Tag Archives: Nigella Lawson

Pantry Dinners: Naan Pizza

6 Sep

Weeknight hunger and exhaustion have lead to too many post-work meals of boxed mac n cheese. Especially after Isobel was born it was really tough for me to get anything resembling a healthy dinner from scratch together. Isobel is older now but I’m as busy and as tired as ever I’m resigned to the fact.

Sometimes dinner just needs to be very, very easy, or a blue box and some freakishly orange noodles are in my future.

Instead of trying to put a from-scratch dinner on the table every night I’m going to look for tastier, healthier things that can be put together quickly and somewhat inexpensively by raiding the pantry.

Does anyone here, by any chance, like pizza?

Far be it from me to turn away melted cheese spread over some sort of bread, but this pizza doesn’t just taste good: it’s healthy. It’s quick. And it’s cheap.

When I was growing up my mom used to make us “homemade” pizza with store bought crust. I never liked the crust and to this day think it tastes like very old, cottony breadsticks with a slightly metallic aftertaste. This recipe for quick, healthy pizza caught my eye when I was thumbing through Nigella Express to make her Mushroom and Bacon Pot Pies. You see, this recipe uses naan bread in place of store-bought pizza crust – a significant in improvement.

Store bought naan costs about $2.30 for me here in California, and considering what a fast food meal would cost, I think that’s a sound investment as you are actually getting some nutrition in naan pizza whereas you’re not getting much nutrition at the drive-though. If you want to be extra virtuous you can get the whole-grain variety. My grocery store offers both.

Other ingredients Nigella suggest are fontina cheese, some delicious tomato sauce, fresh thyme, and jarred marinated mushrooms.

Fontina cheese is delicious but not the least expensive option. Once when Anthony and I wanted our pizza but needed to save money we used a combination of mozzarella and aged Parmesan and it was FANTASTIC. Better, in my opinion.

Now I had never had jarred marinated mushrooms before. It’s not really a commonly used ingredient here so I had to search for it. (Hint: it’s near the pickles.) I really liked them but they weren’t the cheapest item either. Basically, Nigella is not the best resource when you’re trying to feed yourself cheaply.  But it’s a great starting point for inspiration.

Fresh thyme is not particularly cheap, but, if you have a pot of it growing on your porch or windowsill, it’s quite affordable. Luckily, I do.

Nigella’s version is good. Very good. I’d willingly eat it once a week, in fact.

But the cheaper version my husband and I came up with? Even better. I sadly didn’t take photos of it because we were scarfing it down like gluttons. Isobel was our little glutton baby, chewing on the crust like it was a rib bone.

The cheaper version relies on Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese fresh mushrooms and spinach. The first couple times I made this I put it on a tray with foil, but I do not recommend that at all. Anthony made this for me one night and didn’t bother with the foil and the bottom got all crispity and delicious like a fancy thin-crust pizza. Also, don’t go heavy on the cheese—it will make it gooey and soft. (Unless you like gooey and soft!) You can always add more cheese later.

The mushrooms were excellent fresh and thinly sliced and we tossed a couple of spinach leaves from the salad on top and the whole thing was just divine. We also used a tomato-mushroom sauce this time and it was way better than the tomato-basil sauce I used before.

Part of what makes this dish affordable is that it can serve to help you use up the little bits and pieces you have floating around in your fridge or pantry so it shares the expense with another meal. Each naan makes enough to serve one person, but helpfully they come in packages of two.

These pizzas are endlessly flexible and have all sorts of options for toppings.

ON THE PROTIEN FRONT:

Anything you’d normally order on a pizza is fair game. As if you need me to tell you to put pepperoni on pizza!

  • leftover cooked chicken – add shredded chicken when you spread on the sauce
  • chorizo or other sausage – cooked it if not cured
  • cured meats: pepperoni, salami, or prosciutto
  • tinned or jarred fish: smoked salmon, anchovies, sardines
  • bacon – need I even mention bacon? Isn’t that just a given?

FROM THE FRIDGE: FRESH VEGGIES

Slice very thinly. The point will be to roast all the water out of them. The flavors will concentrate deliciously. You can give fresh veg a quick coat in the tomato sauce or in olive oil if you’re worried about it burning but that hasn’t been an issue for me.

  • cauliflower
  • yellow squash and zucchini
  • eggplant
  • leeks, scallions, or red onions
  • thin rings of red and green bell pepper

THINGS IN JARS: YUM

Also slice these guys thinly so as not sog up the naan.

  • Marinated artichoke hearts – two can play at this game, mushrooms. I’d slice them small.
  • Assorted olives – nom
  • Roasted garlic paste
  • Pimentos (roasted red peppers)
  • jarred onion conserve
  • capers

Other delightful additions

If it sounds good to you, it probably is.

  • fresh sprigs of basil
  • oil-packed, sundried tomatoes
  • goat cheese

Naan pizza isn’t nearly as good as making your own pizza dough from scratch, but when you’re exhausted and need dinner now? It’s better than boxed mac ‘n cheese, I can tell you that.

Advertisements

Bacon & Mushroom Chicken Pot Pie

5 Jul

I love chicken pot pie. I have since I was a kid. The only kind I’ve ever really had was the American kind, which is to say a frozen, personal pie from a package with a name like Grandma Marge’s Chicken Pot Pie, Tastes Just Like Homemade. We have a lot of things in America that claim to taste just like homemade, and I suppose it’s true since most things growing up in my home came from the freezer. Frozen food—a taste of home!

