Franco Manca – turns out it’s a good choice for allergies

We were in London for a day out in the Easter holidays. We often find it really hard to eat out when in London. It’s partly because we don’t want to waste too much of the day finding a restaurant and then waiting for the food to arrive, but also we don’t want to take risks and end up having a reaction, or just a stressful experience. So, more often than not, we end up eating the emergency sandwiches I always pack, and simply stop for a nice drink instead. When Yorica was around we always headed there for the best ice cream ever! Oh, we so miss Yorica!

We were just about to go and find somewhere to eat our emergency rations when we walked past a branch of Franco Manca on Old Brompton Road. Now, we’ve never eaten at a Franco Manca before but have heard good things about the chain catering well for allergies, and so we took the huge, brave step of walking in for lunch! Yes, it felt slightly nervy but also wonderfully spontaneous which is something we generally miss out on.

The menu is short and we were really surprised at what good value the pizzas were. To our delight the first pizza on the list was a marinara (tomato sauce, garlic, oregano and basil) with no cheese in sight – how wonderful! We ordered this as it’s a joy to order something on a menu without alterations and it was almost perfect. The base was deliciously chewy with charred bits and plenty of air bubbles – a really great pizza base. The tomato sauce was fresh, vibrant and light.

The only thing letting it down was the heavy handed addition of the oregano, which surely must have been a mistake because it was as if an entire jar had been tipped on top! We like oregano but this really was way too much! All in all it was a good, safe pizza but next time we’d ask for less oregano (!) and maybe add some toppings for extra interest. The vegan cheese on offer is Violife and there were plenty of meat and veg options to jazz it up. The beauty is you can start with a safe marinara and then add to it, rather than the trickier option of taking cheese off a pizza and then adding toppings instead. Even some of the dips were vegan, but we didn’t investigate further to see if they were totally safe.

I’d probably give Franco Manca 4* out of 5 mainly because the staff were efficient but a little brusk, I wasn’t 100% sure they’d got the message in our allergy order so watched like a hawk whilst the food was being prepared! Also, as it’s a pizza oven you have the potential for some cross contamination in the oven. But, having said that we had no issues and the food was good, safe and tasty, as well as being very good value. We’ll certainly eat at a Franco Manca again. 

We noticed a vegan raspberry sorbet on the menu but didn’t try, we felt like we’d been brave enough for one day!

(The menu also featured a gluten-free base which may be worth investigating if you’re gluten-free, although how that works with all the flour about I’m not quite sure? On the menu i didn’t see any peanuts but there were walnuts in a salad, almonds and hazelnuts in the puddings, as well as pesto on some pizzas.)

Pizza Swirls and Savoury Swirls

These little swirls are the answer to your snack dreams! Easy, moreish and worthy of any occasion. I serve them instead of crisps, with an aperitif or as a tasty addition to packed lunches. These bites are one of my ‘go to’ recipes when the girls are hungry and only a savoury option will do. To be honest, it’s not much of a recipe, nothing complicated here, but sometimes it’s the inspiration that’s needed rather than the instructions.

Puff pastry has a miriade of uses, and these little bitesized snacks are a great example of a super quick puff based recipe. This recipe if for either pizza flavoured bites (cheese, tomato and oregano), or the ultimate umami taste of cheese and marmite. I know Marmite totally divides people, so go for your favoured choice, or maybe even a combination of the two.

Most puff pastry is dairy-free if it isn’t the ‘all butter’ version (but do check) and is certainly a great freezer staple. I don’t often use dairy-free cheese as i find most of it pretty unpalatable, but it really does work in this recipe as it’s paired with such strong flavours any unpleasant flavour is overpowered and you are left with a pleasing savoury umami taste.

