Firstly, here’s my basic pizza dough recipe.
Basic pizza dough
Makes two square pizzas that fill a 33cm square tray
- 350g strong plain flour (but bog standard plain flour will do if that’s all you have in the cupboard)
- 2 teaspoons dried instant action yeast (I use Allinson’s in a small green tin)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Warm water – 200-250ml
- A sprinkle of semolina (to stop the pizza sticking to the baking tray)
Put the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil in a mixing bowl and add the water gradually mixing with your fingers. You want to bring the mixture together into a fairly wet dough – you may not need the whole 250ml. If you add too much, and the dough is too sticky to work with just sprinkle on a little more flour.
Tip the dough on to the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Ideally you should knead for at least 10 minutes but I have little patience and am usually in a rush so it tends to be more like three and the results are just fine.
Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film, and rest for at least 1 ½ hours (although 2 hours is better).
After this time take off the cling film and give the dough a good punch to knock out the air. Transfer to the work surface, knead lightly for a few seconds and divide into two (as this recipe is enough for two bases).
Rolling out the base can be tricky as pizza dough is very elastic. It resists being stretched and wants to spring back so this part can feel like treading water. My technique (which seems to work) is to stretch the dough carefully with my hands first before using the rolling pin. When you have made a round of about 20 cm by pulling in all directions with your hands, liberally flour your work surface and a rolling pin and roll the disk until the dough is really thin and large enough to fill your baking tray. Repeat the process with the second portion so that you have two bases.
Saturday night starter – Plain pizza bread with broad bean hummus
Plain pizza bread
Set your oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 270oC) and place a flat, square tray into the oven to heat up. Take the hot tray out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina. Then, (using the basic pizza dough recipe above) place the rolled out pizza base onto the tray and drizzle with olive oil and a good sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Bake until golden and crispy (about 8-10 minutes), then cut into rectangular slices.
Note: For garlic pizza bread (great for parties), follow the steps above but brush on 3 cloves of crushed garlic 1 minute before the pizza is done (don’t put the garlic on from the start otherwise it will burn).
Last night, to go with the plain pizza bread, I made a seasonal broad bean hummus which is adapted from Nigella’s broad bean bruschetta recipe in her ‘Feast’ book. The original recipe uses mint and parmesan, but I use marjoram instead of mint and omit the cheese which I think overtakes the lovely fresh flavour of the beans. Nigella also uses young broad beans but I think this recipe works fine with older beans (like mine) as long as you briefly boil them first.
Broad bean hummus
- Broad beans
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
Remove the broad beans from their pods and then boil them in a pan of water for about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. You then need to remove the outer shell from each bean. This is does take a little while but I find it quite therapeutic.
You can either smash up the beans by hand in a pestle and mortar (my preference) or in a blender.
Add the other ingredients to taste, it’s really difficult to provide exact amounts here because it will depend on the amount of prepared broad beans you have. The trick is to add the additional flavours little by little (you can always add more but can’t take away) and keep tasting. I like quite a lot of garlic and a good helping of salt.
The main course – Plebs pizza
We’ve had a bumper year for sweetcorn at the allotment (and, unlike previous years, the rats haven’t arrived to steal it all) so we’re able to do more with it than just ‘corn on the cob’.
And what does my husband dream of when thinking of this lovingly tendered, mellow yellow, sweet deliciousness but a ‘chicken and sweetcorn ‘ pizza! And this is where I rant on a bit because I’m a pizza purist and it’s rarely more than the lightest smear of tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil for me. I can’t stand those take-away pizza establishments that think the more you cram on the better, and some of the bizarre topping combinations (steak and broccoli!!!) leave me just plain baffled.
Still, I like to keep my husband happy and so last night chicken and sweetcorn pizza it was. And, I hate to say it but it was actually OK (especially after a very large gin and tonic).
If you’re not a pizza snob like me and you want to try it for yourself this is what I did.
First set your oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 270oC) and place a flat, square tray into the oven to heat up. Take the hot tray out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina. Then (using the basic pizza dough recipe above) place the rolled out pizza base onto the tray.
Smear the base with some tomato passata (I sometimes make my own, but was lazy and used the ready-made stuff in a carton), sprinkle on the chicken*and sweetcorn** sparingly. Then slice a packet of mozzarella cheese (170g ball) thinly and place evenly on top. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the base is crisp and the cheese is melted and browned. Serve with beer (in our case a wonderful bottle of Harvest Pale Ale from our local Castle Rock brewery).
*For the chicken I chopped half a chicken breast up into small pieces (about 1 cm square) and marinated for an hour with garlic, crushed fennel seeds, olive oil and salt and then fried quickly in a frying pan just so that it would definitely be cooked through once it had been finished off on the pizza in the oven.
**For the sweetcorn I boiled one cob for three minutes and then cut the corn from the cob with a sharp knife. I was surprised that you could actually taste the sweeter flavour of the fresh sweetcorn but I’m sure using tinned or frozen sweetcorn wouldn’t make too much difference.
Preferably though, leave off the chicken and sweetcorn, make a proper tomato passata from scratch and just use mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of good olive oil.