Cooking is about the conversion of everyday ingredients – bags of flour, tins of tomatoes, dried pasta, spices – into something that ends up much more than the sum of its parts. I always think this when making pizza (which is always cheaper than buying it in): it’s a simple base topped with a simple tomato sauce and whatever else you have that needs using up. The same can be said of pasta bakes and curry bases, which I always make in bulk, so they’re ready in an instant to be supplemented with protein and/or veg. These are all ways to cut costs, while also enjoying the foods we know and love.
Cheesy panzerotti with tomato sauce (pictured above)
Fried pizza always feels like a luxury, whatever it’s filled with. This version originates from Naples, and is the perfect handheld pie to share with friends. If you can’t find scamorza, provolone or a low-moisture mozzarella will work well instead.
Prep 5 min
Prove 1 hr 15 min
Cook 1 hr 45 min
500ml vegetable (or other neutral) oil, for frying
For the dough
500g ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
7g fast-action dried yeast (ie, 1 sachet)
1½ tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
For the filling
160g scamorza, thinly sliced
16 basil leaves
For the tomato sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
⅛ tsp chilli flakes
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
¼ tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp basil leaves, thinly sliced
First make the dough. Put the flour, yeast, a tablespoon of oil, 320ml lukewarm water and a half-teaspoon of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook in place. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes, until you have a slightly sticky but workable dough, then tip out on to a well-floured work surface and shape into a ball. Use the remaining teaspoon and a half of oil to grease the stand mixer bowl, return the dough to the bowl, cover tightly with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour and a quarter, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chilli flakes, fry, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, 100ml water, the sugar and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer, then, with a potato masher or the back of a fork, roughly crush the tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened, then take off the heat and set aside.
Now make the pizzas. Tip out the risen dough on to a well-floured work surface and knead to knock out the air. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces each weighing about 80-90g. Roll each piece into a ball, dust lightly with flour and cover with a damp cloth.
Working one pizza at a time, roll each ball into a 14cm-diameter x 2mm-thick circle. Spread 20g each of the ricotta and scamorza on one half of the circle, leaving a 2cm rim around the edge. Lay two basil leaves on top, sprinkle with an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then fold over the other side of the pizza to enclose the cheese and leave you with a filled half-circle of dough. Pinch the edges to seal and repeat with the remaining dough, cheese and basil leaves.
Heat the oven to 140C (120C fan)/275F/gas 1 and gently reheat the tomato sauce. Put the vegetable oil in a medium-sized saucepan on a medium-high heat; it’s ready for cooking when it hits 170C, or when a small piece of dough sizzles the moment it’s dropped into the hot oil. Gently lower two of the panzerotti into the pan and fry for three minutes, turning over carefully halfway, until evenly golden. Using a slotted spoon, lift them out of the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Once drained, place on a large baking tray and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining panzerotti, allowing the oil to come back up to temperature before frying each batch.
Arrange the panzerotti on a platter and serve with the warm tomato sauce on the side for dipping.
Allium tuna pasta bake with crisp topping
This is a real crowdpleaser and needs nothing more than a big leafy salad alongside. Use whatever cheese and pasta you have to hand, adjusting the cooking time depending on which pasta you choose.
Prep 15 min
Cook 55 min
2 large leeks, trimmed and cut into 1cm-thick coins (385g)
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and cut into 4cm-long pieces
15g unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (100g)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
250g dried casarecce, gemelli or other pasta
1½ tsp plain flour
600ml whole milk
400ml chicken stock (or water)
2 tbsp double cream
120g mature cheddar, coarsely grated, plus 50g extra for topping
15g picked parsley, roughly chopped
230g drained tinned tuna chunks in spring water (ie, from 2 tins)
35g panko breadcrumbs
1½ tsp lemon zest
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Thoroughly wash and pat dry the leeks, then spread them out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and scatter over a tablespoon and a half of oil, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Toss to coat, then bake for 15 minutes. Add the spring onions to the tray, toss again to coat and roast for another 10 minutes, until soft and lightly coloured. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the butter and a tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof saute pan on a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until soft and golden brown. Add the garlic, cook for two minutes, until fragrant, then stir in the pasta and flour. Pour in the milk, stock, cream, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a quarter-teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper, bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, for 18 minutes, until the pasta is just cooked and the sauce has thickened. Off the heat, stir in the cheese, parsley and roast alliums, until the cheese melts, then gently stir in the tuna chunks so as not to break them up too much.
Turn the oven grill to high. In a small bowl, mix the panko with the remaining 50g cheese, lemon zest and remaining teaspoon and a half of oil, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta. Grill for six minutes, until golden and bubbling, and serve straight from the pan.
Aubergine and egg curry with spring onion and ginger oil
Frying the soft-boiled eggs is a must – it gives them a lovely crust that then softens and drinks in the flavourful sauce. Serve with rice or rotis.
Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr
2 aubergines (400g)
200ml vegetable oil, or other neutral oil
6 large eggs
7 spring onions, white parts roughly chopped, green parts thinly sliced (140g)
2 red chillies, stems removed and discarded, flesh roughly chopped, seeds and all (20g)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp hot madras curry powder
100g tinned plum tomatoes (save the rest of the tin for another use)
1½ tsp caster sugar
500ml vegetable stock or water
2 tbsp double cream
15g piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 limes – 1 juiced, to get 1 tbsp, the other cut into quarters
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, then cut them in half widthways, so you end up with eight roughly 7cm x 3½cm pieces. Put these in a bowl with a tablespoon and a half of oil and a half-teaspoon of salt, toss to coat, then lay out on an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden, remove and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, three-quarters fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil; have ready a large bowl of ice-cold water. Turn down the heat to medium-high, gently lower the eggs into the hot water and cook for seven minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, plunge into the iced water and, once cool, peel and pat dry.
Put five tablespoons of oil in a medium saute pan for which you have a lid, and set it over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the peeled eggs and fry, turning often, for two to three minutes in total, until golden all over. Drain on kitchen paper, discard the oil and wipe clean the pan.
Now for the curry base. Put four tablespoons of oil, the spring onion whites, chillies, garlic, curry powder, tomatoes, sugar and a half-teaspoon of salt in a food processor and blitz almost smooth. Return the saute pan to a medium heat, pour in the curry base and cook, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes, until the oil separates and the mix looks split. Stir in the stock, turn the heat to medium-high and, once the sauce is simmering, stir in the aubergines and cook for 15-20 minutes more, until the sauce is slightly thickened and the aubergines are tender. Gently stir in the cream and the eggs, cook for another minute, then take off the heat and cover with a lid.
Meanwhile, make the spring onion and ginger oil. Put the remaining 45ml oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat until smoking. Add the ginger, fry for a minute or two, until softened, then add the spring onion greens, take off the heat and stir in the lime juice and an eighth of a teaspoon salt.
Spoon half the spring onion and ginger oil over the curry and serve straight from the pan with the extra oil and lime wedges alongside.