Pizza Defined


I haven’t counted for quite some time but I would guess that the cookbook library here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School must now contain in excess of 2000 books – mostly cookbooks, but also books on wine and other food related topics.   The library has grown gradually from a base of my own personal collection of nine or ten in 1983, with books on everything from traditional Irish cooking, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Indian, baking, herbs, fish, meat, entertaining – from basic cooking techniques to weighty tomes on the science of cooking.

Some books sit virtually undisturbed on the shelves from one end of the year to the other, but then there are others that are in constant demand, eg River Café, Nigel Slater, Marcella Hazan, The Book of Ingredients, Harold McGee’s Science of Food – and then there are the books that disappear.   These are cookbooks that touch a chord and appeal so much that the ‘borrower’ can’t bear to return them.   After replacing the book several times we’ve learned over the years to eventually remove these favourites to the safety of my private stock.

I was reminded of this recently when a copy of ‘Pizza Defined’ arrived on my desk.  This little paperback by Bernadette O’Shea was originally published in 1997, when it went out of print I carefully hid my very precious only copy.  It has now been republished by Estragon Press,  there isn’t a better book on Pizza Cookery, or if there is I certainly don’t know of it.

This book, written by the indomitable Bernadette O’Shea, whose restaurant Truffles in Sligo became a magnet for food lovers during the 1990’s.   Bernadette retired from professional cooking after the publication of Pizza Defined and now cooks privately.   Her free-spirit and unique creativity live on in this delicious little book. 

It feels every bit as fresh and exciting today as it did when it was originally published.  The superb photographer Mike O’Toole and design by Nick Cann make ‘Pizza Defined’ a classic.

Basic Pizza Dough Ingredients

350ml (12 fl.oz) of lukewarm water (113F/45C)
20g (¾ oz) fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dried yeast 560g (1lb 2oz) strong white flour ¾ teaspoon salt 2¼ tablespoons olive oil 35g (1¼oz) extra flour for kneadingBernadette gives brilliantly detailed step-by-step instructions over 126 pages which guide even total novices through the process of making the dough and shaping the pizza.   I’ve just given the ingredients here so you’ll need to seek out the book to get the method which is brilliantly explained and not complicated.  When you’ve made the pizza dough the fun continues, there are lots of recipes for sauces and toppings.Pizza Defined by Bernadette O’Shea, published by Estragon Press €20.

Milleens Pizza
This is one step up from a pizza baked blind.  It doesn’t have a sauce, it doesn’t have Mozzarella, it doesn’t have any of the traditional things you associate with a pizza.When Milleens is cooked and melts, it has a buttery, slightly nutty sharp taste and the perfect pairing for that is sun-dried tomatoes, and a glut of soft herbs on top, always soft herbs: yellow marjoram, sweet marjoram, basil and oregano.  These suit the herbaceousness of one the great West Cork cheeses.
140g (5oz) basic pizza doughBasil oil or sun-dried tomato oil
85g (3oz) sundried tomatoes, excess oil squeezed out, shredded into strips85g (3oz) cream cheese85g (3oz) Milleens cheese, very finely slicedFresh herbs (marjoram, oregano, basil, yellow marjoram, lemon thyme etc.)Rosemary oil or sun-dried tomato oil

Place Pizza Tile on floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.Assembling the pizza –Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8 inch) circleBrush the surface with basil oil, or sun-dried tomato oilScatter the sundried tomatoes on top of the baseDot with cream cheese to prevent from burningCover with Milleens

Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.

After cooking brush the outer edge of the pizza with either rosemary oil or olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and scatter over a generous amount of the fresh herbs.

