Not perfect, but not bad

So, the proud possessor of a 26g truffle from Ashburton, found by Peg last week when she was having a mid-career refresher course, and as the good lady wife demanded it, I set about making a midwinter truffle pizza. Off to Canterbury Cheesemongers, where they were fresh out of buffalo mozzarella, but were happy to supply good flour and some fresh yeast, and then a rummage round the supermarket for some of the more ordinary mozarella (from Kapiti Cheese).

Back to the farm to get the oven going. It’s been a fair few months since it was last fired up, and it was getting to late afternoon. In summer, it takes three to four hours to get up to pizza hot, which is fearsome (I had to buy a long sleeved oven glove because putting my arm in to the oven was singing the hairs). So I got the fire going, and made the dough. I used the recipe from Nikko Amandonico’s book again It’s very straightforward: make the dough, divide into pizza balls, and leave to rise. Then roll them flat, stretch them a bit, and cook. Easy — and good.

The oven was being notably slow in heating up. By 8pm, our stomachs were suggesting that dinner should not be further delayed, but the oven was a fair way short of full heat. When it’s ready for pizzas, the interior stops being black with soot, and becomes white. A pizza cooks in a minute or so. All I could see in the light of my new headlamp LED torch was a little white patch. It would have to do.

The pizzas were simple to prepare. I shaved some thin truffle slices on to the bases, and covered them with thinly sliced mozarella. Some good olive oil brushed on top, and out into the oven. They did not cook very fast by wood-fired oven standards – perhaps four minutes before the crust was browning. This is what mine looked like…


Two criticisms. The length of cooking had reduced the truffle impact – probably evaporating more aroma than a short, sharp burst of heat. The good lady wife took issue with the crust, preferring an all white flour base, rather than the mix of white and wholemeal I’d used. But they were still rather good. I also made a simple cherry tomato and mozarella pizza for second helpings.

The counsel of perfection: leave more time for oven to heat up. Use buffalo mozarella and white flour. Experiment with thinly sliced cooked potatoes as additional topping to help seal in truffle flavour. Be generous with the truffle. And do it more often.

Approaching pizza perfection

Saturday was a challenge. My daughter’s 17th birthday, and 17 bright young women descended on the farm to make merry. I had to make pizzas. 20 in all. The wood-fired oven got its first use since our mid-winter truffle extravaganza. It takes about four hours to get really hot – pizza hot – when starting from cold. This time, I used the dough recipe from Nikko Amandonico’s La Pizza: The True Story from Naples (excellent book, by the way), with a mix of organic stoneground flours provided (with fresh yeast) by Martin at Canterbury Cheesemongers (excellent shop — can’t leave without spending a small fortune on great cheese). Worked a treat. The dough was pliable and elastic, baking quickly to a lovely crispy crust. The girls seemed to like them, but my sternest critic was the most impressed. “Best yet” was Camille’s comment. I shall bask in the warmth of that praise for – ooh, hours.

The most expensive pizza in the world – with truffles

Gordon Ramsay is a chef with a fearsome reputation – and tongue, if you have seen him on TV lashing some hapless young proto-cook on his cooking “reality” shows. He is, of course, an extremely fine cook, possessor of Michelin stars and the culinary gravitas that goes with that, and is therefore unafraid to charge like a wounded bull when the situation demands it. Which, at his Ramsay’s Maze in central London, it apparently does, because a pizza with white truffle shaved on top costs £100. The Daily Mail (I used to write a column for them in the early 80s) explains all…


Looks very nice, as you’d expect. But I’d rather make my own. And I wouldn’t shave truffle on top either. I’d make a pizza bianca, as I blogged earlier this year. But then I’m not Gordon Ramsay.