It's fair to say, that some days are considerably better than others.
Take Tuesday. An invitation to Gino D'Acampo's home to cook pizza and have lunch with my favourite chef off the telly-box. And when he poured me a huge glass of prosecco and told me to make myself at home, frankly I don't think I could have been happier.
We were there to try out his new range of fresh pizza dough bases, the Bake With Me range which is launching exclusively at Asda next week.
I'm happy to report that unlike some celebrities who turn out to be massively disappointing in the flesh, the Italian Stallion is exactly like he is on the TV (I was hooked watching him on I'm a Celebrity and did a little whoop when he as crowned king of the jungle). He's warm, welcoming, charming, funny, incredibly cheeky and smells utterly divine. He's not dumb though. That's definitely a bit of an act. Far from it, he's a man full of integrity and is very astute.
As a celebrity chef he admitted to being inundated with offers every week to endorse product ranges and develop pasta sauces and other foods. But as someone who's earned his living through trying to encourage people to cook and experiment with food, he wasn't prepared to just stick his (albeit lovely) face on a jar.
An awful lot of consideration and thought has gone into developing the Bake With Me range with Highgrove Foods. He's remained true to his roots, coming up with an authentic Italian product, which encourages family participation in the cooking process as well as the mealtime as a whole. He loves the idea of busy parents being able to engage with their kids to come up with pizza creations, but without the hassle and mess of mixing the dough.
The bases come ready rolled on a greaseproof sheet, meaning you simply have to unwrap them, place the paper sheet on the baking tray, top with whatever your heart desires, and pop in the oven for around 15 minutes. No mess, during prep and no washing up after.
You can purchase the Bake With Me products either as a kit with a jar of delicious tomato and herb sauce, or just as the dough base. The 400g family base unrolls to a large rectangle which will fit easily onto your oven tray. This would be perfect for feeding the three of us - we can divide it up and have different toppings to suit and served up with a hearty bowl of salad it makes the perfect weekday meal. There's also a thin and crispy base if you prefer your pizza that way.
Gino chose to top his simply with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil on the thin and crispy, and tomato, mozzarella and parma ham on the family pizza. Both tasted sublime. Light and crispy, not too greasy or floury as mine sometimes turn out when I make from scratch.
The products have a fridge life of around 2 weeks, so they're ideal to pick up on the weekly shop and keep in the fridge for when you want a quick and tasty meal - you've always got something in the fridge to add to a pizza right?
Gino's top tips for the perfect pizza are:
- Leave about a finger's width border for the crust
- Brush the border lightly with olive oil to prevent burning
- Add delicate ingredients such as fresh herbs and parma ham only in the last couple of minutes of cooking
- Less is more on a pizza - choose only one or two good quality toppings for the perfect pizza
The dough is versatile too, so you can use it to make dough balls, garlic bread, or his kid's favourite - this totally delicious Nutella and banana creation. Simply spread Nutella thickly onto the dough, then top with sliced banana. Roll and cut into slices before baking in the oven. It was sweet, gooey, tasted utterly divine and would make a fabulous weekend breakfast.
The Bake With Me range launches in Asda on 4th October and is priced at just £2 for the kit with sauce or £1.50 for the base - a total bargain for a little taste of Gino!
Special thanks to Tots100 for arranging the event, to Highgrove foods and to Gino for welcoming me into his home.