Saturday, 2 August 2014

Pizza Recipe

This is a bit of a departure from my usual blogging, but people keep asking Mat and me for the recipe for our pizza and I figured this was as good a place as any to share it.

This pizza, particularly the sauce has evolved slowly. We started off over a year ago with shop bought pizza bases and a jar of tomato paste mixed with water and a few dried herbs, then Mat dusted off an old wheat beer dough recipe of his, which obviously deserved a better topping, and so I switched it up a gear with fresh garlic and chopped tomatoes. Several iterations later and we have this.

Vanessa's Sauce

2-3 garlic cloves (or more if you really love garlic/are afraid of vampires)
1 can/carton of chopped or crushed tomatoes (250-300g)
1/2 cup of red wine
2-3 tbsp of tomato paste - a little less than a 1/4 cup
2 tbsp of dried Italian herbs
1 tbsp of dried basil
a splash of Worcester sauce
pepper to taste*
olive oil for frying

  1. finely chop or mince the garlic and fry in a little olive oil for a few minutes until it just starts to brown.
  2. add the tomatoes and wine and simmer on a low heat for about 10 mins.
  3. add the tomato paste and stir well. Let it simmer for another 10-20 mins - if you want your sauce really thick, leave it longer.
  4. add the dried herbs, Worcester sauce and pepper toward the end of the cooking time.
This usually makes enough for 2 large pizzas, but we tend to use quite a lot of sauce on ours so it could go further. It keeps well in the fridge for about a week and it can also be frozen.

*I never add any salt because tomato paste is already quite salty.

Mat's Base

1 packet of dried yeast
1tbsp of olive oil
12oz of room temperature wheat beer
3-4 cups/500g of flour
garlic powder (see above)
1 tsp salt

  1. Add all the dry ingredients (except the yeast) in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix the yeast with a little bit of water and the olive oil.
  3. pour the beer into the yeast mixture.
  4. Add to the dry ingredients and stir, kneading when it becomes unstirrable.
  5. Cover with a dry towel and leave to rise for about an hour.
  6. Divide the dough in half, knead again and roll/flatten it out.
  7. Place on an oiled pan or tray and bake for about 3 mins as hot as your oven will allow.
  8. Remove from the oven, add sauce, cheese and whatever else you fancy, and bake for another 10 mins.
This dough rises well, so unless you're going for a deep dish thing it doesn't need to be too thick. We usually use half and then freeze the rest. It'll take a few hours to defrost, then just knead it a little and it's ready to go.

You don't have to just make pizzas with this. We've made:

Garlic knots -  knead grated cheese into the dough roll tit out into long thin sausage shapes and knot them, bake until they start to brown on top (don't know the timing, we kinda just watched them). use the sauce for dipping.

Pizza muffins - Divide the dough into a muffin pan, stuff some cheese into the top of each one, bake and pour a little sauce on top of each one, or use it for dipping.

Rosemary garlic bread - we added dried rosemary and fresh minced garlic to the dough, sliced it half way and spread it with a mixture of butter, minced garlic and Italian herbs (we really like garlic).

Pretzels - same dough recipe, rolled out and knotted into pretzels. Boil 9 cups of water with 2/3 cup of baking soda, dunk the pretzels one at a time for about 30 seconds, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt, bake until they look done.

Monday, 28 July 2014


Well now, I am the worst at bloggering. A quick glance at my post list tells me that the last time I wrote anything was at the beginning of October, and that post is still in draft. I suck.
What makes it worse is that there are lots of funny/interesting/scary stories I could have been sharing, and I'll try to get some of them on here soon. Or at least, soonish. Main thing is, I'm still in Russia; 3 years and 4 months last time I checked. But I'm not in Moscow any more.

Last summer I left EF and took a full-time job at the Saudi School. I say full time; they have a pretty elastic approach to the academic calendar. Myself and another colleague from EF were taken on (and later joined by two other ESL teachers) to continue teaching ESL to the students and help with the schools application to become accredited by the IBO to teach the International Baccalaureate.

It was a year full of challenges. We started with nothing, and were responsible for selecting and ordering course materials, writing course plans and testing and placing students. Basically we had to build an ESL department from scratch. And then there were all the school policy documents and guides that needed to be in place for the IBO application. We wrote most of those too, working very much in isolation from a faculty whose attitudes to the IB programme ranged from distrust to outright hatred, and with a boss whose management philosophy was essentially 'delegate delegate delegate!' I very nearly burned out completely before Christmas.

I stuck it out till the end of the academic year, and gained some valuable teaching and administrative experience, but by new year I was already thinking about where to go next. The boy was also contemplating a change of scene; Time to get out of Moscow, the city that never sleeps, away from the all the familiar western fast food chains and coffee shops and 'Ex-pat nights' to somewhere we can further explore Russian culture and practice our Russian without getting funny looks. It's sounded like a great idea, and after a few months of searching and several Skype interviews we found a school that would take both of us on and provide us with an apartment that we could bring our cat to (Oh yeah,we have a cat now. Her name is Bazarova and she is a beautiful moron).

So here we are in Tolyatti (sometimes spelled Togliatti in English), home of the Lada, 600 miles east of Moscow on the Volga in the Samara oblast, near the Zhiguli hills.

Basically here:

I found this map on Google. Turns out it's from the website of a Russian brides company.

We've been here a week and so far all is well. Not a lot of work to do just yet so we've got plenty of time to get our bearings.

Does anyone still read this by the way?