Despite being quite evangelical when it comes to home-cooking, a girl needs a break sometimes. While my preference is to go out, sometimes I really can’t be bothered making the effort, especially if it involves getting out of cosy pajamas (which I may put on as early as 4 pm in the dead of winter) or finding a hairbrush. So, in order not to eat yet another kimcheese, or have popcorn as dinner, in extremis we will have a rummage through our little folder of takeaway menus. I always feel slightly guilty yet excited at the prospect of a plastic bag of plastic containers coming into the house, filled with an array of dishes I have had nothing to do with other than order them. It doesn’t often happen, so I don’t feel too badly about it.
When the takeaway menus come out, pizza is always last on my list. Not because I don’t like pizza – I LOVE it. I’m not completely mad – but because, with very few exceptions, it is rubbish.
Mega doughy, chewy cheese, too heavy on the toppings, and not worth the calories.
The holy grail of pizza for many of us is probably a light and airy sourdough crust, slightly crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside, with only a veil of toppings. The crust should be an integral part of the experience rather than just an edible plate.
I’m not much of a bread person so I have not experimented and practised enough to create a light, white sourdough for pizza. That kind of skill, I think, takes a lot of practise. I appreciate it when I have it but have no reasonable hope of creating it myself. For me, a homemade pizza isn’t trying to replicate, with my unpractised, clumsy hands, the nirvanic pizza I hold in my head. For me, that won’t exist until I get an outdoor pizza oven. Perfect pizzas are born in Hestian heat.
So, my homemade efforts centre around – or rather on – a wholemeal dough. As far as I am aware such pizzas are never wisps of dough gilded with a smear of tomato and a few casual tears of milky mozzarella. Nah, they are chunkier, hearty affairs. Not top heavy, the crust bending as you lift it, but dough just sturdy enough to take broccoli, crushed whole tomatoes and slips of sauteed eggplant without tipping into your lap.
The dough here is a re-working of one on Cookie and Kate, and hers is a re-working of a couple of others. I don’t think dough, so few are the ingredients, can be that original, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? As long as it’s good, why change it. Although I have added nutritional yeast and garlic powder to the dough. But that’s optional. The creativity lies in your palette of toppings.
My palate likes greens and aubergine with an almost instant tomato sauce. It also likes a drizzle of smoked olive oil circled round the crust as the pizza is pulled from the oven. Or garlic oil with a touch of smoked salt added as a top dressing.
Am I getting you hungry? If so, put away the takeaway menus for now and read on. Or place that order and plan to make this tomorrow. You won’t regret it.
Pizza is a wonderful canvas. What’s your favourite kind of pizza? Thick or thin? Loads of interesting toppings or just a few? And what are your favourite toppings?
Eggplant and Double Green Pizza
We all know that homemade is better than takeaway, especially when it comes to pizza. Make your family happy by making this easy, food processor-kneaded wholewheat dough, and topping with slivers of long-stemmed broccoli, sauteed eggplant and kalette, all over a quick raw tomato sauce. Family-friendly vegan or vegetarian healthy eating. This also makes brilliant calzones too.
235ml (1 cup) water warmed to not more than 110F/43C, preferably filtered
2 and 1/4 tsp active yeast (the kind that needs activating in liquid); if you use fast action/instant yeast, just add it straight into the flour
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 tbsp olive oil plus a tiny bit for greasing a tray
375g (2 and 3/4 cups) wholemeal flour (I tend to use Rude Health’s sprouted spelt flour), plus extra for rolling out the dough
4 tbsp nutritional yeast, optional (for an umami-ish flavour)
1 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder, optional
280-300g sieved weight of tomatoes – I crushed whole tomatoes from a 500g jar and pressed lightly in a sieve, saving the juices for another job
2 rounded tsp red pesto sauce or sundried tomato paste
Toppings (these are all approximate – use as you wish)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided use
1 small aubergine, quartered and thinly sliced
100g long-stemmed broccoli/Tenderstem® broccoli, sliced on the diagonal
6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
120g kalettes, trimmed and halved vertically if large
1 ball of mozzarella or vegan mozzarella, torn or sliced – or no cheese/cheeze at all
Cornmeal/polenta to dust
Smoked or other olive oil, to brush on the cooked crust
To make the dough, whisk the yeast into the warm water with the honey or syrup. Leave in a warm place to froth up a bit.
While the yeast is activating dry whisk the flour, salt, nutritional yeast and garlic powder in a food processor. If using the fast yeast, add this in as well. With the motor running, steadily pour in the liquid mix as well as the oil. Let the machine run until the dough just starts to make a ball. The machine may shudder but will cope.
Tip the dough out onto a floured work and knead 10 times with the heels of your hands. Basically using your hands to stretch and fold the dough over on itself, 10 times. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and place on an oiled baking tray or large plate. Lightly cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm but not hot place (not in direct sunlight). An airing cupboard is perfect. Let rise for half an hour.
While the dough is rising, pop a sturdy flat baking tray on the top shelf of your oven and one on the bottom (the reserve tray) and heat to 230C/ 450F. You want the tray screamingly hot, so have good oven gloves or many-folded tea towels on hand too.
Now, let’s get on with the toppings. Firstly, the sauce is made by mixing the crushed tomatoes with the tomato paste. Taste it and add sugar or salt as needed to balance. Set aside.
Heat about half of the topping oil in a large frying pan and add the aubergines. They will absorb a lot of oil, but don’t worry. Stir around as needed, cooking until just starting to colour. Add a little more oil, the spring onions, garlic and broccoli. Stir occasionally, cooking until just softened. Pop the kalettes in a bowl and add the remaining oil (but not more than 1 tsp), tossing to coat.
Scatter a good layer of polenta/cornmeal on your work surface. The cornmeal acts as a non-stick barrier for counter and tray, as well as adds a fantastic flavour and crunch. Take one ball of risen dough and roll it evenly and thinly, to about 3 mm or thinner if you can. Don’t worry about the shape as it is the depth that is key. If you have space to do another one now, do so.
Get out the hot tray and carefully transfer onto it one of the rolled doughs – I use a peel. Working quickly spread over one third of the sauce, leaving a 1 cm margin of dough free of sauce. Dot over one third of the cooked toppings and one third of the raw kalettes and some cheese, if using. Pop back in the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes. Carry on with the other dough balls.
Brush the garlic oil over the crust as the pizza comes out of the oven. Sprinkle over chilli flakes if you wish. Move the bottom tray to the top and add your prepared dough, carrying on as above. Add another tray, if you have one, to the bottom of the oven.
For a calzone, spread the sauce over the rolled dough, leaving a margin. Mound your toppings on one half and fold the other side over it, using your fingers to crimp it together. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Awesome veggie pizzas from some of my favourite bloggers
Fig, Feta and Kale Pesto Gluten-free Pizza – Natural Kitchen Adventures
Super Simple Polenta Pizza – Veggie Lad
Vegan Panini Pizza with Fresh Moxarella – Planet Veggie
Pepper and Rocket Pizza for 5:2 Diet – Tinned Tomatoes
Squash, Walnut and Goat’s Cheese Pizza – Tin and Thyme
Simple Cheese and Onion Pizza – Jo’s Kitchen
Beet Pizza with Beet Leaf Pesto – Veggie Desserts
Wholegrain Pizza with Summer Pesto and Grilled Vegetables – Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary
Beetroot Cashew Cheese Pizza – Nadia’s Healthy Kitchen
Wholemeal and Lentil Pizzas – Utterly Scrummy Food for Families
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