If you’re making your own pizza, here are some really simple ideas to make things more interesting and also more sustainable:
1. Use sourdough.
Naturally-leavened pizza dough is more healthy, tastes better and is a way more real connection to food than a yeasted dough.
Where ‘normal’ pizza or bread would rely on strong commercial yeast to develop the dough quickly, sourdough uses natural yeasts and bacteria to do this job. Because they’re natural they take longer to ferment the dough (24 hours works well for a pizza dough but 72h is very doable if you control the conditions). The advantage is that they yield a more interesting flavour and process the components of the dough (starches/sugars, proteins, fibre) more thoroughly. Fermentation is a natural process and your gut will thank you for anything you give it that has been fermented. If you don’t have the patience/capacity to keep a sourdough starter, allow your dough a long ferment with natural yeast; the same processes of breaking down carbs and converting them to nice CO2 for puffy crusts will apply, and you’ll be eating food that’s ready to be eaten (where quick yeasts can give you a ‘food’ that isn’t really ready to be eaten).
2. Make your own passata.
If tomatoes are in season it’s a great time to make the most of the abundance and produce your own passata where you might otherwise use tinned tomatoes. In the summer we buy a whole load of organic cherry tomatoes from our suppliers and roast them slowly (4 hours or so) on a low heat (<140C) with olive oil, salt and, occasionally, some bay or oregano (garlic also works). Once they’re roasted we blend them and use them for pizza specials or freeze them for use through the winter. Making pizza at home, this is an especially nice passata. Home or UK-grown cherry toms often have a really excellent flavour: using them when they’re available is a great way to eat the seasons and to think outside the box around staple foods. It supports local producers and takes pressure off areas that can’t sustain the demands/pressures/collateral of industrial processes.
3. Value your ingredients!
Buy a few really good ingredients- you’ll enjoy and savour them more. Look for sustainable assurances or organic certification where possible: in a lot of cases you’ll pay more for sustainable food- think of it as an investment into the future of the planet. Olive oil might be a good place to start: get a decent tin and use it sparingly; enjoy its character and distinct flavour profile. Chocolate, wine and even vegetables are also worth considering this way.
4. Think of alternatives.
It’s easy to understand why pizza is so popular: it’s difficult to make a pizza that tastes fundamentally nasty- even the shrink-wrapped economy pizzas from the supermarket are hard to turn down on occasion. We can sometimes assume that all pizza toppings are created equal, but they’re not. Even when it comes to Italian products, it’s worth checking twice sometimes: from the point of view of both flavour and care for the environment, there are some great alternatives to classic pizza ingredients that are worth considering.
- Staple toppings can be replaced with UK-produced ones in many cases- check out Laverstoke Park Farm for British buffalo mozzarella, Tempus Foods and Cobble Lane Cured for the best British charcuterie, consider artisan hard cheeses in place of imported ones (we use Berkswell in lieu of pecorino across all our menus). You could even consider using rapeseed oil in place of olive oil…
- If you’re willing, try swapping out items in favour of seasonal/local alternatives. In the winter you could make a white pizza (no tomato) or use a puréed squash base. Lots of winter food is sympathetic to earthier flavours and would work nicely on either of these, especially with some winter herbs. If you’re a fan of ham and pineapple, try swapping out pineapple and using pickled rhubarb in its place. There are plenty of herbs, leaves or veggies that could work nicely in place of the ones traditionally used. Consider getting a veg box to help you eat seasonally!
- Sometimes brining or pickling can produce a similar result to the foods we buy in from abroad: nasturtium buds can be pickled into capers and lacto-fermentation, which relies on brine/salt to control bacterial growth, can effectively preserve summer produce as well as yielding salty snacks that do the sort of thing we look for in olives- try lacto-fermented carrots with oregano, coriander and chilli.
5. Don’t assume white flour is the best.
Strong white flour is usually processed in a way that maximises protein content (to make gluten) and purity (to create a very fine flour, usually with zero nutritional or fibre content, which causes least interruption to the gluten network and makes the strongest dough possible). It’s efficient but wasteful: it has no nutritional value, a bland flavour, wastes a significant amount of the grain (a bit like peeling the skin off a strawberry for the sake of a smoother smoothie!).
If a recipe calls for white flour, use stoneground or a blend of stoneground and white flour: stoneground flour tends to retain more nutrients and thus more flavour, by virtue of being milled and sieved less intensively. Try swapping in some wholewheat flour for part of the dough you’re mixing: at WK we use an organic semolina and, currently, 5% wholemeal heritage flour as part of our pizza dough. The latter is milled in-house. If you want to try cooking or baking with our freshly-milled flour, send us an email!