Pizza, food of the poor? No, the luxurious way!

Pizza was invented as food of poor people in Italy. Today it is everywhere and I give you a basic recipe and some suggestions on how to prepare your personal favorite. It is food for low budget which can be pimped luxurious very easy! Be creative, lots of ingredients are there to be tested – and enjoy!

It’s time for some cuisine again. And since I love to do my own stuff, have no big budget, food shall be saturating, easy to prepare, and of course enjoyable, I present you my basic recipe for Pizza. I taught it to many people on my travels and Pizza is awesome! By Pizza I am referring to thin, crusty pizza, not to the American way of doing it, I will never be able to appreciate the thick dough which is still kind of raw inside.

It will cost you maybe $10 or EUR 8 for 3 pizzas, so a meal for 3 people, which is a steal. Of course it can become more expensive, when you use luxurious ingredients for the topping. The topping of a Pizza is the most expensive part.

The Pizza Dough

The dough it the reallyinexpensive part about a pizza and prepared right, very enjoyable! You need the following ingredients:

  • Water, which should be warm at the time you put in the dry yeast
  • Dry yeast for baking, half a package
  • Half a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt
  • Flour, regular type 405
  • 3 spoons of olive oil

This basic recipe is the basis for every great pizza! What you put on there is totally up to you. First of all you take a glas of warm water, about 300 mL and put it into a big bowl. You add salt and sugar and assure everything is in solution. The sugar is necessary, that the yeast you add (half package) is activated properly. Wait 10 min if you have the time, since the yeast will start to foam and add the flour by that time and the oil immediately afterwards. For 300 mL of water you will probably need 500 g of flour. Best is to try it and work the flour in. The dough forms immediately and is ready, when it is not clammy anymore. Add flour as much as necessary to assure that and work in everything that is sticky to the side of the bowl. When you are done with that let it rest for 30 min to make sure, the yeast can start to work – you will see that due to increase of size of the doughball.

The Sugo

In the meanwhile you can prepare the sugo. I always take binned tomatoes in a piece and puree them, equally to the sauce of the Lasagna.

  • Binned tomatoes, a small bin is sufficient for 3 Pizzas
  • A small bin of concentrated tomato paste
  • An onion and a garlic clove
  • Olive oil
  • Italian herbs, pepper, salt as much as you wish, but you don’t need much

You slice one little onion very fine and grate one clove of garlic. You heat both together in a deep pan with some olive oil, until the very fine slices of onion are starting to get brown. Then you add the self made puree of the tomatoes and a small bin of concentrated tomato paste, if you wish you can add about 100 mL water at this point which you use to rinse the empty bins completely into the sauce. In addition put some Italian herbs, salt and pepper and let this mixture cook on low heat for 5 min. Afterwards it is ready for use!

For some ingredients as topping, I suggest you to put mascarpone on the pizza as well. It is very nice, when you have mushrooms or strong tasting ingredients, like a good proscuitto, which is the dried ham, not the cooked one.

The Preparation & Topping

Once you have dough and sauce prepared you can actually start to prepare the pizza itself. You have to put some flour on a clean and dry table and put a handful orb of dough on the flour and press it into a flat form. Then you roll the dough into a round and thin form (about 2.5 – 5 mm thin), a tad bigger than a big plate. You transfer this processed dough on a metal or bolus pad you want to bake the pizza on – it becomes best if you bake it at maximum heat on a specific pizza pad. Roll in the frame a little bit, not much but like the frame is a tad thicker than the rest. Put the sauce all over the pizza but just a thin layer as well.

Now to the topping in general:

  • Cheese is a topping that should not miss on any pizza – mozarella works best here, but for some variations I use additional gorgonzola or parmigiano reggiano
  • Various ingredients given in the pictures

You put cheese, and here it’s best to take mozarella either grated or if you get it in your region, take the mozarella block and cut down very thin slices to obtain quadratic pieces which you can distribute all over the tomato sauce. I prefer to put the cheese under the toppings, since it builds a connective layer with the dough and the ingredients will not fall off afterwards – Don’t use too much cheese either!

