I love pizza. I love the ooziness of the cheese and the sweet/sharp tomato base on which to slice up all number of toppings. But most of all, I love the smell of it cooking.
So, I was pleased to find a load of leftovers in my fridge after a dinner party that would lend themselves to making a gluten-free pizza.
My pizza base was effectively an oversized blini. I’d made some mini chickpea batter blinis topped with a beetroot dip for my guests the night before, and had some batter left over. It’s the simplest of bases – equal quantities of gram flour (aka chickpea, or besan flour) and water.
Made from finely ground chickpeas, gram flour is a great gluten-free alternative to wheat flour, and is naturally higher in protein too. Despite being double the fat of whole-wheat flour, 70% of the fat in gram flour comes from healthy unsaturated fats that can help lower cholesterol.
Given the natural nutty and earthy taste of the flour, it does benefit from the addition of some flavour enhancing herbs. I had a bunch of thyme, which worked well, but a handful of any finely chopped herbs, would work.
There are a lot of recipes for this type of pizza, known as socca. The Hemsley sisters catapulted it onto our plates several years ago, however this was my first attempt at the basic pizza base – anything goes topping wise on these tasty pizzas. And this is mine…
125g gram flour
salt & pepper
handful of finely chopped herbs – basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano etc
6 large on the vine tomatoes
450g sweet vine cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic – crushed
a pinch of dried chilli flakes – optional, but I like a bit of a kick
1 tbsp tomato puree
handful of basil – roughly chopped
salt & pepper
1 aubergine, thinly sliced and griddled
2 mushrooms finely sliced
2 tbsp soft goats cheese
2 tbsp olive tapenade – I happened to have some leftover, but this isn’t essential
small handful of grated parmesan – sprinkled at the end, onto the cooked pizza
pomegranate seeds – sprinkled at the end, onto the cooked pizza
Whisk together all ingredients for the pizza base to form a thick batter, and seasonal well. Set aside for 30mins, to allow the flour to absorb all water, while you prepare the rest.
For the tomato sauce, sweat the garlic on a medium heat in a tbsp of olive oil, with the dried chilli flakes (if using). Add the tomatoes (you can skin these if you prefer by scoring the skins and soaking in boiling water for a few mins beforehand), cover and leave the tomatoes to soften in the garlic for 10mins, checking on them regularly.
Preheat oven to 200°, and while the tomato sauce is stewing away, prepare the pizza toppings, by griddling the sliced aubergine on a high heat, and finely slicing the mushrooms. Set aside both until ready to top the pizza.
When the tomatoes are softened, squish them down with a wooden spoon, add a tbsp of tomato puree and turn up the heat, with the lid off – to thicken the sauce. Season accordingly and add the chopped basil. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar for an extra tang.
Heat up a splash of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and then add a ladle of the pizza base batter. Swill it around the pan – you may need to help it, by using the back of the ladle to push it to the edges of the pan. When you see air bubbles on the surface, flip over the base, as you would with a pancake, in order to cook the other side.
Once cooked, set aside onto a baking tray, and layer up with tomato sauce, toppings and cheese.
Cook for 10mins, or until the edges are crispy. Sprinkle over pomegranate seeds and parmesan (if using), and serve with a rocket salad.