Despite our best efforts, it is inevitable that kids, at some point, will develop a penchant for junk-food. From colourful candies, that are the hallmark of khoi bags at birthday parties, to the tangy magic of deep-fried chips during a school break, temptation is everywhere and it can be difficult to resist.
While I have no intention of being that mum who denies her child refined sugars and maida, I have admittedly started making healthier swaps to the extent possible, while prioritising the provenance of ingredients. Jr eats what we eat and on most days, our meals are planned around really delicious food that also happens to be good for you. Case-in-point: this virtuous take on pizza made with nutrient-rich nachni and khapli wheat, a long grain wheat native to Maharashtra which is low on the glycemic index. The results are far too more-ish to be classified merely as healthy. The ingredients manifest themselves in a deliciously thin-crust pizza that is a perfect canvas for all your favourite toppings, from fresh mozzarella to crumbled cottage cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil!
To make the pizza dough
1 cup nachni flour
1 cup khapli wheat (alternatively replace with wholewheat flour)
½ tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
100 ml lukewarm water + more as required
2 tbsp olive oil + more as required
½ tsp salt
When baking any type of bread, always start by “proofing” your yeast to make sure it’s still active. Heat the water until it is just lukewarm (if the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast). Stir in the sugar and the yeast, and let the mixture sit for 10– 15 minutes until the yeast has completely dissolved and the mixture is foamy, a sign that the yeast is active. If the mixture isn’t bubbly, your yeast might be old (or dead!) and your dough will simply not rise. At this point, it’s better to throw out the mixture and start afresh with new yeast.
Next, add the nachni and khapli flours to the frothy yeast mixture, and a little bit more water, to mix the dough together until it starts coming together in a shaggy mass. Mix in the olive oil and salt and then tip the dough onto a lightly-floured surface, kneading well until you have a smooth (ish) ball.
Brush a large bowl with olive oil before placing your ball of dough in it. Liberally coat the dough all over with more oil and cover the bowl with a damp cloth, leaving it in a warm place for a few hours.
When you are ready to bake your pizzas, preheat the oven to 225 degrees celsius. Divide the dough into 3-4 balls and roll them out (on a lightly-floured surface) into round disks having about ¼ inch thickness. Bake the dough on a baking tray for 6-7 minutes until it starts to firm up but is not fully done.
Remove from the oven; liberally spread the tomato sauce over the half-baked pizza (see below for my signature recipe), sprinkle on lots of fresh mozzarella cheese and top off as desired (bell peppers, julienned onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes make for wonderful toppings).
Pop the pizza back in the oven for another 3-4 minutes until the edges are crisp and the base has baked through. Baking times vary from oven-to-oven and depending on personal preference for how thin and crisp you’d like your pizzas. Serve your pizza hot off the oven, with a garnish of fresh basil leaves and a drizzle more of olive oil to finish.
To make the tomato sauce
4-6 fresh tomatoes
1 medium onion
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
A good splash (2-3 tbsp) of olive oil
½-1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp red chilli flakes (can increase depending on heat preference)
1 tsp paprika
2-3 tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1½–2 tsp sugar (adjust depending on taste)
¾-1 tsp salt (I use sea salt)
A few good grinds of black pepper
Blanche the tomatoes: score a small ‘x’ on the bottom of each tomato using a sharp knife. Add to a pot of boiling water for about 1 or 2 minutes. Once removed, allow the tomatoes to cool before peeling.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add in the onions first, cooking for a few minutes until sizzling. Then stir in the garlic, chilli flakes, oregano. Cook for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant and have released their flavour and aroma.
Next add the tomatoes, bringing the sauce to a gentle boil. Stir in the chopped basil leaves and season with paprika, sugar, salt and black pepper. Lower the heat (to medium-low) and let the sauce simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes or so until it has thickened. Stir occasionally and adjust the seasonings as per your taste. During this time, the herbs and spices will infuse their magic and the flavour of the tomatoes will be amplified and much more concentrated.
You can use the sauce immediately. Be generous and spread it evenly across the pizza dough.