Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Khandeshi Pithla

And so it happened again. Sigh!
My tendinitis is back. Every time I use my right hand (which is ALL the time) I get shooting pain and I feel immobilized for a minute.
The pain subsides and I try again, it hurts. And so it has been going on for a few days now. I decided to take it easy.
Making fulkas was out of the question, so I got some Wheat Tortillas from Kroger to use instead.
( I am not advertising here, merely sharing my experience with you all ) a few months ago, my friend Samta, introduced me to these tortillas and I was surprised that they worked so well as a substitute for fulkas. All it needs is a grill to set atop the stove and high heat, just roast them and smear with ghee and you are set.
I find these very convenient to use when in trouble like now or even on days I cannot make any at home. 

I am also very lucky, I have friends who pitch in and help.
My friend, Tanu, made and sent over some choley and sheera, that took care of our dinner and M's lunchbox and I got invited to lunch at her place, the next day. 
This was one invitation I did not turn down. Tanu and I, apart from being good friends, share quite a few things in common, we both like good food, we both love a good laugh. This makes for a very good combination and we look forward to eating, laughing and sharing recipes.
Our cooking styles are pretty similar too and that makes us very comfortable and confident of what is being served.

Maharashtrian food

So when I rang her doorbell today, I knew what she was making, however, I was not prepared to be dazzled by the taste of her version of 'Khandeshi Pithla' a recipe passed on to her by her Mother-in-law.
Now pithla is typically the poor man's food and is paired with bhakri (a gluten free and fat free skillet flat bread). This classic combination is comfort food to most Maharashtrians. In the USA, it is a big deal! Making bhakri requires skill, patience and believe it or not, luck. If you are lucky, you will get fresh flour ( Jowar, in this case). So you can imagine my delight and eager anticipation!

The bhakri making began in earnest, with a warning not to expect something wonderful,which was quite unnecessary.  In the meantime, I checked the Pithla and stirred it around, letting the aroma whet my appetite. I knew then, this was a wonderful recipe and I had to blog about it. 

As I broke off piece after piece of the bhakri and scooped up pithla and ate, I realized that this recipe was a bit different than what was made in my home, Tanu explained that this was the 'Khandeshi' style.
And in between her explanation and my eager shoveling the fire alarm went off like a banshee, scaring us out of our wits. We ran around like squawking chickens, grabbing a towel here or a t-shirt there and flapping away at the alarm and switching on the fans and opening doors letting in the cold breeze.
It almost became a routine, talk and eat, run around flapping some odd garment to make the pealing alarm stop, rinse....repeat...
But overall, a great meal packed with the usual dose of fun and laughter and a common love of good food.

To make pithla , you need,

2/3 (scant) cup Besan ( chickpea flour)
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
3-4 green chilies ( +\- depending on how much heat you can tolerate)
A few curry leaves
3 cloves of Garlic
2 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 tsp Kashmiri red chilies powder ( just to enhance the color) - optional
1/2 tsp Asafetida powder
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp Fresh Fenugreek ( Methi) chopped  or 1 tbsp Kasuri Methi
Warm water ( thrice the quantity of besan)
Cilantro  to garnish

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and green chilies or pulse them in a mixer/ blender to a rough paste. Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds. As they pop, add cumin. As the cumin sizzles, add the asafetida followed by garlic-chilies paste. Saute briefly (so the raw smell goes away) and then add curry leaves, turmeric, salt and red chilies powder, if using. Add the besan and mix well to incorporate all the spices into the besan and roast the besan till it smells nutty.
The color will change to a warmer shade. Ensure that you roast besan on medium heat.
Once the raw smell of besan is replaced by a nutty spicy aroma, add the fresh or Kasuri Methi and mix well.
Now slowly add the warm water while constantly stirring the besan mix. Break any lumps that have formed and stir to make an even pasty gravy.
As it cooks, the gravy will lose the pasty look and will be replaced by a deeper shade and a glossy look. Taste and check salt, adjust if necessary.  Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring at regular intervals.
Switch off the heat, cover and let the flavors mingle for 10 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with bhakri or even white rice.
If you like, serve finely chopped onion alongside.

