Pizza Margherita

Any pizzeria or a restaurant I go that serves pizza, I’d first try their Margherita. If they can get the margherita right, I can trust them with the rest. Besides, I just love pizza margherita 😀
I find the store bought pizza base repulsive! Might as well use a large slice of bread. So I decided to make my own base. It’s quite easy actually. Just flour, yeast, sugar, salt and warm water and yes, I forgot, patience as well because it involves letting the dough rest for 2 hours or more.
Margherita is the most simple and unassuming kind of pizza but so delicious! Just tomato sauce, basil and cheese. Could it be any more uncomplicated? Just make sure you have good cheese. You do get ‘pizza cheese’ in supermarket which is fine but try to get some good cheddar as well. Just a favorite, that’s all.
3 ½ cups flour
1 cup warm water (not hot please)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry active yeast
4 ripe tomatoes
1 small onion
1 pod garlic
Salt to taste
Bunch of basil leaves
1 cup shredded cheese (combination of cheddar and mozzarella)
For the dough, in a cup mix the salt and sugar in the warm water and then add the yeast. Let this sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. In a large bowl sift in the flour and add the yeast mixture. Slowly bring it all together. When it becomes tough to mix any further, tip it on a clean floured surface and knead the dough till it is smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let it prove (rise) for an hour. After an hour, knock back the dough to deflate it and let it sit again for another hour. Now make about 4-5 portions of the dough forming balls. Roll or pat it till desired thickness of the crust.
For the topping, sauté finely chopped onion and garlic in hot oil till it changes color. Add the tomatoes and let it cook for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste. Churn this into a sauce using your blender. It’s alright even if it isn’t smooth.
Top your base with the home made tomato sauce, randomly toss basil leaves (the more the better) on the sauce, and top it all with the shredded cheese (the more the better). Leave about ¼ inch from the sides of the base. Pop it into your pre-heated oven and bake it for 20 minutes at 200 C, or till the sides are brown. Out it comes and you have your very own pizza margherita from scratch! You can go crazy with toppings. The pizza base is your canvas!
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Tandoori chicken

For once we thought we’d go the Indian way with the classic Tandoori chicken. But I wasn’t sure about how close we could get to the real deal. Obvious reason being we’d use the OTG and not the ‘tandoor’. Anyhow, the results were fantastic. Juicy, succulent and tender chicken grilled in the oven to sheer perfection. Minimum use of oil (like ½ tsp per piece) and no food coloring at all, this was a guilt-free pleasure.
½ kg chicken
½ cup curd
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp garam masala powder
2 tsp red chilli powder (alter to achieve desired ‘hotness’)
2 tsp cumin powder
1 large lemon
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
Oil – ½ – 1 tsp per piece
The trick to get all the spices into the chicken and to make it as tender as possible is to marinate the chicken in the above mentioned ingredients for 6 hours or more. We were supposed to serve the chicken for lunch, therefore drenched it the marinade for like an hour or so and went shopping (for groceries). We did get a little carried away and lost track of time. That’s how the chicken sat in the fridge marinating for another 7-8 hours. It was meant to be!
So after the poor bird has had its share of spices forced into it, pre-heat the oven to 200C and let the chicken sit out at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes. Using the grill accessory of the oven, place the chicken pieces of equal sizes gently on the greased grill and pop it into the oven and bake for 30 minutes on each side at 180C, greasing it with 1/2 – 1 tsp oil. After which turn up the heat a notch (225C) and place the grill on the top most level of the oven for about 7-8 minutes. This is just to get a nice char grilled color (if that’s a thing) on the chicken. Take it off and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side. Tip: Place a tray below the grill in the oven when the chicken is in there, to collect the juices dripping. Else you’d be scrubbing your oven forever!

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Strawberry Shortcake

This was a demand from a very good friend. I hadn’t even eaten shortcake before myself. But ever since she’d asked for it, I was curious to bake this. Turns out it’s really easy to bake and what’s even better is that it tastes so good! Light and airy, yet so decadent (well that depends on what you serve it with). You can simply bake the shortcake and serve it with anything. I chose strawberries and cream (had to stick to the demand you see). You could try other berries or even mango or caramelized bananas even. This one’s for you Ree!

