Pumpkin Pizza with Oak Smoked Paprika Pesto and Green Chilli
A lot of Halloween recipes seem to be based on novelty rather than flavour, so if you are looking for something that is shaped like a spider or styled like a blood soaked eye ball, this isn’t the recipe for you. Instead, this is more of a nod to Halloween, using pumpkin (not the ones you use to carve) and smoky pesto, which replaces the tomato sauce base. The use of these ingredients will probably make Italians turn in their graves, even the ones that aren’t dead yet!
½ Small Pumpkin (around 1kg total size), such as Delica or Crown Prince
1 tbsp Early Harvest olive oil
¼ tsp Salt
2 x 220g Pizza Dough (you can buy good quality frozen varieties, or you could use a plain pizza base instead)
Flour or semolina for rolling out the bases
1 Red Onion, peeled and thinly sliced into strips
1 Green Chilli, de seeded and thinly sliced
1 Jar Oak Smoked Paprika Pesto
150g Mozzarella, drained
75g Gruyere or Comte Cheese, coarsely grated or peeled into strips
Heat an oven to 190 C fan / 200 C non fan. Peel the skin off the pumpkin with a peeler and then scoop out the seeds and straggly bits. Carefully cut the pumpkin into 2 cm crescent shaped wedges, place in a bowl and then season with the salt and olive oil. Lay on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for around 20 minutes, so that the pumpkin is crisp and slightly charred at the edges.
When you’re ready to make the pizza turn your oven to as hot as it will go. Ideally, it’s best to use a pizza stone to cook on, but you can use a sturdy baking tray turned upside down to give you a flat surface to cook on. Place your pizza stone/ tray in the oven and leave to heat for at least 10 minutes.
Whilst the oven is heating up, turn your attention to stretching out the pizza bases. You can simply use a rolling pin but you won’t get the same effect as if you stretch it by hand, as the rolling squeezes out the air. There is a plethora of YouTube videos to watch which can guide you and it’s fun to try, so have a go. You’re aiming for a round base that is about 10 inches wide, with a little lip at the edge. Use a good amount of flour or semolina on your worktop to stop the dough sticking. Start by pressing the dough ball firmly with your fingertips, starting from the centre and working out to the edge. Turn the dough over and repeat. Now start to stretch the dough with your hand flattened, taking care that it doesn’t tear. Finally, place the dough on the back of your hands, with the weight on the knuckles and your fingertips tucked in, and stretch the dough as much as possible without breaking it. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat a few times. As I said, if this seems too complicated, you can use a rolling pin.
Once the dough is stretched out, it’s best to place the base on a wooden chopping board or a smooth tray, with semolina or flour underneath to stop it sticking, so that you can slide it onto the stone or tray in the oven. Spread half a jar of the Oak Smoked Paprika Pesto all over the base, leaving a 2 cm gap around the edge. Now place the pumpkin wedges on, followed by the red onion and green chilli. Tear some of the mozzarella and dot around and then lastly, sprinkle the gruyere over the top. You can get both pizzas ready before cooking but place the second one on some baking parchment, which will aid you with picking it up and transporting it.
Open the oven door and pull out the stone or tray, so that you can slide the pizza onto it more easily. With one good, confident shove, slide the pizza onto the stone/tray. You might want to practice this by gently jiggling the pizza on the board first, so that you know how it’s going to move. Bake for 3 – 4 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is, or until the cheese is melting, the edges are crisping up and the base has hopefully puffed up in places.
Repeat the cooking steps with the second pizza and eat immediately.