Thanks to my blog being a little poorly over the summer months and me being a bit distracted while searching for my first house (and my very  first kitchen) I’ve got a fair few reviews and recipes to catch up with posting. This one took priority because even though summer seems a long time ago now,   just looking at the photos of these pizza creations seems to bring all the flavours and smells back (leaving me pretty hungry, actually).

Before the blog went kaboom! I was sent something to review that I’d been hankering over for a while – my very own pizza stone. The nice people over at John Lewis seemed to anticipate my longing for this gadget and offered to send my one to review in order to host a summer barbecue party. Being without my own home at this point I had to make do with catering for one of my parent’s summer shindings but they were pretty pleased with the results. Unfortunately, the Weber pizza stone they sent me from their summer barbecuing collection seems to be out of stock at the moment, though they do have an individual pizza oven, which may actually be a better bet with the current climate!

I found the Weber pizza stone really easy to use and the pizzas I lovingly crafted from scratch were declared the best several of the guests in attendance had ever tasted. As there were some serious carb and cheese lovers present this was pretty high praise indeed. The real plus point of using the pizza stone on the barbecue was the crisp and light base that was achieved without any cheese burning. I played around with a few different pizza stone recipes and toppings but the chorizo barbecue and blue cheese varieties pictured here were my favourites.

 Pizza stone pizza method

The dough recipe for these pizzas and a lot of inspiration for my toppings from this post over on Andy over from Chilli Up North’s blog. After making the dough and rolling it into two separate pizzas, lightly coated with polenta on the bottom, I decided to make one meaty and one vegetarian version, the toppings of which are listed below. I’ve not listed exact quantities as I think a lot of this is up to personal preference and I’d recommend testing your barbecue sauce as you make it to see how hot/tangy you’d like it

Homemade pizza ingredients

Chorizo barbecue pizza

  • Picante chorizo (I brought mine back from Barcelona but it’s easy to source)
    barbecue pizza sauce

    Barbecue sauce

  • Sweet jarred peppers
  • Homemade barbecue sauce (made with fennel seeds, chopped tomatoes, red onion, hint of smoke BBQ concentrate, ground star anise, garlic, a chopped homegrown chilli, picante paprika – from Barcelona)
  • Smoked Northumbrian cheddar

 

 

 

 

 

yellow courgette strips

Strips of yellow cougette

Blue cheese, pine nut and yellow courgette pizza

The toppings for this pizza were a mish-mash of what was ready in the allotment at the time, which happened to be – yellow courgettes, spinach and tomatoes. It made for a very colourful and tasty pizza, which felt almost healthy. The topping was as follows:

  • Tomato sauce made from passata, homegrown garlic and tomatoes
  • Roquefort
  • Pine nuts
  • Roasted yellow courgettes and yello peppers
  • Wilted spinach

We were treated to some lovely weather the day of this particular barbecue, which made it fairly hard to photograph the results but they were something pretty special. Yes, it was a little work prepping the dough but the range of flavours in comparison to a shop bought pizza was phenomenal, and it was a great use of all the allotment veg that we’d eaten hundreds of ways up to this point and were running out of ideas for.

I’m more than a little happy to report that my new home has it’s own yard, which should make a brilliant barbecue spot, which means the pizza stone should be getting many more outings next year. All pizza stone recipe ideas are gratefully received via comments below!

Sausages should be mega meaty, full of flavour and in plentiful supply during the summer BBQ season – whether or not the weather is BBQ friendly. It’s these firmly held beliefs that led me to snap up the chance to get stuck in to some sausage making of my own with the Northumberland Sausage Company. My friend, colleague and frequent recent blog-partner-in-crime, Hannah from My-first-house, found a great deal on Groupon that got us a decent discount on a group sausage making session over in Hexham.

Review of Northumberland Sausage Making Class

Fast forward a month and Hannah and I were heading to Hexham for a morning of sensational (and innuendo-fulfillingly saucy) sausage making. The lesson took place in the food court of department store Beales, where the knowledgeable and very enthusiastic Tim guided us through both the story of the company and the sausage making process. Now, Hexham is a very scenic town – beautiful in fact, but one thing it doesn’t do well is parking. Despite setting off for Hexham extra early I ended up a little late for class and extremely hot and bothered on an exceptionally sunny day after whizzing around the idyllic Norhumbrian town trying to find anywhere that would let me park for more than an hour at a time. Luckily, I wasn’t too late for the main event and had just enough time to put on my pinny and assume my position next to the sausage machine before things got going.

We spent around two hours sausage making in all and got to make two lots, which for me and Hannah meant getting a good whack of hot and fruity flavour into our meaty treats.We took turns at performing the different (and slightly giggle inducing) tasks, but as Hannah is far more photogenic than me she will be demonstrating her superior sausaging skills via the photos in this post.

