Pickles and Pizza

I like a bit of fine dining as much as anyone, but sometimes one’s tastes run a bit more on the casual side of things. I don’t mean I ever want to eat a Prawn Ring or kebab meat again and I believe ready meals to be a waste of calories. But I do have a soft spot for the kind of comfort food that borders on junk, especially that brand of Americana popularised by Nigella recently.

So when Mister North was down recently, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to indulge some homemade delights that would make a dietician weep. I’d been lusting after deep fried pickles ever since a Southern friend told me about them a few years back. Seeing Homesick Texan and Food Stories‘ recipes for them put them at the top of my to try list.

I dialled down the trashy vibe and put myself in the running for a pretentiousness award by growing my own gherkins and pickling them myself specially. (If this makes you eye roll at the sheer foodiness of it all, be comforted by the fact they didn’t taste that different to a Mrs Elswood.) Horticulturally experiments aside, these babies are super simple. I got cultured buttermilk in Sainsbury’s, but you could use yoghurt watered down instead. Do not feel tempted to substitute cream crackers for saltines. You’ll end up crying into your hot oil as all the moisture in your mouth evaporates. I used coarse cornmeal instead.

Heat your oil while you do the flour, egg, dip thing with the pickles. Fry for about a minute each side and then serve piping hot on the side of something delicious. In our case it was some leftover rollmops, a zingy homemade ranch style dressing with buttermilk, tarragon and garlic and a beer on the side. It was a heavenly plate of tanginess, crunch and sheer gluttony. I want to eat all gherkins in a crunchy coating now.

You’d think that plateful would have quelled our cravings for pig-out style food for the day, but you’d be wrong. About an hour later, we started getting ready to make a serious pizza for dinner. We used Marcella Hazan’s pizza dough recipe, leaving it to prove for several hours and turned our attention to the mozzarella. And I don’t just mean jiggling it about the bag in a slightly smutty fashion, I mean making it from scratch

Using some non-homogenised cow’s milk from Alham Wood Farms at Brixton Farmers’ Market, my fledgling cheese making skills, some citric acid that we explored all of Brixton for* and my trusty bottle of rennet, we created mozzarella magic. Surprisingly easy, especially if you have asbestos hands like Mister North for dipping the curds into the hot whey, we ended up with two beautiful bouncing balls of mozzarella in no time at all.

Buoyed by this, we turned to the pizza bases, lovingly dressing them with homemade sauce courtesy of Mister North and a glut of Blackpool tomatoes and an umami hit of anchovies, green olives, some of my home grown plum tomatoes and a finishing sprinkle of ham salt from Comfort and Spice. Unfortunately made giddy by the cheese achievement, we forgot to dust the worksurfaces with semolina as instructed and the bases stuck somewhat, leading to some creativity with a fishslice and a slightly concertina style pizza.

The pizza might have lacked finesse, but it was loaded with flavour. The tomatoes tasted of summer and the mozzarella was so soft and fresh I could have eaten the whole ball like an apple to fully enjoy the texture. It needed a touch more salt and I think it would have been even better with buffalo milk, but for a first go, it was pretty amazing.

We devoured the pizzas like kids at a sleepover, both wishing we’d had more of the mozzarella to do a tomato salad with or go retro and deep fry in a crispy coating like the gherkins. Instead we rounded off a day of gluttony with a cheeky bowl of Veda bread ice cream and a glass of wine or two, proving that sometimes the taste of home is all you need. Your own kitchen provides the greatest comfort.

*Try the Nour Cash and Carry if you need it Monday to Saturday and the Low Price Food & Wine on the corner of Brixton Road and Loughborough Road on a Sunday. We did the walking round so you don’t have to.

13 replies
  1. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Kavey, this is what cukes aspire to be when they grow up. They are amazing. All tangy and crispy and perfect. I want some right this minute…

  2. definitelynotjessica
    definitelynotjessica says:

    You guys know how to live.

    Extra bonus points from an American for not only using cornmeal, but making a Ranch dressing for the deep-fried pickles. I may plant a flag in your garden and declare you for mine own.

  3. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Why have no Americans told me of the wonders of Ranch dressing til now? It’s amazing. I plan to eat it on everything from now on, including my breakfast…

  4. definitelynotjessica
    definitelynotjessica says:

    You can dip anything you might order at a pizza place in ranch dressing without fear of regret – pizza, onion rings, fries, breaded and fried mozzarella, breaded and fried jalepenos, garlic bread, etc. It is the everything condiment. There should be a picture of it on our money.

  5. Mister North
    Mister North says:

    I’m still craving those deep-fried pickles, even now. I reckon they should be a compulsory beer snack in every British pub… they were stunning. And all the better to know they were Brixton-born and bred from start to end!

    As for the pizza… well the final dish was a bit mis-shapen (a certain rustic charm?) but the taste eclipsed anything since we ate in Franco Mancas last year. Blessed are the cheesemakers 🙂

  6. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    The pizza was Mister North’s creation. Miss South simply used her Northern Irish superpowers to deep fry things…

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