Neither Petronela my wife nor I really like turkey, but many alternatives for Christmas dinner that I would relish – pheasant, partridge, even guinea fowl – are ruled out as Petronela won’t eat them. I say ‘dinner’ because for the first time in years we will be able to eat in the evening, which we prefer, rather than ‘lunch’ which was the preference of my mother, now sadly no longer with us.
Breakfast is easy as we’ve settled into our own tradition – smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and champagne – with some butter croissant (which – shame – I do not make myself). But what to have for dinner?
Then, on Monday evening, I watched a master class on BBC2 tv by the only ‘celebrity chef’ I’ve any time for, Michel Roux jnr. Regular ‘foodie’ readers of grumpytyke’s ramblings will know I have a preference for classic French cuisine; watching and listening to a master enthuse about the classics decided me. Classic cuisine it would be, with one exception – the starter, for which I’m going back to a recent post by another inspiring Frenchman (he says he isn’t a ‘chef’), the author of My French Heaven. More details of the final Christmas fayre in a later post but for the main it’ll be Filet de boeuf en croute (not Beef Wellington, as will be explained in the later post), for the ‘pudding’ maybe a Bavarois – perhaps chocolate or praline – or a cross between a Bavarois and a charlotte Malakoff (my wife doesn’t eat most fruit either!).
In the meantime, I’m having a kitchen rest so everything simple in the run up. One ‘simple’ was a pizza. Why someone would buy a ready-made pizza in the UK to eat at home is beyond me. I’ve had superb pizzas in the USA, and of course in Italy, but never in Britain – not from any of the pizza chains, not from the supermarkets, not even from otherwise excellent small Italian restaurants. But, with a bit of cheating, it’s so simple to put one together at home.
First the base: if you like the thin crispy variety, shop-bought can be fine, so I keep a couple in the freezer. That’s the first cheat. If you like the thicker, puffy variety the ready-mades are less satisfactory. Then there’s the tomato sauce to cover the base; the best solution is to make up a large batch, divide it up into single pizza portions and store in the freezer, but some of the bottled ‘cook in’ sauces can be good for the purpose – given a bit more sparkle with a dose of fresh herbs if necessary. On this occasion I used a jar of ‘Tomato and chilli pasta sauce’, livened up with a dose of fresh basil. After that it was simple – what happened to be in the fridge.
Mozzarela of course, sliced and arranged on the sauce, followed by thinly sliced chorizo. Then sliced, pickled char-grilled peppers, halved stuffed olives, some grated cheddar cheese, and a liberal dose of good olive oil. Then it’s onto a hot pizza tray and into the hottest oven I can have without setting off the smoke alarm.
So, this was a very simple one and for 5 mins work something which, in my opinion, is much tastier (and much cheaper) than anything from a pizza house.