Four veg pizza sauce

Looks and tastes like standard pizza sauce (maybe a little sweeter), turns pizza into a vaguely healthy meal for small builders who spent all afternoon methodically digging a tiny road into the gravel on the drive.

I can’t remember the last time I saw my child without fancy dress on, other than in the bath.

Enough for about 16 pizzas (I froze some)

1 large carrot

1 small parsnip

2 sticks celery

Dash olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon golden caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200 degrees. Slice the veg into 5cm batons, drizzle generously with oil, season and roast for about half an hour. Then tip the lot, oil and all, into a pan with the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar, cooking gently for 10 minutes. Blend to a puree, check seasoning and spread on rolled out pizza dough before adding mozzarella and any other toppings (ham for me, road dust for him).




I met Bert’s stepbrother, Ben, nine years ago when he was seven. I’ve cooked him birthday cakes, created special, birthday evening versions of his favourite dinner (sausage and mash), come up with our regular Christmas Eve tradition of baked ham and Dauphinois potatoes followed by sticky toffee pudding, handed him warm pancakes while he was playing FIFA or killing zombies, made pizza, self-saucing pudding and roast pork with crackling… I’ve been cooking for Bert since he was born, if you count producing breastmilk as cooking, coming up with all kinds of combinations of pureed veg, introducing him to curry, showing him how to make biscuits, threading meat onto tiny skewers, cooking veg perfectly and also hiding it in sauces to hit it from both angles. I’ve made him warm banana pancakes, fruit bread and peach and honey cake.

They’ve refused things politely (‘Too nice’ – Bert, ‘No thank you, thank you’ – Ben), eaten them happily, offered them to Ray and thrown them across the room (Bert, at least). But they’ve largely just accepted warm, home made food as something that happens. (I wouldn’t really want it any other way.)

But I hand them both a plate of doughballs (zero imagination, 5 mins active prep, 10 mins cooking time) and they practically stand up in unison and start singing Hallelujah while saluting me.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, I just don’t know what it is.

Makes about 25

150ml warm water

7g dried yeast

225g strong bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

Mix everything together and kneed for about eight minutes. I do the lot in a mixer. Cover and leave to rise for an hour. Then form the dough into small balls, about 2cm diameter, place on a baking tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about another hour. Your hands need to be dry and not sticky when you roll them, so it’s worth keeping a bowl of water and a tea towel next to you.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180/ gas mark 4 (gas mark 5 in our oven, which is a bit cool). Cook for 8-10 minutes, till just starting to turn pale golden brown. Accept that praise isn’t always proportionate to effort. Serve with little pots of garlic butter or plain butter to dip into.

Bert ate maybe eight or nine. Then a bowl of pasta bake. Then a chocolate and secret-beetroot brownie.

10 minute toddler pizza


10-minute, toddler pizza to be grammatically correct.

I always imagined myself cooking with my child and finally Bert has been kind enough to indulge me – we cooked a whole pizza together from scratch.

The recipe is based on the average toddler’s attention span when Peppa Pig’s not in the room. Instructions for toddler cooks follow.

Serves 2

150g strong, white flour

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 dessert spoon olive oil

100ml hand hot water

Dessert spoon of tomato puree, the posher the better (we had Italian sun-dried tomato paste – Bert’s middle-class creds are firmly in place)

Grated mozzerella cheese (we used about half a bag)

Cherry tomatoes

More olive oil to drizzle in a small jug

Get someone else to preheat the oven to as hot as it will get. (We’ve moved house so no more Aga instructions – gas mark ones. We’ll get to the twenty-first century eventually.) Gas mark 9! That’s about 240 degrees celsius.

Standing on a little stool, measure the flour into the bowl, looking very serious. (Someone else better check the numbers.) Add the salt, yeast and olive oil. Tip the water in wildly and cackle manically. Mix together with chubby hands. Get someone else to knead until springy. Put the bowl next to the oven while you prepare your toppings.

Using a round-ended, serrated knife, cut cherry tomatoes in half with great concentration and an air of vast authority.

Flour the surface with a wild flourish and roll out the dough to approximately an inch thick, suggesting ‘Mummy try’ to roll it to a thin circle. Help transfer it to a thin baking sheet (we have round ones with holes in the base). Squeeze tomato puree into one corner and suggest ‘Mummy try’ to spread it evenly. Sprinkle chunky handfuls of mozzerella all over then put all the cherry tomatoes in one corner. Drizzle the olive oil over one small corner and allow your mother to drizzle a little over the rest.

Into the oven for about 7 minutes – enough time for one and a half Peppa Pigs.




Makes about 6 pizzas – we didn’t eat all of them between the two of us, honestly

For the pizza base:

7g quick yeast

175ml lager [wonders if beer is appropriate in a recipe for a 1 year old]

200ml tap hot water – when combined, the beer and water need to be hand hot. I get the beer from the fridge and add very hot water.

600g 00 pasta flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

50ml olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Good glug olive oil

Can chopped tomatoes

For the topping:

About 125g mozzerella per person (that’s a single ball)

And then whatever you fancy – we had ham and pineapple so Bert could have the Pizza Hut c. 1987 experience; when his mother was in her permed prime. With good ham and a nice, crisp base, this is actually a surprisingly good topping, as rediscovered by Bert’s dad, our usual pizza chef.

Put the yeast into a bowl, pour over the liquid and whisk together. Add the remaining base ingredients, gather into a rough dough and knead till smooth. It just takes a couple of minutes or so. Don’t be tempted to add much extra flour if the dough starts out sticky – it will get smooth and a wetter dough is a better dough.

Put the dough into a clean, oiled bowl. I’d not normally advocate unneccessary cleaning, but the clean, oiled bowl means the dough doesn’t stick to it. Cover with a tea towel and leave for a couple of hours. After the first rise, give it another knead. If you have time and energy, the more stretching and folding you do at this stage the better, but this dough is still good with just a quick second knead. You can involve babies in stretching and folding if you’re looking to convert the pizza into an immune system opportunity for everyone. After the second knead, leave the dough for at least half an hour before rolling out into pizzas.

For the tomato sauce, fry the garlic briefly in a generous amount of olive oil, add the tomatoes and as soon as they’re bubbling take them off the heat and push through a sieve. Return the sieved tomatoes to the pan and reduce for five or ten minutes. You’ll know when they’re the right consistency.

When you’re ready to cook, get the oven really hot (the maximum your oven offers) and roll out the dough into six circles. Get the tray hot in the oven, then build your first pizza on the tray. Be stingy with the tomato sauce. They take about 7 – 10 minutes. The quicker and hotter the better. For Agas, put the tray directly on the floor of the roasting oven.

The dough was originally a River Cottage recipe I think, though I refer to my own notes not the original when I make it so I’ve probably cut corners and changed it a bit over the years.