Pizza Toast

Pizza Toast

This recipe was given to me by my Austrian cousin, Greti, who made this dish one evening when she and her husband Jos invited me and my sister Caroline, my niece Natalie, and our cousin Philipp and our Tante Dorli  for a quiet evening following a large family gathering a day or so before.

This simple yet delicious recipe is ideal when you want something tasty to eat of an evening without having to make elaborate preparations and it is also ideal for serving, in smaller pieces, as nibbles to go with pre-dinner drinks.

One of the ingredients is Pizza Gewürtzzubereitung (translated as Pizza Spice Preparation) which you can buy in supermarkets in Austria – the brand I have is made by Kotányi, a very good Hungarian company (excellent paprika too but that’s another recipe) however don’t fret if you can’t get hold of it because Italian Seasoning will work as well, or, better still, make your own – I shall give you the recipe for that below.

Pizza Gewürtz

As for the bread it is best to use white sliced bread (whoever heard of a wholemeal pizza?) such as Mother’s Pride (if it still exists) aka Pain Anglais in France.  I did experiment with sourdough bread the other evening (which is featured in the photograph above) but I was disappointed with the result and therefore would recommend you stick with white sliced bread.  Oh yes, the pizza toast did not fare well cold the following morning so make sure you enjoy it hot once it comes out of the oven.

It’s a little difficult to judge the quantities required because it will  depend on how many people you will be catering for and whether you’ll be making the pizza toast as a snack, or as nibbles to go with drinks or making more of a meal of it.  When we were at Greti’s there were seven of us and Greti kept up a constant stream of the pizza toast.  Perhaps think along the lines of 2 slices of bread per person to go with the quantity of crème fraîche, cheese and ham below and increase the quantities of all ingredients if you are catering for more guests or very hungry guests.

If you wish to adapt the recipe for vegetarians, simply leave out the ham.

What you’ll need for three to four people is:

  • Sliced white bread – about 8 slices
  • Pizza/Italian seasoning (see ‘recipe’ below)
  • Crème Fraîche (250ml tub /approx 9 oz)
  • A little double cream (heavy cream) for binding
  • Pack of grated mozzarella (240gr/8.5oz)
  • 1 pack of cooked ham shredded or cut into small pieces

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
  • In a large mixing bowl put in the crème fraîche, grated mozzarella, pizza seasoning*, the ham and a small amount of the double cream to bind.  (Make sure you don’t put too much double cream in the mixture otherwise it will become runny and will not work very well on the bread.) Mix well together.  *Taste the mixture to gauge the level of the seasoning*.  If it needs more seasoning, then add a little more and check again.  What you don’t want is to have too much seasoning at the beginning that it ends up tasting like soap or worse.
Pizza toast mix
This is the how the mixture’s consistency should be.
  • When the mixture is seasoned to your liking (it should not really need salt but add salt if you wish) take a slice of bread and spread an amount of the mixture on top of the bread evenly across and to the edges and repeat with the other slices of bread.  Don’t spread it too thickly but also not too thinly.  NB Do not toast the bread beforehand – it will ‘toast’ in the oven.
  • Place the slices of bread onto a baking tray and put in the oven for approximately 10 minutes.  Check to see that topping has browned a little then remove and serve.

My cousin’s husband, Jos, is very fond of chilli and he likes to grate a little dried chilli over his slices of pizza toast (which I recommend you try too!) and he has a very smart chilli mill in order to do so.  The following day my sister, niece and I went to one of my favourite cook shops, Klammerth, in the Herrengaße in Graz and we bought ourselves the same mill which Natalie christened the Chilldo!


Making your own pizza seasoning is simple enough.  All you need to do is mix together a quantity of the following dried spices and what you do not use for making the pizza toast store in a screw-top jar or air-tight container and keep alongside your dried spices for use in other dishes.

Own-made Italian/Pizza seasoning:

  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp dried Onion granules
  • 1tsp dried Garlic granules
  • 1tsp black or white ground pepper
  • 1tsp dried Rosemary
  • 1tsp dried Sage

Mix together in a bowl and et voilà!

