North African roasted capsicum and tomato sauce

tomato and capsicumRight, well that picture just about takes care of the ingredients list. Which just leaves me to blather on for a little while first, before we get to the bit about how to make this (Hint: use a blender).

Let’s play for a moment a game of word association using the word “Africa”. Rift valley. Origins of mankind (unless you believe in this version). Elephants. Bloody conflict. Colonial invasion. Lions. Despots. Diamonds. Apartheid. Famine.

How are we going, have you said “Roasted capsicum and tomatoes” yet? Thought not. Most people associate the foodstuff of Africa with the picture of horribly starving children and Bob Geldoff fund raising concerts. When the crops aren’t failing, the lands being bombed, or the various ethnic tribes are not being murdered and chased from their lands by religious nutters, invaders, diamond and oil seekers and assorted other examples of human scum this great, wide, wonderful land produces foodstuffs both wonderful and assorted. The legacy of this land to our taste buds is one so great we ought to prostrate ourselves at the feet of every passing native African.

In a very simple way, using ingredients common in the kitchen, you can sample one small slice of this legacy.

Get these:

  • One large red capsicum
  • 250g semi sundried tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 large red chillies
  • Fresh coriander
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Do this:

  • De-seed and de-stalk the capsicum and lightly brush inside and out with (extra) olive oil. Roast in a medium oven until the skin will fairly easily peel off.
  • Blend the roasted capsicum along with everything else until a smooth consistency is achieved.

That’s it. All done bar the eating. Serve as a condiment. Use it as a pasta sauce or spread on a pizza. Smear it on yourself if you’re feeling a little weird and raunchy. Just keep it in the fridge and seal it in the jar with a layer of coconut oil (or olive oil if you don’t have any of that). Preserved this way it ought to last 2-3 weeks before growing something unpleasant.

Basil pesto

Its really hard to get a decent shop bought basil pesto that is vegan. Basil is also a fabulous companion plant to tomatoes so when it is season we are always turning some of it into pesto so as to preserve it.

What you need….

  • A lot of basil. Hard to say how much exactly as I’ve never weighed it. Once the leaves are pulled off the stalks (use the flowers and the seeds too if the plant is running to seed) then you should have enough to fairly tightly fill a large colander. Wash and drain the leaves.
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of rock salt
  • 1/4 cup of lightly roasted cashews
  • 1/2 cup of lightly roasted pine nuts
  • Olive oil – keep the bottle handy

The doing….

  • Basically, blend it all together (or in our kitchen “Bamix it”). Reserve 1/4 of a cup of the pine nuts though…
  • Don’t hold back on the olive oil – as well as adding flavour it is also the “lubricant” that makes it easier to blend to a smooth consistency
  • Once done, mix in the reserved pine nuts.
  • Unless you’re using this straight away, pour a little more olive oil on top to seal it, sprinkle just a little more salt on to preserve and refrigerate. Should keep for at least 2 weeks.

Marvelous instead of tomato paste on pizza, also tossed with pasta and mushrooms, or indeed however else you want to use it.

Pizza (and Calzoni) dough

A few years ago the VegHead and SheWhoMustBeFed holidayed in Tuscany. The accommodation, which was an old farm building renovated and restored, had a wood fired pizza oven built into the nearly three metre thick walls. One night we made a big batch of fresh pizza dough and fed ourselves and also the four young guys staying next door, and also the owner and his Italian friend. Suffice to say that this dough got the nod of appreciation from the Italians, all of whom found it simply amazing that didn’t just go and buy pre-made pizzas from the supermarket like every other tourist. Therefore I can say with confidence that 100% of Italians who have eaten a pizza made from this base have loved it (Of course, the gallon of red wine we drank between us may have clouded their judgement somewhat but never let the truth get in the way of a good story). We make a batch of this every Friday – it is Pizza Night on Fridays in the VegHead Household.

What goes in the dough…

  • 4 ½ tpn or ½ oz or 2 packages yeast.
  • 2 tspn sugar
  • 4 cups white, strong, stoneground, organic flour. Add a little more if the dough seems too wet
  • 1 tspn salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups warm water

What to do….

  • Put yeast and sugar in cup. Add ½ cup water (37-43˚C). Mix well. Wait about 5 minutes for yeast and sugar to activate.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add flour, salt, olive oil, 1 cup warm water and yeast mix. Mix with fork to get all liquid absorbed by the flour.
  • Place handful of flour on mixing surface. Dust your hands and spread out flour. Empty contents of bowl onto flour.
  • Knead dough 8-10 mins or until texture is smooth and uniform. If a little sticky, add more flour.
  • Place dough in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil lightly rub the oil over the surface of the dough mix to ensure even coverage). Cover with a cloth and place in a draft free area for about one hour.
  • Punch down the dough, preheat the oven to 260˚C (or if you’re lucky – tend to your wood fired pizza oven), and wait about 45 mins. The dough is now ready.
  • Cut dough in half. (I get 4 smallish pizzas out of this much dough).
  • Dust a rolling pin with flour and gently roll out on floured surface, until desired shape. Can use fingers if you like.
  • Dust pizza tray with fine cornmeal. Use a spatula or a peel to slide the dough onto the tray, or preferably just roll it over the rolling pin, and unroll it onto the pizza tray.
  • Drizzle with oil. Spread with tomato sauce. Add toppings. Cook for 8-14 minutes. (You may need to adjust cooking time if your oven doesn’t get really hot, or if you have a LOT of wet toppings which increases cooking time)