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Once kids are in the picture dinner parties become a thing of the past, or should I say civilised dinner parties become a thing of the past! ┬áNow we opt for dinner with friends that everyone can take part in – including the kids! Over the summer we had a couple of pizza nights – having made the dough and sauce – everyone makes up their own pizzas with whatever toppings they fancy. James and I have developed a good system – I prepare the dough and James rolls it out. Works great, and I have to say that they taste so much better then store bought versions. Maybe part of that is the taste of satisfaction when you are feeling all Nigella like for having prepared everything from scratch! I expected it all to be more complicated but it is simple! Make sure you buy a pizza stone – definitely worth it.

This weekend our good buddies the Rhule’s (Jon, Justine & Easton) came over for a spot of face painting and pizza making. All done just in time to settle down in front of X Factor!

A couple of very funny Clowns!!

A couple of very funny Clowns!!

Could there be a cook book more appropriate than ‘Jamie’s Italy’ to turn to in search of a recipe for pizza dough??

Basic Pizza dough (courtesy of Jamie Oliver – Jamie’s Italy)

Ingredients:-

800g strong white bread flour

200g fine ground semolina flour or strong white bread flour

1 level Tbsp fine sea salt

2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast

1 Tbsp golden caster sugar

around 650ml / just over 1 pint lukewarm water

Pile the flours and salt on to a clean surface and make an 18cm well in the centre. Add your yeast and sugar to the tepid water, mix up with a fork and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well (or just chuck it all in the electric mixer like I do!). Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. It will look like stodgy porridge – continue to mix, bringing in all the flour. When the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat into a ball. Knead the dough by rolling it backwards and forwards, using your left hand to stretch the dough towards you and your right hand to push the dough away from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes until you have a smooth springy soft dough.

Flour the top of the dough, cover it with clingfilm and let it rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll it thinly. Now divide the dough into as many balls as you want to make pizzas i.e. lots of small ones or a few larger ones, but 6 is a good quantity for the dough.

Timing-wise it’s nice to roll the pizzas out 15 to 30 minutes before you start to cook them. If you want to work more in advance, it’s better to keep the dough in clingfilm in the fridge. Take a piece of dough, dust your surface and the dough with a little flour, and roll it out into a rough circle about 1/2 cm thick. Tear off an approximately sized piece of tin foil and rub it with olive oil, dust it well with flour and place the pizza base on top. Continue doing the same with another piece and then if you dust with a little flour you can pile them up into a stack, cover them with clingfilm and put them in the fridge.

When you are ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 250C. At this stage you can apply your toppings. Remember, less is more. If you can, cook the pizza’s on a piece of granite in a conventional oven, if not, do them one by one on the bars of the oven shelf towards the bottom of the oven. (If you are going to cook your pizza’s on the bars of the oven, make sure they are not too big – otherwise they will be difficult to manoeuvre). Cook for 7-10 mins until the pizza’s are golden and crispy.

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Family fun

I like to put out a variety of toppings and let everyone just go for it. Some suggestions are:-

Salami, Pepperoni, Chorizo, Ham, Chicken, Turkey, Anchovies

Courgettes, Corn, Pine nuts, Mushrooms, Peppers, Tomatoes, Red Onion, Pineapple, Olives, Capers, Jalapeno, Chilli

Grated Mozzarella, Goats Cheese, Brie, Blue Cheese…..basically any sort of cheese

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Justine's turn...the vegetarian version!

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Jon's up...

Try not to overload too much – I like a good selection but just little bits of this and that. If you overload it the base can go a bit soggy. Being proper pizza rather than a pan base they are not as sturdy for huge amounts of topping.

Of course, a good pizza needs a good tomato sauce……

Tomato Sauce (a la Jamie of course)

Note: I double up on this and find it makes the right amount for 6 pizzas. Always better to have too much than not enough plus you can always throw leftovers in the freezer .

Ingredients:-

Extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

bunch of fresh bail, leaves picked

1 x 400g of good quality plum tomatoes

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat a saucepan, add a splash of oil and the sliced garlic and cook gently. When the garlic has turned light golden, add half the basil, the tomatoes and a few pinches of S & P. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, mashing the tomatoes until smooth, then taste, season again and put to one side.

There is a small mystery to Jamie’s recipe….where does the rest of the basil go???

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