Postscript: When I mentioned in my last post that I had been encouraged by my sisters and niece to get on with posting again I received a cacophony of complaints from chums who felt aggrieved at not being mentioned because they claimed that they too had nagged, I mean, encouraged me.  Therefore, I shall add the following names to the list –  Ian in Wales and Gill in Scotland!   And to anyone not mentioned I do apologise and thank you for your encouragement!  Little did I think that my humble blog would take on the significance akin to The Simpsons whereby the great and the good fall over themselves to be included!


Pasta with purple sprouting broccoli

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This dish is a variation of a recipe by Alastair Little found on the BBC’s Food website and came about for two reasons.  The first is that I really do need to eat more vegetables and the second is that I was given some purple sprouting broccoli by my friend Joy, who, in turn had been given it by her neighbour who grew it.  Joy decided to share her bounty (along with three sticks of rhubarb) with me.

The variation is the inclusion of red onion and cherry tomatoes which don’t appear in Mr Little’s recipe.

What you’ll need for two people as a main course is:

  • 1 red onion peeled and sliced
  • 8oz/225gr purple sprouting broccoli
  • 20 cherry tomatoes cut in halves
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 fresh chilli.
  • 1 small tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained*
  • Good quality olive oil
  • 8oz/225gr pasta – choose between fusilli, penne rigate or, as I used in my recipe, tortiglioni
  • Grated parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
  • Salt and pepper

* If, like my niece Natalie, you don’t care for anchovies, or you wish to make the dish purely a veggie one omit the anchovies – the dish will be just as tasty.   If you do like anchovies but don’t want to use the whole tin use half instead.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Put on a large pan of salted water to boil.
  • Whilst the pasta water is coming to the boil prepare the broccoli by trimming the outer leaves and woody stalks.  Once done cut the brocoli into small pieces about 1cm/½.inch
  • Chop the garlic, chilli and anchovies finely.  I used my Cuisinart Mini Processor which does the job very well.  NB When it comes to prepping the chilli, if you like your dish fiery then chop the chilli whole including the seeds (hottest bit).  If you prefer a milder dish them slice the chilli in half and scrape away the seeds and discard then chop the chilli.
  • Once the pasta water has boiled add the pasta to the water, stir and cook according to taste or to the time suggested on the packet.
  • In the meantime take a large sauté pan or frying pan with high sides and place on the heat and slop in 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the sliced red onion and cook over a low heat (you do not want the onions to brown or burn but be translucent) stirring from time to time.
  • Add the garlic/chilli/anchovy mix and stir coating the onions.   Then add the broccoli allowing it to cook a little then add the tomatoes and stir together.
  • At this point check the seasoning – the anchovies may be salty enough and all you need do is add a little ground pepper (black or white) if you wish.
  • Add a little (small ladle-full) of the pasta water to the brocoli/onion mix and let it bubble.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, drain and tip into the sauté pan and mix well.
  • If you wish, at this stage shower the contents of the sauté pan with the grated cheese (the amount of which is down to your taste) stirring so that it all gets well coated and you are ready to serve.


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Caramelised fennel, anchovy and chilli spaghetti/linguine


This is an adaptation of a Waitrose recipe which appeared in one of its periodic MyWaitrose members’ mailings.  The original recipe called for sardines but because I don’t care for sardines I decided to modify the recipe.  And in doing so I added some onion, a little stock and changed linguine for spaghetti – only because I didn’t have any linguine to hand when I made this dish the other evening.

Like a number of my recipes this one, too, may be tweaked further.  If you don’t care for anchovies you can swap them or simply leave them out particularly if you wish to make it a vegetarian dish.

To say the fennel is caramelised is a little bit of a misnomer insofar that no sugar is used but rather the fennel is cooked over a high heat to brown it a little and give a caramel colour to the vegetable.

