I would love, sometimes, to have the same dishes every day of the week. Having meatloaf on a Monday, shepherd’s pie on a Wednesday and so on can be quite appealing, as it means that shopping is predictable and there’s no need to worry about what to cook.
It’s my job to cook different things every day, however, and I love to discover new dishes and eat new things, so I’ve never really had a rhythm in the kitchen when it comes to menu planning. Except for pizza. For quite a while we had “Pizza Friday”. I would make up a huge batch of pizza dough and freeze it in portions along with plenty of homemade tomato and herb sauces. It’s the ultimate convenience food.
The thought of firing an oil-laden, preservative-pumped frozen pizza base into the oven can be tempting, but making your own is so much nicer. It’s difficult to have regular pizza-making sessions unless you have the right dough recipe. Some are too sticky, too dry or they fail to rise to the occasion.
I use a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His dough can be made the night before, kept in the fridge to rise slowly and can even be made a week ahead. It defrosts perfectly and crisps up in the oven like a dream, giving you the perfect thin, crunchy base. I like to use half spelt flour in my version and often add a few tablespoons of finely minced herbs: marjoram or oregano for traditional margheritas and thyme for goat’s cheese.
Simply mix 250g of plain flour, 250g of strong flour, one teaspoon of instant dried yeast and a generous pinch of sea salt in a bowl. Add 320ml of warm water and mix until craggy, add one tablespoon of olive oil, then work to a dough, kneading for eight to 10 minutes until smooth. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until it has doubled in size, and then use as you wish.
Any leftover dough can be used to make small, child-size pizzas. I often freeze these rolled out, topped with tomato sauce and grated cheese, then just cook from frozen. They’re fantastic to have in the freezer.
There are, of course, plenty of good-quality ready-made pizza doughs available to buy. Sometimes when there’s no dough in the freezer and no time to make it, I use pitta bread, baguette or a good focaccia sliced horizontally to make a lovely alternative.
I always leave mozzarella balls to drain in a sieve over the sink while I prep the other ingredients. Try to remove as much excess water as possible to prevent a soggy pizza, and avoid low-fat mozzarella, which has no flavour and an odd, rubber-like texture.
Dollops of creamy ricotta make a fantastic addition to most pizzas. For this week’s recipe I use roast red peppers. They are widely available to buy ready-roasted in jars, or you could roast your own.
Rub them with olive oil, roast on a high heat until the skin begins to blacken and bubble, and then place in a bowl and cover tightly with cling film until they are cool enough to handle.
The steam will make it very easy to remove the papery skin, revealing the tasty flesh underneath. Keep them covered with oil, in a jar, in the fridge. Roast red pepper is perfect for cutting into strips and using to top pizzas, fill sandwiches or blitz through hummus.
CHORIZO, COURGETTE AND PEPPER PIZZA: SERVES 4
The five ingredients
- 400g ready-made pizza dough
- 125g chorizo
- 2 courgettes
- 2 roasted red peppers
- 2 balls of mozzarella
From the pantry
- Olive oil
- Semolina or flour for dusting
Preheat the oven to its maximum. Place two large rectangular trays in the oven.
Dust your work surface with a little semolina or flour. Roll out the dough to fit the trays.
Peel the courgette lengthways, discarding the seeded centre core.Thinly slice the chorizo. Cut the red peppers into thick strips. Tear the mozzarella into large chunks and place on kitchen paper.
Once everything is ready, remove the trays from the oven, dust with a little semolina and place the dough on them. Quickly divide the topping ingredients among the two bases, finishing with a drizzle of olive oil. Return to the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes, until the chorizo is crispy and the base nicely golden.
Every Thursday we’ll tweet the five ingredients from @lillyhiggins and @irishtimeslife so you can have them ready for Friday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions for recipes