Pumpkin and Carrot Pudding | Driving to the Capital

 

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The memory of eating this pudding came suddenly one afternoon when I was preparing lunch for Ali. For some reason the smell of carrots cooking jolted my senses. The memory that came rushing was being 6 myself, sitting in the back of the car, peeping out of the window on a Friday morning while my father drove to Abu Dhabi. My mothers’ eldest brother stayed and we would drive down to see them. I vividly remember how the highway was deserted and billboards would appear on the horizon about every five minutes and it would slowly grow in height as the car grew nearer. Some months, we would drive down every other weekend. The advertisements weren’t changed too often back then and I would make a mental note of what was the last hoarding that stood at the outskirts of Abu Dhabi which meant the city wasn’t too far away. This is a pudding my aunt used to make. I was never fond of Payasams. Ammayi was a pioneer and very experimental when it came to making non-traditional recipes including desserts. Jiggly Crème caramel, brightly colored Agar Jelly Pudding and cool glasses of Falooda were a few of the desserts she made 25 years ago. On that day in my kitchen, I wanted to try my hand at making this Pudding. I didn’t even know what was in it and I called her older daughter inquiring about the sweet orange colored pulp with custard on top. She instantly knew I was talking about her Pumpkin and Carrot Pudding.

Possibly the best description about this pudding was by her youngest daughter – Is it that pudding that tastes amazing and you can’t place exactly what it is you’re tasting and you feel slightly cheated when you realize its Pumpkin? It is precisely just that. Ripe pumpkins are chopped and shredded alongside peeled carrots. Slow cooked on a low flame, Sugar is added once the vegetables are cooked through, just enough to sweeten the mixture. It is topped with a Vanilla flavoured custard and allowed to set in the refrigerator overnight. This is Ammayi’s recipe and I’ve added a few tweaks of my own.

 

 

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The shredded ingredients have to be cooked without any water. The Pumpkin will release a lot of water and my aunt assures that is enough to cook it and the carrots. This means it will require at least half an hour of slow cooking for it to cook completely and it will break down completely and look very mushy. Once it reaches this stage, then sugar is added in increments and the amount depends entirely on how sweet the vegetables are. During this lockdown phase, since I was having vegetables delivered home, once the pumpkin has green spots all over. I shared it my aunt and she said she’s never seen that before. I didn’t want to risk it and ordered another one. This time round it wasn’t too ripe which meant it would require a little more sweetening.

 

 

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While the Pumpkin and Carrot mixture cools, the Custard base can be made. I do love making custard from scratch. The only concern is it, even if it is mild, it will have an eggy flavor. For this recipe, you want the custard to taste sweet and very Vanilla. If you do have a pod of Vanilla or a bottle of pure extract that you’re saving for special occasions, I urge you to use them for this recipe. Setting aside the coveted seed flecks, it deepens the flavor of the custard. It wouldn’t be apparent and you can taste an ever so slight note of warm spice with each spoonful. Another addition I have made to the Custard base is a generous pinch of Turmeric for a brighter color. Considering the custard is pretty sweet, you wouldn’t taste the difference.   

 

 

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So I have this weakness of assembling pudding in tea cups. I don’t have to necessarily be shooting photographs or serving it to guests. It is a treat for myself that I enjoy so much. Taking one out of the refrigerator, picking up a dessert spoon, I’ll stand by the kitchen window midday and slowly relish every bite. And a dainty tea cup just makes the experience just a little mmore indulgent.

 

 

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Ideally my aunt recommends chilling this dessert overnight before serving which is perfect for the summer season. While testing the recipe, I’d like to add that it tastes wonderful when the custard is still warm which is why it would be perfect for colder weather and you can serve it immediately. Instead of layering, spoon a little more of the pumpkin and carrot mixture and pour a few tablespoons of warm custard. Considering Pumpkins are much riper around fall and winter, you wouldn’t even need to sweeten it as much. Whatever the season, don’t forget to add a generous sprinkle of flaky nuts.

