Fish Tacos

This is a big cheat!   I’ve done these with some of the new fish products in the shop freezers….crispy battered fish fingers, …Tempura battered fish fingers, and older more familiar ones like Scampi and battered cod fillets etc etc etc…..

 

Coming from the Pacific Coast of Mexico around Baja, where they are quite California influenced, though also from the Caribbean coast of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsular, these often use sweet-flavoured predatory fish, but all fish are predatory really, our own favourite, cod, is a true deep sea monster of a hunter. I do feel that milder flavoured fish, like Pollock, Whiting and Basa don’t fair so well with these strong flavours from Mexico.

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You can buy a jar of ‘salsa’ or make your own finely dicing red pepper, onion and jalapeno chilli, chopped coriander leaf and squeezing lime juice on it just before serving…the original ‘pico di gallo’…” the chicken’s beak”

You can vary your salsa and your tortillas enormously….diced beetroot goes beautifully with fish in a ‘Mediterranean herby wrap, for instance. Crispy veggies are a must…radish is popular in Baja..grated carrot, shredded lettuce or cabbage etc etc…..

You want some ‘crema’, ….sour cream, thinned with a little milk …..chilli mayonaisse or garlic and onion dip and you want some hot sauce…but not too much, fish has a delicate flavour.

Choose your fish, choose your wrap or soft tortilla and choose your fillings and sauces….job done!

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Loaded Grilled Cheese Sandwich

This is another American staple food for kids, often served with tomato soup, but this is  kicked up a bit, or ‘loaded’ as the Americans say.

The name is misleading…it isn’t grilled it’s cooked on a griddle, a thick cast iron skillet or a hot plate…..a frying pan works just fine too!

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Shopping List:

Grated mild cheddar

Thickly sliced ‘real’ bread…two slices.

Margarine or butter to spread

Sliced peppers and onions

Sliced chorizo, or spicy pepperoni

Method:

Fry the peppers and onions together and when some dark edges appear add the chorizo or pepperoni, set aside warm. Clean the pan and put it back on the heat, set to low.

Heat up the  frying pan.

Butter one side of each slice of bread.

Put just a little grated cheese in the middle of the frying pan, spread out to roughly to the shape of a the bread slice, put one slice of bread on top of this, spreaded side down.  Now add grated cheese to the top of the bread in the pan to cover it evenly. Gather up any escaped cheese gratings to the bread..it’ll stick to the cheese underneath the slice.

Now put the warm pepper and meat mixture on top of the ‘cheese on toast’ in the pan, and add the other slice of bread on top, spreaded side up.

After a few minutes ease the bottom bread up from the pan gently…it will come loose when it’s ready and you can flip the sandwich over gently, throwing a little grated cheese under it as you do so. Once again any escaped cheese can be gathered up.

Both outer bread sides have  now ‘fried’ in the cheese fat and the grated cheese with it is browning….don’t let it get too dark, ….whilst you wait for the cheese in the middle of the sandwich to melt as well…be patient, it will melt!    Once it does it’s ready!

 

 

Chicken Tikka with store cupboard ingredients and cooked in a wok

There’s another Chicken Tikka recipe on the blog, but this one uses off the shelf ingredients available in any supermarket these days and is cooked indoors in a wok so the weather outside doesn’t matter. This is not a cheat recipe though…it tastes really good which is why I was told to put it on the blog….in fact we’re having it again tonight!

 

Shopping List:

Pataks Balti  Paste, in a jar, a heaped tablespoon

Lemon Juice, a tablespoonful, …bottled is fine

Yoghurt, either Greek ‘strained’ or similar. Four heaped tablespoonsful. If you can find it use ‘Straight Up’ from the Collective Dairy….Tesco and Sainsbury usually have it.

Milk, to ‘slacken’ the yoghurt, or thin it down.

Four Chicken Breats, cut into roughly one inch dice.

Garlic and Ginger  paste…in a jar. One heaped teaspoon

Sweet Paprika, two teaspoonsful.

Hot sauce….anything Mexican will work. One teaspoon or more if you wish…..

Ground Cinnamon, ..a quarter of a level teaspoon

Ground Nutmeg, a quarter of a level teaspoon

Orange food dye. Optional. The restaurants use it because the customers like it, but it adds no flavour.

Method:

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and leave in the ‘fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours…. eight is better, overnight is fine too.

