Green pizza with purple cauliflower and chilli

My love of pizza making started some 13 years ago while living in a backpackers in Edinburgh.  While I don’t remember much about what the pizzas tasted like, I do remember this eclectic mix of people from all corners of the globe gathering in the communal kitchen to share the joys of cooking and eating together. The best memories…

Since those days, i’ve been making pizzas for friends and family and now, my kids.  I have a few simple principles I always stick to for the perfect (or near perfect..) pizza.  They are:

Less is more – don’t pile your pizza with too many ingredients, choose few, quality ingredients and let them do the talking

Make the pizza base if you have time – if you’re like me, you’ll always have flour, salt, oil and yeast in the cupboard.  If you have a little more than an hour to spare before you need to start cooking, you have time to make the base and the pizzas will thank you for it.

Use fresh buffalo mozzarella if you can – good quality fresh cheese makes the world of difference.

Put the ingredients that need to cook most on last – for example, don’t put mushrooms or onion under the cheese.  Put them on top.  If you’re following the less is more idea above then this shouldn’t be an issue as ingredients shouldn’t be piled on top of one another.

While I love my hero pizza toppings of pork and fennel sausage or prosciutto, pear and gorgonzola, I need new pizza inspiration every now and then.  I recently had a couple of vegetarian friends over for dinner so it was the perfect excuse to come up with something new.  I needed to go green.  This was the result…


1 x ball pizza dough (see note below) or pizza base

2 x good tablespoons of homemade or bought pesto

1 x tablespoon of sour cream or cream

1/2 small zucchini, thin sliced

3 thin slices of purple cauliflower (or normal cauliflower will do) I just cut down through the whole cauliflower so you have cauliflower discs if you like and then cut the discs up into florets

1 x handful of baby spinach leaves, sliced

8 x anchovies, torn apart (optional)

1 x teaspoon chilli flakes

1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into pieces

Spread pesto over the base of the pizza, right to the edges.  Then spread cream on top.  This just gives the pizza more moisture.

Place your zucchini and cauliflower on the base and then sprinkle with the baby spinach and chilli flakes. Add anchovies if you’re using them and top with your mozzarella cheese.

Cook for 10 – 15 minutes in a 180 degree oven or until cooked.  I use my Weber with the pizza stone to cook my pizzas and they always come out with a perfectly crispy base and golden on top.



Note: My pizza dough method is rustic and uncalculated (and most certainly not typically Italian) but it always seems to work.  I place about 500g of flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.  Make a well in the centre and add a good tablespoon of dry yeast.  Pour in warm water to react with the yeast and keep on adding water until you have a slightly sticky dough.  It’s always easier to add more flour.  Turn your dough out onto a well floured board and knead lightly, adding a sprinkling of flour as you go until your dough is nice and smooth.  Place your ball of dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the microwave (don’t turn it on!).  Leave for approximately an hour, then knead again it’s ready to go! 


New born babies and soft cheese

There are so many rules when you’re pregnant about what you can and can’t eat that it’s hard to keep up. No ham or cold meats from the deli, no cured meats, no raw fish, no runny egg yolks, no BBQ chicken, no pate, no unpasteurised cheese, no soft cheese, no smelly cheese…

Now as I sit here with my 14 day old daughter in my arms, and I look down at her little bow lips and beautiful chubby cheeks, the nine of months abstaining from all these foods seems like a small price to pay for such perfection.   And now that she’s here and safe, I once again have the freedom to eat (and drink) whatever I like…it’s quite liberating.

While not being able to have a glass of wine of an evening didn’t bother me at all during pregnancy, not being able to eat certain cheeses, cured meats and pates has been somewhat of a struggle.  You see, a late night dinner for us would normally consist of a variety of cheeses and cured meats on a chopping board with some fresh crusty bread and a glass of wine.  It couldn’t be simpler to prepare and it’s always very satisfying.

So there is no recipe here – just my thoughts on what makes an impressive but no fuss cheese board.

  • A well balanced cheese platter in my opinion should have a blue cheese, a soft cheese and a beautiful sharp hard cheese at a minimum.  Instead of opting for a cheddar, try Parmagiano-Reggiano.  It’s a beautiful sharp cheese, it looks lovely on a cheeseboard and if not all eaten – you can use it on your pasta.
  • Don’t cut parmesan, if it’s lovely and fresh, when you stick a fork or sharp knife into it, it should just crumble away.
  • If you like your blue cheese nice and strong, try Cabrales, a Spanish blue – not for the faint hearted. Or for something more creamy, you can’t go past St Agur from France.
  • Caper berries are a nice alternative to olives – definitely stronger on flavour and more visually appealing.
  • Use seasonal fruits to add a sweet component to  your cheese board – figs, pears, berries etc.
  • Serve cheese with a couple of crusty wood fired breads, like a sourdough and a rye, and let the cheese do the talking.  Give the dry biscuits a miss.  Fruit bread also works well, particularly with blue cheese.
  • While cheese loves the company of red wine, in summer, a crisp riesling will get you by just nicely (but I’m no wine connoisseur).

What are your cheese board tricks?