I was hoping to write more here while I was on holidays, but the combination of my usual December activities, plus confectionery, plus the funeral, all followed up with several days of drainingly hot weather have left me more exhausted than I could have imagined. The notion that I might, at some point, not be tired doesn’t even seem possible.
Still, tomorrow is a Shakespeare evening, and having been completely uninspired all week, I’ve decided to simply celebrate the last of Shakespeare’s Italian plays (we still have Coriolanus, of course, but that is Roman, which is a whole different cuisine) by doing a proper Italian-style feast in the manner of my Nonna or my aunts.
Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
This should strike terror into just about any heart, really, and I’ve told Andrew that he has the task of being my witness that by my family’s standards, I’m actually undercatering. After all, I only plan to make three kinds of pizza, for an entrée, along with some cheeses and marinated vegetables, then canneloni and lasagne for a pasta course, followed by a positively frugal main of roast chicken pieces with potatoes and onion and rosemary, and four or five kinds of salad. And then dessert would be gelati, balsamic strawberries, ricotta cheesecake, olive oil cake, semolina biscuits, ginger biscuits and florentines. If any of my Italian relatives were cooking, I assure you that there would be a lot more main course – actually, a lot more meat – cotolette, a roast or two – and probably seafood of some kind, too. Though to be fair, there would probably be fewer desserts – fruit and fritelle and cannoli and cake or maybe a cheesecake. But then, I’m a dessert kind of girl.
Seriously, if you think I overcater, I can only say that I am positively frugal in my feasts compared with the Italian side of my family.
Anyway. I’m feeling traditional this week, even with the sad lack of meat in my menu (I really am becoming decidedly picky about the source of my meat, which is frustrating me no end – we’ve been vegetarian for most of the last couple of weeks because I couldn’t get meat from a source I trusted and I’m really craving good chicken. I hope I can find some ethical chook tomorrow, or it will be all pasta, all the way tomorrow evening) and thought I’d give my Nonna’s pizza recipe a try. This is a bit tricky, because the version I have amounted to ‘take flour, yeast, water and olive oil and a bit of salt, knead together, let rise, shape, let rise again, put the toppings on, and cook until done’. If you think this recipe lacks something in the quantities department, you’d be right. I’ve never even attempted to make it, but my attempts to get Nonna-style pizza by adapting other people’s pizza recipes have all been unsuccessful.
Nonna’s pizza always had a lovely chewy, squidgy sort of texture that I suspect stemmed from a lot of olive oil. And you need a good texture for this pizza, because the pizza Nonna made was very simple – a thick, foccacia-like base, topped either with passata (and occasionally olives, mushrooms, peppers or anchovies) or dried oregano. Cheese? What cheese? Oh, and there was the pizza Nonna invented just for me, which had sultanas kneaded through it and raw sugar sprinkled over it before baking.
Which brings me to the main purpose of this post, which is to write down the quantities my aunt sent me when I SMSed her this afternoon to try to get a better idea of how to make this dough. (She offered me a method, too, but I felt that that would be cheating.)
So – prototype ingredients list is below, with my notes in italics. I’ll experiment, and when I get the recipe right, I’ll post the whole thing here. With quantities *and* method, even…
Ingredients1 kg flour (bread flour, presumably) 1 tbsp salt 1 heaped tablespoon of fresh yeast (check whether one needs to activate this) 1 medium mashed potato enough lukewarm water to make a sticky dough (use cooking water from potato, and measure it so that I know the quantities for next time) Bake in hot oven, not more than 30 minutes, probably less.
I’m guessing one activates the yeast with the potato and lukewarm water, since there is no sugar other than what is in the potato, and then adds the salt and flour and more water as needed (kneaded!). I am absolutely positive that I remember Nonna *pouring* olive oil into this dough, so I might add some.
It does need to rise twice, and I seem to recall the second time it rises in the tray, with some holes punched in it and maybe more olive oil drizzled over it. Toppings go on right before baking.
I shall report on my findings after Shakespeare…