Pizza on the BBQ

Whenever I say “Pizza on the BBQ”
I think of this monstrosity from the 90’s
“with Pizza on a bagel, you can have pizza any time”
Well pizza on the BBQ is almost easy, and not half as gross.

I like my pizza thin crust, and that makes life easy,
as you don’t have to wait long for the dough it to rise. 

Ingredients for the dough: 

·         225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour*
·         1 tsp (1/2 x 7g sachet) dried yeast
·         pinch of salt
·         ½ a teaspoon of sugar**
·         185mls (3/4 cup) lukewarm water
·         a good glug of olive oil

      * depending on what we’ve eaten that week, I’ll use a mix of plain or whole-wheat flour… you can make it 100% whole-wheat (if you are using Australian “Whole Wheat” that’s not very whole at all) but the white plain flour has more gluten and makes for an strong base – which is easier to move around.  
**if you are anti-sugar, drop it from the recipe… it’s not for flavor (you won’t notice it) but it activates the yeast faster than air & water by themselves
So in one of those glass measuring jugs put the sugar and the yeast and tap warm water
set aside – and wait 5-10 minutes or so to activate the yeast... it will bubble a bit, and make a foam on top.

before rising
In the meantime, add the flour and pinch of salt into the mixer.
Then wait for the yeast, it makes the whole process faster if the yeast is bubbling at this stage
so wash up, or start prepping your toppings…
when the yeast & water has bubbled a bit
add it to the mixer and turn on for about 5-10 minutes
you’ll see it turn from a paste to an elastic dough
my biggest mistake with this is not letting the mixer run long enough
after rising (ready)
by kneading the dough, you make chemistry happen
and gluten molecules get stretchy and make the dough resilient.
That’s as scientific as its getting on my blog…

but it’s a pretty amazing transition.

So then cover with a wet paper towel, a (clean) drying up cloth, and pop a plastic bag on top - set aside somewhere warm to rise.  It needs at minimum 20/30 minutes, but more is better.  Every 20-40 minutes “punch” it down… so the air that’s developed gets removed and it can re-grown.  This also makes the dough more resilient and tastier too. 
Now turn the BBQ on its top temperate and it’s time to prep your toppings:
Red sauce:
please make your own with 1 chopped onion & a few cloves of garlic fried off in oil
& then add a can of chopped tomatoes.  Simmer.
Get fancy, use fresh tomatoes, red peppers, chillies, more garlic a bit of red wine and some lemon juice.  Use your blender stick to smooth it out. 
(DON’T use “pizza sauce” in a jar, that’s just gross – why bother making pizza?)
I make a bigger batch up and freeze 1-toppings’ worth per container so I can pull it out as I go.
Don’t forget to check on the pizza dough as you go… punching it down as it grows.

Then chop up any other topping you want, & get them all in bowls and easily transported to the BBQ area outside.  Once all your toppings are ready, probably so is your dough.

Spread out a piece of wax paper
Spray the paper with spray olive oil
Pour a little olive oil on your hand, divide the dough in half
pop one half on the wax paper (put the other 1/2 aside for later) and push it out on the wax paper
a little bit like rolling it out, (you could I guess)
but I just stretch the dough out with my hands.
It will look like this, and be about ¼ of an inch or just over ½ a cm:
do the same with the second portion.

Now this happens very quickly…
Hold the wax paper up vertically, with the dough facing the grates and flop it down onto the BBQ

Quickly press all the way around the outside edge of the dough (thought the paper) so it sticks to the grill, and then peel away the paper.  Close the lid and give it 2 minutes to cook. 

(Fast is your friend, don’t be a perfectionist
– you are only going to eat it in the end.)

Lifting it off the BBQ at this stage is one of the trickiest steps: It’s a swift, confidence of movement that helps – hesitate and it will break apart… 
You’ll need 2 metal spatulas, one in each hand and slide them under the pizza all around to loosen it from the grill.  Then lift it, flip it, and put it grilled sided UP back on the wax paper.

Close the BBQ to stay hot, and load up your toppings.
Now it’s a delicate act of lifting the ½ cooked base and topping back on the grill.
I like to use my hands, (or if we have guest watching, the length of the spatulas to put it back on.)

  •  Start small, maybe make 4 individual pizzas till you get the hang of it…
  • Olive Oil is your friend when working with dough, it stops it sticking to your hands, the grill, and helps keep it moist – so don’t hold back. 
  • Even when it’s looks a disaster, don’t it will still tastes good, it’s pizza!
  • You might want to put the waiting pizza in the oven the stay warm, or do what we do and nibble while the other one cooks
  • Sprinkle rocket on top of any pizza, and you can pretend it’s healthy



Unfried Zucchini (Courgette) Flowers

So I can't resist buying things I've never cooked before... 
last week it was Courgette Flowers.
If I seem them on a menu, I always order them
(up there with Corn Fritters & French 75s)
but in restaurants they are always fried 
which while delicious, is a little heavy handed for something so delicate and tasty.

