Sunday, 3 March 2013

Meat Free March: how a kale and onion pizza can set you up for a Tom Odell gig

No meat for a month means no more cheeky meat feast pizzas - the food that's traditionally accompanied pre-gig or pre night-out drinking since 2003.

There's something about a good supermarket bought meat feast pizza. On paper, it's completely and utterly disgusting. Shed loads of nameless processed meat (three quarters of which is probably horse), a whole load of overly salty mozzarella cheese and the stodgiest pizza base in history pretty much equates to a heart attack on a plate. I'm not normally one for ready meals. However, when there's a gig to go to or a night out to be had where alcohol is involved, nothing quite beats the meat feast combo for its magical stomach lining properties and its delicious, salty goodness.

This Saturday we had tickets to see the brilliant Tom Odell at the Cockpit in Leeds. Slightly concerned that this gig would be meat feast pizza-less, I set about scouring around for a meat-free alternative - something that we could make at home and something that would beat Sainsbury's generic vegetarian pizza offering hands-down.

In the run-up to meat free March I'd asked Twitter for veggie recipe book suggestions. The wonderful Liz over at Margot and Barbara suggested I check out Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Everyday, which I decided to treat myself to as a February treat. Skimming through the pages, I noticed a recipe for kale and onion pizza which fitted the pre-gig pizza brief down to a tee. We adapted the recipe slightly, halving it to feed two of us, cutting out the oil and using extra light mature cheddar for a slim-fit version.

Becs' take on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Kale and Onion Pizza

For the dough - makes enough for two reasonable sized pizzas

Mix 125g of plain white flour with 125g of strong white flour in a bowl, together with 1/2 level teaspoon of easy-blend (instant) dried yeast and 3/4 level teaspoon of fine sea salt. Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 160ml of warm water and mix into a rough dough. Flour your hands a little, then tip the dough on to a work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Trickle a little oil into a clean bowl and pop the dough into the bowl, rolling it in the oil so it's covered in a clear film. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it somewhere warm for an hour or so until it's risen and puffy.

For the pizza
Preheat the oven to 250c/Gas Mark 9 (220c/Gas Mark 7 if it's a fan oven). Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Finely slice an onion and cook it gently, stirring from time to time. Once it's been cooking for five minutes, add a finely chopped garlic clove and fry with the onion until it's soft and golden.  Shred 150g of curly kale into 1/2 cm wide ribbons and add to the onion and garlic, cooking gently for another five minutes, stirring often until the kale has wilted. Season with salt and pepper. 

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate it with your fingers. Let it rest for a few minutes, then halve. Roll one piece as thinly as you can onto a chopping board or baking sheet. Spread 1/2 of the kale and onion mixture onto the pizza base and top with 25g of light mature cheddar and pop on to the hot baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes and repeat with the remaining topping and another 25g of cheese.

The pizza was light and delicious - although a few slices of tomato wouldn't have gone a miss for an extra bit of moisture. Hugh suggests an exceptionally warm oven, although we found that this crisped up the kale a bit too much for our liking, so I'd suggest cooking at 220 on a middle shelf. Apart from that - our first meat-free March new recipe success!

Having enjoyed our pizza and a pre-gig G&T, we tootled off to the Cockpit to watch Tom Odell do his thing. The recent Brit Critique's Choice Award winner was in fine form - the amount of energy that oozed out of him led me to conclude that he must have had a kale and onion pizza pre-gig too. As an artist who's yet to release an album (Long Way Down is due to be released next month), it's hard-work to keep a crowd pleased for a full set, but the twenty two year old's charismatic presence meant that he managed it easily. Blasting out the wonderful Another Love, Hold Me and Can't Pretend, among a plethora of newer material, the gig was an evening to remember and Tom Odell is certainly one to watch. 

Our meat free kale and onion pizza meant that we were able to dance, drink and sing to our heart's content without the risk of a coronary. Hurrah for Tom Odell, hurrah for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and hurrah for meat free March. 

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