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Margarita time

Precious downtime from the stove in his busy kitchen means easy comfort food for Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor of The Sail Loft in Southwold

This month I thought I would take it easy or rather you might with a favourite pizza recipe. It is perfect for nights on the sofa in front of a good film, for the kids on a sleepover, for a light lunch al fresco with salad, and for whenever you feel like taking it easy in the kitchen. Pizzas are the easiest dish to do in a hurry as there are so many cooks’ cheats you can use or you can make the tomato sauce and bake the bases ahead. Below is my idea of a perfect pizza but if you don’t have the time to make the ragù or the dough, there are lots of ready-made alternatives. For the sauce, you can use simple tomato and garlic purée and/or basil pesto (green or red both work well) and for the bases, thinly-cut baguette horizontally is delicious as are naan or pitta breads. You’ll see I make the basic margarita recipe and then top it with raw ingredients, this keeps the flavour and texture in the lovely ham and olives but if you prefer it all baked together, be my guest.

As for other toppings, chargrilled courgette ribbons or aubergine slices; garlic-buttered mushrooms; salami or chorizo; pulled pork; cubed cooked ham; cooked lobster meat or prawns; fresh figs, thinly sliced; caramelised red onion wedges; goats’ cheese, blended with Greek yoghurt; capers; anchovies; red onion marmalade; chilli jam; basically raid the larder and fridge for your favourite things…

Pizza really is a flexible friend in the kitchen, enjoy! Jonny

Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor, The Bell At Sax’



My idea of a perfect pizza

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 small red onion, peeled and grated

Good rapeseed or olive oil

1 tin good chopped tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

Good pinch of chilli flakes

Small bunch of basil

Sea salt and black pepper

Cook the garlic and onion in a hot frying pan with a glug of oil over a medium heat, until softened and drying out. Add in the tomatoes, oregano, chilli flakes and the finely-chopped stems of the basil. Cook on a low-medium heat, uncovered, stirring regularly, until it becomes a thick tomato ragù. Near the end of cooking, shred the basil leaves and stir through with seasoning to taste. Set aside to cool.

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

2 tsp salt

1 tsp fast-action dried yeast

about 275ml warm water

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling and drizzling

Mix the flour, salt and yeast together before pouring in the combined oil and water and bring together into a smooth, springy dough. Knead for a good 5 – 10 minutes before dusting the flattened dough ball all over with flour and place in a large, floured bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave somewhere warm until doubled in size, about 30 – 45 minutes. Roll out the dough on a floured surface either into two 12 inch circles or one 16 – 18 inch circle.

Log of mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

12 prosciutto ham slices

Good handful of black olives

Parmesan shavings

Rocket leaves

Favourite salad dressing

Pre-heat the oven to fan 220c. Cover the pizza(s) with a good smearing of tomato sauce, leaving a clear inch margin on the edge. Lay on the mozzarella evenly. Heat up your thickest baking tray or pizza stone if you have one to fit your oven. Lay on the pizza and bake for around 8 – 10 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Remove and lay on the ham and olives prettily before finishing with the parmesan shavings and dressed rocket leaves.