Lazy-Boy ‘Homemade’ Pizzas

One evening a couple of weeks ago, we were fancying pizza. But, I wanted a really quite specific combination of ingredients that none of the pizzas in our local Budgens were offering. So, DIY was the solution! Well, semi DIY. It was a Wednesday night and we weren’t really feeling the homemade dough option so we picked up a couple of ready-made bases with the intention of making them into something a bit more special.

I am currently going through an intense pesto phase so we picked up some green pesto, goats cheese and stuffed olives to act as the main stars of the show. We then added various bits and bobs from the fridge that were going off. Pizzas are a great way to use up the items laying forgotten in your fridge!

The bases are pre-cooked so we were able to start assembling our ingredients straightaway. Don’t they look appetising? (…..)

We obviously started with tomato paste, just a standard tube, nothing fancy here.

I then added a layer of PESTO to ensure the green goodness would be present in every single bite. Winner!

Ben then informed me he didn’t actually want pesto which I initially found pretty hard to come to terms with until I realised it would mean more for me. Fabulous. He decided to go the crazy-hot route and spread a liberal amount of hot salsa on top of his tomato paste. This is another reason why homemade pizzas are the best – you don’t have to settle for a pizza flavour you both only kinnnddaaa like, everyone can have their favourite!

Skipping forward approximately half an hour because the process of pizza making has been photographed many times, this is what emerged from the oven! Uh, amazing!

I had a layer of tomato paste and pesto, topped with cherry tomatoes, green olives, red pepper, Quorn chicken pieces and a liberal sprinkling of  goats cheese. This flavour combination is a real keeper! I wouldn’t normally go for a veggie topping (very much a pepperoni girl, or of course, Padana) but this was really flavourful and every bite was different which was quite exciting. It was also VERY filling and I was only able to eat half!  I had the leftovers for lunch the next day and the pizza was just as delicious cold.

Ben had hot sauce as a base with a combination of jalapeno peppers, Quorn chicken pieces, olives, tomatoes and peppers. Apparently this was also a winning combo which is saying something as he is quite the connoisseur when it comes to vegetarian pizza toppings. We’ll definately be using these pizza bases again; they are super cheap (£1.50 for two at the most?) and while obviously not as delicious as homemade dough, a strong contender for a quick weeknight dinner!

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Ode To Steak With Blue Cheese Sauce

I’ve got a serious, chronic, all-encompassing addiction to steak, with blue cheese sauce.

Steak without blue cheese sauce, is, at this moment in time, unfathomable. It has to have blue cheese sauce. It’s got to the point now where not only am I ordering it every time I see it on the menu, but I am also only choosing to eat at places if they have it on the menu. Not ideal when I share my meals on my food blog, as they are all starting to look verryyyyy similar. I’m not sure how long this addiction will last but it’s been about a year now and my need for SWBCS (see what I did there?) is still relentless. I’ve pretty much just embraced it and accepted that the moment will pass, in time.

I never used to like blue cheese. Ironically, I often find that I don’t actually like the cheese itself, on it’s own. I much prefer it in sauce form. Sometimes I find it too strong and overpowering – obviously when combined with cream it becomes milder and much less ‘blue.’ This was confirmed in a sandwich I bought in America last year –  the ‘beef and bleu’ sub from the Artists Palette quick service restaurant at Saratoga Springs Resort in Disneyworld. I took one bite and tragically had to throw it away because the cheese was strong and almost bitter, overpowering everything else in the sandwich. Yuck! Guess I’m not as big a blue cheese fan as I thought.

