I love a home-made pizza, and pizza recipes are as many and varied as the hills. My pizzas always vary from making to making, but there are a few things i do each time, which help to make a really good pizza. A nice pizza sauce is essential; preferably home-made. I've already provided you with one pizza/pasta sauce recipe that can be made with tinned tomatoes (July 15, or search under "tinned tomatoes"in ingredients); in a few weeks when tomatoes are cheap i will be making my usual stocks of fresh tomato pizza/pasta sauce, and will share that recipe with you then. Caramelised onions are another essential for a vegetarian pizza - cooked slowly in plenty of olive oil they become sweet and delicious. I also like to make a gremolata-type sprinkle that uses finely chopped rosemary in place of parsley, along with lemon zest and finely chopped garlic. Sometimes i add some finely grated parmesan to the mix, and sometimes some very finely chopped olives, if i haven't put olives in some other form on the pizza. I always put pumpkin on a vegetarian pizza - preferably butternut, but crown pumpkin works well unless it has been picked too early and is watery and lacking flavour. Thin slices of pumpkin will cook very well on the pizza without needing any pre-cooking.
You can tell the pizza above was made very recently, as it has asparagus on top - that is the beauty of this sort of pizza, as you can adjust it according to what is in season and what you have in the fridge. My pizzas usually have a layer of lightly steamed spinach on them as the "green component", and the recipe below has spinach, as it is my standard ingredient. Another excellent addition to these pizzas is cubes of haloumi cheese; when i was making haloumi regularly i always added chunks of haloumi to the mix, however i have not made cheese of any sort for a few years now (too much to do! Not enough time!), and as haloumi is rather expensive to buy it is a rarer treat on pizza these days.
I traditionally make pizza on the night before i go away on a work trip, as i find my left-over pizza makes an excellent lunch, unlike bought pizzas, which are usually so greasy and oily that they become rather unappetising when cold. The secret to avoiding a greasy cold pizza is to go light on the cheese, and to use hard but tasty varieties (e.g. Parmesan or tasty cheddar) rather than the traditional melting varieties such as mozzarella.
The pizza dough recipe is one i have had written in my cookbook for years; i believe it is an Alison Holst recipe. I've given the method for hand-made dough, although these days i almost always make it in the bread maker - i love the convenience of getting it ready at lunch time (or earlier) and setting the timer and walking away....
If you want to make this pizza vegan, all you need to do is omit the cheese. I made these pizzas once during the "vegan adventure" (See July 6 post) and although i tend to go light on the cheese, i do find a small amount of cheese to be preferable to no cheese at all.
Makes 2 pizzas, 28cm diameter
2 teaspoons active dried yeast
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups high grade flour (substitute 1 or 2 cups with wholemeal flour if you wish)
1 quantity (approx 100g) homemade pizza sauce
2 large onions, halved and finely sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups silverbeet or spinach, stems removed, finely sliced
1 cup pumpkin, peeled and thinly sliced
zest 1 or 2 lemons, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
handful of fresh rosemary tips, very finely chopped
Cracked black pepper
Cheese - approximately 1 cup, preferably Tasty Cheddar type rather than mozzarella or other melting type.
Mushrooms thickly sliced or finely chopped
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Red capsicum, cut in strips
Any seasonal vegetables at your disposal - asparagus, eggplant etc
To make the dough: Measure the first 5 dough ingredients into a large bowl with one cup of the flour and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave for 15 minutes or longer in a warm place. Stir in the rest of the flour (plus extra if necessary) to make dough just firm enough to knead. Knead 10 min, adding extra flour if necessary until it forms a soft ball and springs back when pressed lightly. Put in a well oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place about 30 minutes. Knead lightly then shape.
(if using a breadmaker on the dough cycle, put the ingredients in in the following order: water, salt, olive oil, flour, sugar and lastly yeast)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius, and start preparing the toppings while the dough is doing its thing. First prepare the onions - a slow saute to caramelise the sugars does wonderful things to an onion. First sizzle them on a medium heat in the olive oil until translucent but not browned. Then turn the heat to low, and cook a further 15 to 20 minutes longer, until glossy and sweet. You may need to add a splash of boiling water to stop them from browning.
Lightly steam the spinach or silverbeet until just wilted, then set aside.
Chop or grate the rest of your ingredients, and mix together the lemon zest, garlic and rosemary in a small bowl (add the parmesan and/or finely chopped olives to this mix if desired).
When your dough is ready, stretch and pull it to the desired shape and size. Spread a little pizza sauce across each base, followed by the drained spinach and then the caramelised onion. Next comes the pumpkin and other seasonal vegetables, followed by the rosemary/garlic/lemon zest mix, sprinkled liberally, and any other small items like capers that you may be using. Then a sprinkling of cheese evenly across the pizzas, and lastly, if using, top with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.
Bake in preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them to ensure the toppings don't burn - you want the cheese to be slightly golden. I find the pizza on the top shelf will be ready first, and the one on the lower shelf then needs to be moved up to the top shelf and given another 5 minutes or so of cooking. Don't forget about it while you are tucking into your first pizza!