So my mission was, non fried flowers
& a very successful mission it was too.  (if I do say so myself.)
The end result was light, powerful flavor hits in beautiful delicate packets.

So here's how:
take the flowers out the fridge a long time before you need them
giving them a few hours to reach room temperature
with dry hands, (so as not to rip the petals)
delicately open them up and pull out the pollen covered "pistils" 
then in room temperature water, gently wash them 
and rinse out the inside where the pistil may have dropped pollen.

lay them gently to dry... don't pat them - just let the air do its thing.

Again with very dry hands, I opened up the flowers and slipped in two small slices of fig (to provide moisture & sweetness when you bit into them).  Then, with a blend of goat cheese, honey, rosemary, lemon, oil & garlic I squeezed a helping (via a plastic bag w/ the corner snipped off) of yummyness.  Filling the flower just up to where the petals separated... and them employed a little origami meets duck-tape and folded the petals to seal in the cheese goo.

On a baking sheet, some of them were given prosciutto belts to wear... which I'll admit is cheating.  Like deep frying something, wrapping it it bacon is totally cheating - of course its going to taste great!   

Lastly I baked then at a low temperature 120C I think, for about 20 minutes... to melt the cheese, and warm up all the flavors - but there was nothing there that needed cooking. (yes, prosciutto - not bacon).

Out of oven and served
warm, they made an otherwise rather plain salad seem very special.   


Asides from grinning from ear to ear
obviously an endorphin reaction to the intense noise

my favourite thing about the F1?
The Pontoon! 

Floating across the Lake in the middle of Albert Park makes getting from one side to the next a 2 minute task rather than a good 20 minutes. Little plastic squares that fit together like Lego & float.  Awesome!

Lots of old cars displayed...
which loose all of their charm & magic, being treated as show pieces, rather then all the lovelies you see on the street where you can imagine befriending the drivers on a sunny Melbourne day and enjoying a spin along the Esplanade together.

Lastly, I've got to say, I prefer the V8s. 
I can imagine driving one (not at those speeds) but they are wholly easier to relate to and a bit more rough & tumble than the precision and delicate F1 cars.

2011 Formula 1, 2 days and counting

see the ridges in the red & white stripe?
Albert Park is now closed to the public as they put in place the final barriers, signs, hospitality tents and advertising.

Pedaling my bike around the track, 
an overactive imagination can make it quite thrilling, I even overtook a guy on a scooter (who may or not have been turning off the road).

Much disliked by the locals for the disruption to usually sleepy Middle & Albert Park neighborhoods the association does its best to make up for it with free ear plugs, and free tickets to the Thursday's warm-up day, and loads of community notices & fliers.

'Local Access' passes are worn with pride on everyone's windshield... not just this week, but year round - which seems rather sentimental for something they claim to so dislike!

Kite Surfer's in St Kilda

These guys are one of my first memories of Melbourne...
on our first day here we must have walked 15km
discovering neighbourhoods, and trying to decide where we wanted to live

everywhere got a visit, and anywhere interesting
we stopped to eat, helping get a feel for the place
(also, helping me remember later)
"South Melbourne" will forever be associated with Poffertjes (mini dutch pancakes)
"Middle Park" was a savory muffin (yumm...)

By the time we got down to St Kilda we were hot, hungry and tired
we walked to the end of the pier and feasted...  it was glorious.
In the water next to us where a handful of kite surfers
and I can evoke all the feelings of excitement and fear and wonder by just watching them. 

I've since made friends with someone who kite surfs regularly
apparently the St Kilda spot is too crowded for a real kitee
full of a dangerous mix of amateurs and showoffs there for the crowds
if you are serious you go where there are only 4 or 5 kitees in the water.

They still get my heart beating faster,
and evoke all the feelings of excitement and fear and wonder of being new here by just watching them. 

2011 Formula 1 Grand Prix

As the usually sleepy Albert Park prepares to be the 2nd stop on the 2011 F1 tour
things are a changing around here.
I'm miss the park's serenity of joggers, dog walkers and school athletics classes
now there are new fences, bleachers, barricades and works (who are very polite & friendly) everywhere
but I am really impressed by their effort to inform the public of the process
(and the info design)

and this sign just made me laugh,
especially as it went up a good 2 weeks before the rest of the signs

Challah yo!

