Monday, July 30

Dessert for an Olympian.....

I have gone slightly off-piste this week with my cookbook challenge, although the base of my ice-cream is from Donna Hay, it is so much a variation I think we will just call it a one off, and save Donna for another day……….

Unless you are living under a rock you may have noticed a certain sporting event filling the telly schedule, newspaper, social media……
I love the Olympics. Yes it may be commercial, and but so what, I will cry at the winners (and some of the losers) and become extremely knowledge (or so I think…..) about the most obscure sports, and countries for that matter.

To celebrate I had the whanau around for an Olympic themed dinner. We went back through the last eight countries to host the games, pulled the names out of a jug and cooked a dish we thought represented that country. Mr PK drew a drink from Moscow (um, guess what he made………)

I was challenged to come up with a Sydney inspired dessert……….

So, if, like me, you will be staying up all sorts of unsociable hours to watch the Peoples Republic of Somewhere I Can't Pronounce beat Wherethehellisitstan in the woman's singles final of the synchronised swimming, here is a treat to make it just that bit more worthwhile………

Mango, Lime & Toasted Coconut Ice-cream

The ice-cream is inspired by the Donna Hay recipe from Modern Classics 2, it is plain vanilla to which I add fresh mango puree, lime zest and toasted thread coconut.

1 cup milk (I use semi-skim but anything is fine)
2 cups cream
Vanilla pod
2/3 cup caster sugar
6 egg yolks
1 fresh mango (or use canned)
2 tbsp icing sugar
Zest of 1 lime
¾ cup thread coconut, toasted in a dry pan until golden & fragrant

In a saucepan heat the milk, cream & vanilla pod until hot, but not boiling. Leave to sit while you whisk together your egg yolks and sugar until thick & pale. Take the vanilla bean out (you can rinse it & leave to dry, then pop into your sugar jar!) and while whisking, pour the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the whole lot back into your saucepan, then stir over a low heat for about 5 minutes until your custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. It will still be quite runny so don’t worry.

Pour into a bowl & leave to cool for 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile peel your mango and whiz the flesh in the food processor with the icing sugar until it is pulped. Press through a sieve and stir into the custard mixture with the lime zest and coconut. Pop into the fridge & when cold put into your ice-cream machine and churn

Alternatively pout into a plastic contain & pop into the freezer. Take out every hour and using and electric beater, whisk up to break up any ice crystals. Do this 3 or 4 times. Yes, the ice-cream machine is easier!

I like to take my ice-cream out of the freezer for 20 minutes or so before serving so it isn’t to hard to scoop, I served it with Anzac biscuits , and an almond praline. This would have been a Macadamia praline until I saw how expensive Macadamia nuts are?!

This is also my entry for the July Sweet NZ over at After Taste. Be sure to pop over and check out the round up of goodies from all over, great for a sweet tooth!

In case you are interested,the rest of the Olympic marathon looked like this.....

 Pork Dumplings representing Beijing, with Kimchi via Seoul...........

Buffalo wings and ranch dressing all the way from Atlanta (no buffalo was harmed.......)

From our friends in London, Fish & tartare sauce (or Fush!)

Via Los Angeles, Chicken and vege Enchiladas, with avocado & tomato salsa.....

Last savoury course before pud, Athens gives us Octopus and  Potato Pickle salad.........

As you can see, it's a marathon not a sprint..........but food was the winner on the day!

Thursday, July 26

Wishful Wednesday- for kids to read....

The sad passing of the inimitable Margaret Mahy (if you have never read any of her books step away from the computer & go immediatly to the local library, you wont regret it:) got me thinking about books in general, and children’s books in particular. When Mum moved we were under strict instructions to please finally remove the piles of books we had left behind! A few treasures were unearthed, what follows is a completely arbitrary run down on my fav’s……….