Isobel loved this. She loves chicken and bacon and didn’t hesitate to scarf down the mushrooms or carrots, for that matter. (Ignore the giant starwberry stain on the floor. She’s been very into strawberries lately and we have sticky red bits all over the kitchen floor and on select surfaces where her little hands like to go. Also, her face might be permanently stained red. She kind of looks bloodthirsty.)

It took a Brit to introduce me to an “American” chicken pot pie that actually was homemade. Traditionally English pot pies are filled with lamb and vegetables in a savory sauce and coated with a thick layer of mashed potatoes. I’ve never seen a lamb pot pie in an American store before, but I have fond memories of the chicken kind baked in a pastry. The dough itself is always salty and some part of it nearly burns before the whole thing is cooked through. In reality they taste pretty terrible but I always enjoyed it because I love the idea of a pot pie more than the actual pie itself.

When I found this pot pie recipe in Nigella’s Express cookbook, I felt that this is what I should have been eating all those years. While I do agree that for under an hour this pie is express for a pie, I really don’t think it’s the kind of thing I could throw together at the last minute. I need time to get this together, especially since my version of this dish includes more vegetables than the Sainted Domestic Goddess’ version.

I’m not going to write this whole recipe out since it can be found in its entirety here, but American readers will need to preheat the oven to 425 F, use a regular package of mushrooms (8 oz, I think?), cut up about 12 chicken breast tenders, 1 ½ cups stock and 2 tablespoons Marsala. I also cut up a couple of carrots and some celery and added it when I added the chicken. At the last minute before I filled the pastry I added some frozen peas.

Since we had pastry left over and nothing else to use it up with I used a star-shaped cookie cutter to make little star puffs to serve with. I just popped those in the oven for about five minutes while I saw to the sauce and they came out beautifully puffed and golden.

Star taste test:

APPROVED!

I love how the top of the pie puffed up like a glorious hat. The best part is cracking down the center of the pie with your spoon and scooping up the creamy chicken and mushroom filling. I nearly died of happiness just smelling it cook and I burned myself repeatedly trying to eat it before it had properly cooled. Anthony loves this also and was the guinea pig for the star puffs. Fortunately they were delicious and not poisoned.

This is perfect for a weekend meal when you have a bit more time and want to make something extra yummy.

It looks so fancy I couldn’t help but be proud of myself.

I’d love to make this for friends sometime, if any of you would like to come over for dinner.

I promise my toddler won’t eat you.

Recipe: Watermelon and Feta Summer Salad

7 Jun

Anthony really loves watermelon but often times we pass it up when we’re at the store unless we know we have a crowd coming over. That’s when I decided that watermelon is like a Thanksgiving turkey: good the first couple times, but you’d better have a good leftovers recipe on hand or it’s just going to sit in the fridge forever.

I have always wanted to try Nigella’s Watermelon, Feta, and Black olive salad so this time when we passed by the watermelon at the store I added it to the cart without hesitation. When I told Anthony I had a recipe for watermelon he sort of looked at me like I was crazy, but I’m used to ignoring that look by now.

I couldn’t wait to dive in but when I first sliced the melon open I admit I was disappointed. This was not the deep red flesh I was expecting. It’s only the beginning of June and this watermelon was paler and more watery than I had expected. This recipe, however, made up for that.

Another setback occurred: I had vastly underestimated the amount of feta I had in the fridge. And I had no fresh mint on hand. Drat.

But you know what? I made it with what I did have and added scant amounts of feta and it was sublime. I can only imagine how good this would have been if conditions had been ideal. This recipe comes from Nigella’s book Forever Summer, which I bought one year right before I took a trip to Half Moon Bay. Now whenever I cook from it I vividly remember standing at my aunt’s stove and slicing mangoes.

Ingredients:

  • One small red onion
  • 2-4 limes, depending on juiciness
  • 3 1/2 lbs watermelon
  • 9 oz feta cheese
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz pitted black olives
  • black pepper

  1. Peel and halve the red onion and slice thinly. Immediately put into a bowl with the juice of the limes. What will happen is as they soak they will tenderize, become slightly translucent, and become much less raw and sharp.
  2. Nigella suggests 2-4 limes because some limes don’t have a lot of juice to them. I’ve heard that rolling them on the counter or zapping very briefly in the microwave helps release their juices.
  3. Slice the watermelon into chunks, discarding any seeds and rind.
  4. My feta comes crumbled, but if yours doesn’t, crumble it now.
  5. Add feta and watermelon to a shallow bowl or plate and tear off chunks of parsley then add the chopped mint.
  6. Add the onions plus all the lime juice. Then add the olives.
  7. Toss with your hands very, very gently and grind black pepper over all.

I did not follow the recipe amounts to the letter and just added amounts that looked appetizing to me. The lime and oil more than made up for the mediocre melon and the combination of the sharp feta, sweet melon and rich olives was wonderful.

Anthony ate chunks of melon as I made this and looked upon the recipe with a small amount of skepticism. I offered him a plate and he devoured it in about six seconds. I’m going to keep this salad coming all through summer and can’t wait to bring it to a barbecue.