15 March 2015

Quicker, Easier, Cheaper, Better Food with "Genius" Recipes

In the words of a recent telly ad for ordering takeout ...

“My favourite food is always at my fingertips” 

... but, in my case, this is because I can cook.  I can, and do, make stuff up as I go along, after all the sub-title of this blog is “spontaneous eating (mainly lunch) from bargains and leftovers” but very often I turn to one of my,  “genius” recipes. 

Here are some of the genius recipes I use most frequently ...


“Soubised” Onions

This is a way of cooking onions which has been absolutely fundamental to my cooking, it makes the onions soft, sweet and delicious and a great base to numerous dishes. It is so good I have almost finished writing a whole ebook on the subject but no need to wait as I’ve also blogged about it here.  

Pizza Dough

I make this once a week, real man has his topped with denuded sausages, minced beef, and mozzarella and cheddar. I have a variety of toppings depending on the leftovers situation but usually including a hint of chilli and always accompanied by a glass of red wine.

This makes two medium pizza bases or, in our case, one enormous base and a pretty small one. I use Tesco’s Everyday Value Plain Flour which costs 45p for 1.5kg (at the time of writing) so about 10p, the yeast costs 14p and say 5p for the oil. The two pizza bases therefore cost about say 30p; about a third of the price of bought in plain pizza bases with the advantage that you can make them your favourite way. I like my pizza base to be so thin that it bubbles up in places all crisp and crunchy, my real man prefers a thicker, more filling, manly kind of thing. You can also add any flavourings you fancy eg. black pepper, garlic oil, etc.

This looks like a really long recipe but don't be scared, it's not - just a lot of words, give it a go.

225ml warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 7g packet of easy bake yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
325g plain flour
scant ½ tsp salt
a little more olive oil
a handful more flour - wholemeal if possible

~   Stir together in a large bowl (or mixer bowl) the water and the sugar till the sugar has dissolved.
~   Sprinkle over the yeast and set aside in a draught free place for 10 minutes or so till it has started eating the sugar and become bubbly.
~   Stir in (or slowly mix in with the mixer) the olive oil, salt and flour into the yeast mixture, to make a sticky but workable dough.
~   If using a mixer then just run it on low for a couple of minutes. If mixing by hand give it a few minutes good kneading – this is not hard work, not tricky and not unpleasant and doesn’t take long.

~   Lightly oil a fresh bowl, form the dough into a soft ball and put it into the greased bowl, turn the dough to coat with oil, cover loosely with a clean cloth or put a clean plastic bag over it and stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. If you want to prepare the dough in advance (for instance so you can make pizza as soon as you get in from work) put it in the fridge. A slow rise (which is what will happen) will actually make the dough tastier!

~   Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/200ºC fan/gas 7
~   Prepare two baking sheets by sprinkling with wholemeal flour (or normal if you haven’t got any) and then shaking to coat evenly.
~   Knock the dough back (ie. knead the air out of it) incorporating the oil clinging to it.
~   Divide into two and roll or push into shape on the baking trays.
~   Top with whatever you have planned
~   Bake at till crisp and golden and wonderful.


This dough also makes very acceptable bread either a loaf or focaccia-type and also breadsticks. Have yourself a play.

A Marvellous Cookie Recipe

This was originally a really fab Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe but is so good that I now use it for other cookies too.

125g soft butter
125g caster sugar
100g light soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 few drips of real vanilla extract or other flavouring as appropriate
225g self raising flour – sifted
good pinch of salt
200g of additions eg. chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit etc.

~   Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Cream together the butter and the two sugars.
~   Lightly beat the egg together with the vanilla or any other extract you are using.
~   Gradually stir or whisk the egg mixture into the butter and sugar, if it looks like curdling add a spoonful of the flour.
~   Stir in the flour, pinch of salt and your chosen addition (which could very well be chocolate chips!).

Now you have two options ...

1.   To bake immediately roll into walnut sized balls, put on a baking tray with enough space around them to spread and squash them slightly. Bake till turning golden around the edges which takes about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack till cool enough to eat (or you could let them cool completely, store in an airtight container and eat them later).
2.   Roll the dough into one or two thick sausages, wrap in cling film and store in the fridge or freezer till needed.  Slice, from frozen if you are strong enough, and bake as above.



I wrote about this recently when testing some flavourings – it is such a simple recipe and easy to remember ...



There is a formula for making vinaigrette which is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or other acidic ingredient such as lemon juice and here is a basic recipe using this formula ...

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe

½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp vinegar – of your choice eg. red wine, balsamic or sherry vinegar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of salt

~   Liquidise, whisk or shake the ingredients together.


See here for a lot more detail, 24+ ideas and recipes putting this formula into practice plus a few things to do with vinaigrettes other than dress a salad.  

This makes about 60ml for a cost of say 25p but of course, can easily peasily be double or trebled etc. The cheapest vinaigrette I can see doing a quick search is about £1 for 100ml and again, making it yourself, which is a doddle, you can personalise it. 

Some of my genius recipes are so flexible and useful you could write a book about them so I have done!

Four actually, so far, (as I said “Onions” coming soon), they are ...

Luscious Ice Creams without a Machine ... or much Timeor Effort or having to Mash the Stuff as it Freezes! as one reviewer said “No kidding, this method makes the best creamiest ice cream ever with hardly any work!” In this case not only does the ice cream cost a lot less than bought in, the book also costs less than bought in ice cream!

Sorbets & Granitas – a companion book to the above giving over 40 easy sorbet and granita recipes.


SOUP (almost) the Only Recipe You'll Ever Need – this is truly the case, I’ve used this recipe to make everything from Caribbean Callaloo to Apple & Butternut Squash Soup and loads of others.


The Secret Life of Scones: There's so very much more to this simple recipe than perhaps you realise! – this phenomenal and phenomenally easy recipe not only makes wonderful scones but also dumplings, doughnuts, cheese straws, Welsh cakes, Singin’ Hinnies and loads more.

So there you have it!

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Sue said...

I wonder if Nigella has been reading your book?

Your way of remembering the shortbread recipe is genius in itself 1,2,3. Maybe it'll stick in my mind now .... well I can hope ;-)

Suzy Bowler said...

I just wish I was rich and gorgeous (I'd even take famous if it would help!) so that people thought I was a genius.

No other reason, of course - who wants to be rich and gorgeous?

Ann said...

Suzy Bowler I love your blog !

Suzy Bowler said...

Wow - thank you Ann!