Pizza margherita: Fidget’s birthday masterclass with Paul and Mary

pizza margherita Paul Hollywood Mary Berry

What requires bread making skills but looks like a tarte?

And more to the point, what would marry Paul’s passion for bread with Mary’s excitement for lovely looking cakes…?

Pizza margherita: Fidget’s birthday masterclass with Paul and Mary

pizza margherita

…of course … pizza!

It’s been a big week in the cartoon kitchen: Fidget turning one year old has been an opportunity for celebration, reminiscence and nostalgia… the perfect excuse to make a true classic dish.

To mark the blog’s birthday, Trota not only arranged for Jo Brand to visit the cartoon kitchen (as you may have seen earlier), she also pulled a few strings and organised for no less than Paul and Mary to give a surprise masterclass and coach Fidget through this week’s recipe. Naturally, that’s also meant Trota letting go of some of her culinary control, if only temporarily. A big week indeed – and hard to believe that Salmon’s spent most of it watching re-runs of The Little Paris Kitchen.

But back to the pizza: known the world over, there is beauty and wholesomeness in this simple dish.

For the base you will need 180g plain strong flour (also known as 00 grade), 140ml warm water, a pinch of salt, 1tbsp olive oil and 10g fresh yeast (you can find it in supermarkets that have an in-store bakery or, if not, just use 1tsp dried yeast).

For the topping it’s your choice*. This simple ‘margherita’ version calls for 400g crushed tinned tomatoes, 1 mozzarella torn into strips, 10–15 basil leaves, a pinch of dried oregano and olive oil to drizzle.

Start by making the dough for the base. Sift the flour in a bowl. Separately mix the warm water, the olive oil, the yeast and the salt. Pour in the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. With your hands, knead the (quite wet) dough over a surface sprinkled with plenty of flour; work it for 5–10min, stretching it to make elastic. Make a ball of the dough, put it back in the bowl, cross-score it and cover the bowl with a clean cloth. Leave in a warm place for 1–2 hours, until doubled in size.

When well risen, prepare the base according to the shape you want: a rectangular one to fit comfortably in the oven on your baking tray; or divide to make two regular size pizzas; or, like the Rowes, one large round pizza. Not essential, but if you can get hold of a pizza stone (pietra ollare), that’s ideal. If not, simply rest the base on a baking tray over baking paper previously sprinkled with flour.

Anyway, the Rowes (Fidget mostly) flattened the dough (paws first, then with a rolling pin) and made a disc about ½cm thick – if you can make it thinner without tearing the dough, respect. Sprinkle some flour over a sheet of baking paper and lay the pizza base on it.

Now the topping: crushed tomatoes first; spread them over the base with a ladle leaving a 1cm border all around. Drizzle with olive oil.

Cook in a pre-heated oven at 220°/gas mark 7 for 15–20min. Take out and sprinkle with the mozzarella, the dried oregano and the basil leaves. Season to taste and, if necessary, drizzle with a little more olive oil. Put back in the oven for another 8–10min.

When cooked, take out of the oven and serve immediately.

How did Fidget get on? Was he calm under the firm but gentle judges’ pressure? Did Trota manage not to interfere? Just what is Salmon’s problem?

Well, apparently there was a nice crust and no soggy bottom – so high praise indeed! Well done Fidget, you have really impressed the judges. Tastes great, too.

 

*You can vary your toppings. Some of Fidget’s favourites are Neapolitan (crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, anchovies, sliced garlic, olive oil) and Quattro Stagioni (crushed tomatoes all over, then quarter segments with: 1) green olives and anchovies; 2) cooked seafood; 3) ham and mozzarella, diced; and 4) preserved artichokes and black olives).