Category Archives: vegetarian

Side dishes (part 2)

When I got back to France last week lying in a box on the kitchen table were four relatively large marrows.  My first reaction was, “oh God, not marrow”, as the childhood memories of stuffed marrow came flooding back.    I have always thought of marrow as being a fairly tasteless vegetable which always seemed to turn into a soggy mess when cooked.  However, this time I was determined to find something good to do with them.  So my first step was to Google marrow recipes.  Sure enough stuffed marrow appeared time and time again.  I stumbled on one forum that had me chuckling away as I read some peoples’ views on marrows.  Here are a couple of the comments for your amusement:

“Slice marrow in half lengthways.  Leave on kitchen worktop.  Wait for Other Half or child to come in and moan “oh not bl**dy marrow AGAIN” *theatrical sighing*.  Take marrow outside and give to the hens”

“1. Peel outer skin
2. Chop off ends
3. Cut length ways in half
4. Remove all seeds and discard
5. Dice marrow into 1 inch cube
6. Salt to taste
7. Place in bowl and refrigerate for 18/24 hours
8. Remove from fridge
9. Kettle on and brew tea
10. Add milk & sugar to personal requirement
11. Make a cheese toastie
12. Throw marrow in bin
13. Enjoy said toastie with your cup of tea”

After A LOT of searching on the internet some of the more interesting recipes I started to come across involved frying the marrow with fresh herbs – however I was concerned that the marrow might become a little greasy.  However, it made me start thinking about what it was about marrow that I didn’t enjoy and it boiled down to the texture.  Subsequently it got me thinking what if I tried to make the outside crispy.  In the end I settled on marrow and potato chips with fresh herbs – and even if I do say so myself, they tasted pretty good.

Marrow and Potato Chips


  • 1 medium marrow
  • 4/6 medium potatoes
  • Handful of plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Combination of fresh or dried herbs (e.g. parsley, coriander, chive and thyme)
  • Olive oil (for cooking with)


  1. Peel and de-seed the marrow.  Then cut into small bite sized cubes.  Place the marrow in a colander sprinkle with some salt and then place over the sink and leave for 30-40 minutes to draw out the water before drying the marrow with paper towel.
  2. Place the flour and herbs in a bowl and season well.  Toss the marrow in the bowl until they are completely covered with flour, then set to one side.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and cube the potatoes.  Dry them slightly with paper towel, before placing on a large baking tray.  Season with salt and pepper, drizzle some olive oil over and then toss the potatoes with your hands to make sure they are evenly coated with oil.
  4. Place the tray in an oven preheated to 190C fan for 10 mins to start the potatoes cooking.
  5. After 10 minutes remove from the oven and add the marrow to the baking tray.  Stir the potatoes and marrow together, drizzle over a little more oil before placing back in the oven for a further 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Note: Yesterday I made the potato and marrow chips again, this time however I added cubed carrots for a splash of colour.  I made the mistake putting them in the oven at the same time as the potatoes, as a result they cooked too quickly.  So a word of advice add the carrots at the same time as the marrow otherwise they are likely to be a little on the carbonised side of things…

Sweet and savoury courgette recipes

As I mentioned in my last blog, our neighbour dropped off a huge amount of vegetables the other day, which included a large box of courgettes.  I don’t mind courgettes; however they are not the most popular vegetable in our household and often just seem to get chucked into things just to use them up.  Subsequently I have been trying to think of new recipes to cook them in.  So far I have cooked with them in a tart, I have made them into fritters and I have baked with them in a cake.  I think out of the three my favourite was the tart, the flavours were subtle but pleasant and would be lovely with a salad on a summer’s day.

In addition to trying out new recipes I have been making up vast quantities of baked ratatouille which have been frozen ready for use in the upcoming months.  I have been using the same ingredients that we use in our families recipe for ratatouille but have been cooking it in a slightly different way.  My mother’s recipe cooks the ingredients as you would a vegetable stew, whereas I prefer to layer up the vegetables and tomato sauce before baking it (if I am being truthfully I got the idea of layering up the vegetables from the cartoon Ratatouille – I guess inspiration can come from anywhere…)

I can safely say that I have eaten courgette every meal this week (save for breakfast) in some form or another and I am looking forward to eating something other than courgettes once we have managed to use them all up/preserved them…  However until then I am pretty sure I am eating my ‘five a day’ in the form of courgettes.

