Starting a new job always comes with its ups and downs – fear, nerves, excitement, new challenges, new opportunities, new friends. Oh, and homemade pizza!
Turns out my new boss is a massive, massive pizza fan. Not ordering a Dominos on a Friday night, but lovingly making his own from scratch.
He was inspired by the Pizza Pilgrims – the brainchild of brothers James and Thom Elliot who gave up their jobs and travelled 4,000km around Italy in their Ape three-wheeler van to uncover the secrets of pizza making. As well as bringing them to Berwick Street market in Soho, they produced a book based on their discoveries which the boss says is a must-read.
On Friday I tasted the fruits of his labours for the first time and am now just as hooked. Thin, crispy light bases, with rich homemade tomato paste layered with delights like pesto or meat, with the obligatory stretchy, yummy mozzarella. So enamoured was I by this simple yet delightful treat – which I’m reliably told cost just about £1 per pizza – that I’ve vowed to give it a go with my own fair hand.
The boss has kindly given me his own step-by-step instructions which I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing in the name of a universal love of pizza.
Take strong white flour, fresh yeast, water and salt – yes, just those four ingredients is all it takes – mix together and knead for 10 minutes.
Then leave to prove, it can be 24 hours or more if you like. No, you don’t need a Bake Off-style proving drawer or an airing cupboard, he assures me, just put the cling film-covered bowl anywhere and let the yeast work its magic.
The dough will grow, and when you’re ready, you should have enough to divide it into eight. Once you have eight balls, stretch them into nice flat bases and get to work on your toppings.
The boss uses San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomatoes widely considered to be the best paste tomatoes in the world, simply blitzed into a nice rich paste and spread on the base.
Then it’s just a case of whatever topping takes your fancy. My personal favourite of his creations was pesto and salami, pictured above.
Now, cooking it! Before you ask, no, you don’t need a pizza oven. In fact, it’s far far simpler than any cooking process you’ll see on Bake Off or any other baking project. Pop the base in a frying pan, much as you would a dry tortilla, and let the bottom cook. Then, complete with toppings, put the whole pan under the grill.
Et voila, amazing light, delicious pizza. I haven’t had chance to make it yet, but it’s on my list. You MUST try it!