A couple of weeks ago we attended the wedding of our dear friends, Katie and Jonny. It was, as a wedding should be if it can help it, in a barn in the Cotswolds on a very beautiful late summer’s day. It was incredible; the guests were in good spirits, the champagne was plentiful and the speeches made everybody laugh uproariously and shed a tear. Once the first dance had been danced and the cake had been cut, we all set about some serious partying. The DJ was playing every party classic you can think of and a large group of us were downing Jagerbombs at the bar. Our heads started to get fuzzy. Some of us started trying to find cigarettes. Somebody fell over a table. Ties were unfastened and tied around heads. The groom started crowdsurfing. All of this had the potential to get seriously messy, then waiters carrying trays of pizza saved the day, providing a little sustenance to keep us going through the heavy drinking. At least for a while.
The merits of giving your guests carbs after several hours of drinking do not need to be discussed here, since we’re all well aware of the benefits of a late night burger or kebab after a session; but I felt pizza was an especially nice touch. For who doesn’t like pizza? Even after countless canapés and a three-course wedding dinner, there is always room for a slice.
In the last year, a handful of good pizzerias have opened in our neighbourhood, so we have made pizza at home far less frequently than we used to. It’s a shame, really, as it’s one of the most fun things you can cook together. My husband makes the best dough: he uses the recipe from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet and adds a splash of beer to the water as he claims it makes the dough brown better. I am usually in charge of the toppings, and am often reprimanded for using too much mozzarella. You don’t have to pretend to be surprised, my love of cheese is known the world over.
This is one of my favourite pizzas: a white base, which I tend to use more and more these days instead of the traditional tomato, with broccoli, anchovies and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. From the white base, you get a creamy, garlicky hum to offset the saltiness of the anchovies and the heat of the chilli. The large pieces of broccoli both give some texture and provide a little freshness to cut right through everything. I’ve tried it with kale, which also works just as well. In fact, you can mix up the toppings as much as you like. I know that there are plenty of anchovy naysayers out there, so do feel free to leave them off if you just can’t cope. Or, if you’re like me and can’t get enough of them, add a couple extra when nobody’s looking.
White Pizza with Broccoli, Anchovies and Chilli
Note: this amount of dough will be far more than you need. I made one large pizza from half of this quantity of dough, then saved the rest of the dough for the following day. It makes an excellent pizza-style garlic bread to have alongside some pasta, for example.
For the dough:
600g strong white bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1½ tsp fine salt
400ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
A splash of beer
For the white sauce:
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp plain flour
Salt and black pepper
250ml whole milk
40g grated parmesan
For the toppings:
Half a head of broccoli, cut into florets
8 anchovy fillets
1 tsp chilli flakes
A handful of basil leaves
Start by making the dough. Add the flour, yeast and salt to the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the water, oil and beer and stir to combine. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes. After this, knead the dough with the dough hook for 10 seconds, then cover and leave for another 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, but after the final knead, cover and leave for an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
Note: if you do not have a mixer, knead the dough by hand on an oiled surface.
Meanwhile, make the white sauce by melting some butter in a saucepan and stirring in the crushed garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes and then stir in the flour, salt and pepper until you have a roux. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until smooth and there are no lumps. Cook over a medium heat, still stirring, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan. Set aside. Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for a few minutes until tender.
Take about 200g of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Knock the air out using your fingers and stretch the dough with your hands into the shape you want. The dough should be as thin as you can make it. Place on to an oiled baking tray and preheat the oven to 220°c.
Put the base in the oven to pre-cook the dough for a couple of minutes, then remove and spread with the white sauce. Arrange the toppings and return the pizza to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Drizzle with a little olive oil or chilli oil and serve immediately.
Finish the rest of that bottle of beer.
Image used with the kind permission of Ross Holkham, who took some gorgeous photos at Katie and Jonny’s wedding. Take a look at his blog here.
One year ago: Lunch at Ganapati, Peckham