-The above proportion will make plenty of pithla, will serve 4 really hungry adults.

- Be sure to roast the besan well, that lends a wonderful depth of flavor

- The longer the pithla sits ( or in case of leftovers) the heat quotient goes up, so make sure to add green chilies judiciously

- The besan will soak up the water and make the pithla dry and thick.

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Bake Sale Adventure

As the new year rolled in, I promised myself, I will blog.
The days passed, I kept reminding myself, but I did not follow through.
I made excuses, I'm tired. Parents were visiting, I wanted to spend time with them and cooking for them.
Then came the annual 'Sankranta Mela', li'll S was in a dance group and I had booked a stall for myself at the 'Anand Bazaar' (food stalls).
Drawing courage from my previous experience, I jumped right in, this year. 

I got busy with dance practices and homework and squeezing in as much time as possible for other activities.

And so, finally, I am back with pictures of my Cupcake stall. The cupcakes sold out and I couldn't be happier. 
M and li'll S were my helpers ( S being the main helper and cashier, a job he loves!) 

I made egg less Vanilla and Chocolate cupcakes and made butter-cream frosting.

These pretty hydrangeas were a hit with the girls.


Who doesn't love a Minion?
These were sold out within minutes! I wish I had made more.
I got this idea from Pinterest.
Here's how you make the Minion cupcakes
1 box Twinkies 
Butter cream frosting ( dyed Blue)
Smarties / White chocolate chips / Mini marshmallows (for the eyes)
Black frosting
Chocolate sprinkles for the 'hair'
Place the Twinkies in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes.
Frost the cupcakes ( I used the basic round tip to put the frosting on)
If you plan on using marshmallows for the eyes, prep them. Apply a thin coat of oil to kitchen scissors and gently cut the marshmallow into 3-4 rounds.
I used White chocolate chips, they were the right size and I just poked the pointed end into the Twinkies.
Pull the Twinkies out of the fridge, slice them in half.
Poke one or two chocolate chips in the 'head' part. If you are using marshmallow, put a tiny spot of frosting on the underside of the marshmallow and stick it on, do the same ( spot of frosting) fro Smarties.
Pipe on glasses  and smiles using black frosting. I used Wilton's ready to use tube, it was a mistake.
Poke chocolate sprinkles for hair.
Gently place the decorated Twinkies on the frosted cupcakes. Ta-Dah!  Minion cupcakes are ready!
The most popular cakes, Minions.
I made these flower cupcakes using the 'leaf' tip. These were also a hit with all the kids.
This anti-gravity cake was a last minute thought. I made it towards the end and this is the only picture I have of it, an unfinished one.
I found this tutorial very useful.
The children marveled at the cake and wondered if  the M&M's would keep pouring out. Some of them, out of curiosity also tried to pluck the bag out and see how I made it happen.
Anti-gravity cake

In all the hurry of the dance performance and the baking, I did not carry my camera at all, but that's when friends chip in! 
One of the Mom's in the dance group stepped forward and clicked these wonderful pictures and has shared them with me. Thank you, Vaishali! The pictures are great! 

I'll leave you all now, with all this sweetness. See you soon. Hope you all have a great week ahead.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

DIY Gifts, spread the cheer!

It's that time of the year! Tomorrow the schools will break for Christmas holidays and there is a general air of festivity in the air. 

We have a small tree and it's up. The child is expecting a ton of toys and has so far forgotten to write to Santa for it, despite my gentle reminders. Oh well! Santa has to give what he feels like. 