Little House in the Big Woods

For starters, my all time favourites, the Little House series. From The House in the Big Woods right through to Almanzo & Laura’s wedding in These Happy Golden Years I devoured the lot. The wonderful description of the maple dance, the day the family kill the pig, Caroline Ingills making butter, so much fascinating food history (I was all about the food even as a kid…….), I recently reread several of the books and enjoyed them just as much. Again I am not sure the iPod generation would find them as fascinating, I can only hope……..

The Classics: The Little Woman series by Louisa May Alcott, oh how I wanted to be Jo, although I have always suspected I may have more in common with conservative Meg. I read the entire series of these books, growing up with a gaggle of sisters I could certainly relate (although surely none of us were as sweet and kind as Beth!) Do girls still read them? I hope so………

Now I know kids still read these, The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. If you have not read the adventures of Jo, Bessy & Fanny with their friends Silky & Moonface, you must immediately befriend a child with even a modicum of reading taste, they certainly will have. I have the box set, although I realized the other day they actually belong to my sister………whoops

More recent reads: Beverly Cleary’s brilliant Ramona Quimby stories. Poor Ramona has many trails to deal with, not least her bossy older sister Beezus, but she handles everything with her brilliant imagination, even when things don’t go to plan….. I loved these books, so funny and clever; I was surprised to find they had been made into a movie. I watched the first 20 minutes on a flight back from Fiji, but the characters were so far away from the ones in my head I had to switch it off; don’t you hate it when that happens?

My younger sister started reading about Carbonel (the King of Cats!) by Barbara Sleigh and I followed suit. The books have been reissued, and are a great read, especially if, like me, you fully appreciate how clever cats really are……….

Sweet Valley High, yep, I am a child of the 80’s! Francine Pascal series follows the lives of impossibly pretty popular twins Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield living in Sweet Valley California where it never rained, they never got zits, or chubby, despite living on milk shakes & French fries . Apparently there were 152 books in the series (?!) I got my fix courtesy of my best friend across the road. Looking back the stories are so incredibly American I wonder now what the appeal was, but at the time they were compulsive reading. A follow up book Sweet Valley Confidential, following the lives of grown up Elizabeth & Jessica was released last year, I am reliably informed to give it a miss ……….


I cant not mention Mollie Katzen and her amazing Moosewood Cookbook, and the follow up Enchanted Broccoli Forest, I LOVED these books, I got them out of the Library so many times I should have just brought them………all that wonderful hand lettering, and some of the dishes seemed very exotic to me, tofu, really????

So, what were your favorites??

Wednesday, July 18

Wishful Wednesday- feed me/read me

This week I thought I would talk about a couple of books & a website I am enjoying right now (or soon will be!), and a fantastic meal I had this week…

First up, I am very excited as one of my fav authors has a new book out next month. I am already on the waiting list at the Library (38 of 38 so far, I was a bit slow off the mark) for The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. This is number eight in the Armand Gamache series, and they just get better & better.

Set in Montreal and the small village of Three Pines, each book is an ingenious murder mystery, as well as following the relationships with Chief of Police Armand, his deputy Jean-Guy and the various members of the village. I found Montreal beautiful and fascinating (and cold, actually it was the first place I touched snow) the history & relationships between the French & English speaking communities is an interesting theme in the books, and Penny describes the various scenes & characters so well you fell like they are old friends. I have missed them! Roll on August……..

If you want to start at the beginning, Still Life is number one in the series

Speaking of murder mysteries, if you are like me and enjoy a good crime novel, check out Crime Watch, a kiwi blog about all things happening in  crime and thriller fiction. Craig Sisterson chaired an excellent session at the recent Readers & Writers Fest. called A Mind for Murder which I really enjoyed, his blog is updated constantly & is great for finding out about new crime authors, especially those from New Zealand

Next up a few pics from my dinner at Depot last Friday. I met Mairi from over at Toast, and we enjoyed a fabulous meal, I highly recommend dining here if you are in Auckland.
Get there early (we were seated by 5.30pm) as the place gets packed & there is no booking. We scored a fantastic perch right in front of the Kitchen, so enjoyed watching the meals being prepped by the super efficient chefs. Actually the head chef bears more than a passing resemblance to Russell Crowe (ok, if Russ had a north of England accent) and I don’t think that was the (delicious) Chardonnay talking….