What you’ll need for two people as a main course or four people for a first course:

  • 200g/7oz (or more depending on appetites) spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • Olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb finely sliced.  Reserve the fronds
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • Half a mug of chicken or vegetable stock*
  • Hot chilli flakes
  • Juice of half a lemon

* I use (among other stock cubes and concentrated stock) Knorr’s Touch of Taste liquid stock in bottles.  I find this ideal if you wish to make just a small amount of stock rather than having to make up 500ml of the stuff when using a stock cube.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Put a large saucepan of water to boil for the pasta, salting the water.  Once the water comes to the boil, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or to taste.
  • Whilst the pasta is cooking heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.  You may use the olive oil from the tinned anchovies if you wish – I did a half-and-half, a bit of the anchovy oil and olive oil.
  • Add the fennel and fry over a high heat for 4-6 minutes stirring often until the fennel turns a caramel colour and has softened.  Remove from the frying pan to a dish and keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat and add the chopped onion to the frying pan and fry the onions a little. (Add a little more olive/anchovy oil if you think the pan might need it).   Add the anchovies to the onions and fry gently breaking up the anchovies with a wooden spoon.  They will start to melt into the onion/oil mix.
  • Add the stock and bring to the boil.  A half-mug of stock isn’t too much but what you are aiming for is the stock to reduce to a nice glossy consistency.  Return the fennel to the frying pan and mix together.
  • Drain the cooked pasta and add to the fennel, onion and anchovy sauce (add a little pasta water if you wish), add the chilli flakes and lemon juice and mix all together allowing the sauce to bubble a little and coat the pasta.
  • Serve topped with the reserved fennel fronds.
Frying the fennel until caramel coloured

Spicy broth with prawns or chicken or without.

img_0787I created this soup as part of my repertoire for my 5:2 diet regime – a dish that is so straight-forward  it really doesn’t require much thinking about and provides me with a dinner of around 600 calories, maybe fewer.   Though you might not think it by the sound of it a full portion of this soup is a pretty substantial meal.

And the beauty of this soup is that it can be vegetarian by excluding the prawns or chicken and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

What you’ll need for 2 people as a first course or for a main meal for 1 person is:

  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • A little vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red or green chilli chopped – I use Thai chillis
  • 6 to 12 large raw or cooked prawns (12 if the soup is to be shared) or 100gr – 150 gr shredded cooked chicken breast. (Thigh meat can be used too of course)
  • Soy sauce (about a dessert spoonful  or more to taste)
  • Half a carrot peeled and diced*
  • 1 -2 teaspoonfuls of Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce (optional)**
  • 2-3 Cavolo Nero leaves sliced or any other green leaves you may have to hand such as kale or Swiss Chard
  • Half a pack of mixed exotic mushrooms (Eryngii, Shiitake & Oyster were in the pack I had and which can be bought from Waitrose) or any assortment of mushrooms you fancy.  Slice the mushrooms.
  • 1 nest of Rice Vermicelli noodles (I use the Thai Taste brand)
  • Handful of coriander or chives chopped for garnish if liked.

*You may like to substitute the carrot with fennel or celery

**When I made this a few days ago I decided to add a bit more zip to the broth by adding a teaspoon or two of the Sriracha Chilli Sauce and it was even more delicious but do take care, the Thai chilli is heat enough.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Make up your 500ml of stock and have it to hand.
  • In a saucepan (large enough to take 500ml of liquid plus the ingredients) heat a little of the vegetable oil and gently fry the garlic and chilli to release the fragrance.  Try not to let the garlic brown because  it will taste bitter.
  • Add the chicken/vegetable stock and bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Add the soy sauce to taste.  (Be careful in the amount you use due to its saltiness)
  • Add the diced carrots and sliced mushrooms.  Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the vegetables to cook.
  • Add the prawns or chicken if using.  (If using raw prawns they will turn pink when cooked.  If using cooked chicken ensure that it is heated through thoroughly)
  • Add the chopped Cavolo Nero leaves
  • Whilst the broth is simmering bring a small saucepan of water to boil.  Once boiled turn off the heat and drop the nest of vermicelli into the hot water, place a lid of top and leave for 10 minutes or follow the recommended time on the packet. when the time is up drain the vermicelli and keep warm.
  • Once the broth is ready divide the vermicelli noodles between two soup plates or bowls (or just one large bowl if it is a main mean) and ladle the soup over the noodles.
  • Sprinkle the chopped coriander leaves or chives over each portion and serve.