Pizza Ladenia (πίτσα λαδένια, pronounced something like “PEET-sa la-THEN-ee-a”) has been produced on the island of Kimolos in the western Aegean Sea since medieval times. It is claimed to be the origin of the modern pizza, later developed, of course, by the Italians and which is now consumed the world over.
Whether Italian cooks really got the idea from Greece or were just developing traditions found throughout the Mediterranean is open to debate, but the Greeks are very proud of their own, more ancient version.
The main difference between traditional Greek and modern Italian-style pizzas is that the former is rich in olive-oil and baked slowly in a high-sided tray or pan, while the latter is a less oily creation rapidly roasted on a dry hot plate or oven shelf and which first appeared in Naples about the year 1800. The origin of the name, ‘pizza‘ is lost in time, but probably originally simply meant ‘bread’ or ‘bite of food’, while ‘ladenia‘ is derived from the Greek words for oil (‘lathi‘) and olive (‘elia‘).
Acknowledgments to Giota Nikolau at faghta-giagias.blogspot.com for this. In the photo below there are three tomatoes and two onions, but when I came to chop them up I found I needed one less of each.
- 2 vine tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 350g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons dried yeast
- Cup of warm water
- Pinch of sugar
- Extra virgin olive oil
- A dozen chopped olives
- Dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
In a bowl add half the warm water, yeast, sugar, two tablespoons of flour and mix it all together. Cover and leave to rise for 15 minutes. Doesn’t need to be anywhere especially warm – mine rose very happily in a coldish kitchen. Stir in thoroughly the remaining flour and water to make a firm dough and knead this for 10 minutes.
If it came out right it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands of fingers while you’re doing this. If it is too sticky, add pinches of flour until it is right. After kneading, put it back in the bowl, cover and leave for a further ½ hour to rise again.
Flatten and stretch out the dough moderately thinly into one large or two small pizza base shapes. Press the sliced tomato, onion and olives on top and drizzle olive oil over them – traditionally this was quite an oily creation! Sprinkle on some dried oregano with some salt and ground pepper. I’m normally anti-salt, but this definitely benefits from it.
Bake in a lipped dish or tray, lined with a generous smear of olive oil, for 20-30 minutes at 180C (all depends on how efficient your oven is, might need a little longer). Important to used a lipped dish or tray because otherwise the olive oil will run off and burn on the bottom of the oven. The pizza is cooked when it is browning all over and not flexible when lifted.
Cost: This made two pizzas, each quite filling, and could happily have been shared between four people. The price per meal was therefore (assuming 4 people each with a mug of tea, and including electricity and washing up costs) … 41p.
I found I’d made mine a bit too thick – would have been better flattened to under 1cm height when making the pizza bases. Also might add a sprinkle of bacon bits or shreds of ham next time, but important to remember that originally this was everyday, filling food, not a fancy treat like modern pizza.