So, what did we have?

A meat platter, perfect size for two, with various delicious cold meats, rabbit rillettes, crostini and cherry relish, superb...

Pork Carnitas, tender slow cooked pork with a tangy tomatillo salsa in soft tortillas.....

Potato skins, topped with porcini powder, truffle oil and Gouda.....I went out the next day & brought porcini powder here so I could recreate these at home, completely morish.....

Turbot sliders, with pickled lime mayo......................WOW!

To finish, a gift from the kitchen, a tamarillo compote with the most amazing foam on top, complete with crunch & coffee............
I rolled out out the door completly satisfied, and cant wait to go back..........

On a food theme, here is another book I have really enjoyed, Monsoon Diary, Shoba Narayan's evocative memoir of her time growing up in Madras before moving to the US for college, the food descriptions made my mouth water. My sister found it in a second hand shop, but it is still available new.

And finally, on the subject of books, I have to mention Fifty Shades of Gray. Actually I don’t have to, but I’m going to. Everyone else seems to be talking about it…….

Good on E L James, it is really hard to write (& finish) any novel (I know, I’m trying…….), let alone actually get it published. To do so and have it become such a mega hit is just amazing, who would not want that?
It’s just a shame, in my opinion, it isn’t a better book. I found it far too long (and to be honest I only made it halfway through…..), in desperate need on an edit, and quite frankly, thin and boring. Never mind auto-erotic bedroom gymnastics, I just wanted to give Ana a slap, she is so wet! How Ms James managed to spread the story out over three books I can’t even imagine (actually maybe therein lies the problem, her imagination is clearly more active than mine!) but I wont be purchasing any more. The annoying thing is I brought the book on my Kindle, I can’t even give it away………

Have a great week!

Monday, July 16

Cook My Books Challenge Three- Ole Cassoulet....?

This is the second version of this post, the first one disappeared off my laptop screen last night just as I was finishing it up………most annoying, especially as I still don’t know what I did

You may also need to forgive the pics, can I say it is quite tough to make Cassoulet look as good as it tastes, there is a lot of brown in that there pot. Duck, Pork Belly, Pork sausage and beans, this is a flavour packed dish, rich artery clogging meaty goodness, thankfully for your heart it is a treat and not for everyday…….

The book I have selected this week is Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook, based on recipes from his restaurant in New York city.  
I will be doing more than one recipe from this one as it is a fab book, and I cheated a bit on the Cassoulet. For some reason I have a mental bock when it comes to soaking legumes, so between that & neglecting to start the recipe 3 days early as instructed (?!) I ended up doing a sort of mash up of Les Halles, High Fearnly-Whittingstall & Rick Stein. This is a very traditional dish, so there will be as many interpretations as there are chefs, this is mine. I am actually pretty happy with this dish, I dont think a few short cuts have compromised flavour at all, it does take hours to make, but to be honest the actual time you spend doing anything is nothing like that much. I would not claim any degree of authenticity here, but I would claim this tastes fabulous....

Cassoulet - inspiration as above

serves 6-8 generously

First the beans....

500 gr haricot beans, soaked in cold water overnight (see below if you are forgetful like moi)
200 gr pork rind, cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and studded with 4 cloves
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Bouquet Garni (Bay, Thyme, & Parsley tied together in a little bunch with string)

Drain the beans, then put in a large pot with the rest of the ingredients. Cover by at least 3 cm with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 1.5-2 hours until the beans are nice & tender.
If you forget the soaking step, cover your beans with cold water, and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for a full 10 minutes, then turn the heat off & pop a lid on your pot. Leave to sit for 2 hours. The boiling gets rid of any toxins in the beans, so don't skimp on this step. Continue as above

Now the meatie bit....

