Tag Archives: pizza

How to make great pizza: from scratch, at home, without a pizza oven

17 Apr

After many requests, here it is! My essential guide to making exceptionally tasty pizza at home, from scratch, without a pizza oven.

We’ve been making pizza at home for many years, at least once a week. Pizza is obviously a popular item all over the world because it’s tasty, but making it at home is also a great way to spend time together and get people excited about midweek dinner. You won’t be able to serve 6 pizzas at once, but it will be a sharing-kinda-evening with everyone choosing their favourite toppings. My 7 year old daughter has always loved pizza, but now that she’s gotten used to my homemade version over the past few years, she’s turning her nose up at restaurant pizza (which is becoming a problem when we do eat out!).

So let’s talk pizza: this is almost a New York-style pizza with a thin crust (but not the thick outer rim), freshly made with Italian whole peeled tomatoes, grated mozzarella cheese (not fior di latte), salami and fresh basil leaves – you can leave the salami and add whatever you want. New York-style pizzas have a signature way of cooking where the tomato sauce and grated cheese integrate in the oven to form an almost “orange” top with a slight release of oil from the cheese, resulting in a look very different from the Italian (Neopolitan) classic made essentially with white blotches of fior di latte (fresh mozzarella) and a wood fired oven which results in spotty, blackened crusts.

Of course I also enjoy a proper wood fired Italian pizza made with fior di latte, but I’ve found that this semi-New York-style satisfies a much wider audience in my house.  There’s no pizza oven at my place, so I’ve learnt how to use my regular oven (a Bertazzoni La Germania Americana) with a few tips and tricks to reach incredible temperatures, straight onto a pizza stone (using a regular sheet of baking paper) without extra flour or a baking shovel. The results are just this: you’ll want more.

Here are my top 10 tips for making great pizza at your home. Once you try it, you might never order in again.

