Britain’s food favourites are changing and it’s a culinary classic dating back thousands of years that is on the rise.
A survey earlier this year by YouGov reveals Chinese is the nation’s favourite takeaway, but delve a little deeper and you’ll find the future is pizza.
Fish and chips was number one for senior citizens, Chinese topped the poll for 25-64 year olds but when it comes to young blood there was only one winner – with almost one in four 16-24 year olds choosing pizza as their takeaway of choice.
Toppings come and go, one person’s anchovy is another’s pineapple, but any pizza worth its salt must have the basics of cheese and tomato. And in answer to the chicken and egg style debate, it was cheese that came first with the roots of pizza dating back to the 6th century BC when Persian soldiers used battle shields to bake cheese flatbreads.
A Latin text from central Italy dating back over 1000 years is the first to actually mention pizza by name. It records that a tenant had to pay rent to the Bishop of Gaeta of twelve pizzas on Christmas Day and twelve on Easter Sunday – certainly beats a chocolate egg.
Naples is the home of the modern day pizza and UNESCO recognise pizza making as part of city’s cultural heritage. To be a true Neapolitan the tomatoes must be grown on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, and the cheese must be Mozzarella made from the milk of wild water buffaloes from the marshlands of Campania and Lazio.
Pizza Margherita is the most popular pizza and again it is a classic that has stood the test of time. Said to have been created in 1889 to honour the visit of Queen Margherita to Naples, the original featured the colours of the Italian flag, red tomato, green basil and white mozzarella.
The cheese is very important. Mozzarella is perfect because it turns golden at high heat rather than burn, it melts evenly, and stretches when pulled apart. Few things in life disappoint more than tucking into a pizza and discovering a tasteless cheese with the consistency of congealed rubber.
The quality of the cheese can make or break a pizza but if you can’t pop over to Mount Vesuvius to grab some tomatoes or milk a buffalo don’t worry, decent mozzarella is available in shops which combined with a blue cheese, soft cheese and goats cheese can create a classic four cheese pizza.
It was when Italian immigrants brought pizza to the States at the turn of the 20th century that its popularity mushroomed and now every day of the year one in eight Americans eat pizza.
So, as we celebrate National Cheese Pizza Day on 5th September, if you’re wondering which topping to go for, remember the words of one of the most famous Italian Americans of them all, Mr Frank Sinatra: nice and cheesy does it every time.
Mozzarella and Parmigiano Oven Baked Pizza
- 1 Mozzarella Ball
- 100g Parmigiano
- 100g Tomato Pizza Sauce
- Fresh Basil
- 1kg Strong White Bread Flour
- 14g Dried Yeast
- 1 Tablespoon Caster Sugar
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 650ml Warm Water
First, make the dough. Do this by weighing the flour and salt in a large bowl together. Then, mix the yeast, sugar, warm water and olive oil in a jug and leave1 for 5 minutes, or until it starts to bubble. Make a well with the flour, then add the water. Combine with a fork then start too kneed for 15 minutes. Once elastic, place the dough in a bowl with cling film then set aside in a warm place until doubled in size.
Split the dough into 6 balls, then let prove again for 10 minutes. Take the dough and roll to your desired length. Add the tomato and cheese then bake in the oven until the crusts have risen and golden brown. Finish with fresh basil.