Thursday, 26 July 2012

Homemade Pizza (on the Barbecue)

Now, I'll put my hand up and sheepishly admit that the barbecuing was my idea. It just seemed like such a good one - simulating the intense heat and smoky flavour of a wood-fired oven, outside on a balmy evening rather than inside in a sweltering kitchen. And although none of my favourite chefs really seemed to recommend barbecuing pizza (which should have rung alarm bells, frankly) I just blithely assumed it would work out fine and pressed on regardless.

The first attempt was, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit ropey. We were starving, the barbecue was hotter than the sun, the dough burned almost immediately, it was practically impossible to turn and then, incredibly stressed and singed, our attempts to load up the base with toppings were thwarted by leaping flames. When we eventually managed to lever the pizza off the barbecue tray and onto a plate, half our slices of tomato fell onto the coals as offerings to the fire gods, the cheese was barely melted, and the bottom of the base was charcoal. But for all that, the pizza was still remarkably delicious. This theory clearly had potential - flame-grilled, puffy-doughed potential. We just needed to refine our system.

The second attempt worked out a lot better. For a start, we slid the rolled out dough onto a robust wooden board which meant we could shimmy it onto the  actual grill without too much trauma (rather than carrying it in our hands, as we had done before). We left it on for a few minutes to cook the underside - admittedly, with some singeing, but a lot better than last time - then pulled it back onto the board, turned it over, and arranged all the toppings onto it on the board, off the heat. Carefully sliding the fully-laden dough back onto the grill, we covered the barbecue and left it for a couple of minutes - avoiding the leaping flames and the boiling hot forearms. Already, it was a lot less stressful.

And the results? Well, as you can see, it really did look like pizza. The dough was puffy and crisp, the toppings were oozy and we felt like we'd tamed the barbecue beast. But the killer question - would we cook it on the barbie again? It's a nice idea...but I'm not sure. To be honest, although the smokiness and charring was delicious, it was also much more difficult than just using a baking tray and an oven. Plus, unless we had some kind of professional pizza-shaped spatula (what are those things called?), we still ended up losing too many of the fillings between the grill bars. That was delicious deli-bought buffalo mozzarella, after all - I didn't want it to end up anywhere but in my belly.

But nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I still see plenty of pizza in our summer plan. After all, even if we cook it in the oven, there's no law against eating it outside, is there? 

Homemade Pizza (on the Barbecue)
Dough and sauce recipes adapted from Jamie At Home
NB: both these recipes make far more than you'll need for 2 pizzas, but they both freeze well.

Pizza dough
- 1kg strong white bread flour or tipo 00 flour
- 1 level teaspoon of salt
- 2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
- 1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 650ml lukewarm water

Tip the flour and salt into a big bowl or your mixer, and combine the yeast, sugar, olive oil
and water in a jug. Leave for a few minutes, then pour into the dry ingredients. Knead it together (ahem, dough hook on Kitchen Aid) until the dough is smooth and springy. Then sprinkle flour on top of it and leave, covered with a damp cloth, for about an hour or until it's doubled in size.

After that time (or when you're too hungry to wait any longer), press the dough down with your hands, then divide into six balls. Each one should roll out into one dinner-sized pizza. The rest can be wrapped in clingfilm and kept in the fridge or freezer. 

Tomato sauce 
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
- 3 tins of tomatoes
- salt, pepper and olive oil
- a bunch of fresh basil or oregano, depending on what you have
- wee splash of balsamic vinegar for sweetness

Pour a reasonable glug of olive oil into a large saucepan and add the garlic. Once it begins to colour lightly, add the tomatoes, vinegar and herbs, season, and let it simmer until it's the sort of thickness you can imagine spreading on pizza. Jamie Oliver says to sieve it but honestly, who can be faffed?

Toppings - basically, any you like

Our first pizza (stressful, burned, no time for the camera, argh we're dropping it, hmm still quite tasty) just had slices of beef tomato, extra basil and some buffalo mozzarella.

The second (the one you can see here) was crumbled sausage, beet greens and onion, with more mozzarella and a bit of cheddar on top. We pre-cooked the sausages and vegetables, just frying them up in a large saucepan, which was just as well considering how quickly the pizzas cooked on the barbie. Raw sausage would not have been a good look. 

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