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PIZZA NIGHT

Homemade pizza is a fantastic thing to make in your own kitchen. It’s simple, it never gets boring as you can have a different topping every time you make it. Kids love getting involved (you can guarantee they’ll always want strange ingredients on top). It tastes delicious hot out of the oven or even cold the next day. I love making it for weekend lunches or better still, for a Friday night in whilst watching a film with the kids (with plenty of popcorn and icecream to follow).

So, to turn your kitchen into the best local pizzeria around, do not fear, you don’t any special equipment, like a wood burning stove or need to be a champion dough thrower. All you need is a basic dough and simple tomato sauce recipe and you can go from there. Pizzas can be made any shape, all you need is a baking tray or pizza stone if you have one.

I have suggested a number of toppings to serve in your pizzeria, you can of course try your own (keep hold of the numerous menus that no-doubt come through your letterbox if you ever need any inspiration).

 

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

Don’t let the long method put you off – it really is very simple…

Makes about 4 medium sized pizzas (about 28cm diameter), or 12 small calzone.

FinishedPizza.jpg

500g strong white bread flour

2tsp salt 300ml warm water

1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

1tsp caster sugar

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

FLAVOURS TO ADD TO THE DOUGH

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

A large handful of finely grated parmesan

2tsp dried or 2tbsp chopped fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, marjoram, rosemary)

1-2tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1-2tbsp finely chopped olives

METHOD

Stage 1: sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, or onto a clean work surface, and make a well in the middle. Mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the warm water and leave for 5 minutes, then pour into the flour well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid until it all comes together. With floured hands, knead on a work surface until you have a smooth, springy dough – 5-10 minutes. Additional flavours (see list above) should be added to the dough when you are kneading. Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and sprinkle the top with more flour. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for about 11⁄2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Stage 2: once it has risen, knead the dough on a floured surface, knocking out the air. The dough can now be used straight away or wrapped in clingfilm and stored in the fridge until the next day, or frozen.

Stage 3: divide the dough into servings, keeping it covered with a damp tea towel. Roll one at a time on a floured surface to about 5mm thick and sit on an oiled and flour-dusted baking sheet, then leave for 10-15 minutes, before adding the topping. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/ gas 7. Evenly spread some tomato sauce on the top of the pizza and then add your toppings. Season and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil, then place in the oven to cook for 10 minutes.

PS…

Raw pizza dough can be wrapped well in cling film at the end of stage 2 and frozen for 1 month, alternatively if you have the space, you can shape it into pizza bases (or dough balls), layer up between pieces of greaseproof paper and freeze until needed. Defrost at room temperature before adding your topping and baking.

 

TOPPING SUGGESTIONS (see below for simple tomato pizza sauce)

Simple tomato and mozzarella is always a winner (scatter torn pieces of half a ball of mozzarella over your tomato sauce), but why not customise each pizza? Here are just a few suggestions to add to a basic tomato and mozzarella pizza:

Parma ham, artichoke, black olives and basil leaves (pictured above). Arrange all the ingredients, except the basil, on top of the pizza and cook. Top with basil.

Cooked prawns, anchovies, capers, olives and chilli flakes. Arrange over the top and scatter with parsley when cooked.

Ham, rocket and parmesan. Scatter rocket over the top of your parmesan and ham-topped pizza just before serving.

Four cheeses. Use a combination of mozzarella, parmesan, dolcelate and gruyere to top the pizza before cooking.

Spinach, egg and pinenut. Top with wilted spinach leaves, pinenuts and thinly sliced red onion, then break an egg into the middle just before baking.

 

SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE

TomatoSauceMix2.jpg

Makes enough for 8 pizzas

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

1 small handful of torn or chopped basil leaves

 

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and gently cook the onion and garlic for about 8 minutes until they are softened but not coloured.

 

Add the bay leaf, oregano, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes until you have a rich thick sauce.

 

Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and then remove the bay leaf.

 

PS…

The finished sauce can be used straight away or left to cool and stored, covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It can also be divided into smaller portions and kept in the freezer.

 

Photography: Gareth Morgans

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