I don’t work full-time anymore. These days, I work as a consultant for the corporate governance advocacy I was working full-time for about a month ago. It’s a healthier set-up, really: I don’t have to weather through the increasingly chaotic traffic of the Greater Manila Area five days a week and I don’t have to be cooped up in an office for the greater part of my day.
It is a schedule that has improved my health: I sleep better now and I am able to keep my stress down to a tolerable level. Also: it’s given me more time to work on my poetry, the novel that has remained stalled for weeks, as well as cooking and baking.
The last one has led to a greater amount of experimentation in the kitchen: not just for special occasions or weekend dinners, but for weekday meals, as well. And so, this pizza…
The crust for this is different from the schiacciata base I normally make from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess recipe which calls for baking the pizza at a high temperature first, then lowering the temp for the last two thirds of cooking. This recipe is a much simpler one from Penny Stephens‘s What’s Cooking: Italian. Less flour is involved and you only need to cook it at a constant, middling temperature. The resulting crust is pleasantly crispy at the edges, deliciously fluffy and chewy within.
The topping I used features two ingredients with a smoky flavor profile: tinapang bangus (hot-smoked milkfish) and char-grilled eggplant. The meaty smoked milkfish acts as a foil to the sharp yet sweet tomato sauce I used as a base and the eggplant adds a welcome, somewhat bittersweet nuance that was quite satisfying.
I also added olives for a salty zing and capers because they go so well with fish. You can skip the capers, if you like. But please keep them in; I insist: they make this already interesting dish more appealing.
This makes for a light but satisfying meal, particularly if served with a good soup (from scratch, mind you; the additional effort is worth it) or a crisp, fresh salad.
For the Crust:
- 350 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 250mL water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 packet (7g) instant/fast-acting yeast
For the Topping:
- 1/2 cup cooked and flaked tinapang bangus or any hot-smoked fish
- 1 medium-sized Asian eggplant, peeled
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 a chicken or fish bouillon cube
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning or 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil and oregano
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup sliced olives
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup additional grated cheese (mild Cheddar or mozzarella)
- 2 tablespoons water
Heat the water and 1 tablespoon olive oil on HIGH in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the water and oil. Mix well. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough for 10 – 12 minutes until it forms a smooth ball, dusting with more flour from time to time. Cover with a clean dishtowel and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place for an hour.
Grease a lipped cookie sheet; set aside.
Grill the eggplant or cook in a large, ungreased frying pan until charred, blistered, and tender all over. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then chop coarsely.
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the sliced onion until softened. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic has browned a little at the edges. Add the herbs and cook till fragrant. Add the bouillon, cook till it has dissolved, then add the eggplant and tomato sauce. Thin the sauce a little with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes; add the brown sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for fifteen minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees / Gas Mark 6.
Punch down the risen dough and press into the prepared cookie sheet. Cover and leave to rest for ten to fifteen minutes. Uncover the dough and evenly spread over the sauce. Evenly scatter over the smoked fish, olives, and – if using – capers. Evenly scatter over the cheeses.
Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off at the end of baking time but leave the pizza inside for an additional ten minutes. Remove from oven and slice into sticks.