It's fun to see Li'll S as excited about Christmas as he is about Diwali, of course the main excitement is the gifts part, the getting , not the giving. We need to sit down and explain that part to him one day. 
I did some DIY for the Christmas Teachers Gifts. I really enjoyed the planning, shopping, making and assembling part. 
I have never been the craftsy person, I well remember how I have suffered ( as have my parents) when completing craft homework / projects in school. I used to get help from all quarters just to finish that task. 
We had embroidery ( basic stitches) and knitting in school. The pillowcase I was trying to embroider was a real pain, I mean 'real pain' I pricked my finger several times, I was 'punctured'. The thread avoided the eye of the needle like plague and in the end, I gave up and got someone else to do it for me. Knitting was another hurdle, the clicking foot long needles were fun initially but the knit /purl had me twisted, luckily my Mom was an expert and soon corrected all my mistakes ( it seemed almost as if I was doing the exact opposite of what was written) and I had a sweater, booties and cap set for an infant. I kept it safe all these years and my son wore it first!

Whoa! I'm rambling.. Pardon me. We were talking of DIY and the gifts I made.
This year, I made a small hamper for the teachers and I sincerely hope they like it.

The idea of a 'spa in a jar' struck a chord in me. I have one child and he can shred my nerves. Don't get me wrong, I love my little fella to bits, but there are times I wistfully dream of a remote control which I wish a Mom had, just to sometimes hit the mute button or sleep mode! 
Imagine how stressful it must be to handle 20 such energetic kids, all with different temperaments. With that idea in mind, I made this.

Spa in a Jar ( a loofah, nail polish remover pads (yellow round case), 2 shades of sparkly nail polish, a chap stick and some chocolates)
The Spa in a Jar is customizable, add what you like. Maybe a moisturizing lotion, or a lipstick, manicure set, face mask... I refrained from those as I had no idea what the brand preference is.
I found these chalkboard stickers which I used on the jars and wrote 'Relax' on them. 

The second Jar was Hot chocolate mix, a favorite during this season. 

There are many sources of hot chocolate recipes all over the net. 
I made mine like this:

3 cups Non-fat Milk Powder
2 Cups powdered Sugar
1 1/2 cup White chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup Cocoa powder ( natural, unsweetened)
Pinch Salt

Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pulse small amounts (I used a small food chopper) to make a fine powder.
Sieve the powder ( there will be small bits left even though it looks fine to the eye) and pulse the rough bits. Mix everything thoroughly and pour into a mason jar ( use a funnel, if you have one, this will not mess up sides and if you do not have a funnel, just snip off the bottom of a disposable foam cup and pour the hot chocolate mix in the jar. Top with peppermint chips and /or mini Marshmallows.

Instructions: To make, puor 1/3 cup of the powder in a mug, pout 1 cup hot milk, stir and enjoy! If desired, add whipped cream on top.
It's cold out there, Baby! Let's warm up with Hot chocolate!

These jars were packed in small bamboo baskets and wrapped in basket bags ( I really have to work on my gift wrapping skills, I suck at it, big time).

Have you also made any gifts this year? Do share your ideas in the comments or on the Facebook page.

Wish you all a Merry Christmas! Hope this holiday season is a happy one for you and your family! 
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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fall in my backyard

We are almost halfway through December and in another 2 weeks we are looking at starting a new year.
Did I just blink and did this year also slip through my fingers? When I sit back and think of it, what did I do this year? What did I accomplish? I don't think I have the courage to talk about it,just yet.

Let's go back to something a lot more cheerful.
While most of the country was enjoying fall colors in early or mid October, Dallas was still as green as ever. Weather fluctuations happened and on Nov. 1st. late night, as I peered out, I saw soft snow falling, just a small flurry, it looked like a dusting of powdered sugar everywhere. The colors still remained green on the trees.
Mid-November, things started to change and I saw splashes of color here and there. 