  1. Make a pizza base sauce from scratch: This is probably the biggest contributor to the flavour of your pizza. Most store-bought sauces just don’t hit the spot. If you think you can use tomato puree straight out of a can as a base sauce, you are horribly mistaken! Please don’t do it. My recipe includes no tomato puree (I find it too concentrated), but rather canned whole Italian tomatoes, pureed. Use a little more olive oil (than you think is adquate) to fry your garlic in, this way the garlic won’t burn easily. I add salt, pepper, sugar and dried origanum. My secret ingredient, smoked paprika, is optional, but adds phenomenal smokiness. Simmer and reduce the sauce for about 25-30 min over low heat, with a lid partially on so it doesn’t splatter all over your stove top. You’re looking for a hearty, bright red tomato puree that is slightly chunky.
  2. Use a good quality flour for your dough: For me there’s only one option, and that is stone ground white bread flour. Not only is it a more natural choice, but the texture result is far superior to processed and bleached commercial cake flour (there are scientific reasons for that, like the strength of the gluten etc. – I won’t go into it here). I’ve recently converted from making dough in my stand mixer to making dough in my food processor, after reading about it on Serious Eat’s Pizza Lab (a great read, by the way). It’s so much faster to make, and results in a really smooth dough that rises a little faster too.
  3. Be choosy about cheese: Not all mozzarellas are equal. Choose a good quality mozzarella and grate it coarsely, by yourself (ready-grated mozzarella are usually coated with a floury substance that prevents it from sticking together, and when that melts the result is just not the same). And don’t be tempted to use too much – it makes the pizza heavy and the base will be soggy.  If you are using fior di latte, tear it into chunks and arrange it with some space inbetween, as it will melt and “pool” to the sides. For this option, you won’t want to cover the full base, you’d still want some red spots inbetween.
  4. With toppings, less is more: This is a rookie mistake I see over and over again. A Margherita with salami, bacon, mushrooms, onion, red pepper, feta, artichokes and extra garlic WILL be a soggy mess. Choose 2 of your favourite toppings, if you must, and add it sparingly. That way, you’ll enjoy a much better end result with proper crunch. Lastly, remember to put the toppings on top of the cheese, not under (otherwise nothing gets cooked, it only gets horribly mushy).
  5. Properly preheat your oven: That means at least 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll be surprised how much it changes your game. Pizzas need exceptionally high temperatures to bake from scratch and cook through all the lovely layers. A moderate hot oven just won’t win the game.
  6. Choose the right oven setting and rack position: In my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana, I’ve found that the convection oven gets hotter quickly, but it doesn’t give enough directional heat from below – which is what you specifically want for a crispy base. The regular baking setting, using the top and bottom elements at the same time without convection, works fantastic for me. To make the most of the bottom heat, the pizza should definitely be baked on the lowest rack.
  7. Choosing between a pizza stone or a baking tray: I’ve had great results with both options, but the pizza stone still wins. I recently bought a nice cheap-ish one from Agrimark for only R220,00 (it even includes a pizza slicer!). The cool thing about the stone is that it absorbs and radiates heat, which means that it contributes to raising the heat even more with proper preheating. Remember to place it in the oven BEFORE you turn it on, otherwise it might crack (and only remove it after the stove has cooled properly). Another option is to buy untreated terracotta tiles from a tiling company – I’ve used it many times with phenomenal results. This way you can also pack them tightly together to create a larger baking area on your bottom tray for baking more than one pizza at a time – great for entertaining larger crowds. Last note about using baking trays: assemble the pizza on the BACK of the tray, that way it will slide off easier without having to go over a lip (see next point about using baking paper for sliding). These days you can also find lipless baking trays that work perfectly.
  8. You don’t need a shovel: Cooking the pizza directly on the hot pizza stone is what you’re aiming for. If you had a proper pizza oven, you’d use a shovel to get it in and out – it looks great, but it’s quite a technique to master, using just the right amount of flour/semolina underneath the fully assembled pizza to slide it onto and off again – believe me, it can be a disaster. In your kitchen, you probably won’t have the space for it anyway. So make your life easier by just using sheets of regular, non-stick baking paper (NOT wax paper). Transfer the rolled dough onto it, then assemble from there. This way, you’re left with an easily sliding device: sliding it onto a tray, onto the stone, off the stone, onto a board – you’ll easily get the hang of it. You can tug on the edges because it never really becomes too hot to touch (just be careful not to touch the actual stone or the oven). The paper will turn a little brown, but it won’t catch fire (unless you forget it in the oven…).
  9. Serve it on wood: Slice and serve the pizza immediately after cooking, on a flat wooden board. Hot pizza on regular ceramic plates turn sweaty quite quickly – not nice. Top with fresh herbs for extra flavour and texture.
  10. Condiments, anyone?: Many people love a little extra salt and freshly ground pepper on a pizza, but if your base and sauce is properly seasoned it shouldn’t even be necessary. I do like the crunch of a few salt flakes on top, so I always add that. Hot sauces like Tobasco or Sriracha are also crowd pleasers, so make a little condiment station in the middle of the table if you want to – totally optional.

Pizza base sauce recipe: (serves 6-8 – recipe can also be halved)

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 x regular cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 10 ml sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 ml dried origanum
  • 2,5 ml smoked paprika

Heat the oil over medium heat, then fry the garlic until fragrant but not brown. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, origanum and paprika, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes until almost reduced by half (keep partially covered to prevent splattering).

Pizza dough recipe: (makes 8 medium or 6 large – recipe can also be halved)

  • 600 g (4 cups) stone ground white bread flour
  • 10 g (15 ml) instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar
  • 1,5 teaspoons (7,5 ml) salt
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) luke warm water
  • 15 ml extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for oiling hands and bowl)

Place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the water and olive oil and mix for 15-20 seconds or until it forms a ball. With oiled hands, remove the dough and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let if proof in a warm place for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.

To make your pizza:

  • flour, for rolling out dough
  • about 125 g mozzarella per medium pizza, roughly grated (about 1 kg for 8 medium pizzas)
  • toppings of your choice (optional, like sliced salami, ham, mushrooms, crumbled feta, wilted spinach, etc.)
  • fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • condiments like hot sauces (optional)
  • salt flakes & freshly ground pepper (for serving)

When you place your dough in the bowl for proofing, then is a good time to start pre-heating your oven, with shelf on bottom position (if using a pizza stone, place it on the bottom shelf before turning the oven on). When the oven is hot (more than 240 C) and the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough into 8 portions (for medium pizza). On a floured surface, roll out the dough into thin circles (about 27-28 cm for medium), then transfer to a square sheet of non-stick baking paper on the back of a baking tray or on a lipless baking tray. Use the back of a spoon to cover all over with the cooked tomato pizza base sauce (see above), then top with mozzarella and your choice of topping, used sparingly. Carefully slide directly onto the hot pizza stone (or if you don’t have a stone, just place the baking tray in the oven). Bake for 4-7 minutes until golden brown on the edges and bubbly on top. Remove by carefully tugging on the baking paper and sliding the pizza onto a tray again. Transfer to a wooden serving board and remove the baking paper. Slice, top with fresh basil and serve at once.