Homemade Challah is surprisingly easy
(once you get over the 'making bread' fear)
and while, its nice bread straight out the oven...
it is the King of Bread, when it comes to French Toast.

Now, if you are pregnant (hint, hint...)
(No, no! Not me! That's to a friend who is pregnant)
and you don't like eggs, I'm thinking this is the way to get your power start to the day
(freeze unused slices and take them out as needed)
2 pieces of french toast with fruit & you're laughing.  
but I digress...

lots of recipes for Challah out there don't quite fit in the kitchen aid
they are just that bit too much dough... this one does:
(yes, its a recipe from Disney, thanks for the ribbing)
amending the recipe, step 5 is confusing and nobody braids / (plaits) from the middle!

instead,  here's my step 5:

split the dough in 2 balls (with which you'll make 2 loaves)

cover and put the one aside, while you work on the first
split this ball into 3 equal chunks then roll them out, just a little longer than your baking tray.

Lay the 3 ropes together parallel, and then at one end pinch them together and tuck the end under, so it looks tidy on top.

Then proceed to braid them as you would hair...  so start with the left most rope and go over the first rope and under the second (moving to the right).  Repeat till you run out of dough & tuck this end under too.

Pop onto wax paper (saves on clean up) on an oven tray, and leave them to prove for 20 - 30 minutes or so under cellophane that you have sprayed with olive oil (pam or what not) on the underside.  This will keep them warm, help them rise, and then not stick to the plastic on removal.  If the kitchen is chilly put the tray on a kitchen towel, and cover with one over the plastic too - this will help retain the heat.

Lastly egg wash & bake, which is step 6 in the recipe from Disney
though give them 2 coats of egg wash... there's always leftover
and this gets the glossy dark surface on them.

Straight out the oven I could eat half a loaf myself...  but try and save some for tomorrow's French Toast.

Luna Park over the holidays

Its free entry, and $10 a ride
usually deserted, and with no waiting for rides
they actually closed the line for the Scenic Railway this day
(some time between Chrisy & New Year)
because the people at the back of the line weren't going to get on by sundown!

So, amazingly there's a conductor of sort that stands up on the Scenic Railway ride the whole way
I guess he's there for when it get's stuck, but it adds to the old world charm of the place
I would love that job! Okay, maybe only for the bragging rights, but how cool would you be?
"what do you do?"
"Oh I ride the roller coaster all day, standing."

Jam On - It's Strawberry Season

This was so fun to do
and the end results last longer then a loaf of bread
(though having said that, I doubt this batch will last much past Christmas!)

wash, and top your strawberries carefully
pop them in your biggest pan AFTER you've buttered it
like you would a cake tin (without the flour patting)
the buttering just stops it all sticking & makes washing up easier

add 1/2 the strawberry's weight in sugar
you can use caster / jam or  preserving sugar
preserving is best- but if you can't find it add a packet of "Jam Setta" if needs be
add a lemon for approximately every 250g of strawberries
(lemons help cut the sugar, and helps with the setting too)
some recipes call for a lemon's zest too

These lemon sqeezies are the best!
easy peasy lemon squeezy...
I was given 2 last year for Christmas,
and have enough love and use for both of them. 
(it helps that I don't like to wash up)

add no more than an inch of water, and slooowly cook it. 
The slower it cooks, the more pectin (natures setting agent) come out of the fruit also, stir AS LITTLE as possible... you want those chunks.

No stirring, but as you go along you will need to 'de-scum' the jam
a frothy white surface will form on the jam
use a slotted spoon to gather in to one place and skim it off.
(it doesn't look good in the jar & has a different texture.)

Meanwhile, you need to serialize your jam jars
a few theories - some say the top shelf of the dishwasher on HOT works, as long as they are used HOT fresh out the dish washer.
I did this (a re wash)...
and then put them in the oven for bake at 180C for a minimum of 20 minutes...
(again, take them out as you need them keeping the rest hot)
 better safe than sorry with bacteria and all that.

after 45 minutes of slow cooking the strawberries,
its time to 'set up' the jam fast boil them for 10 minutes,
and then 'wrinkle test' it: 

pop a plate in the freezer,
and when its cold add one teaspoon of the hot jam to it
see if it set. 
It should (after it cools) wrinkle a little like this crappy picture
if it doest turn the heat back up, fast boil for another 5-10 minutes and try again. 

I also wore bright happy yellow granny shoes while I cooked to help things along.   I'm almost certain they made a difference. 

Its been 4 days since I made the Jam and we've already started on our second jar...