Pizza Power

When I was young (and, indeed, to this day), my dad made marvellous pizzas from scratch, including the dough and his own recipe for tomato sauce. They used to be the regular Saturday evening meal, which meant there might be a leftover quarter for lunch, cold, on Monday. Other kids at my primary school thought this most peculiar school lunch fare, until they had a bite, and then it would be difficult to keep any of the pizza for myself. Later on, the only time we were burgled, even though my stereo was taken, I was most offended (combined with a touch of daughterly pride) by the fact that the remains of a pizza, which had been out on the kitchen work surfaces, had been taken as well.

I’ve been making my own version of his tomato sauce (to go with pasta, burgers, and anything else that occurs to me) for more than 10 years, which means – the process of evolution – it probably bears no resemblance to his version any more. But I’ve only recently felt brave enough to stray onto the hallowed pizza turf. I dipped my toe in the water about a year ago, buying pizza bases from Abel & Cole but I’ve now graduated to doing my own dough as well, with the advent of my breadmaker (I know it’s cheating, but I don’t care, I can do it by hand if I’m particularly stressed and need to knead the cares away). It is wonderful, if I say so myself, even with a couple of kinks still in the process. I have yet to persuade the dough to form a beautiful circle the size of my pizza tray – there’s clearly a knack to it that I haven’t quite mastered. Part of the reason may be that I’m aiming for a thinner base, so use a 300g flour batch for two bases, and freeze one while it’s still a ball of dough. The other problem stems from that. I keep failing to judge properly the length of time it takes for the dough to defrost, so I either don’t get to have my pizza or the yeast has continued to do its work and I’ve got a monster dough ball with a peculiar texture (at least I assume that’s the yeast…). But on Thursday, I decided to bite the bullet (largely guided by the fact hat the remains of my tomato sauce was enough for two pizzas and on its last legs) and make two pizzas at once. The advantage of this was that it reined in my tendency to put far too many topings on, as I had to cover two pizzas. It also meant I still have some of the second pizza left, although I am not prepared to channel school playground memories and eat it cold; a blast in the microwave returns it to warm loveliness. The first pizza was tomato sauce, mushroom and mozarella, and I don’t have any pictures of that, because I wolfed it down far too quickly to remember about photos. But here’s the second:

pizza

Hopefully you can see it’s tomato sauce, tender stemmed broccoli and blue veined Brie (see previous posts!). I love blue cheese on pizza, and cooking just for myself, I have no one to veto it. I tend to eat the crusts separately with a bit of guacamole, if there’s any in the fridge.

Tomato Sauce

But I know I keep talking about the tomato sauce, but not telling you how to make it. Here goes, with the current version.

  • Gently fry a chopped onion in groundnut oil
  • When softened, add a chopped vegetable or sliced mushrooms (optional), and fry gently until softened
  • Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a small tin of tomato puree, a slosh of red wine, and (if you have homemade, otherwise don’t bother) a small amount of vegetable stock – if you’ve got ice cubes of stock, one of those is perfect
  • Season to taste (including a small amount of sugar), and add any other flavours you fancy (e.g. pesto, chopped herbs, I’ve been known to add veggie worcester sauce or tabasco on occasion)
  • Recently, I’ve started adding one or two chopped fresh tomatoes, which seems to improve the tomatoey flavour, but that could be my imagination
  • Keep on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has cooked off – to a consistency of your preference (for pizzas, I want as little liquid as possible, so aim for something resembling a paste, but if you’re going to use it chiefly as a pasta sauce, a little more liquid is going to be easier to stir in)

I do a batch at a time, keep it in tupperware in the fridge and add to all kinds of things. It keeps quite a while, but aim to use it up within a week or two, if you can.

Book I’m reading at the moment – Having finished Canavan (roll on the next one in the series :-)), I’ve read Chicken Coops For the Soul by Julia Hollander, luxuriated in Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (which has some lovely stories in it, that make me feel my heart is in a tea-cosy), and now I’m dipping back into the Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell, which is becoming a bit of a chore. I keep promising I won’t get any more of the Scarpetta books, because I long since stopped enjoying them, but then I forget, buy the latest, and then feel honour-bound to finish it. The fact that it’s taken me several months with this one, and I’m still not finished, is not a good sign. I have ceased to care about the characters, beyond common human`feeling (which I’m not sure is correct when they’re fictional), so reading them go on and on about their psychodramas is tedious. If I cared, it’d probably be interesting. But I don’t.

Honourable film and opera mentionTron Legacy, which highlighted for me some of the reasons I’m minded against special effects films/films derived from the the games industry (not sure which is the direct cause, possibly a mix of the two). The effects and/or action sequences seem to take the director’s eye off plot and character, which is the stuff I’m interested in. In this one, the characters were ok, but the plot was very thin indeed, as all the costly effects sequences took up all the time and (I suspect) the attention of the makers. Still, it was fine, did what it said on the tin. Far eclipsed by my seeing the Damnation of Faust on Friday. My New Year’s Resolution this year was to see at least one ballet and at least one opera; quite impressive to achieve the resolution in less than five months! I really enjoyed it, despite (and possibly because) it giving me a lot to think about, chiefly because Terry Gilliam gave it the backdrop of Germany’s twentieth century history. It certainly helped me in to the story, but I was uncomfortable with some of the scenes. Which is about me, rather than Gilliam, of course. Also, it confirmed for me, that I’m verbally rather than musically driven. I enjoyed the music, but the things that stuck with me were the words and the themes, rather than the music. For instance, and I’ve probably quoted this wrong, “Well-guarded cities are hard to attack/ And well-bosomed beauties will answer back/ With our swords we will conquer all” (particularly uncertain about the last line), captures the awfulness of “might is right” thinking, while still displaying humour (at least I thought so…). I could go on for a very long time about the evening, so I shall stop now.

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