2020 Pestos #2: Asda Extra Special Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

I was expecting big things from this pesto, because its green equivalent (to be logged soon) is one of my very favourite pestos of all time. The tomato version doesn’t quite reach the same heights, but it’s still a very respectable offering.

Asda Extra Special Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Asda Extra Special Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.

The tomato taste in this pesto is nice and rich, and it feels like a luxury option. The only thing I would change is that it’s a little too oily – I would hold up the Sacla equivalent (also to be logged soon) as the gold standard for oil level in a tomato pesto, while most supermarket luxury range pestos such as this one tend to go with the ‘floating in oil’ effect. It doesn’t spoil the taste though!

A very different type of pesto next time.

2020 Pestos #1: Tesco Red Pesto

We move onto a new year of food reviewing, and in 2020 I decided to log pestos. Pasta and pesto is my very favourite food and I still eat it multiple times a week (I need the carbs for all the running I do!). I do tend to stick to my favourites, though, so it was good to branch out a bit last year and try new versions. This actually became a necessity during the early ‘hoarding’ phase of the pandemic – at that point, you just had to grab what you could get when it came to food in jars!

The first pesto of the year, though, came at a time when barely anybody in the UK was batting an eyelid about coronavirus. I had this Tesco Red Pesto for my birthday lunch on 3rd January 2020 – I was still in Edinburgh so it would have been a jar that Mum and Dad happened to have in their cupboard.

Tesco Red Pesto
Tesco Red Pesto.

This is one of these supermarket pestos that has a slightly weaker taste – it tastes more like a standard processed tomato pasta sauce (perhaps one on the richer end, like the Loyd Grossman pasta sauces) than a pesto. As such, if I had this again I would add some parmesan to give it a bit more flavour.

Nice light option though!

2019 Pizzas #29: Dad’s Famous Hogmanay Pizza

I knew, when I decided to log pizzas on the blog for 2019 at the end of 2018 (a year in which I logged ciders, but now knew I would not be continuing to do so due to my decision to stop drinking alcohol), that the last pizza in the log would be Dad’s homemade pizza that he makes every Hogmanay. I also knew that it would be the best pizza I ate all year, because it is (and continues to be) the best pizza I have ever eaten.

A few notes about this pizza:

  • I always knew I would learn to make it myself at some point because it’s an important family recipe, but I did not expect that I would not end up posting this blog until after I had indeed made one myself for the first time.
  • I took pictures of the 2019 edition, but accidentally deleted them (this is NOT something that usually happens with me – I’m normally very careful about keeping all my photos!) so the pictures in this post are from other years instead.
Hogmanay pizza
Sitting ‘patiently’ with Grandad while Dad made the pizza, 1986.
Hogmanay pizza
Mum and Dad enjoying the spoils, 1995.
Hogmanay pizza
A whole pizza to myself, 2002…
Hogmanay pizza
…and again, 2005. In those days I used to eat the pizza earlier in the evening and then head out for a long night on the tiles! It was a great stomach liner in the days when I still had to worry about such things…
Hogmanay pizza
Dough rolling, 2009.
Hogmanay pizza
A perfect slice, 2018.
Hogmanay pizza
Dee’s famous Hogmanay pizza? Had to make it myself in 2020.
  • The basic recipe is in a 1979 cookbook that Dad has always used (‘The Art of Cooking’), but he learnt the best technique from some Italian friends-of-friends back in the early ’80s.
  • I brought about fifteen schoolfriends back to the house on Hogmanay 2000 when we were doing our alcohol-fuelled rounds of each other’s houses, just so they could all experience the brilliance of Dad’s Hogmanay pizza. Many of them still talk about it more than twenty years later.

The sauce is the absolute taste of Hogmanay for me. Since learning how to cook it myself, I’ve adapted some of the techniques when making pasta sauce. Toppings-wise you can have whatever you want, though for me it’s always been mostly peppers since I went veggie in 1999. The dough is thick and filling, though not filling enough that I don’t manage at least four large slices every Hogmanay!

I’m actually quite surprised that, in the end, I only ate twenty-nine distinct pizzas during a calendar year. I clearly have my recurring favourites.

A new food series for 2020 starts in a couple of weeks. I’m only one year behind now!

2019 Pizzas #28: Nkd Pizza Garden Party

You might notice we’ve skipped #27. It’s another pizza that’s missing a picture! Thankfully it’s one that I will almost certainly have again, so I’ll catch up with the log at some point.

We’re into the last few days of 2019 now, and today’s entry is a pizza that I had during a boardgaming break when spending time with friends in Edinburgh. On this occasion we ordered from Nkd Pizza in Morningside, which has since unfortunately closed down.

Nkd Pizza
Nkd Pizza Garden Party… or the empty box after the eating, at any rate.

I’m glad I did get to sample this pizza while the Edinburgh branches were still open. (Most remaining branches appear to be in the ‘southern north’* of England – there’s apparently a branch in Burnley of all places, so I may be able to sample this pizza again next time I’m visiting the in-laws in Colne!)

The pizza was just the right size, which is more difficult to get right than it sounds. Too-big pizzas usually result in overeating on my part because I don’t see the point in saving the rest for next-day reheating when there’s only a slice or two left. Too-small pizzas, on the other hand, are unsatisfying. This one was perfect… for my particular appetite on that day, at any rate! It was really tasty too.