Courgette and Tomato Tart


  • 1 packet pre-rolled puff pastry

Tomato Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3 small sprigs of basil (leaves torn)
  • 12-15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Seasoning
The toppings:

  • 3 medium courgettes (sliced 2-3mm rounds)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 tomatoes (peeled / de-seeded / sliced)
  • 100-150g blue cheese like a Cambozola (sliced)
  • Black pepper for seasoning


  1. Preheat oven 190C Fan.
  2. In a bowl mix together the ingredients for the tomato sauce.
  3. Prep the courgettes, by salting the slices in a colander to draw out the water – rinse in water – then dry with a tea towel.
  4. Mix the garlic and olive oil in a bowl, then toss the courgette slices in the oil mix.
  5. Finally make up the tart: Spread the tomato sauce on the pastry (leaving an inch from the edge), place on the courgettes overlapping them as you place them, then equally distribute the cheese and the tomato slices in a pattern of your choosing, lastly season well with black pepper.
  6. Bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes.


Courgette Fritters

(Note: When I made these I decided to add a little more flour to the mix after cooking the first two fritters because the mix  was fairly wet, by doing so it helped hold the mix together a little better.  I had a couple of thoughts about how the recipe could be adapted depending what you were eating them with, for example if I was serving the fritters with fish and a side salad I would add a little lemon zest, coriander and chilli in the place of the parsley, paprika and cayenne. )


  • 2 large courgettes (grated and either using your hands or a colander and a spoon squeeze out any liquid that you can)
  • 1 small onion (grated)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 1 heaped tbsp parmesan
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 sprigs parsley chopped
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoning
  • Oil (for cooking with)


  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season well.
  2. Heat some oil in a frying pan.
  3. Shape the courgette mix into golf sized balls, place a few at a time into the pan and then flatten slightly using a spatula.
  4. Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes (or until they are golden brown)


Mini Chocolate and Courgette Cakes

[Note:  I am pleased to say that this attempt at making chocolate and courgette cakes were a far bigger success than the complete failure that I had earlier this summer!  I like the little kick that the cayenne pepper adds in this recipe however if you are not a fan of spice then just leave it out when you are making up the cake batter.]


The ingredients for this cake are measured by using an individual yogurt pot (125g).

  • 1 pot plain yogurt
  • 1 pot oil (sunflower or vegetable)
  • 2 pots sugar
  • 2 ½ pots self-raising flour
  • ½ pot cocoa powder
  • 1 large courgette (grated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 170C fan.
  2. Grease and flour a muffin tray.
  3. Mix everything except the courgette in a bowl.  Once the batter is well mixed, stir in the courgette.  Then pour the batter into the muffin tin. 
  4.  Bake for 17-20 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  5. Leave to cool before serving with crème fraiche or ice-cream and a simple chocolate sauce (made by melting some chocolate with some cream).

Baked Ratatouille

[This is a great accompaniment to any meal particularly on a cool autumnal day.  This is a dish that takes a bit of time to prepare, but, is well worth the effort and leaves you feeling very healthy when you eat it.]


  • 1 aubergine
  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper (Roasted in the oven for 30 mins at 190C Fan then peeled and de-seeded)
  • 1 medium sized onion (diced)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 can of tinned tomatoes (or 5-6 fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven with a little oil, thyme and seasoning for 30 mins at 190C Fan then remove the core and roughly chop the tomato)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking with


  1. Preheat your oven to 190C fan.
  2. Cut the aubergine and courgettes into 2-3mm thick circles.  Place them into a colander sprinkle with salt and place on top of a bowl/in the sink to allow the water to draw out of the aubergine and courgettes.
  3. Place the onion and garlic in a pan with some oil and the sugar then cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube, thyme, season with salt and pepper, then stir all the ingredients together and leave to simmer on a very low heat whilst you get on with preparing the other vegetables.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan.  In batches cook the aubergine for roughly 1-2 minutes on each side until they are soft.  Once the aubergines are cooked quickly pan fry all the courgette slices in a little bit of oil to give them a little colour this should take no longer than 2 minutes.
  6. Finally make up the ratatouille in a medium sized oven proof dish layer up the dish in the following order:
    • Tomato Sauce
    • Aubergine
    • Courgette
    •  Red Pepper
    • Tomato Sauce
    • Courgette
    • Aubergine
    • Tomato Sauce
  7. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.

