French trip – la sixième et dernière partie – Fancy a quick pizza?

There really is very little to it. Just make the dough, prepare the tomato sauce, get the toppings together, get the oven up to temperature, assemble the pizza, cook and serve, right?

Wrong. Oh so very, very, very, very wrong. If you want a quick pizza ring Domino’s. If you want the best pizza you have ever tasted, read on my friends, read on. The down-side is that preparing pizza for two is a lot of work for one. Particularly when I am the one doing the working.You will need a raft of stuff for the various elements. The first thing you will need is a Great Tomato Sauce. For that you need:

  • 1.2 kilos of great tomatoes
  • 3 shallots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 glass of good red wine
  • Olive oil for frying

For the Pizza Dough, you will need:

  • 600 gms of 00 flour
  • 1 sachet (or teaspoon) of instant yeast
  • half a teaspoon of salt
  • 300 ml of tepid water
  • a tablespoon of olive oil

For The Toppings, you are on your own. I got a bit carried away in the excitement of my first from scratch pizza making and despite the fact that there were only two of us going to eat, I decided to make:

  • Mozzarella, Portobello Mushroom and Smoked Ham
  • Roquefort and Tomato
  • Chanterelle and Goat’s Cheese
  • Mozzarella, Mushroom, Smoked Ham and Herb de Provence
  • Sweet Onion and Black Pepper

We were eating in the evening, so the previous day (Yes, the previous day.), I went to Les Halles market in Narbonne and bought the tomatoes.

Fresh tomatos

The tomatoes were the best I have tasted in ages. Fresh, really fresh. If you want them all the same size with perfect skin, go to the supermarket and sacrifice the taste.

My selected tomatoes, garlic from Lautrec and shallots. Quality Ingredients lead to an excellent tomato sauce.Tomatoes, garlic and shallots

First thing to do is to chop and sweat the garlic and shallots, over a low heat, in a big pan.Shallots and garlic in the pan

While these are cooking, cut a cross in the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop them into boiling water for a minute or two. This will make them really easy to peel.Tomatos peeled

Core them, chop them and put them in the pan with the shallots and garlic. Add a glass of red wine and simmer them for half an hour or so.Tomato sauce Drink a glass of red wine yourself. At this stage, you will need some fortification. Add a teaspoon of paprika and simmer for another few minutes.Tomato sauce

Let the mixture cool for a few minutes and then pass it through a sieve into another saucepan. Be sure to squeeze every last tasty drop of tomato through.Reduce the sauce by about half. This will concentrate all the flavours into an intense, tasty sauce. Let it cool and it will be ready to use.

On the morning of Pizza Day, sieve the dry pizza dough ingredients into a bowl.

Pizza ingredients

I mentioned to one of the lads in the gym that I was off to France and looking forward to my first time ever cooking pizza. It turns out that he is GM in Ireland for Puratos an international food ingredients business. He very generously gave me a bag of O-tentic powder to help guarantee a decent pizza dough. I used it instead of the yeast.

Add the olive oil and gradually add the water.Flour and oilMix until you have a gooey mess like mine.Pizza dough

Knead this on a lightly floured surface (the table) until your arms hurt. Well, that’s what I did.

Pizza dough

It got me along the front of my forearms and behind the ‘guns’.

Pop it back into the bowl and wait.

Pizza doughWe were in the south of France so there was no need to ‘put in a warm place’. Everywhere was warm. We left it and went out for lunch and a walk in the Garrigue. When we got home, the magic had happened.Pizza dough risen

Punch it down and divide it into six.Pizza doughRoll each piece into a ball, lightly oiled, and refrigerate until needed.

Pizza dough

Prepare your topping ingredients. For me this meant, chopping the white onions and sautéing them over a low heat for 40 minutes or so.

Difficult to get in Ireland. Beautiful sweet white onions.

Frying the Portobello mushrooms…Portobello Mushrooms

…and the Chanterelles.Chanterelle mushroomsThen cut, slice and dice the rest of the ingredients. Turn on the oven. We were lucky enough to be using a wood fired outdoor pizza oven. It took a while to get up to temperature. Pizza oven

I have no photos of my pathetic attempts to make a round pizza. I managed to successfully form the outer crust but I failed to get anything approaching a circular pizza. Here’s my ingredients on a picnic table ready for assembly. Note the tomato sauce…Pizza ingredients

The oven almost hot enough (550 degrees centigrade in this case).I started to assemble the pizzas, one at a time. First the Mozzarella, Portobello Mushroom and Smoked Ham.

Mozzarella, Portobello Mushroom and Smoked Ham pizza

We were so hungry, I forgot to photograph the first one out. It was delicious.

The whole process had taken most of the afternoon and evening. We were ravenous by the time I produced the first of the pizzas. Note the unique shape of each of the pizzas. I could pretend to be proud of them but I was trying for circular.


The Roquefort and Tomato pizza in the oven. It took about 2 minutes to cook in the intense heat.

The Roquefort and Tomato Pizza. This was the high point of proceedings for me.

This one lasted just long enough to get a couple of pictures.

