Two music graduates chronicle the culinary delights of Leeds and London and explore the height of fine dining on a limited budget.

Good food is well punk.

April 13, 2010

Getting a Pizza the Action

When treating a friend to a dinner in on my second night back in Leeds, I was stuck with what to cook. Despite having just had a Sainsbury's delivery earlier that afternoon, I could find very few actual meals in the fridge - especially sinceit had to be vegetarian. Suddenly, I noticed the two pizza bases I had bought for about a pound or so. Small, tragically unappetizing things. I decided I could do better. So it was that I set out making my own pizzas from scratch. I only did a basic margherita but we ended up with almost too much food so it didn't feel lacking in any way. I used Sainsbury's Basic mozzerella - the texture's a little rubbery, but it's actually pretty tasty and very good value, unlike many brands of 'pizza cheese'

Makes 2 incredibly large pizzas

For the base:

500g  Strong bread flour
2 packets fast-action yeast
1 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
Water at room temperature

For the sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
2 Tins tomatoes
2 clovs of garlic
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp sugar
1 dried chilli (optional)

Begin by making the dough for the base. Make sure the flour has high gluten content - if you check the nutritional information, it should be at least 12g Gluten per 100g. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and slowly add water, stirring until it comes together in a dough. Top tip: I used a chopstick to mix, so as to avoid the annoyingly sticky dough hands I normally get when making bread. When the dough is of the right consistency (and when it will be, it's obvious), shape it into a nice big smooth lump, cover the bowl in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

To make the sauce, simply heat the olive in a small saucepan, and add the tomatoes. This is one of those occasions where buying Basics tomatoes isn't worth it as you want a really good tomatoey flavour. I used one tin of expensive Napolina for the flavour and one carton of Basics plum tomatoes to bulk out as a compromise. Bring to just below boiling point and add the other ingredients. If you haven't got fresh oregano, substitute for 1 tsp of dried. The chilli shouldn't make the sauce at all hot at such low quantities, but if you're worried, leave it out. Leave the sauce the simmer and reduce for about an hour, being careful it doesn't completely dry out and burn.

To prepare for making the pizzas, turn your ovens grill onto its highest setting. For a more 'authentic' Italian pizza, you want to make simulate the conditions inside a wood-fired pizza oven, so you're going to need a lot of heat from directly below the pizza to recreate the hot bricks - simply placing your pizza on a wire rack won't work. A tip I picked up via Heston Blumenthal is heat a cast iron pan or similar on the hob to get really hot, and place the pizza on the base of it under the grill. I had to make do with a baking tray made of what I presume is steel, but it did the job. This Video explains fairly well.

To make the bases, simply divide the dough into two, and roll out. It doesn't have to be circular by any means, but it'd be nice if you can get it. Be warned, this is the hardest part of the recipe, and the dough can end up in an extremely wonky shape that may not fit in your oven.

Add your chosen toppings. I used a ball of mozzerella torn into chunks, a few basil leaves, and some olives on each one. Why bother with anything more complicated? Whack under the grill for about 3-5 minutes. Keep an eye on it, because it all depends on how hot you can get your oven to go. Intense heat is the name of the game, as it gets the crust to rise up quickly, and will char the dough beautifully. Serve instantly, with a bit of salad and a lot of red wine.

I was quite shocked at how easy the dish was to make - of course, it took a little time, and the end result wasn't perfect, but it tasted great and was immensely satisfying. Plus, it was ridiculously cheap. The two pizzas were more than enough, and I had enough left over both for breakfast and lunch the next day. Truly the best part of any pizza.

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