2 confit duck legs (I will post how to make these later this week, or you can buy, I got mine at Sabato)
800 gr Pork Belly (I like Freedom Farms,) cut into chunks
6 good meaty pork sausages (I get mine at the fabulous Ellerslie Meats)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped
1 small tin of crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt & pepper

Ok, first you need to brown your meats. Take 2 tbsp of the fat from around your duck legs, and melt over a medium heat. Brown your duck legs on both side, and set aside. A bit of fat will come out of your duck, dont freak out, it is that kind of dish.
Now brown the pork belly, the skin will spit and crackle, so be careful. Set aside with the duck, and add the sausages to the pan. Brown on all sides and cut into chunks. By now you, the cooker, the floor & probably the wall will be covered in fat, this is what happens.........
Turn the heat to low, and add the onion & garlic to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes until soft but not really browned. Add the tomato pulp and paste, along with 1/2 cup of water. Stir & simmer for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160C. When the beans are cooked, check you still have plenty of liquid in the pan. I dont think I had enough, I would aim for at least a cm over the level of the beans. The beans will soak up a lot more liquid in the oven. Stir through the tomato mixture, and check your seasoning, remember the duck has a bit of salt, but dont under season.

Layer the meat & beans, starting and finishing with beans. An earthenware pot in traditional, I use my Le Creuset which works perfectly. Now you could sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs, I didn't have any so relied on the beans to form their own crust. Apparently this would be the subject of hot debate in France, my audience didn't know the difference so it was fine!
Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours until crusty, bubbly, meaty & gorgeous. You are the déesse domestique....

I served my Cassoulet with this potato dish, (in for a penny as they say....) One of my sisters does not eat red meat, so she made a rather divine salad Nicoise to go with dinner, I think my arteries were saying thanks. A green salad would also be perfect, sharp with a mustard dressing.

I also made this tangy Rhubarb Creaming Soda syrup to use with my soda stream , thanks to Good Food in a Crap Kitchen, delicious, and so pretty.

I will be posting further recipes from Les Halles, it is a useful, well designed book, I like Anthony Bourdain's straight talking style, the recipes are relatively simple to use and the format is clear & easy to read. Probably not one for vegetarians however.

Les Halles Cookbook
Anthony Bourdain
Bloomsbury 2004

Wednesday, July 11

Wishful Wednesday- get busy with the fizzy!

Ok, fess up. Who were you friends with as a kid just so you could go over to their house after school and use the soda stream? If they had a pool as well it was a double whammy, actually that was a combo that pretty much guaranteed friends.
I sound awful (although I have recently heard at least one confession of the above....) but after coming from a house where the drink of choice was water or milk (with Milo added if you were feeling flash) having fizzy drink on tap seemed pretty amazing. That it didn't actually taste that great seemed to be secondary, it was fizzy , coloured & full of sugar, yeowww! The machines themselves were pure seventies chic, orange & brown beauties that promised so much.....

So when my sister got a soda stream for her birthday I was pleasantly surprised. Gone is the bench-hogging clunky plastic look of old, the new machines are actually rather sleek, no shame sitting next to the Kitchen Aid here! So I added one to my birthday list and I am glad I did.

Easy to use, I make fresh sparkling water every day, rather than buying it and getting through loads of plastic bottles. I have a sample pack of flavours to try, although to be honest I prefer a squeeze of fresh lime in my water. Mr PK with his sweet tooth is the syrup tester, I can recommend the Creaming Soda so far....

Now, do you like a good sale? Then let me recommend the Boden sale. This UK website is an absolute cracker. I have been buying these clothes for years, they are fantastic quality, a great range of sizes, and deliver worldwide. The shoes are also brilliant, I have two friends who have brought the rather delicious pony skin ballet slippers........
Go on, treat yourself!