Sausage making started with a mountain of meat – pork meat to be exact. Having tasted some of Northumberland Sausage co. sausages before I was not surprised to learn that their recipes go far over the 30 per cent pork meat needed to define something as a pork sausage, in fact, this is the breakdown of the sausage recipe we used at the event:

recipe for Northumberland pork sausage

The stuff in our sausages

Before mixing things together and choosing the special sausage ingredients that would give our sausages a superior taste, it was time to mince the meat and Hannah took this task very seriously as you can tell from her concentration face. The company use pork leg or shoulder in their sausages to guarantee the mega meatyness a sausage should have.

mincing pork meat for homemade sausages

Pile of pork

Mincing the meat required a good pumping action, but Hannah handled it like a pro

pork mince for sausages

Our mountain of mincemeat

Tim advised us to keep our recipe simple during our first round of sausaging, but we couldn’t resist getting handsy with the table of ingredients and set about creating a spicy sausage made with red wine, chilli powder, onion, garlic, barbecue sauce and a small amount of fresh chopped chilli. For our second lot of links we headed down a more traditional route and created sausages with apple, sage and cider. Before squirting the sausage meat into its skin, plenty of smooshing was required to mix the ingredients evenly.

mixing sausage filling

Smooshing the sausage meat

Smoosh completed. It was time for the interesting bit. The sausage skin we used was actually a pig intestine, which you hydrate in water and smooth onto the end of the sausage machine (to mutterings of innuendo and laughter, obviously).

Hannah took the lead with the attachment, while I focussed on keeping the sausage flowing as Hannah pumped the meat mixture into the sausage making machine, at this point we needed to avoid bubbles entering the sausage.

pumping sausage meat

Me, handling the sausage pipe

I performed the task adequately and we soon had a lovely ring of spicy looking sausage

ring of spicy homemade sausage

Our ring of sausage

What I wasn’t so good at was turning our sausage ring into actual sausages. Not only did I make our sausages so short and stubby that they wouldn’t link inside each other, I also found the whole linking process akin to tackling a rubics cube. Be warned; sausage making is for the mathematically gifted – if you’re an engineer it’s a hobby for you. Anyway, despite my errors they looked non-too shabby at the end.

spicy sausage links

Our fat stubby spicy sausages

We were advised to wait a little while before cooking our sausages as it takes a few days for the liquid content to lower. Sausages with high liquid content bang and sizzle a lot, which incidentally is why they first became known as bangers – something I was reminded about during the class. I froze my half of our hefty heap after three days and I’m waiting for the perfect (or adequate) BBQ weather to bring them back out. However, Hannah has already consumed both lots of hers and declared the first lot ‘very hot and meaty’ and the second ‘fantastic and fruity’. I therefore declare our sausage making a success!

Overall this was a really fun class, though it didnt last quite as long as we’d expected and the venue was a bit out of the way for us. That said, it would be easy to combine with a lovely day in Hexham (if you can find parking!) or you could try and book on to one of the other venues. If you prefer sausage eating to making, you can order sausages direct from Northumberland sausage company (the goat and chilli ones are good), or you can try the hottest sausage in the world they have made exclusively for the Battlefields Beer Festival, July 26th-28th (see here for details).

It is T minus two days until Father’s Day and I’m in a bit of a tizz. Pa Berg has requested weedkiller for Father’s Day! Weedkiller?! I’ve offered to take him out for lunch (to the Old Boathouse in Amble, which I’m desperate to try) , for brunch (to the Mal, because I’ve been waiting for an excuse to sample the new menu for months)  and even to the cinema (as I fancy a bit of picamix and seeing the Great Gatsby) but all he wants is weedkiller. “Dad, we can’t consume weedkiller!” Why can’t he be more like Ma Berg, who gratefully received her Mother’s Day gift of a trip to La Bodega when I wanted to test their tapas? (review here).

The usually very hungry Daddy Berg has even gone as far as banning me from buying him anything he ‘doesn’t need’, which I think sort of goes against the sentiment of the day. In a way I think many dads are quite unassuming on Father’s Day and don’t like to make a big fuss. Personally, I consider cheese a bit of a necessity and he seems to really enjoy meat every Sunday lunch time, so I’m pondering making a purchase from the TASTECLUB’s Father’s Day collection. I had hoped to win their Foodie dad competition and circumvent the whole rule about ‘buying him anything he doesn’t need’ but alas, I just checked the winner’s details and it’s not to be. So, in the running for Dad’s special gift, along with a bottle of weedkiller, is…

A turophile tour

Northumberland Cheese Company Cheese tour

Cheesemaking tour and tasting £25 (photo courtesy of TASTECLUB)

 A mountain of meat

a mountain of northumberland steak

Luxury steak board (£65), photo courtesy of TASTECLUB

My thinking is that if he really doesn’t want anything, I can at least help him get rid of it when it arrives (ahem), which is definitely not possible if I opt for the weedkiller. Plus, I’m almost 100% certain if I did buy him the weedkiller he’d go in the huff like the time I made him a mini-breakfast (he’d already eaten toast, I was trying not to bloat him).