Find more info about my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana stove on www.chefspride.co.za.

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Col’Cacchio Stellenbosch revamped to celebrate 25 years

23 Oct

Early evening at Col’Cacchio, Stellenbosch.

 

This year, well-known pizza franchise Col’Cacchio celebrates 25 years in the industry. They’ve updated their branding and revamped some of their flagship stores, with more revamping rolling out countrywide shortly.

I was invited to visit my local Col’Cacchio in Plein Street, Stellenbosch last week. The location of this store has always been a hit – a tranquil courtyard in the absolute centre of town, perfect for families with young kids but also walking distance from campus for students. It has a distinct European feel, yet enough privacy and safety because it is not directly on the street.

Col’Cacchio distinguishes themselves as an Italian-inspired elegant pizzeria with an extensive menu, also including generous salads, antipasto, pasta and desserts. With their menu also recently updated, you can now do half-and-half pizza options, choosing any two of your favourite pizzas on the menu or even creating your own list of toppings.

The standard thin crust of Col’Cacchio’s pizzas wins my vote. I also love the size of their pizzas and the fact that they don’t feel heavy, but still are generously topped with fresh ingredients. I’ll definitely be back for the antipasti platter – such great value and perfect for sharing. Note that there are also gluten free and vegan pasta and pizza options!

As always, kids are well catered for with complimentary pizza dough and cookie cutters to play with, as well as crayons to draw on the brown paper table cover. This literally keeps them busy for ages – I love it.

Linger longer this summer season at Col’Cacchio Stellenbosch, invite a crowd of friends to join you and sit back while you snack through their menu. Their wine selection also includes many local favourites.

Take a look at our visit in pictures:

Garlic, chilli, parmesan, Tabasco, olive oil and balsamic vinegar comes standard with every sit-down table.

Happiness is fresh dough for the kids!

My favourite of the day: a delicious antiplasti platter of caprese salad, artichokes, charcuterie and marinated peppers. This platter also includes thin, crisp, herby pizza slices, plated separately.

Prosciutto and orange salad with rocket.

My half-and-half pizza – the smoke babe (Asian deboned smoked pork ribs, rosso onion, corn, spring onion, mint and coriander) and spicotta (fior di latte, garlic, spinach, ricotta, tomatoes and parmesan).

Schalk’s half-and-half pizza: the smoke babe and the moghul (Indian butter chicken, yoghurt, fior di latte, coriander & crispy onions).

Kids playing happily in Col’Cacchio’s courtyard.

 

Where to find Col’Cacchio Stellenbosch:
Location: Shop 29-31, Simonsplein Centre, Plein Street, Stellenbosch, 7600
Telephone Number: (021) 886-7088

For more info visit www.colcacchio.co.za or hop onto these social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColCacchio/
Twitter: @ColCacchio
Instagram: @colcacchio

Download the Col’Cacchio Rewards app from the Apple App Store or Google Play & unlock delicious rewards.

 

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A Simple Italian Feast with Poetry Stores

1 May

A collection of Roman-style recipes from Eleonora Galasso’s new book As The Romans Do, available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Rain or shine, summer or winter – Italian cooking wins my vote every single time. There’s just something generously simple about the food culture of Italy: not too many ingredients, comforting and robust, fragrant and delicious.

I recently had a look through Eleonora Galasso’s new book As The Romans Do: La Dolce Vita in a Cookbook – Classic and Reinvented Recipes from Rome, available from Poetry Stores. The book is positively vibrant, filled with familiar Italian favourites like saltimbocca, panzanella, semifreddo, various pastas and porchetta. She puts a playful twist on many of the recipes, accompanied with excellent photographs of the dishes as well as her beautiful surrounds in Rome. She’s an international Instagram sensation, so her pictures are stunning.

