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Image / Editorial

Vegan flatbread pizzas with squash purée & crispy cavolo nero


by Meg Walker
21st Oct 2018
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This pizza-like flatbread has a delicious combination of flavours and textures that I defy even the most committed of pepperoni pizza lovers not to fall in love with. It makes great sharing food too. The smoky and spicy sausage is also great on the BBQ for a Mexican-inspired hotdog. And the squash purée makes a delicious dip or canapé topping. I sometimes use aubergine instead of squash for a change, which can be roasted whole then mashed with a fork.

Fiery Flatbread Pizzas with Squash Purée & Crispy Cavolo Nero

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the dough
½ tsp fast-acting dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
280ml lukewarm water
330g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

For the toppings

1 butternut squash, peeled and cored
6 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 small banana shallots, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tbsp freshly chopped thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
100ml Marsala wine or sweet sherry
120ml good-quality vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp agave syrup
1 small bunch of cavolo nero (or use curly kale or other dark winter greens)
2 vegan chorizo, cut into 1-2cm slices
polenta/cornmeal, for dusting
2-3 tbsp almond “ricotta” or other vegan alternative
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
chilli oil, to drizzle (optional)
vegan “Parmesan” hard style cheese (optional)

Method
First, make the dough. Mix the yeast, sugar and water together in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside in a warm place for 10-20 minutes until nice and frothy. If it doesn’t froth, start again. I use a mixer to start this pizza-like dough, but it can be made equally well using your hands. Put the flour, oil and salt into a large bowl, add the liquid and mix well. Knead until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, usually about 10 minutes of kneading or mixing.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead well for a further 10 minutes. Continue until the dough is very stretchy and springy. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover. Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes until doubled in size. Divide the dough into four large balls. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200?C/gas mark 6.

Cut the butternut squash into large pieces and put onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until the pieces are well softened and starting to blacken at the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 140?C/gas mark 1.

In a small frying pan, add 2 tbsp of the olive oil and the red onion. Fry over a medium high heat for about 5-6 minutes until browned. Set aside on a small plate to cool.

In the same frying pan, add the shallots and a further 2 tbsp of olive oil. Fry the shallots over a low heat until softened and translucent, then add the garlic and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.

Add the thyme, wine or sherry (if using), stock, salt, pepper and agave syrup. Mix well and bring to a simmer, cooking for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Put the squash pieces into a blender and add two-thirds of the mixture from the pan. Blitz until a purée forms, adding more of the liquid as necessary to make a thick spreadable purée. Set aside. The remaining liquid can be refrigerated and used as a seasoned stock.

Next, make the crispy cavolo nero topping. Use a small sharp knife to remove the thickest part of the stems. Use your hands to tear the leaves into rough pieces. Lay onto a well oiled baking sheet, and then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Mix well using your hands and then place in the preheated oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes until crispy and almost browning slightly.

In a small frying pan, add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and place on a high heat. When hot, add the sausage slices. Fry over a high heat to get the edges to start to blacken slightly. Set aside on paper towels once browned.

When you are ready to make the flatbreads, preheat the oven to 220?C/gas mark 7. Put a pizza stone into the hot oven for 10 minutes. Roll out one ball of dough to a rough oval about 20x15cm. Prick the surface in the middle of the dough with a fork to prevent bubbles. Dust the pizza stone or an upside-down baking sheet (or pizza paddle if you have one) with some polenta/cornmeal, then slide the dough onto the sheet.

To assemble, smear a few tablespoons of the squash purée over the bread, then scatter over some caramelised onion and blackened sausage and add some dollops of almond “ricotta”. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until the crust is risen and browned.

Slide the flatbread onto a chopping board and sprinkle a handful of crispy cavolo nero and some toasted seeds over the top. Drizzle with chilli oil and a final sprinkle of vegan Parmesan if you like.

Extracted from Vegan Mock Meat Revolution by Jackie Kearney (Ryland Peters & Small, approx €20). Photograph by Clare Winfield.

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