Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Friday Night Plan #2

This week we're going Italian with my personal pizza recipe. You'll even be making your own base, which—trust me—isn't as daunting as it sounds. Deviating slightly, the wines will not all be Italian. We've also got a corker of a Mafia film. I mean, c'mon, we kinda have to with pizza don't we?


Makes 4 pizzas


For the base:

500g plain white bread flour,

300ml tepid water,

25ml olive oil,

1½ tsp yeast,

2 tsp caster sugar,

2 tsp salt.

Extra flour and oil for kneading.

For the toppings:

A 400g tin of chopped tomatoes,

1 tsp Dried Oregano,

A pinch of salt,

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar,

A pinch of freshly ground black pepper,

A ball of mozzarella,

200g Cheddar,

150g Parmesan.

Any other toppings of your choice, cured meats, peppers, olives, whatever you like.

(optional: a pinch of smoked paprika)


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius, or 180 for a fan oven.

First of all prepare the dough for the bases. Measure out the water and add the oil, yeast and sugar. Give it a good whisk to get stuff happening. Leave this in a warm place for 10 minutes, like next to the boiler or in the airing cupboard.

Weigh out the flour and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix it together with your fingers. Make a well in the middle. Once the yeasty water has foamed up a bit pour it into the well.

Using a big fork, gradually incorporate the flour to the water. It will start looking a bit porridgey and stodgy. This is normal. Once the mixture becomes more solid and hard to stir, dust your hands in flour, scrape off the fork and continue mixing with your hands.

Once it comes a way from the sides of the bowl, tip onto a clean surface. It's time to assess the state of your dough. If it's ridiculously wet then you can add flour little by little to get it to a manageable state, but you want it as wet as you dare.

Instead of using flour to prevent the dough sticking while kneading, use olive oil. Just a little drizzle at a time. This is important as it helps create a nice texture in the base. Knead by stretching the dough and folding it back on itself. It's a good stress reliever, but will take 5 – 10 minutes.

Once you have a silky dough that bounces back when you prod it, oil the mixing bowl lightly and return the dough. Cover with cling film and a tea towel and put in that warm place you had the yeast. You want the dough to double in size, which usually takes around an hour.

While this is happening you can prepare the toppings. First grate your Cheddar. Now make the passata, put the tomatoes, oregano, vinegar, salt, pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil (this is where to add your paprika if you want a spice kick) in a food processor and whizz up until passata-like. Admittedly this is not the method the Italians use, but it works.

If you're having marinated chicken—or something similar—as a topping, then cook this now, and chop up your veg. You want everything ready for your lovely bases.

Once the dough has doubled, tip it onto a clean surface and give it a squish and a light knead. Make it into a ball and divide it into 4 equal pieces (unless you want to make a bigger one for yourself). Again, shape these pieces into balls.

Lightly oil four baking sheets. Place a dough ball on each one. Flatten out the balls. Carefully, using a rolling pin and your hands, push and pull the dough into as thick or thin a base as you like. Personally I like mine thin and crispy.

Put a couple of tablespoons of your passata on each base, and spread out leaving a half-centimetre crust. Tear up your mozzarella into small chunks and divide equally and evenly between the bases. Put on your extra toppings. Sprinkle each pizza liberally with Cheddar, and grate over some Parmesan to give an extra tang. Drizzle each base with a little olive oil and crack over some pepper.

Put the pizzas in the oven for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, and once the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling you can take them out, slice them up and serve with a simple salad of watercress and rocket.


Budget Option:

La Posta Bonarda - £9.99. Just one look at this rustic Mediterranean-style bottle - - and you know this is going to be perfect with pizza. Bonarda is originally an Italian varietal. This example comes from the ever-reliable producer La Posta. Rich but soft black and red fruit meets oak-influenced spice and cedar. It's well rounded, but meaty enough to deal with a hearty pizza.

Fine Wine Option: Ok, it's pizza, so no matter how nice it is, you can't go overboard on the wine, or all the complexity will be lost. We're going for aCrozes-Hermitage, in particular Yann Chave's excellent example. It's £14.99 a bottle when you buy two or more bottles from the Rhone Valley. Crozes-Hermitage is made exclusively from Syrah. This one shows some of the caramel notes of classic Rhone wine along with polished black fruit and some of that great, quintessential, Syrah pepperiness. Make sure the seasoning is right on the pizza, as you will need the saltiness and the cheese to soften the taut tannins which provide impeccable structure.


Goodfellas! This film is a Martin Scorsese classic. As usual with Scorsese the central theme is betrayal. While Robert DeNiro is one of the main characters and gives an admirable performance, in my opinion he is completely outshone by Joe Pesci. He's just on the edge throughout the entire film. At any second he could snap, and actually does a couple of times (I'd finish your dinner before these scenes!). The film has a great twisting plot where you're never sure of anybody's motivation until the end of the film. If you haven't seen it before then definitely watch it. If you have seen it before then pizza is a great excuse to watch it again.

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