The first time I had steak with blue cheese sauce was at The Barleycorn Inn, in Bishops Waltham. They used to have an ever-changing menu of exciting dishes and the steaks in particular always featured different toppings and sauces. I didn’t fancy anything else off the menu that evening so took a gamble on the ‘bacon wrapped, blue cheese topped’ variety, figuring I could always scrape the blue cheese off if it was a disaster. I was pretty excited for the bacon wrapped concept though, how often do you get the chance to eat bacon wrapped steak!? When it arrived and I started eating, I was blown away. The steak was wrapped in a generous portion of thickly sliced back bacon, seared to perfection while keeping the steak inside juicy and tender. Slabs of blue cheese were nestled underneath the bacon, infusing the steak with melted, cheesy goodness. The whole dish was also topped with a creamy, mild blue cheese sauce. It was ALMOST a blue cheese overdose but I was so enamoured with the flavours that I ate the whole thing, squealing with joy at every bite. Everytime we went back to the Barleycorn I hoped to order that dish again but unfortunately, their ever-changing menu meant I never got the bacon-wrapped version again, only the blue cheese sauce topped. Still delicious, but not the same! Although that does make my memory of that one meal extra special, in a nostalgic, reminiscing kind of way.

Since that first experience, I’ve ordered SWBCS a LOT.

Here are some of the S’sWBCS I’ve enjoyed 🙂 There are more not pictured!

The Orange Tree, Paignton

Shamblehurst Barn, The Hungry Horse (not good…)

Piccola Roma, Bishops Waltham (#1)

Piccola Roma, Bishops Waltham (#2!)

Enzo Italian, Weymouth

Slack photo taking but this was from The Ship Inn, Weymouth!

Last but not least, SWBCS cooked by my own wonderful father! He knows how keen I am on the combo so fired up the BBQ one night last month when the weather was nice and surprised me with my favourite meal. What a treat! It tasted amazing and I had deep discussions with him about how to achieve a restaurant quality steak, at home. I was starting to realise how expensive my addiction was becoming and while I believe in treating oneself once in a while, going out especially for one dish was becoming a bit excessive! The average cost of a SWBCS, in my experience, is £16/17. Oops! He cooked our steaks on the BBQ so the heat was high enough to sear the outside while keeping the meat tender and juicy. Perfectly medium rare, just how I like them, with delicious sweet potato wedges on the side. Pretty much my ideal summer meal!

One Saturday night a couple of weeks ago, I decided the time was right to attempt SWBCS at home. I purchased a Tesco Finest ribeye steak which cost about £5, not bad I thought considering how much they cost in restaurants. I was just nervous about potentially ruining such a lovely piece of meat so tensions were running high! I was googling blue cheese sauce recipes on my iPhone whilst wandering around Tesco to buy ingredients, when I came across the answer to all my problems. I never know which blue cheese I’m not keen on – I think I like dolcelette so was preparing to buy that. However, I was ever so slightly dreading making the sauce whilst simultaneously ensuring my steak was cooked perfectly, it was all getting to be a bit too much for my first ever steak attempt! Multi-tasking in the kitchen doesn’t normally bother me and in actual fact I enjoy the challenge of bringing a meal together so I think it was just the fact that I’d spent £5 on this steak that was affecting me…

While I was Googling, a hit appeared for possibly my favourite food item on earth, Creme de St Agur, explaining that a simple blue cheese sauce could be made just by heating the dip up! GENIUS! I can’t believe we’ve never done this before, we always just serve it cold with crisps and nibbles. It was like a whole other world of warm, cheese based snacks was suddenly introduced to me. Decision made, I dumped the dolcelette and grabbed a tub of my good friend Mr Agur.

Back home, preparations began for the steak. We were actually staying in my brothers flat for the weekend to look after his kitten and I was slightly concerned at the lack of ventilation as I knew things were going to get smoookkkeeeyyy! We placed the kitten in the bedroom for the few moments the steak was cooking so that we could crack the window right open. I heated up a grill pan to the very highest it would go and watched it smoke, trying to ignore the fact this goes against everything I’ve ever been told about cooking. The steak went on the pan with an almighty sizzle and I let it cook for 2.5 minutes before flipping it over. It had impressive sear marks which I was pleased with and it was smelling great. I heated up the St Agur in a pan and served my potato wedges onto the plate. Once another 2.5 minutes had gone by I bit the bullet and placed it on the plate. I’d rather have it slightly too rare than overcooked and I knew it’d keep cooking once it was on the plate. I spooned a very generous amount of Creme de St Agur over it and left it to rest for a couple of minutes while we let the smoke disappear. It actually didn’t get as smokey as I’d been led to believe through reading online, so that was great. I still wouldn’t recommend doing this in a tiny enclosed kitchen though and it would definately be easier on a BBQ. Once the smoke had all but gone I left the extractor fan on, closed the window and let the kitten back in. We were ready to eat! Obviously, Ben politely declined the steak and instead opted for wedges and Quorn meatballs, with BBQ sauce. A winning combination.

