Slimming World Cauliflower Pizza

Without a doubt, pizza is my favourite food. I love it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza I didn’t enjoy, but let’s be honest, even a bad pizza is still better than pretty much any other food. Amirite?

Thanks to the wonder that is Slimming World, pizza is not off the menu even though I’m trying to lose weight and I get to have it pretty frequently. My favourite way to enjoy it is using a wholemeal pita for 6 syns, or a Bfree gluten free tortilla wrap as my HEXB. I have pita pizza and SW chips most weekends, topping the pita with syn free tomato sauce made from passata, herbs and garlic, sliced chorizo or veggie sausage, peppers, onions, and my HEXA reduced fat cheddar.

Exhibit A:

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I also make the perennial SW fave ‘Pizza topped chicken’ quite often, with either actual chicken or Quorn fillets. This is a nice alternative, and it means I don’t have to use my HEXB on bread for the base.

On Saturday night though, I fancied something a bit different. A proper pizza. Well, ish. I wasn’t about to spend all my syns on a single slice of supermarket pizza (I needed them for wine, obvs) so I decided to make a cauliflower pizza base. These have been going around food blogs for a few years now, and Slimming World put a recipe online last year when spiralising/vegetable replacements to carbs/cauliflower-based everything were all the rage. This is the third time I’ve made one and while it is a fair amount of faff, I really like the finished product. Obviously it doesn’t taste like a thick, doughy slice of Dominos or proper homemade yeast pizza, but for very low syns it’s pretty awesome. And, it means I can go nuts in the morning and use my HEXB for toast or cereal instead! (I know, I need to calm down.)

The recipe is pretty simple and you can really add as few or as many toppings and extras as you like/can be bothered to chop.

Slimming World Cauliflower Pizza

For the base:

1 head cauliflower

1 egg

salt, pepper, garlic powder, italian herbs to taste (you can’t really go wrong here, we’re just trying to flavour the base a bit)

For the sauce:

250g passata

Balsamic vinegar, italian herbs, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper (again, this is just what I add to my pizza sauce, all pretty much guessed amounts and it turns out just fine every time!)

Toppings:

I used spinach, basil, red onion, vegetarian sausage, tinned mock duck (all free) and synned black olives and mozzarella.

80g reduced fat cheddar (2 x HEXA as I ate the pizza in 2 servings)

Start by chopping the cauliflower into florets, and then chuck into the food processor. Blitz it until it resembles rice and is all evenly sized.

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Pop the cauli-rice into a bowl and microwave for 6/7 minutes until it’s cooked through. Now, here comes the fun bit. Most recipes call for you to put the cauliflower into a clean tea towel and squeeze it until all the moisture comes out. I tried this for about 2 minutes with kitchen towel as we didn’t have a clean tea towel, and let’s just say it didn’t go well. I burned my hand with the steaming hot cauli, and the kitchen roll cracked under the pressure and ripped. Thinking on my feet, I decided to just gently dry fry the cauli in a pan so it would get rid of all the moisture that way. Spoiler alert – this works really well!

Here’s the pan-fried cauliflower all dry and lovely.

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Then add the beaten egg and all the herbs and seasoning. Food bloggers who aren’t following SW generally add grated parmesan in here, and while I don’t doubt this is delicious, ain’t nobody got time for parmesan syns on Saturday night when there’s a bottle of wine in the fridge. Stir the cauliflower and egg together and you’ll be left with a bowl of wet mush. Mmmmmm. It won’t go doughy so don’t worry if it doesn’t look like you’d expect, the egg works as a binder in the oven and dries it out.

Pop your base onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and shape it into a nice circle. Bake it for 10 minutes, flip it over, and bake it on the other side for another 10 minutes. It’ll be quite delicate when you try and flip it so be gentle – let’s not forget it’s essentially egg and cauliflower so not structurally sound!

Here’s the finished crust! Yummy!

 

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Then, add all your toppings! Here’s my cheese and ‘meat’ (I was on a veggie kick this night so all fake meat.)

