Manoush with za’atar and with spinach and cheese

Quote

035copy

Pizzas or manoush (in Lebanon) and me have had a convoluted history.  To me, a good pizza is all about the base.  For years, I have been trying to make the perfect pizza base:  it needs to have bite, be thin and crisp and, ideally, a little charred in places.  A big call for a domestic oven.

I have tried many recipes, the best of which require a couple of days to prove.  But the problem is: inevitably, it will be 5:00pm and I will ask Maus, “What do you want for dinner?”  Or I will say, “I feel like pizza tonight.”  Tonight being the operative word here.  I want pizza tonight, not tomorrow or the next day.

This has led to most of my pizza bases being made with instant yeast.  I have finally concluded that it is the way to go.  Pizzas are supposed to be quick and easy meals, not tortuous affairs.

I don’t think it matters too much what recipe you use, as long as you do three things you will get a very good pizza, though not as good as a pizza from a wood-fired oven.

  1. Cook your pizza directly on a pizza stone or tile (no pan).
  2. Have a very hot oven.  That means your oven needs to be preheated as hot as it will go (which, for domestic ovens, is usually 250°C).
  3. Have a hot stone.  Put your pizza stone or tile in the oven and turn it on, at least, one hour before you want to cook your pizza.

Do these three things and you will, with a bit of trial and error, get pizzas as good as it gets in a domestic oven.  Last night’s pizzas were fantastic.  The recipes I used are manoush with spinach and cheese and manoush with za’atar, both from Saha, by Greg and Lucy Malouf.

Base:

  • 355g bread flour
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • ½ tsp salt (I didn’t think there was enough so next time I will go with ¾ tsp)
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 200 mls warm water
  • 1tbs* olive oil.
  1. Mix the yeast and sugar into the warm water and set aside for a minute or two.
  2. Add the salt to the flour and stir to combine.
  3. Add the water mixture and the olive oil to the flour mixture.
  4. Knead the dough.  You can knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes, or in a mixer for 5 minutes or in a food processor for 1 minute.  I went for the last option.
  5. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into the bowl.  Cover in plastic wrap and leave for two hours.
  6. After an hour or so, put your tile or stone in your oven and preheat your oven to 250°C.
  7. Divide the dough into 12, 6 or 3 pieces (depending on the size you want). Form into small balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
  8.  Roll out your dough to the thickness you prefer.  We like ours thin.  I went for six portions and rolled them out to the size of butter plates.
  9. Add your topping and put your manoush on a well floured paddle, upside down baking tray or piece of three-ply.
  10. Slide your manoush onto the hot tile.
  11. Cook for 5 minutes.  (The books say 3 minutes but I can’t get my oven hot enough for them to cook in 3 minutes.)

043copy

Spinach and cheese topping:

  • 1 bunch of spinach, cooked until wilted or 250g of defrosted frozen spinach – squeeze out as much fluid as possible.
  • 125g  mozzarella, grated
  • 60g haloumi, grated
  • salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients.  I found this amount was enough for half of my base dough. For the other half, I used:

040copy

Za’atar topping:

  • 3 tbs* za’atar (You can buy za’atar or make your own)
  • 1 tbs* sumac
  • salt, to taste
  • 100mls olive oil

Combine all ingredients.  This makes enough for all of the base so if you are doing both toppings, you may wish to halve it.

* I think these are 15 mil tablespoons.  Greg doesn’t advise in Saha but, in Arabesque, he uses 15 mil tablespoons.

Date and Nut Loaf – Mark II

009copy

My sister, Sandra, sent me a text after my last post with mum’s recipe for date and nut loaf.  It was a little cryptic in part.  It included ‘a few spices’ which I interpreted as something one conjures up when faced with ‘mixed spice’ in a recipe and you don’t have ‘mixed spice’.

Continue reading

Date and Nut Roll

067copy

A while ago, I decided I wanted to make the date and nut roll I remember my mum making.  I had my mum’s Willow nut loaf tins and had never used them.  My mum used the CWA Cookbook so I went straight to it, thinking I would find the recipe in it but it wasn’t there.  I decided to look a little further and found this recipe in my Macquarie Dictionary of Cookery. Continue reading

Sourdough scones

021copy

I am very excited.  I have been making the best scones ever lately and it is all due to a recipe I found in a little old cook book.

In the early years of my life, I only bought cheap, pocket-sized cook books.  Money is hard to come by when you are young so you spend it sparingly.  I still have those old books and some of them have turned out to be real gems.  The book in question is Homemade Bread, by the food editors of Farm Journal.  It was first published in New York in 1969.  My pocket book edition was published in 1977. Continue reading

Bourke Street Bakery’s Lamb, Harissa and Almond Sausage Rolls

 070copy1

These sausage rolls are to die for.

When you search Bourke Street Bakery on the net, most of the articles mention these wonderful sausage rolls.  I have made them before but this is the first time I have made the puff pastry.  I was very chuffed with the result - you can actually see the layers.  And it was fun.  Not hard at all, although, I did have a bit of trouble keeping mine to the suggested size and I did have butter oozing out in all directions.  But it does not seem to have mattered - the pastry looks and tastes perfect.  It is obviously forgiving.  Now I know how easy it is, I am not going to buy puff pastry again.  The only issue is that you need to start early or, better still, the day before you want to use it.

Continue reading

In My Kitchen – July 2014

034copyIn my kitchen:

Are homemade Granita biscuits – well, as close as I am going to get, anyway.  I appreciate that my recipe has butter and egg in it and the commercial ones would have neither, so they are certainly no replica, but I do not intend to start using palm oil in an endeavour to recreate commercial biscuits.  These biscuits look like Granitas and taste like Granitas but are harder than the real thing. Continue reading