 

 

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Pumpkin and Carrot Pudding

Recipe by: Saibunnissa Abdul Latheef

INGREDIENTS

Serves 6-8

  • Ripe Pumpkin, grated – 4 cups

  • Carrots – 8-9 medium carrots, peeled and grated

  • Cardamom pods – 6, crushed to powder

  • Sugar – 6-8 tsp, as needed

  • Ghee – 3 tsp

  • Salt – a pinch

  • Nuts to sprinkle

Custard base

  • Custard powder – 3 3/4 tsp

  • Warm milk – 3 3/4 tsp

  • Vanilla paste or extract – 1 tsp

  • Milk – 3 cups at room temperature.

  • Sugar – 5 Tbsp

  • Turmeric powder – a pinch

METHOD

  • In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat Ghee.

  • Once the Ghee is warm, add the crushed cardamom and roast for ten seconds.

  • Add the grated Pumpkin and Carrot into the saucepan and cook on a slow flame with the lid on for 20-30 minutes. Keep checking and stirring in regular intervals to prevent burning.

  • The mixture should resemble pulp and it should have released water at this stage.

  • Increase the flame to medium-high and cook the mixture without the lid for 10 minutes or till the water is completely evaporated.

  • Start adding sugar a teaspoon at a time. Check the sweetness after adding 4 tsp and add sugar to taste. If your pumpkin isn’t ripe enough, you will need more sugar.

  • Mix well till the sugar has melted and combined.

  • Take it off the flame and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Custard base

  • In a small bowl, combine the custard powder and warm milk and mix thoroughly. There should be no lumps.

  • Add the Vanilla and mix it well.

  • In a heavy bottomed saucepan, pour milk and gently heat it on a low flame. Keep stirring in intervals so that it does not burn at the bottom.

  • Add sugar and keep stirring till it is completely melted, about 5 minutes.

  • Pour the custard powder mixture slowly into the saucepan while stirring well to make sure no lumps form.

  • Stir continuously for about 3 minutes or till the custard thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It should be of pouring consistency.

  • Add the Turmeric powder and stir it to brighten the color of the custard.

  • Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.

TO ASSEMBLE

  • In a glass dish, place a layer of the pumpkin-carrot mixture on the bottom.

  • Pour a little custard till the layer below is covered.

  • Add another layer of pumpkin carrot and gently press it into the custard as it is quite loose.

  • Pour custard just enough to cover it.

  • Repeat in layers till mixture is complete. The last layer should be custard and it should cover it completely.

  • Alternatively, you can layer in individual dessert bowls or cups. However, don’t build more than two layers.

  • Refrigerate overnight.

  • Sprinkle your choice of nuts right before serving. I used Almond Flakes and Pistachio slivers.

  • Serve cold.

Have a good food day.

Almond & Espresso Bars | Everyday Fix


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I’m on the fence when it comes to coffee in desserts. Tiramisu is probably the only dessert on this planet I would pass on. I wouldn’t mind a scoop of Coffee Gelato or a couple of squares of Mocha Fudge. Given how the world is right now, a lot of us will be observing Eid very differently. When Ramadan began, I was a bit hopeful about seeing family on Eid. I was thinking of having them over for a traditional breakfast that is made on my husband’s side of the family. I wanted to make something sweet that could accompany the spread. A cake would be too much, a Payasam would have to be made the night before and even though summer has arrived, it would be too early for a cold dessert. I started looking through a few of my recipe books and felt that Cake Bars was the answer. Since we would all be having caffeine in the morning after a whole month, I felt that Espresso would be just the right flavor to end a heavy meal. I love texture in desserts and rummaged in my quarantine dictated pantry to see what was easily replaceable. I had almonds in all forms: raw, powdered and even flakes. A little testing later, I was hopeful to bake these on Eid morning. I’ve come to terms that this Eid will pass by without meeting the extended family. Baking has helped me with the uncertainty of our times and I will still be baking these Espresso & Almond Bars to lift my spirits.


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For this recipe, you need to brew your strongest cup of black coffee. My husband loves his coffee and we have a coffee machine which I use only when recipes call for it. My preferred caffeine fix is a large mug of Masala Tea sweetened with a little bit of Jaggery. When he prepares his glass, I can hear the coffee beans whir into powder and steadily trickling into this glass in intervals punctuated with loud buzzes. Merely inhaling the aroma rouses my senses in the wee hours of the morning and it lingers at least half an hour after it has been prepared.