Thanksgiving is a special time. Even if I am late (oh well, I'm early for next year) I wanted to share this with you all. I made these simple sugar cookies and decorated them with royal icing and made small hampers for my son's teachers ( cookies, 'stress relief' hand sanitizer, body mist and thank you card). I loved making these cookies and even better, my son loved eating them! He watched *carefully*, with bated breath, as I packed the little hampers and let out a *huge* sigh of relief when he saw me piling the cookies in the box kept aside for him.
I also made small hampers for our bus driver ( who displays a lot of patience, I know that I am incapable of. Imagine a gaggle of about 40 kids in high spirits, some 4 year olds howling for mommy and older ones talking loudly)  and one for a senior citizen who is the crossing guard near our bus stop and the public school crossing. 
You can easily make these into Christmas cookies. Packaged carefully, these can make nice gifts.

For the cookie, I needed a recipe that  did not 'spread' while baking. There are plenty of recipes out there. I used this recipe.
I got these cookie cutters from Michaels. For the decoration, I used Royal Icing and used the flooding technique.
YouTube has several videos on how to use royal icing to decorate the cookies.
It just takes a bit of patience and practice to make and decorate the cookies.

For myself, I like plain cookies, they taste so good! Not that I had the chance to taste the decorated ones. Li'll S guarded his loot rather jealously.

I am now looking at Christmas hampers and gifts.  What are your plans for Christmas gifts? Please share your ideas here, in the comments below or on the AC@H Facebook Page.

Have a wonderful week ahead!
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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Ridge Gourd Curry

This time last year, I used to drive home 3 kids from the bus stop. Li'll S, Li'll V and Big S. The ride was a short, but an interesting one. The topics would be varied and the discussion, deep.
My son was the funny one, in the group. Big S was the one who had a topic to talk about, being the eldest.
Little V, as her mother rightly says, is not one to take a back seat. One tough cookie ( but very sweet) who had her say in everything!  Her favolite colol was led,she wanted to glow her hail leally long, she leally liked leading and she loved watching caltoons on TV and leally planned her playdates and sleepovels down to the last detail.

I miss listening to the chattel , chatter....

Today, Big S has moved to sunny California and Little V to another school. 
I do get to meet Little V's mom and she regales me with her adorable daughter's stories when we meet for potlucks.

On one such potluck, Little V's Mom got this very simple and very tasty vegetable curry. Most of us, in our potluck group are wimps when it comes to handling spice and this vegetable entree was just what suited us. 
Unlike most vegetables, this does not have any spices, but don't let that deter you from trying it out. Mild yet very tasty, this has won the 'Kid Approved' badge of honor. Thank you, S! 

While I was never a big fan of the ridge gourd, I have tried out this version and loved it. But I try and avoid peanuts as much as possible, now ( they give me migraines)  and so, this version is made more often. 


1/2 cup Moong daal ( skinned , yellow, in this case)
2 long Ridge Gourds, peel the outer tough skin, remove the fibrous part and dice into small pieces
2 small Tomatoes, chopped
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 tsp EACH Mustard and Cumin seeds
3/4- 1 tsp Turmeric powder ( I eyeball it)
1/2 tsp Red chilies powder ( I use Kashmiri) or to taste
Handful coriander leaves

Wash and soak moong daal in water for 30 minutes. 

In the mean time, peel ridge gourd and cut into small pieces.

Heat oil and add mustard seeds, as  they begin to pop, add cumin seeds. Add  the chopped onion to it  and fry until cooked and light brown.

Now add ridge gourd pieces, tomatoes, soaked daal , turmeric, salt, red chili powder and coriander leaves.

Cover it  and let it cook for 5 to 8 minutes on medium heat.

Now add little water about a half cup and cook until it's done.

Serve hot with rice or fulkas.


Ridge gourds, look long and you might feel 2 is probably a lot, but once the peel and the inner fibrous part is taken off, you are left with little vegetable, apart from that, in Marathi we call this a 'chorti bhajee' / चोरटी भाजी , meaning it shrinks, something like okra, if you know what I mean.

