Pizza Seasoning

Mixed herbs lr

Whether you are making your own pizza from scratch or cooking a shop bought one, finishing it off with the right seasoning makes all the difference. Just sprinkle a generous pinch – at least half a teaspoon – of my seasoning mix over your pizza before you cook it and you will be amazed at how much better it tastes.

This seasoning mix is dead easy to make. Simply mix all of the ingredients together and store it in a spice jar where it will keep well for ages.

4 tsp dried basil
4 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried sage
2 tsp ground black pepper

Limoncello

Limoncello lr Squeezed lemons lr

Makes about 1 litre

I thought I’d give you a drink recipe for a change this week.

This is a home-made drink that really works well (unlike home brewed beers and wines). This recipe has less sugar than most and everyone who has tried it has given it a thumbs up. Keep it in the freezer along with some shot glasses and you’ll have a house full of very happy guests.

8 lemons (make sure they are unwaxed)
250g caster sugar
150ml water
1 x 700ml bottle of vodka

Use a small sharp knife to remove the peel from four of the lemons. Use a zester to remove the zest from the other four lemons. Squeeze all of the juice from the lemons.

Put the sugar and water in a thick based saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook uncovered with a strong simmer for a few minutes until the mixture starts to look syrupy. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in the lemon juice, peel and zest. Leave to go completely cold then stir in the vodka.

Pour the limoncello into sterile bottles or jars, seal them and place them in a dark cupboard for three days. Then strain the limoncello into clean bottles.

Spaghetti Arrabiata

Spaghetti lr

Serves 2

Sometimes the simplest food can be the tastiest. If you don’t like this dish, there’s something wrong with you!

For the arrabiata sauce…
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (as you’ll know by now, I use Mutti tomato pulp)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp ground black pepper
A very generous pinch of dried chilli flakes – don’t skimp here, this dish is meant to be spicy hot
Salt to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, give them a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it starts to dry out.

This sauce can be made ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer until needed.

For the finished dish…
200g spaghetti (Rustichella is the best if you can get it)
2 tablespoons olive oil
60g coarsely grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the instructions on the packet or until it is cooked to your liking (I always cook pasta for longer than it says on the packet as I don’t like it too al dente). Once it’s cooked, drain it and return it to the hot cooking pan. Stir in the olive oil then stir in the hot arrabiata sauce. Serve immediately and sprinkle with the parmesan.

Lasagne with Puy Lentils

Puy lentil lasagne lr

Serves 4

This is a delicious alternative to the common lasagne al forno, and easier and quicker to prepare too. I think it is lighter than the meat version. It’s packed full of protein and tastes fresh and cheesy.

If you want to make a vegetarian version, simply leave out the streaky bacon. If you do that though, add ½ a teaspoon of smoked paprika instead to keep a smoky hint to the dish.

People sometimes ask me what they should serve with lasagne. I always say, a knife and fork! Lasagne with Puy lentils is the ultimate one-pot dish. It has carbohydrates, protein, milk, dairy, vegetables and (mostly) healthy fats. And fibre, vitamins and minerals to boot. And, unlike shop-bought lasagnes, no added sugar.

For the lentils…
250g Puy lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
80g (4 rashers) rindless smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 large celery stick, finely diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes (preferable Mutti tomato pulp)
½ tsp dried thyme
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the béchamel…
75g butter
50g plain flour
800ml whole milk
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the finished dish…
10 to 12 sheets (200g to 250g) lasagne (the no pre-cook variety)
150g strong mature cheddar, grated
60g grated parmesan

You will also need a 30cm x 20cm lasagne dish or glass/ceramic baking dish, buttered.

Bring a large saucepan of unsalted water to a boil and add the lentils. Cover and simmer until just cooked, approx. 35 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile make the sauce to go with the lentils. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the bacon and stir-fry until cooked and starting to crisp. Remove to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Add the onions to the pan and sauté gently until starting to soften, approx. 5 minutes. Stir in the carrot and celery, cover, turn the heat down low and allow the vegetables to sweat and soften for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, chilli, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook part covered for about 30 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the lentils and check the seasoning.

Next make the béchamel. Put the butter, flour and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring it with the balloon whisk a couple of times. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, spread one quarter of the lentils onto the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of lasagne sheets. Add another quarter of the lentils, a layer of one third of the béchamel and sprinkle with half of the cheddar. Repeat by adding another layer of lasagne, another quarter of the lentils, another third of the béchamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Add a final layer of lasagne, the last quarter of the lentils and the last third of the béchamel. Sprinkle the surface with the grated parmesan.

The dish can now be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.

To cook the dish, heat the oven to 180°c and bake the lasagne for 30 to 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.