Although I love my job, it's always a bit of a struggle to ease myself back into the routine of work after a long, pleasure-filled summer holiday. However, after several years I think I've managed to hone my techniques to ensure a smooth transition with minimal post-holiday trauma. Take clothes for example: going straight from the sandal-and-short wearing days of summer to full-on formal work wear is guaranteed to lead to a feeling of melancholy. A gradual change is needed, replacing first sandals with shoes, then linens with heavier materials and longer sleeves until by mid-September, you're back in suits and jackets as though you've never worn anything else.
The other important aspect to consider is food and drink. In my opinion, September, like January, is not a good month for making any new resolutions regarding alcohol or healthy eating. If you are suffering badly from back-to-work blues, aperitifs and cocktails in the garden are a great way of getting back in a holiday mood, even when there's work the next day. Food should be fun and frivolous - don't make the mistake of going straight into winter with heavy, rib-sticking stews and roasts.
This pizza is perfect for September. It's good for prolonging a holiday feeling but is also substantial enough to take you comfortably through the darkening evenings. This particular topping, discovered recently on a trip back to Italy, combines the meaty flavour of coppa (a bit like prosciutto but using a different cut) with the peppery tang of rocket. It works wonderfully well and has become my current favourite. If you can't find coppa, prosciutto works well too.
The theme for this month's Tea Time Treats is Mediterranean and as savoury dishes are allowed, I'm sending this one along; the challenge is hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Janie (this month's host) at The Hedgecombers.
Please don't think that it's not worth making your own pizza. The difference between real pizza and store-bought is incredible, they're like two different things. Also, it's really straightforward, does not take hours of kneading and is very rewarding. You don't need any special equipment apart from a couple of pizza trays and a very hot oven.
RECIPE (makes enough for 3 or 4 pizzas)
For the dough
450g strong white bread flour, plus more for kneading
7g (1 sachet) easy blend yeast
1 teaspoon salt
approximately 300 ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and pour in about 200 ml of the water and the olive oil, mixing with your hands. Be prepared to add more water but do it gradually - you don't want it too wet (although it's not a disaster if this happens, just add more flour until you can knead it without it sticking to everything). Start kneading by pushing the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, the fold it back and turn slightly. Keep doing this for about 10 minutes, it should feel smooth and springy when it's ready.
Form the dough into a ball and rub a little olive oil over the surface, so that it is lightly greased. Put it into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for at least 2 hours, I've left it a lot longer than this and it doesn't seem to be a problem. The dough should more or less double in size.
When you're ready to make the pizza, preheat the oven to the hottest possible setting (240°C on mine). Divide the dough into four roughly equal parts (you can weigh them if you want to be really precise) and roll each one out. It may seem far too small to fit into your pizza tray and it will keep springing back first of all but do persevere. If you don't want it that thin, you can divide the dough into three parts rather than four.
TOPPING (per pizza)
About 2 tablespoons of passata
125g mozzarella (I use the normal mozzarella for pizza, not buffalo), thinly sliced
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
After it's been cooked:
4 slices of coppa
a handful of rocket leaves
Lightly grease the pizza trays and stretch the dough to fit. Then cover with the passata (it should just be a very thin layer), a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of oregano. Add the cheese, drizzle over the olive oil and put in the oven. It takes about 10 minutes to cook but keep an eye on it as all ovens vary. After about 8 minutes, I take the pizza off the tray and slide it back directly onto an oven shelf for the last minute or two.
Put the coppa and rocket on the pizza after it's been cooked, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.