Home-made tomato sauce

Home-made tomato sauce | H is for Home

Justin doesn’t normally get involved with the Thursday recipes – well, apart from taking the photos! However, this week, he’s actually done the cooking too. Don’t worry though, you’re in safe hands – as he was a chef for about 15 years before re-inventing himself as Mr H is for Home – and he does most of the savoury dishes in our household anyway.

Finely sliced garlic and olive oil in a saucepan | H is for Home Finely sliced garlic, tomato pureé and olive oil in a saucepan | H is for Home

We mentioned this lovely all-purpose tomato sauce in last week’s pizza post. Most people list tinned tomatoes in their store cupboard essentials, but we always have batches of this home-made tomato sauce in the fridge or freezer.

Home-made tomato sauce with basil | H is for Home

It’s quick – only taking about an hour – and very straightforward too.

Home-made tomato sauce being sieved through a colander | H is dfor Home Sieved home-made tomato sauce | H is for Home

It’s so flexible. The addition of ground black pepper and Parmesan makes for a simple yet delicious pasta sauce. It also provides the base for a myriad of other recipes. You can add all sorts of ingredients to it for some wonderful dishes – meatballs, chicken, fish, olives, roasted aubergines & peppers to name but a few. If you reduce it down and concentrate it a little further it makes the perfect tomato sauce for pizza topping. The recipe can be scaled up to suit requirements. You can also tweek quantities to suit your own taste – more garlicky, more olive oily etc… and add other herbs if you like too.

Storing home-made tomato sauce for freezing | H is for Home

We make up a batch of home-made tomato sauce every few weeks and put a couple of two-portion containers into the freezer – ready to grab as required.

Click here to pin the recipe for later!

Cakes & Bakes: Italian cheesecake with almond crumb base

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Slice of home-made Italian cheesecake with almond crumb base | H is for Home

Lidl had a ‘Taste of Italy‘ special this week so I stocked up on a few Mediterranean bits & bobs when I popped in. I bought a couple of tubs of ricotta, not quite knowing what I was going to do with them. Of course… Italian Cheesecake!

Italian cheesecake ingredients

Ground almonds, sugar and butter in a saucepan

I fancied making it with a crunchy base using amaretti biscuits but I couldn’t find any in the shops. No need to panic, I improvised and made my own almond crumb base.

Almond crumb cheesecake base

ricotta and sugar mixture

I’ve made a fair few different cheesecakes in the past. I think this is almost up there with the all-time favourite Gordon Ramsey version.

making Italian cheesecake mixture

uncooked Italian cheesecake

It’s best served cold, straight from the fridge, perhaps with an after-dinner espresso.

Italian cheesecake straight from the oven

Home-made Italian cheesecake

Fancy giving it a try? Pin the recipe for later!

Cakes & Bakes: Crescia

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Slices of crescia with mini chick decorations | H is for Home

It’s Easter week, so we thought that we should make something that’s traditionally eaten at this time of year for this edition of Cakes & Bakes.

Crescia ingredients | H is for Home

We plumped for Crescia – an Italian cheese loaf.

Crescia ingredients | H is for Home

You can use any hard cheese – parmesan, pecorino and so on.

Crescia dough | H is for Home

The dough is simple to make and easy to handle.

Crescia dough proving | H is for Home

It’s baked in a tall tin so it has a distinctive shape like panettone – the smell as it cooked was amazing!

Baked crescia loaf in tin | H is for Home

A very handsome loaf wouldn’t you agree?

Crescia loaf | H is for Home

The bread is light and airy with a wonderful flavour. It’s traditionally eaten with cold meats. I’m vegetarian, but Justin volunteered to test this combination and tried it with some of his fennel salami – a perfect match he thought. It also works really well with various cheeses, olives, marinated vegetables, oil & balsamic vinegar etc, etc, etc. 

Slices of crescia with salami, cheese and salad | H is for Home

We can highly recommend this loaf – and we certainly won’t be waiting till next Easter to make another one!

You can pin the recipe from here to try later!

Cakes & Bakes: Pizza

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Home-made pizza sliced | H is for Home

It’s pizza for this week’s Cakes & Bakes. We’ve got a great pizzeria here in Todmorden – and we certainly can’t match their huge, wood fired oven… but we like to eat it in the house sometimes too!

pizza ingredients

A very simple list of ingredients for the dough.

yeast mixture yeast mixture next to the fire

With sub zero temperatures outside, the yeast mixture found the perfect place to come to life beside the fire.

pizza dough

The dough is simple to make and easy to work with.

risen pizza dough

Size and thickness is a matter of personal choice. In this house, Adelle has deep pan tendencies – Justin is a more thin & crispy kinda guy!

shaped pizza base

We rustled up a lovely tomato sauce. Olive oil, garlic, tomatoes & basil – cooked through, seasoned, reduced and strained.

tomato sauce being added to pizza base

This sauce was spread evenly over the pizza dough. Adelle then added roast aubergine, mozzarella and olives. Justin very similar, but he substituted Gruyère cheese for the mozzarella and also added red onion.

Adelle's pizza before being cooked Justin's pizza before being cooked

Both turned out very well – delicious in fact. We’ll continue experimenting with dough thickness, toppings and oven temperatures ’til we have absolute perfection!

Chuffed with my ciabatta!

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Sliced, home-made ciabatta with Todmorden-made Pextenement cheese and watercress | H is for Home

I’m chuffed with my ciabatta! It was my first ever attempt and I think the loaves turned out really well!

two uncooked, home-made ciabatta loaves proving before getting put in the oven

I used a recipe from one of my favourite baking books, Bread by Christine Ingram & Jennie Shapter. If you’d like to try making this one yourself, I’ve listed the recipe at the end of this post.

sliced, home-made ciabatta detail from a sliced, home-made ciabatta

There’s always a little ‘hold your breath’ moment as you cut the first slice and have a look at the crumb. Proper, big ciabatta holes!

sliced, home-made ciabatta with fried eggs and Todmorden-made sausages

I had a few slices, fresh from the oven, with a handful of watercress and East Lee soft cheese made locally by the Pextenement Cheese Company… Justin had his with the slightly less healthy option for his Sunday brunch – fried eggs with pork & chive sausages – but it was all local produce too – and delicious he said.

For the biga starter

7g/¼ oz fresh yeast

175-200ml/6-7fl oz/¾-scant cup lukewarm water

350g/12 oz/3 cups unbleached plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

For the dough

15g/½ oz fresh yeast

400ml/14fl oz/1⅔ cups lukewarm water

60ml/4 tbsp lukewarm milk

500g/1¼ lb/5 cups unbleached white bread flour

10ml/3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Makes 3 loaves

  1. Cream the yeast for the biga starter with a little of the water. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Gradually mix in the yeast mixture and sufficient of the remaining water to form a firm dough.
  2. Turn out the biga starter dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for 12-15 hours or until the dough has risen and is starting to collapse.
  3. Sprinkle 3 baking sheets with flour. Mix the yeast for the dough with a little of the water until creamy, then mix in the remainder. Add the yeast mixture to the biga and gradually mix in.
  4. Mix the milk, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Using your hand, gradually beat in the flour, lifting the dough as you mix. Mixing the dough will take 15 minutes or more and form a very wet mix, impossible to knead on a work surface.
  5. Beat in the salt and olive oil. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1½-2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
  6. With a spoon, carefully tip one third of the dough at a time on to the baking sheets without knocking back the dough in the process.
  7. 7 Using floured hands, shape into rough, oblong loaf shapes, about 2.5cm/1” thick. Flatten slightly with splayed fingers. Sprinkle with flour and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.