Last night I cooked dinner for some friends. This substantially involved re-cooking a couple of things from Veguary I’d been meaning to blog about for a while. Both are variants on dishes from the River Cottage Veg Every Day book that I’ve made a few tweaks to, and both work really rather well.
The kale pizza is pretty much straight up from p186, with a base sauce of insanely thick roasted garlic béchamel sauce, and a spot of cumin. This has the benefit of tasting stupidly indulgent whilst not actually being all that bad for you. But I am not fucking about with the garlic; you were warned.
For the salad, I borrowed the dressing from Fearnley-Whittingstall’s
“Asian-inspired coleslaw” on p115, and whacked it over blanched beans and julienne carrots. It’s all about the sesame, and the dishes work together surprisingly well, although there’s a lot of very strong flavours sloshing about here.
For the pizza (one large one):
- Around 300g of oil-rich, nicely-elastic bread dough (see below)
- About 300g kale,
- A couple of onions, or just one huge one
- Cumin seeds (a sturdy pinch)
- A bulb of garlic
- Oregano (again, a pinch)
For the salad:
- Fine green beans, trimmed
- Spring onions
- 2tbsp soy sauce
- 1tbsp honey (maple syrup also works)
- 2tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
- 1tbsp strong sesame oil
- 1tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2tbsp olive oil
- A piece of ginger
A note on bread dough
Giving bread dough as an ingredient is a total cop out. Mea Culpa, and all that jazz. The thing is, I really can’t add any value here. Pizza dough recipes are substantially a solved problem. Personally, I don’t use one – I start with about 200g of strong flour, activate some yeast in a mug of warm water, and do the rest by touch, in increments. But I’m a colossal ponce. The dough recipe in Veg Every Day is perfectly adequate, as is the one in Delia’s Complete Cookery Course, or in Silver Spoon.
It’s sensible to start with the dough and have that rising while you do the rest. Since the kale cooks quite quickly, the other bottleneck is the base sauce, so that’s up next. This is all quite time intensive, I’m afraid.
First, roast a bulb of garlic. Just put it in the oven whole and skin-on for about half an hour at about 150. It’s done when it’s soft and smells richly roasted, and once it’s done, leave it to cool until you can handle it, while you make the béchamel sauce.
Like bread dough, béchamel is substantially a solved problem, you can just look it up. I don’t quite do it “properly”, but then there are probably people with quite severe OCD who’d look at an Escoffier recipe and think “that’s a bit fussy, isn’t it”. So fuck it. Quickly, then: make a roux by stirring flour into melted butter, and letting it cook out for a minute or two on a gentle heat. Gradually whisk in milk, keeping it smooth, but never letting it out too much. This is hard to describe, not least because of the way it thickens on the heat, but we’re looking for a smooth and very thick spreading sauce, rather than a thinner one you’d actually serve. Add a little oregano and let it cook out for a few minutes on a low heat, watching that it doesn’t burn.
Next up, add the garlic. This is a touch I cribbed from a slightly different sauce in Neil Perry’s splendidly indulgent The Food I Love. Slice the top off the garlic bulb, and squeeze out the insides into the sauce. Whisk it all together, and the sauce is done. Leave it to one side to cool a bit.
Slice some onions thinly, and set them gently frying in a little oil. Meanwhile, wash and shred the kale into thick ribbons.
When the onions have softened, add the cumin seeds, and let them fry for a minute or two to release the flavours. Crank up the heat, and add the kale. It will wilt down quickly in the water that’s clinging to it. You don’t want to cook it too much, just to wilt and drive off most of the moisture. Season, and let cool a little. You’re ready to build the goddamn pizza.
This part always sucks if your kitchen is any less well-equipped than a modest commercial pizzeria. So assuming you don’t have a pizza peel and a giant feisty oven, be pepared for a spot of cursing and irritation getting the damn thing ready.
Why? Because you want to roll the dough out thin, and pile the topping high. This does not make it easy to maneuver.
On the up side, those are basically the instructions. Roll out a thin base, and put it on a peel or tray or something with plenty of flour under it. Spread it with garlic sauce, and then top with the kale and onion mix, and torn mozzarella. If you’re just using an oven tray, cool, put it in the oven as hot as it’ll go for around 10 minutes. If, like me, you’re using a pizza stone, have the fight with it, and get it into the oven by whatever dark sorcery you practice.
For the salad
Cut the carrots into fine julienne, and top and tail the beans. Blanch both for something like 3 minutes, strain, and plunge into cold water to stop further cooking.
Fine chop the ginger, and whisk it together with all the dressing ingredients. Slice some spring onions, and combine the lot. This at least is simple.
I would strongly recommend also adding some blanched beansprouts, on reflection.
I love this pizza. The slight bitterness of the kale offsets the richness and almost sweetness of the garlic sauce, and the sauce sits well next to the creaminess of the mozzarella. Ideally, the kale retains a little crunch, and the cumin flavour is in the background next to its nebulously brassica-ish mustardiness. This is the good shit.