Pizza Brixhamara

Pizza with Brixham fishing boat

The best of life in Brixham!

This is my kind of meal! Everything fresh, grown, recycled, found or gifted!

At this time of year, sprats are fished in the area. The seagulls know what time the boat is coming back in (how do they know?) and go out to meet it, so I was ready with my camera when I saw them flocking out to sea. Sure enough, within a few minutes, the sprat boat hove into view, complete with every seagull in Brixham in tow.

Actually, if the sea were warmer, I would be following the boat too, like a large seal!

We’ve been lucky and have occasionally been given a mixed bag of sprats, anchovies and herrings. And when I say ‘bag’, I mean shopping bag held under the boat hopper and filled with about 20 pounds of quivering silver beauties!

This time the herring were full of roe and I was able to have a delicious fried roes on toast for lunch, as well as a freezer full of fish.

Anyway, back to ‘Pizza Brixhamara’, which is more of an idea than a recipe.

My greenhouse tomatoes are still ripening – amazing when it’s nearly December! I had about a kilo, which I chopped and sweated with a couple of cloves of garlic and olive oil until they were well broken down (about 20 minutes). I pushed this mixture through a sieve. That’s essential at this time of year because the tomato skins are very tough, and if not removed they roll up and stab your throat like pine needles. Not nice.

I returned the ‘passata’ to the pan, added a splash of Balsamic and a teaspoon of brown sugar, and simmered until reduced down to a thick sauce.

I used leftover mashed potato to make two bases. I added 1 egg, then self-raising flour until I achieved a pastry-like consistency. This was the pushed and patted into pizza bases and cooked in a hot oven for 10 minutes. I then spread the tomato paste on the bases. I had way too much, so I put half of it on, then gave it a blast in the oven for 5 minutes, took it out, added the rest of the sauce and blasted it again for a further five minutes. These little miracles are VERY tomatoey!

Pizza base, ready to freeze

Pizza base, topped with tomato that has been reduced and double baked to make it even MORE tomatoey!

At this point I cooled one of the bases down and froze it for future use. To the other I added sliced mozzarella, fileted fresh anchovies and capers*, then drizzled it with some anchovy paste which I’d loosened with some olive oil. Whack it in the oven for a further 15 minutes, and serve. It’s a perfect mix of crisp, sweet, salty, and creamy, with a taste of the ocean. I always think I’m only going to eat half of it, but I usually go back for seconds and end up eating it all.

* Actually, my capers were pickled nasturtium seeds that I’d rescued from my hanging baskets. They’re not entirely successful this year, having a great flavour but being a bit crunchy!

So, a real taste of Brixham, which only cost me the price of the mozzarella (Sainsbury’s Basics, 41p). That titillates my tightwad taste buds!

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Pumpkin dumplings

Another way with pumpkin!

Pumpkin needs to be roasted to caramelise the sugars in it and give of depth of flavour. This week I roasted a whole tray full of pumpkin chunks with olive oil, then pureed the lot. I made these dumplings two days running. Day one I used them to top a beef in beer stew, day two I had them like pasta, with a sauce made of garlic, bacon and blue cheese. Great both ways!

0.5 pint of pumpkin puree
1 egg
plain flour
salt, pepper and nutmeg

  1. Season the puree well. Break and egg into it, mix thoroughly, then add enough plain flour to make a soft, dropping consistency.
  2. Fill a large pan with salted water and bring to the boil. When there is good rolling boil, drop dessertspoonfuls of the mixture in, in batches (don’t let them touch and stick together).
  3. They are done when they rise to the top, after a minute or so. Remove with a slotted spoon, then drain.
  4. Fry the dumplings in a little olive oil, then either add to the top of a stew and bake in the oven for a further 20 minutes, or whip up a quick, cheesy pasta sauce to douse them with, with a good scraping of parmesan.

TIP: Pumpkin, as a savoury dish, goes brilliantly with nutmeg, sage, bacon, garlic and cheese, in any combination!

Ensai-MAD!-a 2

Doh! The ‘tube’ is too thick again – not enough revolutions! There’ll be too much bread to jam, per portion.

Ensaimada - first attempt, 2011

Smells good - nice and puffy.

