Having just returned from USA road trip, we were faced with home as a building site. As always seems the case, builders are always behind schedule and true to form, ours are! The reason? Bad weather, but they are working inside! But such is life, and so moving swiftly on, our 3 ex-Mexican grandchildren came for the weekend. We had decided to take them out for breakfast on Saturday along with Aunty Snowpea, she who works for the Toothfairy, in a senior capacity ( So make sure it is a healthy one). After breakfast in a Notting Hill Cafe, we moved onto Cliveden, a former stately home on the Thames, in Buckinghamshire. Here we met, the lovely baby Amelia and her parents!
This was our first visit to the gardens here, although we have stayed in the hotel and eaten in the restaurant previously. It would appear that they hold several children inspired events during the course of the year, and this weekend was a murder mystery hunt, very well done and kept the older little ones gainfully occupied for several hours.
We had to return home well before dark, one could say that Baby Amelia, needed her tea, or that almost three year old Sam was restless! But no! It was himself and RUGBY! However, I had planned ahead ever so slightly and had made some dough for Pizza, before we left in the morning.
I much prefer fresh yeast to dried yeast, but oh where to find it! Gone are the days, when one could pop into the bakers and buy an ounce of fresh yeast. The smell was quiet amazing.
To make a couple of reasonable size pizzas you will need
- 2 packages of dried yeast
- pinch sugar
- 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1lb plain flour
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle the sugar over the yeast and then stir in 1/4 cup water. Leave it until the yeast starts to bubble. Add this to the flour and salt mixture along with the rest of the water and the olive oil. Mix well, best done with hands, then knead and bash the dough around until it forms a smooth ball. Put back into the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place, usually the kitchen will do, or an airing cupboard if your are lucky enough to have one ( what happened to airing cupboards?)
When you are ready to make your pizzas, knead the dough again ( normally called “Knocking back”), if it is a bit sticky, sprinkle some flour on top. I usually precook my pizza bases, just beacause I do not like Soggy Bottoms! So I roll out the dough, to fit my pan ( and I have to admit to having disposed of my pizza pans, so we had rectangular ones. I pre bake at 450 F/230 C or gas mark 8 for about 7 mins.
For my toppings, I start by cheating. I take a can of chopped tomatoes, give it a whizz in a lender, add 1/4 cup oilve oil and some oregano and a clove of garic and a squirt of tomato puree. Spread this over the pizza base and then add the toppings you like. The best cheese to use is cooking Mozzarella, it is dry, and can be grated or cut into chunks.
The classic plain pizza is margherita, which is cheese and tomatoes and basil. Legend has it that in 1889, a baker by the name of Rafaelle Esposito made this type of pizza for Queen Marherita of Savoy, which she liked as it represented the colours of the Italain flag ! Although those were the most preferred, today there are at least 33 different types of Pizza, ranging from New York style to Californian, to Sicilian to Turkish, to Greek to Mexican to thick to thin and everything in between.
My ex Mexicans have their favourites, Tess with pepperoni or saucisson, and not too much cheese, Alfie with ham and not peperoni and Sam, took what he could get. Me ?I love it with mushrooms, himself spicy hot. In France to be found almost on every mountain street corner, a Pizza Hut, not as we know it in the city but a real wooden hut, where madame churns out made to order pizzas on a nightly basis. Stop on by and she will give you a glass of Vin rouge whilst you wait. On the other hand ( and I am not really a pizza fan) the best I have ever had was in New York, last January on our girls weekend.