Pizza today, and in a break from providing you with a complete recipe I’m going to treat you a general discussion and to my favourite toppings.
I had put a tweet out to a number of famous (and not-so-famous) types to find out what the strangest pizza topping they’d had and enjoyed was but as of time-of-writing, I’ve had nothing back.
Anyway. Pizza breaks down into 3 components. The base, the tomato sauce and the toppings. Until recently it wasn’t always possible to reliably obtain pizza bases from the supermarket. Back in the Somerfield days here on the rock we *could* get pizza bases from the bit at the back of the store where they prepared pizza but it depended entirely on who was serving. Some were happy to sell us the bases on the grounds that it was a sale and that cash is always welcome. Others were adamant that you could only buy a pizza base from them if you bought the rest of the pizza with it. And there was no clear direction from on high. So we improvised:
- French sticks, cut in half and lightly grilled, work very well. The downside is that the bread has a hard crust and can wreak havoc on the skin of your mouth.
- Naan breads also work rather well, and you’ve got the advantage of building some flavour direct into the base if you go for a garlic and coriander naan in the first place.
- If you’ve the time and the inclination, you can make the base yourself.
We’ve done all three of these in the past and wolfed down every one. Now we’ve got a Tescos, they’ve started stocking ready-made pizza bases and all is well with the world. We’ll still make our own from time to time, though, just to prove we can! I say “we”, it’s actually my wife that makes the bread and she’s damn good at it.
That’s the base. Now, the tomato sauce.I’ve seen a lot of recipes for this over the years, some a lot more complicated than others. Ours involves a few key ingredients: Tomato puree, wine vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh chopped basil. After that, the additions are there to be made depending on what you’re putting on there. Fresh herbs from the garden, where possible, are fantastic. I can guarantee that there’ll be fresh parsley in today’s pizza base, it’s too yummy to miss out. If we’re doing a seafood pizza we’ll stick in chopped anchovies and mussels to really round out the flavour.
Now, the toppings. Cheese goes without saying. Experiment! Wendsleydale isn’t half bad, feta makes a nice addition, I’ve not tried haloumi but I think it could work rather well. We’ll bang on some stilton if we’ve got it, assorted strong (extra-mature, uber-Farmhouse-industrial-strength) cheddars and, of course, mozarella. But under the cheese, ahh, that’s where things get interesting.
Right. In Norwich, many years ago (so long ago I’ve been informed they’ve closed the restaurant now) there used to be a place called Pizza One and Pasta Two. In there I had “The Monty Python”. Described as “Something completely different”, this was a curry and banana pizza. And it was wonderful! In fact, banana makes a few appearances on my pizza favourites (and if people will put up with pineapple, why not banana too?). Tuna and banana, one I first had from Sinatra’s on the Lothian Road in Edinburgh, is one my kids love. Bacon and banana likewise, although I don’t remember seeing this one commercially available anywhere. On the Isle of Skye there used to be a pizza shop called Creeler’s. Don’t know if it’s still there. Had a seafood pizza from them when I was in the area, spent most of my time trying to work out just what it was I was eating! “Seafood” being, apparently, whatever they pulled out of the sea and chopped up. I know there were mussels and squid but there was stuff I’d need a degree in marine biology to recognise. In Paris, they put smoked salmon on my seafood pizza (and charged accordingly!)
@saccostomus on Twitter tells me he’s had haggis pizza, and a chilli and bitter chocolate one. That sounds rather good. I had a pizza in Leeds once that was topped with green chillis and very little else. Painful but very tasty. Very tasty indeed.
I’m looking forward to my kids growing up so that I can slowly increase the amount of heat in these dishes. Nothing better than the burn of a chilli on your pizza in my opinion.
So… Over to you. What’s the best (or the worst) pizza topping you’ve had? Where’s the best pizza you’ve had? Anyone had one of those massive pizzas they featured on Friends?