PIZZA.

This is what a pizza party looks like. Never let it be said I don't know how to enjoy myself.

This is what a pizza party looks like. Never let it be said I don’t know how to enjoy myself.

First up in celebrating our multi-cultural foodie society, is the great Italian classic, pizza. For those of you so deeply ingrained in patriotism that you have never had, enjoyed or endorsed a pizza, you are missing out.

The act of covering a fermented bread with toppings and cheese in fact goes back as far as the Ancient Greeks, who favoured herbs and oils and local cheeses. The first recorded use of the word ‘pizza’ was over a thousand years ago, and the stretched-out dough that forms today’s modern Italian-style pizzas dates back to somewhere in the 1700s.

Pizza Express (heard of it? It’s a restaurant popular in the UK that specialises in pizza. You might have seen one) was opened in 1965 after the founder was so inspired by a nosh in Naples that he brought an authentic pizza oven back to England. AND A CHEF FROM SICILY. UKIPpers look away now, because Pizza Express is a direct product of immigration.

I’ve made my own pizza twice in the last month, as it is traditional in our household for birthdays to hold a ‘pizza party’ to celebrate special occasions. The format is simple and enjoyed by children and adults alike: make a simple pizza dough, cut it into little rounds, assemble scraps and leftovers from the fridge and grate anything sad looking rolling around in the vegetable drawer, and invite everyone to make their own pizza. It’s an hour’s entertainment for next to nothing, and guarantees that even the fussiest guests will eat their dinner because they made it themselves.

So without further ado and in homage to the Sicilian chef who snuck across the ocean and brought us Pizza Express, here’s my Birthday Pizza recipe, updated for the 2015 birthdays and made ever so slightly healthier. Viva la immigration. My tummy thanks you, Mr B.

Made 30 smallish round pizzas, recipe easily halved:

280g plain flour
140g wholemeal flour
2 tsp fast action dried yeast
250ml warm water
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (feel free to reduce or leave out if making for children)
extra flour to dust your baking tray

First put 100g of the flour into a bowl with the yeast and stir slowly as you tip in the warm water. As soon as it’s come together, add the oil, sugar and salt and remaining flour, and mix well until everything is combined. This should take less than a minute. Lightly flour your worksurface and knead until it is springy to touch.

Flour the inside of your bowl and pop the dough back into it, cover with cling film and leave it for at least half an hour for the yeast to activate. This year I was organised and made mine 6 hours ahead of time; it needed a bit of knocking back but it was the best pizza dough I’ve made yet.

When you’re ready to go, preheat your oven to 200C. (This is slightly lower than previous pizza dough recipes as the mini ones are teeny tiny and need a slightly gentler cook.)

Dust your baking trays with a little extra flour. Add some more to your work surface and roll the dough out. Cut it into circles with either a large cookie cutter or by tracing around a side plate with a blunt knife. Or a good large mug will do.

Smear the top with pizza sauce (recipe here >>> ) or a squidge of tomato puree if you’re feeling lazy. Top with desired toppings, generally the odds and sods from the fridge in my case, if you’ve never had yesterday’s tikka masala or bolognese on a pizza, you haven’t lived. Add liberal amounts of cheese for melty goodness, and cook for 12 minutes or until crispy around the edges. Allow to cool, and devour. And raise a glass to that Sicilian chef, and the many others before him, who perfected the art of the pizza, and generously shared it with us. Grazie!

Jack Monroe. You can follow me on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe

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31 Comments »

  1. I so agree . a home-made pizza is a thing of beauty, though strangely enough the best one I ever had was in Buenos Aires.

    • Not that strange, there was/is a massive amount of Italian immigrants in Argentina. (I’m beginning to sense a pattern here – those bloody immigrants, coming to our country with their delicious food!)

      • Of course, you’re right! My partner is Argentinian, with Italian roots .. I should have thought of that!

  2. Ive never made dough full stop Jack, let alone Pizza as Im disabled and can’t use my arms fully without too much pain. But I now have a mixer with a dough attachment but have no idea when the mix might be done until “springy”. Can I overdo it?

    • The dough will sort of look like a big blob of pillow. That’s not very descriptive but you’ll know it when you see it! I don’t think you can really over-mix pizza dough, it’ll just end up being a big lump going round and round with the dough hook.

      • To check whether you/your mixer has kneaded enough, give it a poke: the dough should gently spring back rather than leave an indentation. Kneading helps develop the gluten in the dough, which helps it bind together and gives the finished bread-base a pillowy texture. Technically, you can over-knead the bread – but that’s very difficult if you’re kneading by hand, and you’d still have to really go at it if you were using a mixer. I don’t have much experience using a mixer, but I think 5 minutes should be enough.

  3. I was in a Costa (a company began by 2 Italian brothers) the other day when someone sat at the table next to me trying to engage me in anti-immigration/pro UKIP conversation about foreign food being muck, as he sat drinking an ESPRESSO and eating a PANINO!

    He did not understand when I called him a hypocrite.

      • I would rather have that than an age bar. I am totally in favour of voting at 16. You never are in contact with such a wide variety of people with only their parent’s decision about where to live in common as you are when at school, so you have the greatest opportunity for discussion, argument and coming across opposing views.

  4. Glad to see you’re keeping this very good idea going! I think its a marvellous idea especially as we do have such a rich source to borrow from. Well done. I for one am looking forward to the recipes, especially vegetarian ones!!!!!

  5. this is more like the old jack. keep on the side of the impoverished families who do not wish to risk their money on unfamiliar ingredients !

  6. Fortunately I am a long way away from such debates as I have been living abroad for the past thirty years. In Germany there are similar idiots. One of them I saw on television demonstrating for potatoes instead of Döner.

    I wonder what he would do if he realised that potatoes are Peruvian in origin? The same question for the UKIP people: Chips are foreign, are you still going to eat fish and chips?

  7. For Pam, 4/5 minutes for kneading the dough. You will see it turning into a smooth dough, wrapping around the hook….hope this helps x

  8. Couldn’t agree with you more Jack. I hope life’s treating you a little better. Sending heaps of good wishes

  9. These are all beautiful commens and very inspiring too! My husband decided to learn how to make pizzas at home because he got tired paying the guy at the door everytime he comes! We have 3 boys whose appetite is always to the roof.

  10. Hi Jack. If you make bread, try using a tablespoon of honey instead of sugar. It will give you a delicious malty tasting bread. Chin up love you are doing great. Delphine

  11. There are other countries besides England that constitute the UK, of course, although you’re kind of right in thinking that Farage considers England as being “the UK”…Anyhoo, if he’s elected as PM (seriously doubt it), I’m leaving this country!

    Nice recipe, I’ll definitely give it a go.

  12. As someone who would not be here but for the wave of Eastern European immigration at the start of the 20th century I heartily agree with what has been said here. I’ve met Asian people whose descendants arrived in the UK before mine and if we go back further both the Angles and the Saxons were from across the channel so who are the ‘British’. I love food and cooking and Jack you inspire so many to give it a go and have proved that good food is not the preserve of the well off.

    Looking forward to the coming weeks recipes from around the globe.

  13. You can’t go wrong with pizza! Nice way to sneak vegs in for the kids too.

    Funnily enough the Italians I’ve met in UK eat pasta pretty much every day but hardly ever do they have a pizza. Hmm.

  14. I’ve always been fond of home-made pizza made with a scone base, rather than an authentic pizza dough. It’s an entirely different beast, but I recommend trying it if you fancy something a bit different for a change.

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