Mangia Mangia!…Submitting to Pizza Margherita

I’m spooling the tape back to childhood. Do indulge me while I unfold a tiny snippet from the past. Sukh Sagar, the famed eatery’s italic lightbox glimmered under the city’s night sky. Serving meals to patrons parked outside the restaurant while they reclined in the comfort of their cars was quite à la mode in 90’s Bangalore. The 5 of us(the parents, the 2 brothers and me), huddled in our car outside the restaurant while the food was brought and stationed on the bumper. The tray wobbled precariously as it hosted glasses of water and other snacks. For the next hour or so, the brothers and me devoured 4-inch discs of dough studded with bell peppers, onions and smothered with a tomato sauce and topped with visible strands of cheese. This was our first pizza and it has tethered itself unrelentingly to fond childhood memories much like the way mozzarella cements itself unyieldingly to a pizza base.
We’ve come a long way since then. Simplicity has transpired into a labyrinthine experience and I say this bearing no complaints. The thin-crust, the thick crust, the cheese-burst, the white sauce, the red sauce, the neopolitan, the Italian version, the Chicago version, there’s also the Indian version that I bake by splashing the base with a spicy Paneer Tikka Masala. Suffice to say, the options have no end.


We also bake our own pizza. When Little Brother #1 visited us  last month, he pampered us with a beautiful Deep-dish pizza(baked from scratch) outpouring and trickling with mozzarella and the works. I lazed on our sofa, unfurling the recipe, an explicit list of instructions from the book, all well accompanied by little extracts of my sage wisdom. Precisely what one would commonly expect from an elder sister. Lest I forget to mention, he cleaned up too. I basked in my proud-sister moment that night.

This week, Little Brother #2 embarked on his baking journey by making a Pizza Margherita.  We baked the fare together as we silently said a thankful prayer to technology(never have I been more grateful for video calling). Him in Bangalore, me in Toronto. 5pm for him, 6:30 am for me. Clearly, no lounging for me this time around! We kneaded our yeasty doughs together, watched as our tomatoes bubbled boisterously into a sauce and exactly 3 hours later, we revealed our pizzas together. He relished a dinner of earnest hardwork while the husband and me savored an unusual but very delicious breakfast.
I’m going to interrupt my proud-sister moments for now and move on to the the making of this cheese-laden indulgence.

The recipe for this authentic pizza has been adapted from Rachel Allen’s cooking show that I stumbled upon many years ago. The following evening, we had an enticing dinner. I’ve relied on this recipe many a time and continue to do so, sharing it with friends and family because of its unerring ways. Simple in make and always results in a contented smile. The length of time that any bread demands may be overwhelming at first but that is something one will get the habit of fairly soon. My suggestion : bake the pizza often; patience is directly proportional with frequency of make.
The original recipe uses all-purpose flour while I’m sharing the one with wholewheat flour owing to its health benefits. But, either way, there isn’t much of a difference make. The other  significant component is the sauce. Summertime farmer’s markets are brimming with San Marzano tomatoes and I haul back heavy bags splilling with these dainty, deep-red fruits. But other times, I depend on Roma tomatoes. Quite frankly, use whatever tomatoes you can get your hands on.
Moving on to the recipe:

RECIPE FOR WHOLEWHEAT PIZZA MARGHERITA (Makes 2 large pizzas)

INGREDIENTS- 
TOMATO SAUCE FOR THE PIZZA
4-5 tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
10 basil leaves
Salt
Ground Pepper
1-2 tsp sugar
Thyme and oregano can be added for flavoring as well
PIZZA DOUGH
250 ml warm water(a little extra if the dough feels too dry)
1/2 tsp castor sugar
1.5 tsp active dry yeast or 1 x 7 gms sachet of fast acting yeast
350 gms or 2.5 cups wholewheat flour plus extra for dusting(all purpose flour can be used too)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for dusting
Semolina for dusting
TOPPINGS
A few basil leavesGrated Mozarella – roughly 1-1.5 cups(I say roughly because I throw it on my base without restraint!)

METHOD TO MAKE THE PIZZA SAUCE
1. Boil water in a large vessel. Make an ‘X’ at the bottom of each tomato and add into the boiling water for a couple of min. Transfer to a bowl of ice water and peel them.
2.Heat oil in a pan, add onions and cook for 4-6 min, till browned. Add tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper and sugar and bring to a boil.
3. Simmer till sauce thickens for about 45 minutes, or until the raw smell of tomatoes goes away (Add 1/4 cup of water while cooking if necessary).
4. Cool & blend into a smooth sauce.

METHOD TO MAKE THE PIZZA DOUGH AND THE PIZZA MARGHERITA
1. In a bowl, mix the warm water with the sugar & yeast & leave it to stand for 5 min or until looking frothy. (No need to do this if it’s fast acting yeast. Just add the yeast directly to the olive oil and sugar).
2. Add olive oil into the yeast mixture.
3. Add the wholewheat flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the olive oil-yeast mixture into the well and mix by hand, until the dough is wet & sticky.(Add extra water if it is too dry).
4. Next, knead with your hands on a floured counter for about 10 min(5 min in the food mixer) or until smooth & springy to touch.
5. Grease the bowl with olive oil & place the dough back in. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. ( if you gently press the dough with your fingertip, the dent should stay, and that means it’s ready).
6. Preheat oven to 240C or 465 F.
7. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and divide into 2 portions. Keep the one that you’re not using covered.
8. Roll out each disc to a 10″ inch circle.
9. Place the rolled out dough on a tray sprinkled with semolina. Alternatively, use a parchment paper.
10. Spread a good dollop of sauce on top of the base and spread it with a ladle.
11. Place the shredded cheese(toppings can be added too)
12. Bake at 465 F / 240 degree Celsius for 15 minutes.
13. Slice and serve hot.