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The dry ingredients in the recipe are almond, regular flour and about half a cup full of chocolate chips. It’s something I’ve learnt while reading and testing recipes. My chocolate cake batter has a shot of espresso and it elevates the flavor of cocoa and almost nobody has been able to guess that it has coffee in it. Almond flour is nutty in texture but quite mild flavor wise and I was a bit concerned that the coffee notes might stand out a bit too strongly. I thought of adding cocoa but didn’t want the color to brown. That’s how adding chocolate chips to mellow the espresso didn’t color the batter darker and added an additional bite to the slices.


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I had a jar of Almond flakes in the pantry which I wanted to sprinkle on top of the batter right before it went into the oven. I was hoping the flakes would toast slightly by the time it finished baking. I completely  forgot about them! I only realized halfway through the baking time and it was too late to pull it out of the oven. The other reason I wanted to add it is because I anticipated the slices to look too plain and unable to give cues on what is inside. I realized it could only be added after it was out of the oven and how it could be added on a dry surface had me thinking. It certainly needed something on top to adhere to. Luckily, I had a jar of Sticky Toffee Sauce leftover from a previous cake order. While the cake rested on the countertop, I toasted a handful of almond flakes on the stove. I let the cake cool completely and then added a few teaspoons of warm toffee sauce, sprinkled the toasted flakes and then gave it a while to cool before cutting it into squares. 


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I liked the slight sweetness the toffee sauce brought. Alternatively, you can spread a very thin layer of fruit preserves or jam instead. However, if you can’t be bothered about it you can completely skip this step. Just don’t forget to add the almond flakes before baking.

Coffee tones with hints of chocolate and crunchy almonds make for a perfect pick me up for the day. They’re just the right kind of sweet and you might find yourself reaching out for just one more especially if they’re in plain sight. The next time I bake these after Eid I might just cut them a bit smaller and have a few at hand to fuel me while I work on the next recipe.



Almond and Espresso Slices

INGREDIENTS

  • Freshly made Espresso or black coffee – ½ cup, cooled

  • Almond flour – ½ cup

  • All Purpose Flour – 1 cup

  • Chocolate Chips – ½ cup

  • Sugar – ¼ cup

  • Baking powder – ½ tsp

  • Butter – 4 oz OR 114 g, softened

  • Eggs – 2

  • Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp

  • Almond flakes – 3 tbsp

  • Sticky Toffee Sauce OR Fruit Jam – 3 tsp (optional)

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade.

  • Line a square baking tin with parchment paper.

  • In a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer, cream together sugar and butter till light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

  • Add vanilla extract and eggs and continue mixing till it is fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.

  • Add the Espresso and almond flour and mix slightly.

  • Add in chocolate chips and fold slightly.

  • Using a sieve, sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and fold the mixture using a gentle hand till everything is mixed. The batter will be pretty thick.

  • Transfer the batter to the prepared baking tin.

  • Toast the almond flakes on a low flame.

  • Sprinkle on top of the batter. If you’re using jam or sticky toffee sauce, set it aside.

  • Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes till it is golden on top and a toothpick pricked in the centre comes clean.

  • Let it cool slightly.

  • If you’re using jam or sticky toffee sauce, spread it evenly on top of the cake. Quickly sprinkle toasted almond slices and gently press it in.

  • Remove from the baking tin and let it cool completely.

  • Using a sharp knife, cut into neat squares.

  • Store leftover pieces (doubtful about this though) in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days.

Have a good food day.

Vellima’s Pazham Pori | Ripe Plantain Fritters


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The twentieth day of Ramadan. Today marks three years since my paternal grandmother left us. In her loving memory, today I want to share her recipe for Pazham Pori. This is essentially a snack made right after a long siesta and is served alongside piping cups of tea. She was very fond of bananas and she always tried to convince me to have a couple of Cheru Pazham or baby bananas immediately after lunch when we visited her for the summer. Plantains were never out of stock in her kitchen. When visitors would come unannounced as was the norm in her time, in all probability she would have the help at home make a plate of these. Ripe plantains are slivered and dipped in a batter, which I later learnt, was her original recipe. I didn’t care too much for them till I started tasting versions made in other households. I still remember waiting for Umma to finish frying them so I could help myself to the bowl of leftover batter. It tasted blissfully similar to cake.


