Summer dining, al fresco pizza night.

Warm evening, dusk falling, pizza oven at the ready – what else could anyone wish for. This feature was commissioned by Delicious UK for last summer’s August issue (2019) and we shot it on location here in France. The meal begins with a delightful cocktail called a Hugo, well maybe with a tweak, followed by three different pizzas, a great salad to share and a to die for summer cheesecake, with a hint of wicked about it. A definite recipe for success.

Elderflower Prosecco Spritzer with cucumber

I like to make the most of early summer elderflowers and make as much syrup as I can from the delicate flower clusters. It is so versatile and can be used in all types of dishes from cocktails like the one below; added to dressings, icings or sweet sauces. Here it adds a hint of perfume to Prosecco along with the refreshing bite of cucumber, tang of mint all topped up with a little tonic water, lemonade or fizzy water, depending on taste – my take on a Hugo.

Serves: 6

1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded

ice cubes

180 ml elderflower cordial/syrup

1 bottle Prosecco

30 ml tonic water or sparkling water

lime slices

mint leaves

Cut the cucumber into thick slices. Fill wine glasses with the ice cubes and add 30 ml elderflower syrup, 150 ml Prosecco and 50 ml tonic water to each glass. Add the cucumber sticks, lime slices and mint leaves. Swirl and drink. 

Courgette, dolcelatte and mint with pumpkin seeds 

This fresh tasting summer pizza is a lovely option for this time of year when courgettes are at their best. Lemon flavoured olive oil adds an extra intensity to the finished dish and is available from most larger supermarkets. Alternatively infuse some extra virgin olive oil with lemon zest for several hours ahead of time.

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see below)

1 courgette, trimmed

finely grated zest 1 lemon

a large handful mint leaves

150g dolcelatte, crumbled

150g buffalo mozzarella, sliced thinly

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

Lemon oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, to serve

Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up.

Meanwhile, very thinly slice the courgettes into ribbons. Place in a bowl with salt, pepper, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon oil. Leave to infuse for 30 minutes.

Take your prepared dough and top with a third of the courgettes, mint leaves, dolcelatte, mozzarella and pepitas. Open the oven door and pull the rack out slightly with the hot stone or oven tray. Tip the board towards the stone/tray and pull the board firmly towards you so that the pizza base slips directly onto the heated surface. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is puffed at the edges and golden.

Serve drizzled with extra lemon oil. Repeat to make 2 more pizzas.

Tip: If you are a little wary of sliding the pizza into the oven, you can line your board with baking paper instead of flour. If you do this, sliding the pizza on the paper directly to the heated stone or tray is easier.

Pizza dough

Makes: 3 x 30cm pizza bases

There is little better than a thin, crispy, gooey pizza fresh from the oven but unless you have access to a giant pizza oven then cooking more than one pizza at a time is impractical, so cook one and share it between you, cooking the next and the next as you eat.

150 g plain flour

150 g strong white bread flour

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon  dried active yeast

1 teaspoon olive oil

190-200ml water 

Combine both types of flour and  salt in a large mixing bowl. Place the yeast in a small bowl and stir in the water until dissolved. Add to the flour with the olive oil and work together until the mixture is just combined. Cover and chill for 15 minutes. 

Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Divide into 3 equal pieces and gently form into rounds. Place on a well floured tray, cover with cling film and chill overnight. Remove the dough from the fridge an hour before ready to cook. 

Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up. 

Well flour a chopping board, set aside. Take one piece of dough, place it on a floured work surface and very gently press flat to form a disc. Using your fingers, again gently press the dough from the middle outwards until you form a rim about 1 cm from the edge, this will form a crust. Repeat this two or three times so that each time the dough becomes larger and thinner, keeping the crust in place. At this stage you can pick the dough up allowing it to hang down from to stretch it, turning it several times to form a 30 cm circle. 

Transfer the dough to the floured chopping board. This is now ready for the topping to be added.

Pizza with heirloom cherry toms, burrata and some herb pesto

This is definitely a pizza for the moment, with heirloom tomato varieties and burrata cheese. It is pretty dammed delicious

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see above)

30 g mixed herbs, such as basil, mint and parsley

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A pinch caster sugar

75 – 100 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 kg mixed heirloom tomatoes, halved, quartered or sliced

2 balls burrata, torn

salt and pepper

aa handful of rocket leaves and some shaved Parmesan, to serve

Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up. 

Meanwhile, make the pesto. Place the herbs, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, olive oil and salt and pepper in blender and blend until smooth and vibrant green. 

Take your prepared dough and top with a third of the tomatoes, drizzle over a little oil and add salt and pepper. Open the oven door and pull the rack out slightly with the hot stone or oven tray. Tip the board towards the stone/tray and pull the board firmly towards you so that the pizza base slips directly onto the heated surface. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is puffed at the edges and golden.

Transfer to a plate and top the pizza with a third of the burrata, drizzle with the herb pesto and serve topped with rocket leaves and some shavings of Parmesan. Repeat to make 2 more pizzas.

