One of my favourite ways to catch-up with friends is to have everyone over for dinner. While I do love to do a pasta bake or a spicy curry through winter, sometimes you want something that is both a little more fun and less work for the host. These pizzas fit that bill perfectly. Catering to every taste, and allowing everyone to contribute to the dinner, they are really an ideal dish for feeding the masses.
The base I like to use is the recipe for ‘Garlic and Parsley Hearthbreads’ from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. Nigella describes these as a kind of foccacia crossed with naan bread, but I roll them out very thinly (to cover a 20 x 30cm baking tray) and they make wonderful pizza bases. They have the perfect balance of a crispness on the base and little bit of foccacia-softness on the top.
Ingredients (makes 2 pizza bases. Or hearthbreads):
- 500g plain flour (Nigella recommends strong, ‘Double 00’ bread flour, but I never use it)
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 5 tablespoon of olive oil, plus a little more for greasing
- 7g dried yeast (or about 2 level teaspoons)
- 300ml of warm (tap) water
These are very easy to assemble. Just pop the flour, yeast and salt together in a mixing bowl and stir together, making a well in the centre once combined.
In a jug, mix the warm water and oil briskly until roughly combined and then pour into the well in the mixing bowl.
Using a butter knife, combine the flour and the water mixtures with a cutting motion, using the flat of the blade to pull the flour mix into the centre. When it has all roughly come together, abandon the knife and use your hands to finish bringing the dough together. You may need another tablespoon of water or so at this stage if it looks a little dry.
Once the dough has come together properly, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until it is bouncy and elastic. (Or use your bench mixer to knead the dough until ready.) Clean out your mixing bowl and pour in another tablespoon of oil. Spread the oil around the bowl and then place the dough in the bowl, turn in the oil to coat, cover with cling film and set aside.
While the dough proves (in a warm, draught-free place), you can prepare your toppings. The dough will need at least an hour to double in size, possibly more. I usually leave the dough for a whole day, preparing it in the morning and using it for dinner that night.
When you’re ready to cook your pizzas, knock back the dough, knead a little and then halve it between two lined baking trays. Gently, slowly, stretch the dough over the trays. It is a little bit time-consuming and it won’t be rolled due to the elasticity so it has to be sort-of pushed and prodded slowly across the tray. The more you pizzas you make, the quicker you’ll be.
Now heat your oven to 220º and top the pizzas with your favourite adornments. Some of the favourites we made on Sunday are listed below. Once topped, they should need about 20 minutes in the oven, until the edges are golden brown.
Remove to a chopping board, slice and enjoy with friends!
Toppings (suggestions only!):
The boy’s meatlover pizza (pictured above):
- 3 tablespoons of good pasta sauce (it’s more flavoursome than plain tomato paste)
- 6 mini twiggy sticks, chopped into small pieces
- Handful of hot salami
- Handful of silverside
- ½ fresh tomato, sliced
- Brown onion slices
- 8 kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon of dried Italian herbs
- 1 cup grated cheese
Thai chicken pizza:
- 4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Thai Seasoning for the base.
- Green capsicum slices (or red capsicum if you have it)
- 1 chicken breast or thigh, oven baked and diced
- Red onion slices
- Pieces of tinned mango
- ½ cup grated cheese of your choosing
Gourmet vegetarian pizza:
- Finely sliced fennel (I pan-fried this earlier with a little olive oil to soften it)
- 5 finely sliced mushrooms
- ½ brown onion, sliced
- 8 kalamata olives, sliced
- Green capsicum slices
- 3 tablespoons of good pasta sauce