'When the moon hits your eyes like a big Pizza Pie that's Amore!'. Strangely enough Pizzas played an important part in my life. The main reason is that working at Pizza Hut when I was young paid partly for my University fees (University of East London). Surrey Quays Pizza Hut was a hub where I made Friends for life. However I lost one to death Barry which was ever so sad.
Barry C was ever so get going and live your life to the full. We were in our twenties during the Millenium years and I can't tell you how many clubs and parties we went with all of our Friends. The night of New Year's Eve 1999 going to 2000 we were watching the fireworks by Tower Bridge on the North Bank with Zoe, April, little Helen, Jessica, Ted, Sy, and my Bro, and we had such a night that it really did feel like we were entering a new Century. Barry was a big part of it.
I remember all my jobs interviews and the one for that work particularly. They were surprised that I applied to be a Pizza maker rather than a Waitress. However I was trained and given my chance on the 'Making Table', on two hardest nights a Friday and a Saturday. Passing the test with flying colours, I was given the job and spent four years in the industry while doing my studies. It gave me another opportunity which was trying different combinations for my own lunch/break Pizzas.
At home nowadays, a couple of decades later, I still experiment with unusual Pizzas. This was a Pizza Naan. However it was an Indian meet the Med type of dish or vice versa. It was delicious.
If I try to remember my very first Pizza, it would be a deep pan one, with just Tomato Sauce and Cheese when I was about five or six. I got the chance later on to try a thin crust Pizza in an Italian restaurant, I was about 10 or 12 then. It was a Florentine Pizza with Spinach and Eggs and I loved it. Another Pizza I loved was the 'à La Reine' with Mushrooms and Ham. Then as I grew up, my palate did, as per say, developped, however I still don't like the Pepperoni Pizza.
Pepperoni Pizza. The favourite one of my Man.
Below you will find some recipes about Pizzas. But I am very humble about them. If you do try them, I hope you will enjoy them.
And I do believe that as well, a Hawaiian Pizza is enjoyable.
To confide something else when I was giving French tuitions to Alma and Nathan, one of my pleasures or let us say treat was either to have a late Lunch in Pizza Express when I was early or a proper Dinner in an Italian Restaurant in Fulham after the tution. The decoration within that Restaurant was a wall painting of Venice full scale but also of grapes in nearly every nook and crany they could be painted upon. For me, it was a be of a 'Me' time. Just a little time on my own to sit, breath and eat before catching up with all I had to do. In terms of Pizza of course the Fiorentina remained a ferm favourite. Quattro Fromaggi and the Veneziana were my other choices.
In terms of topping I do like a wide range of them but I do tend to stick to my preferences. I do like Tomatoes most certainly, Mozzarella and Anchovies and Olives...
Anyhow one of my small but proud moment was to be the runner up in an internal UK competition of all the Pizza Hut restaurants. It made me the second best Pizza maker of the UK for that year. My flaw and the point which made me loose the top title was only my love of Cheese. I was too generous with it. For being a Normandy girl I would say tough, this is the way I love my 'Za, cheesy. But hey, I was not expecting to be so close to the top, so it wasn't bad after all.
Simple Cheese Pizza with Garlic and Herbs within the base.
There is a lot to say about Pizza from the making of the dough to the proofing of it at the correct temperature and time. Then comes the fun: forming your Pizza. To be honest I have never been very flamboyant about it, flicking the dough to the ceiling and catching it almost on the floor is not my style. I do rather stretch my dough with care because we do want a result in the end and not a big blob to pick up on the ground.
Working on a good Base is part of the pleasure, creating a good Sauce to nap that Base is another one. It doesn't have to be automatically a Tomato Sauce or Paste or Purée. You can be adventurous in that aspect. Think of the Pizza Bianca. BBQ Sauce is also regurlaly used for Pizzas. I like using Pesto on occasion: the Sundried Tomato one is very nice, so is Basil Pesto.
Texture can play a role as well like in this rustic home made Tomato, roasted Red Peppers, chopped Shallots, chopped Garlic and chopped red Chilli Sauce. Smooth or not blitz to death the Ingredients within a Pizza Sauce are part of the magic of a Pizza.