Green soup – packed full of vitamins

I have just gotten back from a trip to London.  I was only over for a couple of days but it was enough to leave me craving fruit and veg.  On the whole I love London for the sheer variety of food/cuisines you can choose from.  However, like most people who are madly dashing around trying to pack in as much as possible in a very short time frame, I fell into the trap of buying food that was convenient (and cheap) to eat on the move and subsequently found myself grabbing a sandwich for lunch.  So when I arrived home last night to find, four large boxes of tomatoes, one large box of courgettes and 2 cantaloupe melons sitting on the kitchen table (a gift from our neighbours because they have too many to know what to do with) I felt somewhat relieved.  Knowing that we are likely to be eating courgettes and tomatoes in some shape, form or another over the course of the next 2-3 weeks I thought I’d ease myself in gently…  So after having a quick look in the freezer I settled on the idea of a green vegetable soup, which was quick and easy to make and tasted fresh.

However, I feel that I am not doing my trip to London justice in terms of food… On Thursday I attended a celebratory meal which was held at a brilliant little restaurant near to London Bridge called Champor Champor.  The restaurant serves Malay food with a slight Thai twist and was found one of my friends via a Google search (what would we do without the internet?!).  Having never tried Malay food before I was interested to see what it was like.  The food I tried was packed with flavour, leaving you with a slight zing on your palate.  The dishes were not dissimilar to some I sampled when backpacking through south-east Asia – however I will definitely be heading back to that restaurant in the not too distant future and am definitely going to try and re-create some of the dishes over the next couple of months!

A Very Green Soup


  • 1 courgette (chopped in to small pieces)
  • 300g broad beans
  • 300g peas
  • Handful fresh spinach (washed)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 sprigs of mint
  • 2 stock cubes dissolved in 750ml boiling water
  •  (either chicken or vegetable)
  • Seasoning
  • Crème fraiche (for serving)


  • On a low heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and garlic, cover with a lid and leave to sweat until the onion is soft.
  • Add the courgette to the pan and season well.  Stir occasionally until the courgettes begins to soften.
  • Add the peas, broad beans, mint and stock, bring the mix up to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the mint from the pan.  Then add the spinach and cook for a further 3 minutes.

  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending the soup using either a handheld blender or a liquidiser.
  • Serve the soup warm with crème fraiche.

The Beekeepers Apprentice

This year I have undertaken the role of a beekeeper’s apprentice as my father has a small apiary at the bottom of one of our fields.  At the start of the year we had three hives which required very little attendance, other than making sure they had enough syrup during the cold winter months.  The fun really started when around April when the decision was made to artificially divide the hives in the hope that this would stop the hive from splitting and then swarming later in the year.  Well… that was the theory…

I spotted the first swarm on the first truly hot day of the year in the middle of May, fortunately my father was in the house when it happened, and with his help and guidance together we caught the swarm in a box – before then re-housing it in a ruchette (little hive).  The following day there were two more swarms.  So once again we donned our bee-suits and caught them both before once again re-housing the swarms in separate ruchettes.  I vividly remember half way through rehousing the second swarm (which is done by placing a white sheet in front of the ruchette with a plank of wood leading up to the entrance – so they can quite literally walk into their new home once you’ve upended the box of bees on to the sheet) my father turning to me and asking me if I could try to spot and then catch the queen (please bear in mind there tend to be thousands of bees in a swarm) whilst he popped back to the barn to get something.  I set about this task during his absence and with the help of the workers bees who tend to bow with their tails in the air when a queen is in close proximity, I managed to catch not just one queen but five queens (please note this is NOT normal).  After a lot of deliberation we decided to let all the queens go and watched them all head on up into the Ruchette – which with the joy of hindsight and a little bit of research on Google was entirely the wrong thing to do.

I suspect you might have already guessed what happened next…



The following day when both my parents were out at a friend’s birthday lunch, I popped down to check the hives at midday to find three swarms.  With no option other than to catch the swarms myself I armed myself with the swarm catching kit (aka 2 wine boxes and a wicker waste paper basket) and set about catching and attempting to re-house each of the swarms.  To say I had one or two problems was an understatement!  One of the swarms decided they did not want to enter the new ruchette but instead they would rather remain in the wooden box – so after two attempts I decided to leave them in the box.  One of the swarms did enter the ruchette but two hours later decided they would rather swarm again and  take up residence on a branch 3 metres away.  So I had to catch and re-house them twice.  As for the third swarm that was placed in the wicker basket I decided after all the excitement of the second swarm I would leave them be (excuse the pun) until my father’s return.

