I'm going to declare 2013 to be the year of the pizza. Not that this really distinguishes it hugely from any other year but I like the accountability of a broad sweeping statement like that.
I've eaten more than my share of pizza in my life - both the good (and if you're ever in my corner of London, I urge you to check out Le Cochonnet) and the bad. If I'm honest, the bad pizza probably outweighs the good and that is a fact that makes me really quite sad.
Pizza has become somewhat of an indulgence in our lives - the lazy option when we can't be bothered to cook or feel devoid of any inspiration. It requires no thought. Thanks to the internet, a fairly average pizza is just a couple of clicks away.
And when I say fairly average, what I mean is pretty darn unhealthy. It's become a treat, something 'naughty' (a word I can't abide when it comes to food but which I am as guilty as anyone of using, at least subconsciously) that we use as a reward after a good day or a crutch after a bad day. As vices go, it's not the worst but it's probably not very good for me either physically or mentally.
I saw a tweet the other day from a food magazine asking whether people were comfort eaters or healthy eaters in January. But why does that have to be a choice? As a society, we tend to spend far too much time moralising about food and turning every bite into an ethical decision. We give food the power to make us feel guilt or shame and, along the way, lose the simple pleasure of eating. By categorising food as 'comforting' or 'healthy' or 'good' or bad' we abrogate our responsibility and make it all too easy to blame someone else for our choices.
What I want to do this year, apart from eat a lot of delicious pizza obviously, is to change my attitude. To stop giving food any power over me and to be accountable for my own decisions. You only get a finite number of meals in your life; I don't want to waste any of mine.
And so, one of the first things that I did when I got home after Christmas was to mix up a batch of my favourite spelt pizza dough using a mix of white and wholegrain spelt flour. Of all the reasons for purchasing a stand mixer, being able to quickly and easily make pizza dough has to be near the top. The pizza topping was inspired by some classic flavour combinations, making good use of my very favourite winter vegetable of all - the humble leek. I had a generous helping for dinner, a slice for breakfast the next and another slice for lunch and I didn't feel guilty about that at all.
Leek, potato and rosemary pizza
Yield: 1 pizza (serves 2)
Rosemary can become very bitter when it's cooked. I got around this issue by placing the rosemary under all the other toppings so that it wasn't too exposed to the direct heat of the oven. You could use a rosemary-infused olive oil as the base to get the flavour without the fresh herbs if you want or scatter it on top shortly before the pizza is cooked. I went for a classic topping of fresh mozzarella but I'm pretty sure other cheeses would be just as good - you could go for something really punchy if you wanted although I find the delicacy of the mozzarella really helps the flavour of the leeks to shine.
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium leeks, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- A handful of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped.
- 100g (4 oz) mozzarella
- Pizza dough, for 1 pizza (I used half of this recipe with 50:50 white and wholegrain spelt flour)
- Make your favourite pizza crust. While it is rising, you can prepare the toppings and preheat the oven to 220C/425F.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the potatoes and boil for about 15 minutes until tender.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan, add the garlic and leeks and fry for 10 minutes or so over a medium-low heat until soft.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and allow them to cool before slicing into rounds.
- When the pizza dough is risen, stretch it out into a vaguely circular shape. Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and scatter with rosemary (keeping it under all the other topping stops it burning and becoming bitter). Top with the leeks, followed by slices of potato and, finally, cover liberally with cheese.
- Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the crust is cooked and the potatoes are golden.