Man in the kitchen: Another slice of life
My dad was no cook. He needed precise instructions about oven temperature, pre-heating and preparation before he even attempted to bake a potato. However, in his 50s, he decided it might be a nice idea to bake a loaf of bread. This was a big jump for someone who had difficulty boiling an egg, but he duly found a recipe and baked a loaf — and it tasted quite nice.
Soon he was sourcing fresh yeast, experimenting with different flours and baking techniques, to the point that my mum had to fight for kitchen space.
These days, of course, there are breadmakers which will make you a very passable, if strangely shaped, loaf. This should not stop you from making bread from scratch. Not only is it one of the most fulfilling things to do in the kitchen, it is also one of the easiest — time consuming perhaps but ridiculously straightforward.
Put a kilo of strong white flour (the breadmaking kind) into a large bowl. Get a pint glass and fill it with lukewarm water and add a teaspoon of sugar and one 7g sachet of dried yeast. Meanwhile add a teaspoon of salt and three tablespoons of vegetable oil to the flour. Mix the water and flour together until it forms a dough. If it seems a bit dry, add some more water. Then roll up your sleeves and knead the dough. After 10 minutes, or when your arms feel ready to drop off, pop the dough back into an oiled bowl, cover, put in a warm place and put your feet up for an hour or two until the dough has doubled in size.
Then comes the good bit — uncover the dough and punch it in the middle (in the manner of Ali landing a jab), so that it deflates. Cut your dough in half. Put one half aside and coax the other into the shape required for your loaf. Place on a greased baking tray, leave to prove for another half an hour, then bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for around half-an-hour until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when knocked.
With the other half of the dough, you get to make pizza. Halve the dough again, roll out in thinly in a circle, place on a tray which has been heating up at your oven’s highest setting. Then, spread with tomato passata and mozzarella, sprinkle with fresh basil and a little olive oil, season and bake for 10 minutes or so. No delivery scooter required.