How To Make Pizza In Less Time Than It Takes To Get A Take-Away

I can pinpoint the precise moment when I started to become very fussy aware of the food that I eat. Andre and I had decided to treat ourselves to a nice Tesco Finest Four Cheese pizza for dinner, as neither of us could be bothered to cook. Having popped it into the oven, I idly flipped over the cardboard packaging, where my eye fell upon the list of ingredients.

Contains: Gorgonzola, cheddar, parmesan, mozzerella, cheese flavouring....

Um, pardonnez-moi? Cheese flavouring? On a four-cheese pizza? Why, pray tell, is it necessary to add cheese flavouring to a pizza that is literally festooned with cheese?

It would be nice to round off this story by saying that I immediately pulled the pizza from the oven, tossed it into the bin with a shudder of horror, and went out to buy some nice organic sausages or something instead - but hey, we were starving, so we ate it anyway, and it tasted great.

But shortly after that, we started gradually switching all our food to organic, cutting out all processed food, tearing up the take-away menus, interrogating the unsuspecting local butcher Jamie Oliver-style... fast-forward to a year later, and all our fruit, vegetables, meat and fish are delivered from Abel and Cole, I would never dream of ordering in a take-away and if we ever fancy having a pizza, well, I just make one. Here's how.

There are dozens of ways to make pizza dough, and usually I alternate between various recipes depending on how much time I have (good ol' Jamie has one in Jamie's Italy that only calls for 15 mins rising time, for example). The following recipe is taken from The Food of Italy.

Mix one dessert spoon of caster sugar, one 7g packet of yeast, and 45ml warm water. Leave for 5 mins to activate. Meanwhile, put 225g of plain flour, a pinch of salt, and two table spoons of olive oil into a bowl. Add the yeast mixture, and start mixing with a fork. Gradually add around 60ml warm water - do this slowly, mixing as you go along - don't just dump it all in at once cos you probably won't need it all, and you'll end up with a big ol' sticky mess.

Once the mixture has become too dense to mix with your fork, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for five minutes, adding more water or flour as required, until you have a firm, springy dough that is not sticky.

Rub the inside of a bowl with olive oil. Roll your dough ball around the inside of the bowl to lightly coat it in oil, score a shallow cross in the top of the bowl with a sharp knife, cover the bowl, and leave it in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours.

While the dough is rising, make your tomato sauce. I usually sauté some chopped garlic and basil leaves in olive oil, chuck in a tin of chopped tomatoes, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, and then leave to simmer for 15-20 mins over a low heat.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down to the original size. Roll it out on a floured surface to around 0.5cm deep, and transfer to a baking tray. This amount of dough should make a pizza around 15 inches in diameter - and you can always freeze any left-over dough.

Brush the crust in olive oil, and spoon the tomato sauce over the entire base. Add whatever toppings you feel like (I used parma ham - probably cos we didn't have anything else in the fridge at the time), and arrange a sliced up mozzerella ball over the surface. I also grated some parmesan over the top.

Cook in the centre of a 220 degrees Celcius oven for around 20 minutes. Depending on how ferocious your oven is, how thinly you rolled out the base, and how crispy you like the topping and the crust  to be, you may need a little longer or a little shorter, so keep an eye on it.

The final product - yummy. Nice n crispy. And if you have pizza dough and tomato sauce in the freezer (which I usually do, cos I always make double amounts) then you can get a homemade pizza on the table in under 30 minutes, which is less time than it would take for a take-away pizza to arrive. And no cheese flavouring in sight, thanks very much.

Any other take-away/randomly unnecessary artificial ingredient haters out there? Do tell :-)