Duck speck, fig and caramelised red onion pizza

Pizza is one of the ultimate comfort foods but think beyond the classics like margarita and pepperoni and go off piste! Duck speck is a product that not a lot of people may be familiar with but is certainly worth acquainting yourself with it. It’s cured duck breast which is made using a concoction of herbs and spice and the fat content melts away in the cooking process. I pick mine up from Eat Drink Ideas on my local market and they can be found here. The smoky notes from the duck pairs perfectly with the delicate but sweet figs and the savoury onions.

The base of the pizza is traditional but I used a cherry tomato passata which is sweeter than usual passata which worked much better here. You can make your own if you fancy! I also prepared a garlic and rosemary infused oil to drizzle over before cooking to add another dimension and pull the flavours together. Make more than you need and then keep it in the cupboard for next time.

I use a pizza stone at home which I heat for around half an hour on the highest temperature that my oven can muster. Alternatively you can preheat a baking tray and use this instead but make sure you take care and dig out the oven gloves!

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Ingredients- makes a 12 inch pizza
For the dough
250g tipo 00 Italian flour
3g salt
5g fresh yeast
160ml lukewarm water

For the drizzling oil
50ml olive oil
1 large garlic clove- peeled
Small handful of rosemary

For the topping
4 tbsp cherry tomato passata
40g grated mozzarella for pizzas
1 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
1 red onion- finely sliced
1 tsp caster sugar
50g duck speck- cut into thin slices
2 large figs or a few smaller ones- cut into sixths

1. Start off by making the pizza dough in advance so it has plenty of time to prove. You can use a bread hook on a mixer or good old fashioned elbow grease for this. Add the flour into a bowl and add the yeast and salt into two separate sides of the bowl; ensure these do not touch when dry and the salt will retard the yeast’s action. Add the water and bring together to form a rough dough. If you are kneading the dough yourself then this will take around 10 minutes until the dough is ready or 5 minutes with a bread hook. When it is ready, roll into a ball, place on a tray and cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave to prove for 30 minutes.

2. In the meantime you can make the drizzling oil. Simply pour the olive oil into a small pan, add the rosemary and garlic; give the garlic a light bashing first to release the flavour! Heat the oil until small bubbles start to form on the bottom of the pan and remove from the heat. Allow to cool and set aside.

3. For the caramelised red onion, take a small pan and heat the oil and butter together over a medium heat. Add in the onion slices and cook for 10-15 minutes until translucent. Add the sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes until cooked down and sticky; remove from the heat and set aside.

4. When you are ready to cook the pizza, preheat your oven with either a pizza stone or tray to the hottest it can go. Roll out the dough as thin as you possibly can and place on the tray or stone. Using the back of a spoon, spread the passata on the base before sprinkling with the grated mozzarella and caramelised red onion slices. Distribute the sliced duck evenly followed by the fig segments. I placed these so the cut sides face upwards which looks great on the finished pizza. Drizzle with a little of the rosemary and garlic oil and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until golden, bubbling and irresistible!

Duck speck, fig and caramelised red onion pizza- put down the takeaway menu and get kneading!

Indulgent autumn gnocchi

Gnocchi AKA little pillows of joy are the star of this dish! Combine this with seasonal vegetables, a dash of creme fraiche and a liberal helping of hunger and you have the perfect dinner. If you can’t find speck, then a good parma or serrano ham can be used.

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Ingredients- serves 4
40g unsalted butter
Pack (approx. 70g) speck- cut into thin strips
250g chestnut mushrooms- washed and sliced
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- crushed
60ml dry white wine
3 tbsp creme fraiche (full or half fat)
Handful of shredded curly kale
Salt and pepper to season
400g pack of ready made gnocchi

1. Boil a kettle of water and cook the kale in a large pan for 3 minutes- refresh in cold water, drain and set aside.

2. Start off with melting half of the butter in a large non- stick frying pan over a medium heat. Pop in the strips of speck and fry until starting to crisp up. Remove from the pan and set aside on a piece of kitchen paper.

3. Next you need to fry the mushrooms until the water evaporates (you don’t want a watery sauce!) and the mushrooms turn golden. Again, remove from the pan and set aside.

4. Add the remaining butter and cook the shallot and onion until softened. Pour in the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the creme fraiche, season to taste, and simmer for a couple of minutes whilst you cook the gnocchi. Gnocci only takes 2 minutes so drain when the gnocchi rises to the surface in a boiling pan of water.

5. Stir the mushroom, kale and speck through the sauce before also adding the cooked gnocchi. Cook for a further minute to make sure it is all heated through and serve in warmed bowls. A sprinkling of parmesan is also called for!

A warming autumn gnocchi which is a sure fire pleaser!