I feel about tomatoes the way I feel about chicken. Mostly disappointed. They just don’t live up to my childhood taste memories. I used to think it’s a trick of time – that maybe tomatoes were mediocre even back then. Then I visited Italy, and rediscovered the tomatoes of my youth. Sweet, juicy, ripe, red. I ate them diced and served on crisp, garlicky bruschetta with just a touch of fruity olive oil. I devoured them with big chunks of buffalo mozzarella and a generous handful of torn fresh basil. I treated them like big juicy apples, keeping them whole and biting into them – with just a sprinkling of coarse salt on the side for dipping. Now when I see tomatoes that look anywhere near halfway decent, I get all maudlin about Italy, and then I make this.
All you need is…
pizza dough (recipe below, it’s easier than you think!)
small, ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (a mixture of yellow and red ones is lovely)
large handful of fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs olive oil
course sea salt (try Maldon, it should come with its own praise singer)
Pre-heat your oven to 200°C with your baking tray already in the oven. (If you have a pizza stone, even better.) Now make your garlic oil. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan, pop in the crushed garlic and immediately remove from the heat. Allow to cool. Now roll out the pizza dough. The thinner you make it, the crisper it will be. I like mine really crisp – about 5mm. Wipe the baking tray with a bit of the garlic oil. Pop the pizza dough on, brush with garlic oil and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Bake at 200°C until cooked. (Cooking time will depend on your oven and how thin the dough is, but 10-12 minutes should do the trick.) Remove and load it with the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. A touch more of the garlic oil, some more salt, a grind of black pepper and you’re done. Serve straight away because this one doesn’t improve with age.
Easiest-ever pizza dough (makes 6 small pizzas)
400g bread flour
1 packet (10g) instant yeast
¼ tsp salt
260ml lukewarm water
1 tsp honey
Mix the flour, semolina, yeast and salt. Gradually add the water and mix. Add the milk and honey to the last bit of water and add to the dough. Knead for 12 minutes. You can do this in a mixer with a dough hook, but I love putting my brain in neutral and doing it by hand. Put the dough in large clean bowl, brush the top with olive oil, cover with cling film and a tea towel and put in a nice warm spot for an hour to an hour and a half until the dough has doubled in size. Knock it back to remove all the air. It’s ready for the oven now. Gran used to let it rise a second time, insisting it’s the done thing. Depending on how domestically fabulous I feel on the day, I may or may not do this.