Then of course there are the wonderful choice of the wonder world of toppings. This the time to complete your Pizza and pick your flavours. One time I add that Pizza fancy which I couldn't get enough off. It consisted just of shredded Tuna on Tomato Sauce, gratted Mozzarella, Green or Black Olives, Cherry Tomatoes, Green, Yellow or Red Sweet Bell Pepper, Capers, Red Onion or Spring Onions and sometimes Anchovies. I loved it.
Tuna Pizza with Green Pepper, Black Olives and Red Onions.
I became acquainted to the Tartiflette in London, Islington, Upper Street when 'Tartuffe' Restaurant opened its doors. That restaurant which lasted only for about three to five years not only gave a cosy eating experience but also absolutly lovely dishes. There is many interpretation of a Tartiflette for like Pizza you can play with the dish at the end of the day and create your own. A Tartiflette is a bit like a Pizza Bianca meets a Truffade...
Pizza Bianca with Ricotta Cheese, chopped Chives, Oregano, Rosemary, Parma Ham, sliced Yellow Courgette and grated Emmental Cheese.
For the Truffade it is a sort of Pancake made out of layers of thin slices Potatoes joined together by Tome Fraiche. It does originate from the Mountains of Auvergne in France. The Truffade can also include Lardons within it as well as Parsley. It is often served with a Salad.
Dare I say that one of the first things I did learn to cook was a Fried Egg. My ones are always sunny side up. I also like them a little crispy around the edges to know that the white has been rendered properly. But the Eggs still need to have that exquisite runny yellow yolk at the centre to run free upon the plate. It is a little magical moment of bliss: A little like singing along to the song "My favourite things" from the Sound of Music Film with Julie Andrews.
The Breakfast Fry Up with fried Bread, Bacon and Eggs. It is simple yet fulfilling. It is the fuel to start the day or at least one's day. An Egg takes roughly four to five minutes to fry depending on its size, sometimes more, sometimes less.
There is one thing I will confess, which is, to like a Fried Egg with rough edges. When they are done within a ring or device so they do look neat, I think it kills the charm of the good old Egg coming from a proper Farm, from a Farm where the Chicken are roaming outdoors. My Grand Parents (RIP) lived most of their lives in Bourg en Bresse and there in the Bresse area of France the Chicken graze the grass, the green green grass, and you can taste the difference with the Chicken from a battery Chicken and from a Farm Egg from a battery Egg.
A Poulet de Bresse, de Bourg en Bresse, happy roaming in a field of clovers.
There are a variety of Eggs to be pan fried but being rather conventional I tend to stay in the realm of Chicken Eggs. However I venture very often in the kingdom of the rich Duck Egg with that bountiful dark yellow Yolk. If I do poach a Duck Egg more than I do fry it, I am still doing it often for the ratio between the white and the yolk. There is less white in a Duck Egg. The star there is truly and simply the luscious Yolk. A Duck Egg is full of proteins and different vitamins which is a plus.
Duck Eggs are of course larger than Hen's Eggs.
If Duck Eggs may be harder to get because they are not the normal standard Egg, they are still worth the while to have and eat. The Fried Duck Egg add a touch of luxury upon an Easter Breakfast of Grilled Asparagus, and Shaved Truffles. Garnish with a little Chives, Black Pepper and Sea Salt as a finish then now we are talking simply of very simple lush Brunch.
Pan Fried Duck Egg upon Chips served with a good dollop of Lemon Mayonnaise, seasonned and garnished with chopped Parsley. This is a satisfying simple Lunch.
However I tried my hand to cook Quail Eggs as well. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes it was not. Is it that they are too small for my clumsy fingers...? Or is it that the matter of time is seriously reduced when cooking them? Hence you do need to keep an eye upon the clock and upon the Egg. This is a balancing act which one might crack: May it be the Quail Egg or you with a smile upon your face? But Fried Quail Eggs are quaint and definitely suitable to create Canapés and Appetizers.
Home Made Crostinis with Fried Quail Eggs topped with red Herrring Roe. It is simple and a rustic Canapé to be enjoyed.
