Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Veggie Pizza That Wasn't

OR, When Idiots Invade Your Kitchen.

This recipe is a fable. The moral of which is, spit-roast fools on a beach. Or, lock your heart against charity.

Two young people I have considerable personal objection to have been making a racket all evening close by protesting the constant flow of festive Bengali meals this pujo, till their mother convinced my mother to send me over to lend a hand with them and her in-laws so she could get the big Nobomi dinner prepared in a faint imitation of peace. So off I went, sacrificed at the altar of the Milk of Human Kindness. Again.

The Veggie Monster

Since the kitchen was occupied and the children pretty much holding a two-people protest rally against the food in it anyway, their grandfather suggested "we" use the smaller kitchen upstairs to make them "something interesting" to eat. A do-it-yourself dinner, only of course I would be doing the actual doing. Very well. Taking stock of the small fridge and the single-shelf-pantry and keeping "interesting" in mind, I suggested we make pizza. A general cheer went up. All we needed was cheese, which was fetched forthwith. Then, trouble began.

"You're going to make begoon pizza!" screeched The Younger, appalled, seeing me take a lovely purple brinjal out of the fridge (that's aubergine/eggplant for those that don't follow 'brinjal').
"Yes!", I said, with the 1000-watt fake cheer one puts on when dealing with children one particularly dislikes.
"You're so stupid," said Younger, while Older screamed, "Dadooooo! She's feeding us begoon pizza!" Like I was shoving it down his screechy throat.

Enter stage right, grandfather known as Dadu. "You're going to feed baked begoon to children?" he accused.
"No," I said, irritated and showing, "I will slice these thinly, rub them with a little salt, turmeric and sugar, fry them, and then put them on the pizza".
"Why?" demanded Older.
"Will you make daal-bhaat pizza next?" Asked Younger slyly. Daal, rice and begoonbhaja is something of an everyday Bengali delicacy.
Sensing rising tempers, Dadu re-assumed strike "Begoon is fine, fine" he began in a pacifying tone, "But you see, the reason we're making them dinner upstairs is because they specifically don't want any more of the usual fare from downstairs..."

I gave up. After all, it wasn't MY grandchildren I was trying to feed. Although if you're going to make veggie pizza at home, I strongly advice one try with the brinjal. Just fry it like I say above and use instead of meat. I filched the idea from my Sicilian classmate who used to make the most divine parmigiana. Really, all we're doing is adding a flour crust. And some other delicious things :-)

"Okay!" I said with furious cheer, "no begoon! We'll have a lovely tomato-garlic-onion pizza!" To soothe myself, I started making an artistic pile on the kitchen slab.

Two stony faces met my faux-smile. They were good stony faces. Too bad I'm not a softie, or a grandparent. I gave them a happy smile--a real one.
"Well, I'm going to make a lovely tomato-onion pizza! And then, I will go downstairs and eat the wonderful prawns Ma is making. Mmm!"
"Can we have the ham Baba brought last week?" ventured Older, always the first to fold.
"Your baba bought ham into the house?" asked Dadu sharply.
"Whatever", said I, ending the conversation.
Older sped off.

The 'ham' turned out to be 'smoked meat' cut from the animal's belly.

That's right. We were going to have bacon pizza.

The crust: I mixed a teaspoon of dried yeast in a cup of warm water. People watched googly-eyed and tried to taste the yeast behind my back. Then, I poured some sunflower oil (in absence of olive) in about four or five fistfuls of flour+half teaspoon salt, kneaded well till the flour was crumbly, then poured the yeasty-water in to make a stretchy dough. I thought I'd dissolve a spoonful of sugar in the warm water before adding it to the yeast for more flavour to the crust, but what with cooking with only quarter of my mind, I forgot.

Once done, put the dough in a container with a tight lid and let it rise overnight. Or at least an hour or so :-) Please don't use plastic wraps if you can avoid it. I hate the casual use of plastic when something renewable, multipurpose and more eco-friendly like lidded containers are so easily available.

Toppings: Slice or dice tomatoes. Crush garlic with the back of the knife. Peel and slice onions. Chop fresh coriander leaves/cilantro. Toss the onions and garlic in a teaspoon of hot oil. If you really mind missing out on the sugar earlier, compensate by adding some now and frying the onion till they turn a lovely shade of lilac-brown.

Now, on a greased baking dish--they only had square ones (and so do I, actually) so these are square pizzas--stretch the dough out till it forms a thin, unbroken layer all over it. If the dough tears, just pull it back together, no harm done. But make sure it isn't too thick, or it'll have underdone patches. Now just arrange the layers--sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, fried onions.

 Had I been cooking for myself, I would have rubbed the tomatoes with oil and baked them by themselves for a few minutes, to dry the cores out while preserving the taste, but I just wanted to be done with this act of charity as soon as possible. Because, forget not, I was being nudged and shoved and knives were being played with as I made dinner.

We were doing fine till the fresh-from-the-smoked-carcass bacon. "It won't take a minute to fry", I said, putting a frying pan on the stove. "It can cook in the oven", said Younger with authority, "I'm hungry!". "Please don't waste any unnecessary time", chirped Dadu. "They're so hungry". So I rolled up the square pieces of bacon, chopped them up, and made a layer of meat. Of course, it was going to release a lot of liquid fat upon baking, and the liquid was going to make the dough soggy. But, it wasn't my funeral.

