Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: Skinflint Dublin

After reading reviews of Skinflint here, here, here and here, although they were a mixed bag, I really wanted to like this place. We turned up on a Saturday evening and there were maybe three other people there in the small space. Along with the name, the aesthetic is "recession chic" (I hate these coined terms, along with the dreaded, ubiquitous "pop-up"). Old doors serve as tables, industrial lighting over each table, higgledy piggledy picture arrangements and the seats are high stools at communal tables.

As has been well documented, the pizzas have each been given the name of a staff member's mother. So far, so twee. We went for the mozzerella sticks served with a chili jam. Where food, is basically using just one ingredient, you better make bloody sure it's the best quality ingredient you can find. Skinflint falls on it's face here. The cheese was dull as mildly cheesey dishwater. The chilli jam was better - sweet with a slight kick.

When the star of the show arrived, the pizza, we were ready to dig in. Although we were hungry, we couldn't have managed a full one each, so shared an "Angela" between two. Described as having grana, mozzerella, pecorino, thyme and sauted onion. It arrived at our table, with a little ceremony involved at the altar of pizza. Instead of the rounds we're used to, it looked like it had been through a stretching machine, which resulted in a long rectangle. The waitress, brandishing a shiny mezzaluna, wasted no time in slicing it into manageable slices.

We got stuck in quickly, but anticipation soon ebbed away with each bite. I would describe it as a totally joyless affair. Skinflint's much lauded use of Odlums flour in their base, complete with pallets of it in the corner, just does not hold up. It was so thin, as to almost resemble a cracker. The three day fermentation process that they profess the dough goes through, could not be tasted, because it was just so thin. Here we have a case of bigger would actually have been better. The mix of different cheeses were not discernible. The most overpowering flavours was the onion, which was sweet and succulent and the thyme, but I don't really look to a pizza to get my herby kicks. When you order pizza, you take for granted a tomato sauce, but if you're looking for that here, forget it. Essentially were were served some expensive cheese on crackers, it was not pizza.

Accompanying this we ordered the roasties. My god, it's hard to get a roasted potato wrong, but somehow they managed it. A good roast potato should be crispy on the outside, fluffy inside. Skinflints roasties, still had the skin on, which is fine for wedges, not so on roasties. They were a sad, soggy business that I wouldn't want to repeat.

Being veggie, I haven't experienced the food in Skinflint's sister restaurants Crackbird and Jo'Burger, where I understand it's a case of classics done good, sometimes with little twists. With pizza, it's already achieved that level of perfection all by itself. It doesn't need to be messed with. Skinflint tried and I'm sorry but it fails.

The atmosphere is nice here, service was friendly but the most important thing, it's food, lets it down massively. It's great that Skinflint has created new jobs, great that they support Irish suppliers, but they greatly need to work on the food.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Fantastic pizza


 Pizza is one of those foods that people can be evangelical about, and I totally understand why. If you're gonna have pizza make sure it's excellent pizza. Sure, even a frozen pizza from the supermarket was such a treat when I was a kid. Through to when I was growing up and started ordering takeaway pizza. But then I went to Naples. I went to antica pizzeria Da Michele. It was made (even more) famous by being featured in Eat, Pray, Love, but it was doing pretty ok before that I would say! They have a ticket system, where you get a number. A line stretches out the door and you can go in when they call your number. Inside is pretty unassuming, actually almost a little clinical with white and green tiled walls that the light bounces off of. But, when the pizza arrives you're almost guaranteed to be a pizza convert if you weren't before. 

The pizza base is light, chewy yet crispy and the cheese just melts and falls apart in your mouth, carried along with the sweet tomato sauce. The pizzas are huge but they make you want to go back for more, MORE!

So trying to recreate that at home, I've been left a little disappointed by what's on offer, so I've been trying to accomplish in my own kitchen what I couldn't find in many Irish restaurants and I think, while maybe not quite Neopolitan pizza, I think I've come pretty close. 

While I don't have a wood fired oven handy in my apartment, There are a couple of things you can do to make the best pizza possible at home. 


Start by getting the oven on the highest temperature, for about half an hour before you start making the pizza. Place a baking tray on the bottom shelf, so that it will be hot when the pizza is ready to go into the oven.

