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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Blood soup and canasta

Halloween was fun!

Pumpkin head

Maori-inspired pumpkin head

It was a boozy canasta evening with the neighbours, complete with Halloween accessories of many candles, plastic bats, a pumpkin head and a ghoulish menu:

Starter: Blood soup with bread bones

Main: Sausage and potato tray bake with tomato eyeballs

Dessert: Ensaimada with pumpkin jam

My pumpkin wasn’t staying alight. Not enough air could be drawn through the teeth to supply enough air, so I gouged out some rough bat shapes round the sides and back.

Bats carved in back of pumpkin head

Hubby's idea. Worked really well as back-projection (or perhaps that should be 'bat-projection')

We put it outside in the neighbours’ courtyard, against a white wall. The result was a leering face in front of a projection of bats onto the back wall. The wind blowing the candle made the bats flit to and fro. It was totally unintentional, but a real ‘wow’ (which I’m recording here so I remember to do it again in future!)

Blood soup with bread bones

The soup is beetroot and horseradish, really! White bread rolls modelled into bones, painted with egg wash to make them look dark, shiny and freshly exhumed.

Steve’s winnings

We had a great time at Brixham Fishstock and stayed until the end. And what an end! The tail end of Hurricane Maria came lashing in with a storm that the tropics would be proud of. The last band in the main tent must have thought they were wildly popular as all the remaining attendees squashed into the tent to get out of the rain.

It wasn’t going to stop so we headed towards the gate. It was raining so much that we abandoned the dash and sheltered in the acoustic tent. There was a slight lull so we zigzagged across to the RNLI tent, then finally piled into the Dockmaster’s office.

Meanwhile hubby Steve had been flagged down by some anxious stall holders who were trying to pack up and needed help lifting their gear into the van. They needed help with a large barbecue/grill device. after lifting that in, Steve stayed on and helped them with the rest. What a lovely bloke! As he went to leave they gave him a whole chorizo sausage as a thankyou.

That’s what I’m getting round to. I made a dish with it last night that worked out well, and I must get it blogged before I forget!

Pan fried chicken and Chorizo lentils

Fishstock!

Brixham Fishstock this weekend. A celebration of all things fishy, with music.

The daughter and son-in-law are coming down, so I’m busy cooking up a few things, including Chocolate Pear Cake, which uses some of the pears I bottled last week (one bottle down, 24 to go). Son-in-law loves chocolate, so any visit is preceded by a chocolate-based frenzy in the kitchen, and much hurrumphing from hubby, who tries to claim that HE never gets this much attention (course he does).

Brixham Fishstock 2010

Son-in-law suffering a food and beer mugging by team Squires.

We’re sad that Mad Dog McRea isn’t appearing this year, but Fisherman’s Friends should be good. I hope the Polynesian dancers will be performing again this year. They wiggle those grass skirts so fast! I’ve discovered that the secret is to quickly flex your knees in a back and forth motion, then your hips naturally follow. Perhaps I can audition to join the troop this year? I’ve noticed that although the main guys are Polynesian, the large troupe of lady backing dancers look like they come from Torquay. I’m sure I would be an asset, albeit a large one.

Cheap hanging baskets, part 2

Well, things are very much behind, here in the cheap hanging basket department.

Where are the flowers?

Basket with few flowers

Basket with few flowers

They’ve also cost me over £22 so far, in compost and those wretched liners that cost more than £3 each!

My nasturtiums all wiggled themselves off in the howling gales we have here on the coast (which was a double shame because I was looking forward to pickling the seeds, which make an excellent substitute for expensive capers).

I’ve been feeding them with Tomorite, as suggested by our local horticultural experts, yet still have too much green and not enough flower. And here we are, in the third week of July!

It’s not all gloom. This one is looking a bit more promising:

Slightly more interesting basket

Slightly more interesting basket

But I’m really hoping that this pot can come up with something that isn’t orange in the near future!

Pot with lots of orange flowers

Pot with lots of orange flowers

The perfect (cheap) hanging basket

One of my little retirement projects is to evolve the perfect hanging basket. It’s not going well so far. At my current rate of progress I will be a centenarian before I get it right. This is my sixth year of experimentation here in Brixham, and the years have gone like this:

Year 1: Beautiful, mixed baskets that flowered all summer. That’s because I bought them ready-made from the garden centre at a whopping £40 each! Easy when you’re in gainful employment.

Year 2: Planted up my own selection in the hardware from previous year. I bought mixed plants plants called ‘the hanging basket selection’. It was really boring. Huge amounts of tedious foliage with the odd red flower here and there. If you’d been colour-blind, you wouldn’t have known it was flowering at all. Whose idea was that, Mr B&Q buyer?

Year 3: Forgot. By the time I got to the shops in late May, all the hanging basket plants were sold out. We didn’t have baskets that year.

Year 4: In an early manifestation of the tightwaddery I am currently trying to make into a fine art, I decided to go minimalist. Plants grow to fill the available space, right? So if I just put three in each basket, they will grow bigger. It worked, but I forgot that when one has finished flowering and dies, a third of your display has gone, too. We had baskets that looked half dead half the time.

Year 5: In April I bought a range of lovely, strapping, healthy plants from a local garden centre. By June my baskets were in full flower. Beautiful! Unfortunately, it all peaked too soon, and by July all was over. According to our local horticultural society expert, you shouldn’t put baskets out until June at the earliest.

Year 6: This year, I’m going super cheap. I’ve bought a pack of ‘Hanging basket’ seeds from Trago Mills – 75p!

Adding the cost of basket liners and compost, that brings my five hanging baskets in at under a tenner, instead of the 200 quid they were five years ago. Doesn’t it give you a delicious, tightwad shiver down your spine? It does me!

Things are going reasonably well so far. I could have done with planting the seeds at different times – the nasturtiums (nasturtia?) are all over the place and ready to flower, while the lobelia is still only as big as cress, but I live in hope.

Hanging basket plants grown from seed

Plants grown from seed, hardening off in the cold frame ready for their debut in situ next week.

I’ll plant them out next week and get them out ready for the first week in June, as per the horticultural expert. Let’s see what happens.