Having spent a LOT of weekends down at Maltby St. Market - which, in my opinion, is one of the best things about London and if you’ve not yet been you need to now, this weekend – I feel I have been happily immersed in the world of Street Food, at various points over the past few years.
Street food, for me, is reflective of a city’s soul [that and every local granny's recipe repertoire filled with generations of culinary wisdom]. A street food vendor is generally product specific, service is quick, food is messy, and unapologetically exploding with flavour. All of which gives the appearance of simplicity. And yet the makings of any street food success is oh so complex.
Most of all though, street food is about passion. It's personal, because there is no way, one could ever put in the hours and effort required, day in, and day out, for that perfect mouthful, without an obsession for perfection. Which is why I love it.
And given I have an obsessive passion for everything and anything Italian, spent a month on a farm in the middle of nowhere [have a little read if you're curious...]. And somehow, ended up with a massive tub of leftover Persian Aubergine - which I had no choice but to take home with me to save from the bin – along with surplus pesto [I know, really no such thing] that I’m dying to try. Pizza dough, was the only logical upcycling solution that could do my leftovers justice.
Italy’s shining glory. Done differently in every region. Hell, every household I’m sure. But always available per prendere via [to take away]. And the PERFECT vehicle for any combination of toppings.
So here’s a recipe I learnt from, and interpreted – for us humble home bakers without constant access to freshly milled Italian flours of only the best quality, infinite hours for pizza making on our hands, and fresh yeast – from il campione del mondo di pizza acrobatica. That’s right. Giuseppe Lapolla. The world champion of pizza acrobatics.
nibs etc. recipe adapted from Giuseppe Lapolla. Makes 4.
(Please note: This method seems excessively long. I assure you, it’s mostly dough kneading and preparing techniques. Feel free to skim if you already consider yourself a pizzaiolo in the making.)
500g plain flour
1.5g dry active yeast
15g olive oil
350g tepid water
Tip your flour into a large bowl, then place the yeast on one side, and the salt on the other.
Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients, into which pour your olive oil and water. Then cover with flour from within the bowl before slowly working the flour into the centre with your right hand, from the outside in. Do so until everything has combined—it will be very sticky at this point—then do so with a bit more force, i.e. slowly begin to knead the flour from the outside in, until the dough is smooth (but still very sticky).
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, flouring (yes that’s a word) your hands as well so as to be able to rub all the dough off your fingers and onto the surface. Pull the dough into a rough rectangle, fold in half, half, and half again. Place back into your bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes. (If I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure why this is necessary, but the pizzaiolo said so).
When ready, dust a baking tin with flour and set aside. Divide the dough into four portions. One at a time, on a lightly floured surface, take a portion and press with your fingers, from the outside in, while turning the dough, until you have gone all the way around, at least 3-4 times. With lightly floured hands, place the dough in the palm of your left hand, and with your right hand, pull one lip into the centre, press, repeat, turning the dough in your palm as you go, until you start to form a smooth surface. It will take around five cycles.
Place the dough back on your surface, pinched side down, fingers cupped around the ball, palm applying slight pressure on top, as you move in circles to seal the bottom of your dough ball. Place it into your baking tin. Repeat with each portion, spacing each dough ball an inch or so apart in your tin. Set aside for 1-2 hours in a warm place, covered with a towel, until doubled in size (or 12-24 hours in the fridge for later use).
Place a large baking tray—upside down—in your oven and preheat to 250˚C fan/260˚C/550˚F (as hot as it will go). On a lightly floured surface with floured hands, place a dough ball. Using the side and thumb of your left hand to hold dough in place and rotate as needed, use your four right hand fingers to press into the dough, from the outside in, leaving 2cm around the outside forming a rim. Do so until centre is evenly flattened.
Then pick up and flip flop the dough between your hands, allowing the rim to fall and stretch over the top of your hands as you rotate (moment to channel your inner pizzaiolo). Place back onto your flat surface, put both palms face down on your dough, and pressing lightly, pull outwards as you rotate. Continue until the rim is clearly defined by a ridge around the outside, and the dough is thin and even in the centre. Pinch any holes back together.
Place a piece of baking paper onto a grill / baking sheet / board (that will fit into your oven), onto which you then place your dough. Top with leftover toppings of choice. Position your grill / baking sheet / board halfway into the oven before sliding the pizza-topped baking sheet onto the hot, upside down baking sheet already in oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes until the edges are bronzing slightly and the rim has puffed. When ready, slide the baking paper and pizza combo back onto the grill / baking sheet / board (leaving your hot surface in the oven for the next pizza).
Slice and serve.
Persian Aubergine Pizza: aubergine spread + frozen peas added pre bake; chopped almonds + coriander added post bake.
Pesto Pizza: dough baked plain; pesto, arugula and cherry tomatoes added post bake.
Other toppings with potential fridge and pantry finds:
Half empty can of chickpeas + canned tomatoes + harissa pre bake; feta + pickled onions post bake.
Leftover roasted vegetables pre bake; pine nuts + parmesan post bake.
Sautéed greens + egg pre bake; avocado + capers + seeds post bake.
Baskets of leftover Easter chocolate pre bake; banana + strawberries + CONSUME MELTED GOODNESS POST BAKE.