I'm starting to think I'm a bit of a freak. Despite it being well established that I am an absolute omnivore, indeed, there are a few things I love that most people would (rightly) turn away from. But there are a couple of things so universally loved, so adored by just about everyone, that to include them on a 'favourite foods' list would be superfluous akin to including The Beatles on a 'favourite bands' list - yet I am just not bothered about them. Two things. Pizza and Ice Cream.
By rights, I should be in both their fan clubs. I have a sweet tooth. I love creamy things. And yet a tub of ice cream, even the really good stuff, even the home made stuff, can languish, ignored, lonely and forgotten, for months on end in my freezer. On a hot day I'll be glad to get a cone of ice cream, but it will be more a heat-regulating exercise than a food craving.
Similarly pizza. I am a carb fiend. I love bread. I am also a protein fiend, and worship at the altar of cheese. And yet pizza... meh. It would very rarely be my first choice of takeaway. But the thing with pizza is, I like the good stuff (shocker, right?). And by that, I really mean I don't like the bad stuff. And by that, I mean the vast majority of takeaways I've ever had, and a good few of the restaurant pizzas. Overloaded, doughy bases. Cheap meat. Rubbery cheese. That raspy, chemical taste that takes the roof of your mouth off.
We are lucky here in Wellington that we do have one really outstanding pizza place - Pizza Pomodoro. But sometimes, when you are at your market stall on a slow day and have many hours to plan what you want for your tea, your mind overrules your irrational ambivalence to a certain food, you realise that you have most of the ingredients in, and you get overwhelmed by the feeling that most other people get on a fairly regular basis - that what you really, really want for your tea that night is pizza. So glad I did, actually, as this was great. Crispy, without being brittle. Savoury. We could taste every ingredient individually. Absolutely moreish, and very, very addictive.
Yet another bad picture. This was taken very quickly as we couldn't wait to dive in. No time for posed shots.
I used the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall pizza dough from River Cottage Everyday, and was very impressed by how silky it was. Luckily it made enough for 4 servings, so two of them are in my freezer, waiting for the next time I get the craving. Just got to reach past that ice cream...
Saturday Night Pizza
From River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
250g plain white flour
250g strong white flour
10g fine sea salt
1 sachet instant dried yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
Polenta for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
1 can tomatoes, chopped
1 pinch oregano
Squeeze tomato puree
generous pinches salt and sugar, to taste
8 rashers streaky bacon, fried until crisp then drained on paper towels
8 mushrooms, sliced then gently fried in butter and garlic
200g mozzarella, in small pieces
10 slices pickled jalapenos, chopped
First make the dough. Combine the flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer for this). Add 325ml warm water and the olive oil. Knead either by hand or with the dough hook of a mixer for about 10 minutes, until the dough is silky, smooth and elastic.
Wash out the bowl, dry it, rub olive oil around it then put the dough back in, flipping it over a couple of times until the dough is covered slickly with oil. Cover with cling film and put in a warm place (try the airing cupboard, if you have one) for about an hour, until well risen and about doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make your tomato sauce. In a small pan, gently heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and anchovy. When the garlic begins to go slightly golden round the edges, add the tomatoes, chilli, oregano, and tomato puree. Bring it to a bubble, then take it back down to a gentle simmer. Taste, and season well with salt and sugar. Be generous with both.
Preheat the oven to 250c/Gas Mark 10 (really, really hot. Our oven burns hotter than the hob of hell so I should have been making amazing pizza for the last two years). If you are using a pizza stone - absolutely recommended - put it in when the oven is cold, leaving it in there to heat up gradually. Otherwise, put a baking sheet in there to get really hot.
Divide the pizza dough into four even pieces. If you are not using all of them, wrap any leftovers and freeze them. Take one piece and gently roll and stretch it out to a rough circular shape - do not fret, please don't, if it's not perfect. Very little in life is.
When the oven comes to temperature, take the pizza stone out. You need to work quite quickly now. Scatter polenta over the pizza stone to allow the dough to slide off easily. Fold your dough over a rolling pin, and use that to lay it on the stone.
Now the toppings. It took me a few goes to realise that truly, less is more. Take about two or three dessert spoons of your tomato sauce, spreading it quite thinly over the base. Now scatter your bacon, mushrooms and jalapenos over, and finally the mozzarella. Finish with a good grind of black pepper.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden and crispy.
I only have one pizza stone so made one, which we ate, while the second one was cooking. So effectively one each, just in halves.
Serves 4 pizza lovers, newly converted or otherwise.