I have often heard ladies complaining that Ridge Gourds are sometimes bitter, though I have never had the misfortune to get one, on the safe side, I taste- test when I buy the gourd, as taught to me by an elderly Gujarati lady at the grocery store. I snap off a small piece and pick and taste a bit before buying. 

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A Halloween Party, in a jiffy!

Hello Everybody! I'm back after what seems ages and so much has happened! 

Firstly, Diwali was the best in many years. Not because I made the goodies ( like I do every year) but ...... this year, I made them with my Mother! Oh yes! The parents are here. 
I am happy, is an understatement. After the scare last October, I consider this a miracle and am thankful for it, every single day.

Li'll S is thrilled. He looks for his Ajji ( Grandmother) when he gets down from the school bus and after dumping his backpack with me, holds her hand and walks off. 
He loves to play with her (of course he does, she allows him to win, every time). He is careful around my Dad, I have warned him. But he was happy when Ajja ( Grandfather) came to pick him up at the bus stop and his little chest puffed out as he strutted to the car. 

After a wonderful Diwali, we were looking forward to Halloween. Li'll S was. He was excited, he wanted a pumpkin, he wanted a super hero costume and most importantly, he wanted a ton of candy. 
So we picked out a pumpkin, lugged it home, which by the way was so heavy, that I knew, it was going to hurt my tendinitis affected hand. What the heck! The child was happy. But I drew the line at carving, there was no way I could do that,  M would not bother and my parents have never done it..... solution? A short trip to Dollar Tree and 2 packets of push-pin type scary pumpkin decorations ( and a mummified skeleton and bat silhouettes and 'blood' cling stickers and a scary 'werewolf' faced wall decoration and a tombstone ) later, we came home.
Up until then, the plan was just to decorate the house, go trick or treating and then eat out.
And then the child says, now lets make it a party. 2 days before Halloween.

I whatsapp'd my friends and invited them over. Everybody contributed something towards the party, this was an unexpected gesture and so welcome, their contribution and more importantly, the help and fun that they added to the whole thing! I am lucky to have such sweet friends.  
The plan was simple. Go trick or treating, come back and meet at my place by 8:30pm.
My menu was simple.
Pizza, snacks, goody bags, candy and a 'witches brew' drink.

Ring the bell, IF you dare to enter....

For those like me, who cannot carve pumpkins for some reason, here is a safe alternative. Just push in the eyes, nose and mouth ( which does not look too bad, up front) and be done with it. 

For the snacks I made cupcake 'ghosts', a giant cookie and broomsticks.
The frosting was Butter cream, which made it easy for me to make lumpy ghosts .
The giant cookie was a chocolate chunk, baked in a rectangular 9 x 13 pan ( next time I'll use a bigger pan) and decorated quickly, with the same butter cream.

The 'broomsticks' were made simply by cutting string cheese and inserting pretzel sticks. I used a knife to fray the ends a bit to give it a 'broom' like look, not very nicely done, I'm afraid. But the kids loved it.

The 'Witches brew' ( no picture, I'm sorry) was made by mixing Pineapple Juice ( 1 can - 46oz), Ginger ale and Lime soda (one, 2ltr bottle , each)

The children had a great time and there was a lot of noise and high spirits. The children who had gone trick and treating showed each other their candy and added more from the bowl at home and compared and gave their opinions. 

Li'll S and 3 others ( accompanied by adults) had braved a haunted house in the neighborhood for candy and came out all of a dither! A zombie tried to take my son's candy filled jack-o-lantern, which scared the daylights out of the child! 
All 4 kids came out of the haunted house shaking at the knees and swore NEVER to go to one again. EVER.

We are now looking forward to Thanksgiving. 