Margarita with chorizo

My version of the classic Italian pizza. You only need half the amount of ragu sauce in the recipe for this pizza, but I recommend making it all up and freezing or bottling the rest to use next time.

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see above)

1/2 quantity ragu sauce

100 g chorizo, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons drained capers

30 g pitted black or green olives

250 g buffalo mozzarella, sliced or crumbled

a handful basil leaves

Ragu sauce

Makes: approximately 500ml

1 kg ripe roma/plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2-1 teaspoon  sugar

salt and pepper

Make the sauce. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer  gently for about 1 hour, or until thickened and reduced by half. Allow to cool. 

Make the pizza dough (see above)

Cook pizza. Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up.

Take your prepared dough and top with a third of the ragu sauce, spreading it to within 2 cm of the edges. Add a third of the chorizo, capers, olives and mozzarella. 

Open the oven door and pull the rack out slightly with the hot stone or oven tray. Tip the board towards the stone/tray and pull the board firmly towards you so that the pizza base slips directly onto the heated surface. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is puffed at the edges and golden. Repeat to make 2 more.

Serve topped with fresh basil leaves.

Roasted pepper and aubergine Salad with labne and crispy fried spiced chickpeas

A great sharing salad to serve alongside the pizza of your choice. Labne is a thickened or strained yogurt, traditionally eaten in middle eastern countries. It is easy to make as you will see here, or you can buy it ready made. The salad can be prepared well ahead.

Serves: 6

250 g Greek yogurt

4 red peppers

2 medium aubergines

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 400 g can chickpeas, drained

Grated zest 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

150 g rocket or mizuna

a handful roughly chopped fresh herbs to include coriander, basil, mint , parsley and chives

salt an pepper

Dressing

juice half lemon

11/2 teaspoons agave syrup or honey

1/4 teaspoon sumac

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 c/425f/fan-forced 200c. Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Place the Greek yogurt in a sieve lined with muslin. Let drain for 30 minutes until thickened slightly. 

Trim the peppers and cut each one into quarters, discarding the seeds and any internal membrane. Trim the aubergines and cut cross ways into 1 cm thick slices,  place in a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper and stir really well, massaging the oil into the flesh. 

Heat a char-grill pan (or conventional grill) and once hot, cook the peppers on a high heat for about 5 minutes each side until well charred and starting to soften nicely. Transfer to a bowl and place a tea towel over the top. Set aside to cool. Then cut into strips.

Char-grill the aubergine slices, again over a high heat for 4-5 minutes each side until soft and golden. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the chickpeas into the prepared baking tray. Add the lemon zest, paprika,  remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper. Stir well and transfer to the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the chickpeas are crisp and golden. Set aside to cool.

Make the dressing. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. 

Combine the peppers, aubergines, rocket leaves and herbs in a bowl, then transfer to a large platter. Spoon dollops of the labne randomly over the top. Drizzle over the dressing and serve scattered with the chickpeas.

Yuzu Daiquiri cheesecake pots and salted praline crumbs

Finish off this lovely summer meal with a tangy, intriguing and utterly delicious cheesecake. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit with an incredibly intense flavour – a combination of lime, grapefruit and mandarin. It is available from some larger supermarkets, special food stores or online. You can use a combination of the lime, grapefruit and orange or mandarin if you are unable to find yuzu. 

Serves: 8

200 g white chocolate, melted

50 g butter, melted

175 g digestive biscuits, crushed

75 ml Yuzu juice (see intro)

75 ml vodka

125 g caster sugar

600 g soft cheese

250 ml cream

Salted lime praline

125 g caster sugar

grated zest 3 limes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over gently simmering water  (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth.  Take 8  Champagne cups or martini glasses and dip the rims into the melted chocolate for decoration, let cool. Reserve the remaining chocolate, keeping it warm.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour into a bowl. Add the digestives and stir well until evenly coated. Divide between the glasses pressing them down lightly using the end of a rolling pin. Chill until required.

Combine the yuzu juice, vodka and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely.

Warm the cream in a small pan until just tepid and gently stir in the reserved melted chocolate until smooth. 

Place the cream cheese in a food processor with the yuzu mixture and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the melted chocolate mixture and blend again. Using a piping bag with a large plain nozzle pipe the mixture into the glasses (or simply spoon the mixture into the glasses). Chill for at least 2 hours. 

Make the praline. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Combine the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and place over a very low heat. Stir gently until the sugar is dissolved, not allowing the mixture to boil until it is. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for a further 5-6 mins until the liquid turns golden brown. Pour the caramel onto the prepared tray and cool and set.

Roughly crumble the praline and place in a food processor with the lime zest and salt and blitz to make a slightly chunky crumb mixture. 

To serve remove the cheesecakes from the fridge and top with the salted lime praline.

all recipes © Louise Pickford

styling Louise Pickford

all photos © Ian Wallace

One thought on “Summer dining, al fresco pizza night.

  1. Clare HAUXWELL

    Definitely one for my “file to try later” collection – looks and sounds absolutely delicious Louise, thanks for sharing!

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