‘My vegan brother Owen regularly puts in requests for things he misses from the old days. Most frequently they’re for banoffee pie or a really good pizza, and this is what I make him. I love cooking and eating vegan food – it leaves me feeling light and bright, and I relish how it makes me rethink my cooking because it takes a little more attention.
If vegan cooking can sometimes be considered time-consuming and complicated, or worthy and uninteresting, pizza proves that’s not the case. This pizza topping also works amazingly on my cauliflower pizza base from A Modern Way to Eat, which is a good gluten-free alternative. I use a little nutritional yeast here to add to the cashews, as it adds depth and is packed with nutrients, but if you can’t find it, don’t worry, you can just leave it out.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that grows on the molasses plant. As its rather matter-of-fact name suggests, it is jam-packed with vitamins, particularly B vitamins including B12, which can be hard to come by in a vegan diet. It’s also packed with folic acid, selenium, zinc and protein. But more than anything I like it for its flavour: deeply savoury and umami.’
INGREDIENT S | MAKES 2 LARGE PIZZAS
FOR THE PIZZA
300g light spelt flour
150ml tepid water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for cooking
8 tablespoons good tomato passata
a handful of small black olives, de-stoned
a small handful of rocket
FOR THE MUSHROOMS
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
FOR THE CASHEW RICOTTA
the juice of ½ an unwaxed lemon
1 clove of garlic
a pinch of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
First, get all your ingredients together and find yourself a large heavy-based frying pan – you’ll need it to be around 26cm. Preheat your grill to maximum.
Slice the red onion and put it into the frying pan with a little oil. Tear the mushrooms into pieces and roughly chop the garlic, then add to the pan with the thyme leaves and cook for 4–5 minutes, turning every so often, until the mushrooms are charred and crispy and cooked through. Remove and put aside for later.
Next, make the cashew ricotta: put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor with 3 tablespoons of cold water and blend until completely smooth – this should take 2–5 minutes, depending on how powerful your machine is. It should be the consistency of normal ricotta. Scoop out into a bowl and wash the processor bowl.
Now make the dough. Put the flour and water into the processor with a good pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Tip it out and bring it together in your hands.
Get your frying pan on a medium to high heat. If you have two pans about the right size you can do both the pizzas at once, otherwise you can do one after the other, as they cook quickly. Cut the dough into two equal halves and cover one half for later. Put the other half on to a floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 1cm thick circle about the size of your frying pan.
Drizzle a little oil into the hot pan, then carefully lift in the dough. Leave it on the heat for about 3 minutes, so the base is starting to cook, while you quickly top the pizza.
Spoon half the tomato passata over, then the mushrooms. Dot with the cashew cheese and the olives.
Pop the pizza under the grill for 4–5 minutes, until it is cooked through and the cashew cheese is browned. Repeat with the second pizza.
To finish, strew with some rocket leaves and cut into generous slices. Home-made bliss.
This recipe appears in A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones
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