|I was ACTUALLY playing (read: losing) Scrabble when this was taken aka it wasn't set up for kitsch blogger photos|
As I touched on in my last post, 2013 has been good to me. I feel more settled now than I ever have done as an adult and during a walk to Lidl to buy some yeast and strong bread flour for this recipe, I had a good think about why.
I think happiness has a lot to do with what age you feel. I never enjoyed the “young person” thing and up until now, being an adult has been the shittiest crawl through a sewer I have ever experienced. A lot of this has been down to me and how I have approached my life – laziness, being a coward, selfishness and self-pity – but some of it has been down to the STUPID things we are expected to do in this ridiculous, horrible young adult path that is meant to be enjoyable.
Between the ages of 18 and 24, I felt like I was forced to sit on a rollercoaster with a hangover every day. The idea that we are meant to enjoy going out in heels and small dresses and drinking stupid amounts of alcohol. The idea of meeting strangers in grotty, sweaty cavernous rooms with migraine-inducing music and GETTING ON WITH THEM when in reality, the majority of people I meet, I would be happy never to see again. The amount of times I have sat alone in a club, surrounded by hundreds of people but feeling as lonely as hell.
The shared living and the poverty-with-iPhones BECAUSE WE SPENT ALL OUR MONEY ON BOOZE BUT OMG WHY ARE WE SO POOR, the confusion of wrong relationships and strained friendships. The stupid pseudo-intellectual-babble debates that we have again and again and again. Religion, politics, current affairs, charity, war, poverty, the press. All these fucking ISSUES that we argue about like a bunch of car tyres stuck in the mud…as if our arrogant opinions expressed loudly in a middle class hippy pub are suddenly going to change everything. As if we are going to go out into the night half-sloshed and build some new affordable housing.
This is what my brain was like from about 2006 – 2012. Six years of anxiety-ridden hell.
But this year, I changed. I think that I have finally become the age and the person that I was so desperately frustrated to be. It’s in no small part thanks to some wonderful person that I fell deeply in love with and some kind-hearted, beautiful friends I found again. It’s not that these people have DONE anything exactly. More that…everything just feels right and because it all feels so right, I feel right too and I want to do right.
And that feeling is so refreshing, so carefree and so precious that I want to breathe it forever and ever.
In reality, there are still loads of things I will do wrong and even if I don’t, most people fuck up this Zen-thing by having children and replacing all the contentment with perpetual anxiety, guilt and tiredness. So yeah, things will probably go wrong again and I don’t expect to live in this dream-state forever (just in case people think I am boasting or naïve, I’m not, I’m not!)
Anyway, I’ll be quiet about everything that might go wrong in the future because seize the day and all that shit.
Another thing that makes me super, super happy is pizza. The closest I have ever come to making a pizza is grating extra cheese onto a gourmet Co-Op Margareta. So this is pretty big.
I got the recipe from Rose and the highlight, for me, is the pesto which is soo tasty and so satisfying to blitz up.
Start by making your dough. This recipe will make enough for 4 medium, super thin pizzas.
500g strong white flour (and a bit extra for kneading)
1 tbsp salt
A 7g sachet of dried yeast
A sprinkle of caster sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
330ml tepid water (or the same amount of grams if you’re weighing it all)
Put the flour and salt in a bowl. In a separate jug, mix up the rest of the ingredients and leave for one minute. Whilst you’re waiting, pre-heat your oven to a tiny temperature (like 100c for about 3 minutes or some shit…unless you have the heating on or it is summer – in which case, don’t worry about this step).
Pour the wet stuff into a little well in the middle of the dry stuff. Use a metal spoon to gently incorporate the whole lot together. Persevere: I thought that I had used way too much flour but after a few minutes, it all comes together to make a sticky dough.
By now, you can turn your oven off if you decided to put it on.
Flour a work surface and tip your dough out. It’s time to knead! I have always failed at this – never, ever have I had dough DOUBLE in size – the thought was laughable. But this time, I had a nice warm area (the pre-heated oven) and I kneaded my ass off.
Spend about 5-6 minutes or maybe even 7-8, pulling the dough, like stretching it and then putting it back together. Also knead it in a massage-y way. Basically, just keep that shit moving until it’s smooth and slightly less sticky. You can use quite a bit of flour without it being a disaster.
Now, lightly flour a bowl and put your dough in it. Sprinkle with a little more flour and cover with a damp tea towel. Put it in your nice warm oven and shut the door. Seriously, the oven needs to be warm…and no more than warm….for this to work.
Leave for an hour. While you wait for the magic to happen (seriously, it’s actually magic!), get making your pesto. It doesn’t take THAT long to whip up and it is amazingly tasty – properly beautiful.
A basil plant (99p from Lidl)
50g raw pine nuts
88g grated parmesan (the stuff I had was veggie friendly so any kinda hard cheese will do)
2 cloves of garlic
110g or ml of olive oil (seems a lot but this makes quite a lot of pesto)
A large pinch of salt
Tear off all the leaves from the basil plant and chuck them in a blender (or a bowl if you’re using a hand blender). It’s fine if a few stems go in there too. Add all the other stuff – whizz – hey presto! Store it in the fridge, perhaps in a little jar.
Tick tock, tick tock.
Okay, after an hour, take your dough out. I really am still in shock that this stuff doubled in size. Break the dough into half and half again. I made two pizzas so am storing half of the dough in the fridge for later this week (it’ll be fine for up to a week).
Put two (or how ever many pizzas you are making) baking trays into your oven, upside down. Now, pre-heat that oven again. 200 fan, 220 no fan.
Roll out your pizzas. I used a wine bottle (thoroughly washed, label scoured off) as I don’t own a rolling pin. Worked FINE. Make it super-duper thin – like if I was a person and I had gone through a breakup and lost LOADS of weight from never eating because every time I ate something, I cried NOT SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE – that thin. Put each pizza base onto a sheet of tin foil.
Now, OMG, there is so much to do. Top your pizza.
A box of passata
Whatever else you like – sundried tomatoes, artichokes etc. etc.
Pour on a bit of passata and spread it around with a spoon. Sprinkle the oregano over your base and swirl on some of the pesto. Top with a few slices of mozzarella.
Take an upside-down baking tray out of the oven and sliiiiide the tin foil onto it. Place in the over. Repeat for additional pizzas. I waited about 10-12 minutes and although the cheese was bubbling, the middle was still quite doughy. I guess just wait until the middle looks firm. I wouldn’t have thought it would be more than 15 minutes.
Serve with sweet potato chips, a crème fraiche dip and a leafy salad.
Satisfying, healthy and messy. MY FAVOURITE.