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I love pizza. I wanted to eat the pizza on the cover right there in the office. I'd also heard good things about the Franco Manca restaurants dotted around London. Like the restaurants, the book is all about going back to traditional techniques to 'restore the reputation of the wonderful product that is pizza' (wood-burning ovens are not essential, though).
As I thumbed through the book, I realised this was definitely going to be a weekend job. I decided to start with one of the simpler toppings (I couldn't spare the time to cure my own salami) – spicy lamb, mozzarella and tomato.
I didn't have an 26cm iron pan to toast then grill the pizza as the recipe stated, so I needed to use a different dough for a tray-baked pizza. First I had to make a 'poolish' (I hadn't heard of it either) the night before. Sounds fancy but it's just a mix of lukewarm water, flour and yeast, to which I stirred in more flour and yeast, plus sugar, salt and oil, the following day. I wished I had the recommended mixer with a dough hook to beat the dough, but I followed the clear step-by-step photos to beat it by hand.
In between stretching and resting the dough on baking trays, I started on the toppings. The spicy lamb was a simple mix of lamb, garlic and scotch bonnet chilli. The recommended method was to mince it all together, but I took the easier option of using lamb mince. The tomato sauce was really simple – I chose the basic salsa recipe, which involved squishing a tin of whole peeled tomatoes by hand and reducing it down with some basil leaves.
When the dough had enjoyed its final stretch, I spread over my tomato sauce, then sprinkled over pieces of lamb, torn mozzarella and basil leaves, and the grated Pecorino. I felt pretty pleased with myself as I slid the trays into the oven.
The recipe was a bit vague about the base thickness and, as it started to rise in the oven, I realised I should have stretched it thinner. While doughier than expected (more like focaccia), the pizza itself tasted amazing. The combination of the slightly crispy, spicy lamb, gooey cheese and basilly tomato was lovely. The lamb had a pleasant heat to it and my 22-month-old daughter tucked in happily, picking off the lamb to eat before starting on the pizza itself.
The finished pizza...
There was a fair bit of flipping back and forth between the three recipes (dough, topping and tomato sauce) and I should have paid more attention to the equipment page. But I'm off to Franco Manca to see how the experts serve it, then I'll invest in the right kit before my next attempt. It's got to be the pancetta, caramelised onion and blue cheese...
Spicy lamb, mozzarella and tomato tray-baked pizza
Taken from Franco Manca: Artisan Pizza To Make Perfectly At Home by Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo (Kyle Books, £12.99)