Topping suggestions on top of the tomato sauce and mozarella:

  • Gorgonzola, and freshly collected mushrooms. You can use chanterelle or all kinds of boletus or the brown champignons from the supermarket
  • Salami piccante (get the European one from Tader Joe’s if you are from the US), the thin and hot bell peppers, referred to as Pizza Diavolo
  • King prawns and garlic, without cheese
  • Proscuitto di parma – baked – and when out of oven, rucola and parmigiano reggiano added
  • Thuna, a freshly sliced onion in rings, some chili

A new creation of mine is Pizza with mozarella, gorgonzola with mascarpone, fresh figs and proscuitto from Alto Adige, better known in the German language as Tyrolean Speck. You find the picture on instagram:

Another creation of mine is Pizza with a cheese from the mountains, strong in taste, called Andreas Hofer cheese – but any stronger cheese will do – prawns which have been fried for one minute with garlic, and thin sliced zucchini. You find the picture on instagram:

Put the toppings but don’t overload your pizza, the above showed pictures are good examples and in the description is given, what I used. After 10 to 15 min in the preheated oven enjoy your pizza! There will be constantly new entries, since I love to experiment with my pizzas and always try new compositions. For the moment please be patient, I have to take new pictures, when I do pizza the next time 🙂

Italian Lasagna my way

Homemade food is great for several reasons: It’s cheaper to eat at home than outside, YOU choose the ingredients, you can control what you use and how fresh your ingredients are, and it’s a prove of your love for the people you are going to eat with. Today I present you my recipe for Italian lasagna al ragu. A very tasty recipe, which I cooked for several times, always revising the composition. It was the winning recipe from my voting two weeks ago. Enjoy!

Recently I asked you to select a recipe for my next cuisine entry by voting for it. The participation in this vote was sadly not very high. The Italian Lasagna in my modified version made the race and the poll remains open, so you can still chose and I can estimate tendencies.

First of all, what do we need for a proper lasagna? Here you got all the ingredients on a glance. It’s quite a lot isn’t it…

All ingredients for lasagna al ragu, missing in this picture: garlic, an onion and parsley

A tasty sugo al ragu, prepared with red wine, which is better known as bolognaise sauce, but the Italian distincts on this used term bolognaise, if you know what you are talking about or not – For veggies you can use all kinds of vegetables as replacement for the meat, I could imagine mushrooms are great as well, just try it, be creative!

Sugo al ragu
The ingredients for a sugo al ragu. I prefer to prepare it with red wine, it becomes much more tasty!

A sugo béchamela, which you probably better know as béchamel sauce. This is the white sauce, which is responsible for the creaminess of good lasagna.

Sugo bechamela is the white sauce inside of the lasagna and some like to use it stand-alone with stewed veggies, I don’t though.

Plates for lasagna, 2 kinds of cheese, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano, and some spices, italian herbs, salt, pepper, a chili, garlic and fresh parsley.

The plates and the needed casserole. Put a cup of water under the first layer of plates, it assures everything will be soft after the needed cooking time – don’t forget that, it is important!

Sugo al ragu

Since I offered the recipe for sugo al ragu as a stand-alone recipe for all kinds of use, for example as sauce for your pasta, I will get more into detail here.

  • basic ingredients for nearly every European recipe of mine: olive oil, salt, pepper
  • ground beef, 500 g for a big casserole which will yield six portions of lasagna
  • fine sliced onions, take two small ones or a big one
  • tomatoes, around 5 – 6 for about 1 L of sugo and 2 spoons of tomato paste – you can take the binned tomatoes in one piece, they are great as well
  • 2 – 3 grated carrots
  • all the spices and red wine

OK, it’s quite easy. Put the sliced tomatoes in a high jar, add about 125 mL of water – you need it for getting the plates cooked, add the tomato paste,  some garlic in fine slices, 1 – 2 teaspoons of the italian herbs, 1 spoon of salt, pepper and a crushed chili. You purée everything to a homogenous sauce and put it aside.

In a pan you heat some olive oil, glaze the onions, then add the meat and roast it with the onions until it becomes slightly dark and you can smell the roasted aroma – in America until all the water is gone which is in the meat (we don’t have those issues in Europe), otherwise it won’t darken. When the meat turns dark, put the grated carrots and roast everything for another 5 min. under continuous stirring.

Then you quench with red vine, take a good glass, like 250 mL and leave it cook, until the liquid is gone again, before you put the tomato purée, which you prepared like described above. You leave this preparation cook for at least 30 min. at low heat and stirr from time to time. The obtained sauce is perfect for individual pasta sauce when you leave it stand over-night, for the lasagna you can use it right away.

Sugo bechamela

This one might be a little tricky without the knowledge about the behaviour of the ingredients.

  • 500 mL of milk and 250 mL of water
  • a good small bowl of flour
  • about 100 – 150 g of butter (I prefer if it is not too greasy)
  • salt and pepper

First of all put about 500 mL and 250 mL of water in a pot and add a good bowl – one of the smaller ones for breakfast – of flour. Don’t take too much, it is better to take less in the beginning and add some later, since you can’t undo “too much”. Important: The milk & water mixture has to be cold, while you add the flour, otherwise the flour starts gelling immediately due to its content of starch. If you make this mistake, you have big chunks of flour which do not desintegrate anymore! Add it while everything is cold and stirr strong to obtain a homogenous suspension which will be quite liquid by that time. Then start to heat and observe the increase of viscosity – in the end it has to be quite viscose, like a waffle or pancake dough. If you have to add flour later to obtain this consistency, add it through a sieve under permanent stirring. Add the butter in fine slices when you observe the increase of viscosity and stirr as long as the whole preparation needs to cook for a short moment and until all the butter is gone. You have the bechamela – spices can be added during the whole time.