I know I have a lot to be thankful for.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

The Perfect Pizza

Years ago, one cold winter night, the husband and I, after strolling through the Christmassy streets and admiring the beautiful lights and decorations, finally paid heed to the gnawing pangs of hunger that only a cold winter night can awaken in a person.
The urgent need to stuff our faces with something hot and filling was mounting and we turned our steps purposefully towards where we would find food.
We walked quickly and entered a pizza restaurant. I wish now, I could recollect the place or name of that restaurant, but all I remember are some details, like the color scheme was red and white, of course, had a 'cave like oven', there was a small table inside that we bagged and placed our order for pizza. 
I could not take my eyes off that 'cave', it was the first time I had seen a wood burning oven and the whole thing was a novel experience to me. 
I was amazed at how deftly the pizza dough was tossed in the air and caught, "dayyum (you know what I mean), look at that, those are mad skills and here I was, feeling proud that I could make round-round fulkas!" 
The expert then shoved the whole pie from 'an oar' in to the oven where the blazing fire baked it to absolute perfection in no time at all.
The terms pizza paddle, pizza stone were alien to me and I  just processed the info in terms that made sense to me.
It took me a while to bake my first pizza. I was over the moon. I stuck to this recipe and never thought of trying anything else.
Why let go of a good thing, right?


Let it go  (I know you just sang that part :) )

There is a difference between good pizza and GREAT pizza.

Last week I tried something new, rather apprehensively. Though baking is not as intimidating to me now, I do not consider it easy.
But how could I not pay heed to something that read so well?
Turns out, this was the Bestest Pizza ever ( according to M as well as Little S)
I was so pleased that a picture of a small pan pizza while baking was posted on the Facebook Page and  I got several requests for the recipe.

The only reason I could not post earlier was ( brace yourself, this is a sob story) the laptop, with all my pictures, crashed. I have no clue why ( of course I got blamed for being careless and not taking backup despite having a back up disk... yada...yada) and I still cherish the fond hope that someone, somewhere will help recover the darn laptop, just long enough for me to rescue my pictures and videos.
And let me add, while the iPad is fine and everything nice, where and how the aitch am I going to upload pictures from my camera? Aitch,  it won't even let me paste a link in the draft post.
Anyhoo, a miserable face and constant cribbing and whining and moping finally gave me access to M's laptop and here I am clicking away, happily.
No picture, I'm afraid, but not too long, I have promised my friends, that I will make pizza for them and I will take pictures then.

In the mean time, here is the source of this fantastic recipe and  my adaptation below.

To make the base
Take 5 cups of flour ( maida)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar or honey
2 cups water - room temp
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp oil

Start with combining flour, yeast* and salt and mix well to combine
If using stand mixer use paddle ( if u don't have a paddle attachment, use the dough hook). On low speed mix the dry ingredients - just to ensure distribution.
Now add the liquid.

*If using regular, active dry yeast, let it bloom in warm water to which sugar is added and then add this to the flour

On the mixer, use low Speed and paddle and mix till the dough absorbs the liquid. There shouldn't be any dry flour  on the sides or bottom.
Takes about a minute
If using hand ( wooden spoon) stir well till the same result is achieved - all liquid is mixed in dry ingredients.

Let the dough stand for 2-4 mins
Now, on the mixer, start on medium-low speed and let it go on for another minute.
If using hand, follow same mixing procedure of mixing with the sturdy wooden spoon.
The dough should be soft and slightly sticky.

Now u need to use your counter top.
Pour some oil on the clean counter top and spread oil in a large circle ( like an ex-large pizza shape)
Now, gently dump the dough on the oily surface and pat it.
Use a stretch and fold method.
This simply means, after you have gently patted the dough into a circle, fold it. First fold on the top and then at the bottom, u should have a rectangular block with round edges.
Fold the round edges over one another.
Cover this dough with a clean  bowl.
Let it stand for 5 minutes.
Repeat the stretch and fold
For 3 more times (total of 4 times).
After every 5 minutes , u will notice how the dough changes. The gluten is working here.
The dough becomes firm.

