Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.
Pizza toppings are commonly and widely varied to suit individual tastes and also whatever ingredients may happen to be available. It is considerably less often, however, that most people choose to vary the base upon which the pizza is built and that to a certain extent limits the versatility of the whole pizza concept. Breads of many different types can be used as pizza bases—with Indian naan bread pizzas particularly delicious—but it is possible to vary the concept even further by using puff pastry as a pizza base.
There is one obvious challenge when making puff pastry pizzas that has to be overcome—ensuring that the pastry is cooked to just the right consistency. Clearly, the pastry should not be cooked until it is too flaky or the pizza will disintegrate, but it is equally important that the pastry is fully cooked before the toppings become over-cooked or even burned. The way this is achieved is to firstly part cook the pastry before the sauce and toppings are added.
Prep time: 30 min
Cok time: 30 min
Ready in: 1 hour
Yields: One medium puff pastry pizza
- 8 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled and grated
- Generous pinch dried basil
- Salt and pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 small to medium aubergine/eggplant, chopped to one inch pieces
- 1/2 small to medium courgette/zucchini, chopped to one inch pieces
- 8 ounces puff pastry
- Flour for dusting
- Beaten egg for glazing
- 8 to 10 whole pitted black olives
- 5 or 6 pieces of sundried tomato
- 2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 ounces pizza mozzarella cheese, cut to small strips
- Freshly chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
Step 1: Make the Tomato Sauce
The sauce is a standalone component part of any pizza and should be prepared, ready to go when needed, as a first step. You could, of course, use store-bought sauce, but this sauce is so simple, it is almost just as easy to make your own.
Pour the tomatoes into a small saucepan and add the garlic and dried basil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer for around ten minutes until lush and thick. Blending it is optional. Cover and set aside to partly cool.
Step 2: Is it Necessary to Steep the Eggplant and Zucchini in Salt?
The two vegetables pictured above unfortunately have quite a number of different names around the world. The two referred to on this page are eggplant and zucchini as they are known in the United States and aubergine and courgette as they are known in the United Kingdom.
It once was the case that these vegetables were naturally extremely bitter. In order to remove this bitterness, they had to be cut and seasoned liberally with salt before being left for ten to fifteen minutes to allow the salt to draw the bitter moisture from the flesh. This is largely no longer necessary as the bitterness has been bred out of most modern varieties, but if you are using heritage/heirloom varieties, you should carry out the process described below.
Not sure if your vegetables are heritage or not? Follow this procedure anyway as it will do them no harm, even where it is actually unnecessary.
- The vegetables should be chopped evenly, as shown below.
- Put the vegetables into a large bowl and season fairly heavily with salt. Stir with a spoon to ensure even coating and cover with some kitchen paper.
- Leave for about ten minutes or so before rinsing very briefly in a sieve under running cold water.
- Suspend the sieve over the bowl to drain well while you bring some olive oil up to fairly high heat in a non-stick frying pan.
- Fry off the vegetables for about a minute on high heat, just to seal them and finish drying them out. Turn off the heat and drain on kitchen paper.
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Step 3: Prepare the Pastry Base
- When the vegetables are added to the bowl with the salt, put your oven on to preheat to 425F/210C/Gas Mark 7.
- Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a square slightly more than 13 inches on each side. Use a 13-inch dinner plate as a template and carefully cut a circle from the pastry.
- Lightly grease a suitable tray with oil and lay the pastry circle on it. Crimp around the outside edge and liberally prick the inner circle all over with a fork. This helps prevent the pastry in the centre from rising too much during the first stage of cooking.
- Glaze all over with beaten egg (not forgetting the crimps around the edge) and put it into the oven for ten minutes.
- Take the pastry from the oven. It should have crisped slightly but only just have started to turn golden and no more.
Step 4: Add the Toppings
- Spoon the sauce on to the pastry (you may not need quite all of it) and spread evenly all over, except on what will become the outer crust.
- Place the courgette/zucchini and aubergine/eggplant pieces at even intervals on top of the sauce as shown below.
- Add the black olives and sun-dried tomatoes in a similar way to the slowly developing pizza.
- It is easiest to combine the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses together before scattering evenly over the vegetables and sauce.
- Put the pizza back into the oven for ten more minutes.
Step 6: Time to Serve It!
Take the pizza from the oven and lift it carefully with a spatula to a serving plate. Alternatively, lift it to a chopping board for slicing. The freshly chopped parsley is an optional garnish.
© 2014 Gordon Hamilton