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Here’s the finished product pre oven…

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Et voila! I baked it for a further 20 minutes on 180 until the cheese was bubbly, and it was perfect. I ate it quite simply with a green salad and the slices were just sturdy enough to be held, so it felt like a real treat.

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I’ll definitely be making this again. As I said, it was time-consuming but not hard work, it’s just because of the number of steps involved in making the base. I believe some supermarkets now sell pre-made cauliflower rice which would speed up the process a bit, but I’m not about to spend £2 on 100g of cauliflower when I can buy a whole one for 90p. Each to their own, though!

Let me know if you try making cauliflower pizza, and I’ll be back soon with some very much non-Slimming World Orlando food bloggage!

 

Proper Job Pizzas

A thousand apologies for my prolonged absence from Polka Dot Kitchen! Life has rudely barged in the way of blogging and I’ve really missed it. In the last month a lot has happened…I took voluntary redundancy from my job of two years after finding out  the company was merging and there would be job duplications. I applied for a LOT of jobs, went on a few interviews and started to get TENSE when my last day at work was approaching and thoughts of unemployment, JobSeekers Allowance and cancelled Florida holidays (GOD FORBID) were looming. In my last week at my job, I went on two interviews. One was absolutely amazing and I was hoping and praying they’d offer me the job, I wanted it SO MUCH!

I then secured a ‘chat with the CEO’ the following week; brilliant, but no guarantee of a job! The second interview that week was before this ‘chat with the CEO’ of the job I really wanted. The interview was great but I just didn’t think the job was for me. Obviously, they then phoned me an hour after the interview and offered me the job. Dilemma! I politely asked the very pushy recruiter if I could let them know Friday. What followed was an extremely tense 48 hours in which I ran through all possible scenarios with Ben and went to sleep the morning of the ‘chat’ convinced I would not get the job and had also ruined my chances of getting the other one.

LONG story short, I was offered the job I really wanted. YES!!!!! Me and Ben then skipped off to Disneyland Paris for a very very very well deserved weekend away and I returned on Bank Holiday Monday pretty much on top of the world. I’ve been working at my new job nearly a month now and I’m feeling very happy, settled in and ready to get back to blogging. Obviously I’ve been eating a lot during this stressful time (mainly carbs…) so I have lots of backed-up posts to get through!

So. Lets start with my favourite food in the world – pizza! But, not just any pizza. Proper job, home-made, from scratch pizza. Yeahhh! Homemade pizza dough has fast become mine and Ben’s newest obsession. Nicer than any shop-bought pizza we’ve ever had, home-made is super quick to make and I keep finding myself knocking up fresh pizza dough when I get in from work during the week. Say goodbye to Lazy Boy Pizzas, we’re never going back!

The recipe I use is a very simple one found on Jamie Oliver’s forum, thanks to a Google search for ‘easy pizza dough fast action yeast’ or something along those lines. It serves 8 to 10 people but although we like pizza a lot, we halve the measurements due to the pressing need to stop gaining weight.

The first time we made them we were seriously amazed with how quick the dough was. Chuck in the flour, yeast, water, salt and sugar and mix it all up and that was it! DOUGH! Next time we’re going to get a bit adventurous and maybe add some flavourings into the mix, I’m thinking a cheesey, garlicky pairing would be a winner. Next was a generous spread of tomato paste, followed by some serious topping assemblage. I was recreating the magical Padana as it had been at least 4 days since I’d had my last hit. Caramelised onions, wilted baby leaf spinach and goats cheese. Always a winning combination, if a little time-consuming with the onions.

After a lengthy caramalisation sesh, I added the onions and spinach to my pizza base, followed by an overly generous sprinkle/slather of the goats cheese. Tada!

 

Ben naturally opted for a spicy, veggie meat based affair. He used the classic Linda McCartney veggie sausages, chopped tomatoes, red pepper flakes and jalapeno peppers, as well as some of my very generously donated onions.

 

This is his pre-oven pizza! Proper crust!

