“Exotic” food like pizzas came into our life quite late – sometime in my teens, if I remember right. Having eaten it once in a restaurant (no, there were no pizzerias back then in Hyderabad), I, like a million others before me, fell in love with the cheesiness, the gooeyness, the breadiness (thin-crust pizzas were aeons away!) and the general unhealthy yumminess!
Like my mom, I too had firm faith in the tenet that what could be made ‘outside’ the home could be made at home – always better, cheaper and healthier! And so began the hunt for recipes.’ Eve’s Weeklies’ and that corniest of women’s magazines -‘ Women’s Era’ – a mag that was so anti-feminist one could only laugh at it – were scoured. No success. Old issues of ‘Good Housekeeping’ were dug up. The British didn’t seem to have heard of it either – at least going by their recipe sections – which were full of roast beef, potaotes in various forms including curries that no Indian cook would recognise and something called a “syllabub”! Sounded more like a pet name for a child than a dish, if you ask me. Loved reading them but was no nearer to solving my pizza problem.
Then I decided that I’d try to replicate it from memory – a memory that has failed me more often than not! We had only an old-fashioned round oven (still the best for cakes, if you ask me!) at home and I needed to make many. Mulling over it, I decided that the idli stand was a perfect substitute for making many small pizzas. Flour and yeast were an obvious place to start. Now the topping involved some ketchup-y sauce and cheese – that much I was sure. But what else? And surely, it couldn’t just be ketchup and cheese, could it??
Much rumination with my Psychology textbook in front of me – free association happened – many ideas happened – until… Eureka… topping happened… scrambled eggs!
And so, dough was made, shaped into little circles, ketchup spread on it, scrambled eggs sprinkled liberally over and finally topped with grated – Amul cheese – what else? Mozzarella? What on earth was it? The idli tray (see pic in yesterday’s post on idlis) was ceremoniously lifted into the oven and baked till… well, not done but we were fed up of waiting! The “we” being my dear friend Shreesha and me! Another friend happened to drop in as we got fed up of waiting and we proudly presented the results of our “experimentation” as… voila… little pizzas aka “Pidlis”! Ignorant creatures that we were, we hadn’t even heard the word as meaning something else till much later! Our mutual friend looked shocked, looked at us quizzically as we gazed back innocently, realised that here were a couple of very green girls and proceeded bravely to try the “pidlis”! We plied him with a third and a fourth till he couldn’t eat any more and left and then sat down to eat our masterpieces – semi-raw dough with dry-as-dust scrambled eggs on top!
And so, here’s the right way to make…
- 2 cups plain flour or use a mixture of half whole wheat and half plain for a healthier version
- 1.25 cups tepid water
- Honey 1 tbsp
- Yeast – 1.5 tsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Olive oil – 1.5 tbsp
Prove the yeast in water. Add honey and knead dough till soft and elastic. Cover and rest to double in size – about 1 hour. Knock back and shape into little circles about 1/2 cm thick (for a thin crust) or 1 cm for a breadier crust, and the diameter of a teacup . In fact, it’s easiest to roll it out flat and use an inverted teacup to cut out the the circles. Lay out in an oven tray, leaving about 2″ between each on all sides. Cover and let prove again for 10-15 minutes. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 F for 5-6 minutes.
TOPPING (Just one of a million possible – none of which use scrambled eggs, btw!)
- Tomatoes – 1/2 kg – chunked
- Onions – 1 – sliced – optional
- Garlic – 8-9 flakes – minced – NOT optional!
- Sugar – 1/2 tsp
- Capsicum of many colours – sliced – 2 cups
- Tomato puree – 2 tbsp
- Paneer (cottage cheese)- 1 cup – chopped into small cubes
- Pineapple – 1/2 cup – cubed.
- Mozzarella (I still have a hankering for Amul’s cheddar though!) – 1 cup
- Oil – 1 tbsp
- Pepper – 1/2 tsp
- Chili flakes – 1/2 tsp
- 1 green chili – minced
- Basil and oregano – 1 tsp each
Heat the oil and add sugar. When it caramelises, add the garlic, minced green chili and tomato. Cook till tomatoes are mushy. Add tomato puree, salt, pepper, chili flakes and herbs.
Separately stir fry the onions and capsicums on high heat for 3 minutes.
Spread the topping sauce over the pizzas. Sprinkle capsicums, pineapples, onions and paneer over the top. Grate mozarella generously and return to oven at 450 F for a further 5-6 minutes (if thin crust, more if bready) till the cheese melts and starts bubbling and forms a golden skin. Don’t let it burn.
There go your mini pidlis – oops, sorry – pizzas!
(Pic courtesy: Internet)