Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Tuesday, November 03, 2009 Keston Kids 5 comments
The Italians are super passionate about their food; they have a lot of time and love for the kitchen and the end result is always fresh, full of flavour and pretty simple to do! I went to Italy this summer to stay in the countryside in a little place called Cossano Belbo, just outside of Asti. Stereotypes were jumping out from behind every corner; rolling hills, olive groves, fiat 500s, little signori sitting outside their houses drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and a pizza oven. The pizza oven was located outside the backdoor at the place we were staying with a view of the Piedmontese hills. Instant excitement occurred.
Before the age of 19 I didn't like pizza. The only pizza that I would occasionally eat were mini margheritas for kids from Sainsbury's. I later realised that these were not good. Then I went to Australia and worked in a Greek run pizza place and learnt how to consume a whole pizza, usually chicken with sweetcorn and sweet chilli sauce. Then I lived in Italy for a year and finally realised what all the fuss was about! I am now a pizza snob.
So, during our stay in the hills of Piedmonte we made pizza 3 times. On arrival, Matt (pizza oven enthusiast and boyfriend) decided to climb into the oven to give it the once over - as any Italian might. He gave it the all clear and we made the dough, which is the easiest thing you could want, need to make. I guarantee you will not be able to go back to bought pizza bases. I love The Silver Spoon - an Italian food bible, now in English. It says to make dough like this:
Serves 4 250g plain flour (preferably Italian type 00)
3/4 teaspoon salt
15g fresh yeast (or 7g dried yeast)
120ml lukewarm water
Olive oil, for brushing (optional)
Sift the flour and salt into a mound on the worktop and make a well in the middle. Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until smooth and pour in the well. Use your fingers to incorporate the flour and make a soft dough. Knead well until it's smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, put a cross in the top, put it in a bowl and cover. Leave it to rise somewhere warm for around 3 hours until it's almost doubled in size. Flatten the dough with your hands and roll out on a floured surface, to a round about 5mm thick. Brush a baking sheet with oil or line it with parchment paper.
You can then go wild and add your toppings. For me the key is thin bases with crispy edges and not too many toppings! A fine layer of passata, a sprinkling of mozzarella, a few pre roasted cherry tomatoes and a handful of capers make a mouthful of joy. Back to the pizza oven - besides being satisfying this is immense fun. To get the temperature of the fire in the oven hot enough we used a laser temperature gun to keep tabs, at one point the oven was 400 degrees! Many minutes were then wasted testing the temperature of anything you could possibly think of that was within eye sight. These pizzas cooked in approximately 2 minutes but doing them at home will take about 10 - just turn up the oven to the hottest setting and keep an eye on them.
Pizza facts (according to me):
Best pizza I ever had: On a hill on the island of Ischia
Best pizza in London: The Gowlett, Peckham Rye SE15