They are plenty of ways to taste Fried Quail Eggs. I would say they are dainty but nice; that it is a taste the difference matter. Fried Quail Eggs can make a Bruschetta sing a little bit more for a nice Brunch or even Starter for Dinner time. With very little imagination, you can cover your Olive Oil oven toasted slice of Bread (Sourdough, Ciabatta or Baguette), with a Cream Cheese which is seasoned with added Ingredients of your choice (Chilli Flakes or a little pinch of Cayenne Pepper or a little Chive, or a little Dill, or a little shredded Basil, or a little chopped and roasted Garlic). On top of the whisked Cream Cheese, you can build a layer with a cured or smoked Ham (Prosciutto, Serrano, Parma Ham...even Bacon rashers). But you can also use Fish freshly cooked, smoked or cured. Then add your fried Quail Egg on top. This is an all so simple treat.
Mini Pesto Pizza with mini Mozzarella Balls, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Fried Quail Eggs. It can make a nice Starter to an Italian theme Dinner.
Now there is something with most of Eggs you can do to fry them: It is the Scotch Egg. The recipe dates from a long time ago the 1800 plus so has evolved to be ever so different. The principle of it reside, in covering an Egg with Minced Meat then to bread the result in order to Fry it. Initially it was called the scortch Egg because it was fried but enclosed. However it became the Scotch Egg in the end. The history says that it was because Scotland was a big producer of Eggs.
Scotch Eggs can be very dry but to have a runny yolk centre is part of the pleasure with them.
They can make a good Brunch or Lunch. Scotch Eggs are not as per say fanciful however you have a room to play there in term of cookery. Which Egg you are going to use? A Hen Egg, a large Duck Egg or a small Quail Egg...?
Quail Scotch Eggs Salad. You can do it with Lambs Lettuce or Pea Shoots. Serve it with or without Pancetta or Lardons. Decorate the plate with edible Flowers like Viola. A simple French dressing can accompany everything even some chopped woodland Mushrooms to give the feel of Autumn to the plate.
Then with which minced Meat you are going to wrap your Egg? A spiced Mince most certainly, it could be Sausage Meat, Lamb Mince, Beef Mince, Turkey Mince but it can also be from a Fish as well like a Smoked Salmon or Trout.
Salmon Mousse Scotch Quail Eggs served with pickled Radishes, Lamb Lettuce and Tartare Sauce.
It can be with Black Pudding, or the stuffing for Haggis... There you have the tools to make your Scotch Egg special. Seasoning the Breadcrumbs also does play a part in the entire making of a Scotch Egg. The result of your combinations usually makes a satisfying Lunch or Starter.
Black Pudding Scotch Eggs on a bed of peppery Rocket Salad dressed with a grain Mustard Vinaigrette: A Lunch that is packing a punch on a plate.
Speaking of Eggs there is of course the Eggy Bread. It is also called French Toast, French Fried Bread, Pain Perdu, Gypsy Bread. The concept comes from an old tradition to not loose Bread at any cost. Even if the Bread becomes old and stale, you can revive it with a source of life which is the Egg and another Ingredient which nurtures life which is Milk. Hence the Eggy Bread was born. Then it can become a Dish in itself or a base for either Savoury Dishes or Sweet Ones.
Eggy Bread Toasts. The principle relies on mixing Eggs and Milk together in order to revive the Bread. Soaking the Bread, usually overnight (in the old days) then Frying it made it all better.
You can turn the Eggy Bread savoury for a full Brunch experience, like with a Croque Monsieur with Ham and Cheese or a Croque Madame with the addition of the Fried Egg. The Croque Monsieur is in effect a Sandwich but a Fried one. It is a bang bang two slices of fried Bread, enclosing a decent slice of Ham and a Cheese with quality of the like of Gruyére or Emmental or Comté Cheese. A Mustard Sauce is usually applied to perk up everything. It could be Dijon Mustard whisked up with a little Mayo. But the result is licking fingers delish... The history of the Croque Monsieur dates from the 1800's.
The Croque Monsieur in all its glorious lushness. Before becoming a Bistro or Gastro Pub Treat, it was seen, regarded as a Gentleman's Club Treat.
From the Croque Monsieur to the Croque Madame there are only a few differences. The main one is the addition of the fried Egg on the Croque Madame. The Egg is meant to represent a Lady's wide brimmed hat. Another difference is that the Sauce Béchamel which can be used for the Croque Monsieur can be élévated to the Sauce Mornay for the Croque Madame. The little stamp is the inclusion of Cheese within the Sauce. The Sauce was créated by Philippe de Mornay who also créated the Sauce Béchamel back in the 1500's.