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The number of recipes and dishes that is made from Plantains is a feat Malayalees have perfected. Boiled, steamed, mashed and pureed, there are recipes ranging from every day accompaniments on the breakfast to delicacies that grace feasts laid out for a newly married couple. A closer look into the food landscape in Kerala, recipes begin to show differences in ingredients, methods and even names through districts. Pazham Porichathu is arguably one of the few dishes that are a staple across Kerala. Roadside tea stalls that dot the winding highways play host to men in the neighborhood pausing their day holding glasses of frothy tea and you can always spot these fritters laid out to rest on newspapers that darken and soak up the oil it was fried in. A glaring difference would be the monstrous size as they are cut into very large shapes. Nothing like the dainty ones made at home.


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If you look at a few recipes of these fritters, the batter is almost always made of sugar, flour and water. Nowadays, a pinch of baking soda is added to have it puff slightly when fried. That is how Vellima’s recipe is starkly different. Firstly, she uses a combination of flour and roasted rice flour. Rice flour isn’t extra fine in texture and you can taste the difference when you eat them. It gives it a gritty bite without being unpleasant. The next difference is the choice of sweetener.


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The fritters I’ve seen and had in other households looked quite pale compared to Vellima’s. This is solely because she used Jaggery syrup to sweeten the batter. Cubes of jaggery are placed in a pot of water and heated until the blocks melt completely and the syrup reduces quite a bit and starts to look a lot like Molasses. It’s used for making Payasams, puddings made with thin rice flakes or soaked mung beans and when in season, the coveted Jackfruit. Coming back to the syrup, tablespoons full are added to the batter which simultaneously lends them a darker color when fried. Another reason why these are a bit darker is because she added a lightly beaten egg to the batter. I feel this is why it tastes so much like cake batter. The addition of egg makes the fritters puff up ever so slightly making it a little airy. To mellow the ‘egginess’ of the batter, a few pods of Cardamom are crushed and sprinkled over the batter. It gives a very subtle flavor and yet if you forgot to add it, the flavor of the egg stands out unabashedly. Speaking of hues, she would add a generous pinch of Turmeric powder which when stirred colored the batter to a sunshine yellow. I’ve saved the biggest difference for the very end. Her binding agent was freshly pressed coconut milk. At Vellima’s home, coconut milk was made for every meal of the day. I still remember her soaking Chappati in coconut milk for dinner. In this recipe, water isn’t used to combine the dry ingredients. In this recipe, once all the dry ingredients are whisked briefly with the egg, coconut milk is added in intervals till the batter comes together. It is quite which means it coats and binds to the sliced Plantain surfaces without sliding off. When it comes to frying, I strongly recommend to use Coconut oil. Almost all the traditional recipes calls for this and the final outcome is very different when something else is used. Unlike vegetable oil, coconut oil adds so much flavor to not just these fritters but pretty much anything else you fry.

If you are from Kerala, you would have your fair share of Pazham Porichathu. Do try making this recipe and I know you’ll taste a difference. Make sure you start a pot of tea when you start frying them. And if you can sit out on a Verandah to watch rain pouring down during monsoon and feel a few droplets on your skin cast by the wind, you will be joining my memory of eating Vellima’s Pazham Porichathu.


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Vellima’s Pazham Pori

INGREDIENTS

  • Ripe Plantains – 1-2

  • Jaggery syrup (melted jaggery) – 6 Tbsp

  • Cardamom powder – 2 tsp

  • Egg – 1 large

  • Salt – a pinch

  • Roasted rice flour – 1/2 cup

  • All Purpose Flour – 1/4 cup

  • Turmeric – 2 pinches

  • Freshly squeezed coconut milk – as needed

  • Coconut oil – to fry

METHOD

  • Peel the plantain and slice them diagonally. You could also cut the plantain through the middle and then slice into discs.

  • Lightly beat the egg.

  • In a large bowl, combine rice flour, all purpose flour, cardamom powder and salt together.

  • Add the egg and jaggery syrup and whisk it for a minute.

  • Now slowly add coconut milk, about 4 tbsp at a time and whisk the batter making sure there are no lumps.

  • Continue adding coconut milk till the batter becomes smooth and thick. It should not be too thin otherwise it will not adhere to the plantain slices.

  • Finally, add the turmeric powder and whisk it in.

  • Heat coconut oil on medium heat.

  • Dip the plantain slices into the batter making sure both sides are coated well.