Here are three of Eleonora’s recipes – easy and accessible enough to make all year round. In the photographs you’ll see some of Poetry’s new black and gold tableware that made these vibrant dishes look even more delicious. Everything is available online and in store from Poetry – look out for the noir and petra ranges.

Pizette Rosse. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Mini pizzas with tomato sauce (pizzette rosse): makes about 40 pizette

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 250 g passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • small handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100  mozzarella, cut into cubes

For the dough:

  • 500 g strong flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 250 ml lukewarm water
  • 30 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare the dough, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the sugar. Dissolve the yeast into 250 ml lukewarm water, add it to the flour and sugar and mix together for 5 minutes. Add the butter, oil and salt and mix for a further 2-3 minutes to form a soft, sticky dough. Add up to 50 ml more water as needed, the goth should feel neither sticky not dry. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200 C. Mix the passata, basil, oil and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

To make the pizzette, roll out the risen dough on a clean, floured surface, to a 1 cm thickness. Press down on the surface of the dough with a small cup of glass of your choice to form your pizzette circles. Spoon a little of the passata over the centre of each pizetta, being sure to leave the edges empty so that you have that typical white/red contrast of a good margherita.

Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, adding a few mozzarella cubes to the top of each pizzetta halfway through cooking, until the cheese is bubbling and the pizzetta bases are crisp. Enjoy.

My notes: I prefer the pizzette a little thinner, so I roll out the dough to a thickness of 5 mm.

Panzanella. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Bread salad (panzanella): serves 4

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 g rustic bread loaf, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 4 firm tomatoes
  • 2 large red onions, peeled
  • 1 celery stick, trimmed and cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 15 pitted black olives, finely chopped
  • 40 g rocket leaves, finely chopped
  • small handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 20 ml white or red wine vinegar
  • 100 g pecorino romano cheese, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • salt & pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the bread pieces and fry, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes until crisp and golden all over. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave for 1-2 minutes, then drain, cut a cross at the stem end of each tomato and peel off the skins. Cut the tomatoes roughly into 5 mm cubes, discarding the seeds.

Slice the onions and place them in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry on a clean tea towel. In a salad bowl, mix together the sliced onions, chopped cucumber, celery, tomatoes and olives, then add the chopped rocket an basil leaves, pour over the vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt & pepper. Finish the panzanella by adding the toasted bread pieces and giving everything a final gentle mix to ensure the bread is covered in all the juices. This salad is delicious served immediately, or you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, letting it absorb the mix of aromatic flavours. Scatter over the pecorino before serving.

My notes: Peeling and deseeding the tomatoes are not always necessary – I love serving them unpeeled and with seeds. I also love serving the herbs and olives whole and not chopped.

Braised sausages with lentils, leeks & fennel. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Braised sausages with lentils, leeks & fennel: serves 4

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed, leanend and finely sliced lengthways
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into rough strips
  • 400 pork sausages
  • 250 Castelluccio or Puy lentils
  • 350 ml vegetable stock
  • 10 g fennel seeds
  • small handful of chives, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the leek and fry for 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the fennel and sausages and cook for 5 minutes until the sausages are browned on all sides.

Add the lentils to the pan and pour over the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for 25 minutes, or until the lentils have softened and the sausages are cooking through. Divide the lentils and sausages between plates and scatter over the fennel seeds and chopped chives to finish. Serve.

My notes: I used black lentils.

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Pizza verde

12 Jan

A freshly baked pizza verde (green), the perfect lighter option to a regular pizza with tomato base sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There is something really beautiful about a pizza topped with only one colour – in this case green. I’ve made hundreds of pizzas in my life, mostly with a traditional red tomato base sauce and some without the sauce (a white pizza, also called pizza bianca). So technically this is a white pizza topped with green ingredients and no mozzarella, only a few chunks of Danish blue cheese (with a greenish colour). I’ve added a mixture of green ingredients with really intense flavours, like very salty capers, fresh peppery greens and earthy broccoli. The broccoli and blue cheese really works together, especially when they get all toasty in a very hot oven.

If you don’t like broccoli or any of the stuff I’ve chosen, just substitute it with your favourite green veg and leaves and give it a try. It’s a fabulous informal starter, cut into squares or slices, but also a great light lunch or supper.