Prepare the lasagna layer by layer

Since you got all the different ingredients now, start putting the plates into the casserole. A first layer, with some water, as bottom (see above). Then in equal portions bechamela and sugo as a layer.

The readily prepared main ingredients you layer up to the actual lasagna
Lasagna 05
Nice, isn’t it. Could have done the Austrian flag as well with those colors… 🙂
Lasagna 04
There you go, layer by layer – don’t forget to push the new layer tight for consistency!
Besides bechamela and ragu, put parmigiano and parsley into every layer

Add parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano as much as you want, before you put the next layer of plates. The next layer of plates has to be pushed quite strong onto the last one, this makes sure the consistency of the lasagna is good. And if you are done with layering, put the mozarella on top and the readily prepared lasagna into the oven for about 45 min. at 180°C, while you can increase the heat after 30 min. for the last 15 min. to 250°C for roasting the cheese. Done, enjoy it best with a glass of red wine!

The ready-to-eat lasagna, yields 6 portions in a big casserole and is all homemade – impress your future girlfriend boys, feed your family mums, enjoy a 3 – 4 day ratio of food singles!

The next recipe is due next month, if your input is big enough maybe in twoo weeks. Just make a selection by voting from the older entry you find here.

Summer delicacy – Boletus Carpaccio

The carpaccio of raw Boletus edulis is a delicacy of the summer time. When you have time to go hiking in the forests, take a look for those great mushrooms. It is a dish which is easy to prepare as entree or a full meal. It is healthy, luxurious and you will love it! Out of season I recommend to use big Champignons, although it is not comparable, but still good!

As promised in my last entry, Treasures of the forest, about my hikes into the forests of the Alps, where we collected dozens of different, delicious mushrooms, I bring up my first recipe. It’s the prime recipe if you have been successful on your hunt for the king of the mushrooms, Boletus edulis (Steinpilz, porcino, cèpe). You could use Champignons as well, the advantage: You don’t have to hike, you can have it all year long!

Boletus edulis the king of all mushrooms which grow above-ground.
Boletus edulis the king of all mushrooms which grow above-ground.

This dish is not comparable to all the other tasty dishes you can prepare when you have been successful, it’s easier to prepare and even more outstanding! The precondition: The mushrooms you use have to be in perfect condition, free of maggots and snails, with hard and fresh flesh. If you have older specimens as well, which are not in perfect condition, remove the sponge-parts and the skin on the cap, slice them thin and put those slices into the oven at around 70°C (160°F) for a couple of hours, while the oven is open a little bit so the humidty can escape. This makes sure all the insects and maggots inhabiting the mushrooms are killed – they crawl outta there and can be removed after the drying process. With the dried Boleti you can prepare Risotto for example, but this is another story…

The main ingredient, Boletus eduli. The older mushrooms can be sliced and dried. The fresh ones (right) can be used for the carpaccio.
The main ingredient, Boletus edulis. The older mushrooms can be sliced and dried. The fresh ones (right) can be used for the carpaccio.
Fine shaved Parmigiano Reggiano is the cheese of choice, but you can also leave it away if you prefer.
Fine shaved Parmigiano Reggiano is the cheese of choice, but you can also leave it away.
The ingredients besides parmesan: fresh black pepper, native olive oil, the mushrooms, sea-salt and sliced parsley (not depicted).

You do not need lots of ingredients, parmesan cheese – which is available under the names Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano – some good native olive oil, half a lemon, parsley, sea-salt and black pepper. The less spice you use, the better you will taste the mushroom itself.

Slice the mushroom exactly like that, slowly and smooth.
Slice the mushroom exactly like that, slowly and smooth.
The marinade looks like that if you did it right. Don't use too much of a single ingredient!
The marinade looks like that if you did it right. Don’t use too much of a single ingredient!

You have to use a sharp knife and slice the mushrooms very thin, not too thin, otherwise the pieces are going to break. In a little glas which can be closed or in Tupperware with a lid, you put 3 – 4 spoons of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, some sea-salt and a teaspoon of ultrafine chopped parsley – this amount is for one average sized Boletus. Close the lid and shake the glas to obtain a homogenous marinade.

Add all the ingredients, starting with the mushroom slices, layer for layer.
Add all the ingredients, starting with the mushroom slices, layer for layer.