 

Pizza and Savoury Swirls

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 10-15

1/2 pack of puff-pastry

1 tbsp tomato puree or 1 tbsp marmite

about 3 tbsp grated dairy-free cheese (enough to lightly sprinkle over)

1/2 tsp oregano if making pizza swirls (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade, Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry to an even rectangle (or be really lazy and use pre-rolled!)
  3. For pizza swirls: Spread the tomato puree evenly all over the puff. For savoury swirls do the same with the marmite. Sprinkle over the cheese and oregano if using.
  4. Roll up into a Swiss roll shape. Cut 1cm slices and place onto the baking sheet, with room to spread.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden.

Pizza Marinara – the perfect naturally dairy-free pizza choice

***Disclaimer***

*This is a sponsored post by Hans Grill whereby I received a free pizza stone in return for a review.*

I’ve always wanted a pizza stone but never got round to buying one, so I was delighted when Hans Grill offered me the opportunity to receive a free stone. They really are a great addition to your kitchen if you like making pizza, and I’m a big pizza fan.

With a stone baked pizza you get such a delicious crust which has bubbles, charred bits and tastes just right. They’re not too much bother either – you just need to place it on one of the wire racks (not the bottom of the oven) and heat on full temperature for about 40 minutes. Then dust with flour and slide on your pizza using the handy wooden peel. You could of course make this pizza without the stone, by simply placing it on a baking sheet, but you will get the improved flavour and texture of a stone baked dough which I really like.

There are more and more vegan pizzas available to buy which is a great thing, but my girls don’t really like vegan cheese, so we usually opt for homemade and then everyone can be happy with the choice of toppings.

A marinara pizza is a traditional Italian recipe and the perfect option if you’re avoiding dairy – the combination of tomato sauce, garlic, oregano and olive oil is a match made in heaven and is rightly classed as a classic. Enjoy it as it is or pep it up with veggies, olives, or the usual pizza toppings.

 

Marinara Pizza

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 4 to 5

for the dough:

450g OO flour

1 tbsp dried yeast

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

250-300ml warm water

for the topping:

150ml tomato paste or pizza sauce (try Pizza Express passata)

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

oregano

extra virgin olive oil

  1. First make the dough. Add all the dough ingredients and knead well. Leave to prove in a covered bowl in a warm place. You want it to double in size and that will take a couple of hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to the highest setting. If using a pizza stone, place it on one of the wire racks in the oven and heat for 40 minutes.
  3. Portion the dough into 4 or 5 pieces. Roll onto out using a little extra flour. Flour the peel and place the dough on top, making sure it can freely move. Or place the dough on a baking sheet.
  4.  Swirl on some tomato passata, top with chopped garlic, sprinkle with oregano and then drizzle with a little oil.
  5. Season. Slide onto the pizza stone, or place the baking sheet into the oven.
  6. Bake for 6-8 minutes on the stone or 10-12 minutes on the baking sheet.
  7. Serve hot.

 

Pizza Straws

dairy-free pizza straws

How about a savoury snack that can be whizzed up in a flash and packs a punch of flavour, without having to resort to opening a bag of crisps? ( although I do love a crisp now and then!) These straws are crispy, flaky, savoury and as the name suggests: pizza flavoured. Sounds tempting, and they are. 

 By twirling the strips of tomato and herb coated puff pastry you create a pretty twist and a nice light feel to them. Those who are dairy- free may have to avoid cheese straws but theses are a great alternative to hand out to all those impromptu festive visitors.

Pizza Straws

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

vegan pizza flavoured 'cheese straws'

makes plenty for 4 – 6 people

1/2 pack dairy- free puff pastry (Jus-roll non-butter version is dairy-free)

1 or 2 tbsps Tomato purée (preferably sun-dried)

A sprinkle of Oregano

A small handful dairy free cheese ( optional)

  1. Roll out the puff pastry to a thin even square
  2. Spread over a thin layer of the tomato purée
  3. Sprinkle over the oregano ( and cheese if using)
  4. Cut into even sized strips and twist each one a few times before placing on a baking sheet
  5. Bake at 190 degrees centigrade for 10 minutes until puffed up, golden and crispy

dairy-free pizza flavoured 'cheese straws'