I just found out from the ever-resourceful Wikipedia that Nigella Lawson declined an Order of the British Empire (or, you know, an O.B.E.) in 2001. She does seem like the sort of person who would decline, or rather, just couldn’t be bothered with something like that (or, I don’t know, it may have to do with UK politics, of which I know exactly nothing), but I think she deserves some sort of exalted status for writing several of my favorite cookbooks of all time, How to Be a Domestic Goddess and Feast.
I have spent many a winter hour reading one or the other of these cookbooks, which one can actually do (vs. just cook from them). They’re not just fancily styled food-porn pictures (in fact, the food, especially the cakes, look pretty darn realistic) with cut-and-dry recipes. Each recipe is full of reminiscences and anecdotes and asides, and they’re written in such a comfortable and familial — yet completely eloquent and British — way that it puts the reader at ease, even in the face of some daunting items.
And speaking of daunting, I haven’t tried to make pizza crust in a long time, because I find it to be a pain in the ass and not worth it. I live at high altitude, which is my excuse, but after perusing Domestic Goddess the other night I decided to try it again. See? That’s what happens. (Don’t even read the recipe in Feast for Christmas Cake, because it is extremely time consuming and involved, and you will end up making it.)
About the flour: I needed some flour and I have always been curious about this stuff called Hungarian High Altitude Flour. I figured I could use all the help I could get. It’s made from hard winter wheat grown at higher altitudes, and has a denser and “squeakier” feel to it. Apparently, it’s not specifically designed for use at higher altitudes, but being that it’s heavier and denser I think it definitely helped (breads rise faster and cook faster here).
Pizza a la Nigella (adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess) (high altitude version)
1 2/3 cups Hungarian High Altitude flour
1 heaping tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
approximately 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp warm (not hot!!) water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the warm water and the olive oil, and keep stirring just enough to partially combine into a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, with floured hands, for 5 minutes. Oil a bowl with olive oil and put your dough ball in there, then cover with plastic wrap. Leave this in a warm place for an hour (I turned the oven on for a few minutes and off again, keeping the door open to make sure it didn’t get too hot, and then let my dough rise in there, with the door closed)
Preheat oven to 500〫F.
Take your pizza pan of choice (I used a 6″ by 12″ cookie sheet) and dust it with a little cornmeal. Take your dough ball out of the bowl and fling it around a little bit. I like to make a little circle and then pinch it all around the outside while turning it around, to stretch it out. You’ll want it to be almost stretched out enough to cover your pan. Once it’s on the pan, smooth it out and cover up any holes in the middle.
As for the topping, the sky’s the limit. We made a sauce out of cherry tomatoes, a little oregano and rosemary, and olive oil, but really, you could do anything. Fresh tomato slices? Sauce from a jar? White pizza? I’m not going to tell you what to put on your pizza. You’re on your own here. What’s important is that you put the sauce on the crust first, and then bake it for 16 minutes in the 500 degree oven. This ensures that the liquid in the sauce will evaporate enough to not make your pizza soggy in the middle.
After 16 minutes is up (remember that I live at 5280 feet above sea level, so your time may be longer; HTBADG recommends 20 minutes), take out the pizza and add toppings/cheese. We did cooked sausage with sauteed red and green bell peppers and onions and mozzarella cheese. I think it would be amazing with goat cheese, or with fresh mozzarella. Stick it back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is just starting to brown/bubble.