A Slice Of Love

My family knows my obsession with pizza and my love is completely genuine, and perhaps irrational at times. I’m more than happy to go out for it, but also extremely happy to stay in and make it myself. In fact, when I do it’s pretty much non-stop pizza for two days and any leftover dough I make into grissini.

For years now I’ve used the same dough recipe (one of Jamie Oliver’s) with no problems. I don’t have a pizza stone (just preheat your baking sheet with your oven and slide the pizza in) you will find the dough holds well enough to last for two days. By then, I’ve satisfied my cravings, and it’s time for a round of strenuous exercise.

Everyone will tell you to keep your toppings simple and I’m with them on that. But, do have a bit of fun and if you have a big enough oven make a long, rectangular pizza – who said pizzas have to be round? I love making them this way with my kids, we do several toppings and they’re great for a crowd.

Also, be sparing with the sauce, as you don’t need a lot, too much makes for a soggy pizza. It’s just a spoon or two, and using the back of the spoon, smear it over the base. And don’t worry if it doesn’t cover it completely.

I’m not giving you recipes for toppings, just the sauce and the dough.

The images below are just some of many I’ve made to inspire you, and are: Ribbons of courgettes, goat cheese, parmesan and thyme. Roasted tomato, red elk mustard, goat cheese and parmesan. And spicy Italian sausage, tiny vine ripened tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and a free-range organic egg.

So, be creative, make a mess, and most of all, eat pizza!

Tomato pizza sauce

  • 1x 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • Dried oregano
  • Sea salt flakes

In a blender or food processor blitz the tinned tomatoes with dried oregano and salt to taste until smooth. Store in a container in the fridge for up to a week. That’s it. Easy.

Pizza Base

The recipe below makes enough for four large pizza bases.

  • 3x 7g sachets dried yeast
  • 30g runny honey
  • 625ml tepid water
  • 1kg Italian 00 flour
  • 30g salt
  • Extra flour for dusting
  • Olive oil

Firstly, dissolve the yeast and honey in half the tepid water.

In a large bowl, make a pile of the flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in all of the dissolved yeast mixture. With one hand, make circular movements from the centre moving outwards, slowly bringing in more and more of the flour until the yeast mixture is soaked up. Then pour the other half of the tepid water into the centre and gradually incorporate all the flour to make a moist dough.

Now you get to knead, and this is the best part! This develops the gluten and the structure of the dough so it’s an important step, apart from being very satisfying.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface dusted with a little flour, and roll, push and fold the dough over and over for five minutes. If any dough sticks to your hands, just rub them together with a little extra flour. When the dough feels beautifully elastic, shape it into a ball and lightly dust the top with flour.

Put it gently into a lightly oiled very large bowl, score the top into a cross with a sharp knife, cover with a clean tea towel, and leave to prove in a warm draught free place until it doubles in size. This will take about one hour, depending on conditions.

Now you’re ready to make pizza. Preheat your oven to 220C fan-force, and place your baking sheets in the oven.  Divide your dough into four pieces and simply roll each into a large, plate-sized irregular round shape about 3-4mm thick using a rolling pin (for ease, I often do this on a sheet of parchment paper), brush the edges of the pizza with olive oil, and smear a spoon or two of the tomato sauce on top. Add your toppings, drizzle with a little more olive oil, slide onto the hot baking sheet, and put into the oven for 10 minutes. At this point check your pizza, depending on your topping, it could need 2-3 minutes longer. When ready, take out of the oven, slice, and eat immediately.