Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pizza at home

Making your own dough, bringing it to life, feeling it growing in your hands. Picking the tomatoes and the herbs from the garden. Cooking that sauce out to the right consistency slowly and lovingly. Choosing the right cheese at the right time for the right reason. Put all this together with your oven cranked up as high as it'll go and I've fallen back in love with the home made pizza just one more time. Yesterday began with a wee debate over the onion over the shallot. Personally I love both of them, particularly now as when I was an obnoxious child I declared a hatred for the onion, my Gran fixed that by telling me everything I picked out of my food which looked like an onion was actually a leek. Of course I didn't mind leeks so I happily carried on eating while she happily kept feeding me onions. 

There is a time and a place for both, but yesterday the shallot got the edge. I wanted both them and a good quantity of garlic to form the base of my tomato sauce. The toms were sun warmed and perfect to eat as they were, but that extra sweetness only a slowly caramelised shallot can give off was what they needed to make a difference. A bit each of basil, thyme and oregano is all that was added, cooked for easily an hour just plopping away happily.

The tomatoes here are bang at the height of their season, and the varieties I'm pulling out of the garden quite outstanding. So much so that each and every meal this week so far has had to have a tom theme. Even out for dinner the other night I attempted to order a gnocchi dish with slow roasted tomatoes. The gnocchi never showed up and the waiter pretty much argued that I never placed the order in the first place, but that's a whole other story, and kind of confirms how much more satisfying it is when you take care of the cooking yourself. Anyhow, suffice to say, I'd be delighted to have the growing season last as long as possible this year, nowhere near to getting tomato fatigue just yet. 

So, last night was as simple as this. A couple of those toms, roughly cut up, lots of good quality salt flakes and fresh pepper, half a handful of ripped oregano leaves, a good hit of decent olive oil from the Italian place in Arlington and a bit of the pizza dough just smeared with the oil and oregano and slapped in the oven to form a kind of softish flat bread, ripped up and scattered over the salad like you would do croutons. Really so so simple but quite delicious if I do say so myself. 

Then the pizza. Pizza is simply exactly what you want it to be. The base isn't really so difficult, toppings are all about what your mood is. The key really is the heat, and the hotter you have your oven the better chances you have of a true result. 

The one that worked last night was as simple as this. The base - as thin as absolutely possible, even to the point of the dough tearing in a few places, adds to the charm. The sauce - thick and sweet, fresh and still warm from cooking, try not to fridge it, kills off that sunny glow they have when first picked. And the rest - which was a few slices of roasted portobello mushrooms, a few torn basil leaves and a sprinkling of parmesan, perfect.

Quickly, here's an easy pizza dough recipe which will take a maximum of 10 minutes out of your life, don't ever buy a pre cooked base ever again, you have been warned.

Pizza base
Makes enough for 4

500g strong bread flour
2 tsp dried yeast
2 tsp sugar
300 ml lukewarm water
1/2 tsp salt
4 tblsp olive oil

Mix the yeast, sugar and 50ml of the water in a jug, leave for 10 minutes to begin frothing up. Meanwhile, blend together the flour, salt, olive oil and remaining water, forming a dough by gradually drawing the flour into the liquid. Add the yeast water and continue to knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large clean bowl, cover with a damp cloth and place somewhere warm for about an hour until the dough has doubled 

Take the dough on a flour dusted surface and knead it again to push the air out. Ideally now is the time to use it, but will keep happily for a while wrapped tightly in cling film.