It is a good while since I last turned my hand to making a pizza – this weekend I had the opportunity to use up some ingredients I had lurking in the back of my refrigerator and couldn’t think of a more fitting end to them. My last pizza recipe was a Smoked Salmon, Artichoke and Red Onion variety, and I though it was high time to conjure up something new.
When it comes to choosing food, I really like most ingredients and flavours and can count on one hand the things I would gladly never eat again. The trouble with liking so many things is choosing what to have (a typical scenario can be found ploughing through a restaurant’s menu boasting many, many tempting dishes) – the same applies to pizza topping.
Where to start? How far do you go? Stacked to the hilt or topped conservatively with a few, carefully distributed ingredients? When cooking in a domestic oven, my view, in order to achieve an even crispiness is to keep the pizza base as thin as possible, and not overdo it where the topping is concerned. For me, there are the mandatory ingredients I would add to any variety of pizza I plan to make – a thin layer of Passata (too much makes the base too soggy), oregano, a modest amount of Mozzarella and in most instances, red onion.
Then, it is a great opportunity to whip out one of my favourite things found in the Mediterranean – capers – one very versatile store cupboard ingredient indeed. I have been using these little gems (which pack on hell of a flavour punch for their size with a tangy and bitter taste) for a number of years, and thought I was quite knowledgeable on the subject matter – little did I know. After a bit of research, I found out that: Capers are the small flower bud of the Capparis shrub, and are typically picked by hand which reflects their cost. Preserved in a number of ways- notably wine vinegar, brine, or olive oil – the most desirable are the peppercorn-sized non-pareil variety – (up to 7mm in size). Other varieties include: surfines (7–8 mm), capucines (8–9 mm), capotes (9–11 mm), fines (11–13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm). In this recipe, I certain favour the non-pareil caper – they are firmer, sharper in flavour, and less likely to add more moisture to the pizza dough.
Right, ingredient lesson/ diversion over – let me continue with the recipe at hand. I am also a great fan of olives too. My recommendation (if using pitted olives) is to slice, then drain on kitchen paper before use. Otherwise, brine may ooze out and moisten the base even further. To top this off, the saltiness of the Parma ham adds great contrast to the sweeter ingredients, and the rocket leaves adds a combination of a new texture coupled with a slightly bitter flavour. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, and you have pretty much all the taste groups covered off. I sincerely believe that this is so much better than the ubiquitous offering typically found on a home-delivery menu – what may surprise you further – the cost. the whole thing can be made for less than £2.50, and could not be fresher.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy making the Parma ham, rocket, and red onion pizza as much as I did cobbling this together.
Enjoy with a large glass of red wine (what else!) and a seasonal side salad.
Parma ham, rocket, and red onion pizza
- 150 g "00" Grade premium plain flour
- 5 g 1 1/2 tsp fast action dried yeast
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 95 ml warm water
- Extra flour for kneading
- 3 tbsp Passata, sieved tomato purée
- 40-50 g light mozzarella, drained, dried, and cut into small cubes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- medium red onion, sliced into thin wedges
- 1/2 tbsp non-pareil capers, drained and dried
- 2 x large slices Parma ham, each cut into 4 square sections
- 6 pitted black olives, dried, and cut into rings
- A handful of rocket leaves
- 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Place the flour, salt, and yeast into a large mixing bowl and create a well in the centre. Using a bell whisk, combine the dry ingredients evenly.
- Pour the warm water and olive oil into the centre, and fold in the ingredients using a spatula or wooden spoon until you form a dough. Do not be worried if it is quite sticky to begin with. It is sometimes easier use the tips of your fingers to combine the wet and dry ingredients together.
- Flour your hands and a work surface, and start to knead into a dough. It is perfectly normal for the dough to stick to your fingers. Have flour to hand (a flour shaker is ideal) and add a very small quantity until the dough starts to firm up in texture. When the dough starts to come away from your fingers, knead for about 5 mins and mould into a firm and elastic dough ball.
- Wipe down the mixing bowl (this saves washing up) and spray a little olive oil so that the base and sides has a slightly oily film. Brush a little oil on top of the dough, and cover the mixing bowl with cling film. Allow to prove at room temperature for 20 mins (or in a warm place), or until double in size.
Assemble the Pizza
- Once the dough has doubled in size, place on a well-floured surface or a silicone rolling mat, and, using the base of the palm of your hand, gently stretch out the dough from the centre. If you can made it perfectly round, then great. If not,no problem - I prefer rough edges as it looks far more hand made.
- Carefully place the pizza base on a well-oiled tray, or aerated pizza tray.
- Then, spoon and spread the passata from the centre using the back of a spoon or spatula and spread evenly, but stopping 1cm or so from the outer edge.
- Next, sprinkle with the mozzarella pieces and oregano.
- Distribute the red onion slices on the base, sprinkle the non-pareil capers and black olive rings. Drizzle 1/2 tbsp olive oil over the pizza, including the exposed dough.
- Cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 200C, then remove, add the slices of Parma ham, scatter the rocket leaves on top. Then evenly drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top. Cook at 200C for a further 5 mins.
- Remove from oven, turn onto a warm plate, season with black pepper and serve with a green salad.
"oo" grade flour uses the purest, whitest and central part of the wheat. The end result is silky in texture, and much whiter in contrast - and blends more easily with liquids and fats (such as olive oil in this recipe) compared with alternatives. If you are unable to find "00" grade, a strong white will be an ideal substitution.