Khara Biscuits & My Love-Hate Relationship with Sugar

Rosy as it may seem, my relationship with sugar like any other is flawed. Sweet yet oddly imperfect.
I hail from a family that is ravenous for sugar and the clan has rightly  realized that its absence will only add to the existing pandemonium. Hence, we give in to its captivity. Be it the amber hued jaggery syrup that is made specially for dosas to diligently mop up or those surreptitious, midnight thefts of of chocolate or those weekend dessert projects bustling in the kitchen, such as Holige( Sweet Rotis)  and the likes or that generous chunk of jaggery stirred into every single savory dish, we love “the sweet life” and life without it is imagined to be listless, dark and sullen. I finally have a reason for my foray into the cozy, hygge-ligt world of baking. It is that “sweet”gene rampant in my cells that yells and throws unbearable tantrums until I give in.
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Until a few years ago….
For a year almost in 2014-2015, I gave up on sugar. Completely. The first couple of weeks were every bit as cringe-worthy as was suspected. A world painted in color turned gray. I felt myself at sea most times, dubious about my decision. Every smile, I found, was peppered with a sad note. The romance that had me exuberant and invigorated had come to an end(albeit temporarily) and I was heartbroken.
The good news: it lasted only a week or two. Once I swam the rough waters, the calm was an unexpected surprise. The cravings bid adieu and to put it very bluntly, I lost interest. Those hardworking sugar-coveting tastebuds were probably happier in hibernation and my body was thrilled to bits with the ongoing  detox. And, gray didn’t seem like such a bad colour.  Might I add, I still reveled in the bliss of baking and very often. I just didn’t eat those treats, nor was I tempted to give in. The powers of the mind and body  are magical, I learnt.
Admittedly, there are days when I’ll be caught binging unstintingly on sweet treats but most days I resort to portion control or zero intake.
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These cookies are devised precisely for those days. They are called Khara(spicy in Kannada) Biscuits and since Iyengar Bakeries are non-existent in my part of the world, I resort to overworking my battered oven quite often.
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The recipe has been adapted from the wonderful Chitra Agarwal’s ‘Vibrant India‘, the book brimming with memories and food, redolent of good times from Bangalore, a common home between us. For me, the collection occupies a special place for reasons aplenty but some take priority:
– While the traditional Palyas , gojjus & Chitra-annas make their presence, some are twisted beautifully, and yet strongly rooted to tradition. Like her Apple Pie Kadabu’s, where apple pie fillings fragrant with autumnal spices substitutes the coconut filling that is traditionally opted.

– I always assume(with the risk of my imagination running wild), that recipes for Congress Kadlekai(spiced peanuts) and Khara biscuits ( both quintessentials in a Bangalore Iyengar Bakery) lie scribbled in some old, tattered pages, cloistered into a crevice of the bakery’s walls. Lucky that the author includes recipes for these as well. Many miles away, my kitchen is alive with the scents of the streets of Bangalore.

-And finally, despite having grown up and well acquainted with a gamut of dishes from the book, it is the aura of Bangalore that it drapes so well, the manner it magically mirrors the culinary saga of my elders that, coerces me into lending this treasure trove of flavour-bound recipes a place in my kitchen nook.

The cookies you see here are bite sized and slightly softer unlike the original crispy variant, equally delicious nonetheless. They are richly fragrant with Mint, Curry Leaves and Lime leaves. They are heavily laden with nostalgic memories from Bangalore & a sharp, tangy cheddar cheese. I do hope you like this one!
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{Before we move on the recipe, I just want to add that I’m no health expert and my desire/disinterest in sugar is purely my personal choice. I do not suggest in any way that this recipe is a “health/healthy food” OR Diabetic friendly.}

RECIPE FOR CHEDDAR & HERB SHORTBREAD COOKIES (KHARA BISCUITS)
(Adapted from Chitra Agarwal’s, Vibrant India’)

INGREDIENTS
1/4 th cup unsalted butter(at room temperature)

1.5 tsp sugar
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1 green chilli, finely chopped
10-12 curry leaves, finely chopped
1-2 dried lime leaves, finely chopped(optional)
1/4 cup mint leaves,finely chopped
1 cup all purpose flour/sifted whole wheat flour
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Method
– In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar by hand. Add the salt, herbs, green chillies and yogurt and mix.

– Then add the flour, grated cheddar and milk. Very gently bring all the ingredients together into a dough.
– Roll this into a log and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour.
– In the meantime, preheat oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
– Slice the dough into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange them on the cookie sheet.
– Bake for around 18-22 minutes and cool completely.
Notes:
1) The author has included coriander leaves in these shortbread cookies which also lend a wonderful flavour.

#Baked Wholewheat Tortilla Chips, Guacamole and Mango salsa

Ola Amigos!
Thanks to Chipotle, we’ve had a faint idea about Mexican cuisine. Be it the rice, tacos, tortilla chips or a burrito, we love it all. Although I’ve been experimenting at home for quite some time, this recipe comes in light of our very recent vacation in Cancun, Mexico. We got to experience Mexican flavours and were thankfully not totally ignorant in the buffet area.
And a week long vacation meant Chips & Guacamole for breakfast, Chips & Guacamole for lunch and Chips & Guacamole for dinner! You would think I got sick and tired of the dish but on the contrary, I wound up liking it more.

Continue reading “#Baked Wholewheat Tortilla Chips, Guacamole and Mango salsa”