Ingredients for shortcake:
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
1 large egg slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup fresh cream
Pinch of salt
Egg wash:
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp cream
1 cup chopped strawberries
¼ cup sugar (this will depend on the tartness of the berries)
½ cup cream (whipped)
In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix with the flour till it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Now add the egg, cream and vanilla. Mix till it all comes together and then knead it for a few minutes till it forms a smooth dough. Now roll out the dough on a clean, floured surface to 1 inch thickness. Cut out round shapes of dough and place on butter paper lined baking tray. Brush with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes in your pre-heated oven in 200C, or until the top is golden brown and the centre is cooked.
In the meantime, mix the strawberries with the sugar and let it sit in room temperature for about an hour. Cut the shortcake horizontally. Top the bottom half with the strawberries and its syrup (which is amazing by itself) and top that with some whipped cream. Cover with the top half of the shortcake and serve. Consume immediately otherwise it might disappear from your plate. That is if you aren’t alone. Otherwise it’s simply spooky!

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Chocolate Mug Cake

This was totally accidental and we loved it. I had some cooking chocolate I wanted to finish it (surprised I even had some). The thing is you really can’t go wrong with chocolate, butter, eggs and sugar. But yes, the proportions have to be right. Else you’d end up with scrambled chocolate eggs (no its not a good idea!). Do try this at home. Very easy, very tasty. Know the ‘Dairy milk Silk’ commercial? Yeah that was us towards the end of the pot of molten gooey-chocolaty goodness. Ok I’ll stop.
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Whenever I walk past a bakery, particularly the smaller ones in the neighborhood, my pace slows down a tad just so I could take a whiff of freshly baked bread. Such a comfort. Call me weird but it just feels like a big warm hug. So now I wanted that in my house. I’ve been baking for a while now. Lots of cakes, pies, brownies, and the likes, but never bread. This is no fancy recipe. It’s from the recipe book that came with the oven.
250 gm flour
1 tbsp yeast
150 ml warm water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Take 2 tbsp of the warm water and mix the yeast and sugar in it. Keep aside for 10 minutes. In another big mixing bowl sieve in the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix till it forms a dough. Now put this on your (clean) kitchen counter and knead well for about 10 minutes. You will find this very therapeutic. Now cover it with a damp muslin cloth and leave it to prove (rise) for about an hour. After an hour take off the cloth and knock back the dough and knead again for a couple of minutes. You can shape it however you like or just make a long loaf and place it on your baking tray or loaf tin and set aside to prove again for another hour (I know!). In your pre-heated oven, bake for 30 minutes in 200 C. You can sprinkle sesame seeds like I did.
There you go. Your very own loaf of bread 🙂
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Chocolate chunk blueberry cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies. But the chocolate chips are so tiny, my brain doesn’t comprehend that it is in fact chocolate. So I decided whenever I get down to baking these I’d add chunks of chocolate and not itsy bitsy chocolate chips. And well, the blueberries you ask? I just have to use them somewhere!

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar (you can use either completely brown or white sugar)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cup chocolate chunks
1 cup dried blueberries (optional)
Mix the flour, salt and baking soda together. In another bowl whisk the butter/margarine with the sugars together till light and fluffy. Add the egg and the egg yolk and mix well. Add vanilla and mix. Slowly add the flour mix to it and fold gently. Don’t over mix. Stir in the chocolate and blueberries. Make balls from the dough as the size of golf balls maybe (I can’t measure these things) and place them on the baking tray lined with butter paper (to make things easier of course). Bake in your pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes in 180 C. Serve with a warm glass of milk or coffee. I usually don’t bother with either 😉

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Chocolate Pudding

This must be every chocoholic’s comfort food. Late night, long after dinner, when all you need is a good movie on the television and a quilt to snuggle in, chocolate pudding is what you need in your hands. It’s so easy to whip up and all you need is what you already must have in your kitchen pantry. You can also serve this with some strawberries. Goes perfectly.
¾ cup sugar
3 tbsp corn flour
1/3 cup coco powder
A pinch of salt
2 ½ cups milk
½ cup cream
4 egg yolks
½ cup cooking chocolate (chopped)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter at room temperature
Using double boiler method (steel bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) brings together coco powder, corn flour, sugar and salt. Whisk in ½ cup of the milk and cook till you have a thick paste. Add the yolks one at a time so it doesn’t scramble. Set aside. Now boil the remaining milk and cream. Let the temperature come down a little and then you can mix this into the egg and coco mixture slowly, whisking all the while to make it smooth. Now cook this entire mixture in a saucepan for about 5 minutes till the consistency is really thick. Remove from heat and strain in case you find lumps. Finally add the vanilla and the chocolate. Pour into serving bowls. It can be served warm as well as chilled. Any which way make sure you cover with cling film so it doesn’t form skin (you would want it, would you?).
I’d not eat this in front of anyone. Trust me it is NOT elegant when you’re licking the bowl in the end.
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