The places we've thronged for our pizza fix! Those multi-national chains (you know the ones) that churn out pizzas made from stale crusts, dabbed with insipid sauce and flecked with week-old (hopefully, just one week) bits of toppings? Yes, flecked is the verb of choice; you need a good pair of hand-lens to find the toppings.
Breaking News. I realized a few years back that, that isn't pizza. Not one worth drawing money out of the ATM for. An epiphany of sorts.
Casa Piccola makes pizza between the ranges of Rs. 120 to 180. They've got enough toppings, plenty of cheese and will fill up all the crevices of your stomach. And it's open all day long. I find it to be greasy though... it's the kind of pizza that has to be eaten with a fork and a knife because it's an amorphous mass of dough/cheese/chicken. Some people like it. Some don't. Latter category, I'm in.
So if I'm going to be picky, I'm left with no choice but to make the pizza at home.
The crust, I pick up at French Loaf. It's dense, brown, has loads of whole grains embedded in the dough, and is the right thickness. The rest of the family prefer the white, fluffy bun-like pizza base, which works out way cheaper. *Cough* Country frutes *Cough*
The sauce, I learnt to make in the eleventh standard, the Year of The Sleepovers. Nachos with cheese sauce, Mint-Chocolate Chip Ice-cream with Chocolate Cake chunks, movies with Meg Ryan in them, Makeovers, Prank Calls (before the advent of widespread caller ID). Sigh.
Reminiscing aside, take a look at the things you'd need for the pizza. Told you I make it at home because I'm picky and not because I'm cheap! And this is only for the toppings.
|Mushrooms, olives, paneer, onions, poached chicken, mozzarella, peppers,|
sweet corn, pineapple, so on and so forth.
Tomatoes: 8 ripe, large tomatoes.
Garlic: 1 whole head, chopped.
Onion: 2 large onions, diced (1x1 cm).
Capsicum: 1, diced (2x2 cm).
Olive oil: 3 tablespoons.
Tomato ketchup: 3 tablespoons.
Fresh basil, if available: a handful.
Cumin: 1 tsp.
Dried herbs: 2 tsps (I use Oregano/Basil).
Salt and pepper, to taste.
Sugar: 1/2 tsp.
Chilli flakes-to taste (toss in a couple of dried red chill-vaathal-into the mixie and voila).
1)Wash the tomatoes. Make an X-shaped cut on each tomato and drop into a pan of boiling water. After a couple of minutes, take them out and shock them (by transferring them to a pan of iced water).
A cheat's way out would be to poke the tomatoes all over with a fork and microwave them for a couple of minutes. No need for ice water here.
|Don't use aluminium pans for cooking with tomatoes. Don't even ask why|
3) In a large non-stick saucepan, heat the olive oil. When it gets warm (not smoking hot), throw in the chopped onions. When the onions turn pinkish, add the garlic and the cumin.
I know, wrong order. I'm incompetent when it comes to not burning things/myself, so this works.
4) When the garlic gets golden, onions get translucent, cumin starts popping: add the capsicum. Give it all a good mix with a spatula. Inhale. Gor-ge-ous.
5)Add salt and pepper. Start with a teaspoon confidently. You can add the rest after the sauce is done.
6)Pour in the tomato puree and set the stove to Sim. Here comes the boring part. It needs to go from the consistency of soup to thick sauce. It takes at least an hour to simmer down. I use this hour to work on my toppings. Keep an eye on sauce, and keep stirring from time to time.
7) After 1/2 an hour, add in the tomato ketchup, sugar, dried chilli flakes and herbs. Taste it. I never get it right at this stage, so don't worry. The wonderful garlicky-tomato-ey smell of the kitchen won't allow too much worry, at any rate.
8)In about an hour, when it's of spreadable consistency, switch off the stove. Taste, season accordingly. Taste. Season. Sprinkle some salt, throw in some more herbs, be careful with the chilli flakes. Make it work.
Those are the toppings I used.
Sweet corn: Sauteed with butter and salt.
Paneer: cut into chunks.
Green olives: De seeded and chopped.
Chicken: the boneless meat chopped into chunks and poached with salt and pepper.
Mushrooms: Chopped, sauteed in olive oil, with salt and pepper.
Bell-peppers: Cut into rings, uncooked, so they taste crunchy.
To Assemble the pizza:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Spread foil on the baking tray. Grease the pizza with either olive oil or butter (I do neither, but it's recommended).
Spread a couple of tablespoons of the prepared pizza sauce on each base.
Call in the troops and ask them to put whichever topping they like on their pizza!
Bake for 15 minutes, just as the mozzarella gets all gooey, and the base turns golden brown.
Sprinkle some more herbs and chilli flakes before serving.
|Whilst the pizza bakes, I treat myself to toothpick skewers of my favourite |
toppings. Perks of being the cook.
I'm sorry I don't have decent pictures of the final pizza. I got caught up in the feeding frenzy and ate half my share before I realized I haven't clicked any picture!
That photo doesn't do it justice. But that's all I could salvage within 15 minutes of baking and setting it out on the table. Go figure.