happy endings in the kitchen episode 15: Pizza!

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Pleasure me not

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was Badpickupline.

Yes, Badpickupline.  Now I’ve heard some pick up lines in my time but this one really takes the prize.  It was a regular kind of Friday night and a group of friends and I had ended up at our favourite local Italian eatery, ravenous post university.  Our boisterous, hungry behaviour seemed to catch the attention of one of the baristas.  A particularly cute barista.  And when I approached to order a second round of drinks he made sure he was there to take my order and flirt with an abundance of charm and sweetness.  He indicated that he had seen me many times previously and had hoped to get to know me better.  Dinner arrived but our eyes often met across the room whilst I was stuffing my face with pizza and laughing operatically over second glasses of wine, and by the time dessert arrived I had been invited on an after dinner digestiv.  Now while it was bordering on inappropriate first date conditions I decided that 9:30 pm was just acceptable and what harm could one more alcoholic beverage really do?

And so, it was a cosy glass of getting to know you wine.  He was of Italian background, born in Australia, came from a large family, loved his soccer and his mamma, worked as a tradesman when he wasn’t playing the charming barista, enjoyed festivals and any music that made him want to dance, and embraced any opportunity for travel and adventure.  Note: He also said ‘fully sick’ and ‘ohmagod’ at regular intervals.  We shared a particular love of Italy and spoke at length about our travels there.  Some of Badpickupline’s family still resided in Naples and he coyly hinted at taking me there for a holiday.  His eyes sparkled like the waters of Porto Vecchio as he talked of his nonna, endless days of sun and sea, giant plates of home cooked pasta, and family together under one happy roof.  The memories played out lovingly over his fine face and I was swept away to the Italian coast.  It was all very lovely, relaxing, and a little bit romantic.

So when it came to midnight and the clock struck twelve I regretfully murmured that it was probably my time to go.  Looking a little forlorn he offered to drive me home to save on the taxi fare but I declined, thanking him for the offer.  He then attempted to coerce me into another drink with all the charm and persuasive tone he could muster.  Even though I was wildly tempted, I resisted.  And as I reached forward to pick up my purse he took my face and kissed me, softly at first but then with such an intense passion it put my head into a disorienting whirl of joy.  I was still spinning when I realised he had spoken just after our kiss and I giddily asked him to repeat himself.  I noticed something new was lurking behind his eyes, as though he was an animal approaching it’s prey, and as he repeated himself it looked as though he was about to pounce.  “If you give me a head job, I could pleasure you” he said……..I beg your pardon??  I was speechless, mystified, clueless.  I silently wept as I saw the tide wash over the promise of my romantic Naples holiday.

I was confused.  In what world had that line ever worked for him?  And how could it immediately go from a passionate kiss to a sexual business proposal?  And why in that proposal was I having to do the job first?  Ladies pleasured first.  Please.  But I’m certainly not taking any favours from such a sweet-talking, prey hunting, slang dependent, romance dispelling mamma’s boy.  Time to pleasure myself…..in the kitchen…in a completely non-sexual way.

A taste of pizza

mushroom pizza.jpeg

Napoletana dough with topping of choice

Ingredients:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
230 mls water
olive oil for work surface

Directions:

Add all the dry ingredients and mix to distribute, with a spoon or electric mixer with paddle attachment.  Add water and stir through until all the flour is absorbed, for 1 to 2 minutes.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes and then mix for another minute.  Add a little more water or flour as needed.  It should feel soft and tacky to the touch.

Rub your work surface with a little olive oil.  Scrape out the dough mix on to the surface.  Imagine the dough as a square shape.  Take one corner and stretch it out and away from the centre of the square and then fold it back into the centre.  Repeat with each corner, so it becomes a ball.  Take the bowl and place it upside down over the dough and leave it for 5 minutes.  Repeat this process of stretch and folding and resting three times.  Each time the dough should become firmer and less sticky.  After the fourth stretch and fold return the dough to a bowl and cover until it doubles in size, for approximately 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees centigrade.  Once ready take a third of the dough and turn out on to lightly floured surface.  Stretch the dough out carefully using the backs of your hands and turning in a circular motion, manipulating the edges of the dough outward with your thumbs.  Let it rest a minute or so once it starts to feel tough to stretch.  Continue until the dough is approximately 25 cm in diameter.

Take your pizza base and carefully lay it on a pizza stone or an overturned baking tray.  Cover it with the ingredients you so desire and place in the oven and cook until golden brown at the edges, for approximately 15 minutes.  Delizioso!

Topping suggestions: As a base for my first pizza I used a tomato sauce.  I whipped it up in a saucepan using a little olive oil, half a clove of garlic, a tin of tomatoes, 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar, a sprinkle of dried oregano and basil, and salt and pepper.  I smeared the sauce (not too generously) across the pizza base.  For the topping I used a combination of bacon, tomato, mozzarella, kalamata olives, onion, and roast capsicum.

For the second pizza I smeared cream cheese across the base (goats cheese would be yum too).  For the topping I mixed a little olive oil, a crushed garlic clove, and chopped mushrooms in a hot pan.  I then added some spinach until it wilted and seasoned to taste.
capsicum pizza.jpeg

Um, this is the kind of flavourful favour I enjoy!

