I’ve been meaning to post about pizzas for a while now. As a child I can remember a food highlight in our house was Saturday evenings as it was the only evening we were allowed to have dinner in the living room, watching TV, and we usually had homemade pizza, made by my mum which the whole family loved. Alas my mum doesn’t make her own pizzas anymore, she buys frozen ones and adds some extra toppings. I can’t complain as she did make pizzas for us all those years ago, and virtually every Saturday night! I guess she’s earned her break from pizza making.
Perhaps I’ve taken over her mantel, I am sure my sisters have too. Quite often when we have friends over it’s a pizza night, sometimes I want to make something different but they seem popular, one friend says he dreams about them! I’m not sure they’re that good but what I think is a key in their success is the social nature of making pizzas in an open kitchen whith your friends around and everyone sharing them, it’s kind of kitchen theatre.
I start off with making the sauce. I take about 1kg of ripe tomatoes and blanch them in boiling water so the skin spits when they are cool enough I peel them and discard and hard parts from the centre. then I fry a large red onion (chopped finely) and then add a few cloves of crushed garlic. Once these are part cooked I add the tomatoes, there’s usually quite a bit of juice, and a few bay leaves and some oregano or mixed dried herbs and some salt and pepper. If there are no kids having the pizza I add about 1/2 tsp of chilli powder too. I once had a riot on my hands when I was cooking pizza for my nieces and some friends’ kids and one of the kids said their pizza was spicy, all the kids chimed in and refused to eat anything despite the fact they do eat quite spicy food and the sauce was pretty mild. You never know with children what will set them off. I simmer this coved for about 15 mins so the tomatoes soften and begin to break down then cook with the lid off until most of the liquid has evaporated. I then allow this to cool and remove the bay leaves. This should give you enough sauce for 3 – 4 large pizzas.
Next I make the dough. I use the same recipe as I use for my focaccia bread, but sometimes I substitute some of the plain flour for whole meal flour (about 50g). This will make enough dough for 3 large pizzas. If you have some left you can keep it for a pasta sauce, bruschetta or more pizza!
You’ll need to preheat you oven as hot as it will go, about 225-250 degrees C. I have a pizza stone which helps make a crisp base and I put this in the centre / top half of the oven and allow it to heat up, ideally for at least 15 mins after the oven reaches the desired temperature. I usually start by making a garlic bread pizza for people to snack on, this is some people’s favourite, it’s really crispy. For this I crush a couple of cloves of garlic and add some fresh rosemary or some dried herbs and some ground sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and about 3-4 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. I roll out a third of my dough so it’s about 14 inches round (that’s the size of my pizza stone) and then I take the stone out of the oven and put it on a thick chopping board, it’s really hot! I put the dough onto the stone and it should start cooking straight away. I quickly spread over the garlic olive oil mixture and put the pizza in the oven as quickly as possible. It will take about 10 mins to cook to a golden brown. This a great appetizer with drinks.
Yesterday I next made a kid’s margarita pizza. My friend’s son Jules is a very fussy eater but he does like margarita pizza. I got him involved in making it too, no free lunch here! One thing to remember is to allow your oven and pizza stone heat up for at least 10 minutes between each pizza, longer if your guest will allow, and put your topping on as quick as you can and get the pizza in the oven. You are not creating a masterpiece, it will be gone in a few minutes! Also roll the dough out thin. I often use whole meal flour on the pin and the surface when rolling out my pizzas.
We kept this one really plain, a classic margarita with tomatoes sauce and mozzarella cheese. When I guess I use about 120-150g of cheese per pizza (I’ve never weighed it, but I think a 500g block does 3-4 pizzas). The pizzas will take 10-15 mins to cook depending how hot your oven is.
Next up was an adults’ pizza. It’s one of may favourites, Pizza Florentina, with spinach and eggs, I added mushrooms with I part cooked on a griddle pan first. The tricks with this are firstly to leave space in the toppings for the eggs and secondly to part cook the pizza (for about 10 mins) without the eggs so that the eggs don’t get over cooked, the yolks should still be runny.
Cook for another 5 minutes until the egg whites are cooked. I finished this off with some truffle oil and black pepper.
By the time this was cooked the kids were eating dessert so I had two pieces of pizza left which I had for my breakfast and lunch today. Three meals in one pizza!
I often make coleslaw when I make pizza, mum did too when we were kids. I just chop up white cabbage and some onion finely and grate in some carrot and mix with half mayo and half yoghurt. I usually also have chilli oil to serve with pizzas. I have a bottle with some olive oil and a few dried chillies marinating in it, make it as spicy as you like. The longer you leave it the spicier it gets so make it a few days before your pizza night. Here are a few more pizza ideas from previous pizza nights.
White pizza with spinach, asparagus & ricotta.
White pizza with asparagus and blue cheese.
‘Copy’ pizza prep by my sister Lucy!