Pizza

Pizza cake

pizzacake

Today I made this birthday cake for a friend who loves pizza. It was very easy and came out quite well so I thought I’d share with you how I did it.

Pizza cake

  • The base is just a standard cake mix (see here for a basic recipe) cooked in a 23cm circular tin for 35 minutes.
  • The tomato sauce is icing sugar mixed with a little water and red gel food colouring (I also added some raspberry puree but you don’t have to).
  • The cheese is grated white chocolate.
  • The olives are black fondant icing, rolled thinly and cut out with tiny circular cutters.
  • The pepperoni is made from Kelloggs fruit wind ups scrunched up into a ball, rolled out flat and then cut with a circular cutter.
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Lamb flatbreads (Lahmacun)

Lahmacun

Lamb flatbreads (or Turkish pizza as they are sometimes called) are my new obsession. They are aromatic but not too spicy and great if you love pizza but can’t eat diary like my two sisters Gemma and Laura.

So this recipe, my lovely sisters, is for you. PS. That means that you’ve got to try it (said in a bossy older sister voice).

A little lamb mince goes a very long way in this recipe ,which is good because it’s very expensive these days (said in my best old lady’s voice).

Lamb flatbreads

Makes 4 flatbreads, roughly 28 cm square, to feed 2-6 adults (depending on appetite)

Base

  • 350g strong white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Water to mix (200 – 250ml)
  • A sprinkling of semolina

Topping

  • 300g of lean minced lamb (buy the best quality you can)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 2 tinned plum tomatoes, drained and finely chopped, or use two fresh ones
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 4 small green chillies, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • lemon wedges to serve

To prepare the topping simply add all the topping ingredients into a bowl and mush up with your hands until everything is incorporated. I like to leave the mixture for a few hours to allow the flavours to mingle but you don’t have to do this.

For the pizza base 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 10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film, and rest for 2 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the flatbreads 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 your dough and give it a good punch to knock out the air. Transfer to the work surface, knead lightly for a few seconds and divide into four.
Roll the first portion of dough out as thinly as you can without getting holes (this will be somewhere between 25 and 30 cm square).

Take the hot tray out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina. Transfer your rolled out dough to the baking sheet and spread a couple of handfuls of the lamb mixture thinly over the base with your hands as evenly as you can.

Bake the flatbreads for 6-8 minutes until the edges are brown and crispy.

Remove from the oven sprinkle over some sea salt and serve with wedges of lemon to be squeezed over the top just before eating.

Repeat the process with the other 3 portions (this is where you feel a bit like a pizza slave but I assure you it’s worth it).

NOTE: An Iraqi friend of mine made me something similar using ready-made tortillas so this is an option if you don’t have the time or the inclination to make pizza dough from scratch.

You will probably find that you have a handful of topping left over. It’s not really worth scaling down the quantities so you can make it into little meat balls or fry up with some left over rice and an egg which is especially delicious and a winner with my children.

my sisters copy

My sisters.

Pizza with courgette

griddled courgettes

Sorry but I’m having a lazy August blog-wise – this is mainly due to the children being off for the school holidays which means I just don’t have the head space for writing anything. Despite this though I just had to take the time to tell you about a new food revelation of mine.

I while ago, when searching for courgette recipes on the internet, I read about a type of Italian pizza with zucchini as a topping.  I dismissed the idea at the time because I thought it sounded horrid. I imagined watery, anaemic looking courgettes making the dough go all soggy. But I recently made a griddled courgette salad to go with a margarita pizza (I had no other salad items in my fridge and was drowning in a sea of them) and realised that if you piled the courgettes on top of the cooked pizza it actually tasted very, very nice indeed.

So for anyone with a glut of courgettes, I urge you to try this.

Griddled courgettes

Cut several medium courgettes into slices length-ways as finely as you can without chopping off your fingers. Season with salt and pepper and brush each slice on both sides with olive oil. Then place on a griddle pan over a very high heat for about 5 minutes each side (or until soft and slightly scorched).

When cooked place in a bowl and cover with cling film. When you are ready to serve drizzle over a little olive oil and lemon juice (you may also need a touch of extra salt and pepper), then toss around in the bowl so that the flavours mingle.

pizza

I wrote about homemade pizza nearly a year ago now in my post ‘Basic pizza dough and two ways to use it for a Saturday night tea‘ but if you missed it here’s a recap.

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 which comes 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).

Assembling and cooking the pizza

Set your oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 270oC) and place two flat, square trays in the oven to heat up.

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.

Place the rolled out pizza bases onto two heated baking trays.

Smear the bases with some tomato passata (I sometimes make my own, but when lazy use the ready-made stuff in a carton). Tear up some basil leaves or drizzle over some pesto, then slice two packets of mozzarella cheese (170g balls) 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 the pizza with the griddled courgettes on the side but eat together as below.

pizza with courgette

Basic pizza dough and two ways to use it for a Saturday night tea

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
  • Marjoram
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

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 ingredient, just picked.

The main ingredient, just picked.

broad beans out of their pods

Broad beans removed from their pods.

Smash it up.

Smash it up.

The end result with plain pizza bread.

The end result with plain pizza bread.

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.

The abomination.

The abomination.