The aubergine love affair


I love brinjal. No, make that – I’m absolutely in love with these purple beauties (yes, I know you get them in green too!) that I would choose it over any other vegetable, even potato. Yup, it is true! I’m such a sucker for anything with brinjals/eggplants/aubergines that just a simple dish of grilled eggplant with salt and chilli powder and a bowl of chilled curd is my idea of dinner. So far I’ve used aubergines in almost anything right from pasta to biryani, and when The Groovy Gourmets threw up this challenge of making pizza but with a twist I knew instantly what I was going to do – use aubergines in the topping.

I HEART this pizza

Now I’m not going to claim credit for this and say this is my creative creation. To tell you very honestly I had eaten this at a restaurant in Chennai when there was an Italian chef visiting. The memory is blurry but what stood out was the pizza with roasted aubergines, it was a winner! While everyone else was going ga-ga over the Tiramisu I was tripping over the pizza.

So I used the memories, or whatever I could remember, of this and followed my own flavour instincts for this recipe. For the crust, I’ve used whole wheat, oats, ragi & wheat germ along with a whole bouquet of fresh herbs. The sauce is simple too – it just has tomatoes, onion and garlic and is really chunky compared to the rest of the sauces that you find on a pizza. While I used zucchini and roasted aubergines on my pizza, for the others at home I’ve used a whole range of toppings – paneer, broccoli, sweet corn, mushroom, olives, jalapenos and bell peppers. The cheese that I used were nothing ordinary – cheddar and smoked cheese.

Pizza with roasted aubergines & smoked cheese

For the base
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of quick cooking oats
1 tbsp of wheat germ
2 tbsp of ragi (finger millet flour)
1 tbsp of semolina
2 tsp of active dry yeast
1 tbsp of mixed herbs – I used fresh basil, rosemary and sage which I chopped finely
1 tsp of sugar
2 tsp of olive oil
Salt to taste

Take 1/2 cup of warm (not boiling, but warm) water and dissolve the sugar into this. Now sprinkle the yeast over it & cover the bowl. Allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. At the end of this time the yeast should have become all frothy, if it is just beginning to then close and give it another 5-7 minutes. If the yeast doesn’t react at all then this means that it is dead and you will have to discard it and start all over again.

Mix thewhole wheat, ragi, wheat germ, semolina, oats & salt together, create a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture here and mix well. Add the salt and herbs to this and mix until the dough comes together, keep pouring in the olive oil gently at this stage. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it becomes soft and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough rest for about 2 hours. At the end of this the dough should have doubled in size. Place the dough on a floured surface and punch it down, knead for another five minutes and then divide into equal portions. Place these on a greased baking tray and cover them, allow it to rest for another 20 minutes before proceeding.

To proceed with the recipe, take each individual portion of the dough and roll it out on a flat surface. You can make this as thin or thick as you like.

Now for the sauce,

3-4 tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
3-4 basil leaves, torn
Salt to taste
Olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions to this, when it turns translucent add the garlic and fry until it has turned a light brown. Now add the tomatoes to this and cook until the whole thing becomes a thick, almost jam-like mixture. You can add some water to this, if you like. Add the basil and adjust the salt at this stage. Turn off the flame and let the sauce cool down a bit until you’re ready to proceed.

For the roasted aubergines

1/2 a large aubergine, sliced into thin discs
Olive oil
A large garlic clove
Salt

Rub salt over the aubergine slices and keep them aside for about 10 mins, during this time all the water will be released. Discard this water and you’re ready to proceed.

Cut the garlic clove into half.  And rub it over the aubergines. Place the slices on a greased tray and brush with olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 12-15 minutes at 160 degrees or until they turn a golden brown. Remove them from the oven when done, allow it to cool down for a bit before proceeding.

To proceed with the pizza:

  • Spread a layer of the sauce on the pizza base 
  • Add the toppings, including the roasted aubergines, of your choice
  • Top with cheese, I used the smoked cheese on this one as it complemented the smokiness of the aubergines very well. 
  • Brush the sides of the base with olive oil 
  • Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the pizza is done. Serve hot!
Pizza with paneer & broccoli

With some zucchini, olives, mushroom, broccoli & corn
* You can add any kind of vegetables to the pizza topping. But ever since I’ve discovered how well aubergines taste with this, I’m a convert & so is the husband. 
* For the pizza sauce, get innovative I’ve also made pizzas using a cream sauce or even a pesto and it tastes wonderful.
* You can also roast some garlic with the aubergines and add it to the pizza, this gives it a very delicious flavour.


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