  • Fry the slices in hot oil for about 4 minutes or until they’re golden in color.

  • Flip the slices and continue frying till it is golden.

  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the fried plantains from the oil.

  • Serve them hot alongside a steaming mug of milky sweet tea or lightly spiced Black tea or Sulaimani.

Have a good food day.

Nishana’s Chicken Fry | Warmth in Wokingham


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Nishana is one of the many wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting after being married. Our husbands are technically uncle and nephew in relation but only a few years apart in age. We all spoke together on a conference call after our engagement when they were expecting their first child. I visited her home in Kerala after she had her baby boy and they visited us in Abu Dhabi when they were flying back to United Kingdom. That was the beginning of what was an innumerable number of hours spent on the telephone. A decade later, we have shared recipes and presents, pregnancy and labor stories, and countless laughs. The number of times we have met in person can actually be counted on one hand. Ever since we’ve both had children, our chats have dwindled. Yet, our conversations, filled with her warmth and quiet laughter, flow effortlessly even when we haven’t spoken for months. When we do talk, it always ends with inviting each other to holiday at their part of the world. We did so late last year and that is when she made this incredible Chicken Fry.

Nishana puts together meals so efficiently and makes it look effortless. I had heard about the magic in her fingers from my mother in law. To date, she narrates how on their trip to Aberdeen prior to our marriage, for tea Nishana made Vadas laced with peppercorns that perfectly slid into the oil from her hands and the most delectable Coriander and Coconut Chutney. I got to see this in person when we visited the in Aberdeen right after her little one had turned one. We first met in London where we stayed a couple of days. Crepes with lemon juice at Green Park, pinching boots with and without heels, an Aero birthday cake in the parking lot of Asda and the most eventful trip to Harrods doorstep is one of the fondest memories I hold close. We flew back with them to Aberdeen where we bonded over Fish & Chips and gravy, her lush pancakes paired with strawberries (they weren’t in season and unbelievably sweet) and her incredible Spaghetti Bolognese. During the day when our uncle (sorry Chickoo Mama) was at work, the three of us and her darling little boy would board the bus and she would take us around the city. On our last day, I remember eating lunch at a Burger King near Aberdeen beach and feeling a twinge of sadness, wishing we lived closer.


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Last year, we met after seven years. They’ve moved to Wokingham now. She hadn’t met Ali and I was meeting her adorable daughter (who calls herself Nai Nai ) for the first time . After all these years, getting to spend time with them was what I was looking forward to the most. The children hadn’t met before as well and they connected instantly as children would. The day we arrived we tucked into plates of steaming Chicken Biriyani and this unbelievable Chicken Fry.  I say unbelievable because we were all raving about this dish at the table. My little one, who calls out on food being too spicy only if he doesn’t like it, helped himself to more than what he normally would. I had watched her make it after we had arrived that morning. In all probability, you already have these spices in your pantry now. All you need to learn is a few tweaks n technique.


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Don’t be dissuaded by the color. Nishana uses Kashmiri chilli powder which renders scarlet notes and is subdued in heat. She roasts a few tablespoons full of it alongside other spices in dry heat for less than a minute. A few shallots are tossed in a grinder and she blends it all together with garlic pods and fresh ginger. Ironically, I’m always running a little low on ginger garlic paste so I grind and stock them fresh especially for this recipe.    


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The marinade should be a bit on the drier side. A distinct feature of a good Kerala Chicken fry is the presence of Podi. It can be translated to powder or dust, but that cannot describe the flavor these bits hold. It’s the part of marinade that separates from the meat in the hot oil which then fries and collects at the bottom of the pan. It is gathered from the bottom with a slotted spoon and ceremoniously sprinkled on top of the fried chicken.  


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At our request, Nishana made this chicken fry one more time during our stay. Both these times, she marinated the chicken barely for half an hour. When I tried this back in Dubai, I felt the chicken didn’t taste as good as hers (pretty sure that hen was raised on a farm). The next time I let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. This time the meat picked up more flavor and was much closer in taste her recipe. 

Here’s how the technique this recipe calls for is different. The marinated chicken is first cooked in dry heat again. No oil and absolutely no water. In about twenty minutes, the chicken will release its liquid and be partially cooked. That’s when the frying part begins. You start pouring in spoons full of coconut oil. As it heats, it starts to mildly char the chicken and dry out the marinade bits floating around. A handful of curry leaves are added towards the end and when they’re fried to a crisp the chicken fry is ready.


