September the 24th is a very special day in South Africa. It marks National Heritage Day, a holiday on which we as South Africans celebrate our rich, cultural diversity. More recently the day has been rebranded as "National Braai Day" - a day for all of us to unite around the fire and indulge in a pastime we all enjoy, having a good old braai! On the eve of this wonderful celebration I couldn't think of a better time to share this recipe with you.
If you're not familiar with the term "braai" and wondering what I'm on about, it's pretty much the same as a barbecue. Roasting meat over the coals, cracking open a few cold ones and having a good time with friends and family. It's one of the things we do best down here.
It was actually about 2 months ago, when I was working on another braai-related dish, that the inspiration for this recipe hit me. Initially I dismissed the idea thinking it wouldn't work very well, but the more I thought about it the more intrigued I was. It's not unusual to see "roosterkoek" (directly translated as "grill bread") on a South African braai, but pizza? Was I crazy?
Rule #1: resist the urge to super-size! Stick to making 4 medium pizzas (roughly the size of a dinner plate) rather than 2 large ones. Anything bigger and you could have difficulty moving them on or off the grid without breaking them.
Rule #2 and even more important: try not to roll the dough out too thinly. I recommend 4-5mm for a sturdy base that also won't burn to a crisp before the cheese has melted.
And finally Rule #3: less is more here folks! You'll be tempted try out different toppings I'm sure. Go for it, but try not to overload the pizza. This will allow the toppings to be heated through and prevent a situation where you're struggling to lift an over-laden pizza off the grid. You wouldn't want to drop it by accident. Nobody likes floor-pizza.
Before I forget, special thanks must go to my husband "braai-builder extraordinaire", Sean! After weeks of rain there wasn't much in the way of dry wood available, but he persevered with what we had and built an excellent fire, without which this post would not have been possible. Three cheers for the braai master!
HERITAGE DAY PIZZA
Makes 4 medium pizzas
For the pizza dough:
1/2 cup mielie meal
1 1/2 cups plain flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10g instant dry yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup warm water
For the tomato sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed garlic
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp sugar
8 olives, pitted and chopped
250g fresh spinach
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Step 2.) Stir in the olive oil and enough warm water to make a dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until soft, smooth and elastic.
Step 3.) Divide the dough into 4 balls. Place on a greased baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside for 30 minutes to rise.
Step 4.) Meanwhile you can prepare the sauce by heating the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the crushed garlic and fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, sugar, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the chopped olives. Stir well, then leave to simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and the sauce is thick.
Step 5.) Wash and steam the spinach. Allow to cool slightly before squeezing out any excess water and chopping roughly. Add the garlic and a good grinding of black pepper. Mix and set aside.
Step 6.) Lightly flour your work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll each ball of dough into a circle with a thickness of 4-5mm. Dust both sides of each pizza with some additional flour.
Step 7.) Place the pizza bases directly onto a clean grid over the hot coals. Allow to cook until the base is starting to brown. This should only take a few minutes, depending on how hot the coals are.
Step 8.) Carefully flip the pizzas onto a tray, grilled side up. Spread a quarter of the tomato sauce onto each pizza. Next spread the spinach over the pizzas and finish by sprinkling half a cup of grated mozzarella over each one.
Step 9.) Carefully slide the pizzas back onto the grid and cook until the base has browned and the cheese has melted. Slice and enjoy immediately.