Thursday, 28 June 2012

Asparagus Pizza with Ham and Goat's Cheese by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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Unfortunately I have to say, that so far this summer has disappointed. Instead of BBQs and ice cream it's been all about waterproofs, woolly jumpers and even hot water bottles here in the UK. I hope you're faring better elsewhere in the world and the last couple of days have looked a little more promising here also, dare I say?!

At least some of my favourite seasonal late spring/early summer produce has been as good as always. One of the things I always look forward to, apart from riding my bike in the sunshine, having picnics in the garden or the park and getting all my dresses out of their winter storage place under the bed, is the arrival of asparagus season in May.

I know, I know I'm a little late as it's nearly July and the season is pretty much over, but I didn't want to wait a whole year to share this amazing recipe for Asparagus Pizza with Ham and Goat's Cheese by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It was published in the Guardian a few weeks ago and as I had friends round that day I tried it straight away.


I adjusted the recipe, especially the amounts of ingredients in the topping as I ran out after topping 1 1/2 of the pizzas, which wasn't a problem as I just topped the rest with tomato, ham, peppers and mature cheddar, but if you want to go for all the same this should work:

Asparagus Pizza with Ham and Goat's Cheese by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

For the dough
250g plain white flour
250g strong white flour
1½ level tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra

For the topping
4 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for trickling 
4 large onions, peeled and sliced finely
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches slender green asparagus spears (about 800g)
200g air dried ham like parma or serrano
plenty of hard mature goat's cheese or parmesan (or a mix of both, or some soft goat's cheese)

To make the pizza dough, in a large bowl mix the the flours with the salt and yeast.

Add the oil and 325ml warm water, using your hands mix everything until you have a rough dough.

Tip out the dough on to a clean and floured work surface.

Flour your hands and knead rhythmically for five to 10 minutes, until smooth.

Coat a large bowl with a fine layer of olive oil.

Put the dough into the bowl and cover loosely with a clean tea towel.

Place in in a warm place to rise until doubled in size – at least one hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 240C/465F/gas mark 9, if it goes that high, or at least 220C/425F/gas mark 7, and put in a baking sheet or even better a pizza stone to warm up.

While the oven is getting hot, prepare the topping.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat.

Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt.

Reduce the heat to low and cook them gently.

Stir regularly to stop them from colouring. I also often cover them loosely with a bit of parchment paper which means they sweat as well as fry, which turns them nice and soft.

Fry for 20-30 minutes until really soft.

Returning to your dough,  tip it out of the bowl on to a lightly floured surface and deflate with your fingers.

Leave it to rest for a few minutes, then divide it into three equal portions.

Roll out one piece as thinly as you can.

Remove the hot baking sheet or pizza stone from from the oven, scatter over a little fine cornmeal or flour and lay the pizza base on it.

Spread a third of the onions over the dough and arrange a third of the asparagus on top. If your asparagus spears are thick, cut them in half lengthways.

Tear the ham into shreds and lay a third of it over the asparagus.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and finish with a generous trickle of good quality olive oil.

Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes, until the base is crisp, the edges browned and the asparagus tender.

Repeat with the remaining dough and topping.

Top with finely grated goat's cheese and/or parmesan as soon as it comes out of the oven and drizzle with a little more good quality olive oil. If you're using soft goat's cheese instead of the hard variety, put it on before the pizza goes in the oven.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Lucious Lemon Drizzle Cake

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I have written about this cake before in this post and in this one, but it is so good I think it deserves another post.

It's funny, when I look at my blog stats the most popular post of all times is Tana Ramsey's Lemon Drizzle Cake, but this one is so much better and it is easier to make also. No creaming the butter and sugar, no heating lemon juice and sugar for a glaze and yet a perfect moist and lemony cake as a result. How can you go wrong?! Whenever I make this I get loads of compliments and requests for the recipe. So if you have come here after googling "lemon drizzle cake recipe" look no further! The recipe originally came from my friend Karen who writes Lavender and Lovage.

This one is for my students who are graduating this year. Well done to you all!


Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezie All-In-One Lemon Drizzle Cake

5 oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz butter, softened
4 oz golden caster sugar
2 tbsp good quality lemon curd
1 large lemon, rind of, grated
2 eggs, whisked
1 tbsp water or lemon juice

1 juice of large lemon
4 oz granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 175 C/Gas 3-4

Grease and line a 2 lb loaf tin or round cake tin.

Put all the cake ingredients together into a large bowl & mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon and then a hand held mixer for a maximum of 3 minutes.

Pour into the prepared loaf or cake tin & bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup, by mixing the lemon juice and sugar together.

On removing the cake from the oven, pierce all over the top with a fine skewer or fork - keeping the cake in the tin.

Whilst the cake is still hot, pour the syrup over the top of the cake. Leave it in the tin to cool.

The syrup will leave a crunchy residue of sugar and be sticky to touch.

The quantity above can be easily doubled for a larger family cake.

The cake can also be split and have lemon curd spread between the two layers - it is then called a Luscious Lemon Drizzle Cake.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Prolonging the absence...

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a little longer. Sorry.

Work-wise this is the busiest time of the year for me. My final year students have just put up their work for this year Manchester School of Art Degree Show and I'm in the middle of assessing it. It's all very exciting, but means long and tiring days at the same time.

Will be back shortly....