Sunday, May 2, 2010

Jamie Oliver Dinner

So folks, it’s been a whole month since, over lunch and under bad fluro lights, we hashed the idea to cook, eat and blog about it, and we’re sure you’d forgive us for being a little less than modest and saying we KILLED it. Make your own dough - and leave it alone in a warm room? Check. Make old fashioned shortcrust pastry from scratch without flipping out (much)? No worries. Create tasty chicken dish with spot-on seasoning and crispy, gorgeous potatoes? All over it.

Our first month has been an ode to Jamie Oliver and his wise, pukka-tuckering ways. We trawled our local farmer’s market for fresh, seasonal produce, stocked up on free range eggs, hot smoked salmon, olives and veggies galore and got a serious dose of cute when we met a 10-week-old Australian bulldog who refused to walk and weighed a wee 15 kilos. We cruised (or bumped) to Harlin, west of Kilcoy for a splendid day on the land at Queensland Natural Beef, where we ate melt-in-your-mouth steak, got up close and personal with the family’s beautiful cattle and were treated to Carol’s divine jam drops and fruit cake. She even sent us home with doggy bags - one of us may have eaten Carol’s fruit cake for dinner.

On the way we met Ingrid from City Chicks, and got the dirt on how to keep your own chooks for an endless supply of fresh, backyard eggs. We petted a duckling, discovered there is such thing as a chook nappy and checked out Ingrid’s new range of beehives. Honey that makes itself on your balcony? Yes, please.

We had an impromptu dinner party, we whipped up banana bread, carrot cake cupcakes, homemade pizza and healthy cookies, eaten coffee yoghurt from the tub, munched on steamed crab with ginger and spring onion, consumed a bottle of wine or ten and had some seriously, seriously good times. To wrap it all up, we hosted a Jamie Oliver inspired dinner for...ourselves. And it rocked. our. worlds.

We’d been planning for weeks (well, some of us had. some of us didn’t read our recipes until mid-way through. Rest for an hour?! what the..?) and when that clock hit 5 on Friday, we hopped, skipped and jumped to the shops for an ingredient haul. Fast forward through some genuine glee and yippee-ing at our homemade pizza dough and gorgeous shortcrust pastry, and here’s what we came up with.

{ Pizza Fritta }

This recipe would work a treat for a large-scale dinner party or as an entree as we had it. The dough was easy to make, then we shallow fried it and topped it with some of our favourite ingredients. You could put anything on these, we used bocconcini, tomato pesto, parsley and cherry tomatoes - but get creative and use whatever you like. Firstly we had to make the dough from scratch, no bought pizza bases here! I can't say we weren't tempted to cheat though. Apparently this dough makes a pretty tasty bread too, but we've yet to try that.
{ Basic Pizza Dough }

1kg strong white bread flour or Tipo ‘00’ flour
or 800g strong white bread flour or Tipo ‘00’ flour, plus 200g finely ground semolina flour (We opted for 1kg of strong white bread flour)
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar (We just used normal caster sugar)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water

We halved all these ingredients and it made about 12 pizzas.

Sieve the flour/s and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.

Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don’t roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though – if you are working in advance like this it’s better to leave your dough, covered with clingfilm, in the fridge. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there’s one less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 0.5cm thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted tinfoil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge.

Now for the rest of the Fritti recipe. We didn't make Jamie's tomato sauce, instead we opted for a tomato paste mixed with a tomato pesto - it was delish!

1 x basic pizza dough
Flour, for dusting

Vegetable oil, for frying

2 x 150g balls of buffalo mozzarella (we used about 4 small bocconcini balls)

optional: dried oregano
or parsley

Preheat your grill to its highest temperature. Divide the dough into 10 pieces and press them flat on to a floured work surface. Roll them out to about 0.5cm/1/4 inch thick and allow them to rest for 10 minutes or so. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, add about 2cm of vegetable oil and fry each pizza for 30 seconds or so on each side. Remove with tongs and place on a baking tray.
Once all the bases are fried, smear each one with a spoonful of the tomato sauce and tear over some mozzarella and a leaf or two of basil or dried oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and grill until the cheese is bubbling and the dough is light brown and cooked through. Our frittis looked like they were going to explode at one point. What we did was after they were cooked, we flattened them with a wooden spoon and it worked a treat.
You can check out Jamie's recipe here.

{ Crispy and Sticky Chicken Thighs with Squashed Potatoes and Tomatoes }
Jamie says “this is a simple tray-baked chicken dish – the sort of food I absolutely love to eat. As everything cooks together in tray, all the beautiful flavours get mixed up. This is what it’s all about! With a green salad, it’s an easy dinner.”

Serves 4

800g new potatoes, scrubbed
Sea salt and freshly found black pepper
12 boned chicken thighs, skin on, preferably free range or organic
600g cherry tomatoes, different shapes and colours if you can find them
A bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar

Put the potatoes into a large saucepan of salted boiling water and boil under cooked.