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A half hour before cooking drain the marinade from the meat in a colander on your sink, swilling it around occasionally to get all the mixture off.  It’s a mistake to use too thick a yoghurt, hence the milk, as it just boils off and steals the heat that should be searing the meat.

Heat a wok on the hob and when it is very hot add a dash of vegetable oil and follow with a portion of chicken….don’t crowd the pan or you’ll lose the heat and it will stew instead of searing. When the underside had taken a bit of black colour flip the chicken over to cook the other side, then put aside in a warm bowl whilst you cook more meat. It will spit as it cooks…but that’s how you know it’s searing properly!

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You could always have more then one wok cooking if you have them…..

Serve how you like, ….

On flat breads with a dash of hot sauce and a splash of Garlic and Onion dip, like a kebab. Maybe with salsa like a wrap……..

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With a crisp green side salad.

In a wrap California style, with crispy vegetables and chilli mayonnaise

As part of an Indian ‘meze’ with other snacks, salad and chutney

 

 

 

 

Meat Monster Pizza..

Il Monstro di Carne…….   The Meat Monster!

A thin crust version of a Beast of a pizza this was made on a giant oven tray, so big its sides had to be bent to let it fit into a domestic oven and used three quarters of a Focaccia ready-mix packet, stretched thin.

Being a ‘bread’ mix this uses ‘strong’ or high gluten flour and was, quite frankly, a bit of a swine to get stretched out to make a thin crust pizza.  It really wanted to spring back into a ball again and be a loaf!  Persevere if you want to have a go at this, it’s easy, there’s hardly any kneading and it’ll feed 5 adults easily! I wanted to use the dough mix in question because it has some unusual ingredients like malted barley flour and a sourdough starter culture powder too…it certainly made a delicious crispy pizza base and was one of the nicest Chicago style pizzas I’ve ever eaten, so it’s worth fighting that dough!  

I only used three quarters of the mixed dough…the rest was used for another project the next day…..Panzerotta!

You need to make up the dough mix and strain the tomatoes two hours before you want to cook the pizza and the pizza can take another half hour in the oven, so plan ahead.

Shopping List:

Sainsbury Taste the Difference Focaccia and Ciabatta mix packet

Sainsbury Taste the Difference Italian Chunky Chopped Tomatoes ( mind you don’t buy the identical looking one with vegetables in!)

Olive Oil

Warm water

Sliced Mozzarella

Whole mozzarella, sliced quarter inch thick and the slices quartered.

Frozen Peppers, thawed and squeezed out dry

Sliced raw onion

Sun dried tomatoes, chopped

Toppings of your choice, lots of meaty ones….pepperoni, meatballs, diced ham, Italian sausage of various types..all recipes and methods on the blog here.

Method:

Make up the dough following the packet instructions, knead it only as needed to mix any lumps out….maybe 2 minutes. Put it in an oiled bowl, covered with clingfilm in the airing cupboard.

Strain the tomatoes over a fine sieve to remove the water….don’t push them through, just let them gently drain.

After two hours put the oven on at the max temperature!

Oil your pizza pan, take three quarters of the dough and put it on the pan and gently, slowly, stretch it out to form a rectangle right to the edges and up the sides a little…it’ll fight you all the way, but eventually you will win because you are cleverer……….Save the remaining dough in clingfilm for another day…but use within three days.

Cover the base completely with sliced mozzarella and fill any gaps with sliced whole mozzarella pieces.

Now put the dough on its tray in the oven to melt the cheese…you need to pre-cook this pizza in the way the Chicago pizzerias sometimes do!

Take the pizza out when the cheese has melted, mop any water away with kitchen towel and put the meat toppings on. Follow with the peppers onions and sundried tomatoes, and finish with the tomato sauce in dollops, the Chicago way. Put the pizza back into the oven until cooked…possibly 35 minutes in total…the toppings and cheese in the very centre will colour last,  ….when they have brown edges it’s ready.

To serve, turn onto a large chopping board, cut into three strips from side to side and cut into 5 or 6 ‘slices’ from front to back…three slices a portion……

 

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Mac ‘n Cheese

If you’re American you have to eat this every day when you’re a kid…it’s the Law!

It’s basically a cheese roux sauce poured over ready-cooked pasta and baked in the oven….pasta al forno. There’s a thousand versions and a lot of Americans add a LOT of cheese to the sauce and also add mustard powder and/or hot chilli sauce. Some like to garnish the top for a crispy layer. However you choose to do it, it’s surprisingly easy.

Shopping List:

Pasta, not necessarily macaroni  Spirali is popular.

