JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pizza for lunch

Ultimate do-it-yourself convenience food: mix the dough whilst clearing up breakfast, put the tomato sauce on while making a mid-morning cup of coffee, get your son to roll out the dough whilst fishing toppings out of the fridge. Each task took between two and five minutes. This is something we'll be eating again over half term.

We used Doves Farm pasta flour. I thought it was delicious, but Alfred said it had a strong taste, and would prefer it if it didn't. I didn't use much salt, which was fine for me and Lucius, because we had anchovy, but I suspect less good for Lettice and Alfred.

We used virtually all the dough for four pizzas, which was slightly too much. Next time, with that amount of dough for four, I'd pull off a chunk to make dough balls ... we'll be doing that in a day or two, so watch out for the post.

Pizza dough

Mix 600g flour with two teaspoons of dried yeast (out of a tin), a little salt, a slurp of olive oil, and just over 300ml of warm water. Knead, either by hand, or in a machine (I used the Kenwood this morning). Leave in a warm place until you're ready. The minimum would be half an hour, if you were really in a hurry. I left ours for a couple of hours. If I was making it in the morning for an evening meal, then I'd have put it in the fridge until an hour or so before I wanted to use it. In other words, this is a moveable feast, and bread dough is very forgiving. Convenient.

When you're ready, cut the dough into five or six portions, shape into balls, and then roll them out flat on a floured surface. You can use a rolling pin if you like, but the pizza chef at Pizzeria Mama Mia in South Parade, Oxford (the acme of pizza parlours) uses the magic of his fingers, flying through the air.

Pizza toppings

You don't need me to give you a lecture on this subject. But I would like to say that I think less is more with a pizza, definitely better than huge quantities, especially when it comes to tomato sauce. I made a sauce out of five or six fresh tomatoes flavoured with a little red wine vinegar, some salt and sugar, and a pinch of dried herbes de Provence, cooked down for half an hour or so. Everyone added their own favourites:

Lucius had anchovies, a few mushrooms, mozzarella (the unappetising-looking sort that comes in a block, which is fine for cooking), an egg added for the last three minutes of cooking.

Alfred had salami, mushroom and cheese.

Lettice had mushroom and cheese.

I had sultanas (soak them for a couple of minutes in boiling water), capers and pine-nuts, plus the last of the cheese (I don't normally, but I have - alas - that mother's tendency to eat up the leftovers).

These need to go in the hottest oven you can manage. If yours will go as high as 250C, then they'll take five minutes. Mine doesn't (whatever it says), so they take six. This summer Alfred and I are going to build a pizza oven, so that we can have the pleasure of added wood ash.

Abby at eat the right stuff is organising an event called vegetables, beautiful vegetables, to celebrate National Vegetarian Week (ends today) - and this is the closest I can get to vegetarian in this house of keen meat and fish eaters. But at least we tried!


Katie Zeller said...

When I have ripe, summer tomatoes I don't even make a sauce - just slice paper thing and lay them on top!
I love egg on pizza - something unheard of in the U.S. but very popular in Spain and Andorra.

alex said...
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Cottage Smallholder said...

I've been planning to make our own pizzas for months and have never got round to it. Now, inspired by you, I'll nip out and get some pizza flour today.

Thank you.

Joanna said...

Yes, lovely to use slices of tomato - you need a very sharp knife. The traditional thing for egg on a pizza is with wilted spinach, that classic florentine combination ... what do they pair the egg with in Spain and Andorra, I wonder? (btw, if you want to poach the egg on your pizza, go to Cottage Smallholder - ace instructions for perfect poached eggs

Early attempts at pizza in this house were pretty dire - they need to be rolled out thin, I think ... and a very hot oven. But it's such fun getting everyone to do their own topppings that defects can be overlooked. The bakers at A Year In Bread say that the best way to perfect a bread is to make it several times in a row ...


Culinary Cowgirl said...

Fabulous! Homeade of my favorites :)

Anonymous said...

hi joanna - pizza making is such a communal way to approach cooking/eating. it's one of my favourite things to cook with someone else. and thanks for making the effort to be involved with vegetables, beautiful vegetables

Helen said...

I love roasted squash on pizza. With some added rosemary it is sublime.