Do you think such a thing exists?
Cleaning out my kitchen cupboard is an annual affair – one that doesn’t happen more often because the conditions need to be just right. Firstly, I need to feel like it – I must have that yen to sort, order, take stock and be ruthless when it comes to throwing things out (something I’m hopeless at for 360 days of the year). Secondly, I must have the time – at least three hours – because although the sorting and ordering alone does not take all that long, I need to allow time to examine each item. Overlooked or forgotten ingredients usually make me nostalgic and fuel my imagination.
These two conditions came together yesterday. With the first workday of the year (today) impending, and no immediate plans to fill my Sunday (the Guinea Pig was out among the heaving masses watching the cricket), I felt it was my last chance to put my house (well, just my kitchen really) in order.
This year was a particularly bad one for forgotten comestibles. I discovered no less than five bags of basmati rice, each containing only a teaspoon or two of actual rice (hmm); a bottle of putrefied truffle oil (what a waste!); a bag of two-year-old quinoa (quinoa? what was I thinking?); a forgotten experiment involving white balsamic vinegar and tarragon (don’t ask); two ancient bottles of apricot jam (gifts); a jar of my dad’s preserved lemons (which I am delighted to have found – I recently discovered a recipe using preserved lemons that actually seems worth trying); and 12 salt and pepper shakers of varying shapes and sizes (helloooo charity shop). I also discovered an expensive-looking but dusty bottle of authentic balsamic vinegar (from Modena), though neither the guinea pig or I have the faintest idea where it came from. I wasn’t sure what to do with it as I hardly ever use balsamic vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar or lemon juice in salad dressings).
I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about making pizza since I bought the latest Donna Hay (that’s the Oct/Nov 09 issue here in the ol’ RS of A) – that woman takes food porn to a whole new level. So, after I finally purged the cucina, I decided to try two of the recipes in the pizza feature: potato, Gorgonzola & dill; and salami & courgette. I scattered a few drops of the balsamic over the latter just after it came out of the oven. And oh boy, was it good. The sweet-sour vinegar worked beautifully with the salty salami.
With or without balsamic vinegar, do give these recipes a try (courtesy of Donna dearest) – they really are something special. Here’s a fantastic tip I discovered for those of us who don’t have brick ovens or granite slabs: just heat up your baking tray in a hot oven for 10 minutes before you place the pizza dough on it – it’ll start cooking the base straight away, so you land up with crispy pizza even if your oven is a little unreliable.
Potato, dill and Gorgonzola pizza1 quantity pizza dough (see recipe, below), rolled into a base
Olive oil, for brushing
1 cup store-bought caramelised onion relish (or onion jam)
5 baby potatoes, blanched and thinly sliced
100 Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped dill, to serve
Preheat oven to 220 C. Brush a heated tray with olive oil and top with the dough. Spoon over the relish, top with the potato and Gorgonzola. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the topping is golden and the base is crispy. Sprinkle with the chopped dill to serve.
Courgette and spicy salami pizza1 quantity pizza dough (see recipe, below), rolled into a base
Olive oil, for brushing
1/2 cup tomato purée
About 7 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 courgettes, thinly sliced
7 slices spicy salami
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
Preheat oven to 220 C. Brush a heated tray with olive oil and top with the dough. Spread the pizza bases with the tomato purée, and top with the tomato, courgettes, salami and cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the topping is golden and the base is crispy.
Basic pizza dough1 tbsp dry yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2,5 cups 00 flour
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Place the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface. This means the yeast has been activated.
2. Place the flour, salt and olive oil in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture and mix together with well-floured hands to form a dough.
3. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 3 to 4 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into two balls and place on a lightly floured tray under a clean damp cloth. Set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until the balls have doubled in size.
4. Roll out each dough ball on a lightly floured surface (any shape you like!). These bases with make two large pizzas approximately 30cm in diameter.