Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pesto and Pizza

I'm sorry I haven't posted in so long, I've been super busy as it's the end of term and just haven't got round to writing a post.  Anyway, I have a bit more time now so I'll post a bit more frequently to make up for it.

Just before my friend left to go off on her travels we got together for one last meal which turned into more of a feast as we had way too much lasagne and pizza given that there were only four of us eating!  My contribution to the dinner was the portobello pesto pizza which I came across on Brown Eyed Baker, one of the many blogs I follow.  As soon as I saw the recipe I loved the look of it, especially the idea of replacing the traditional tomato sauce with pesto - I had to try it!

I didn't make my own pesto for this particular recipe but it seems like a good opportunity to tell you about the pesto I did make earlier this term.  Although it is really simple to make pesto you do need some sort of food processor or blender to make it.  I think I've mentioned my Kenwood Mini Chopper before and it really was the perfect size for making pesto.  This recipe makes 250ml of pesto which is exactly the right amount for the pizza.

You will need:
50g pine nuts
large bunch basil
50g Parmesan (or similar alternative - you can buy pre-grated if you want to make things easy for yourself)
150ml olive oil plus extra for storing
2 garlic cloves

  1. Heat a small frying pan over a low heat (keep the pan dry, you don't need any oil or fat).  Cook the pine nuts until they are golden, make sure to shake the pan occasionally so they don't burn.
  2. Put the pine nuts into a food processor (or a bowl if using an hand-held blender), add the remaining ingredients (try and shred the basil a little as you put it in and make sure you grate the Parmesan and crush the garlic).
  3. Process until smooth, then season with salt and pepper.
The finished pesto
The finished product
If you don't want to use all of the pesto at once you can put it in a jar, cover the top with a little olive oil, seal and store in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of weeks.

If however, you're like me and love the sound of the portobello pesto pizza then don't bother preserving it, just dive straight into this next recipe!  You could even make it while the dough is rising to save time.

As I made the dough from scratch it took longer but was so worth it!  You'll need to make the dough about 3 hours before you plan to sit down to eat.  This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas, however, you will have to double the toppings.  In the photos you will see that I ended up with a really thick base, this is because we didn't have an extra tray so I just turned all the dough into one pizza so that we didn't waste it.  The result was good but I would definitely advise making a thinner base.

For the dough you will need:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 sachet (7g) instant yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

For the toppings you will need:
1 tbsp unsalted butter
300-400g mini portabella mushrooms (I used 1 300g punnet) - chopped
1/2 medium red onion - thickly sliced
(splash of white wine - optional)
(dash of Worcestershire sauce - optional)
1 cup pesto (you can use your homemade pesto for this!)
225g provolone cheese - thinly sliced if possible, I used grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - grated
  1. In a mixing bowl combine the water, yeast and olive oil.  Mix with a spoon, then let sit until foamy (about 5 mins).
  2. Add in 2 cups bread flour and salt.  If you have a mixer with a dough hook attachment then mix the dough on a low setting until if is sticky.  If like me you don't continue to use the spoon to turn the dough over and combine the flour.
  3. Add 2 more cups of flour and continue to combine into the dough until it comes together in a ball and is no longer sticky.  As the dough becomes less sticky you may want to start using your hands to work the dough rather than the spoon.  If you have a mixer keep going with that!  If the dough isn't smooth then add a could of drops of warm water and mix until  it is the right consistency.  If it's too sticky add some more flour 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
  4. Rub a large bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it over to coat it in the oil.  Cover with a towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours.
  5. While the dough is rising prepare your toppings - chop the mushrooms and onion, grate the cheese and make the pesto if you want to use homemade.
  6. After the dough has risen turn it out onto a floured surface.  Divide it into two pieces (you will only need one).  Wrap one in cling film and store in the freezer in a zip-lock bag until you want to use it (just put it in the fridge on the morning of the day you want to use it.)  Roll the other one out with a rolling pin into your desired shape (I advise doing this on the tray you are going to cook the pizza on), cover with a towel and leave in a warm place for another 10 or so minutes (don't leave it longer than 30).
  7. While the dough is rising heat the oven to 260 degrees Celsius
  8. In a frying pan melt the butter over a medium heat and add the mushrooms and onions.  When they have cooked down a bit add the wine and Worcestershire sauce if you're using them.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have released all of their liquid and the mushrooms and onions are soft and browned (this should take 10-15 minutes).  Remove from the heat and set aside
  9. Spread the pesto over the pizza base, leaving some space for the crust.  Spread the mushroom and onion mixture over the pesto and top with the provolone and Parmesan cheese.
  10. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is brown and the cheese is golden.  Remove from the oven and serve!
I'm sorry about the poor quality of the photos, I only realised once I was at my friend's that I didn't have my camera with me so I had to make-do with my phone instead.

The pizza before it went into the oven
Before going into the oven

A slice of the pizza after it had been baked
After being baked
Chicken, pesto and mozzarella toastie
 I love pesto as it is such a versatile ingredient, it is one of those things that I always have a pot of in my cupboard so I can easily rustle up something tasty when I'm feeling lazy.  I use in so many dishes, from pasta - along with some mushrooms, onion and bacon -  to toasties - it tastes particularly good with chicken and mozzarella.

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