Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sundried tomato and olive pizza

I am awash with facts this weekend, so much so that unless Miss C bakes me a cake shaped ark, I just might get swept away.

It all stems from a night at the dogs to celebrate a birthday. Standing trackside by the traps, there was a cacophony of sharp intakes of breath, squeals and gasps (as well as copious amounts of grit in the face) at the speed at which these incredible animals take off. This led to a Google session that told us that greyhounds can reach 45 mph, and only the cheetah accelerates faster - which can reach 60 mph in three seconds.

And now it is to my main passion that I discover some facts about the origins of pizza, a dish so common and yet with very mixed application.

The pizza base is essentially a flat bread, which our ancestors have been serving up since neolithic times (I wonder what else they served at dinner parties in 10,000 BC...).
Initially covered in a plain red sauce, it wasn't until 1889 when Neapolitan chef, Raffaele Esposito prepared the inaugural margherita in honour of Margherita of Savoy, featuring tomato, mozzarella and basil (Italian flag...clever). The first pizza ever to include cheese - pretty much a given in pizzas today.
You can practically put anything on a pizza, which I'm sure is frowned upon in some circles but...get over it, if I want a fry up pizza, then a fry up pizza I shall have!

For this recipe, I'm making my almost favourite pizza - sundried tomato and olive. To be my true favourite, I would include a layer of pesto, but as my girlfriend and best friend forever #GFBFF hates it, I've left it out.

My generosity is extended purely as she was the one that bought me my pizza stone. If you don't have a pizza oven in your garden (I'm hoping this is the majority), get the pizza stone, it makes such a difference to make ultimately crispy bases.
To make two pizzas, you'll need:
375 grams of strong white flour
half a sachet of dried yeast
120ml of warm water
2 pinches of sugar
1 glug of olive oil

Add the yeast and sugar to a jug. Yeast is living and feeds on sugar, which is why I add a tiny bit to aid the process - never add salt at this stage as it will kill the yeast (sad times, bad pizza). Pour in the water and stir. Mean while, weigh out your flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Your yeast mix is ready to add when bubbles appear. Add a little at a time, mixing it in gradually then flour the work surface and get your kneed on for five minutes, until the dough is light and springy. Place it in a warm place and let it rise for half an hour - patience is a virtue as otherwise you'll end up with horrible dry bases...I know, I have the patience of a two year old.

Nb. Now is the time to turn your oven on to 225c and add your pizza stones (sorry, you'll need two for this recipe but on the plus, they are very reasonably priced.)
For the sauce:
1 tin chopped tomatoes
tea spoon of tomato puree
half a large red onion - diced into small cubes
1 glug of red wine
half a tea spoon of balsamic vinegar

Heat your flat bottomed pan to a medium heat with some oil and add your onions. Cook for a few mins until translucent. Add the red wine and cook for a minute to burn off the alcohol. Then chuck in your tomatoes, puree, and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and reduce the mixture by a third.
Retrieve your dough and divide into two, rolling out to fit your stone - mine's 12 inches ... ;-)
Evenly prick the base's centre as you don't want this to rise and blind bake them for five minutes, just to give them a head start and to avoid a soggy bottom.
After five minutes, take your bases from the oven, spread your tomato sauce evenly, and if you fancy my recipe, add mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, olives and a scattering of fresh or dried (more if the latter) oregano, basil and marjoram.
The dough beat me - point blank refused to be spherical!

Place your pizzas back in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until you have golden crusts.
Serve with a mixed herby salad and your favourite condiment - Miss C chose brown sauce...yeah.

The race track served us up an emaciated veggie burger and a cold jacket potato for an exorbitant fee, so next time, I will definitely be smuggling in a few slices of homemade pizza, whilst wowing the crowd with more greyhound related facts...

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