Sunday, July 8

Cook My Books Challenge Two- new voices in food

For Cook My Books challenge two I have selected a really delicious book by young English chef Alice Hart. Alice is a chef, and was the youngest food editor at Waitrose Food Illustrated, as well as running a successful pop up "The Hart & Fuggle"............and she is still in her 20's! 
Her book, Alice's Cookbook is full of tempting recipes, sorted into categories such as simple wintry dinner, autumn film night, springtime camper van buy the sea.....the recipes are influenced by Alice's travels, and represent a variety of cuisines, all fairly simple with intriguing flavours. 

This book is one of a small series from Quadrille called New Voices in Food,  I am keen to get the other books in the series once the Cookbook Buying Ban expires! The layout is clear, and I love the matt finish to the cover and photos. Bear in mind there are not pictures for every recipe. This does not bother me at all, the pictures that are included are beautifully styled, with a real feel of the young hip author Alice is. This book would be particularly good for a younger person getting into cooking, the recipe are clear and easy for follow, with results that will encourage more cooking .

The first recipe I have chosen is a simple Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry. Actually where I come from this would be Chicken and Kumara Curry, but I wont confuse the issue.....Quick to prepare, this is the perfect midweek supper, full of flavour and goodness.

Vietnamese Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry (adapted from Alice's Cookbook)

Serves 4 

6-8 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
1 ½ tbsp medium curry powder
2 tsp palm sugar/light brown sugar
1 tbsp plain oil, I use canola
2 shallots, chopped (or 1/2 small onion)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, 
½ tsp chilli flakes (to taste, add more if you like more zip)
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
400 ml can coconut milk
coriander leaves, to serve

Mix half the curry powder, sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Coat the chicken in the mixture and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, and add the onion, garlic and lemongrass.I don't chop up my lemongrass,  but cut it into a couple of large chunks & bash with a rolling pin to release the flavour. I cant abide tiny bits of lemongrass in my teeth!  Cook for a couple of minutes, without burning the garlic, then add the curry powder, chilli flakes and chicken and cook for five more minutes. 

Add the sweet potato, 1 tbsp of fish sauce, coconut milk and 1/3 of the coconut can of water. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken and sweet potato are cooked through. Taste and add more fish sauce if required. I also added a big squeeze of lime, but that's up to you

Serve with steamed rice and a sprinkling of coriander. Or as it would be in Vietnam, with baguette .
This is really tasty, savoury, sweet and salty, and I like the use of curry powder, which apparently is what they use in Saigon. I have never been so I defer to Alice on this one.

Alice's Cookbook
Quadrille Publishing 2010
New Voices in Food series

Thursday, July 5

Melt me an onion......

The heat pump is blasting and my weather app tells me it is all of 6 degrees outside. Temps like that, and a whole bag of onions in the pantry says Onion Soup, complete with cheesy crusty croutons melted on top. I will warm myself from the inside out.

I also want to celebrate the kitchen brilliance that is slowly cooked onions. Their sweet melting deliciousness is out of all proportion to the ease of preparation. OK, once you have got past the peeling and chopping, but it is so worth it, trust me. If you have caramelised onions in the fridge, you are well on the way to a really good dinner, lunch or snack

How about on top of pizza, with some crumbled feta and fresh thyme? See here for a fabulous pizza dough recipe......
Or spread on top of Hummus, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, and served with warm pita breads....
On top of a steak in a glorious steak and onion sandwich, with plenty of mustard
With cheese, for a very posh cheese and onion toasty....
Sprinkled with flour and stirred with beef stock and wine for onion gravy, Toad in the Hole with that?

Or, of course, in soup

My Onion Soup

enough for 4 big bowls

6-7 medium onions, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp of salt
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 litre beef stock
Splash of white wine (optional)
Fresh ground black pepper

To serve

Crusty bread, sliced & toasted under the grill
Gruyère cheese (or whatever good melting cheese you have on hand)

Melt the butter with the oil in a large saucepan. Chop your onions in half then into thin crescents, and add to your butter/oil mix.

