Two years ago our kitchen was small, dark and cold. A bank of cupboards separated it so successfully from the dining area I could do two sinks of washing up after dinner without any guests noticing. It wasn’t exactly the heart of the home we always imagined.
Jonathan and I spent many months researching and planning. There were non negotiables (me: bookshelves and a pantry, J: a deep sink and underfloor heating), luxuries lost to the need for at least some worktop space and even a road trip to the other end of the country to check out corner hobs. Finally we agreed to stop tweaking and just do it; we ordered the appliances, booked the fitters and started packing up our stuff.
And then our social worker called. After six years of applications, appeals and annual ‘waiting adopters’ reviews, there was a little girl, a baby, who we were being considered for. Were we interested?
Chaos reigned for the first two months Jessica lived with us. She won’t remember it, but the mess, dust and boxes strewn throughout the house will stay with me for a very long time. The steriliser, toaster and kettle were on my desk in the study; eight dining room chairs were stacked behind one of the sofas; boxes of glasses and plates lined the walls of our bedroom. We lived off toast, take aways and microwavable food: our plans to eat out changed with the arrival of a four month old.
This weekend I stood in my kitchen rolling and topping pizza laughing and talking with my brother and sister in law and my niece and nephew. There were crispy potato skins, sticky chicken wings, pints of beer and glasses of wine. But most of all there was family eating pizza in the heart of my home. Those two months were worth it!
Pizza is great for a family Friday. Easy, quick and customisable to different tastes (no ham or sweetcorn on E’s share please). And so little to clean up afterwards as well (its a shame I can’t say that about the dish we baked the chicken wings in, its still languishing in the garage sink).
This recipe makes two large pizzas (three if you have time for the dough to rise and stretch it carefully) – perfect for four adults and two teenagers!
- 500g plain flour
- 1-2 tsp salt
- ½ tbsp dried yeast
- ½ tbsp sugar
- 300ml tepid water
- Tomato sauce (we used passata this time, tomato puree is also good)
- Sliced mushrooms
- Chorizo, salami or pepperoni
- Grated mozzarella and cheddar (I like this mix - flavour and stringy)
- Dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Mix the yeast and sugar with about 200ml or so of the water. Leave to stand for five to ten minutes, it will froth a bit.
- Put the flour and salt in a large bowl or on your (clean) work surface. Make a well in the middle and pour in the frothy yeasty water. Mix together.
- Add more water (I usually clean out the jug I had the yeast in to make sure every last bit is incorporated) until you have a ball of dough.
- Knead for five to ten minutes until the dough is silky and stretchy.
- Put the bowl in a warm place for an hour or so.
- Preheat your oven as hot as it can go (225 degrees C on intensive bake for us).
- When the dough has risen, gently punch it down and divide it into two, three or four (depending on how big you want to make your pizzas.
- Roll you dough out quite thin and put in on a baking sheet or cooking mesh - stretch it into the corners if you can.
- Smear a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce over the dough.
- Put your other toppings over the tomato sauce, finishing with the cheese.
- Sprinkle a decent amount of oregano over the cheese (don't miss this step!).
- Bake for between 7 to 9 minutes (you may need longer if your oven isn't as hot as mine).
- Finish with freshly ground black pepper.
And on Saturday morning Jessica had waffles with her family – raspberries and cream or bacon and maple syrup (or all four if you were K & E!).