 

 

25 agonising moments then passed, spent mainly staring through the oven door watching cheese bubble. Finally, they were ready and we proudly retrieved our pizzas from the steaming oven, ready to slice ’em up.

 

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to put the entire pizza on my plate. I was very restrained though, and only put half on. As it was, all the excitement got a bit too much for me and in fact I was only able to eat a measly 4 slices. Call myself a pizza fan!

Ben was equally thrilled with his resplendant, golden circle of goodness.

 

MOUTH. WATERING.

It was too spicy for me but he absolutely loved it. My pizza was gorgeous too; sweet, sticky onions, fragrant tomato and sharp, piquant goats cheese. If you have never sampled a Padana-inspired pizza, I suggest you get on board immediately. You won’t regret it.

So once again, apologies for the brief disappearance and I hope you enjoyed my unemployment to employment sob story and the photos of these pizzas. More exciting food to come. Mainly carbohydrates though, this will never be a salad blog!

 

 

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!

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza – Cooks Illustrated

I love Valentines Day. I really do.

I don’t understand the seemingly widespread dislike of it (at least judging by my Facebook feed this year!) and the accusations of it being ‘commercialised’ and ‘invented by card shops’ as it clearly isn’t, it dates back to the Middle Ages!  I especially don’t understand people who say “I don’t need a set day to tell my other half I love them.” Fair enough, none of us do. Or we shouldn’t. Me and Ben say I love you every day, often multiple times a day, but still we enjoy a chance to celebrate our love and spoil each other. And, I love the idea that lots of other couples all around the world are doing it at the same time.

So, V-Day 2012. Bit of an annoyance as it was a Tuesday night, possibly the most un-romantic day of the week. But we made it work. We decided against going out for dinner and paying extortionate amounts for a lame-o set menu with a ‘free’ glass of lukewarm bubbly and opted instead to stay in with a home-cooked dinner. I’d had an idea in my head for quite some time and I decided Valentines Day would be the perfect time to put it into action.

When we were in Florida in October we unwittingly ordered a pizza one night that would go on to become the pizza by which all other pizzas would be judged. It was a Chicago style, deep dish stuffed pizza from Giordano’s; original cheese with added pineapple (don’t ask, it’s Ben’s favourite pizza topping…) and when it arrived we were a little gobsmacked:

 

The thing was huge! And so heavy! I swear it weighed at least half a stone. We forced down a slice each while staring in horror at the side order of mozzarella sticks that had seemed like a good addition when we ordered, before admitting defeat. The rest of the pizza (and the mozzarella sticks…) were carefully placed in the fridge in our hotel room for the next day. The only problem was, we were never really hungry enough for it! Largely due to the amazingly huge American portion sizes. Sadly, we had to throw the majority of the remainder away! (Ben bravely managed to squeeze in a slice late one afternoon.)

We haven’t stopped talking about that pizza since. Unfortunately, it seems you cannot get a deep dish stuffed pizza over here for love nor money so it was becoming clear that my only option would be to create it from scratch myself – a nerve-wracking concept as the only time I’d made pizza dough was at school! A depressingly long time ago.

A couple of weeks before Valentines Day I was so excited about my big plans that I designed a little menu for the evening and gave it to Ben whose face lit up when he read it. I added a spinach and artichoke dip for a starter, (another hard-to-find favourite from our holiday!) Mickey rice krispie treats for dessert (these need no introduction for hardened Disney fans but if you are not, have a look here) and a dress code of ‘Disney’ which we actually didn’t really follow as we decided to dress up nicely instead.

On the Monday night I was in the kitchen for three long hours preparing most of the food, so that I could enjoy a nice relaxed evening with my sweetie the next night. Up first was the dough. I had my beautiful pink Macbook Pro on the side with about 8 tabs open, all holding different blogger’s versions of the Cooks Illustrated recipe, plus a YouTube video of the pizzas being made. You know, just in case.

Here is the Cooks Illustrated recipe that I followed, kindly posted by Thirty Bucks a Week. I chose it firstly because it seemed to be universally popular with multiple accounts of successful recreations, and secondly because it made two 9′ pizzas which coincided nicely with my Mum’s two 9′ cake pans.