Sprinkle with salt and the crushed garlic, and cook on a low heat for about 50-60 mins until melting and golden. Yes, that is nearly an hour of cooking, in that time the sugars in the onions caramelise and give you the most wonderful sweet flavour.

You only need to give them an occasional stir, but otherwise don't have to do much for that hour. The onion pile will shrink dramatically! When you have lovely sweet , melty onion, add your beef stock and wine (if using), with a big grind of pepper, and leave to bubbly happily on the stove for another 30 minutes or so.

You can enjoy as is, or to really gild the allium, pour into individual soup bowls (check out my retro beauties!) and top with your croutons and a handful of cheese. Pop under the grill until the cheese is bubbly and molten, then scoff in front of The Block, glass of vino optional

I thought this might count towards my five fruit and veg a day, but the opinion of the girls in the knitting circle at work (I am bottom tier, working on a scarf) decided onions are a condiment......or seasoning. I am counting.

Tuesday, July 3

Wishful Wednesday- Thundies are go!

Yes, those are indeed underpants. I was very unsure about this post, putting my pants on display (fresh out the packet and unworn I would hasten to add) but as I got off my train this morning I was greeted by a vision in tight polyester trotting along in front of me, two butt cheeks positively cut in half by tight elastic and I knew. So Miss Visible Panty Line at Britomart, this ones for you..........

Thunderpants are just the most comfortable pants you will ever wear, AND no VPL. I know some girls prefer thongs, but quite frankly I feel like I am being flossed wearing the awful things. Nana pants are also not terribly appealing, so in answer I offer Thundies. Fun, hard wearing (I have just retired one pair after 4 years....) and in a variety of cute organic cotton prints, they can be chucked in the washing machine no problem. In my head I am a faux Parisian girl who always wears matching silk lingerie lovingly hand reality, I have a life......

OK, clearly these are not pulling pants. I doubt any Romeo has brought Thundies for his Juliet (and lived to talk about it anyway, Mr PK has thankfully long given up attempting to buy me lingerie after some epic fails in the sizing department,....?!) but for those days when you want comfort and a smooth line under your clothing, Thundies are go!

Next up is the rather fabulous Pin-cushion my sister over at Dette Ryan made for me. I am still getting a handle on sewing, but it does help to have the right tools, who would not enjoy having this to brighten up a sewing table (or dinner table in my case!)

Lastly this week, a couple of blogs I am really enjoying right now....

The lovely Joanna Goddard over at A Cup of Jo  always seems to have something new and interesting to share......I can read and pretend I live in NYC

Elise Blaha has lots of fun ideas for creative types, or people like me who want to be....

Have a great week everyone, for those in Auckland, try and stay dry!

Sunday, July 1

Cook my Books Challenge One- do you know where Armenia is?

As you can see from the pictures, I have a few cookbooks. Not as many as Nigella (she has a collection in the thousands apparently), but more than a lot of people I know. More than the Minister of Finance would like. And probably many more than I actually need.  Even worse, I have some I have never actually cooked anything from. So to rectify this, and give myself a satisfying project to boot, I am going to cook a recipe/recipes from every single one of the 160 cookbooks I own and document the results here as the Cook My Books challenge. I will write up the recipe, and also a brief review of the book, in case you are lucky enough not to have an embargo on cookbook purchases for the next 12 months.  

Now I know this is opening myself up to comparison with another, rather more famous blogger who challenged herself to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I did initially worry about this, then realised I am 

a) not cooking from one book, my collection is pretty eclectic, so I will be cooking a variety of cuisines. And no matter what I am not doing anything in aspic. But I might bake more with lard

b) am cooking from a suburban kitchen in Auckland. Not a cool "loft" in New York City. In fact, given I am sitting typing this in track pants, watching the Rugby League, while my husband, also attired in track pants and stylish Chelsea FC fleece does his ironing.....I cant see there is any way I could be mistaken for a hip urbanite food blogger

d) I don't swear as much, or as creatively

c) Um, its my blog?

