My phone rings in the middle of my shower and Hitesh answers it. It is my sister Gauri who lives in Bombay and absolutely ‘needs’ the recipe for Daadi’s pizza sauce, at this very minute. And the recipe encyclopaedia that I seem to be for my siblings, I start bellowing it out even as I am shampooing my hair. “Oil, ajwain (carom), onion, garlic…..”
Daadi’s pizza sauce is a thing of legend in the family. My first memory of witnessing gluttony on a mass scale are formed around pizza nights for the family. Our little domestic electric oven struggled to keep up with our hungry hordes who all wanted “maybe one more…” and “this has GOT TO be my last!” Oh boy, we sure could put away that pizza! That night, the grown-ups would sneak to the fridge for a midnight pizza snack. The kids would want it for breakfast the next morning as well. There had to be something wrong with us.
The pizzas were fairly simple. We used readymade bread-y pizza bases available from the local bakery. These were slathered with the magic pizza sauce and topped with chopped onion, capsicum and fistfuls of grated, processed cheddar. This was in the early to mid-eighties, a time when Indian kitchens didn’t have easy access to the more exotic ingredients like oregano, basil, paprika, red and yellow bell peppers or even mushrooms.
I find it interesting that to mimic the flavour of oregano in the sauce, Daadi used ajwain seeds as a substitute and I have retained that element for my recipe as well. Of course, now I can chose to top my pizza with every possible ingredient and lusciously gooey mozzarella but a ‘happy making’ pizza still remains the plain cheese one. “Loads of pizza sauce, please. Hold the cheese…”
This pizza sauce has become a staple and very versatile base for many of my recipes. I use it mixed with assorted other ingredients for dips, pasta sauces, sandwich spreads and occasionally to add a little something to my traditional Indian recipes as well. So, come winter, when the tomatoes are plump, gorgeously red and at an unbelievable 8 rupees a kilo, we all know it’s time for a pizza party or two. Maybe three…
5 cups ripe, tomatoes chopped
3 cups onions, chopped
1/3 cup garlic, minced
¼ cup oil
1tsp ajwain seeds (carom, bishop’s weed)
1tsp or more red chilli powder
½ tsp black pepper powder
1 ½ tbsp. sugar
Salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the ajwain seeds and let pop.
- Immediately add the onions. Stir and cover. Allow the onions to sweat and turn translucent.
- Add the garlic, mix and cook for 4-5 mins more. Add the tomatoes, red chilli powder, sugar, black pepper and mix well.
- Add the salt at this point so that it allows the tomatoes to cook down faster.
- Continue cooking on low heat till the excess water from the tomatoes evaporates and the sauce thickens.
- The sauce will start leaving the sides of the pan and turn glossy. Cool completely before bottling.
- For an extra depth of flavour, add a dash of smoky barbeque sauce and omit the 1 tbsp of sugar.