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I would text Nishana every time I made her Chicken fry but no longer do. Given the frequency it’s being made over here, I cannot possibly let her know every single time! When we parted, they promised to visit us at the end of this year. Given how the world is right now, nobody can tell when one can walk through the doors of an airport again. I’m grateful that our last vacation was to visit them and for the children to have met and bonded so quickly. We can’t wait to welcome you in Dubai. Until then, we will have to make do recounting our wonderful time in Wokingham. And of course, your Chicken Fry.


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Nishana’s Chicken Fry

INGREDIENTS

  • Chicken – Under 1 kilo, washed, cleaned and cut to pieces

  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder – 3 Tbsp

  • Turmeric Powder – 2 tsp

  • Fennel powder – 3 tsp

  • Garam Masala powder – 1/2 tsp

  • Powdered Fenugreek seeds – 2 pinches

  • Coriander powder – a pinch

  • Ginger Garlic paste – 3 tsp

  • Shallots – 4 peeled OR Onion – 1/4 roughly chopped

  • Salt – to taste

  • Curry leaves – a handful

  • Coconut Oil

METHOD

  • On a low flame, dry roast all the powders for half a minute just until the aroma is released.

  • In a grinder, blend the roasted powder, shallots OR onion, ginger garlic paste to a fine paste. It will be fairly thick.

  • Generously add salt to the marinade and mix well.

  • Cut tiny slits into the chicken meat to allow the marinade to penetrate.

  • In a glass bowl, place the chicken pieces and lightly salt the chicken pieces. Mix well.

  • Add the marinade and rub it into the chicken pieces thoroughly especially into the slits.

  • Marinate for minimum half an hour or overnight.

  • Heat a heavy bottomed sauce pan, and add the marinated chicken directly into the pan.

  • Without adding any liquid, let the chicken on a medium flame for 15-20 minutes.

  • After 20 minutes, the chicken would have released water.

  • Start adding coconut oil up to 9 Tablespoons in intervals to fry the chicken.

  • Add more oil if required.

  • The fried chicken will be fiery red in color and crisp.

  • Finish frying by adding the curry leaves a few minutes before you take the chicken off the heat.

  • Serve hot with Porotta, Neichor or Biriyani.

Have a good food day.

Pizzetta | Little hands at work and play


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When my son was born, one of the things that I was waiting for was to be in the kitchen together. I was not really allowed to help with cooking growing up. The occasional baking I was allowed were done completely independently and would almost come out of the oven completely burnt. When we first moved back to Dubai from Abu Dhabi, we had an open kitchen. From in between watching Blippi, he would walk over, take a few onions and sit on the floor removing their skins. I would give him little cups of water and he could spend an hour pouring it back and forth. nAround the time of weaning, he would bring his kitchen toys, set it on the floor and tell me what he was doing. I was thrilled when I felt he was ready to help me with a  simple recipe. One day we made oatmeal cookies. I have a picture of helping himself to remnants of the cookie batter on the spatula he was holding. That was the beginning of us cooking together and it has been wonderfully messy yet fulfilling. We’ve ticked off a lot of cookie and cupcake recipes. This year we started baking bread and one of the first recipes we made were these mini Pizzas. 


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One of the first things baby A would help me in the kitchen with was measuring. He would sit on the counter top and I would hand over the appropriate measuring cup and let him know the number of cups he needed to measure. At the cusp of 3, he could count to ten. He would then dig deep into the flour bin, giggling when he had created flour dust  and I would watch as some of it settled on his eyelashes. Almost a year later, he was comfortable leveling the top of the cup with the back of the spoon. This time when we made the dough, I watched part amazed and part proud how independently he had the flour ready. We chatted about why yeast smells a bit funky but how it is crucial for making fluffy bread. Asking him to knead is always met with a shout of delight and he quickly works his little fingers just like how he would when he would use Play Doh. Once it all comes together, I let him lift the top of the stand mixer and let him know what speed it needs to do its work. At this point, he knows the dough is going to take a while to rise and he’s out of the kitchen to wash his hands and in all probability get back to his LEGO workshop. 


