It wasnt all that long ago, I’m afraid to say, I only really ate pizza if it had meat on it (ham, salami, prosciutto – that sort of thing). Without it, it just didn’t seem enough somehow, even in the most caricatured of Italian pizzerias . I suppose I saw it the same way I view low alcohol-beer, skimmed milk or that chemistry lab low-fat ‘butter’. Pale imitations of what they could be.
But then we did a vegetarian January this year when, admittedly hand forced by a limited choice, I plumped for a simple stone baked Margherita at an Italian restaurant. It was a decent place and therefore I assume, decent ingredients, which no doubt helped, but I was proven very wrong. So much so that I don’t honestly think I’ve ordered a meat pizza since. I loved the simplicity of it.
We don’t eat, nor make pizza too often at home as it’s a bit of a lengthy process having to prove the dough. And then there’s the mess of course. It less ‘Italian Piazza’ and more ‘Winter Wonderland’ once I’ve finished. But it’s a simple pleasure to make once in a while.
Last Saturday, with Helen out shopping with her Mother and an arse-whooping against the All Blacks in the rugby coming on the TV soon, I took the opportunity to make some bread and whilst I was making a mess anyway, thought I’d sneak some pizza into the equation at the same time. Consolation for what was to come, I reasoned.
I was inspired by the Pizzetta in my excellent Polpo cookbook for these, particularly the potato topped version that I made with
Bour garlic and herb soft cheese, which I preferred. Both were good though. It made a change not to use a tomato base to be honest, it allowed the other flavours to come through a bit.
I won’t go into the dough recipe, it’s everywhere, but I use the usual ratios of 500g strong flour, 300g water (70%), 10g salt (2%) and a sachet of yeast and a good lug of olive oil
Once the dough is ready, split into two. Keep one half for bread and split the other into two again. Make a ball, flatten with your fingers then roll them out onto the work surface.
For the ‘Pizza Bianca’ style one:
- 2 new potatoes, thinly sliced and blanched for 4 minutes.
- A few small heads of broccoli, split and blanched with the potato
- 1 smallish red onion, gently fried until soft with some thyme
BoursiNice soft cheese with garlic.
- Rosemary and more thyme
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
For the Roast Pepper version:
- About six-seven small, sweet peppers, roasted and skins removed (plunge in cold water afterwards)
- 1 ball of mozzarella, split apart and as much water removed as possible
- Olive oil
I baked them both using a pizza stone. It was noticeable how much better the second rose than the first, suggesting I hadn’t got the stone hot enough first time. The secret is as hot an oven as possible. Mine goes up to 275°C/530°F which is pretty respectable.
They only take minutes at this temperature.