I confess liking pizza to a fault. I do not agree with the size markings of a restaurant, as my skills have helped me demolish large pizzas without any discomfort or seeking out digestive aids.
So, when the zucchinis in my fridge cried out that I had forgotten them, I decided to put them on a pizza. This is the first time I made pizza at home.
Careful not to dent my confidence, I picked up some pizza base and ladled out a spicy tomato mix. Home-made sauces work better, I feel, as one can spice them up the way you want. I added in some grated mozarella before loading up the veggies.
The zucchinis were happily laid out after a light dry grill on the skillet. A few slices of sweet potato, lightly grilled filled in empty spaces. A yellow bell pepper genially sat in on the base with them. I introduced some fresh brown mushrooms to them all. As one can see in the picture, there is a pile of veggies. Cracked on some black pepper and oregano. And then, I popped the three pizzas in the oven for about 15-17 minutes. I continually check on the food and estimate their readiness relying only on my eyes.
What came out was a crisp, biscuit-y pizza base with soft, fragrant veggies. Threw on some chopped olives and parmesan cheese dust. I think I will have to introduce some red peppers and basil to make it more pleasing to the eye, to satisfy the photographer in me. But the pizzas certainly did the trick in making for a happy dinner. In case anybody is wondering, the wife had one and I gobbled the other two!
Before I sign off, here’s something to chew on:
“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
Aunt closes the big oven door. In a few moments, her airy kitchen is filled with warm, aromatics of the casserole bubbling in there.
“You know, I love such one pot meals,” said I. “Make them regularly at home. I just throw in some thinly sliced zucchini.”
“Oh, you like zucchini?” she said.
And then, I saw a quick blur, as aunt whizzed past me, into her gorgeous home garden in a picturesque village in Nottingham, UK and came back with a long, emerald zucchini. In seconds, it was sliced and popped into the casserole in the oven.
My expression was ‘what just happened’!
Meet Superwoman Sunanda Chatterjee. My wife’s aunt. I have happily adopted her as my aunt. Nicknamed Bumble Bee, she is always buzzing around to make sure everyone is well fed and happy. She’s quite the thing – a qualified doctor by day, consummate home maker and a cook par excellence. Am trying to bully her to write her cook book.
One of the first things I noticed is her well stocked kitchen. There isn’t anything that you cannot find in there. Rosemary powder? Check. German shortbread? Check. Strong roasted coffee? Check. Teas from gardens of the world? Check. Peri Peri sauce? Check. I should have looked harder for a chef’s hat – would have found that too!
The other thing I noticed is her beautiful garden where she grows her English roses, honeysuckles and a bunch of other beautiful flowers whose names escape me. She scaped the garden herself and tends to it regularly. To the left is a fish pond. And farther left, is where she grows her veggies. That ripe zucchini, the one that was bubbling in the oven, came from there. She grows squash, brinjals, tomatoes, pumpkin, potatoes and maize. I am a huge fan of the style and rustic elegance (did I just coin that phrase) of Jamie Oliver. His series on cooking all across Britain using what he could get his hands on, is inspiring, mildly put. This felt just like his show. There are ways to grow a few veggies and making one’s own dry spice mix by sun-drying herbs. My mother used to grow tomatoes, Thai chillies, cucumber. We never had a garden but mum used to grow them in small pots. As a child, I used to be filled with amazement seeing vegetables grow at home. It added perspective as opposed to picking up what you want and when you want from the market. And now, I was in Superwoman’s vegetable garden, reliving my childhood amazement!
A day earlier, she went to another part of her garden and came back with a small basket of hand-picked cherries, raspberries and blueberries! I have never had such raspberries, considering that raspberries and I cannot get along in temperament. In fact, I polished it all off.
I realised exactly what ‘fresh from the garden’ really meant. It doesn’t get fresher than this. The soil and water plays an important role in how your veggies taste. For those that are inspired to start a home garden, here is a quick link, how to: http://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/ten-steps-to-beginning-a-garden/. I do peg home gardens as the next level of ‘foodie’ aspiration – to grow your own vegetables, even if they are just chillies. There is a little more fun than picking up a bunch from a plant than from a supermarket.