Norwich woman’s pizza is a winner

It is a yellow and green pizza created by a Norwich woman – and this unusual vegan dish could soon be on the menu at restaurants across the country.

Sarah Walker, 50, who lives on Guernsey Road, off Magdalen Road, is the creator of the Pizza Levantina, which contains no meat or dairy products, and is currently leading in the public votes for Pizza Express' nationwide Create Your Pizza Challenge.

It is one of five finalists and the winning pizza will feature on the menu at Pizza Express outlets across the country from January. If Sarah's pizza wins, it will be the first ever vegan pizza on offer at the pizzeria.

Pizza Levantina is made with falafel, courgette, tahini, garlic and sesame seeds, and is inspired by Sarah's stepchildren, two of whom are vegans.

She said: 'Half my family and friends are vegans, so they don't eat any animal products at all. My stepson, Joel, is a devout vegan and my stepdaughter, Rose, is a vegan apart from ice-cream. My husband and I are meat-eaters, but I know that there is a gap in the market for vegan meals as there is a very limited selection available when you eat out.'

Yesterday, Sarah made her pizza at Pizza Express in the Forum and the couple tasted it for the first time.

Sarah said: 'The recipe actually does work, yum! I should have called it Pizza Canaries though, it is in the Norwich yellow and green.'

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It is a flavourful and refreshing pizza, with juiciness and sweetness from the courgettes and aubergine added to the savoury aromas of sesame seeds and falafel.

Sarah has travelled around the world as teacher of English and concocted the recipe from her experience of Naples and the Middle East.

'In Naples, they are very particular with their pizza and Middle-Eastern food is very much peasant food in that it is not complicated, but you need good ingredients. I wanted to combine these two experiences as a lot of the food in the Middle-East, like falafel, is vegan.'

Sarah and her husband, Barrie de Lara, had their first date at the Pizza Express in the Forum in 2003, and were celebrating their return to England this July at the same place when she picked up the entry form for the competition.

Barrie said: 'Pizza Express is definitely our favourite restaurant. I ate in the restaurant the first week it opened in 1965, and have been going back for more than 30 years.'

Pizza Express spokesman Alex Whitelaw said: 'There's a lot of vegans out there, and they are very good at campaigning. The Vegan society is backing the pizza and there is a huge network of supporters.'

Sarah is currently working as a writer, both of children's books and a novel inspired by a walk on a North Norfolk beach.

Sarah said: 'I came to Norwich in 2003 to study at the UEA, and decided I liked it. It is a lovely city, the nicest city in England. It will be great if a Norfolk entry could win.'

To vote for Sarah, text 'PIZZA LEV' to 63757 or vote online at Voting closes on November 12.

Are you in the final of a national competition? Contact the Evening News on 01603 772443 or email