CABBAGE PIZZA What do the Irish like? Bacon and cabbage!  What do the Irish eat? Bacon and cabbage! Or so we are told.People do love it, and it was inevitable that I would ask: can I interpret this on a pizza?  The answer was yes.  The genius of this pizza is in the classical combination of a great Parma ham with well-flavoured cabbage.  The funky idea, then, is the use of the pine nuts as both texture and for that nutty flavour which is an echo of the flavour of the cabbage, that hint of nutmeg.  The little drizzle of truffle oil, added right at the end just before serving, is there because of the prosciutto: they are made for each other.140g (5oz) basic pizza dough175g (6oz) cabbage, shredded40g (1½oz) butter3 tablespoons cream¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, grated2 tablespoons basic tomato sauce40g (1½oz) Parmesan, freshly grated

70g (2½oz) Mozzarella, grated

115g (4oz) cream cheese, crumbled

25g (10z) pinenuts

Parma ham

Truffle oil

Place Pizza Tile on floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.

To prepare cabbage

Cook and drain the cabbage and season with salt and pepper when still hot.  Add the butter, cream and nutmeg and toss to combine.Assembling the pizza Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza 10mm (½”) in from the rim.  Sprinkle with Mozzarella, then the cabbage and dot with the cream cheese, sprinkle over Parmesan and finally the pinenuts.  Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.  Remove from the oven and drape with thin slices of Parma and drizzle with truffle oil.


Tapenade & Grilled Red Peppers140g (5oz) basic pizza dough85g (3oz) Mozzarella, grated 2 tablespoons, black olive tapenade (see below)2 red peppers, grilled 25g (1oz) Parmesan, freshly gratedBasil oil or olive oilPlace Pizza Tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.

Assembling The Calzone

Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle. Place the filling over one half of the circle, making sure to leave a clean 10mm (½”) rim and then layer one ingredient on top of another. Begin with a layer of Mozzarella.  Cover with the tapenade, red peppers and Parmesan.  Fold the other half of the dough over the mixture and press the edges together.  Bake for approx. 20 mins in the hottest oven.  Check after 10 mins, and cover with tin foil if it browns too quickly.  Remove from the oven when cooked and brush with basil or olive oil.  Serve with pesto, or with the basic tomato sauce.


 175g (9oz, 1 cup) black olives, pitted2 tablespoons capers 2 cloves garlic, minced3 tablespoons olive oil3 tablespoons lemon juice2 anchovies

Pound all the ingredients together using a pestle and mortar until u reach the desired texture, which can be chunky of smooth.


This Provencal pizza uses both tomato sauce and Mozzarella, for those who like to always use them on a pizza.140g (5oz) basic pizza dough175g (6oz) onion confit – see recipe 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced10 olives1 clove garlic, very finely chopped2 tablespoons basic tomato sauce85g (3oz) fresh Mozzarella (optional)

140g (5oz) goat’s cheese

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

Place pizza tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.Assembling the pizza  Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Spread tomato sauce over the pizza 10mm (½”) in from the rim and top with the Mozzarella.  Place the tomato slices at the outer edge of the pizza, making sure not to overlap.  Pile the confit in the centre of the pizza.  Crumble the goat’s cheese around. Arrange the olives on top and sprinkle with the thyme and chopped garlic.  Bake in a preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.

Onion Confit:
85g (3oz) butter
3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced1 large teaspoon sugar225ml (8 fl.oz) red wine50ml (2 fl.oz) sherry vinegar1 tablesp Cassis

50ml (2 fl.oz) vegetable stock (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme leaves

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a moderate heat.Add the onions, cover and cook for 10 minutes.Halfway through add the sugar, salt and pepper.Add the fresh thyme, wine, sherry vinegar and Cassis.  Give the pot a good stir and continue to cook for about 1 hour uncovered, over a low heat.


This pizza was my response to the clutch of new recipes which were part of the nouvelle cuisine in Ireland, when age-old ingredients such as black pudding were “outed”, it was one of those outed ingredients.  I remember as a child my mother making black pudding and my father frying either onions or leeks which we always ate with the pudding.  I love the look of the pizza.  I use Clonakilty black pudding and there’s nothing to beat it with beautiful, small young leeks, drizzled with a good strong rosemary oil.  I use Mascarpone because it doesn’t interfere with the flavour, shape or style of the other ingredients.140g (5oz) basic pizza dough115g (4oz) leeks, sliced Olive oilSalt and pepper2 tablespoons mascarpone 140g (5oz) black pudding, sliced25g (1oz) pine nuts

Rosemary oil

Place pizza tile on floor of oven.  Protect the base of your oven with cooking foil (if this pizza leaks it burns, prepare yourself for smoke!) Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature.