So, now we have that settled, the challenge itself. I have started with a New Zealand author, Michal Haines, and her wonderful Scent of the Monsoon Winds. Quite frankly the cover alone is worth the purchase price, never mind a wealth of delicious recipes. The dish I made first is Armenian Street Bread. I did have to get my Atlas out and see where Armenia actually is (needless to say I have not been, for reference  it is just to the right of Turkey, beneath Georgia & above Iran.....) 
Minced lamb with tomato, lemon and garlic, spread on a disk of dough and topped with ricotta and parsley, baked and spritzed with more lemon. Pretty hard to go wrong really, this would traditionally be served as street food, rolled up and eaten on the go. Or eaten on your lap in front of the telly, as the case may be......

Armenian Street Bread (from Scent of the Monsoon Winds by Michal Haines)

Makes 8 individual rounds

First make your bread dough

1 tbsp dry yeast (the original recipe used 3 tbsp, but 1 is plenty)
300ml warm water (ie hand warm, not hot)
1 tsp sugar
450 gr (3 cups) strong flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the yeast & sugar into the water and leave for 10 mins or so in a warm place until it becomes frothy. I put all my dry ingredients & oil into the bowl of my Kitchen Aid but you can do this by hand very easily, it just takes a few minutes longer. If using a mixer, use the dough hook attachment, and while the motor is running, add about half the liquid. Let it mix for a while, then slowly add as much of the remaining liquid as you need to make a smooth dough, you may not need it all. Let the dough mix for about 7 minutes until it is smooth & springy. If making by hand, do the same, using your hands to mix the dough in the bowl until most of it has come together. Tip out onto a clean bench sprinkled with flour, and knead for 10 mins or so until smooth. See here for further info on kneading and yeast cooking, there really is nothing to it so don't be afraid. 
Put the dough back into a clean bowl you have brushed lightly with oil, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm spot for 1.5-2 hours

Meanwhile, make your filling

2 tbsp oil
2 white onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
450 gr lamb mince
2 tomatoes, skinned & chopped ( I used a small tin of crushed tomatoes as it is winter!)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Juice of a lemon
2 tsp tomato paste
Handful finely chopped parsley
250 gr ricotta, beaten with 1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp toasted cumin seeds (pop into a dry frying pan and cook over med. heat until fragrant)
1 tsp chilli flakes

Heat the oil over a med-low heat, and add the onion and garlic with 1 tsp of the salt. Fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion is soft, then turn the heat up to med-high. Add the mince (remembering to save a little morsel for your cats, who will attempt to trip you up if you don't.....) and fry for approx 10 minutes until the meat is browning. See here for a rave on browning mince. Turn the heat to low, and add the tomato, remaining 1 tsp salt, sugar, lemon juice and tomato paste. Cook for another 10 minutes until the meat is cooked and the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool , and stir in the chopped parsley

When your dough is nicely doubled in size (give or take!), pop a tray (or pizza stone if you have it) into the oven and crank the heat up to 230C. Split the dough into 8 balls, and roll each one out as thin as you can. Pop onto your heated tray, and top with some of the mince mixture, some of the ricotta and a sprinkle of the cumin seeds and chilli flakes.

Bake for approx 8 minutes, until nicely browned, then if you like top with 

a sprinkle of ground sumac ( actually a berry, with a tangy citrus flavour)
a squeeze of lemon
more chopped parsley

How good do they look? Well, they taste even better. The bread dough & the cooked mince mixture can both be frozen, so I now have a fabulous dinner ready to be popped in the fridge to defrost and bunged in the oven at supper time. If you don't have ricotta, a sprinkle of feta would also be wonderful, or even natural yoghurt, in which case top once the bread is cooked.

Love this recipe, and I have at least five others I cant wait to try. The book has a variety of dishes, all featuring interesting spices and bold flavours. The recipes are clearly written, and beautifully photographed by Jacqui Blanchard. The book is printed on matt paper, which I personally prefer, with gorgeous colours, completely appropriate to the type of food. What can I say, I recommend..........