Hello again, lovely people . I was jolly busy this past weekend, making pizzas for a big-ish group of really jovial, old people – most of them were over the age of 65 so of course I couldn’t make the pizza base as crispy as I usually would – even so, it went down a real treat. I’ve even got requests to make a lot more next time – eek! I’ll need another set of hands for that but I’ll deal with it when the time comes. For now, here’s my first recipe on this blog.
For the pizza dough:
- 3 1/4 cup plain flour (I use wholewheat flour too. You could also use Doppio zero/Double zero/00 flour if you want to roll like that).
- approx. 375ml warm (not hot) water
- 1 tsp sugar (to feed the yeast)
- A sachet (10grams) of instant active dry yeast
- 3 Tablespoons Olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- Optional: dried herbs
- 2 x cans of Pomodoro tomatoes (pureed with a blending stick) or 2 x cans chopped tomatoes
- Lots of fresh basil and oregano (I dry herbs at home so I always have a back-up if I can’t get fresh).
- Sprig or two of fresh thyme
- 1/2 red pepper finely chopped
- As much fresh garlic as you like (I roast a handful of cloves in the oven at 180 degrees celsius for around 10 minutes – makes for incredible flavour).
- 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
- Sugar to taste (You can also use a little honey or whichever sweet substitute you’d prefer).
- Optional: 1 or 2 roasted yellow or red peppers, peeled and de-seeded
- 2 TBL spoons tomato paste
- 1 TBL spoon Olive oil for frying
- 1 large red pepper sliced/cut into strips
- 1 large green pepper sliced/cut into strips
- Lots of grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar – whatever tickles your fancy).
- 1-2 punnets mushrooms – sliced & pan-fried with a little garlic & black pepper.
- 4 x roughly chopped up chicken breasts – spiced and pan-friend with shop-bought tikka sauce, BBQ spice, garlic, and a little portuguese chicken spice.
- Fresh or dried herbs
To make the dough:
Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and make a well. Add the dry yeast and any herbs if you are using them. Add the olive oil to the warm water and pour into the well. Grab a fork and roughly bring the flour into the centre and start incorporating. Dust your counter or work surface with flour, tip the roughly mixed dough out and start kneading it. Use some elbow-grease and work the dough really good for about 5 minutes. Pull and stretch the dough in opposite directions with the ‘heels’ of your hand (the part on the inside of your hand just above the wrists) until your dough looks smooth and lump-free. Put your delicious-smelling dough ball in a lightly greased bowl (so that it doesn’t stick to the sides when it rises) and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour or two or until it has doubled in size.
*What I do to speed up the process: Before I start making my dough, I put my oven on 60/70 degrees celsius for around 10 minutes,switch it off again and then leave the oven to cool for a bit. When my dough is done, I just stick it it in the oven to rise and it’s usually doubled in size just after an hour.
To make your own yummeh tomato sauce:
Add the Olive oil to a medium-size pot placed on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and half of the amount of garlic you are using. Saute lightly for a few minutes and avoid browning the onions. Add the chopped fresh and/or roasted peppers, grind in some black pepper and add your sprig/s of thyme. Cook for 5-10 minutes and then add all your pureed and chopped tomato. Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on at an angle so some of the liquid can cook away. Make sure to stir every few minutes to avoid burning and sticking. Add tomato paste and remove from the heat to cool for 5 minutes. Tear your basil leaves and fresh oregano and add to the cooling mixture. Throw in your remaining garlic, whip out your stick blender and blits until smooth and velvety-looking. OK, now you want to put the sauce through a strainer to remove all the seeds and herb stalks etc – it makes a huge difference to the quality of the sauce so try not to skip this step. (I use my baking sieve and a wooden spoon to strain out the smooth pulp). Once all your sauce has been strained, pop it back on the stove for 5 minutes so that the freshly-blended herbs release their oils and infuse the sauce with their flavour. Add garlic, sugar and salt until you are happy – just keep tasting as you go along. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. You can make this sauce in advance and keep it in the fridge for a day or two or even freeze it before using.
To make a spicy Chicken Tikka topping:
Get your pan hot on a medium-high heat. Add a little oil, your chopped up chicken breasts, garlic and your dry spices. Fry for a few minutes until the chicken’s almost done and then add about a 1/4 cup of your tikka sauce of choice. (I use Steers Tikka sauce – it totally hits the spot for me every single time, so no need to re-invent the wheel). Cook for a further 5 minutes or until your chicken is cooked through and your sauce has reduced to a point where it sticks to the chicken (instead of sitting at the bottom of the pot). You want the chicken to be really, friggin flavourful.
Putting your pizza together:
Once you’ve done all the prep work like cutting up the peppers and veg, frying the mushrooms and cooking the tikka chicken, you’re going to start working with your dough – which should have doubled in size by now. Knock the dough down and divide it in into four even-ish portions. Start with one portion on a floured surface and roll out quite thinly (around 3 or 4mm thick) to desired shape – round or rectangular. (You can get four decent-sized rectangular pizza bases out of this dough). I went with rectangular this time as I wanted to cut the pizza up into neat little squares. Just go with your own flow. Once it’s rolled out, transfer to a generously floured baking sheet and lightly prick the surface to stop the dough from rising too much when baking.
Next, add a big dollop of your homemade tomato sauce and spread evenly around the base.
Now you need to pre-bake your pizza/s for 5 minutes at 220 degrees celsius. Here are all of mine pre-baked and ready for the toppings.
OK, it’s time to assemble your pizza! Get all your topping ingredients together and go ballistic with them. I like to add a little cheese first, then my toppings and then finish with another little sprinkle of cheese to ‘glue’ the toppings to the base. That way you’ll have less yummy goodness falling off the pizza while you’re cutting and serving it. Oh- and eating it too.
Almost there, guys. Once your colourful toppings have been added, bake your pizza in the middle of the oven for another 5-7 minutes at 220 degrees celsius. If you want just a little extra grilled-cheese effect, put your oven on grill for 1 or 2 minutes and keep watching your pizza until you are happy with it (and you can’t resist any longer). Remove your pizza from the oven and let cool for a bit – if you can!
Next, cut your warm pizza into squares and enjoy!