In Comfort & Spice, Niamh Shields says that potato became her one of her favourite pizza toppings since her first trip to Rome. Not to worry – I *did* tell Niamh that the Maltese love that too. I remember a visit to Gozo a long time ago (I must have been around 21 I think..I did say ‘a long time ago’) while looking for somewhere to eat I was directed by a local to a lady who made the “best pizza”. I really cannot recall where this was, and I don’t know if it really was the best pizza. To tell you where you can find that I would have to get back to you. What I will say now is that it was really good.
When I’m homesick I love to recreate recipes which take me back to the islands for a little while and a really quick way of doing that is to make a basic pizza dough and put plenty of thinly sliced potatoes on top. Make sure it doesn’t dry up on you, so add plenty of olive oil. I do have a recipe for pizza dough in this blog. Whatever you put on your pizza is up to you. Traditionalists will pull their noses up and not look at these pics, but I don’t really care. Apart from the classic Napoletana, which I think is similar to the Margherita, I love it with Maltese sausages and/or potatoes. That’s how we roll in Malta.
I’m also posting here some photos taken on a recent visit to Malta – I managed some to do some cooking, including some pizzas for lunch. A few were made with goat’s cheese (ġbejniet) and the traditional zalzett Malti. Hope you enjoy them as much as much as I did.
Since I moved to the UK almost four years ago, from a large kitchen to a very small one, I learnt to make do with the basics. I wasn’t sure if I would get used to being cramped in a small space. I got some equipment with me but I left most behind, especially my very much missed Kitchen Aid. However, I now beat almost everything with a normal whisk or with an electric hand whisk, which (when working well) is a life-saver. (I must admit though that recently, I beat some zabaglione by hand. Then I swore I would never do that again!)
One thing which I didn’t have at all is a bread maker. I’m just an amateur cook so you chefs out there please forgive me for owning one, even while you cringe. But now, we can enjoy freshly baked bread everyday. That is what J enjoys most. Long-life super fluffy sliced bread isn’t an option. I have to say though that most supermarkets now have their own bakeries in store that offer good-quality bread and that’s great, but I still prefer making our own. I wouldn’t recommend using it to bake cakes. However it’s perfect for fruit loaves.
Thanks to our bread maker I’ve been making pizza on average once a week, especially on Saturday evenings. I love the feel and elasticity of pizza dough and it’s so easy to roll out. It beats shortcrust pastry, not in taste obviously, but I don’t have to worry about it falling apart on me. Fact is that pizza dough is easy to make with or without the machine. *With* means less mess; all you need is a little flour for rolling it out onto your working surface. The ingredients remain the same for whichever method you prefer.
A note before you start: there is the need for salt in this recipe. Omitting it here is not an option. For two square pizza trays you’ll need:
- ½ teaspoon dried active yeast (I use Allinson)
- 300g strong white bread flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 170ml water
The above is the order in which the ingredients go in the machine. By hand try the following:
- Prepare two trays sprinkled well with semolina. This will help you to slide the pizza easily onto your serving plate later.
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7, but consider more if you’re using a non-convection oven.
- Combine the yeast with the water (warm this up, not too much), olive oil and salt in a large bowl and stir until the yeast and salt are dissolved. After a couple of minutes add half of the flour and mix well. Add the rest of the flour and mix well with your hands.
- Put the dough on a clean floured surface and work it well. This dough can take it! Then leave it to rise in an oiled bowl or tray, covered with a damp towel. Once it’s doubled in size take it out of the bowl on to a surface once more and divide it into two. Roll each piece of dough and place on the two trays. (You could use pizza stones instead of the trays. These will work better in a very hot oven.)
- Top your pizzas with anything you like. I am partial to mozzarella or goat’s cheese, some mushrooms, slices of chorizo and onions, oregano and some more olive oil. I generally slice some tomatoes as a base when they’re nice and fresh instead of tinned passata or polpa. This is obviously a guide. Do whatever you want!
If you want to make focaccia, then all you need to do is to spread all the dough onto a well-oiled baking tray and leave it to rise a little (leave out Step 3). Puncture the dough with some fresh rosemary when you can find it. If not prong it with a fork, spread some more olive oil and top it with some onions and again with anything that you like. There’s your Saturday evening dinner sorted. Enjoy!
Everyone knows I’m a huge Nigella fan. No news there. One of the very few things I don’t agree with her on is bread machines. My hubby J bought us one last year and I love it. I use it almost every day and it’s perfect for both sweet and savoury kinds. I haven’t looked back since.
I am trying a new dough recipe now. It’s one for rolls or baps that I’m going to use for this evening’s dinner. (For anyone who’s asking, it’s home-made burgers.) What’s curious is that this recipe calls for 1 egg. I’ve never used eggs for bread doughs before and I’m wondering how it will turn out. We’ll see…