Croque Madame. Croque in French means to actually bite into something that has a crunch: Hence Fried Eggy Bread with a difference.
Then you do have the Croque Mademoiselle: it is an evolution or a variation as per say of the original Croque Monsieur juste like the Croque Madame is a variation as well. This time the main difference is the inclusion of Vegetables within the 'Croque'. It can be totally vegetarian or a bit of a mix. It could be made with the essential Eggy Bread slices but also with sandwiched in between Asparagus, Parma Ham and Parmesan. It could be made with fried Courgettes, melted Mozzarella, Oregano and Espelette Chilli. It is up to the inspiration of the moment. The Croque Mademoiselle is a volatile fried Sandwich. To be blunt it is up to anyone's interpretation apart that it does need to contain a green Veg: Cucumber, Zucchini, Asparagus... For it is the Veg option out of all the Croques.
Croque Mademoiselle with layers of fried Aubergines, Courgettes, roasted Red Sweet Bell Pepped, Cottage Cheese served with a fried Egg on top just like a Croque Madame. It had a Med Feel to it.
French Toast are not all savoury for some are sweet as well. Different combinations are there to be appreciated. A favourite one is served with fresh Berries: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries... but also with a Jam or Preserve or Compote which could be made with Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries and the Eggy Bread will be accompanied with Custard. It is a yummy number.
Eggy Bread with Berries. It can be a small tea time treat but it is still special. Another version is made with dried Apricot and fresh ones, (It could be done with Nectarines and Peaches too). The addition of Apricot Jam traditionally done with Almond kernels renders everything lush. Toasted Almonds can add to the decoration in that case.
Similarly Bruschetta is a toasted slice of Bread usually it will be made with Pain de Campagne, Sourdough Bread, Ciabatta or Baguette as a base. The slice will be rubed with Garlic but also dipped in Olive Oil. Then it can be fried within a frying Pan or grilled. The toppings of the Bruschetta are up to you. The traditional ones are with chopped Tomatoes. But additional Ingredients can be added like Basil and, or Organo for Herbs, Capers and, or Olives for a little saltiness, even Anchovies could be considered. Chopped Preseved Lemon could be considered as well. Another combination is the chopped Tomatoes, chopped roasted Sweet Bell Peppers, crispy Shallots with the addition of Mozzarella Pearls or even a little slice or cubed Goat Cheese.
Tomato and Sweet Red Bell Pepper Bruschetta with Basil and a little grated Parmesan. It can be a simple Brunch, an Appetizer or a Starter/Entrée. The addition of Kalamata Olives, or Olives stuffed with Anchovies can bring this Bruschetta to another level.
Concerning Dough you do have plenty which we do Fry which are sweet. During my childhood one of my favourites treats were the Croustillons. They came by 6, the dozen or 24. It was just little balls of Dough fried then sugared. They were ever so nice. We could have them and share between us three kids only on the Thursday and Saturday at the Market in Cherbourg. I can tell you that we were looking out for that Van and the Croustillons. They are from Northern Europe especially the coastal areas, from Holland, Belgium and France.
Croustillons are like mini Donuts.
Then there is of course the Doughnut also spelled Donut. It feels like Homer Simpson dreaming of Donuts. I must confess to be partial to Sugared Ring Doughnuts. Although I am not a sweet tooth Fried Dough does it for me. For Tyn he loves his Jam Doughnuts. The matter of fact is that Doughnuts are versatile as per say as you can top them up the way you want to but also fill them up the way you like.
Sugared Ring Doughnuts. One Treat I can't escape from.
In France, a similar Fried Dough is called Beignet. They come in different shapes filled up or not. A Popular one is the Apple Beignet: Le Beignet aux Pommes. My Mum used to do them usually on the Saturday afternoon. It was a treat especially since Oil was expensive, it was important to do the most of it. Hence Fritters (Beignets) were the way to go. Beignets (Fritters) are dipped in French culture and the Italian one but also in the USA, from Louisiana (which was colonised by the French back in the days). It goes with the flow.
The fillings for Beignets or Fritters are rather varied. Apple is a very popular one coming from areas in France who produces a lot of Apples like Normandy. Pineapple Fritters have their origins from Asian countries like Indonesia (Indochina). French colonists can be blamed for it as well. Then in the Créole Cuisine there are the Banana or, and Plantain Beignets/Fritters.