Great British Chefs guest blogger Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston decided to make the most of a snowy weekend and entertain his twins by making pizza for National Pizza Week. Was this a wise idea? Let’s see how he got on.
Photography by Food Urchin aka Danny Kingston
It’s funny how a simple proposal can turn heads and make people stop immediately in their tracks. Especially when you make a proposal to little people. I realised this just the other day when I found myself under attack, suffering a multiple splattering of snowballs, the shoving of ice down the back of my jeans and the ignominy of failing to build a proper snowman. “It’s not very good Daddy, his nose keeps falling off.” Having had enough of our little sojourn outside, in the freezing winter wonderland of our back garden, I wondered to myself, how I could bring this all to an end? And then it came to me in flash.
“Hey! Why don’t we make pizzaaaaaa?!” I exclaimed (complete with jazz hands).
Suddenly, knitted mittens, clasping white cannonballs, pause. Mouths under runny noses gape open and breathe fierce smoke and finally the air becomes quiet and still, apart from the soft slumping sound of a mini-avalanche pouring off the shed roof. The suggestion, thankfully, gets a resounding thumbs up and so we all file back inside, doing the conga, chanting.
“Pizzaaaaa! Cha-cha-cha! Pizzaaaaa! Cha-cha-cha!”
Once inside the warmth, I run to the oven and crank up the dial as high as it will go and pause to warm a soggy bottom on a radiator whilst scarves and hats get tossed aside. Soon enough I am badgered for the dough, the bread, the mix, the cake, the..the..the thingy! Luckily, like all good Blue Peter presenters, I made some dough earlier, a huge batch in fact and so cut off some lumps and throw them onto the table. And then hand over a bag of flour for dusting. This of course, is a huge mistake. Forget the winter wonderland outside, one corner of my kitchen now looks like Narnia but the children are happy, bashing the hell out of the dough with wooden rolling pins.
I finely chop some garlic and throw it into a saucepan with a glug of olive oil and set it upon a gentle flame to heat through. A tin of primo Italian tomatoes decides to go missing in the cupboard, much to my alarm and one of the twins asks what “bugger” means.
“’Oh budgies’ darling, I said ‘Oh budgies’ OK?”
After wading through the split peas and basmati rice, I finally find the prized tin and peel off the lid and slide the juicy, red plums into the saucepan to bubble and spit. As I start to mash things down a bit with a fork, across the room, a raucous is forming.
By all accounts, one of the twins has more dough than the other, which is true and confusing as I was sure that I gave them both equal amounts. After a quick assessment, I ask a tearful son whether a lump of dough that remains on the floor belongs to him. The one with a Wolverine figure sticking out of it. He says yes, arguing that the adamantium framed mutant needed a bed to sleep in. To pacify the mood, I take some more dough from out of the bowl on the kitchen side (I really did make a lot) and tell the twins that ‘this’ dough will be the dough we’ll be using to making our pizzas. “The first stuff you used was just play dough,” I say. “No, not like the pink Play-Doh that Daddy tells you never to eat.”
Trying to move on swiftly, I help the twins to form and shape the pizza dough into neat round circles using a combination of fingers and rolling pin whilst giving a neat, historical background of where pizza comes from. My origins speech must have been pretty boring because soon after Naples, my daughter decides to splat a handful of flour onto my head and great hilarity ensues. I am not laughing though. I had a whole section about Lahmacun lined up but given the attention span of your average 3 year old, it was probably just as well that my daughter interceded.
We all hop off the chairs to inspect the tomato sauce which has reduced right down and is ready for the basil which needs to be torn and thrown in. Small fingers tear and pinch and the air is suddenly filled with a sweet peppery perfume and a Mediterranean hue envelopes the greyness of the kitchen. “Doesn’t that smell nice?” I ask the kids and my daughter thoughtfully responds that the herb reminds her of sunshine, which warms my heart. I then look at my son and discover that he is simply eating his basil.
The time is then ripe to bring out the toppings and for the twins, preferences, tastes and flavour combinations couldn’t be further apart. The boy, despite his boisterousness and proclivity for destruction is a bit of a vegetarian at heart. He favours mushrooms, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts on his pizza. My daughter, swirling around, all fairies and princesses and light is a meat fiend and wouldn’t be offended if I stuck a cow on her pizza. But on this occasion we opt for prosciutto and pepperoni. Oh and pineapple too. Her father introduced her to that retro and pleasingly naff combo the last time they made pizza and so she demanded it a second time around.
Each pizza is then adorned with slivers of mozzarella, Daddy taking full control at this point, as the twins once discovered that this soft cheese is fantastic for squishing in their hands and expelling little white worms from in between their fingers. But he does let them take turns at sprinkling dried oregano over their respective pizzas, the countertop, the floor and their hair. After the mess they’ve made, they are certainly going to have a bath so at this stage in proceedings it really doesn’t matter.
On wooden boards, we (or Daddy rather) carry the pizzas over the oven and after repeated warnings “to stand back, no stand back, stand right back”, the oven door is opened and a blast of heat whooshes out. Trays, steaming hot, are precariously pulled out with tea towels and Daddy slides the pizzas onto them to much whooping and cheering. Not to mention whispered profanity as sweat beads pour into Daddy’s eyes. The door is slammed shut and for a couple of seconds we all stand, turn and survey the scene behinds us. Flour, oil, peppers, scraps of prosciutto and dustings of dried herbs are scattered everywhere. Logan still sleeps. And then the twins trail out into the living room because Scooby Doo has just come on the telly, leaving me quite alone.
I make a couple of executive decisions. Tonight, the twins can eat their pizzas on their laps. And I’ll clean the kitchen whilst Mummy is giving them their bath. But first I think I’ll have a beer and a nibble on some pepperoni whilst their pizzas bake away. I think I deserve it.
It might be National Pizza Week but every week is pizza week in our house.
If there’s children in your family what are their favourite pizza toppings? What types of food do you like to cook with your children’s help? We’re discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.