*A term that perhaps only makes sense if you live in north-east England or Cumbria. The endlessly interesting thing I have learnt from my nearly ten years of living in England (at the two extremes of the country) is that English people generally consider ‘the north’ to be everything north of where they are and ‘the south’ to be everything south of where they are. Growing up, I was often told by my Lancastrian relatives that southerners erroneously considered ‘the north’ to be anything north of Watford; when I lived in Southampton, I was fascinated to find that the opposite was also true, i.e. that northerners erroneously considered ‘the south’ to be anything south of Sheffield. As a result, the entire swathe of England between Watford and Sheffield falls into what I call ‘Schrodinger’s England’: simultaneously north and south at the same time.

2019 Pizzas #26: Chicago Town Tomato Stuffed Crust Takeaway Loaded Cheese

If I could digress with regards to a 2021 pizza for a minute: recently I have been enjoying Chicago Town Deep Pan Four Cheese mini pizzas for brunch, as I am intermittent fasting again. I break my fast at 2pm and a mini pizza feels like a nice substantial thing to eat at that point. It has the same delicious tomato sauce as this 2019 example, which was a much larger pizza with a few more bells and whistles.

Chicago Town Tomato Stuffed Crust Takeaway Loaded Cheese
Chicago Town Tomato Stuffed Crust Takeaway Loaded Cheese.

This pizza didn’t come with any vegetable toppings, so I put peppers on before it went in the oven, like I often do with plainer margherita-type styles.

What was great about this one was that the delicious tomato sauce is contained in the stuffed crust as well as in the topping! I usually find cheese stuffed crust to be a bit heavy, and so this was a much nicer alternative.

I’m not eating that many large oven pizzas at the moment (need to get rid of that lockdown weight first!) but I will probably go hunting for this pizza again at some point.

2019 Pizzas #25: Balti Masters Vegetarian Pizza

It’s great to be back logging 2019 pizzas… in 2021 😒

Those of you who’ve been paying attention will notice that I have skipped over #23 and #24. This was because they were both café pizzas that I forgot to take pictures of. I hoped to be able to return to said cafés and order the pizzas again in order to rectify this (despite one of the cafés being in London and the fact that I don’t remember its name… I’m ever optimistic!) but then PANDEMIC, and I’ve no idea when I’m going to be able to eat out in cafés again or even if the cafés in question have survived this horrible period, so it’s time I moved on. After all, I’ve got two whole new food series to post about for 2020 and 2021, and it’d be nice if I could be up to date with those by the end of this year. Maybe one day I’ll be able to log those missing pizzas.

Anyway, here’s a nice takeaway pizza that I discovered in November 2019.

Balti Masters pizza
I’m so hungry just looking at this!

Geth’s family were visiting, and we needed a nice easy takeaway meal with lots of options, so we went for Balti Masters, which offers various Indian food, kebabs, pizzas and other things. I had the vegetarian pizza, and it was really filling with a lovely sauce – really good quality, which you don’t always get with multi-food-type takeaway places.

We ended up ordering from there a few times in 2020 too, as it’s a good go-to when Geth fancies an Indian takeaway.

2019 Pizzas #22: Sainsbury’s Classic Crust Veggie Delight

Geth and I have been eating far more oven pizzas than we should during this lockdown. They’re just… easy, on days when I don’t have the mental energy to do some proper cooking. I am trying really hard to do enough running to burn them off again!

One of our go-to pizzas at the moment is the Classic Crust Veggie Delight from Sainsbury’s, which is really substantial. Our local Sainsbury’s started stocking them last autumn, which is when I first tried this one.

Sainsbury's Classic Crust Veggie Delight
Sainsbury’s Classic Crust Veggie Delight.

The toppings are really nice and fresh-tasting. They do, however, have a tendency to fall to one side of the pizza when in the packaging, so the best thing is to give it a bit of a shake before you take the shrink off! I also put occasional extra olives on, although this tends to contribute to the ‘overloaded toppings’ issue you often get with Sainsbury’s pizzas.

The base is deep and fluffy and filling, so you’re certainly not going to feel hungry again any time soon. A great teatime pizza… especially if you’ve got time the next morning to go for a long run and make use of those carbs!

2019 Pizzas #21: Sainsbury’s Wood-Fired Chargrilled Peppers, Courgettes, Olives & Pesto Pizza

That is a long, fancy name for a pizza. Does it deserve it? Well…

Sainsbury's Wood-Fired Chargrilled Peppers, Courgettes, Olives & Pesto Pizza
Sainsbury’s Wood-Fired Chargrilled Peppers, Courgettes, Olives & Pesto Pizza.

First of all, I have to say that the pesto on this pizza is really nice. I’m a bit of a pesto addict when it comes to pasta, but I’m slightly wary of it on pizza because it can sometimes make the overall taste a bit rich. Not so here – it really complements the flavours.

The Mediterranean vegetables, however, can be a bit overpowering. This is partly because the pizza suffers from a common ‘Sainsbury’s pizza’ problem of the toppings being a bit overloaded and hence acting as a giant salad on top of your pizza. However, the whole thing is still pretty tasty, and I’ve had it regularly since I first tried it last autumn.