To cook the leeks  Saute the sliced leeks in a little olive oil until tender.  Alternatively toss in a little olive oil, place on a baking tray and cook in a hot oven. When cooked, season with salt and pepper, and allow to cool.

Assembling the pizza  Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Gently spread on the mascarpone with your fingers, making sure to leave a 1cm (½”) rim all around.  Pile the leeks in the centre.  Circle the pizza with the black pudding slices and scatter the pine nuts in between the black pudding and the leek.  Bake in a preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.  Drizzle with rosemary oil and serve

Pizza Margherita
There is a restaurant in Naples called Da Michele, one of the oldest pizza houses, where they only bake two types of pizza.  Neapolitan and Pizza Margherita, and they are jam packed, making pizzas non-stop, all day long.   Fabulous, beautiful flavours.  I have never had a Margherita or a Neapolitan anywhere in the world which tastes anything like it.  It is distinctly, completely, a Neapolitan activity.  We can only try to emulate it, we can never do more than that.
140 g (5oz) basic pizza dough3 tablespoons basic tomato sauce 55g (2oz) fresh, hand-rolled Mozzarella torn into pieces or diced 15g (½oz) Parmesan, freshly grated1 clove garlic, very finely sliced
Basil oil
8 fresh basil leaves

Salt to taste

Place the pizza tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8 inch) circleSpread the tomato sauce over the pizza, 10mm (½ inch) in from the rim.Scatter the Mozzarella slices on top of the sauce.Sprinkle on the Parmesan and garlic and drizzle with the basil oil.Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.Serve garnished with the basil leaves.SEAFOOD PIZZA Bernadette liked to gather cockles and mussels herself, and added clams when she could get them.  She created the fennel sauce because shellfish love the flavour of aniseed

INGREDIENTS140g (5oz) basic pizza dough 85g (3oz) cockle meat85g (3oz) mussels55g (2oz) clams4 oysters2 tablespoons tomato & fennel sauce

1 tablespoon, parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, very finely chopped

METHOD Place pizza tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.

Preparing the shellfish Steam open the cockles, mussels and clams.  Remove from their shells and toss in the parsley and garlic.  Carefully open the oysters, removing any shell.  Place in a bowl and reserve.Assembling the pizza Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Spread the tomato and fennel sauce over 10mm (½”) in from the rim and place in the preheated oven for 5 mins.  Take out and top with the mussels, clams and cockles.  Continue to cook for a further 3-4mins.  Place oysters on top and serve immediately.

NOTE: The measurements given are for shellfish meat, not including shells.

Hot Tips

Clandeboye Yoghurt
This is the most exciting new food product I’ve come across in ages – delicious Greek style yoghurt made on the Clandeboye Estate in Bangor, Co Down, from a blend of Holstein and Jersey Milk from their own herd which provides a creamy texture without high fat content.   Made by hand in their artisan dairy, the milk is prepared and cultured very gently over a twenty hour period in small batches.  This helps to create the exceptional flavour and texture.    Available in Northern Ireland and Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin.

Gwen’s Chocolates new shop
Schull based chocolatier Gwen Lasserre has opened a new shop at 46 Main Street, Kinsale – in the centre of the old town – also a small café section serving French specialities like Croque Monsieur and Tarte aux Framboises.   Tel 087-0520796

Easy Entertaining with Rachel Allen – 15th September -due to popular demand
1 day demonstration course – two delicious 5 course menus for
Entertaining -  plus breads, petits fours, aperitifs … now booking.  Tel 021-4646785 gift vouchers available. 
National Organic Week 15-21 September for details of events
 Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork
Open for the season – delicious menu of local foods –
Tel 027-61426





About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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