Pizza Giardinera

Chef meets chef: pizza tips from Paul Dodd of Rojano’s

by Eliot Collins 19 August 2013

At a recent photo shoot for Great British Chefs, Eliot spent some time with Paul Dodd, the manager of Paul Ainsworth's Italian restaurant Rojano’s In the Square. With Paul’s help you can discover how to make the most perfectly balanced and delicious pizza.

Eliot worked as a chef partnership manager at Great British Chefs.

Eliot’s first food memory dates back to a Cambozola cheese addiction at the age of two. Growing up with a food technologist father and dairy technologist mother, it was a pretty clear path into the world of gastronomy. Eight years in the belly of kitchens in Sydney and San Francisco followed, and he juggled his role as chef partnership manager at Great British Chefs with creating tasty delights in his tiny Hackney kitchen!

Eliot Collins (EC) - What are your tips for toppings? How much would you use per pizza?

Paul Dodds - (PD) We believe in keeping toppings simple on a pizza. The combination of flavours on each pizza have been carefully chosen by our team so they all work together. We want these elements to shine through; to enhance the crispy base and tangy tomato sauce instead of distract from it. The real key is making sure they are evenly spread out, so each mouthful is loaded with flavour.

EC - How do you best balance the ingredients?

PD - Our chefs are always on a quest to taste good authentic pizzas, so we’ve trawled humble side street trattorias all over Italy in a bid to soak up inspiration. Here we realised the best pizzas are all about texture. Paul Ainsworth came up with the idea of topping a Fiorentina with a soft boiled egg at the end so it’s always perfect and oozy. This way you get a real texture contrast with the thin crispy pizza, goey egg and fresh rocket. We always have an acidic element to cut through the richness of the pizza, whether it’s a twist of lemon with fish or drizzle of balsamic at the end.

EC - What are your thoughts on a tomato vs non tomato base?

PD - We love tomato-less pizzas. When we have them on the special’s board they always go down a storm so thanks to their popular demand we’re in the process of developing more. We sometimes have a garlic-butter pizza and keep it really simple with Parmesan and truffle. Sometimes we’ll have a pesto base too.

EC - What are the best herbs to use?

PD - The key to sourcing the best herbs is all about freshness. We have some amazing herbs grown just down the road for us from Padstow Kitchen Garden. Ross will come round with purple basil for us, which looks incredible. He’ll also deliver rocket that has only been out of the ground for 15 minutes – can’t get fresher than that! Grow them on your window sill at home and you’ll notice the difference.

EC - How do you garnish a cooked pizza once it comes out the oven?

PD - We stagger the toppings on the pizza; cooking it for a few minutes with woody herbs, olives, tomatoes and cheese, then finishing them off with fresh toppings; Parma ham, fresh rocket. This way you get the ingredients at their best – fresh, colourful and full of flavour.

EC - How long does a typical pizza take to cook?

PD - Ours take roughly 3.5 – 4 minutes in a 365 degree oven. Not long!


EC - If you don’t have a wood fired oven, what other alternatives could be used?

PD - Try using your BBQ like a Weber that has a closed lid. Take the coals to the highest heat and you’re away. You can pick up round pizza baking trays, which are full of holes to let the heat penetrate the base and take all that moisture away - perfect for that all important crispy base. Then close the lid down so you retain all that lovely smokiness.

EC - What do you look for in a good dough and how should you care for it?

PD - There’s nothing better than holding that perfect dough ball – it should be silky soft and not at all dry. Give it a good sniff – it should smell fresh and slightly yeasty. Roll it as thin as possible so blisters in the oven. We leave them to rest on top of semolina, which also pulls the moisture out of the dough when cooking, prevents the dough from sticking and makes it lovely and crispy.

Want to find out more about Rojano’s and their pizzas? Visit Great British Chefs for the full feature and you’ll find delicious pizza recipes from the restaurant in our pizza collection.