Milk or milk and single cream mixed…who wants to live forever?

Butter

Grated cheese…mild cheddar or a ‘melting’ cheese like Gouda, Edam, Gruyere or Emmental etc etc

Breadcrumbs

Mixed herbs

Garlic granules

Mustard powder

Hot sauce

Grated cheddar or Parmesan to garnish

Method:

Cook the pasta drain and rinse under cold water. Shake to drain thoroughly…hollow pasta holds a lot of water!

Melt butter in a saucepan,  slowly add the flour and stir to mix without lumps. Slowly  add the milk a little at a time to mix thoroughly.

Turn on the oven to 200 deg. C or Gas Mark 6

Add the grated cheese to the roux you have made, stirring to melt it all thoroughly. Add mustard powder and hot sauce to taste if wished for. As it starts to thicken stir it through and then set aside off the heat.

Add the pasta to a baking dish, pour over the cheese sauce. Add a little breadcrumb on top, add garlic granules, mixed herbs and a little grated cheddar to garnish.

Bake in the oven until the sauce is bubbling in the middle as well as the edges….maybe 25 minutes, or as much as 45 for a huge dish.

 

Ultra thin crust pizza the easy way…….

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This is made with a Tesco ready made pizza dough base….another test to see just how far you can take these convenient bases. Turns out it’ll go right out to 13 1/2 inches with a little love…..

 

Shopping List:

One Tesco pizza dough base, in the fresh pastry section, not the pizza aisle

Tomato Sauce, a smooth one.

Grated mozzarella cheese

Thin sliced pepperoni

Green and red pepper strips

Onion strips

green chilli slices, …optional

Olive oil to grease.

Semolina to grease.

Method:

Take the dough out of the fridge at least two hours before you want to use it, to warm up slowly and bring the yeast back to life.

When it is up to a warm room temperature…maybe an hour, take it out of its plastic wrapping, unroll it very gently, leaving it on its greaseproof sheet. Put this on a plate and place it in the airing cupboard, covered in clingfilm, for an hour. As it warms up the exhausted yeast will come back to life again and get ready to consume the last of the sugars it can draw from the dough flour. It won’t rise like a bread loaf, but it will lighten and lift into bubbles of wafer thin pizza base.

Now take the warm, reinvigorated dough and start to stretch it, gently larger on the greaseproof paper using with your fingertips pushing away at the far side. Go to the centre from time to time to draw up upon the thicker dough left there.  Take your time with this and be gentle…you don’t want to ‘work’ that gluten in the dough or the base won’t stretch….. it’ll just spring back on you….you almost want to fool it into getting bigger.

You should, with patience, be able to get the dough out to almost 14inches and at the very edge of the paper.

Now lightly oil a proper pizza pan, dust it with a tiny amount of semolina and gently place the dough into the pan, before working the dough to the edges as far as you can. The pan pictured below is a ‘Chicago Metallic’ Professional Non Stick Deep Dish Pizza Pan, 14 1/2 inch, ordered from BuySend on Amazon, it was £9:59 in January 2018. You can see that the Tesco dough just wouldn’t go right out to the edge, but it was by now, so thin you could see through it!

Spread tomato sauce thinly, followed by grated mozzarella:

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Add the pepperoni, peppers, onion and chilli if liked

 

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Cook at the very top of the oven with the oven turned up as high as it will go, turning it around at least once to get an even cook.

 

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Look at the bubbles that form at the en-weighted edge…this is the real Neapolitan “cornicone” crust…and you are now a master “pizzaiolo”    Multo Bene !  Just remember to burn the Tesco wrapper……..it’s our secret.

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Italian Sausage for Pizza

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A lot of pizzas in America have ‘Italian Sausage’ as a topping……and invariably it’s loose minced pork with herbs and spices, not stuffed into skins at all.

The most famous sausage-topped pizza in America is the original classic Chicago deep pan pizza from Malnatti’s which just has little tiny patties of pork mince with a little salt and pepper and a pinch of herbs and a pinch of sugar, but this is something else…the whole storecupboard goes into this sausage………….

Shopping List:

An Orange and a lemon for their zest.

5% fat pork mince.

Italian Seasoning

Mixed herbs

Dried green pepper granules

Dried red pepper granules

Black Pepper and garlic Blend

Sweet Paprika

Hot chilli flakes

Dried Tarragon

Fennel seeds

Pinch of sugar

 

Method:

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and blend them gently together …. don’t work the mixture too roughly or the proteins will bind together.

