‘Beer in the dough is my secret’

When you’re cooking for a restaurant critic, even an off-duty one, your pizza better be good. Liam Reid thinks he’s nailed it

Liam Reid, who makes some of Ireland’s best pizza, according to his wife, restaurant critic Catherine Cleary, getting to grips with his signature pizza in the family kitchen. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Liam Reid, who makes some of Ireland’s best pizza, according to his wife, restaurant critic Catherine Cleary, getting to grips with his signature pizza in the family kitchen. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

I have to admit there is no seminal experience to explain my obsession with pizza, such as a foreign exchange trip where I fell for an Italian beauty on the cobble-stoned Florentine square, with the aroma of margarita wafting out of a nearby wood-fired pizza stove as we gazed into each other’s eyes. I wish.

No, the best I can come up with is my Dad, left on his own with some hungry children, a few cellophane-wrapped defrosted mini Birdseye pizzas, and an instruction from my mother to put them under the grill for lunch. He aced the first step, by unwrapping the pizzas. Then, having successfully placed them under the grill, he fell victim to overconfidence and decided that the base could do with a bit of browning, and flipped them over on the grill tray, with disastrous consequences.

And that’s how my Dad invented Upside-down Pizza, and why his charges went without any lunch that day.

I don’t know what inner demons were created by my father’s pizza-cide, but I have two simple tips for great pizza. First, I have absolutely no problem plagiarising the recipes of other talented cooks and making them look like my own.

I use a dough recipe I found in the Guardian , by expert baker Dan Lepard, and which I was very taken with because it includes beer as an ingredient (I work at St James’s Gate brewery). It makes a better tasting pizza base with the perfect combination of chewiness and crustiness.

I downright stole the idea of caramelised onions as a topping from my neighbour Patrick McKenna. That’s what he gets for inviting my family over for dinner. And don’t ask me who first told me that a dash of vinegar adds a nice bite to the rich tomato sauce, but it’s my secret ingredient now.

My second tip is time. Getting a really good pizza dough takes nearly three hours. You can take shortcuts, and I often do, but taking your time does give a much better result. And there’s a lot of downtime when you can read the paper, or have a snooze, all-the-while pretending to your family you are slaving over a hot stove.

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