You know the feeling. You get home from work on a Friday night after a busy week and you’re so tired you can’t be bothered to cook. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve finished work on a Friday evening full of good intentions, only to end up eating a disappointing shop-bought pizza or an expensive takeaway. It doesn’t help that as I sit on my sofa and look out of the window, my view is largely taken up by a Chinese takeaway. OK, so their bean curd in black bean sauce with noodles is delicious, but it won’t do my waistline or my bank balance any good.
I decided I desperately needed to come up with something that required little effort but was also exciting enough to justify getting off my bum and getting in the kitchen. Pizza fits the bill, especially when I added a little extra bribe to myself in there too (more on that later). The beauty of making your own is that you can have whatever you fancy, and make it as healthy or as naughty as you want. It’s also a great way of using up leftovers and things you’re not quite sure what to do with.
It sounds like a lot of effort but it really isn’t, and it’s totally worth it. The recipe looks quite long, but it’s just a basic bread recipe with a few ideas thrown in. Here’s how it fits into my Friday evening:
Step 1: make the dough, which takes about 10-15 minutes.
Step 2: the easy bit and the bribe I mentioned earlier. Chill out for an hour or so while the dough rises, and treat yourself as a reward for being so organised. I normally use this time to take my husband to the pub so we can chat about our week and unwind a bit. You could sit in the bath with a massive bar of chocolate, go to the park and feed the ducks, have a cup of tea and read a trashy magazine. The opportunities are endless!
Step 3: come back to find the dough magically risen, and turn it into pizzas. You could do this in 10 minutes if you’re super organised, longer if you still have some energy and want to turn it into a work of art. The pizzas take about 10 minutes in the oven.
Step 4: sit back, relax and enjoy!
Here are our creations from this weekend.
Left: Mr Veg chose veggie sausage, olives, capers, red jalapeños (from a jar), kale, basil and feta. Right: I had mushrooms, veggie sausage, kale, olives, capers, feta and an egg.
This recipe makes two large (approximately 10 inch), thin-crust pizzas. The base is just a rushed version of my basic bread recipe, halved. If you prefer a thicker crust, it is easy to scale up.
- 150ml warm water
- ½ teaspoon of dried yeast
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 250g bread flour – white, wholemeal or a mixture of the two. I prefer to use a 50:50 mix as it’s easier to work with and you can kind of pretend it’s a healthy meal.
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
If using regular dried yeast, you need to wake it up by stirring the yeast and sugar into the warm water in your mixing bowl and leaving it for 10 minutes or so, until it starts to foam on top, then stir in the flour and salt. If you’re using the instant active yeast you can skip this bit and throw it all in together. Mix everything with a spoon until it starts to come together as dough.
Spread the oil over a clean surface, tip the dough out onto it and knead it in the oil for up to 10 minutes (if you’re kneading to music, which I thoroughly recommend, this is about three songs).
The dough should be a tiny bit sticky, if it’s dry then add more water a little bit at a time and work it in, if it’s really sticky you might want to add some more flour.
Once you’ve kneaded it, the dough should be nice and elastic. An easy way to check this is to prod it in the middle with a clean finger. If it slowly bounces back up again it’s ready, if your finger leaves a hole then it needs a few more minutes work.
Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour. It should double in size. This is the point where you can leave it and do what you need to do (in my case, a pint of ale and a packet of crisps in the local with Mr Veg).
Once risen, knead the dough for another minute and divide it into two roughly equal balls. Lightly oil two baking sheets or pizza trays (pizza trays aren’t essential but the holes in the bottom do help keep the base from getting soggy). Roll the dough with a rolling pin or stretch it by hand until it’s roughly the right size and shape for the trays. Pizza dough is really difficult to get perfectly round but don’t sweat it, if it has slightly wobbly edges just call it rustic. Leave the dough to rise in the trays while you get all of the toppings together.
Neither tomato sauce nor cheese is essential for a pizza. If you go to Italy you’ll see plenty of pizzas without either. In fact, I had a potato and herb pizza in Italy and it was bloody lovely. Anyway, as they’re the two most common pizza toppings, here they are.
Tomato sauce. On this occasion we used a thin spread of sun-dried tomato paste. Here are a few other easy options:
- Half a tin of chopped tomatoes, reduced by half over a low heat with a few herbs and seasonings, then either blended or left chunky.
- Passata or tomato sauce from a jar.
- Good quality fresh tomatoes, sliced. If you grow your own and you have a few that are dark red and overripe they’d be perfect. The anaemic-looking basic tomatoes you get from the supermarket wouldn’t be great for this.
Cheese. I find that one ball of mozzarella, drained and finely chopped, is plenty for two pizzas. Any other cheese would make a great addition to this, I particularly like a few lumps of oozy camembert, strong blue cheese or spicy pepperjack.
As for everything else, anything goes! Here are a few ideas.
Vegetables. We get a weekly vegetable box delivery, so we never know what we’re going to have in the house, and often end up with quite random combinations of veggies on our pizzas. Pretty much anything will work, here are a few suggestions:
- Leftover roasted squash, carrots, beetroot, aubergines or peppers.
- Any green veg, e.g. spinach, kale, broccoli. Asparagus is particularly good. Green veg work best if you zap them in the microwave for a minute beforehand.
- Raw sliced peppers, courgettes, mushrooms.
- Caramelised onions.
Strong flavours. I like to jazz it up with olives, capers, jalapeños, some herbs, or a few splodges of pesto.
Protein. Fake meat (or real meat I guess) is an obvious choice. I prefer a few slices of flavoured tofu, such as smoked or basil flavour. An egg cracked in the middle is great, but will usually be slightly overcooked. Pine nuts or a sprinkle of seeds would add some crunch and be good for you too.
I’d love to hear your weird and wonderful ideas on pizza toppings. Please add a comment below and let me know!
Cook the pizzas in the oven at about 220˚C for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and brown.