Mains, Recipes
Leave a Comment

Gourmet Pizza and Chili Olive Oil

I just felt guilty about letting it roll into September half way into September without adding one more post. Caught up with work, I’ve been unable to cook interesting dishes, though I’ve been eating healthier than ever before.

On my recent trip, I dropped by Dhara Oilve Farm and met the passionate person, Larissa, behind the high quality olive oil that I’ve been eating. Larissa took us through the process of making olive oil, and for the first time, I appreciated the considerable amount of work that goes into turning olives into healthy oil, which most of us take for granted without paying much attention to the different qualities of olive oil; many people think olive oil is all good!

assos-olive-4

Greek kalamata oilve oil used to be my favourite because I just thought the aroma and flavour, fruity and peppery, suited my taste. It is said that Greek olive oil from Crete is rated as the world best, but what I didn’t know was that Italy was importing olive oil from Greece to meet their domestic consumption.

The life span of olive trees is between 300 and 500 years but there are some thousand-year old olives trees in this part of the Mediterranean. We were given a tasting plate with olives and cheese, all home-made, and figs and tomatoes from her orchard. The olives were superb, fresh and not salty. Eating them was like pressing the olives into oil in my mouth.

As you can see, there are two oils in different colours, one in green hue and the other in yellow. We tasted both without any clues of which one is which and told our guess. I liked the yellow one, which took me by surprise because, as I said earlier, I like fruity early harvest olive oil, which is usually green.

assos-olive-3

What I said, though, was that the green one was early harvest but the yellow one seemed superior quality because I got the throat-burning sensation and tingle on the lips from the yellow one, which was the reason I picked it as my preference. On the other hand, other people in the group preferred the green one. When the information about the two oils was revealed I was very proud of my ability to distinguish different qualities and was also surprised by the price.

The most important thing in making good quality olive oil is the fast-processing, which means minimising the time between the harvesting and processing into oil, to preserve as many healthy properties in olives as possible.

I haven’t yet explained why the yellow-coloured one is more superior. It is because it is made from wild olive trees, which have grown for centuries, and that explains why they contain 3-10 times more healthy chemicals inculding polyphenol than normal olives, on the contrary to grafted olive trees.

olive-feta

I loved the natural, unsalty olives so much that I asked Larissa to give me some at the risk of embarrassment, but she showed her generosity by giving me the big whole jar, which I’ve been enjoying I’ve just finished.

olive

In the high spirits, I finally made chili-infused olive oil, which I’d planned for a long time. I couldn’t find African piri piri chilies (bird’s eye chilies) so I had to make with the chilies recommended in the store as the spicest. The oil is almost finished and I’m planning to make another one as the people at the recent pizza evening had it quite a bit and I’ve been abusing it by drizzling it over pasta or toast or almost everything. It gives just the right level of kick and I love it!

toast-pizza-2

The Pizza Night, which I often organise, to get Turks together, as they tend to be “afraid” of my dinner parties, instead of “excited”, because of their fear of trying unknown, foreign food. So the only way to guarantee 100% attendance is to make pizza, which they can’t say no to.

They think anchovy pizza, which is one of the most popular pizza menu in Italy and the world over, is disgusting, but I pressed my pizzas this time. Luckily, this time there wasn’t much strong objection to anchovy pizza and smelly roquefort pizza as they were well-travelled and more cultured guests, who were open to trying my unusual sounding pizzas, which are perfectly normal and can be tasted only in high-end pizza restaurants – please allow my bragging right.

pizza menu

I showed off my tech-savviness by offering them an iPad menu. At that, of course, they were amused, laughing out loud; well, entertainment is part of playing host, innit? Most ordered items were spicy shrimp pizza and pastirma (spice-cured beef ham) pizza. My favourite is always with anchovies, though.

pizza-night-2

I didn’t take photos that evening because I was giving the full attention to my guests.

I always enjoy the atmosphere, the messy and chaotic job of rolling out dough after dough while sipping wine and take a bite of each pizza for tasting.

Another reason I enjoy our pizza nights is that Mr.O gets credits for his contribution in cooking. As making pizza doesn’t involve high culinary skills, he feels confident in leading the cooking especially after several successful pizza nights.

toast-pizza-3

I made quick toast pizza with leftover anchovies and caramelised onions from the pizza night for the next couple of days. It was so good with a drizzle of chili oil. I got the chili oil idea from my visit to Nice.

toast-pizza-1

August was the craziest month with lots of work and I didn’t have time to think of people close to me, even of myself. This year Mr.O‘s birthday was celebrated low key because of that and I felt quilty about it but Mr.O, as a grateful human being that he is, didn’t express any sign of disappointment and ate the rushed birthday cake graciously.

oz-bday-cake-1

Not this “Opera Cake” ……

oz-bday-cake

but this “Cherry Coconut Roll Cake”…. what a stark contrast!

oz-bday-cake-3-1

I made the opera cake for his birthday last year. I regard opera cake as the ultimate dessert. I’ve been making it for special someone ever since I tasted it in Bois de Vincennes in Paris in 2007, the significant year in my life, which I cannot forget. I wish I could go back to that year.

But 2013 is equally memorable for me. I’ve done so many new things. I’ve been to Cappadocia and flown in a hot air balloon.

cappadocia_balloon-1

You can see more Cappadocia Photos here on my gallery.

Thank you for reading my jumbled post. I could no longer bear seeing the long-overdue draft so I had to post it off. I will try to cook and write more in the cool months to come, I hope.

You might also enjoy my past article on pizza, Pizza and Movie Night, which had recipes for pizza dough and pizza sauce, but I will write them down in a proper recipe format for those who can’t be bothered to read the full story there.

No-fail Pizza Dough 

adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe

Ingredients (6-8 medium pizzas)

1 kg white bread flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 x 7 g dried yeast sachets
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650 ml lukewarm water
semolina flour for dusting (optional)

Steps:

1. Put flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar, salt and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well.

2. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing it until it all starts to come together and work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

3. Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

4. Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required.

5. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas.

Note: Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there’s one less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 0.5cm thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted tinfoil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge.

No-fail Quick Basic Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

8-10 plum tomatoes (3x400g canned tomatoes)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil or a handful of fresh basil
1 Tbsp red wine
sea salt

Steps:

1. In a food processor, blend the tomatoes and garlic for a few seconds, leaving some chunky bits.
2. Pour it into a pot and add olive oil, red wine and herbs, and boil it down on low heat to the right consistency.
3. Season with salt and let it cool.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s