Similar events occurred the following weekend (typically when my parents were away visiting friends leaving me in charge of the smallholding and all its occupants).  Below is an email I sent to my father whilst he was away to update him on the “Bee situation”…

To: Dad

Subject:  Bees

Dear Dad

 Well this is how yesterday went.  Saw big swarm – put it in a box very easily.  Went to get Ruchette, with Susan’s [A Beekeeping Friend who was somewhat of a life saver] help kitted it all out and went and put them in the box.   Meanwhile another sneaky swarm was forming so after rehousing the first, went and put 2nd swarm in box.  Left them until 7pm – both swarms were still in situ so I rang Susan!  Susan had fortunately just reorganised her bees, so told me to pop over and collect her display hive.  She gave me more wax and cardres…  I then came home and sorted it all out, and put the bees to bed – which was in fact a much bigger swarm by the time all the bees had gone into the box than I would have thought.  So I then put those bees to bed (please note as I did so I saw what looked like a new young queen – who must have gone into the ruchette as the bees flooded in…)

So this morning, I am going to remove one of the feeders from a ruchette and give it to the second new swarm.  Will look at the big hive at the same time…

Love Ant

P.S  I dislike your bees immensely right now!!!

P.P.S Lambs and I are not on speaking terms as they have taken a chunk out of my index finger.

After all the excitement of the swarms during May, things calmed down considerably and the only thing that needed to be done to the hive was place a super on top to allow the bees to start making their honey which they have been doing all summer.  At the end of last week it was decided that the honey harvest was to happen and so, over the course of one afternoon, we spun the honey out of the frames using a centrifuge which has left us with roughly 82kg of honey…

I apologise for the length of the blog and don’t blame anyone who scrolls straight down to the recipes, which surprise, surprise involve honey as an ingredient…  Over the last couple of days I have made a number of dishes but there are really two that stood out.  The first was a play on an upside down cake and the second can really only be described as a fancy cheese on toast starter.  But without further ado here are the recipes.

Honey, Reine Claude Plum and Apple Upside Down Cake (Serves 8-12)


  • 5 eggs
  • 250g cooking margarine
  • 250g sugar
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cardamom pods (shells removed and seeds crushed)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 15 plums (stoned and halved) – I used Reine Claude
  • 2 medium apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 5-6 tbsp honey (runny)


  1. Preheat oven to 160C fan.  Line and grease a 30cm cake tin.
  2. In a bowl, beat to together the margarine and sugar until soft.
  3. Add the eggs to the mixture slowly (adding a little flour if the eggs start to curdle).
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and beat together thoroughly.
  5. Pour the honey into the bottom of the cake tin, using the back of a spoon to help evenly spread the honey around the bottom of the tin.
  6. Add the fruit in the pattern you would like (remember it will become the top of your cake).
  7. Finally pour over the batter and place in the over for approximately 50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  8. Serve with crème fraiche.

Fancy Cheese on Toast (Serves 3)


  • 6 pieces of melba toast
  • 100g soft goats cheese
  • small handful sliced almonds
  • 6 fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp runny honey
  • Black pepper (seasoning)


  1. Cut the cheese into 6 slices.  Place a slice of the cheese onto each of the melba toasts.  Place under a hot grill for 1 minute.
  2. Whilst the cheese is under the grill, heat the almonds in a frying pan on a hot heat for around 1 minute.
  3. Remove the cheese on toast from the grill and plate up – by placing two of the toasts on each plate, scatter over a few almonds, drizzle over ½ tsp of honey, place a coriander leaf on each of the toasts and season with black pepper.  Then serve quickly so you can enjoy them whilst they are still warm.

There may have been tears at the start but it was worth it in the end…

No, for those who are wondering I am not an emotional wreck today, I have merely been cutting onions.  Over the years I have pretty much tried everything to stop the tears flowing when cutting onions including: wearing glasses, sticking out my tongue and putting a spoon in my mouth, but in the end it always seems more hassle than it’s worth and it doesn’t always work.  Subsequently, for roughly five minutes this morning as I peeled some red onions I had tears running down my cheeks.

Today I have been trying to recreate a Red Onion & Port Marmalade that I made two weeks ago on a bit of a whim.  I had seen some red onions for sale in the market which looked pretty good, so I thought why not try something new that would work well with cheese – the end result was a red onion & port marmalade.  The major problem I have in the kitchen when I try out a new recipe is I never write down what it is I am doing especially quantities of ingredients (this is partly because I largely cook by eye and by tasting things regularly).  So when the first of the 3 pots of the onion marmalade was opened and finished in less than a day last week and the second pot quickly disappeared too, I thought I had better try and work out what exactly I did before all memory of what I’d done disappeared.