When you have the slices, stratify the mushrooms, add cheese and black pepper, then drip marinade over all of it. Repeat that, as long as you have slices left – layer for layer. Like that the marinade can penetrate equally everywhere. And when you are done with that, leave the plate for about 20 minutes. After that: Enjoy this delicious and luxurious meal!

Boletus carpaccio, a delicacy of the summer, fresh, very tasty, very healthy and luxurious!
Boletus carpaccio, a delicacy of the summer, fresh, very tasty, very healthy and luxurious!

Phở – THE Vietnamese noodle soup

The Phở is a traditional Vietnamese dish. You can either prepare it with chicken or with beef. Bot soups are outstandingly enjoyable and you can even freeze the soup without the fresh ingredients to rewarm it another time. One chicken gives soup for up to ten portions of the dish!

Phở Bò / Phở Gà, THE Vietnamese noodle soup with beef / chicken, enriched with coriander, spring onion and sprouts of soy

The ready-to-eat Phở – an awesome dish out of the Vietnamese kitchen but not too easy to prepare

What you need: 1 soup hen (for Phở Gà)  or 1 decent piece of beef for soups (for Phở Bò), ginger rhizoma (zingiber officinale rhizoma), amomum tsaoko semen, 4 – 5 “stars” of star-anis (Illicium verum) and 3 cinnamon bars (cinnamomum verum) – or you use an already prepared seasoning mixture called Pho soup seasoning (or similar) and you take half of a package for a whole pot, sugar (1 big spoon), salt (1 teaspoon) and pepper (1 teaspoon), 1 – 2 onions. This is the ingredients for the soup itself. As inlay into the soup you need: Soy sprouts, coriander, spring onions, pho noodles, fish sauce, hoisin sauce and the classic red sriracha sauce, and for those who like it spiced up, fine sliced thai chili (optional)

How you do it: Cook the soup hen / the beef in a big pot and use as much water, so everything is covered. Put the lid while you cook it and start the seasoning just after some time. The hen has to be turned several times and all the meat will be done after about 90 min. (at least).

Pho Ga
Cooking the meat, either beef (meat for soups) or a whole chicken is cooked for a good time, to get tender meat and an enriched juice with the taste of a good soup. With the spices and fresh ingredients it gives the great flavor of a Phở.

The ginger is added first with the salt and the sugar, followed by the pho soup seasoning. You add it after 30 min. The onions and the pepper are added later, after about 60 min. of cooking. After 90 – 120 min. the meat is taken out of the soup and you have to peel off the meat of the chicken’s bones in quite fine stripes. The alternative (less work for Pho Bo): The beef is sliced into thin, small pieces. The meat is put aside. The noodles are cooked while you are busy peeling off the meat. You then slice coriander, spring onions, and chili, clean the soy sprouts and put everything aside. The noodles, when done, are washed with cold and warm water, so they don’t stick together too much.

The ingredients on one glance. The meat has to be cut very thin or peeled of the bones like I did it for the chicken in this picture.

The soup which you obtained from cooking the meats is portioned into a bowl, the mixed meats are added, as are the noodles and some spoons of all the different vegetable ingredients. The original taste is obtained if you spice up with hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and sriracha sauce.

Xíu mại – Vietnamese meatballs

This an easy recipe to prepare Vietnamese meatballs, called Xiu Mai. They are very tasty and steamcooked, therefore healthier than fried meatballs.

Xíu mại, are Vietnamese meatballs served with rice and salad, or for a sub… I learned the recipe from my friend Trang, because of a funny idea. When we got to know each other in Florida, we agreed to a bet, that we are not allowed to talk German to increase our English skills, and who failed had to cook. We called it the English bet.

What you need: 500 g of ground beef free of fat, 5 big spoons of oyster sauce, 3 medium sized onions, about 3  carrots, 2 medium sized tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar, sidedishes: green salad, rice or bread (you can eat it as sub as well)

How you do it: Onions and carrots are sliced in about cubic millimeter small pieces and mixed with the ground beef, salt (half of a big spoon), pepper (a teaspoon) and sugar (2 big spoons), as well as the oyster sauce (5 big spoons) are added and everything is properly mixed to obtain a homogenous mass. Out of that mass little balls are formed and they are all put into a bowl, on top of those balls the slices of tomato are draped and the bowl is put in a bigger pot, which is filled with some water (the water is not supposed to rinse into the bowl!), the lid is applied to the pot and the water has to be kept at 100 degrees Celsius (reflux) for about 20 minutes.

The meatballs are well done after that time and a tasty sauce is obtained from tomato juice, oyster sauce and water steam. The dish is served with sliced green salad, chili, soy sauce and rice. I modified the recipe, put 2 Thai chilis into the meat and slices of 3 spring onions on top of the prepared meatballs before I started to cook them. Enjoy!