While the potatoes are cooking, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Cut each chicken thigh into three strips and place in a bowl. Rub the meat all over with olive oil and sprinkle w salt and pepper, then toss. Heat a large frying pan, big enough to hold all the chicken pieces snugly in one layer, and put the chicken into the pan, skin side down. If you don’t have a pan that’s big enough, feel free to cook the chicken in two batches. Toss and fry over a high heat for 10 minutes or so, until almost cooked, then remove with a slotted spoon to an ovenproof pan or dish.

Prick the tomatoes with a sharp knife. Place them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for a minute or so. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, pinch off their skins. You don’t have to, but by doing this they will become lovely and sweet when cooked and their intense flavour will infuse the potatoes. By now the potatoes will be cooked. Drain them in a colander, then lightly crush them by pushing down on them with your thumb.

Bash up most of the oregano leaves with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar, or a Flavour Shaker if you have one. Add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a good splash of red wine vinegar and some pepper and give everything another bash. Add to the chicken with the potatoes, the tomatoes and the rest of the oregano leaves. Toss everything together carefully. Spread out in a single layer in an appropriately sized roasting tray, and bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven until golden.

Lovely served with a rocked salad dressed with some lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, and a nice glass of white wine.
{ Plum Bakewell Tart }
{ Old-fashioned sweet shortcrust pastry }

Jamie says

“This pastry is perfect for making apple and other sweet pies. Even if you’ve never made pastry before, as long as you stick to the correct measurements for the ingredients and you follow the method exactly, you’ll be laughing.”


“Try to be confident and bring the pastry together as quickly as possible – don’t knead it too much or the heat from your hands will melt the butter. A good tip is to hold your hands under cold running water beforehand to make them as cold as possible. That way you’ll end p with a delicate, flaky pastry every time.”

Makes about 1kg

500g organic plain flours, plus extra for dusting
100g icing sugar, sifted
250g good-quality cold butter, cut into small cubes
Zest of one lemon
2 large free-range eggs, beaten
Splash of milk
Flour, for dusting

Sieve the flour from a height onto a clean work surface and sieve the icing sugar over the top. Using your hands, work the subs of butter unto the flour and sugar by rubbing your thumbs against your fingers until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. This is the point where you can spike the mixture with interesting flavours, so mix in your lemon zest.

Add the eggs and milk to the mixture and gently work it together till you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly. Don’t work the pastry too much at this stage or it will become elastic and chewy, not crumbly and short. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

Okay, so if we’re talking the finished product, this wasn’t exactly a success. It didn’t cook. And it certainly didn’t form any kind of tart. So we re-named it plum pudding. Plum pudding with really awesome pastry.

Making my own pastry induced slight panic - especially with warnings like ‘try to be confident and bring the pastry together as quickly as possible’ and ‘don’t knead it too much or it will be chewy not flaky’ - but it was a breeze. Jamie’s recipe advised running your hands under cold water before you get stuck in so you don’t overheat the butter with your mits, and working it gently with your fingertips until it’s fine and crumbly. Once we added eggs and milk things got a little sticky, but we sorted it and, since we didn’t have a rolling pin, improvised with a bottle of red. We wrapped it in plastic to chill out in the fridge for half an hour, before rolling it to fit the dish, freezing it for an hour, blind baking it for 10 minutes then celebrating with a little jig because it looked so damn good. Not bad for a pastry virgin.
Bakewell Tart is pretty standard fare in the UK, but mine didn’t, ahem, bake well. We put our heads together and came up with three possibilities:

1. The tinned plums were too moist, and made too much juice.
2. There was too much of the tasty, almondy frangipane stuff because we used almond meal, not blitzed blanched almonds.
3. One of us is completely shit.

We left the little sucker longer than advised to see if it would set, but it refused and was more like a wobbly custard with plums and fabulous pastry (are you sick of hearing about the pasty yet?). We ate it regardless (of course) and it tasted divine - just more like runny pudding than cake-like tart. And since one of us is a slight perfectionist, she plans to attempt it again. With less almondy stuff and cherry jam, instead of tinned plums. We’ll keep you posted people.

Regardless of the bake not so well tart, we think the evening was a tremendous success and hopefully, Jamie would be proud.

Next month? We’re on a mission from God. No, wait. That was the Blues Brothers. We’re on a mission to make our mums proud. Since the three of us were blessed with mothers who cooked every night, made our school lunches, baked special treats like banana cake, chocolate slice and pecan pie and had the foresight to recognize that Happy Meals should not be consumed every day, we figured our chefs of the month would be Mum x 3. Since baking and mums go hand-in-hand, we’ve christened May baking month and we’re kicking things off with Mother’s day eve bake off. Stay tuned...


  1. Hello, I'm working for the "Gazzett'al Dente", a magazine from the Italian restaurant "Caffè al Dente" in Brussels ( We are printed in 4000 copies and we are readen by 8000 to 12000 people. In our next edition, we would like to use your picture of pizza fritta. Do you agree? Thank you, Hélène

    1. Absolutely Hélén! Please credit Cereal For Dinner by Alicia Blumsom, Lucy Brook and Sarah Duncan. Thank you.