Folks, I begin to type this post three slices in to what is undeniably the best pizza I have ever made at home (ignoring, for a moment, it’s amoeba shape). It’s an unusual marriage of ingredients, I concede, but please give me a chance to explain why I think you should see this in the light it deserves: a slightly different take on a very traditional combination of foods. What if I simply called this a ‘roasted aubergine and tomato pizza with marinated vegetables’? Would this name make you want to scream “Lady, give the silly fusion-izing a rest, please!” a little less? I sure hope so, because you will thank me later.
(For the non-Indians, baingan bharta is a very common vegetable dish made with smoky-roasted eggplant, tomatoes and onions, with a nice red chilli powder kick. I made this pizza with some leftovers at home, but I’ve given an easy, to-scale version below. If you have a favorite baingan bharta recipe, make it for dinner one night, and use the leftovers for this pizza the next day.)
Baingan bharta and marinated vegetables pizza
For the baingan bharta:
2-3 skinny/long aubergines, cut in half lengthwise
1 tomato, chopped (can use tinned)
1/2 red onion, chopped (or a couple of tablespoons of whatever onion you have on hand)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder / 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
a generous pinch of smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt to taste
For the marinated vegetables:
5-6 thin slices zucchini
2-3 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 tomato, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs thyme
1 tsp sumac (completely optional)
salt to taste
For the pizza dough (you can use store bought/another favorite recipe, but here’s a basic recipe for a nice sized thin crust pizza):
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Parmesan, to shave on top (optional, but very very good on this)
Optional: I also used about a tablespoon of jarred chilli-garlic sauce because this batch of baingan bharta wasn’t as spicy as I wanted.
If making, prepare your dough:
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast (if unsure about your yeast, mix it into your warm water instead and wait for it to froth. If it doesn’t, discard, curse a bit, and try again with a fresher packet of yeast).
Make a well in the center, add the water and olive oil. Using a fork, mix the flour into the liquid by stirring steadily, and drawing the flour in. Once it becomes faily clumpy and un-stirrable, using lightly floured hands, start to lightly knead and bring in all the floury bits into on cohesive mass. If too dry, add a bit more water, if too sticky, add a bit more flour (1/2 tsp at a time).
Knead for a few minutes, till the dough feels slightly elastic and springy under your fingers. Lightly oil the bowl, and your ball of dough, cover bowl with clingfilm and place in a warm place to rise. This may take anywhere between 1 hour to 3 hours. The important thing is that your dough double to twice its size. If impatient, cheat: heat oven to 50 degrees celcius, turn off, place bowl in oven for an hour, till risen.
If making, prepare your eggplant while waiting for your dough to rise (or up to three days in advance):
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Prick the cut sides all over with a fork, and coat with 1/2 tbsp olive oil, season with some salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, or till completely tender. Heat the remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the onion and saute till lightly browned and soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till any rawness is gone and they have melted.
In the meanwhile, using your fingers, or a spoon, scoop out the flesh from the aubergines and discard the skin and stems.
Add the chilli powder and paprika tothe tomato mixture, and mix well. Add the aubergine flesh and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning if required and cook on a low flame for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature (and place in fridge if making in advance).
Marinate your vegetables:
Mix all the ingredients for this together, cover and keep aside.
Now, finally the good part! Assemble your pizza!
Lightly flour a baking sheet and roll/press out your dough as thin as you like/can manage. Let it rest for 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, preheat your oven to its highest temperature (about 200-250 degrees Celcius).
If using, spread the chilli garlic paste onto your pizza base.
Spread the baingan bharta on top of this.
Arrange the veggies next.
Bake on a lower shelf for 10-12 minutes, shave over some Parmesan and serve!
(Whew! That was a long post!)