Don’t really care much either.  It just tastes really, really good.

True Alsatian pizzas have a much thinner base than this version (which is light and airy) and I fully intend on discovering a perfect recipe for such a crust in time for a vegetarian version of this dish.  Until then though, I shall resort to my fool-proof Stephanie Alexander recipe which takes very little time and even less effort to make. 

Ideal for a lazy Sunday lunch on a snowy spring afternoon.

Alsatian Pizza

(makes 2 ample pizzas or 4 modest ones)

Base

 250g plain flour

175ml buttermilk

1 tblspn olive oil

1 tspn salt

1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda

Topping

3 rashers of back bacon (with rind), smoked or unsmoked – chopped

1 onion, sliced

1/2 cup creme fraiche

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1 tblspn plain flour

1/4 tspn thyme

Seasoning

Handful of grated mozzarella

  • In a food processor whizz together the ingredients for the pizza base until they just combine.  Remove from processor and knead for a minute or two until silky smooth and elastic.  Place in an oiled bowl covered by a tea towel and leave for 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven with baking trays inside to 215 oC.
  • Add the bacon to a frying pan and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until some fat is released.  Add the onions and fry until the onions are softened but not coloured.
  • Meawhile, whizz together the creme fraiche, cottage cheese and thyme until smooth.  Season carefully.
  • When the dough has rested for 45 minutes, separate into two or four pieces and roll out thinly onto pieces of baking paper..  Spread the creamy mixture onto each base and top as evenly as possible with the onions and bacon.  Sprinkle with just a little mozzarella or emmental cheese. 
  • Carefully slide the pizzas and baking paper onto the hot baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until golden and crisp.

Vegetarian Moussaka

At last.  Success. 

Last year sometime my mum and I shared a vegetarian moussaka made by Marks and Spencers.  It was superb.  By far the best ready made meal I had/have ever ever tasted.  Not content with the knowledge that I could simply pop downtown and pick up another ready made meal, I decided that I was going to master the dish myself.

Easier said than done, I must say.  It’s taken several months, a ton of lentils, a lot of tantrums and more than one grimace from D, but I have, at last, created a vegetarian moussaka that is every bit as delicious (dare I say, perhaps even more) than the Markies version.

Phew.  Think I deserve a drink now.  🙂

Vegetarian Moussaka

(serves 4 generously)

2 aubergines, sliced finely

75g brown lentils

75g puy lentils

2 onions, one halved and the other chopped

2 bay leaves

Olive oil

2 red peppers, chopped finely

1 stick of celery, chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 tspn dried thyme

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Glass of wine

Dash of Worchestershire Sauce

600 ml bechamel sauce

150g feta, grated

2 egg whites

Parmesan cheese, grated

Seasoning

  • Griddle or fry the aubergine slices in olive oil for a few minutes on each side until browned and almost cooked through.  Set aside until ready to assemble the moussaka.
  • Make the bechamel sauce (I always use this method) and stir though the feta cheese.  Set aside.
  • Add the brown lentils and puy lentils to seperate pans along with half an onion and a bay leaf each.  Cover with water and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until cooked – approximately 25 mins for brown and 40 for puy.  Drain, reserving the cooking liquid but discarding the bay leaves and onions.
  • Meanwhile, gently fry the onion in a glug of olive oil for 10 minutes until translucent.  Add the pepper and celery and fry for another 10 minutes.  The onion should be golden and the pepper and celery almost cooked through.  Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a minutes more.
  • Add the cooked lentils to the vegetables and stir well.  Add the tomatoes and wine.  Stir well, increase heat and bring to the boil, adding some of the lentil cooking liquid if the mixture is too dry.
  • Add Worchestershire sauce and seasoning to taste and set aside.
  • Optional – whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Use a large metal spoon to stir through the bechamel sauce.  This creates a really light and puffy sauce.  Normal bechamel is great too, of course.
  • Assemble the moussaka – one layer of aubergine, a thick layer of the lentil mixture, another layer of aubergine, bechamel sauce and a generous topping of parmesan cheese.
  • Bake in a 180oC oven for 35 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Cure All

I’ve been meaning to blog about this soup for months now.  In fact, the above photo was taken way back in October when I wrote a post on making Asian stocks for Kathryn at Limes and Lycopene.  No idea why it’s taken me until now to share the recipe with you as it’s a dish I eat a lot in winter especially when I’m feeling a little run down.  With vast amounts of veg, a deeply nourishing broth and a warming kick of chilli, this is the perfect cold weather pick me up.

It’s not really appropriate for me to give you a firm recipe for this Asian vegetable soup as I never make it with the same ingredients twice.  Instead, I’ll just explain the basics and let you do the tweaking:

  • Use approximately 300 ml of chicken or vegetable stock per person.  Simmer the stock for 45 minutes with a roughly chopped thumb of ginger, a couple of squished garlic clove, a scattering of dried mushrooms and a whole chilli, pricked a few times to let the oil seep out. 
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic etc before cooking the vegetables in the stock.  Rather than salt, add a dash of soy sauce to the broth.  Taste.  Add another dash if necessary. 
  • VERY finely slice a selection of vegetables.  A mandolin is perfect for this.  I like to vary the colours of the vegetables – orange carrots, red peppers, dark green kale, white beansprouts.  A rainbow soup is very cheerful on a cold day.
  • Add the vegetables to the simmering soup in order of cooking time.  For example, cabbage then carrot then mangetout then beansprouts.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables and pile them up in the middle of a bowl.  Spoon the stock around the vegetables.
  • Scatter with fresh coriander and chopped red chilli.  Spring onions are nice with it too.