Good things:
1. It puffed up well
2. Jam didn’t leak out
3. Not too brown (always a problem – the dough is rich with egg and sugar, and darkens within minutes). I wonder if it’s cooked through? Won’t know till we cut into it tonight at our Halloween canasta party.

My recipe for ensaimada.
I want to make another one on Thursday for my art group. This time I will roll my dough out to a much longer, narrower shape, so that I get a thinner tube of jammy goodness, and more revolutions. (Come to think of it, WHY DO I keep rolling it out into a rectangle? I must be crazy…)

Ensai-MAD!-a

A title that won’t mean anything to many! Ensimaida. I’ve been struggling to make an ‘Ensimaida’ for a long time.

It’s a delicious Spanish pastry that, I know, from Mallorca. A coil of rich, buttery yeast pastry filled with a tasty, fibrous golden goo.

After many years of the enduring mystery, daughter found out that the filling is pumpkin jam, called ‘Cabello de angel’ (angel hair). She made me some delicious jam with her pumpkins, and I started the quest for the perfect ensaimada.

So far it’s gone wrong thus:

First attempt. Too much bread to jam ratio. (Have downscaled the bread to 250g of flour from 500g.)

Second attempt. Jam boiled out the ends of the coil, ran about all over the place and caramelised to a unattractive black crust! (I now make a big fuss of folding the ends over and sealing the jammy goodness in).

Third attempt. When you use ‘Google translate’ on the Spanish web pages for this recipe, it says you should keep it in a ‘locked cupboard’ to rise! Well, my ‘locked cupboard’ was too hot. I killed the yeast, and ended up with a crunchy, jam-filled drain-pipe.

At the point, I ran out of pumpkin jam, and gave up trying to make ensaimadas.

However, now I have a fresh supply of pumpkin jam, (and the Halloween pumpkin head), and I’m ready to try again!

Pumpkin head

Maori-inspired pumpkin head

Dough is now ready for manipulation…. I’ll keep you posted.

Bottling battles

‘Why do your bottles have too much airspace at the top?’ says hubby.

‘I don’t know. It doesn’t seem to matter,’ say I.

‘Why don’t you process them in the pressure cooker, then open them up and add some more liquid?’ says hubby.

‘Because that’s NOT how preserving is supposed to be done!’ snap I. ‘You don’t understand the preserving process! You’re supposed to seal it, then sterilize it all thoroughly by heating it, then let it cool, SEALED, so no contaminants can get in.’ Grump grump.

Sometime later…

‘You did WHAT?!’ shouts hubby, with some alarm.

‘I filled the bottles right up, then put the lids on tightly so none of the juice would come out during processing, and you wouldn’t be able to complain that my bottles weren’t full enough.’

‘Don’t you understand the heating process? Things get BIGGER! You’ve probably cracked all your bottles because the pressure would build up too high inside them,’ grumps hubby.

‘No – I heated the bottles, lids and all the contents, so everything was as big as it was ever going to get,’ I replied, with a somewhat wavering conviction.

Sometime later – I slipped the top off the pressure cooker, with trepidation.

Yeah! I was right! All is well. Everything has to be really hot before you start processing with the pressure cooker, and I’m now working my way through bottling the huge sack of pears we picked from our dinky little pear tree.

Bottled pears and cook books

Bottled pears and a couple of my preserving 'bibles' - 'Jams, Preserves and Chutneys' by Marguerite Patten, and The River Cottage Handbook, 'Preserves' by Pam Corbin.

Spring rolls/samosas/etc with a dip!

Came up with something simple and fantastic last night. I had some spring roll pastry left over (My spring roll pastry: 200 g strong flour, BIG splash oil, made to a soft dough with boiling water, kneaded until workable and rested in cling film for half an hour). I had a thin sheet left with no filling; my eyes came to rest on a bowl of sweet, yellow cherry tomatoes and garlic. So I assembled thin slices of garlic and whole cherry tomatoes, each one on a 6cm square of pastry, pulled the dough up round to make a swirly-topped dumpling, painted them with oil and cooked them in a hot oven for 10 minutes.
Couldn’t believe it worked! The tomato should have exploded into hot liquid and made the dough into gunge, but it was great! I served it with my ‘Vic Sin Sauce’, but any dipping sauce would do!

Tomato bites

Little yellow tomatoes in thin pastry, brushed with oil, baked.