Pizzas and “manchi annams”!

Pitter patter goes the sound of small feet and then the sound of  said feet trying to jump. the squeak of a stool as it is dragged. then the sound of  feet pattering away at double speed and then in an attempt at a whisper which doesn’t succeed too well thanks to the excited squeakiness in the voice –  “Naans, Anu atha is making some manchi annam”! Naans is his nickname for my mother – his grandmother – naanamma in Telugu and since all food in his two-year old life so far has been referred to as some “annam” (rice with ‘manchi annam’ being ‘nice rice’) or the other, that’s what he gathers from the smells emanating from my oven – just above his head – so no amount of jumping helps to get an eye-level view. Not to be deterred by such small things, Parshu has dragged a footstool from the bathroom all the way to the kitchen so he can peek into the oven and see – PIZZA!

Much excitement among all the little kids – cousins and friends – as they wait for the “manchi annam” to get done – nothing quite like the fragrance of a home baked pizza – even for the slightly older kids who’ve grown out of “pappannam”(the highly mashed up dal-rice with ghee that little kids are fed) and “perugannam” (ditto for yogurt and rice) stage, home made pizza is still serious excitement. Like my mother, my culinary philosophy too has been that whatever can be eaten in a restaurant can be replicated at home – and is ALWAYS better! Pizzas and burgers – including the burger buns – and vegetarian paellas and anything that be baked, rolled, kneaded, steamed, stirred, fried and iced – have all been grist to my kitchen mill – to great delight and to occasional consternation as family has had to put up with the random disaster….altogether it’s been an exciting journey…

Here’s Pizza for Parshu!

For the pizza base:

  • 1.5 cups maida or plain flour. I also use a mixture of plain flour and wholewheat flour (atta) for a healthier version
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • water – 3/4 cup
  • honey – 1 tbsp

Prove the yeast by sprinkling over 2 tbsp of the water – warmed up. Knead the dough by mixing all the ingredients and adding the water a little by little till you get an elastic dough – about ten minutes. If you’re using a mixture of wholewheat and plain flours, you will need to knead it for a couple more minutes. Cover and set aside to rise – about an hour. Knock back and shape into two large rectangles about 3 mm thick – on two greased baking trays. Cover and set aside in a warm place till it rises again – about ten minutes.

For basic pizza sauce:

  • 1 medium onion – chopped
  • 8 flakes of garlic – chopped
  • 10 – 12 large tomatoes – chopped
  • Tomato puree – 1/2 cup
  • Salt
  • Sugar – 1 tsp
  • Oregano- dried – 1 tsp
  • Basil leaves – 2 tbsp
  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the sugar. Let it caramelise as you stir. Add the onion and stir fry till it turns translucent. Add the garlic and fry till the whole mixture is golden brown. Add the tomatoes and paste, cover and cook till soft. Crush with the back of a spoon or a bar blender till coarsely ground. Add the chopped herbs and salt and switch off. 

For the toppings, use any or a combo of these:

  • Capsicum slices – fried or grilled
  • Pineapple cubes
  • Mozzarella – if very fresh, just tear into lumps and drop on top. If not, grate
  • Cottage cheese or feta – crumbled 
  • Jalapenos and ground pepper
  • Olives
  • Basil leaves – 10-12
  • Olive oil
  • anything else you feel like!

Preheat the oven to 225 C. Prick the pizza bases all over witha  fork and smear the basic pizza topping on top of both the bases.  Pop both trays into the oven and bake at 225 C for 5 minutes. Swap the trays around and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove and add the toppings. Bake again for 3 to 4 minutes till cheese is melted  and the fragrance of “manchi annam” gets all feet – big and small – heading to the kitchen! Can also use round trays!

Take out, slice and serve!

 (pic courtesy internet)