The first thing I should mention is that in the first batch I made, I used up a rather old bottle of port that had been lying around for years called Sao Pedro (aged for 10) years which had a lovely strong flavour and really good smell which really came out in the marmalade.  However, this morning I used a somewhat cheaper Tawny port, that was much sweeter and in my opinion far less fragrant.  But that being said they both have worked well despite tasting slightly different. So I would say depending on your budget or what you have left lying around it doesn’t really matter what type of port you use.

Red Onion & Port Marmalade


  • 5tbsp olive oil
  • 2.4kg (weight after being peeled)
  • 2tsp thyme
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 250ml port and ½ small wine glass of port
  • 350ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper


  1. Sterilise some jam jars ready for use once your onion marmalade is made.
  2. Finely slice the onions (I use a food processer to do this for ease).
  3. Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and warm on a low heat.
  4. Add the onions and half of the sugar to the pan and stir.  Cover with a lid and leave the onions to soften slowly, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the onions are soft, add the thyme, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and the remaining sugar.  Turn up the heat a little and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
  6. After about 5-10 minutes add the port (keeping back the port in the wine glass as you’ll need this later) and stir together.
  7. Now it is a waiting game, as you stir your pan occasionally until the liquid has reduced down so there is only a little liquid left in the pan.
  8. When you think your onion marmalade is almost ready give it a little taste to see if it needs a little more seasoning, before you add the remaining port (if you think it needs it) that you have held back in the wine glass, stir the port in and cook for a further 5-10 minutes before removing from the heat and placing in the sterilised jam jars for storing.

Ideas for what to serve the Red Onion & Port Marmalade with…

All of the ideas I have for the Red Onion & Port Marmalade involve cheese as that is what I originally had in mind when I first made it.  I made both of the following recipes as a starter as they were good to share amongst a large number of people…

Goats Cheese and Red Onion & Port Marmalade Tarts (makes 4 small tarts)


  • 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 200g of soft goats cheese (remove any rind)
  • 14-16 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 4 heaped tsp of the red onion & port marmalade
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Black pepper for seasoning
  • 1 small egg


  1. Preheat oven to 190C fan.
  2. Lightly flour 4 individual tart tins (12cm diameter).
  3. Roughly cut the puff pastry into four pieces and place in the tart tins.
  4. Spread 1 heaped teaspoon of the onion marmalade on the bottom of each of the individual tarts.
  5. Cut the goats cheese into small chunks and distribute equally between the tarts along with the cherry tomatoes, drizzle over a little olive oil and add a little black pepper.
  6. Finally beat the egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, lightly brush some of the egg wash over the exposed pastry.
  7. Place in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes (until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted).

Baked Cheese Parcel served with Red Onion & Port Marmalade


Cheese Parcel:

  • 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 500g wheel of either Coulommiers, Brie or Camembert (depending on what type of cheese you like most)
  • 1 egg
Serve with:

  • Red Onion & Port Marmalade
  • French bread
  • Carrot batons


  1. Preheat oven to 190C fan.
  2. Using a fork prick the top of the cheese you are using 6 times through to the middle of the cheese.
  3. Place the cheese in the centre of the pastry.
  4. You now need to make the cheese into a parcel, I do this by cutting the pastry into 8 segments and then folding the gently into the middle of the cheese and cutting off any excess.
  5. Finally beat the egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, lightly brush some of the egg wash all over the pastry.
  6. Place in the oven and cook for 20-22 minutes (until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted).
  7. Remove from the oven and serve with the red onion & port marmalade, french bread and carrot batons.


Side dishes

As ever it has been a busy couple of days picking the apples, pears, plums off the trees ‘squirreling them away’ as my father says, ready for the winter months.  During this time I have been thinking about what to write about and have fallen on the subject of side dishes.  There is absolutely no way I can cover this huge food area in just one blog, so I have decided I will give ideas for various side dishes over a series of blogs over the course of the next couple of months.

