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
fresh mozzarella
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs olive oil
course sea salt (try Maldon, it should come with its own praise singer)
black pepper

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
100g semolina
1 packet (10g) instant yeast
¼ tsp salt
260ml lukewarm water
40ml milk
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.

serves

4

prep

2 hours

cook

12 min

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good to know

Domestic goddess

When I make pizza dough, I double up on the recipe and freeze equal-sized portions. Unexpected guests? Haul out the dough. It defrosts within 20-30 minutes at room temperature. Roll it out, chuck on some toppings and in the oven for a few minutes. Dinner done and everyone thinks you’re Nigella.

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Mozzarella

For this recipe you really do need fresh mozzarella (the one in water), not the rubbery one. Imported Italian buffalo mozzarella is gorgeous, but I can think of better things to do with sixty bucks. Like buy another pair of tekkies at Pep. You can get some pretty good locally made fresh mozzarella for a lot less. If you absolutely have to (because you’re stuck in the Okavango and it’s the rainy season, not because you were too lazy to take off your slippers and go to the shops) the rubbery kind will do. Just slice it paper thin.

enjoy with

Cooked tomatoes like red, but I think fresh tomatoes prefer something white. Wine that has a nice bit of acid to balance the acid in tomatoes, but also something with plenty of fruit, to offset the juiciness of a decent ripe tomato. A fruity Sauvignon Blanc will do the trick.

One of my favourites is Merwida. It has truckloads of guava and just a touch of asparagus. The 2012 vintage walked off with Veritas double gold. At about R50, it’s seriously good value.

Merwida

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