 

The mixture can then be put into a plastic bag, the tip cut off and the meat squeezed out to make little patties in the Malnatti’s Chicago style or frozen for later use.

You can also gently dry fry smaller sausage shaped portions for cooling and slicing to add to, for instance, a Calzone ‘stuffed pizza’

005Ready for squeezing into patties or cooking for later use……..with some left-over citrus zest for next time…………

Battista’s Calzone Company, Edmonton, Canada….’Spicy Italian’ Calzone Pizza

 

This Calzone uses some pre-cooked ingredients and is seriously good!

 

Shopping List:

One Tesco ready-rolled pizza base

Sliced pepperoni

Frozen Sliced Peppers

Tomato sauce

Onion cut into strips

Mozzarella Slices or grated if wished

Mixed herbs to coat the crust.

 

Method:

Dry fry the pepperoni, sliced onions  and sliced peppers gently to chase out the water then turn up the heat and get the fat to colour and flavour the vegetables a little. Set aside to cool a little.

Spread the lower half of the calzone base with cheese, top with tomato sauce and then add the meat and pepper mixture. Fold the top half over the bottom half to enclose the fillings and seal the edges with a little water. put a little cut in the top to let steam out

 

Brush the top with olive oil and mixed herbs and bake at 200 deg. C, Gas Mark 6 for about 20 minutes. It’s done when the hot bubbling sauce oozes out of the top through the knife cut..though you can press it to see if it’s bubbling yet.

Malnati’s Classic Deep Dish Chicago Pizza

Shopping List:

ASDA Pizza base, 400 grams.

Sainsbury Taste The Difference Italian Chunky Chopped Tomatoes…or similar.

5% fat Pork Mince with the following added to it:

(Mixed herbs, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar)

Sliced Mozzarella

Grated Mozzarella

Butter to grease the pizza pan.

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Method: …. start 2 hours before cooking!

Drain the tomatoes through a sieve as pictured….just leave them to drain for 2 hours….don’t push them through.

Take the dough out of the fridge to warm up…after an hour open it out and place it on clingfilm, cover it in more film and put it in the airing cupboard for another hour. It must be sealed tight or it will dry out!

 

Butter the pizza pan…mine is a 14 and a half inch one from Chicago Metallic.

 

Put the warm dough into the pan and gently, gently stretch it out to the edges and up the sides. watch your fingernails don’t pierce the dough at the edges…….

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Now cover the base fully with sliced mozzarella …there must be no gaps….and top that with grated mozzarella………….

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Spread the sausagemeat out in little flat patties with nothing thicker then a quarter of an inch or it won’t cook!………

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Take the tomatoes out of the sieve and into a bowl and spoon little dollops across the pizza top……….

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Bake at 200 degrees C Gas Mark 6 for about 25 minutes, turning at least once for even cooking………

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Now you’re a Pizza King too!

Lou-at-Pizza-

 

This pizza has the honour of being the first one my wife liked after 30 plus years of attempts!!!!!!!  Lou….you’re a saint!

 

 

Pizza, …and you thought you knew about it?

Thick or thin?

  Chicago is famous for thick crust pizzas, right?    New York for thin crust?                    Well yes….and no. You see there’s also Bar Pies and Grandma’s……….read on:

In fact he very first Chicago ‘deep pan ‘pizzas had incredibly thin bases designed as a bar snack to stop you going home for your dinner and to keep you right there in that bar.

malnati   It appears the very first one was offered by Rudy Malnati in 1943 and the idea was carried on by his son Lou, who started his own chain of pizzerias. Today his sons Mark and Rick run a huge number of outlets of over 50 pizzerias….and every one offers the original Deep Dish Malnati Chicago Classic with sliced cheese at the bottom, lean sausage on top of that and chucky tomato pieces on the very top. It has a buttery, light and very thin crust:

lou malnati's original Chicago with sausage

Nowadays lots of Chicago pizzerias offer thick crust deep pan  pizzas that have a lot of thick filling pizza base….so there’s a big difference between deep dish and deep panbut both tend to always have the cheese at the bottom and the tomato on top:

Here’s a big thick old deep pan: They tend to need a lot of oil in that base to make it digestible….it’s almost fried bread…….

chicago deep pan pizza

 

 

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Thin crust isn’t just New York, it’s more specifically New Jersey…and some of them are as thin as a flour tortilla! They too were first offered as bar room snacks and in New Jersey they are invariably called Bar Pies.

