Saturday, 28 March 2020


Over the years, I think that I may have mentioned our annual attempt at growing tomatoes.  We don’t grow a lot, just two or three plants.  Last year, we had a bumper crop so I made several tubs of tomato sauce and shoved them in the freezer.  We used one tub last weekend over pasta, and it was lush!  It was so tasty that I immediately started planning to make pizza for dinner on Friday night.  Since my pizza recipe is straightforward, I thought I’d share it with you.

At it’s most basic, this recipe produces two “Neapolitan Pizzas” of dough + sauce + mozzarella for £1.80 and feeds 4.  It takes 3 hours.

Start with the dough.  This comes from an edition of Self magazine, that I purchased in (probably) 1992.   It is so simple that it didn’t take me long to internalise the recipe.  I have made this hundreds of times.   Please read the notes at the bottom before proceeding.

Pizza Dough - makes 2, 12-inch pizzas (approximate cost 20p)


2.5 cups of flour (yes, two and a half measuring cups)
1 cup tap water
1 sachet or two teaspoons of easy bake yeast
1 teaspoon olive oil (can be left out)
2 pizza trays (or see note 5 below)


  1. Hand method:  Take off your rings.  Place your flour into a large bowl.  Scatter over the yeast, then make a well in the centre and pour in the water.  Coat your hands with the olive oil, allowing the excess to drip into the mixture.  Using your fingers, fold the flour into the water.  Continue until you have a smooth dough.
  2. Food processor method:  combine all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and process until a ball of dough is formed.  Turn the dough out into a large bowl.
  3. Both methods:  if the dough is too sticky at this point, kneed in a little extra flour.  If too dry, kneed in a tablespoon or two more water.
  4. Drape a clean tea towel over the bowl, and place it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.  While waiting, make your tomato sauce.
  5. Take off your rings.  Using your hands, knock back the dough.  (Give it a good thump, then kneed for a minute or two.). Cover and leave in a warm place for another hour.
  6. Knock back your dough again then divide it into two halves.  Form each half into a ball. 
  7. Scatter flour over your work surface and rub into your rolling pin.  Place the first ball of dough into the centre of your work surface and roll it out until it is a) circular, and b) fits your pizza tray.  Carefully lift it onto your pizza tray.  Repeat with the other ball.
  8. At this point, put your oven on to preheat at 240C.  Allow the dough to rise for a further 20 minutes, before covering with toppings.  Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.
  9.  Top your pizzas and bake at 240C for 10-12 minutes.  Serve.


  1. You might have noticed, that I keep telling you to take off your rings.  Yeast dough can be incredibly sticky and hard to remove from your hands.  You don’t want it caught up in your rings.  If you do get coated in dough, soak your hands in water and wash well until the damn stuff comes off.  Don’t be tempted to wipe if off on a towel, because it’ll harden to cement.  (I learnt this the hard way.)
  2. To help stop the dough sticking to you hands, drizzle a small amount of olive oil into the palm of one hand and rub over both palms and your fingers.  They will be greasy.
  3. Only baking for one or two?  The dough freezes well.  At the end of step 6, lightly grease the inside of a freezer bag, drop in one of the balls of dough and freeze.  Remember to label the bag first.
  4. No rolling pin?  Use an empty wine bottle or any similar shaped, tall, round, glass bottle.  Remove the label first.
  5. No pizza tray?  Or only one?  You could use a flat cookie tray and form a lip around the edge of your pizza, to keep the toppings inside.  Alternatively, if you only have one tray, you could leave the second half to rise again as a ball of dough, while the first one is cooking, but that will mean a two-part meal.
Now for the sauce.  This is based on one from Delia Smith (aka St Delia of the Kitchen) but it’s not in the book that I thought it came from.  The flour is to stop it separating and to help thicken it.  (Tomato sauces have a tendency to separate and split.). It freezes well.

Tomato Sauce (approximate cost 65p)


1 onion, finely chopped (10p)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (5p)
2x400g cans chopped tomatoes (or the equivalent of home grown). (50p)
1 heaped teaspoon of flour
1 teaspoon dried basil
I-2 teaspoons muscovardo sugar
Possible splash lemon juice or vinegar
1 tablespoon oil


  1. In a decent sized saucepan, heat the oil over a low heat and gently fry the onion until it turns clear and glassy.  Stir in the garlic and fry for a minute or two longer.
  2. Scatter over the flour.  Stir well to ensure everything is covered.
  3. Pour in both tins of tomatoes, stirring continuously and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and stir in the basil and one teaspoon of sugar.  
  4. Simmer until very thick. (This may take 20-30 minutes.) 
  5. Taste the sauce.  Is it too sweet?  Or too sour?  If too sweet, stir in a splash of lemon juice (from a bottle).  If too sour, stir in the second teaspoon of sugar.
  6. Allow to cool before spreading thinly on your pizza base.
Note: you may have sauce left over.  Don’t be tempted to pour it onto the pizzas - it will make for a watery, soggy pizza and your toppings will slide off.

Suggested Toppings

Scatter any combination of the following over your pizza:-

2 x Mozzarella balls, grated  (90p)
100g cheddar, grated (34p) - add to the mozzarella
1 can anchovies, drained (70p)
Sliced pepperoni or salami or chorizo or ham
Thinly sliced mushrooms and/or peppers
Thinly sliced olives
Leftover oven roasted sliced veg (peppers, mushrooms, onions)

Once, baked, the results should look like this.  