For the dough: (makes 2 tray-size pizzas or 3 regular round pizzas)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) cake flour or white bread flour
  • 10 ml instant yeast
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) luke warm water
  • olive oil, for greasing the bowl

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and mix with your hands until it starts to come together, then press into a ball and start kneading. Knead to a smooth soft ball of dough, about 5-10 minutes. Oil the inside of a clean large bowl, then place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to stand in a warm place to rise until doubled in size – about 30 minutes.

For the pizza toppings, per tray size pizza:

  • a small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 100 g blue cheese (or feta, or goats cheese)
  • a handful capers
  • a bunch of spring onion, finely sliced
  • a handful of greens, including rocket and baby spinach
  • a drizzle of olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 230 C.

On a clean surface dusted with flour, divide the dough into 2 or 3 balls, then roll out each one with a flour-dusted rolling pin until very thin. Transfer to a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.

Top the pizza dough with small broccoli florets, crumbled blue cheese and capers. Bake at 230 C for around 7 minutes (or until golden brown on the edges), then remove from the oven. Transfer to a wooden board, then top with spring onion, fresh green leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once.

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Review: Lunch at Brenaissance

18 Sep

Brenaissance Wine and Stud Farm in Devon Valley, Stellenbosch (picture courtesy of Brenaissance)

I was invited to Brenaissance Wine & Stud Estate‘s Café Blanc de Noir for lunch last week. They are situated in the beautiful Devon Valley on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, a relatively new project by owners Tom and Hayley Breytenbach (the Café opened in 2012).

Having heard of Brenaissance’s pizza and wine pairings, me and Schalk decided to try it out. Café Blanc de Noir is suitable kitted out in black and white, and the building has a strikingly modern yet rustic appearance.

The entrance to Café Blanc de Noir at Brenaissance (picture courtesy of Brenaissance)

After getting seated, we ordered the pizza and wine pairing from the menu, and our waiter explained how it would work. We each received a large laminated placemat with info about each of the 4 wines that we were about to drink, and then there was space for a rectangular wooden board  containing a rectangular pizza with 4 different topping combinations. Brenaissance’s signature rectangular pizzas are made by rolling out their pizza dough by hand, paper thin, and then using a large rectangular cutter (like a large cookie cutter) to standardize each one. The dough is pre-baked, then stacked for later. They use a wood fired oven and the pizzas have a very nice char on the edges – just the way I like it.

The pizza and wine pairing at Café Blanc de Noir.

 

Here is the full description of Brenaissance’s Café Blanc de Noir pizza & wine pairing (R160/person):

Parma ham pizza with garlic, rosa tomatoes, avo, mixed greens, parmesan shavings and pesto olive oil, served with Brenaissance Knight of White Chardonnay 2010

Caramelised onion pizza with kalamata olives, danish feta, mixed green & balsamic glaze, served with Brenaissance Queen of Hearts Merlot 2010

Biltong pizza with sweet fig, danish feta, mixed greens & balsamic glaze, served with Brenaissance Full House Bordeaux Blend 2010

Cajun chicken pizza with chorizo, red onion, mushrooms, mixed greens and chilli infused olive oil, served with Brenaissance Jack of Diamonds Shiraz 2009

 

My favourite pizza combination was the first option with parma ham and avo – really delicious! But I have to say that Brenaissance’s wines completely blew us away. All 4 wines that we tasted were superb quality, and I would seriously recommend a wine tasting at Brenaissance for true wine lovers who want to discover something new.

The atmosphere at Brenaissance was relaxed and the pizza was really scrumptious. The venue is child friendly with a large play area across the stream (in full view of the parents, don’t worry!). This place will certainly be a huge hit in warmer weather, for lazy lunches and wine tastings with lots of friends and family.

Contact Brenaissance’s Café Blanc de Noir on 021-200 2644 for bookings. They also have facilities to cater for events, weddings and accommodation.

Thank you very much to Brenaissance for the lovely lunch, we’ll be back soon!

Rectangular pizzas (picture courtesy of Brenaissance)

The kitchen and service station at Café Blanc de Noir

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Pissaladière with caramelized onions, anchovies and olives

10 Jun

Freshly baked pissaladiere with anchovies and olives (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Pissaladière is a classic dish from the south of France – an intensely tasty type of pizza/tart topped with caramelized onions (or onion confit), anchovies, olives and fresh herbs like rosemary. So why the fancy name when we might just as well call it a pizza? Well, it’s a type of “white pizza” as they say, one without tomatoes or a tomato sauce.

