February has been a month of mostly meals on my own. The Artist has been on numerous overseas trips, working in
Because the Artist’s been here so irregularly it was decided that the Actor, 16, and the Musician, 13, would spend last Friday night with us, eager eaters that they both have become. There was a time when the Musician wouldn’t have contemplated eating a meal based on fish and potatoes – he is the only child I have EVER met who claims to loathe roasted potatoes (madness, I know). Fish would rarely knowingly pass his lips. He’s a Bolognaise boy from way back. But something (was it his bah mitzvah last year?) has changed both him and his eating habits. He is now more adventurous than I’d ever dared to hope. Both boys, it would seem, love good food.
The peppery nasturtium plants in the back yard have finally begun to trail over the side of the wine barrel, a sure sign that they are ready to be picked and made into a salad, one with avocado and smoked salmon. Pizza, packed with potatoes, was the perfect choice for dinner.
The fish: Take 4 handfuls of washed and dried baby spinach leaves and toss into a bowl. Next add 2 handfuls of freshly picked nasturtium leaves. Drizzle with walnut oil, about 2 tablespoons worth and about 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. Toss until the leaves are well coated and glossy. Seed, peel and slice 1 avocado and add this to the bowl, tossing very gently. Transfer to a shallow serving plate. Toast a small handful of walnuts in a dry pan until fragrant (about 5 minutes) and break with your fingers over the top of the salad. Tear some strips of smoked salmon and drape over the whole lot. Pick a few nasturtium flowers and set on top as a finishing touch.
This worked really well, though the salmon wasn’t necessary, and it didn’t add anything special to the meal – I’ll leave it out next time. If you haven’t got nasturtium leaves, either omit them or use well picked watercress leaves – both are peppery and from the same botanical family.
The potatoes: Homemade pizza is something special. Something that never, ever fails to impress. A potato-topped pizza is one step better.
Pizza - makes 4 pizzas
120g of wholemeal flour
450g of plain flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 x sachets of dried yeast
2 tablespoons of milk
4 tablespoons of olive oil
For the base, mix the flours together in a bowl. Add the salt, yeast, milk, olive oil and 250ml of warm water. Using you hands, bring the ingredients together until a dough starts to form. Place the dough on a lightly floured bench top and knead for 8-10 minutes (therapeutic work this bread making) then shape the dough into a ball. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl and rub the dough around to lightly coat it (this prevents a skin forming on the surface, one that would otherwise stop it rising properly). Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.
For the potato topping
3 medium-large sized potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
5 onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
6 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Small handful of fresh thyme leaves
1 large globe of buffalo mozzarella, torn with your fingers (quite satisfying!)
Shavings of parmesan
Bring the potatoes to the boil in salted water, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Drain thoroughly and gently place in a very clean tea towel to absorb all the water – the potatoes need to be super-dry to work here. Set aside.
Fry the onion slowly in the oil until soft and golden (about 25 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 220 C.
Divide the risen dough into 4. Roll each piece out to a round of roughly 23cm (the more ‘rustic’ the shapes, the more charming the pizzas, so don’t be precious). Leave to rise on a baking tray in a warm place for about ten minutes. Evenly spread the onions over each base, followed by the potatoes, thyme, cheese and dot with yoghurt. Drizzle with oil, top with parmesan shavings and bake in the oven for twenty minutes or so, until the bases are crisp.
The photo doesn't really do the pizza justice - but I'd had a couple of glasses of wine by then...