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After making that dough from scratch, this recipe get a bit cheeky. I must admit I’m almost embarrassed to even put this out here. The pizza sauce. There’s no peeled garlic and no plump tomatoes blanched. No simmering for an hour and no stirring of fresh herbs. Involving children means the recipe methods must pander to their attention span and patience (and yours 😉 ). Someday when this little one grows up a bit more,  we will create pizza sauce for scratch. For now, it doesn’t get easier than this. Tomato ketchup is combined with mayonnaise and a sprinkle of oregano flakes and stirred till it turns well, peach. That’s it. And it surprisingly works! It’s a bit tart and a bit sweet and the Oregano lends some authenticity to this bizarre substitute.


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For toppings, you could get stick to your favourites or be ‘inspired’ by the contents of your refrigerator.  On this particular day, I had some unused gravy from my Butter Chicken Lasagna I had made earlier that week. I transferred it into a hot pan and let it cook down till it reduced and then I gently prodded the chicken in the pan itself till it was completely shredded. Accompanied by a few black Olive halves and Jalapeno slices, it made for a resourceful way to finish up my leftover Butter Chicken. As for the little guy, his requests are pretty much always just Pepperoni and Cheese. You could try Sausage rounds, thinly slivered Eggplant or even some Samosa mince that couldn’t make a whole filling.


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Be generous with your cheese. If it were a time where I was walking through the supermarket aisles myself, I would have bought some fresh Mozzarella. For now, it will have to be grated cheese and I won’t skimp on it. A loves this bit. It’s a task for little hands to make sure the cheese is sprinkled all over on the pizza alone and he would end it by picking up and redistributing the strands that fall on to the baking sheet. 

Baking time can be as little as 15 minutes but if your cheese hasn’t melted completely you could wait for another 5 minutes. Any more and you risk burning your Pizzetta bottoms especially if you’ve decided to roll your bases out thinly. The Pizzettas are best eaten about ten minutes after they’re out from the oven. The cheese should have cooled just enough and the right temperature for little fingers to handle. They’ll love to eat these with all the effort they’ve put in.  


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Pizzetta

INGREDIENTS

  • Active dried Yeast – 1 tsp

  • Warm water – 1/4 cup

  • All Purpose Flour – 2 cups

  • Sugar – 3 tsp

  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp

  • Salt – a pinch

  • Butter, room temperature – 3 1/2 tsp OR 50 g

  • Milk – 1/4 cup

  • Water – as needed

  • Olive oil – as needed

  • Grated Mozzarella Cheese – as needed

ASSEMBLY

  • Tomato ketchup – 6 Tbsp

  • Mayonnaise – 3 Tbsp

  • Dried Oregano – 2 tsp

  • Your choice of toppings

METHOD

  • Stir the yeast in the warm water. Set it aside for 15 min or until its foamy on the surface.

  • In a clean bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix them.

  • Add the butter and milk and gently stir them into the flour mixture. The butter doesn’t have to be completely combined just yet.

  • Stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture.

  • Start kneading the dough using medium pressure. Add water sparingly as needed to make the dough smooth.

  • Once the dough forms a ball, knead by hand or a stand mixer for 10 minutes. It is ready when the dough springs back slightly after you press a finger into it.

  • Gently pat a little olive oil on the surface of the dough.

  • Use a few drops of olive oil and spread it inside a large bowl. There should be enough room for the dough to rise.

  • Place the dough inside the bowl and cover with a cloth or cling wrap.

  • Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour minimum and a maximum of 4 hours. The dough should double in size.

  • On a clean surface, use your hands to flatten the dough into a large rectangle.

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.

  • Use a rolling pin and gently roll out the dough. It should have a thickness of half an inch.

  • Use a small metal bowl or a circle cookie cutter and cut out mini circles. They should be roughly the size of your palm.

  • Transfer these to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil making sure they are an inch apart from each other.

  • Combine the Mayonnaise, ketchup and oregano together.

  • Spoon this mixture on top of each Pizzetta round.

  • Add your pizza toppings.

  • Cover generously with grated Mozzarella.

  • Sprinkle a pinch Oregano over each Pizzetta on top of the cheese.

  • Bake the Pizzettas for 15-18 minutes. The dough would have puffed slightly and the cheese should be completely melted.

  • Serve them warm.