Yumbo Italiano.

19 Jun

For those of you not familiar with the late 90s/early 2000s hit ‘Mambo Italiano’, that was the inspiration for the name of this post. I’ve noticed that my creativity with post names is pretty poor and this is probably a new low. Apologies.

Moving along. I recently purchased two new cookbooks – a gift to myself to celebrate the end of the uni semester. Initially I intended to only get one and savour it over the six week break but I gave into temptation and overdrew my bank account for the sake of expanding my culinary knowledge. The two books I bought are part of the same series – ‘The Food of France’ and ‘The Food of Italy’. Each is a 300-odd page tome of wonderful recipes and information about the cultures themselves, with amazing pictures of both the food and countries.

The books are fantastic introductions to each cuisine. The recipes are authentic enough that you’re not left only having spaghetti Bolognese and chocolate mousse as dining options but basic enough to let you avoid having to make your own foie gras.

The difficulty of each recipe varies but thankfully they range from easy four-ingredient salads to elaborate you’ll-be-preparing-for-weeks terrines. Basically there’s something for everyone, even me, the humble and penniless student.

In order to prevent her from throwing me out and finding a better replacement, I usually leave it up to my flatmate to choose what we have for dinner. Tonight’s choice? Pizza. From scratch.

Now you might be thinking that making your own pizza dough is completely impossible – but you’d be pleasantly surprised. Even my flatmate (who has only just mastered a basic pasta sauce) was amazed at how easy it was. And cheaper. The recipe may seem involved but don’t be daunted.

A packeted base will cost up to $6, but the homemade option? If you’ve got basics like flour, olive oil, sugar and salt and are willing to fork out $2.50 for a box of yeast sachets, this one will cost about 20c. The sauce can again be made from what’s in the cupboard. The lack of bizarre and surely unhealthy ingredients is a bonus too.

The finished product is pretty damn good. The dough is fluffy yet crisp, the sauce a mile better than anything from a bottle. I highly recommend you get into making your own pizzas – they’re an insanely cheap option that really beats the frozen variety.

This recipe is the most basic but you can add anything to the top.

Pizza margherita

Pizza Margherita (courtesy of ‘The Food of Italy’ by Murdoch Books)

Makes two 30cm (12 inch) pizzas

For the dough:

1 TBSP caster sugar

1 sachet dried yeast

215ml lukewarm water

450g (3 ⅔ cups) plain flour

½ tsp salt

3 TBSP olive oil

For the sauce:

1 TBSP olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

One 400g tin diced tomatoes

2 TBSP tomato paste

1 TBSP mixed dried herbs

salt and pepper

1 TBSP olive oil

20 small basil leaves or 10 large ones

300g grated mozzarella cheese

For the dough:

1. Put the sugar and yeast in a small bowl and stir in 90ml of the water. Leave in a draught-free spot to activate. If the yeast does not bubble and foam in 5 minutes, discard it and start again.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the olive oil, remaining water and the yeast mixture. Mix until the dough loosely clumps together.

3. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, adding a little flour or a few drops of warm water if necessary, until you have a soft dough that is not sticky but is dry to the touch.

4. Rub the inside of a large bowl with olive oil. Roll the ball of dough around in the bowl to coat it with oil, then cut a shallow cross on top of the ball with a sharp knife.

5. Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a draught-free spot for 1-1 ½ hours until doubled in size.

6. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

7. Punch down the dough to its original size, then divide into two portions.

8. Working with one portion at a time, push the dough out to make a thick circle. Use the heels of your hands and work from the centre of the circle outwards, to flatten the dough into a 30cm (12 inch) circle with a slightly raised rim. You can also use a rolling pin if this is a little difficult.

For the sauce:

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2. Once hot, add the garlic and fry for 3 minutes or until soft.

3. Add the tin of tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs.

4. Stir and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly.

6. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

To assemble:

1. Preheat the oven to 240C.

2. Place each pizza base on a separate tray that has been rubbed with olive oil to avoid sticking.

3. Spread each base with tomato sauce, spreading it up to the rim.

4. Scatter with the basil leaves and mozzarella.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and puffed.

6. Remove from the oven and cut accordingly.

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