Pizza? Coming right up!

The Big Lad was off school today with a headache and fever. While he was lying on the sofa this morning, curled up with his book, he started musing to himself about his favourite foods. He wasn’t aware I was listening, even though I was close by repairing a door frame. When he mentioned “pizza“, I decided I could do something to cheer him up. I’d make pizza for tea this evening and he could help if he was feeling better. By late afternoon, he’d improved quite a bit and when I asked if he wanted to help me make pizza he was off the sofa faster than he’d been all day—even if slower than his normal rocket-propelled self.

 I made the dough while he started preparing the ingredients for the tomato sauce and toppings. The dough is a simple one: 400g of strong flour plus extra for working, 275ml of warm water, two tablespoons of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a sachet of yeast. Sprinkle the salt into the flour, add the yeast to a couple of tablespoons of the water and add the oil to the remaining water. Work the yeast into the flour, then the oil and water. When the dough comes together, tip it out onto a floured surface and knead it hard for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle more flour on the board and hands as needed to prevent the dough sticking. Divide the dough in two, then set aside in floured bowls to rise for 1-2 hours (warm kitchens need less time, cool ones like ours need more.)

While the dough was rising, the Big Lad and I worked on the sauce and toppings. As one of the pizzas was going to have peppers and chillies on a tomato sauce, I roasted them over a camp stove before rubbing the skins off. They were then sliced in rings. For the sauce, we crushed 10 cloves of garlic into a frying pan and fried them in olive oil until just golden.

We added one can of chopped tomatoes as they came out of the can and pureed the contents of another before adding that to the pan. (Even cheap canned tomatoes are good as they end up very concentrated.) After that, we added a good pinch of salt, a couple of pinches of sugar, a big dollop of balsamic vinegar, a couple of teaspoons of chopped oregano and a lot of ground black pepper. The sauce was simmered for 45 minutes, until it was thick and unctuous.

Once the sauce was sufficiently reduced, everything was put to one side to wait for tea time and I went outside to do the chores. Twenty minutes before I came in, the Big Lad set the oven to 220ºC as it needs to be right up to temperature. (Ours is a fan oven, conventional ovens may need to be 20ºC hotter.) When I came in, the dough had risen well and only needed a quick knocking back to see it ready for use.

I worked the dough out into large disks with my fingers while the Big Lad brushed the pizza pans with olive oil. When I slapped the bases down, he quickly brushed the tops with a very light coat of oil and we started to apply the fillings.

The first pizza was spread with half the tomato sauce, then topped with anchovies, olives and ground black pepper. I’m a firm believer that less is more when it comes to pizza so that was it.

The second pizza was spread with the remaining sauce, then dotted with rings of green pepper and chillies. We decided to change from red chillies to green ones as we thought they’d look better. Grated mozzarella was sprinkled sparingly over the top.

After 18 minutes in the oven, this was the result: one pizza with peppers and chillies. It’s slightly softer than a pizza baked on a stone, so it’s less messy to eat it with a knife and fork than with fingers. However, fingers are more fun.

One pizza with anchovies and olives. The Big Lad—and the rest of the family— was very pleased with the result, although he did fade a bit once the work and the eating was done. Still, it cheered him enormously. I was tempted to make a potato and rosemary pizza as it’s one of my favourites but that will have to wait for another occasion. So, any suggestions for favourite or interesting toppings?

20 Responses to “Pizza? Coming right up!”

  1. I’ve never heard of leaving your dough to rest in a floured bowl, normally its in an oiled bowl with a damp tea towel over the top so that it doesn’t form a dry crust as its rising. I have found that rather than clean out a bowl and oil it, and then having to dampen a clean tea towel, I place the dough on a clean work surface and flip the bowl over to cover the dough. I don’t have to worry about all of the above then.

    A friend swears by a butternut pizza she has had, I haven’t tried it though. I quite like a plain and simple pizza, having tried a potato, rosemary and garlic pie the other day which was made from bread dough, I can see how it would be one of your favourites, it was delicious.

    • It’s how Italian friends make their pizzas, so I’ve just followed suit. They wipe the mixing bowl, dust it with flour, pop the dough back in and cover it with a cloth. It works and there’s less cleaning to do.

      With a potato pizza, you lay thin slices of potato over the dough, drizzle them with oil, scatter rosemary and sliced of garlic over the top, and bake. Magnificent.

  2. I had never heard of potato pizza before. Sounds like something I would like. The first pizza will give me nightmares! Ugh…
    The peppers…mmmmmm.
    Both look so good though. I like feta and chicken for a change.

    • Greek cheese on pizza? Hmm. Mind you, the Romans were heavily influenced by the Greeks so there’s probably a historic link there somewhere.

      And other countries do have their equivalents to pizza—when I visited Belgium I spotted a pizza-type dish topped with onions and crème fraîche. I didn’t try it, but I have had onion pizza. It’s very simple: a pizza base covered with a thick layer of sweet onions, olive oil and a lot of pepper. Delicious.

      I just remembered the Maltese had their own take on pizza, too. Obviously, there is a very strong Italian influence at work but they spin it in their own direction. I remember eating one made with rabbit and broad beans, while another had heavily spiced sausage, ricotta and olives. I might have to try recreating those.

      • Feta is all the rage here in Canada. All the pizza outlets sell feta pizza. Even in the frozen section in stores.

        We make our own though. That onion one sounds wonderful! Rabbit and beans, I don’t know if I would be game for that.

        • I remember the rabbit and broad beans (fava beans in the US) pizza as being very rustic with fairly strong flavours. I can’t remember what the other ingredients were, well, aside from garlic and there was a lot of that. It was the sort of food you could imagine a farmer getting at the end of his day.
          “What have we in the larder: a well-hung rabbit, a crock of beans and strings of garlic. Okay, I guess it will be rabbit and bean pizza, then.” :D

  3. One of our favorites is spinach and mushroom with lots of garlic. Those look delicious!

    • Mushrooms are always good on pizza. Well, they are if you get the other ingredients right. The classic mushrooms and mozzarella with tomato sauce is a good fallback, but I prefer the even more simple garlic, mushrooms and oregano.

      Crush half a dozen garlic gloves into a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and allow them to infuse for a few hours. Brush the dough with half the oil, lay the mushrooms on top, splash the remaining oil and garlic over the top, sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper, and bake.

      As for spinach, try it on pizza with a mixture of ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano (heavy on the ricotta, light on the Parmigiano) plus nutmeg and pepper.

  4. Hi Big Poppa Pizza do you deliver to Liverpool?

  5. Bananas and anchovies are one of my favourite combinations.

  6. I fancy a pizza with a twist of Irish.
    Pizza, tomato sauce. Spinach, Slices of tinned Irish bacon grill, olives topped with Galtee cheese.

  7. pilchard and pineapple is very moreish,
    You can use the sauce from ‘pilchards in tomato’ to help enhance the tomato base sauce,

    • How did you come up with the combination of pilchard and pineapple? It’s not an obvious pairing. Mind you, I remember having a picnic with my Dad once and he served up sardine and banana sandwiches. I can’t remember what it tasted like, but that’s probably just as well.

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