At this stage, you can divide the dough ( maybe into 2 parts. One to be used now and other frozen for later.
Oil the dough u want to freeze and transfer to a freezer safe bag or container and put it away

After the above, transfer the remaining dough ball to a well oiled bowl ( I used the big Pyrex one) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Make sure the bowl is big enough to accommodate the doubled dough as it ferments.
Stick this bowl in the fridge and leave it  overnight to ferment slowly. This slow fermentation is the key to a perfect crust.

When u are ready to make the pizza, pull the dough out 90 mins before  you start.
Leave it on the counter top.
Start by preheating the oven to the highest level ( mine goes to 550) so yours should do the same or about 500 at least
I use my pizza stone and that is the best way to make an awesome crust. The stone retains heat very well and that helps the crust.
Keep in mind that the pizza stone needs time to heat thoroughly, I'd say 35-45 mins. 
If you don't have one, use what you normally do.

Do the prep (sauce,chopping veges/ meat, grate cheese) and keep everything at hand.

Once the dough is at room temp, lightly flour the (clean) counter top and lay the dough ball and pat it gently with your finger tips and form a circle.
Now comes the stretching part.
Flour the back if your hands and gently lift the dough onto your balled hand ( think like a boxing stance) now gently turn the dough on your fists and do so along the edges, let gravity do the rest.
Let the dough rest in between if you think it's not panning properly. Letting the dough rest will ensure that it will stretch well after a while and make the dough supple.
If using hands to stretch the dough is difficult or you are just not ready for it, go ahead, lay it on the paddle and stretch it with your hands or even a rolling pin, but be gentle)
Once the dough is even and large, transfer it into a lightly floured paddle ( I do not have one- I use my large wooden cutting board) and even out any unevenness ( ummm.. I know that did not sound right, but I hope you get my point)
Now add sauce. Spread it out carefully, starting at the center and going outward. Leave the border bare.
Add the cheese now (use mozzarella - cheddar  and if u like, sprinkle some Parmesan)
Lay the vegetables over the cheese.

By now the oven and stone are very hot. Be very careful ( I prefer to wear my sunglasses when I work with such a hot oven) and open the oven door.
Lower the paddle and in back and forth motion? Shake the pizza on to the stone.
Close the oven door and leave as it for about 2 mins.
After 2 mins, open the door, carefully, and turn the pizza in a clock wise or anti clockwise, half way,  direction to ensure even cooking.
At this stage, you will notice how the dough has puffed up and has started getting brown.
After you have turned the pizza, let it bake for another minute or 2. This will ensure that  the crust has baked to a nice golden brown and the bottom is also well done .
Pull out the pizza carefully and place it on the chopping board and cut into wedges.
Serve with chilli flakes and grated parm cheese or marinara to give it a pizzeria touch.

I must mention here, I went all out this time and made marinara sauce at home too. For this, I got messaged Shilpa, I remembered having read the recipe on her site as well as on her FB page.
She promptly replied with the recipe ( and also told me that the original came from Pelicano).
I made the sauce as per the recipe and it is a keeper.
The only suggestion my son had was, to use more. That is proof enough.

I got a few questions regarding the recipe (the base) and decided to clarify these as part of the notes

- The pizza stone has to be 'really hot' in order to get the best crust.
- It takes a good 40-45 mins for the stone to heat up and retain that kind of heat. Once I put the dough on the counter top and cut the vegetables, I switch on the oven and leave it, so I get good 50-60 minute heating time (and hence the sunglasses when I open the oven door)
- Yes, you have to set the oven to the highest temperature it will go to
- Does it take just minutes to bake? yes, it does. But do use youe judgement here, you will see the dough bubble and start turning brown, let it turn dark and then change the direction and let it bake some more
- check the bottom of the pizza with a long handled spatula, it should look well done (brown, but not dark!)

That's it for now, folks. I'll be back soon with some pictures.
Enjoy the weekend.
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