- Food & Drink
Last week The Actress in East Dulwich hosted a pre-opening pizza party. It was a chance for the pub to show off it’s roaring hot, spanking new pizza oven and for several food bloggers to get their hands on a pizza paddle and demonstrate that we’re not all talk, talk, talk when it comes to cooking.
The price of admission to this carb fest was a mystery pizza topping and I bought along figs and padron peppers. My pizza – figs, fennel, salami and pecorino – had potential but ultimately failed because I was far too cautious with the pizza toppings. Pile ’em high is my new mantra and I’m working on the perfect fig pizza recipe.
Other pizzas baked to golden crisp included beetroot and goat’s cheese (turns out that even if your oven is hotter than the sun, you still can’t cook raw beetroot in under 10 minutes); potato and haggis (which might’ve worked had the haggis not been made out of unwashed kidneys); crab and samphire; Parma ham and lemon; Stilton, ham and pear; a monstrous, bowel-blocking 8 meat pizza; and a dribbly Star Bar calzone.
The hit of the evening was – surprise, surprise – not a blogger creation, but a professionally made potato and blue cheese pizza. Garlic, par-cooked potato slices and a crumbling of blue cheese when it came off the paddle, it was the Atkins antidote that defiant pizzaiolas have been looking for.
However, the problem with thin crust potato pizza is that there isn’t quite enough carbohydrate on the plate, which is why I have turned to potato focaccia. I first encountered this fancy chip butty at the café I worked in after leaving university. The inestimably brilliant Ursula Ferrigno was one of the chefs attached to the kitchen, so the lucky local office workers got to lunch on torta al testo, stromboli and various focaccias, including potato focaccia.
My recipe is not, unfortunately, based on 1 of Ursuala’s, but on my own hazy memories. I’ve made it with fast action yeast because I have sachets and sachets of the stuff. In spite of being freeze dried and sealed in foil, it seems to be breeding.
I think it would taste better if it was made with normal dried or fresh yeast – froth the yeast with the sugar and warm water to make the dough, then rub it with oil and let it rise. Knock back, roll out, rub with more oil and let it rise again before baking. Lots of good quality olive oil is key to making this recipe work.
Makes 1 loaf
350g strong white flour plus extra for dusting
1 sachet fast action dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp coarse sea salt plus extra for seasoning
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus lots more for greasing
250g potatoes, scrubbed
2 sprigs rosemary
1 Sift the flour, yeast and sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sea salt. Add 4 tbsp olive oil and enough lukewarm water to make a loose dough – approximately 150–250ml water. Turn the dough out onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour, cover with the bowl and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
2 Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until smooth, springy and elastic. Place on a baking tray greased with olive oil and roll out to make a rough oval approximately 1/2cm deep. Brush with a good drizzle of olive oil, cover loosely with clingfilm and leave somewhere to warm to rise.
3 Preheat the oven to gas mark 8/230°C/fan oven 210°C. Cook the potatoes in simmering water for 15–20 minutes until just cooked through – a skewer inserted in the potato should go through reasonably easily, but you don’t want the potatoes to be thoroughly cooked. Drain and cool.
3 Slice the potatoes into thin slices, approximately 1/2cm thick. If the dough is risen and puffy, brush with more olive oil and scatter over the leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary. Arrange the potato slices over the dough and brush with more oil. Scatter over the leaves from the remaining sprig of rosemary and season with a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4 Bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden and the focaccia feels light and sounds hollow when the base is taped. Cool on a wire rack before serving.