 Now garnish with the chopped coriander leaves, salt, pepper, and if you like, a dash of paprika. Put another layer of cheese on top. The ovens here come with very specific settings, so I preheated at 100C and baked for 20 minutes (give or take) at 150C, and then grilled just the top at 200C for about 3-5 minutes. Melted cheese below, and grilled cheese above. Mmmmm!

 This story could have had a happy ending right here, but alas, it was not to be. The bacon fat and water from the tomato did make the dough soggy. See bottom-right corner of pic above. So... after all that effort, I had to then cut up the pizza into slices, and fry it on a goddamned tawa to make the crust edible.

 And thus ended my misadventure of feeding recalcitrant children by trying to teach them how to cook. Never again. And I advise you most strongly against it too.


sandman said...

DO you realize how very Susan this is?

Rimi said...

Who is Susan?

Monidipa said...

Sto Helit, I'm imagining.

Also, I get kaaNpuni diye jwor to even fry an egg, but even so, do you think baking on a grill would have saved the crust from getting soggy?

Dea-chan said...

omg I hate that kind of thing. I love where you put in about how you're not a softie. Why was their grandfather making sure that they were spoiled? Didn't he have better things to do? Like the party going on?

Gah. My cousin was pretty much equally spoiled -- she had her food cut up for her until she was like 10. She only stopped because she wanted to be like the cool kids (us) and we were snickering and making fun of her.

Dea-chan said...

I also want to know who this Susan is...

sandman said...

You imagine correct monidipa

Rimi said...

To answer the Susan question--she's Death's grand-daughter in Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and as far as I remember, used to be a very stern school mistress or governess who despised the coddling children received from most adults. She took their fears (like bogeymen) seriously and showed them how to deal with it seriously (take a stick and beat the living daylights out of them instead of calling for mummy) -- which personally I think is a fine lesson to impart to children about all metaphorical terrors. Given that, my lord Morpheus, I take that as a compliment. Thank you.

T, I imagine people like the grandfather spend their later years wondering where they went wrong and why their precious grandchildren are no longer the angels they used to be. In fact, I know several people like that who simply can't *understand* why their kids became such whiny co-dependent creatures with a huge sense of entitlement. Or just meanies (these kids are perceptibly mean).

You might also want to see something else I wrote about the way children are brought up these days here :)

Mandy, you're a truer fan than I am :P And it might have, but the grill would leave it's charred marks on the crust. What's fine on meat is not fine on flour, see?

Magically Bored said...

That looks delicious!

Rimi said...

Thank you :)

Soapsuds said...

OHMYGOD. Will you be in Calcutta during December? PLEASE say you will? PLEASE impart some of your culinary wisdom to me? Please oh please oh please. I survive on Hostel food. You know how that is, right? :( Please.


Rimi said...

I will be in Calcutta during winter, Oshmi, but didnt you use to be a pretty brilliant cook yourself?

Ru said...

Wow Nundy, ki boka boka tumi, I don't think begoon on pizza would be something even the most docile and well behaved and accommodating child would agree to. Ar tomar moton toh oder Sicilian classmate nei, ba tomar moton boi-o ora poreni je ora janbe begoon on pizza is acceptable. You can be quite insufferable sometimes and now is one of those times.
Ar boka bachhader jonno eto khatle keno? Mudir dokan theke kena pizza crust ey baniye dite, ora thhori bujhto.


Rimi said...

Because amar parar mudir dokane pizza crust paoa jaaye na, Srin. Eta south/central na.

Also, the point is, oder opinion ke cheyechhe? Polau mangsho na bhalo laage, ja baniye debo lokkhi chheler moto tai khaabe. Fridge e achhe begoon and tomato, khali tomato toh khelo na, vegetable ki ami aakash theke namiye aanbo? With nyaka dadu at my heels?

Tor moto gole-jaoa loker jonnoi eirokom bachhare mathaye bhooter moto chore naache.

Sue said...

So what I don't understand is why you aren't coming to cook for me. This weekend would work for me.

Rimi said...

Pagol naki! I've almost quit the kitchen since I've moved back. I leave all hot and sweaty activities involving food to Shobha Di, who is more than happy to shoo me out of the kitchen, bless her.

Sue said...

Then what's the point of these posts, I say. :(

Rimi said...

Nije banao :P

kaichu said...

priyanka, priyanka. this is why i dont read you bleddy food blog. shala college e khudhartho boshe acchi, baritey ranna nei aar ranna korar ichhe o nei, korar sorongjaam o nei. bhallagena :((

i shall now go eat ice cream. because i dont have to make it.

Dennis Rode said...

Ow, that pizza rocks! It's a pizza for every big guy! I wonder how many calories there are in this pizza. Well anyway, it doesn't matter for me, but for my girlfriend, it's a big deal because she just had undergone liposuction at Tampa. She's a pizza monster before, but now she's very watchful about her eating habit. Since she maintains her good shape, I think I'll treat her some pizza. I'll follow your instructions, and I'll cook this recipe on Saturday.

Terry said...

That made me drool! Weew! Pizzas are so yummy and cravings will push you to eat more! Hehe! It's good to eat pizza occasionally, but not regularly. One wouldn't want those fats coming in, for sure..

[Terry Bayer]