The name pissaladière comes from the original Latin word “pissalat” which refers to the “salted fish” or anchovies on top. I’ve only seen it on menus in SA where the establishment is an established bakery, like Ile de Pain in Knysna, but you might find it as an appetizer on traditional French menus.

I’ve used my trusted basic pizza dough recipe to make the base. While your dough is rising, quickly make a small batch of caramelized onions. And don’t be too neat when rolling out the dough – to me the charm lies in a rustic looking free-form pissaladière.

If you don’t like anchovies, you can leave those out. But if you, like me, adore those little salty slivers, the combination with the sweet onions and tart olives are just heavenly! If you cannot go without cheese, add a few small pieces of fior di latte.

Ingredients for base: (makes 2 large bases or 4 small)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) flour
  • 2 t (10 ml) instant yeast
  • 1 t (5 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 t (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (185 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1 T (15 ml) olive oil

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix until a sticky dough forms. Knead until the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in 2 (for large bases). On a well floured surface, roll out one piece at a time into circular shapes, adding a little more flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a large baking tin lined with baking paper.

Ingredients for caramelised onions:

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 4 onions, finely sliced (not chopped)
  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and black pepper

Method:

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onions and fry them slowly until they start to brown. Don’t use high heat to speed up the process, your results will not be the same. You want the onions to become completely soft – they will naturally start to caramelise.
  2. Now add the sugar and vinegar, then turn up the heat and reduce the liquid until it is sticky. Remove from the heat, then season with salt and pepper and leave to cool. Store any leftovers covered in the fridge – it will last for at least 2 weeks.

Assembling the pissaladière:

  • about 1 cup of caramelised onions
  • about 1/2 cup of pitted olives, halved
  • about 10-15 anchovy fillets
  • about 15 ml chopped fresh rosemary
  1. Top the bases with caramelized onion, pitted olives, anchovy fillets and chopped rosemary.
  2. Bake for about 8 minutes until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wooden board. Slice and serve immediately.

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

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Fig, goats cheese and onion marmalade pizza

12 Mar

Fresh fig, goatscheese and onion marmalade pizza (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

I grew up in a beautiful family-home in Uniepark, Stellenbosch. I was the second of 4 kids, and we had many fruit trees in our garden: peaches, prunes, lychees, grapes, lemons and figs. I absolutely HATED figs back then: the ripe fruit would fall from the trees (there were two fig trees and they each carried hundreds of fruit), attracting those huge yellow and black beatles. I started associating figs with the smell of spoilt fruit and bugs, and didn’t eat them for many years after moving from that house. I cannot believe I had been so silly!

Now, figs are a delicacy to me. They are beautiful to look at, beautiful to photograph, beautiful to eat. They’re expensive, and not always easy to find. These days I would pay good money for one of those trees from my childhood! I would eat them fresh every morning for breakfast, cook them in jams, serve them in salads, and bake them in tarts.

But today, I want fig pizza. I couldn’t decide whether to serve it as a fresh pizza (fresh toppings on a pre-baked base), or as a baked pizza, so I did both. My advice would be this: if you want to serve this as a starter or snack to a number of guests, serve it fresh. You can pre-bake the base, and assemble the pizza before your guests arrive. It is a winner for warm summer night feasts. But, if you want to make it a main meal, be sure to add mozzarella and bake it in a blistering hot oven. The slices of fig almost resemble salami if you take a quick glance! But this meatless, sweet and salty pizza combo is an absolute dream dish – and stunning to look at.

Make the most of summer’s fig harvests and try these two pizza combinations – hot or cold, figs are simply fantastic.

Baked fig, goats cheese and onion marmalade pizza (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for pizza base: (makes 2 large pizzas)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) flour
  • 2 t (10 ml) instant yeast
  • 1 t (5 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 t (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (185 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1 T (15 ml) olive oil

Ingredients for the topping: (for 2 pizzas, one hot and one cold)

  • 6 ripe figs
  • 4-6 T onion marmelade (I used the one from Woolworths)
  • 200 g chevin goats cheese (I used Fairview’s traditional chevin)
  • a bunch of fresh watercress leaves (or rocket)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic glaze (it’s the concentrated, sweeter version of balsamic vinegar)
  • 120 g grated mozzarella cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method for the pizza base:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix untill a sticky dough forms. Knead untill the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 15-30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 240 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in 2. On a well floured surface, roll out one piece at a time into circular shapes, adding a little more flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a large baking tin lined with baking paper.