First up, all the dough ingredients went into the bowl of my Mum’s brand new super shiny KitchenAid where they were mixed into a lovely plump ball.

I left it to rise for an hour while I got on with prepping the other two courses. When I took it out it looked like this – unintentionally heart-shaped, how quaint!

Next up was the laminating – spreading a thin layer of butter on the dough and then rolling it up to make the dough flaky, buttery and crusty. Mmmmm. Worked perfectly!

I split the dough in two, rolled them into perfect little ovals and placed them side by side in a bowl in the fridge where they would sit patiently  overnight, awaiting their grand reveal on V-Day.

Fast-forward 24 hours…

Ben arrived at my house and we decided to get the evening off to a good start by cracking open a bottle of bubbly (interestingly, the reward at my works Christmas Party for being the proud owner of ‘Highest Hemline!’) and toasting our love 🙂

Then it was time to get down to business! I removed the laminated, risen dough from the fridge and rolled both balls out into discs. I then impressed Ben immensely by managing to whip the dough onto the cake tins first time using the classic rolling pin trick. Genius!

I flattened the dough into each cake tin and it fit perfectly. Check out that hiiiiighhhh crust!

Domestic Goddess.

It was shortly after this photo was taken that a minor disaster happened. I went into the fridge to get the mozzarella out to start layering on the dough…and there was not a shred of mozzarella in sight. Oops! We must have left it in Ben’s fridge…at his house…15 minutes away by car when you haven’t had the best part of half a bottle of champagne. I started to panic with visions of a cheese-less deep dish pizza and a ruined Valentines Day.

But, I needn’t have worried. Ben to the rescue! Before I could say ‘lets just use cheddar’ his trainers were on, coat zipped up and he was out the door and halfway up the street on the way to the shop. I wandered nervously around the kitchen while he was gone, sipping my champagne and silently praying that the shop (Tesco Express) would sell sufficient amounts of grated mozzarella (the C.I recipes calls for a pound of the stuff!)

In no time at all he was back, two bags of grated mozzarella AND a bonus ball of buffalo mozzarella, “because it was cheap.” God I love you. We were back in business!

I made two pizzas with different fillings so we could experiment a bit. One was plain cheese with one half topped with pineapple (to recreate the magic of Giordano’s) and the other had sliced Quorn sauasges in between the (homemade!!) tomato sauce and the cheese. We layered the pizza, cheese, filling, tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan, and they were ready for the oven. As they cooked, we ate our spinach and artichoke dip which I’m afraid I neglected to photograph because frankly, mozzarella-gate had somewhat thrown me off course. It was really lovely though.

In a perfect timings situation, our pizzas were ready just as we finished our dip. You just can’t make that stuff up. I left them on the side to cool for a bit as we cleared away the dip debris, as advised by my fellow stuffed-pizza-makers. This would make them easier to slice. I took the opportunity to take some photos while we waited and honestly you’d have thought they were newborn twins in the baby ward the amount of cooing and ahhing that took place as we gazed at them.

Twin number one – Sausage (odd name for a baby but this is 2012)

Crust!!

And Twin number two – Plain, half pineapple

And the finale of any deep dish pizza recipe…innards shots!

They were incredible. Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy! The crust was perfect – it tasted EXACTLY like the Giordano’s one…dare I say it, better! It was flaky, buttery and rich. Delicious. It cooked perfectly in the amount of time stated on the recipe too even though I was afraid the bottom wouldn”t crisp up, it did! The tomato sauce was probably the best one I’ve ever tasted – grating the onion and cooking it really slowly as per the recipe made it so intense and deep, I’m glad I didn’t buy a sauce like I was originally planning to.

Obviously this makes a lot of pizza so we had leftovers for the next day…and the next! Easily fed 2 of us for 3 meals.