I was so excited and nervous to cut into my steak and see how it had fared during the cooking process. The result? An unprecedented success!

These photos are awful because I was so eager to eat that I didn’t really play about with angles or shots or anything…but you get the gist.

The sauce was INCREDIBLE but the blinding white colour was ever so slightly off-putting – I think I’d prefer a pale, creamy yellow if I was being really picky. The flavour was spot on though, the best blue cheese sauce I’ve ever had I think. Probably because it was just melted cheese and cream. Or liquid fat, if you will. Using Creme de St Agur is an excellent lazy-boy option for blue cheese sauce and I really recommend it. The website advises using a microwave but I heated it gently in a saucepan and it was perfect.

    

I tried valiantly to show the colour of the inside and how tender the meat was but the urge to pick it up and shove it in my face was too strong. Trust me when I say, it was medium rare. Success! So, 2.5 minutes on each side of a 1.5/2 inch piece of meat really will produce a medium rare steak. You can see in the below photograph how juicy and moist it was – the juices mingled with the sauce to create a really quite magnificent meeting of meat and dairy.

This meal was OUTSTANDING. I am thrilled that I can now recreate almost-restaurant quality steak at home and it really is very easy. Obviously I’ll still be ordering it when we go out to nice restaurants but perhaps I’ll be able to order something different if we go to a bog standard pub, as I now know I can make it at home just as well, if not better.

Piccola Roma – Bishops Waltham (Take 2!)

Last month, we returned to the fantastic Piccola Roma restaurant for our anniversary (I like to stretch our anniversary celebrations out to at least three meals!!) as I was desperate to have their steak again. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Plus, it’s very convenient for us as we can walk down to the village, have a few drinks at the pub (the new and improved Crown Inn, stunning) and then stroll over for dinner. Perfect evening!

The evening of our (8 year!!) anniversary was particularly nice and we sat outside in the Crown beer garden enjoying some ice cold beverages before our 8pm reservation. I’d emailed the restaurant in advance to make sure we’d get in, as I know they get pretty busy on Saturday nights.

Anniversary drinks!

Just before 8pm we reluctantly left the sunny beer garden and headed over to the restaurant where we were welcomed warmly and shown inside. The restaurant was already quite busy and the waiter said we could choose from two tables – I chose a nice 4 seater in the corner which was very spacious indeed.

The owner of the restaurant then came over to greet us and said that tonight, we were VIP’s! How exciting! We weren’t quite sure what this meant but she went on to say she had seen my blog post about the restaurant earlier this year and very much appreciated it! It turns out she had posted it on the restaurants Facey-B wall (which I had missed) and was just really grateful that I’d given them such a fab write-up. This was my first experience of being ‘recognised’ from PDK and I have to say it was pretty cool! I was just so pleased she liked the review and that I’d helped the restaurant out a bit – they unfortunately have some bad reviews on TripAdvisor which we can’t understand at all, you do have to take TA reviews with a very generous pinch of salt though 😉 We had really enjoyed our experience at Piccola Roma so my glowing review was just a reflection of that…confirmed by the fact we were now back! We chatted for a while with the owner who complimented me on my writing style and content which was really lovely. A lady at the table next to us then overheard us talking, leaned over with a pad and pencil and asked me to write down the URL!

After all this excitement we were more than ready for some food. We were bought complimentary bread and olive oil/balsamic which is one of my favourite things to eat EVER. Even though I knew we had a pretty full-on meal ahead of us I was unable to refrain from eating all of mine and a fair bit of Ben’s bread also.

Obviously, we ordered starters. This was our anniversary meal! (not that we don’t order starters every time we go out. ahem.)

I was pleasantly surprised to see garlic bread with cheese as a starter, so promptly ordered that. I was even more pleasantly surprised when it was placed in front of me! What a beast!

