I really used to enjoy going to Pizza Express for some downtime after a hard days work or shopping. I liked the informality and watching the Pizzaiolos performing their brave tossing and turning of pizza dough - the higher they spinned the floppy discs of dough in the air the more you could anticipate being served a thin, deliciously crispy-crusted pizza! My favourite toppings were Cajun, Fiorentina, Giardiniera, Da Morire. I do so love Italian passion and flair!
For many years I used to take my two girls as a weekly treat. Before ditching the grains, I thought it was the closest thing to a fun fast food experience I could give them, without compromising our health. I confess, there’s still nothing quite like the memory of a traditional wheat-based pizza and a glass of wine to transport me to a happy place, and I’m not the only one. Last week, Sarah told me the one thing she still craves is pizza, so today I felt compelled to try and oblige.
After scouring the internet for food blogging pioneers of grain-free pizza, and several rejected recipes later, I think my version of cauliflower pizza crust is simply the best! Unlike some I’ve tried, it’s not held together with copious quantities of cheese or eggs and, as a result, my pizza base recipe is definitively more bread-like. When it comes to pizza crust, it isn’t exactly ‘it’ but it does come very close indeed.
The next consideration was the pizza topping. Regular readers of Primal Plate will know that I espouse Primal-friendly vegetarianism and since Peter Boizot, the founder of Pizza Express has been a vegetarian since childhood, and I once read that his personal favourite was a Margherita pizza, I’m thinking…way to go! Besides which, with it’s red (tomato sauce) white (mozzarella cheese) and green (basil) I love the fact that it emulates the colours of the Italian flag!
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as vegetarian Parmesan or, so far as I know, vegetarian Italian buffalo mozzarella. Even lacto-vegetarians are often unaware that Parmesan Reggiano DOP and buffalo mozzarella are made from coagulating milk to produce curds (solids) and whey (liquid), and this coagulation can only be achieved by using rennet, an enzyme obtained from the stomach of slaughtered newly-born calves. The very idea of taking these newborn animals away from their mothers at birth and slaughtering them is an anathema to me (I don’t eat veal on compassionate grounds either - please see *note below) so I’ve substituted Sainsbury’s So Organic Vegetarian Mozzarella for buffalo mozzarella, and Twineham Grange for the parmesan in my recipe. They are both excellent vegetarian alternatives.
I think Peter Boizot, alias Mr Pizza himself, will approve!
Cauliflower Pizza Crust (Makes a 10 Inch pizza - serves 2) (V)
Ingredients - for the pizza base
1 organic cauliflower (to yield about 500g raw cauliflower ‘rice’)
1-2 fresh bay leaves - optional
50g (2oz) organic ground almonds
25g (1oz) organic arrowroot
25g (1oz) organic ground flaxseed
25g (1oz) vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, finely grated
50g (2oz) vegetarian ricotta
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 dsp fresh marjoram, finely chopped
1 whole egg, beaten
Ingredients - for the topping
120ml (4fl oz) organic tomato passata (I use Mr Organic)
Pinch of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 drop liquid stevia
125g (4½oz) organic vegetarian mozzarella
50g (2oz) vegetarian parmesan-style cheese
Fresh basil sprigs, for serving
Instructions - for pizza crust
Preheat the oven to 160℃ / 325ºF / Gas mark 3. Boil a kettle of water.
Take a large piece of parchment paper and, using a large flan ring or pan lid as a guide, draw a 10-12 inch circle on the back of the paper (this will help you shape the pizza into the right size later) Turn the paper over and grease with butter or coconut oil. Place on a flat non-stick baking sheet and set aside.
Wash and dry a medium sized head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets only (you don’t need the stem). Blitz the florets in a food processor for about 30 seconds until it comes together into a powdery cauliflower ‘snow’.
Tip the cauliflower into the top of a steamer and tuck a couple of bay leaves into the cauliflower, if you have them. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom of the steamer, cover and steam for 3-4 minutes (do not cook any longer than this - the ‘grains’ of cauliflower should stay separate not reduce to wet mush!)
Dump the cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool down before proceeding to the next step. Once the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the tea towel and wring out every last drop of water. You need to squeeze out as much water as possible to ensure you get a pizza-like-crust not a crumbly mess!
Put the squeezed-out cauliflower into a large bowl. Now add ground almonds, arrowroot, ground flaxseed, baking powder, Parmesan cheese, ricotta, marjoram, sea salt and black pepper and the beaten egg. Mix together well with a fork.
Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your oiled parchment paper. Pat it down thoroughly, you want it nice and tightly formed. Once you’ve got it roughly into shape, the best way to compact it is to take a sheet of cling film, lay it on top of the dough and roll it out more evenly with a rolling pin - don’t make it too thick or too thin - make the edges slightly higher.
Remove the cling film and slide the parchment paper onto your baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes until it is golden brown (you may need to turn it around halfway through the cooking time to make sure it cooks evenly).
Remove from oven and allow to rest a couple of minutes.
Instructions - for the topping
Meanwhile, for almost instant tomato sauce, pour passata into a small saucepan, add a pinch of sea salt, a grinding of black pepper and 1 single drop of liquid stevia then cook over a moderate heat for 3-4 minutes to reduce down to a slightly thicker consistency.
Use a serving spoon or ladle to spread a thin layer of the sauce on top of the pizza base, leaving a 2 centimetre border of crust around the outside edge.
Sprinkle the grated cheese over evenly, then add the slices of mozzarella (in that order). Put back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Slide the pizza onto a serving plate and decorate with basil and a grinding of black pepper, if liked.
Serve up your delicious, nutritious, gluten and grain-free pizza and enjoy!
I find that it’s best to remove the mozzarella from the fridge, slice it and allow it to come to room temperature before using it to top my pizza. Any excess moisture coming from the mozzarella can then be mopped away with kitchen roll beforehand, - otherwise, the heat of the oven can cause the mozzarella to leak a milky liquid onto your pizza crust and make it go soggy!
Twineham Grange cheese has a slightly rubbery (they say, “creamy") texture compared to the hard, granular texture of genuine Parmesan Reggiano (and I do so wish they still made it from unpasteurised milk). Eaten straight from the packet, it also lacks Parmesan's rich, sharp flavour. Nevertheless, my first test using Twineham Grange as a substitute in a recipe for baked eggs with asparagus, cream and Parmesan was a triumph! It melted down beautifully to create a smooth, creamy and delicious cheesy sauce. Therefore, I am more than happy to recommend it as a viable alternative to Parmesan for anyone with concerns about animal welfare.
Furthermore, Bookham Harrison Farms Sussex Charmer Cheese and Southdowns Butter are absolutely sublime tasting and, as such, will no doubt feature in many future Primal Plate recipes. They offer a brilliantly efficient online shop and delivery service.
*Milk fed veal calves are often anaemic. The calves are fed a low iron diet to produce the most desired white meat. They are fed milk replacer, which can be laced with antibiotics in order to control the diarrhoea that is caused by an inadequate diet. These calves are restricted from moving and spend their lives in small stalls or hutches. They are slaughtered at 18 to 20 weeks of age. Calves can be so crippled from confinement that they have to be helped into the truck or trailer on the way to the slaughter house. Click here for further information.
Carbohydrate 26g Protein 27g - per serving of pizza crust
Carbohydrate 3g Protein 22g - per serving of topping