First of all, may I direct your attention to the cats' lovely new photos in the sidebar? I have the Norse Goddess to thank for them - she snapped the cats in lots of languid poses while she was here, and I now feel quite guilty for neglecting to capture their cuteness so much myself. Piggle is snapped stretched out in 'I am a lady-cat of leisure and I invite you to stroke me - while putting myself in an almost impossible to reach place' pose, under the spare bed. And Pooky is looking like a man about town at the top of the stairs, from where he likes to keep an eye on the catflap. This is just in case any other cat than piggle pops in, which would be tough given that our cats have magnets on their collars to ensure that only they can get in. Luckily none of the other neighbourhood cats seems to have the same system - probably because we're the only ones uncouth enough to put a catflap in our front door, and thus ruin the look of the terrace.
Today's post is our fun Sunday-night dinner from last night. We make pizza periodically, but this time I was moved to try a wholewheat base. I was inspired by the fact that The Scientist enjoyed one at Zeffirelli's restaurant in Ambleside. I used my usual dough recipe, torn from an old copy of Good Food Magazine, but substituted half of the white bread flour for wholemeal bread flour. I also added a generous shake of wheat germ, to up its healthy credentials even more. I was pleased with how soft the dough was as I kneaded it, and it made really tasty pizzas. They were certainly more wholefoody than your average pizza, but then home-made is never the same as you buy in the shops anyway (much better, naturally!). We both liked the extra wholesomeyness - and if that's not a word, it should be.
I made several small pizzas this time, partly for variety, and partly because we've found that they don't always cook all the way to the centre if you make big ones. Besides, it makes for more fun variety in the toppings. I always make the dough, and The Scientist usually whips up the tomato sauce, while we both manhandle them onto the baking sheets. I had to do that part on my own this time as he was playing in an online poker tournament and was at a critical point when they needed to go into the oven. That explains why one of them is a little 'lacy' around the edges. I was about to make a joke about that being a professional pizza-maker's term when I remembered that actually I did work as a pizza chef in a restaurant in my university holidays. The fact that I had forgotten tells you something about how memorable the pizzas were there. Not so our dinner pizzas: we made one with slow roasted tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella and one with home-grown potatoes (sliced thin and boiled beforehand), rosemary and goat's cheese to share. I did one with shaved courgette and sweetcorn for me, and The Scientist put some cured meat and mozzarella on his.
And how does all this cheese square with my dairy-reducing aims? Well it's particularly cow's dairy which I'm avoiding, as it has by far the biggest impact on carbon outputs. My main concerns when it comes to diet and ethics are animal welfare and environmental impact. The conventional dairy farming industry has poor conditions for milk cows, which are milked in pens made when dairy cows were much smaller, demands enormous yields per animal, and is very intensive in terms of land use. Organic is obviously better on all of these counts (although ultimately unsustainable for the whole population) and I do eat some organic cow's yogurt. Sheep and goats are farmed a lot less intensively both in terms of welfare conditions and land use, so when I do fancy some cheese, I seek out varieties using their milk - or in this case, buffalo mozzarella. When I first heard about the latter I thought I was falling for some sort of joke, but it really is made from the milk of water buffaloes. There's even a farm in Warwickshire (and you can get their cheese from Hill Top Farm Shop). And I've discovered that Mozzarella style vegan cheezly does a pretty good job of melting on toast and pizza too. But on the whole I just try to find other things to eat than cheese and I don't very often miss it.
Wholemeal Pizza - adapted from an ancient Good Food Magazine
Serves 4 (makes 2 pizzas - I made five smallish ones but I think that feeding four is a bit optimistic - it would probably feed or four mes, but possibly only two normal hungry people)
150g strong wholemeal bread flour
150g strong bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
200 ml warm water
Put the flour into a large bowl, then stir in the yeast and salt. Make a well, pour in the warm water and the olive oil and bring together with a wooden spoon until you have a soft, fairly wet dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Cover with a tea towel and set aside. You can leave the dough to rise if you like, but it's not essential for a thin crust [I don't bother usually as it makes for such a quick and easy supper]
Preheat the oven to 240C/Fan 220C/Gas 8, and move the shelves up to high. Put two baking trays into the oven to heat up (or use a pizza stone which I am always tempted by but haven't given in to buying yet).
Roll out the dough. If you've let the dough rise, give it a quick knead, then split into two balls. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into rounds or squares, using a rolling pin. The dough needs to be very thin as it will rise in the oven.
Top as you prefer. Our quickest and easiest tomato is topping is just some watered tomato paste with some seasonings, but otherwise we make up a nice herbed sauce using tinned tomatoes and fresh herbs if we have them.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and scatter with cornmeal. Slide, peel or tear the pizza dough off whatever you've left it on and onto the baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes, alternating the oven positions half way.