Famous pizzerias there  include Kinchleys, opened in 1937 using an incredibly thin crust and sliced cheese.

Then there’s Patsy’s, with a crust so thin it has to be rolled with a rolling pin.

There’s also the Star Tavern that cooks its thin, thin pies in a deep dish with half the rim cut off, or they’d never get it out of the pan.

 

‘Tavern’ huh?  That reminds me…outside of downtown Chicago most Chicago pizzerias and bars offer a ‘Tavern Style’ pizza…thin crust, round base….cheese on top…the main difference to New York is that they are cut into squares for serving, not wedges……  Confused?  It gets worse!

The Grandma

This is a thin square base covered in sliced cheese and has chucky tomatoes on top made from whole torn tomatoes. It was invented by Umberto Corteo….it kind of looks like it might be a Malnati original, but don’t tell anyone….Umberto’s is from New York…….though it’s out towards Long Island, not New Jersey.

umbertos-grandma

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Cold Cheese Pizza.

This one’s quite simple……it was invented at Tonio’s to save the roof of the mouth of inebriated students from burning! A bit of an ‘acquired taste’……it doesn’t matter when you’re drunk…..

cold cheese pizza

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The Crazies and Instagram

Put up a picture of an amusing pizza on Instagram and you just might find yourself so busy you need to open more outlets! That’s what happened to Vinnies when Sean Berthiaume uploaded an image of a pizza….topped with pizza. This thing nearly broke the internet with almost 9 million views.

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So they started thinking up crazy new pizzas and it just snowballed from there.  Here’s the Pizza Box Pizza…the box and its top, are pizzas too!

vinnies pizza box pizza

In fact, so barking mad are they at Vinnie’s, you might enjoy their menu:

vinnies menu1

vinnies menu2

Got half an hour?  Have a look at Vinnie’s Specials Boards

http://specialbored.tumblr.com

 

So it doesn’t really matter how you like your pizza or what you want on or in it…Thin Crust, Deep Crust,  Deep Pan, ‘to the edge’ topping, Cheese at the bottom, Cheese on top, Square Crust, Round Crust, Calzone or Stromboli……it’s out there and it’s legit……and I’ll soon have recipes for all of them on the blog.

All of the new recipes, uploaded after today, 31.1.2018, will be real genuine recipes for Pizzas from Over The Pond from real North American pizzerias….first will be the Malnati Original Deep Crust of course……Nice one Lou!

 

Lou-at-Pizza-

 

Some US pizza factoids:

The industry is worth almost half a billion pounds annually, that’s   £M490,000,000,000 or $B70.

These figures do not include the readymade pizzas sold in supermarkets or the ingredients they also sell to make your own at home!

Almost 61 percent of that market belongs to the ‘big four’; Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Little Caesar’s…but almost 40 percent of that massive market is made up of little independent pizzerias and the local chains that have grown from them.

Such independents are unknown in the UK, though Franco Manca might be the closest we have.

But of course, pizza is from Italy, specifically Naples, or Napoli in Italian. Here it is a simple thing, supposedly created to test an oven’s temperature and dedicated to the new Queen Margherita, consisting of tomato sauce and torn chunks of mozzarella cheese on a thin base of bread, proved with a sourdough starter and possibly topped with torn basil leaves and perhaps an anchovy.

In Rome they go a little further all sorts of toppings and even simple pasta sauce cacio e pepe consisting of Pecorino Romano cheese and lots of ground black pepper…this stuff nearly crashed the internet again in 2016.

cacio-e-pepe-pizza

Now that’s got to be the easiest pizza in the world to make!

 

I mentioned sourdough starters just then….and this is I think the ‘secret’ to thin crust pizza bases….you don’t want a powerful baker’s yeast giving you a bread base….you want something thin and barely risen.

I’ll be doing a sourdough starter pizza soon, but in the meantime, those ready made doughs from the supermarkets might just be a better option than you might think…the dough is a little tired…the yeast almost asleep…it isn’t going to rise too much. They are FAR better then the early ‘pizza mixes’ we were sold in the Seventies that basically gave you a base of dry bread.

For example, the Malnati original deep dish pizza, the Chicago original……..works perfectly with an ASDA 400gm ready made pizza dough! Recipe to follow soon…….

 

Coming soon!:  Deep Fried Pizza ( Panzerotta or Calzone Fritti) and Belgian Pizza ( Flamme Kueche or Tarte Flambeé)