So, what’s it to be? Weedkiller? Cheese? Steak? Is anyone else’s father being a total grump this year? Should I respect his wishes and not buy him anything? Guidance, please!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Despite my good intentions I always seem to be writing about my foodie penpal parcel of the month about five days after reveal day. Reveal day is usually on the last day of the month and the idea is that everyone who takes part in foodie penpals Europe and America posts a link to their blog on the Lean Green Bean site so we can all take a look at what everyone else has received. As a former journo I’m extraordinarily nosey so I love taking a peek at what everyone else has received in their parcels and it always incites inspiration and jealousy in equal measures (even if I have a fantastic present on my table at home). Moving forwards I’ve decided to be extra strict with myself to try to meet the posting deadline, in fact, I’ve decided to spring clean the blog in general over the Bank Holiday weekend and polish up part-written posts and semi-perfected recipes, as well as having a bit of a restructure.

Anyway, enough of my weekend world takeover plan, here’s a little look at what I received in this month’s foodie penpal parcel, which came to me all the way from the lovely Lina in Lithuania.

Lovely Lithuanian treats

Lina had a hard job as I’ve been trying (and failing) to diet this month – so she put together a parcel of authentic Lithuanian foods including Lithuanian crackers and  sweet vanilla biscuits (great for tea dunking), as well as some other healthy-ish bites. There was a lot of variety in this package, which included everything from meat marinades and oats to add to smoothies right through to a coffee bean lollipop! I’ve recently become semi-addicted to the chocolate beans from Hotel Chocolat and I’m pretty sure this lolly was a lot kinder calorie-wise. It was also a lot kinder to my pocket as at £3.99 a packet the beans are an expensive new addiction – does anyone have a good recipe/technique for making their own? The package element I’m dying to try is the dried mushrooms – I got really into mushroom consumption during meat-free March and I’m contemplating putting these into a pasta or risotto dish.

I sent a parcel to Stephen in Belfast he doesn’t have a blog and I unfortunately forgot to photograph the goods before I sent them over – but I went for a mix of sweet treats and Asian cooking ingredients, which I’m hoping hit the spot. If you’d like to get involved with foodie penpals, take a trip over to Thisisrocksalt and read up on the fantasticness that is Euro foodie penpals.

 

 

Once upon a time there was a girl who really hated beans – their shiny, slimy skins, their squishy, icky inners and in the case of baked beans, their sick-inducing smell. That girl was me. One of the main reasons behind me going meat-free last month was to spur me into trying new things and on this level at least the experiment was successful – I have finally embraced the bean, well sort of.

Mid-way through Meatfree March I bought a really big organic butternut squash, pretty huge in fact and after turning part of it into chips I got a bit stuck as to what to do with the rest. I’d been craving sweet things all month so decided to make a batch of cupcakes with some of the squash and stumbled across this recipe from my beloved Domestic Sluttery, which helped me to find a use for the rest. Although some of my Meatfree March teas were less experimental (thank you Quorn for inventing battered sweet and sour Quorn pieces) I did make a massive effort to make appealing lunches during the month, so that I didn’t feel temped to stray from the vegetarian path. So, armed with two very colourful antipasti jars I’d been given to review from the Pegalonia range (which I picked up from the lovely Country Whey Deli in Jesmond, they usually cost £3.50 a jar), I decided to make some mezze wraps complete with my own version of a butternut squash and bean spread. Here is my take on the Sluttery recipe – it came out really rather scrumptious:

Butternut squash and butterbean spread

    • Half a large butternut squash (cubed and roasted in olive oil)
    • 5 garlic cloves
    • 1 large glug of olive oil
    • 1 small tin of butter beans
    • 3 tbsp lemon juice
    • 2 tsp sea salt
    • ½ tsp smoked paprika
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
    • ½ tsp ground coriander

Method

This was a really easy spread to make – it was just a case of roasting the squash in olive oil, letting it cool and then blending all of the ingredients together, adding the lemon juice and olive oil gradually until I got the correct consistency. Then it was onto the wrap creation.

butternut squash dip, antipasti, hummus and tortilla wraps

My midweek mezze lunch ensemble

On the hunt for tasty meat-free treats at the start of March I was pointed in the direction of the Pelagonia range, which is made up of jars of Macedonian vegetable loveliness. I chose the Lutetiniza – roasted spicy pepper and Malidzano – smoky aubergine , to sample and thought they would be just the thing to go in a wrap with my butternut squash spread.  Turns out I was right.

wraps filled with spicy butternut squash dip and antipasti

Butternut squash and spicy pepper/smoked aubergine wraps - better than a burrito!

My butternut-squash-bean dip was quite hot, which meant it went really well with the creamy, smoky aubergine and even better with the hot, spicy and sweet peppers. These sauces had no hint of the usual antipasti oiliness, so I felt nice and healthy as I tucked into the wraps, which i microwaved and served with a side salad at lunch time. I can honestly say they were better than a beefy burrito and they had the added bonus of being completely dairy-free, which meant my tum was extra happy.