Ok so I’m no paleolithic diet nut (sorry Warren) but I do try to eat healthy and avoid simple carbs. Simple carbs are the ones that taste the best then cling limpet-like to your bottom for time eternal (KrispyKreme, I’m looking at YOU).
One of the many things which regrettably do not grow on trees or need to be hunted with poison-tipped spears, i.e. did not form part of the average paleolithic diet, is the pizza. I miss pizza. I miss pizza and beer. And so, ever since I cooked up cauliflower couscous, I’ve been wanting to make the cauliflower pizza crust that I kept reading about online. It seemed perfect for testing on gluten-intolerant Laura who has also had to cut pizza out of her diet.
I did have my reservations: I worried that it would be soggy, or disintegrate as a slice is lifted to the eagerly awaiting tastebuds, or taste overwhelmingly farty, or just be completely inedible like that time I made banana garlic soup (don’t EVER mix bananas and garlic).
BUT it turned out absolutely fan-frikkin-tastic! It’s really for the best that I hadn’t attempted it sooner, because judging by other bloggers there were a couple recipes way back that answered in the affirmative to all of the above concerns.
The recipes with the most positive reviews are all really much of a muchness, with variations in the seasoning (which should in any case be to your own taste). I guess we’ll never know who “invented” it, but my favourite version came from The Tasty Kitchen – in it is a phrase which I use quite often – “Cheesy Goodness”. Word.
The crust is amazing – it holds together well, even with lots of hot cheesy topping and can be easily lifted with your grubby paw. I scraped the topping off a slice to taste it in isolation and it did have a faint cauliflower vibe, but nothing that could overpower the fairly bland topping of chicken and mushrooms. Even though I accidentally missed a step (Laura was
flinging wine at my mouth engaging me in meaningful conversation) it was phenomenal; it takes a bit of preparation, but then from-scratch pizza dough is pretty labour-intensive too. This stuff is just too bloomin’ kool *snort* (if you aren’t Afrikaans: this is funny because cauliflower in Afrikaans is blomkool) (but possibly even then it is not very funny).
To make a pizza for 2 tipsy troglodytes to feast upon:
1 small head of cauliflower
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese – put your hand deeper in your pocket and get the decent stuff. Those cheap packets of dessicated crumbs are revolting and have all the flavour and nutritive value of styrofoam.
A bit of salt, pepper, herbs, etc.
Toppings of your choice – ooh, go wild! But not bananas and garlic.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Be sure that your cauliflower is not toooo big – if it is, it will “outnumber” the cheese and egg, and result in a crumbly crust. If it is as big as your head you may want to double up on the cheese and egg. Not that you have a gigantic head or anything. I have taken a most useful photo illustrating, in the absence of a human head, how big you should aim for:
Break the florets off and stick them into a food processor; pulse until they form little crumbs that look like couscous. Your cauliflower should yield 2-3 cups of damp smelly crumbs. At this point you may feel a little concerned, and pray that you have sufficient chips and nuts in your cupboard as a Plan B for your guests. Take a sip of wine for courage and soldier on.
Pop the crumbiness into a microwave-safe bowl and cover (I used cling, with holes pierced through for steam to escape); nuke it for 4 minutes in the microwave. Get a clean tea-towel ready near the sink; as soon as the crumbs are cool enough to handle comfortably, pop them onto the tea-towel, wrap it up tightly then squeeze the living bejeezus out of it. Then squeeze even harder. You want to get as much moisture out as possible! I didn’t do such a great job of this and had to give the final “dough” another go in the tea-towel (let’s blame it on the wine).
You will be left with a strange, greyish, crumbly mass. Mix it well with the cheeses, egg and seasoning to form a weird “dough”. If it feels wet and exudes wateriness when you give it a squeeze, pop it back in the tea-towel for another squeeze. Bring it together into a lump, place it on the baking paper and then kind of pat it down into a pizza base about 5mm thick. At this point you’re supposed to pop it in the oven until it’s browned and crispy but I forgot and lavishly applied topping ingredients. It worked out great anyway, next time I’ll see if this browning step is even worth it.
Anyway, add topping – I spread a layer of tomato base then mozzarella (to act as the glue – cheesy glue goodness!) then garlicky mushrooms and roast chicken chunks. Pop it back into the oven until the cheese looks happy and bubbly. Remove from the oven and serve it forth to your favourite neanderthals :-).
I guess this isn’t really part of a Paleo diet, because back then they weren’t beating sabre-toothed cauliflowers into submission and forming pizza bases. It’s like a dilute form of Paleo. A whiter shade, even. And a good excuse to get pizza back onto the menu.
I’m so happy to have pizza back in my life. Now some smartypants need to come up with cauliflower-beer already.
PS: Whenever I hear the word Paleo, I remember those school trips to the museum where they had dioramas (is that the right word?) of early humans making fire and looking confused, and we would all laugh at their exposed bums. Also I think it would be a good name for a caveman rap artist. Grunt artist?
PPS: I hear that some restaurants in the US offer the cauliflower-crust option, which I think is great. I was wondering if Pizza Hut would take this on board. Which made me wonder….:
21/01/2014: So I’ve tried this recipe again, and remembered to bake the crust alone until golden brown before piling on the toppings. I honestly can’t say it made much of a difference, if any, and so Imma go with my lazy gut and do it myyy wayyyyyy (did you just sing that a la Ol’ Blue Eyes too?) as described in the original post above.
09/02/2014: Because my sister commenting on this blog would be a miracle on par with, say, walking on water: She tried what she calls a “poor man” version of this without the Parmesan and with cooked polenta making up for a shortage of cauliflower (did you not see my handy cauliflower size guide??) and it worked out AWESOME! Poor-men, rejoice!