I was so thrilled that my pizzas had turned out perfectly that I didn’t even care about dessert! Honestly, I was on a dough-based cloud 9. But, I had a boy to feed, and dessert was the cutest part!

Check out these babies 🙂

Mickey and Minnie cake pop rice krispy treat…things. In my head they were a lot more polished and less…homemade looking…but that, I think, is the beauty of them! They were super easy to make – I melted a jar of Marshmallow Fluff, mixed it with rice krispies and moulded them into tiny little balls – a very difficult task; the fluff mixture was so sticky that they just stuck to my hands and not to each other! Eventually I got them to stick, dipped them in a mixture of chocolate and cream and stuck chocolate buttons on as ears. In a stroke of genius, I added heart-shaped cupcake decorations for Minnie’s bow 🙂

They looked really cute on the plate and they were really delicious but we’d unfortunately eaten so much pizza that we could only manage once each! These also worked well as leftovers so in fact our Valentines Day stretched to accommodate the best part of the week!

Overall, a very successful Valentines Day and one of our best to date. Happy Valentines Day Ben, roll on next year!

Tortilla Pizza

And now for some actual food! For my first post I’ve decided to talk about one of my favourite recipes.

I can’t remember where I first heard of this “recipe” (if you can call it that) but it immediately struck me as a genius idea. As someone who is trying to cut down on her intake of excessive carbs (white rice, pasta, bread, thick, toasted crusty bread spread with lashings of melting Lurpak….oh) the concept of replacing said excessive carbs with slightly less excessive carbs was a welcome one.

It also needs to be said that I absolutely LOVE pizza. Any pizza, I’m not fussy or picky, as long as it has a base and a topping, I’m game. I’d possibly go so far as to say I could eat pizza 7 days a week, a dream that does not go unnoticed by my boyfriend who when asking me what I fancy for dinner has to first put up with the inevitable suggestive singsong of “piiiiizzaaaaaaaa?”

A recent obsession of mine is the surely heavensent Padana from Pizza Express.

“rich goat’s cheese, spinach and red onion with tangy caramelised onion confit and a drizzle of garlic oil”

Now I know it doesn’t sound like much but this combination of ingredients is nothing short of fabulous. The onion confit is the absolute highlight, making each mouthful deliciously sweet and tangy in contrast with the softly comforting goats cheese.

Here is a picture of this stunning delicacy:

 

 

So one night when we fancied pizza, I remembered a recipe I used to make at University that used a tortilla as the base. Obviously this is a lot less calories than regular pizza dough and as an added bonus (unusual for diet food) it is also delicious, especially if you like thin crust pizzas as it is about the thinnest crust you can get!

A word of advice – make some marks in the tortilla with a knife before you put it in the oven; the first time we didn’t do this and the tortilla blew up in the middle, not unlike a pufferfish.

The tortilla cooks for about 5 minutes til it is firm and not soft in the middle. Then, you can put on any toppings you like! Obviously following my expensive Padana obsession I have most recently been using ingredients similar to these, but in the past I have successfully used plain old cheese and pepperoni, roasted vegetables and the weird but fiercely defended ham and pineapple.

But, for a Padana style tortilla pizza, I start by covering the base with a couple of teaspoons of tomato paste.

I then caramelise onions very slowly for about half an hour til they are so soft and so sweet that I could just eat them right out of the pan.

Then, the onion confit. Sadly, the closest I could get to a “caramelised onion confit” was Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference ‘caramelised onion chutney” which was just not the same. It’s nowhere near as sweet as the Pizza Express one which is quite upsetting but I use it anyway for lack of a better alternative.

I add the spinach to the onions until it has wilted and pile it all onto the base in a deliciously messy heap.

Finally, I top with a controlled (very difficult) amount of gorgeous fresh goats cheese and put the pizza into the oven to crisp up and melt the goats cheese.

 

The end result is a perfectly acceptable imitation of the Padana, but for a fraction of the calories and (depending on how controlled you are with your goats cheese!) fat. Whats more, this fact alone makes it deliciously tempting to eat the entire pizza and not even feel a tiny bit bad about it!