Friday, August 15, 2014

A really good and simple no-fail four cheese-and-fig pizza to make in five minutes

Last night, somewhere in the world living a Travelife, I decided to make a pizza for dinner.

Admittedly, this wasn't an original recipe but my take on a pizza I tasted once, at a restaurant somewhere in the world, which I really liked.

But as I've adjusted the general recipe here and there, I guess I can now call it my own.

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Like California sushi in Japan, it's a hybrid pizza rather than a purist pizza -- so you're unlikely to find it in Italy, in a proper pizza restaurant.

The proprietor of my favourite pizzeria in Rome, just a few steps away from the Piazza Navona, for example, would be horrified, if he knew the kind of pizza I had just made last night.

My pizza last night falls more into that category of fusion food that comes out of California, with lots of enthusiasm.


I actually cook a lot in the kitchen, especially when I have a free weekend -- and location doesn't matter one bit. I don't need to be at home to cook.

I've cooked for fancy dinners and parties in cities all over the world -- including in fantastic antique kitchens in Paris, state-of-the-art kitchens in London and tiny kitchens with a view in a luxury hotel in New York.

If there is a good fresh food market or a very comprehensive supermarket like Whole Foods, which I absolutely love, somewhere in the world, I can whip up a dinner in no time.

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about my four cheese and fig pizza...





I don't do recipes, you see. Everything is literally done on a wing and a prayer. And lots of inspiration.

When you eat out so much in restaurants, you get an idea about how so many dishes are made and how chefs use ingredients.

So based on this, I look at what ingredients I have to work with at hand instead, and then come up with something on the spur of the moment, based on the produce I've picked up that day for a dinner party, for instance.


This reminded me recently of one of my trips with the Travel Companion to somewhere in Africa.

We'd gone to a pretty remote lodge in the middle of nowhere and the food had not been up to his usual exacting Michelin-star standards. This made him quite unhappy, even if we were in one of the most gorgeous settings imaginable on earth.

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Settings and lovely villas matter to me -- this was one of those luxury eco-friendly places where celebrities hie off to get away from the world -- so I was quite happy to put up with the so-so food in exchange for the feast for the senses we were getting in terms of atmosphere and nature.

But even to me, the food was mediocre at best.


Breakfast in Tanzania.
This was quite nice....

When we were recently on holiday in Morocco, this topic came up again, as we remembered our stay at this remote luxury lodge with so-so food.

I said to him in Morocco: "In hindsight, I regret not just commandeering the kitchen and whipping up something for you to eat."

He asked: "Could you actually have made me a good meal?"

We were in the middle of nowhere then, and the nearest decent grocery was something like 5,000 kilometres away. In another country.


But can birds fly? Does the sun rise in the morning?

Of course I can make something decent from almost anything, as long as I have garlic, onions and some relatively fresh stuff to work with.

We'd even gone fishing one morning during our stay there and the Travel Companion had actually caught a decent-sized fish.

I could have steamed that fish he'd caught or deep fried it with seasoning, and served it with a salad.

That might have made a big difference to our stay -- at least for him.


Now in this blog I don't really share recipes of hard to make dishes as there's no point. We're not a cookbook and Travelife is not a cooking magazine.

Besides, most people don't have the time and patience to slave in a kitchen, and neither do I unless it's a weekend, or unless I'm on holiday somewhere in the world with access to a kitchen.

So, so far I've only shared the easy recipes -- the kind you can do in about 30 minutes, as I find I can do this sort of food very well. I wonder if you can call it "grace under pressure?"

Lots of people have told me they've followed my recipes with great success and I'm so happy about this.


Today's recipe is for a very interesting pizza that was so good I just had to replicate it myself, after having it in a restaurant.

This is what you'll need:

1) Home-made thin pizza crust, whether store-bought from an artisanal store or made yourself. Either way, make sure it's the salty kind. Or else rub it with a little olive oil and sea salt before baking.

2) Four kinds of cheese including the requisite mozzarella. The fresher the mozzarella, the better; and don't scrimp on this.

The other cheeses can be anything on hand, although I've discovered that mozzarella and grana padano from Italy and a really strong blue cheese offer the perfect salty-sweet combination.

I like putting mimolette, the strong, hard, orange cheese from France, as well.

3) Panchetta cut in small pieces but thickly. These must be very salty, so consider soaking them in some Camargue sea salt for an hour before using.

The magic of this pizza is the amazing combination of salty and sweet.

4) Dried figs. Soak them in water to soften them for a few minutes, and then slice them across thinly.

5) Honey. I like using Sidr honey from Yemen, which I bought at Doha Airport last month. I actually brought a jar with me on this trip, as I take a spoonful every morning, along with cinnamon from Sri Lanka.

But more on this in a later blog entry.


Then you're ready.

Arrange all the ingredients save for the honey on the pizza, and drizzle with very good olive oil before popping it into the oven.

When it's ready, serve with a salt grinder and the honey on the side, to add more of this truly delectable salty-sweet combination to your pizza.

This is so good, and I swear it makes everything just a little bit more wonderful in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

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