Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't go to Hell

Or Dominoes, Pizza Hut or whatever your local pizza place is called. Takeaway pizzas might taste good, but they're expensive and very unhealthy. You can make your own pizzas at home very cheaply, and then at least you can control what goes into/onto it.

Since my skinny little brother is staying with me this week, I decided it might be a good time to make pizza (p152) so I didn't end up eating the whole thing myself.

The Edmonds pizza recipe includes making the base from scratch. You can use bought bases, of course, but home-made is better, as long as you find a recipe that makes the kind of pizza base you like. The Edmonds recipe makes quite a thick base, so if you like a thin crust, you might want to look elsewhere for a recipe.

The first step in making the base was to sprinkle yeast over tepid water and leave it to go frothy. I was a bit dubious about my yeast - I'd had it for quite a while, and it was certainly past its best-before date. I wasn't sure if it would work or not. After 20 minutes, the yeast had frothed up slightly, but not much. We decided to go ahead with it anyway - otherwise we'd have had to go out and get some more yeast.

I added the yeast mixture to some flour and olive oil, mixed it to a dough, and kneaded it for a while. It wasn't initially looking too good, but with persistent kneading it turned into a nice smooth dough. I covered the dough with a teatowel, and placed it inside a cupboard, where it would be out of the way, and hopefully warm enough for the dough to rise.

With that done, we moved on to making the sauce for the pizza. The sauce recipe is quite unusual in that it is based on a mixture of sauteed onion, carrot and celery. To this mixture you then add tomatoes (it says blanched and chopped, but we used canned ones) vegetable stock, and various herbs and seasonings.

My assumption was that if you chop the carrot and celery small enough, they'll break down into the liquid during the 30-minute simmer time. In accordance with this theory, we chopped them really small - luckily I had a willing kitchen hand around to help with the chopping.

When we had the sauce done, I pulled out the dough to see whether it had risen enough. Nope - in fact it hadn't risen at all. It seemed we shouldn't have taken the risk with that old yeast after all. In a last-ditch attempt to make it rise, I sat the bowl on top of the oven where it would be really nice and warm.

The sauce was still simmering, so we turned our attention to the toppings. The toppings in the recipe are fairly simple: ham, mushrooms and cheese. This suited me fine: it's very easy to go overboard with pizza toppings, and I've found that simple pizzas are often the nicest. I did, however, add a little salami, only because I happened to have some and I thought it would go nicely with the rest.

When the sauce was ready, I took another look at the dough. To my surprise, it had risen quite a lot in the warmer spot - so the yeast can't have been too bad after all. After a little light kneading, I spread the dough across the base of a pizza tin, and added the sauce.

The sauce had come out looking slightly odd. I'd been wrong in assuming that the chunks of vegetable would break down in the simmering: all the liquid had evaporated, leaving a thick, chunky kind of paste. Still, I spread it over the base - quite thickly, since there was so much of it. It looked a little less weird once it was spread on, and when we'd added the salami, ham, mushrooms and cheese, it actually began to look pretty good.

When got the pizza out of the oven 15 minutes later, the base had risen considerably, and the whole thing was looking mighty tasty. At first I wondered how on earth we would be able to get it out of the dish, but Jos managed to cut it and get it out slice by slice.

I'd had my doubts about the sauce, and the dough looked just slightly sticky, but when it came to eating the pizza, I really enjoyed it. The chunky sauce actually tasted really good, and the base tasted just fine. In fact, the thick base and chunky sauce made the pizza so filling that neither of us was able to eat more than two slices.

So I'm going to finish with two recommendations: firstly, try making your own pizzas. It's much cheaper, you can put on whatever toppings you want, and its not as much faff making the base as you might imagine. Secondly, give the Edmonds version a go. It might seem weird having veges in the sauce, but it tastes really good - and when you think about it: onions, carrot, celery, tomatoes and mushrooms... that's an awful lot more vegetable goodness than you'd get in your average takeaway pizza!


Ok, so here's something a little embarrassing...

I came home today (having already written the above) and Joska says to me "so I read that recipe, and you're supposed to puree the sauce". I checked, and sure enough, there it is on the last line: "puree tomato mixture". Oops. So I guess the sauce wasn't supposed to be chunky after all. But never mind, it still tasted pretty great.

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