Pane all’Aglio con Mozzarella (V) our home made pizza base topped with garlic, mozzarella, oregano & extra virgin olive oil

£  3.95

Look at the size on that! An entire garlic pizza bread, all for me! (Just forcibly reminded of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, “A lovely cheese pizza, just for me.” hahahha)

I was taking close-up photos of it like an absolute mad woman, trying to capture the glistening pools of garlic butter while they were still melty and delicious.

I very kindly let Ben have a couple of slices of this although I did feel, if forced, I’d have been able to finish it. I was just very aware this was only my starter!

Ben chose the Caprese salad which, just like the salad he chose last time, came out with beautiful presentation.

Insalata Caprese (V) Sliced tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella cheese and fresh basil drizzled with extra virgin olive oil £ 5.50

Had we known how big my starter would be, he may not have ordered this and I would have shared the garlic bread (grudgingly). But, he really loved it and ate every single last bite! We both love the flavours of caprese salad and the tomatoes in this offering were wonderfully fresh and juicy – something that can really make or break the dish.

After a short break, we were ready for our main courses. I was very boring and ordered exactly what I got last time BUT in my defence that is the number one reason I wanted to come back so I couldn’t entertain the notion of ordering anything different. Ben was a little more adventurous and plumped for a new dish that caught his eye on the menu.

Here is my beautiful steak!

Bistecca alla Fiorentina 10oz rib eye steak pan fried in a creamy dolcelatte cheese sauce served with new potatoes or chips     £ 16.95

I chose chips, as chips, steak and blue cheese sauce are the holy trinity of food items in my humble opinion. Check this mother out!

   

Truely, a thing of beauty. I’ve spoken before of my love for steak and blue cheese sauce and Piccola Roma’s offering is right up there with the best.  The rib eye steak was thick and tender, cooked perfectly medium rare as requested. I don’t think I even need to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and pretty much licked every last drop of sauce off the place. Classy!

On our last visit, Benji got pesto pasta with a tomato and onion salad on the side. This time, he was in the mood for something a little different. We probably had only had pizza 2 or 3 times that week* so obviously he needed to get a fix! I struggle not to order pizza myself when it’s on a menu, steak is probably the only thing that can stop me. We like pizza, okay? A lot.

*I’m not joking.

He opted for mushroom pizza, one of his faves.

Funghi (V) Tomato, Mozzarella, Mushroom and herbs £8.50

I like the way his was approximately half the cost of mine. I clearly have expensive taste! Seriously though, that is a huge bonus of having a veggie boyfriend – he always brings the cost of the bill right down, bless him 😉 A cheap date!

There were no complaints from his side of the table and he made short work of the pizza. I didn’t try any, partly as I generally disagree with mushrooms and partly because I was in a full-on steak induced coma that wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. He really enjoyed it, though!

After these mammoth, feast-worthy courses, dessert was something we unfortunately had to accept we’d be unable to contemplate. The friendly manager had an alternative though – lemoncello shots, just like last time! We’d totally forgotten about these so this was a lovely surprise.

These were actually perfect for me, I often want a tiny taste of something sweet after a meal but don’t want to buy a dessert I won’t be able to finish. A shot of this sweet, lemony liquid was enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and prevent a late night visit to the biscuit cupboard on our return. Result!

We’d been in the restaurant a good two hours by the time we finished and had enjoyed every minute of it. We were made to feel so welcome by the manager and waiting staff and the chef even came out to say hello! I so enjoyed my first ‘blog recognition’ and I was really happy the restaurant appreciated my review and were thankful for what I’d written. I was also glad the owner didn’t offer to take any money off our meal or offer to pay or anything, as I don’t want my blog to become a series of restaurant reviews I’ve been paid to say nice things about! Everything I say on PDK is my own opinion and as cheesy as it sounds, I just do it for the love of food 🙂

Our final ‘thank you’ from the owner was a little bag of biscotti to take home with us which was really lovely of her. We enjoyed them over the course of the week, with our coffees and teas.

Thank you Piccola Roma for a wonderful evening and for making our Anniversary so special, it goes without saying that we’ll be back!