pizza love

the pizza love salamino

As a girl who tends to move house on a regular basis and a girl who seems to attract kitchens in the more shoe box end of the size range, over the years I’ve developed a policy of avoiding kitchen appliances that only have a single use. OK so I do have a  kettle and a toaster and I am the proud and loving owner of an icecream machine and there is a shiny Italian pasta maker but pretty much everything else can be used for a number of purposes. When it comes to making kitchen acquisitions, I’m wary of anything that doesn’t multi task.

When my good mates Ades and Robbie both splashed out on a ‘Pizza Pronto’ each and started hosting pizza nights where they would team up with two ovens on the go, I was thrilled that they were getting into cooking. And while I have been lucky enough to have had some seriously good pizza at the hands of these two Italianophiles, I was always hesitant to follow suit and get myself an electric pizza oven.

For years I’ve just been contented to crank my conentional oven up to the highest setting and hope for the best. Avoiding tomato sauced based toppings did help to get a passable crust but if the truth were to be told there was a lot of room for improvement in my pizza making.

Then back in February when I was being wooed by a charming and pizza loving Irishman, he introduced me to one of his heros: Heston Blumenthal and the search for perfection. As we watched Heston try all manner of approaches for mastering the pizza, possibilities started to open up in my mind. Maybe there was a way of getting a lovely pizza crust without acquiring another gadget or building a wood fired oven in my non existent back yard?

In the end Heston’s solution was to use the grill for the top heat and a heavy cast iron pan for the bottom heat. Just heat your pan on the stove top until it is super hot then turn upside down under the grill so you have a nice hard hot surface to cook your base and there you have an oven that will cook a pizza in under two minutes. This got me thinking, why not take the grill and the heating idea one step further? So down to Bunnings I went in search of a terracotta paver and just $8 later I was lugging home my new pizza oven base.

With a bit of tweaking in the form of removing the shelves, my new terracotta friend fitted in the base of my grill like a glove. And while, sure, it takes a while for it to heat up, there’s nothing like having a few mates over for a leisurely Saturday dinner when you sit around chatting and sharing some vino and pizza one after the other.

pizza love dough
makes 4-5 pizzas

Strong four contains a higher protein content than standard plain flour which helps to give pizza and bread their lovely texture. Most supermarkets now stock bread flour but if you get stuck regular plain flour will be OK.

I like to make small pizzas no more than 25cm (10in) in diameter as I find them easier to handle and easier to cook through but by all means play around to find a size that works for you.

400g (14oz) strong flour
100g (3 1/2 oz) semolina
300mL (10 fl oz) warm water
2 sachets dried yeast
1t sugar
1t sea salt
2T extra virgin olive oil

Place flour, semolina and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar and water in a smaller bowl and sprinkle over yeast. Allow to stand for a few minutes then make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in liquid and the oil. Stir to create a sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle over more flour. Knead adding more flour as rquired until you have a smooth dough that is just past being sticky.

Divide dough into 4-5 smaller balls approx 150g (5oz) each and place on an oiled oven tray leaving enough space in between. Cover and stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour. If your dough has doubled before you’re ready for it pop it in the fridge to slow the yeast down. You could also freeze the balls individually at this stage for later use.

On a work surface dusted with semolina and a little flour flatten balls into rounds about 25cm in diameter. I like to make them nice and rustic thciker at the edges. Transfer to a pizza peel dusted with semolina and you’re ready to top.

pizza love tomato sauce

I pinched the idea for this sauce from Molly over at Orangette. By leaving the onion in large pieces you get the lovely compexity of its flavour while keeping the texture smooth. The butter in this sauce makes it lovely and rich and balances the acidity.

690g (24oz) tomato passata
1 large brown onion, peeled & halved
75g (3oz ) unsalted butter

Place all ingredients in a a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook slowly over a low heat until sauce has thickened and reduced by about half which will take around an hour. Discard onion or reserve for another use. Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about a week or you can freeze along with your dough so you’re always ready for pizza.

pizza love rosemary & potato
makes 1 pizza approx 25cm (10in)

This simple pizza ‘bianco’ has been one of my favourites for ages and is a great place to start as the absence of sauce makes it a lot easier to cook through.

1 x 25cm (10in) pizza love base (see above)
1 medium potato, desiree or Nicola scrubbed
2T extra virgin olive oil
1 large sprig rosemary, leaves picked
pinch chilli flakes, optional

Preheat your grill or oven to the highest setting (see note*). Finely slice potato using a mandolin or a sharp knife and a steady hand. In a small bowl combine potato, oil, rosemary and chilli if using and season well. Arrange potato slices over pizza overlapping only slightly. Season well with sea salt & pepper and bake until golden and the potato is cooked through.

the pizza love salamino
makes 1 pizza approx 25cm (10in)

This more unusual combo of fresh ricotta and salami was inspired by the good old boys down at Pizza Mario in Surry Hills. My Irish sources tell me that when U2 were last in town it was the personal favourite of none other than Bono  – not a bad claim for a simple combo.

Feel free to experiment with you choice of salami. I like to get the pizza cooking and then just add the salami for the last half so it starts to brown but doesn’t get to frazzled and crispy but it’s up to you.

1 x 25cm (10in) pizza love base (see above)
100g (3oz) full fat ricotta
6 slices of hot sopressa or salami
olive oil for drizzling.

Preheat your grill or oven to the highest setting (see note*). Scatter chunks of ricotta over the base and season well. Bake until half done (about a minute in my oven) then layer over sopressa. Continue to cook until the base is cooked through and the top starting to brown up. Serve hot drizzled with a little extra virgin olio.

pizza love margarita
makes 1 pizza approx 25cm (10in)

There’s something about a classic margarita that’s hard to resist. The simplicity of tomato cheese and basil really is hard to top. Just be sure to use the freshest buffalo mozzarella you can get your hands on, it really is worth the extra expense.

1 x 25cm (10in) pizza love base (see above)
2T pizza love tomato sauce
1/3 to ½ a 250g (1/2lb) ball buffalo mozerella
small handful basil leaves

Preheat your grill or oven to the highest setting (see note*). Spread sauce over the base leaving a small boarder. Tear cheese into chunks and scatter over. Season with s&p. Bake until the cheese is sizzling and the base is cooked through. Scatter over basil and enjoy.

*Note: If your oven doesn’t have a grill you can always use the terracotta paver idea in your oven or you could spash out on a pizza stone. It’s all about being like Heston and experimenting to find the right solution for your circumstances.

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