For the base

250g tipo 00 flour
3.5g dried yeast
200ml tepid water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
a little semolina flour for dusting the base
olive oil 

For the sauce
1 tin of cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree 
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
juice of half a lemon

1 buffalo mozzerella ball  plus extra for sprinkling
parmesan or grana padano (optional) 

Start with the dough. Add the tipo 00 flour to a bowl and create a little hole in the middle. Put the yeast and a little water into the space you created plus the sugar and stir, try not to add the flour in yet. Leave for a few minutes until the yeast starts to froth. Add the salt at an outer edge as we don't want to mix it straight away with the yeast; salt kills yeast. Slowly stir the flour into the yeast in the middle, until you are bringing all the flour in and add the rest of the water. 

Now work the dough with your hands until it becomes silky and elastic. Cover and leave for 30-60 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Put the cherry tomatoes through a fine mesh sieve to remove the skins and seeds. Add the puree, salt, sugar and lemon juice to the bowl. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. 

When you come back to it, knead the dough again for a few minutes and roll out. The professionals might just use their hands, but I'd advise a rolling pin, especially if you want a thin crust. Dust the dough with the semolina flour. Now is when I put the dough onto the hot tray and speedily make up the pizza. I find doing it this way, makes it beautifully crisp underneath. Place it on the tray, seolina side down. The semolina add to the crispness

Drizzle with a little olive oil and spread it over the dough. Add the tomato sauce and the mozzerella. Place in the oven for 10- 15 minutes until the cheese is golden and oozy. 

Grate over some Parmesan or Grana Padano (optional) and enjoy some seriously good pizza.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Love is.... sharing food together

I had this vision in my head for this post of a big Moroccan spread. What could be a more sensuous food for Valentines day than Moroccan food. The pungent aroma of spices in the air had me picturing bedouin tents under the stars, lavish silks and satins, beautiful lanterns that only sparks of candlelight escape from, dark desert nights, camels and castles.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hot chocolate making

I'm excited to have my first video on tofu for tea. I want to focus on the process of food, how it transforms from ingredients into something magical. It's almost like alchemy. I personally love to watch people cook, it's like meditation in a way, it centres and calms. And in the end we get to have something yummy!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Changing of the seasons salad

As spring nudges its head around the corner, I feel like welcoming it in, inviting it home for a cup of tea. Its a bit timid and winter is still in charge around here even though in Ireland we haven't had the snowfall that's hit other places. But there is something in the air, the wheel of the seasons is turning and it feels like life is about to kickstart again after a long hibernation.

This salad is perfect for now. root vegetables and Spanish oranges are in season together for just a short window in the year. It's like a reminder that spring is just around the corner, even if it's not here yet. A salad packed full of vitamins and minerals and the colours just look beautiful arranged together on a plate.


Serves 2

4 handfuls of spinach
2 medium beetroots
1 orange
40g quinoa
3 tbsps apple vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Peel and slice the beetroot into chunks. Add them to an oven dish with the apple vinegar, olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Stir to make sure the beetroots are coated in the mixture. Cover with tinfoil and transfer to the oven at 180C for approximately 40 minutes.

While the beets are halfway through, get the quinoa on. Rinse first with cold water, then add to a medium saucepan filled one third of the way with water. Bring to the boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer and leave to cook for about 20 minutes.

Slice the orange into segments and then half those segments. Slice the feta. Wash and wring out the spinach.

Add the spinach, then the beetroots, oranges and feta. Sprinkle over some quinoa. The juices that the beetroots were roasted is a great dressing; drizzle over the leaves and serve. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

Pear and Vanilla Jam

Been busy jam making this week and this was one of the best to emerge from the bubbling pots on my cooker. The pale golden colour with flecks of black vanilla just begs to be eaten and let me tell you its mmmmm. So good on toast, rice pudding, ice cream, biscuits, the list goes on. A boring slice of toast in the morning can be ramped up with this jam. It was so easy to make but well worth the effort. Oh and you don't actually need pectin for very many jams. There's usually a way around using it, so I'm not sure why so many recipes call for pectin. So far anyway, I haven't needed to use it, just some good old lemon juice works just as well. I have just been making small batches, which works quite well to retain the flavour of he fruit. You can multiply the quantities used here up to 1 or 2 kg at most I would say. Any more and it will be hard to get the fruit to cook quite evenly. 

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