- Pam

Monday, 23 March 2020

On with the Motley

Today is a special anniversary.  20 years ago, today, I joined the discussion boards of The Motley Fool.  The Fool has played quite a big part in making me who I am today: tech savvy; an investor; a knitter again (I’d given up in the ‘90’s).  I’ve made friends through it; discovered new places; learned how other people live and how other countries operate (tax, politics, etc).  The members of the Fool taught me to budget and how to put the “living” into Living Below Your Means (aka LBYM).  Their posts gave me a window into their lives, before Blogs became a thing and long before Facebook.  For all of that, I say “thank you”.  Yes, I am a Fool and so are they.

All of the above brings me to what I want to say today.  I think that we’re witnessing the start of the next Great Depression and we will need the wise counsel of the Fools more than ever.  No, it’s not because the stock market has crashed (the FTSE100 is down over 2,000 points).   It will be the unintentional consequence of The Big Shutdown that we’re experiencing in Europe:  everyone working from home who can;  flights cancelled;  schools closed;  hotels, pubs, clubs and restaurants shut;  shops closing their doors and hoping that their online business will keep them afloat.  All concerts and live performances have been cancelled.  So many lives are already disrupted and it will just get worse.  The British Government has stepped up for regular employees - if you are furloughed, you will get 80% of your regular salary*, paid for by a government grant - but if you are a zero hours employee or self-employed, as I write you are only entitled to the most basic of benefits (£92/week).

In all this, my thoughts turn to what we can do to help. I worry about how bad it will get and how many people will suffer.  I’ve already fundraised for the local soup kitchen and the food bank**, but I want to do more.   Since I am a Fool and a cook, I have decided that I will create a collection of recipes of really cheap meals, based on four principles:-

  1. Tasty
  2. Filling
  3. Nutritious
  4. Less than £2 for an entire meal

They will be posted here on the Blog, since it’s free to access, and possibly compiled into a PDF.  That will be my big task for 2020. 

- Pam

* There is an upper limit in the £2,500/month.

** How is it that, in the 21st century, people are relying on soup kitchens and food banks, institutions which disappeared during the majority of the 20th century.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

March update

Good morning.  How are you?  How are you coping with the Covid-19 “plague” driven madness?  I am gobsmacked by the things that people are panic buying - why bottled water? (Covid-19 is not a waterborne disease.)  Why toilet paper? (Nor does it cause diarrhoea.)  I have ventured into the supermarket a couple of times over the last month and they are chaos!

We’re well.  Haven’t been struck by a cold since before Christmas.  I’m a little worried about my choir’s concert being called off next weekend, but it’s wait-and-see at the moment.  (The committee sent out an email yesterday.). Oh and having got fed up of chanting “Happy Birthday to Me!” when washing my hands, I’ve swapped to chorus of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair” from South Pacific.

Here is my update on my 20 20’s:-

1. Knit 20 balls of yarn (that's between 3 & 5 jumpers worth). 4/20 - This hasn’t moved much because I had to rip out and reknit the jumper that I’m creating, since I screwed up the above-waist increases.  (Only ripped down to the waist.  Am now, finally, on the shoulders). The fourth ball used up was on a pair of socks.   
2. 20 minutes a day learning French (via Duolingo and TinyCards) for 20 weeks. Not started yet.  Modified to 20 weeks.
3. 20 minutes exercise a day for 20 weeks.
4. Read 20 books. 2/20.  False Value, by Ben Arronovich (the latest in the Rivers of London series).  People Like Us: Margaret Thatcher and Me, by Caroline Slocock (a memoir of Caroline’s time as a civil servant in Downing Street.  Fascinating.).
5. Try 20 new dinner recipes
6. 20 gardening sessions
7. Explore 20 new places 1/20 - the cathedral at Bayeux
8. Attend 20 "shows" (concerts/plays/films/BBC recordings/exhibitions) 3/20 - Frank Skinner’s “Showbiz”.  The News Quiz.  The Troy exhibition at the British Museum.
9. Do the 2020 Fashion On The Ration Challenge and keep within the coupon count. 17/66 coupons used.  (Bought a trouser suit.)
10. Phone family/friends to chat 20 times (I'm hopeless on the phone). 2/20
11. Lose 20lbs
12. Mend 20 items of clothing (yes, that includes sewing on buttons and taking up hems) 2/20 - hemmed trousers from a suit purchased in 2018 (I’d only worn the skirt and jacket, not the trousers).  Mended the pockets of a different suit jacket, bringing that suit back into rotation.
13. Declutter 20 items
14. Run 20 miles (but not all at once)
15. Save 20 x £20 out of my “allowance”(£400)
16. Make 20 site visits for work, earning mileage 20 times (it goes to the car fund).  28/20.  I have one more week of my commitment in the Huntingdon office - I’m handing over the job to the new starter -  then it’s back to normal and no claimable mileage.
17. Write 20 blog posts.  5/20 
18. Log 10,000 steps on my Fitbit on 20 or more days (harder to do than it sounds). 3/20:  11.1.20 10505 steps, 22.2.20 10603 steps, 7.3.20 13527 steps 
19. Have a party in the summer and invite at least 20 friends
20. Watch at least 20 programs that have been on the DVR since 2018.  0/20

- Pam