Option 1: fresh fig pizza with the pre-baked base:

  1. Bake the pizza base for about 7-10 minutes or untill lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil (if the pizza puffs up in the oven, just flatten it slightly after you remove it from the oven). Let it cool.
  2. Arrange sliced figs, pieces of goats cheese and slivers of onion marmalade on the pizza, then add watercress leaves and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Slice and serve.

Option 2: baked fig pizza with extra mozzarella cheese:

  1. Spread the unbaked pizza base with a thin layer of onion marmalade (instead of traditional tomato sauce), then cover with mozzarella cheese.
  2. Arrange sliced figs and pieces of goats cheese on pizza base, then bake for 10-12 minutes or untill the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 3 minutes.
  3. Arrange watercress leaves, season with salt and pepper, slice, then serve immediately.

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

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Garlic pita with caprese salad

31 Jan

Freshly baked garlic pita topped with caprese salad

If there is one country’s food that I love above all else, it has to be Italy. Simple food, using the best ingredients, to be enjoyed without fuss or pretense. One of my ultimate favourite simple Italian dishes is a caprese salad: a combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese (fior di latte) and basil leaves. Add a splash of your best extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and I am in food heaven.

When we traveled in Greece during 2010, we discovered the genius Greek way of eating meats and salads inside a rolled up pita bread (souvlaki). It inspired me to try my caprese salad on a garlic pita bread, one that you can fold over and dip into balsamic vinegar before taking a huge bite while the juices of the tomatoes would run down your chin. It is so simple, yet one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had.

Another way to eat it would be to cover the caprese pita with another garlic pita, almost like a pita sandwich, and slice wedges for everyone to share. Whichever way you prefer, this is a winner combination, and one that I will surely be making for my grandkids in years to come.

Tip: Always use fresh, perfectly ripe, organic tomatoes, preferably ones that have not seen the inside of a refrigerator yet. They taste 100 times better than other tomatoes!

Ingredients for garlic pita: (makes 2 large pita’s)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour or white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • topping: 6 large cloves or garlic, finely chopped or crushed, mixed with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • dried oregano for sprinkling

Method for the garlic pita:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix untill a sticky dough forms. Knead untill the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 15-30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. On the middle rack of your oven, insert an untreated terracotta tile (mine is 40 x 40 cm). Pre-heat oven to 240 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Divide dough in 2. On a well floured surface, roll out one piece at a time ion circular shapes, adding more flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a wooden board that is covered with a sheet of baking paper (this is key, because it will enable you to slide the dough with paper into the oven directly onto the hot tile, which acts as a pizza oven). Cover the rolled out dough with half of the garlic and olive oil mixture, spread out evenly to cover the whole surface, then sprinkle lightly with oregano.
  4. Slide the rolled out dough from the wooden board onto the heated tile in the oven. Bake for about 5-7 minutes or untill golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Ingredients for caprese salad:

  • 1 large ripe organic tomato, sliced
  • 250 g ripe organic cherry tomatoes, sliced (or use any other smaller tomatoes that are in season)
  • 150 g fresh mozzarella (fior di latte), teared into chunky shreds
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Method:

Arrange the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves on the garlic pita. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with balsamic vinegar to dip in.

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Pizza my way

15 Mar

Pizza my way with spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, salami, feta cheese and basil

I started making pizzas at home about 3 years ago. I got the recipe for the pizza base out of “Huisgenoot Top 500 Wenresepte”, and I haven’t looked back since. I now prefer my own homemade pizza to restaurant pizza, unless it is made by a proper Italian establishment who can provide me with the real thing!

I like my pizza to have a very thin crust, with really tasty tomato base spread generously, then mozzarella cheese and the toppings of your choice. […]

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Spicy tomato sauce for pizza, pasta and meat

3 Mar

Meatballs with my versatile spicy tomato sauce

Yes my darlings, it is true: I’ve created a fantastic spicy tomato sauce so versatile, you can practically use it on anything. I started making it as a tomato sauce for my pizza bases, and then realised that it also tasted great on pasta. It also works very well with meat and chicken. Lo and behold, it can even be turned into a soup! […]

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