Pizza is an ancient dish and a pizza like dish seems to have been in existence since Neolithic times. Something approaching the pizza concept, according to W. P. Edwards’ The Science of Bakery Products (2007), was baked on the shields of Darius I’s Persian soldiers; flatbreads with cheese and date toppings. The modern pizza as we know it today evolved in Naples in the 18th or early 19th century and became renowned with the visit, after Italy’s unification of Queen Margherita who is supposed to have chosen the pizza, named in her honour, consisting of a topping of basil, mozzarella and tomato, the colours of the tricolore.
Pizza has acquired an unfair reputation of being an unhealthy food. Largely because of the product of fast-food and supermarket chains. In Kuwait, the one real Neapolitan pizza restaurant, run by a Kuwaiti who had a certificate from Naples itself closed rather sadly and while the recipe below is not a thin Neapolitan crust, it is not a supermarket or fast-food imitation either and uses fresh ingredients and real, good and healthy Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
So, to proceed to the recipe; first prepare your dough. Take 1½ cups of flour. Sadly have not seen the Waitrose Duchy Original flour in Sultan for some time, so use all-purpose. Separately take ¾ cup of warm water and add to the water 1 tsp active yeast and 1 tsp of sugar – both level teaspoons. Stir the liquid well to dissolve the yeast and sugar. Leave covered for 20 minutes.
Working with the flour, put the flour in a food processor and add ¼ glass/100ml of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and a teaspoon of honey plus a dash of salt and pepper. Add 2tbs of the prepared water, mix, add some oil, 2tbs water and so on blending thoroughly as you go until the oil/and water is used up. The dough should at this stage combine well and become elastic and cohese into one mass somewhere in the processor. If it is tough, rather than elastic, add some more oil/water for that elasticity.
Work the resulting dough by hand making a ball then cover in lightly floured cling film and put in the fridge for about 30 minutes for the dough to rest and expand.
When that stage is complete, warm the dough a little by working with your hand for two to three minutes, and roll out on a flour-dusted clean surface and place in a pizza tray that has been lightly greased with olive oil, about 1 tablespoon and place in the fridge for half an hour to rest.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
Once the pizza base is ready, take out the tray of dough and paint with olive oil, add passata, Mutti is a good brand or Casa Renaldi. You might wish to make your own with chopped tinned Italian tomatoes, garlic, sugar, oregano and a tiny piece of chopped anchovy that dissolves in the cooking. Let it reduce enough to be slightly thick (without being a solid!) and then add your desired toppings. Proper Italian buffalo mozzarella is the first to be distributed. Grated Danish or whatever ‘mozzarella’ is better than nothing, but the taste will not be the same at all. As you can see from the photo, my much better half rushed to put pepperoni slices – I think her Egyptian side was worried that I was turning vegetarian! Sliced cherry tomatoes, mushroom, sweet pepper, fresh basil if available, smoked mussels, anchovy can all work. Earlier we learned the ancient Persians used cheese and dates. The actual combination is down to taste and availability. Splash some remaining passata and a drop of olive oil on top and place in the oven for 25 minutes. This is strict. Once 25 minutes is over, check that the crust lifts easily with a slice, cut and serve. And enjoy!