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Recipe Number Eight  March 2003


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On one of our days off we often spend the morning shopping in Kings Lynn, and it was on one of these days that Mrs. R and myself spent a few hours in the town. I can't be doing with all that in and out of endless shops; she said 'I must just pop in here, wont be long', leaving me to stand out side. Half a hour later, yes you've guessed it, I am still waiting. The time I spent out side was not wasted for I am a great people watcher, and I was amazed at the amount of people that I saw eating on the hoof. Many of those consuming their lunch were smartly dressed office and shop workers taking their lunch break. Others were young persons, casually walking along eating, a top up of their daily requirements. In the States, over, what we now call, 'the pond' eating food in this manner is on a very much larger scale. In New York it is said that many tons of hamburgers are popped away each day. For the consumption of the hamburger the body must be upright and the legs moving. The coordination of this art of eating can be a risky habit if you are crossing a busy main road. Maybe that's why you often see half eaten hamburgers, and hotdogs laying in the gutter. The craving for a form of spicy food in a bread based covering seems to be on the increase, but is it something new I ask myself. As one of the characters from the vicar of Dibbley would have said, 'no, no, no, no, of course its not.'  It's the jolly old Romans that we can blame, or at least for part of it, a concoction of dough with a spicy topping known as the pizza. The most basic pizzas are thought to have been cooked on hot flat stones, and it was not until a 1000 years ago that the herb covered circles of dough became popular in Naples.
Foccacia, as it was known then, was served up as a snack, maybe to be eaten on the hoof. Dough was pounded into a thin crust and baked with leftovers as a topping. It was peasant food, and like the ham burger you did not need any utensils to eat it. What we now know as the pizza of today would not have existed without some old world Europeans that conquered their great fear of the tomato, which was thought to be very poisonous. The tomato was brought to Europe from Peru and Ecuador in the 1500s and it was not regarded safe to eat until the late 1600s. By the 18th century, street vendors in Naples were selling pizzas, and would you believe it the worlds first pizzeria opened in 1890. The pizza soon became a big hit, so much so that around 1889 Queen Margherita of Italy asked a tavern owner to make a special pizza for her and being the very clever and cunning chap that he was he named the pizza in her honour. It was about the same time that Mozzarella, red tomatoes, and green basil were used, the colours of the Italian flag. The pizza, before long, traveled beyond the shores of the homeland and with it the secret came to USA.  This being a country with many Italian immigrants it made many a poor man a large fortune. The first pizzeria opened in the States in 1905, in New York Cities Spring Street, and its said that you can still dine there today.
It was in the 1950s that the commercial value of the pizza was exploited and with it the birth of the pizza hut and other chains that ensured  the market was worldwide. The thin crust pizza  I can take or leave, but a Texan gentleman living in Chicago, by the name of Ike Sewell,  is said to have invented my favourite, the deep pan pizza. So there you have it food that can be eaten on the hoof, has been around for a long time. Maybe people in Rome at the time moaned about all the old pizza crusts laying in the gutters.
In the early 1980s we owned the restaurant La Casa and it was there that I employed a chef that could cook a deep pan pizza that you would die for. So for all us people that prefer not to eat on the hoof, I offer you his recipe for 
Deep pan pizza
A great pizza is not just a load of soggy, stringy, cheese on a base of dough enriched with ingredients that should never been put together. It's the old old story what goes in is what comes out. Good ingredients, love and time will make a good deep pan pizza. So let's make a start. First of all we must consider the sauce that will cover the pizza's dough base. This sauce is a rich tomato sauce, and to make it take a medium size saucepan with a thick bottom, add a few drops of good quality olive oil and to this add one medium size fine chopped onion. Next into the pan chopped tomatoes, in the summer time I normally would use very ripe plum tomatoes but at this time of year I prefer to use a medium size tin of chopped tomatoes brought from your local shop. If you find that there is not sufficient juice in the tomatoes then add a little white wine or water. So now we have the oil, chopped onion and tomatoes in the pan, next turn on the heat on the top of the cooker and pop the saucepan over a gentle heat. Once the sauce starts to cook add a clove of crushed garlic and, most important, a must is the herb oregano. If you use a dried form of oregano, a couple of good pinches are then stirred into the sauce. The sauce will require a gentle heat until the onion and tomatoes have formed a rich sauce. On a slow heat this will take a hour or so to reduce. Once this has been done, allow the sauce to cool down and add the seasoning, salt and pepper, to your taste.
Next we will require to make the pizza base. It's up to you. You can go to the trouble of making your own, but why not ask your local baker if they will sell you a l lb of basic bread dough in a plastic bag. To keep the dough for a few days pop it in a fridge. It will slowly rise in the fridge but you can knock it back. OK on we go, next take a deep sandwich tin around 9inches. This size will feed two persons. Grease it very lightly, take your bread dough and knock it back and roll out to fit the tin but with surplus dough to mould up the side of the tin. The pizza crust wants to be half an inch thick. Spoon the cooled tomato sauce over the bread base. The oven should have been switched on by now at a hot heat, so to accept the almost ready pizza. Now for the toppings, I use only ingredients that go well together, grated cheese, sliced tomatoes, and maybe a slight hint of onion.  These should be thinly sliced and placed on the pizza in the following order, the grated cheese (I like to use plain cheddar cheese) then the sliced tomatoes, then if you wish a little very fine sliced onion and a pinch of oregano to complete. Bake in a good hot oven, check after say 10 minutes.  The pizza should start to rise up allowing the rich sauce to soak into the bread base. As the pizza bakes you must allow for the thicker base to cook, you should finish up with a deep pan pizza.  Once out of the oven serve the pizza with a good fresh salad and maybe a jacket potato, but what ever you do please lock all the doors , for the last thing we want is for somebody to take a slice and walk down Heacham High Street and be seen eating it on the hoof.

Colin Rushmore

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