Mushroom and red onion pizza

This delicious vegetarian pizza has a thin and crispy base, with a joyously juicy homemade, garlicky tomato sauce beneath comforting melted mozzarella and cheddar cheese. It’s topped off with mouthwatering mushrooms, sweet red onions and fresh basil leaves. It’s simple and satisfying and is cheap to make.

Make a couple of these and impress your friends at a dinner party, or cut it up and serve it as finger food as part of a birthday buffet. This recipe can easily be adapted if you fancy adding different toppings.

Mushroom and red onion pizza

I always forget how easy it is to make pizza from scratch. And with this recipe, you needn’t buy any obscure flour; you can get a nice thin crust with the plain stuff. The only issue is the washing up afterwards!

I was on holiday in Sardinia, Italy, a few weeks ago and it struck me how many of the pizzas there had only one or two toppings. In the UK, and with takeaway pizzas especially, a vegetarian pizza usually consists of mushrooms, sweetcorn, peppers, onion et al, which I very much enjoy, but sometimes it’s nice to just pick out a couple of your favourite veggies and appreciate them on their own.

Ingredients

  • 100g mozzarella, half grated and the other half chopped into rough chunks
  • 25g mature cheddar, grated
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 4 mushrooms (I used closed cup), sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced

For the pizza dough:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 7g yeast packet
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125ml warm water

For the tomato and garlic sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Seasoning
  • 5 or 6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Make the tomato sauce: put a medium to large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the onion and fry for five minutes, or until softened, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the crushed garlic and mix in with the onion. Fry for a further two minutes.
  3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, squeeze in the tomato puree, and add the sugar and seasoning.
  4. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. When the tomatoes are bubbling, reduce the heat. Mix in the chopped basil leaves and leave to simmer while you prepare the dough.
  5. Put the oven on to gas mark 8 to heat up.
  6. Make the dough: tip the flour into a large bowl along with the yeast, sugar and salt. Mix together.
  7. Pour in the water and mix together well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together to form a sticky dough.
  8. Sprinkle a generous helping of flour onto your work surface, pick the dough up out of the bowl and begin to knead it for five minutes, or until it is smooth.
  9. Using a brush, grease a baking tray sized approximately 25cm longways with olive oil.
  10. Sprinkle some more flour onto the work surface and use a rolling pin (or wine bottle if you don’t have a pin) to roll out the dough so it’s nice and thin, and will cover the baking tray.
  11. Give the tomato sauce a stir and take it off the heat.
  12. Carefully pick the pizza dough up off the work surface and onto the baking tray. Trim the edges with a knife if it’s a bit too big for the tray, so it’s nice and neat.
  13. Put the tomato sauce into a measuring jug, or container with high sides. Use a hand blender to blitz the sauce and make it lovely and smooth.
  14. Pour the tomato sauce over the dough and use a knife to spread it out evenly.
  15. Sprinkle over three quarters of the mozzarella cheese and cheddar, then the onion and mushrooms. Then sprinkle over the rest of the cheese, followed by some chopped basil leaves.
  16. Place in the oven on the middle shelf, for 15-20 minutes, or until the base and the cheese have turned golden.
  17. Serve with a mixed green salad and wash it down with a full bodied bottle of wine.
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Asparagus pearl barley risotto

I conjured up this tasty rice dish with ingredients in the fridge and cupboard. It’s tasty and simple to make. Pearl barley is a healthy wholegrain and is a great substitute for risotto rice. It brings earthy, nutty flavours and adds wonderful texture with a bit of bite.

The vibrant, green asparagus has a satisfying crunch with a striking and fresh flavour. The creme fraiche and cheese add a layer of richness, but these ingredients can be left out to make the dish vegan friendly. And the soft cooked mushrooms on top balance out the crunchy textures.

This dish is cooked using the same method as risotto. It’s a great meal to make one evening after work.

Asparagus pearl barley risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 160g pearl barley
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 3 closed cup mushrooms
  • A knob of butter
  • 1 dessert spoon of creme fraiche
  • A handful of mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • Plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Pour the oil into a large frying pan and put on a medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, or until it has softened.
  3. Pour in the pearl barley and mix in well with the onion. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cut off the woody ends of the asparagus spears and chop each spear into thirds.
  5. Turn the pan down to a low heat and add a ladleful of stock to the pan, stirring occasionally. When the stock has been absorbed by the barley, add another ladleful and repeat the process.
  6. Put the chopped asparagus into the pan and stir in with the mixture. Add the next ladleful of stock as before, and continue this process until all of the stock has been added. This should take about 30 minutes.
  7. While the risotto is cooking, add the butter to a small pan and put it on a medium heat. Chop the mushrooms into thin slices and add them to the pan. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until the mushrooms start to brown. Set aside.
  8. When all of the stock has been absorbed by the barley, give a grain or two a taste. It should be fairly softer, but with a bit of bite. If it’s not quite ready, add a splash of water and wait for that to absorb, for a further 5 minutes or so.
  9. When the barley is ready, take the pan off the heat and season well. Mix in the creme fraiche and cheese and serve in large bowls with the mushrooms arranged on top.

Butternut squash and chickpea stew

This hearty vegan stew will warm your cockles on a cold, dark day. The unusual mixture of spices and healthy pulses and grains will surprise and satisfy those taste buds.

Butternut squash is without a doubt one of my favourite vegetables: its orange colouring is wonderfully vibrant, it’s very versatile, tastes deliciously sweet with a satisfying soft texture and goes well with a range of herbs and spices. The only downside is that preparing one can be rather labour intensive, so don’t go hacking into a squash when you’re after a speedy meal.

This dish is based on one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes from his brilliant vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Veg. The spices and the variety of textures are really what make this a great concoction. The squash, chickpeas and orzo work well together and the mixture of coriander, cinnamon and turmeric inject strong, spicy flavours.

 Butternut squash and chickpea stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 0.5 tsp dried coriander
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 150g butternut squash or pumpkin, cut into large cubes
  • 250g chickpeas
  • 50g split red lentils
  • 600g vegetable stock
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50g orzo

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time 45 minutes
Serves 3

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok (I often opt for a wok) on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry until soft, stirring frequently.

2. Reduce the heat slightly and add in the celery, garlic and all of the spices, along with the black pepper, and stir in with the onions until well mixed.

3. Turn the heat back up to medium. Add the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils, and stir all of the ingredients in together. Cover and allow to cook for five minutes, so the liquids are infused with the spices.

4. Next, add in the squash, pour in the stock and stir in thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients.

5. Cover and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

6. After 25 minutes, stir in the orzo. Continue with the simmering until the orzo is soft and the lentils have fully absorbed the juices.

7. Season well and serve in large bowls.