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happy endings in the kitchen episode 14: Beef Panaeng

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In control

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was MyOwnPersonalSlave.

Yes, MyOwnPersonalSlave.  I had been traveling though Europe and had found myself on a train from Milan to the soul of Germany, Berlin.  The sky was endless blue and the view from my lowest class window was spectacular and ever-changing.  At some point I became aware of the gentleman sitting opposite me who was partially committed to reading the book in his hand between taking frequent glances at the same accelerating landscape.  At one point our captured glances met and a timid but fascinating conversation ensued.  “Your strongly featured face is really quite captivating, I’d like to paint it” he said shyly.  It makes my gag reflex spring into action when I say it out loud now but at that moment I was flattered and intrigued to know more of my traveling partner.  He was of Thai background but had lived in Europe since the age of four, an artist resident in Berlin, he was a painter and photographer with a passion for mixed forms and the animalistic representation of the human body, in love with nature and untamed environments, he was articulate to a tee, with beautiful eyes that held a gaze so intensely, a smaller frame that suggested kindness and gentility, and expressive, creatively driven hands.  Note: I wasn’t entirely sure if his hair was real or if he was wearing a hairpiece and felt an uncomfortable urge to tug at his hairline for most of our conversation.

And so, it was curiosity.  We ordered bad train coffee and delved into each other’s minds, discussing our love of travel and culture, the smell of rain on freshly cut grass, our mutual excitement at lightning storms and cracking thunder, and our shared delight of custard tarts and anything that comes with pastry.  It was sweet and engaging and never once crept into flirtatious or suggestive territory.  And as we chattered on he once again referred to being captivated with my ‘strong’ face and requested to paint me if I would so do him the honour.  I was inwardly glowing at the offer and gave him my phone number so we could arrange a time to meet once in Berlin.

But from that moment on the conversation seemed to take a different direction.  It felt disconnected and tangential, as though he was pre-occupied with other thoughts.  He asked questions about Australian wildlife, expressing his fear of spiders, snakes and most of all crocodiles, whilst pointing his toes and waving his hands fearfully, suddenly turning Broadway.  His voice seemed to have risen in pitch and volume and he was gesticulating all over the place.  I wondered if it was the coffee or perhaps something else had made him nervous.  But after a slight pause he posed a rather brash and altogether unexpected question.  “I have to ask, are you a domina?”…”I’m sorry, a what?” I queried.  “A domina, BDSM?, dominatrix?”  When I responded with a quick negative he looked thoroughly downcast.  “Why?” I asked, slightly aghast.  “Because you look like one and you would be so good at it, and I would like to be your slave”.  I laughed and spluttered a little coffee spit, and felt my gag reflex spring into action.  Excusing myself immediately I rushed to the bathroom and hid there for the rest of the journey until it was safe to disembark.

My mind boggled.  At which point did the mood turn from custard tarts to chains and bondage?  Was my face betraying my emotions and was it constantly set in a steely, whip-yielding countenance?  I certainly had trouble looking in the mirror for a few days following the strange encounter.  But thankfully he never called and I escaped any further contact with someone who only envisioned me in latex, thigh highs and ready to deliver a world of pain and suffering.  My slave indeed.  Although, I still do find myself wishing that I had given that hairline a good tug, so perhaps there is a little domina in me after all.  Enough said.  The only thing I’m interested in dominating is a knife, some delicious ingredients, a couple of pans, and the hand that feeds me.

A taste of Thailand

panaeng beef.jpeg

Beef Panaeng

Ingredients:
1 kg beef oyster blade, beef cheek or chuck steak
4 cups coconut milk
3 cups coconut cream
1 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 to 3 long green chillies, deseeded
3 kaffir lime leaves
Thai basil leaves to garnish
Paste:
4 tbsp peanuts
7 dried long red chillies, deseeded, soaked & drained
1 tsp finely chopped coriander root
1/5 tbsp chopped galangal
1 tbsp chopped lemongrass
2 tbsp chopped garlic
3 tbsp chopped red shallot
1/2 nutmeg, pounded and roasted
Pinch of salt

Directions:
Slice the beef and rinse in cold water. Pat dry. Bring 4 cups of coconut milk to the boil and add the beef and reduce to a simmer. Leave to simmer for two hours until tender.
In the meantime get the paste done. Boil the peanuts in a saucepan of water for about 30 minutes. Combine with all of the other ingredients in a food processor and blend to a paste.
Once the meat is cooked heat the coconut cream in a deep pan and add 4 tablespoons of the paste and stir through. Once fragrant add the sugar and fish sauce. Now add the braised beef. Add a little of the braising coconut milk to taste and season with salt, palm sugar and fish sauce to taste. Add the chilli and lime leaves and leave to heat through for another couple of minutes. Add vegetables that you might like to accompany the beef. I used red and yellow capsicum, and broccoli. Serve with a garnish of thai basil leaves, roasted peanuts and a bowl of jasmine rice.

Exotic flavours in my mouth.  Love you long time Beef Panaeng!

panaeng mouth.jpeg

This recipe is a take on David Thompson’s Beef Panaeng