Pizza slice

I thought I should at least show one shot of the pizza plated. Just to prove that I actually got time to eat some of it.

Then back to stretching, cursing the shape, assembling, cooking and serving. Why am I doing this? It’s meant to be a holiday.

The Chanterelle and Goat’s Cheese Pizza on the way to the table. It just about did us in. Still I had two more to cook.


I had plenty of time to photograph this one. We had it cold the next day.

Mozzarella, Mushroom, Smoked Ham and Herb de Provence was followed by the Sweet Onion and Black Pepper.

The last one. It looks more like Australia than a pizza.

These were delicious the next day with a salad. I had cooked enough pizza for at least five people. We had eaten enough for four between the two of us. The flavours were ‘formidable’ to use the French. However, It took more than a working day to produce five pizzas. The tomato sauce was incredible. It was the star of the show and made it all worthwhile. The Wife enjoyed it. But, if you really fancy a quick pizza, hand me the phone…

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Latest comments
  • So ambitious! But sounds and looks so good. Well done. I have a very simple butter tomatoes sauce receipe I can send you if interested.

    • Hi Ed, WordPress is telling me today about all the comments I either missed or weren’t posted previously. I would like the recipe, if you get this.

  • They do look delicious but I have never, ever seen such irregularly shaped pizzas, even the three year old makes a better fist of it. May I suggest you work on that?

    • Thanks Amee, I do need to get them in better shape. Tasty all the same.

  • I would eat Australia if looked like that. 😉

  • I’d kill for an oven like that…

    • As would I. We were staying in a lovely place. It’s all compromise on the pizza front for the winter, a it is with the tomatoes.

  • Great looking pizzas – I always make my own and the taste is worth the effort. You are so right about tomatoes too – never buy them from a supermarket 😉

    • I will have to revert to reducing tinned toms for the rest of the year.

  • I really love the photos and how you describe step to step to bake a perfect pizza ^^

    • Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. It’s easier to do this stuff when one is on holidays and not under time pressure.

  • They look like they tasted real good! Damn the shape, leave that for the professionals. You can’t taste the ‘shape’ anyway now can you.

    • No. But…. I envy the guys that take a ball of dough and throw it up in the air a few times and end up with a 12″ pizza base with little or no effort.

  • I like the free form shape. And the proper tomato sauce. And wow what an oven! Tim wants something like this in the garden of our next home -in Cyprus they often have outdoor ovens.

    • I think you wil get value out of an outdoor oven in Cyprus. Not so here in wet Ireland…

  • Beautiful Conor! When I get my private plane i’m on my way for that pizza! Although i have to say I would be smashed by the time I got done making 5 pizzas!

  • Congratulations on another Wonderful post!
    I found out the hard way that only cold-fermented dough (for 4-5 days!) lets itself be shaped.
    I’m jealous of the wood-fired pizza oven!

  • Look at those beautiful crusts! Not sure which I envy more, those gorgeous seasonal chanterelles, or the pizza oven. Might be equal 50/50 for both! We’ll be purchasing our new summer BBQ soon and with it the pizza stone for my bread making al fresco in the summer. Cannot wait! 🙂

  • Have to admit it’s husband who makes the oizzas in this house. He uses a breadmaking machine for the heavy part, the kneading. Then he pats, rolls it out to fit a large flat baking tray and smothers it with topping, lots of cheese, must have lots of cheese. And instead of your wonderful looking and sounding tomato sauce we opt for pesto and fresh tomatoes. Always tastes fab. Would never eat a bought pizza. Though on holiday in Italy…

    • Pesto and fresh sounds like a good plan. Now I must plot a trip back to France….

  • I love the photo of the wood fired brick oven, I have one too of when I went to Portugal. And yes, bread is a reason why I do not bake a lot, but I am stepping up to the challenge. Dumb question, how do you put your copyright on your photo’s? Is it a special software? I know, very dumb and not food related, but I am curious as I would like to do it myself. 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by. I process my photos through Adobe Lightroom. It gives me the option on export. I am learning the programme as I go. Still lots to learn…

  • Each of your pizzas sounds wonderful…it would be hard to pick just one but I think it would be the fresh tomato and Roquefort cheese. How wonderful to have use of the pizza oven.

  • Who wants a perfectly round pizza? You can get that at Domino’s too. In my experience, it’s the beautifully imperfect ones that taste the best 🙂 And yours look amazing.

  • These look awesome! I worked at a pizza place once, it can take weeks to be able to form them right.

    • Thanks Erik, A triumph of function over form.
      Thanks for stopping by,

  • Love your blog!!that Pizza looks amazing!

    • Thanks Christine. We had fun putting it together.

  • Those pizzas look utterly fabulous!

    • Thanks Stefano. I had a look at your blog. That is high praise indeed given the quality of your cooking.

      • Thanks a lot, glad you like the blog! I tell you what stands out for me with these pizzas: it’s the parsimony in the toppings; so many people just dump every ingredient they can think of onto a pizza and drown it in cheese when really a pizza is about restraint and allowing a small core of ingredients shine.

        • Too true indeed. I preach that in a house where ‘others’ like to load it on….

        • Haha. Keep the faith!

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