Classic Pizza Margherita

Pizza – enough said.  For a quick meal and trying to keep the 11-year-old happy, I gave a go to the pizza Margherita recipe George Calombaris demonstrated during a Masterchef Australia’s Masterclass. A classic combination, which was as named after the Italian queen who first tried (and loved) the tomato, mozzarella and basil in a pizza bread.

To cook this pizza, I took a short cut that is generally a no-no for a high-class number, and used already-made dough. But, if you feel you have bake your own pizza dough, here is an recipe, also from Masterchef Australia.  Also, instead of sticking to pizza sauce, I just took a jar of tomatada [Portuguese style tomato sauce] I had sitting in the fridge and put it to good use.

George and Gary (Mehigan) have another trick to bake a crispy dough for the perfect pizza. To distribute the heat evenly across the pizza base and to extract the moisture, place an unglazed terracotta tile into an oven and heat to 250°C.  (I didn’t  – if only I knew where to find terracota tiles in Zurich which doesn’t cost the equivalent of a 100g of white truffle).

Classic Pizza Margherita 


Tomato sauce (David Leite’s recipe
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
  • 2 springs fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic gloves minced
  • 1 kg very ripped tomatoes, seeded and chopped* (or a couple of canned tomato, preferably san marzano, chopped, juices reserved).
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, to taste
  • 1 small fresh medium red hot chilli pepper, such as Serrano, stemmed, seeded and chopped (it is optional. Sometimes, I just add a few drops of piri piri sauce).
  • Freshly grounded salt and black pepper to taste.
  • 1 x 120g pizza dough portion (I use already-made pizza dough)
  • Plain flour, for dusting
  • 3 tbs pizza sauce Tomato sauce to cover the base
  • 1 tbs baby capers, rinsed and drained
  • 6-8 large basil leaves
  • 9 halved oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g buffalo mozzarella, torn


Tomato sauce

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until it shimmer. Add the onions, parsley and bay leaf and cook until nicely golden, about 15min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.

Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste and chilli pepper, if using. Bring to a simmer, cook, lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30min

Toss out the parsley and bay lead and season with salt and pepper. If you wish, you can scrape the sauce into a food processor and buzz until smooth. Store the sauce in the fridge in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 week. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.


On a floured wooden paddle or piece of baking paper, stretch out the dough into a long oval shape about 30cm long and 10-15cm wide, or to desired shape and thickness.

Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, sprinkle with baby capers and scatter over basil leaves. Place cherry tomatoes on top and drizzle with olive oil.

Slide the pizza into the stove  and bake for about 5 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Brush the crust with olive oil and scatter mozzarella over pizza.


Rice Pudding with Orange Jewels, Tarragon and Puffed Rice

I cannot make rice pudding the way my Mother does. No matter how many times I have watched her doing it or how scrupulously I follow her instructions, it is not the same thing. It doesn’t taste the same, it doesn’t feel the same and it doesn’t do her recipe any justice. It seems just impossible to reproduce her pudding rice. For a while, I tried other recipes, like the one Spanish chef Juan Maria Arzak has in one of his books, to less than optimal results.

A few days ago, while watching season 2 of Masterchef Australia, I saw how Gary Mehigan  and George Calombaris did this rice pudding during one of their masterclasses. It looked delicious, packed with different flavors and textures, and they comprehensively explained how to cook it. And, I decided it to give a another go to rice pudding. Anyway, what sort of expectations would you have on an Australian rice pudding recipe?  It was worthwhile the effort. In fact, there was a respectful silence around the table while people eat their desserts… Do not feel tempted to remove the tarragon, on the pretenses that no rice pudding has green stuff on it. With the orange, it is a delicious combination.

Rice Pudding with Orange Jewels, Tarragon and Puffed Rice


Rice pudding

  • 40g caster sugar (or sugar too taste )
  • 700ml milk (the real thing, with all its fat)
  • 135g Arborio rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

Candied orange peel

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • the peel of 1 orange, pith removed, julienned in the vertical
  • 1 orange, peeled zest, pith removed, julienned

To serve

  • tarragon leaves,
  • 1/4 cup puffed rice, toasted
  • 1 orange flesh segmented

Orange jewels

  • 15g caster sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp agar agar powder (do not follow the instructions on the bottle, as they are aimed to get a gelatin consistency. The jewels need to be solid to be cut properly, so it is OK if you add agar agar in excess).
  • 190ml freshly squeezed orange juice, strained (I used the juice of 2 oranges and topped with water until I had 250mL of liquid)


Step 1: For the candied orange peel, place 1 cup of the sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium, add orange peel and simmer gently for 45 minutes until syrupy. If you are not using it immediately, it is better to separate the peels and letter then cool).

Step 2: For the orange jelly, line a 500ml plastic container with cling film. Add ¼ cup water, orange juice and sugar to a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Sprinkle in agar agar and whisk for about 5 minutes until dissolved. Remove from the heat. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into the lined container. Refrigerate for about 25 minutes or until set. Invert jelly from container onto a board and cut into 1cm cubes.

Step 3: For the rice pudding, add the milk, rice, vanilla bean and seeds to a non-stick saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until creamy and the rice is tender, stirring regularly. Add the remaining sugar and stir for about 2 minutes until dissolved (I had to use the whole 1-L of milk, as the rice absorbed the first 700mL of milk).

Step 4: To serve, divide rice pudding between serving bowls. Arrange the jelly jewels on top, along with the orange segments, tarragon leaves, candied orange peel, a spoonful of syrup and some puffed rice. Serve immediately.