For me side dishes are just as important as the centre piece that makes up any meal – because they can be the thing that makes or breaks a meal.  At the moment we are eating a whole host of different types of salads and couscous dishes because they are fresh and tasty.  However, I am looking forward to the start of autumn and the weather cooling slightly so that I can justify making potato dauphinoise (obviously with a healthy quantity in it), macaroni and cheese and roasted root vegetables…

For this blog I thought I would start with a couple of dishes that we often serve with a BBQ: Roasted Vegetable Couscous, Tomato and Red Pepper Salad and A Mixed Salad.

  Continue reading

Pizza from scratch

The last couple of days have been frantic at home and have involved a lot of cooking.  As promised I said I would fess up to any disasters that I have had and yesterday I had a spectacular one!!  I have had an idea about making a courgette and chocolate cake but rather than making a standard sponge I decided that I would make a flourless sponge.  All I can say is BIG MISTAKE!  The end result was a flat custardy in texture brown cake that was well interesting to try.  After encouraging everyone to try it I am ashamed to say it ended up in the bin…  That being said, I intend to learn from my mistakes and try again this time with flour and make a batter not dissimilar to that of a carrot cake and if it works and more importantly tastes nice I will share the recipe in a future blog.

Yesterday, evening with nine of us to feed I thought I would go for something fun but a little different, a sharing food that required everyone’s involvement – Make your own pizzas…  When people have been asked to sum my family up in one word, the word that comes up time and time again is “competitive”, last night was no exception!!!  True to form, the banter was flowing, the jokes were coming quick and fast – but beneath all the ‘tomfoolery’ tensions were running high as to who would be deemed to have made the best pizza!

The preparations started around 2 hours before we actually sat down to eat as the dough needed to be made, kneaded and left to rise and a basic tomato sauce needed to be concocted.  It was quite a sociable affair as everyone was in the kitchen chatting in a desperate attempt to keep cool as yet again the temperature outside was above 40C.

Before everyone piled into the kitchen, where the games would really begin, a couple of us kitchen monkeys headed in to prepare the toppings, of which we had many: cured meats, goats cheese, red pepper to name a few.  After knocking back the dough and dividing it into 8 equal sized balls ready for rolling, we called the competitors family in to make up their pizzas two at a time ready for scrutinising.

Before sharing the recipes I have another confession to make – I didn’t make enough dough.  My family can eat a lot and were still hungry after 8 pizzas, so I ended up making a really quick flat bread dough recipe to use a pizza dough substitute which worked far better than I could have ever imagined so I will share that with you too!


Pizza Dough (makes 8 pizzas)


  • 750g plain flour
  • 1oz fresh yeast (or a packet of dried yeast)
  • 375-400ml water
  • 1 ½  tsp salt
  • 2 ½ tsp ground pepper (optional)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  1. Mix together the flour, pepper and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl mix together the yeast and sugar.  Add in the olive oil and water then stir together to start the yeast activating.
  3. Combine the wet mix with the dry mix.  Using your hands bring the mix together  until it forms a ball of dough. (Add a little more water if the dough is flaky).
  4. On a lightly floured surface start kneading your dough.  It is going to take roughly 10-15 minutes until the texture changes and becomes the perfect pizza dough.  (What you are looking for is the dough to spring back to its original form when it is pressed lightly with your finger).
  5. Once you have finished kneading the dough place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside for around 2 hours to rise.
  6. After two hours, knock the air out of the dough and cut into eight pieces.
  7. On a lightly floured surface roll out your dough until it is roughly 2/3mm thick.
  8. Place the rolled dough on a piece of baking paper and add a little tomato sauce and then toppings of your choice (for ideas see below).
  9. Cook pizzas in a hot oven roughly 225C fan for 10-12 minutes or until crispy.


Simple Tomato Sauce


  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 heaped tbsp of tomato puree
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Olive oil for cooking


  1. Finely dice the onion and finely chop the garlic and place in a pan with some oil and the sugar then place on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, thyme, season with salt and pepper, then stir all the ingredients together and leave to simmer on a very low heat for 5-10 minutes.

Flat bread dough substitute for pizza if time is short


  • 300g plain flour
  • 175ml water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  1. Mix all the ingredients in bowl.
  2. Divide dough into 3 equal sized balls and roll out on a floured surface, cover with a little tomato sauce and the toppings of your choice.
  3. Cook pizzas in a hot oven roughly 225C fan for 10-12 minutes or until crispy.

Pizza Topping Ideas

  • Goats cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Grated emmental
  • Red pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • Pesto
  • Chilli
  • Salami
  • Bacon
  • Basil leaves
  • Roasted aubergine
  • Parma ham
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red onion