February 1, 2015

Whole Wheat Spinach/Palak Pizza - Indian Style

There is nothing Italian about the pizzas anymore. Today, pizza is more of an universal food. But, the most wonderful thing about pizza is that it is very accessible and can be easily customized to fit people's needs and taste. Infact, it makes me think that India has indirect roots to pizza through naan, as both share similar ingredients, prep and cooking methods. Again, the texture of all base sauces of Indian curries kind of resembles Italian pizza base sauces. So, what's wrong in tweaking an Italian pizza to suit Indian tastebuds?!

Well, this recipe is one such experiment of mine - "Whole Wheat pizza with Spinach/Palak sauce" loaded with onions, tomatoes, pineapple and jalapeños finished with cheese on top... YUM is the word!!

This recipe was in my bucket-list for quite sometime, but never dared to dive into it. I had a feeling that the prep work would be too much to take on weekdays and kept postponing for weekends. For all you know, my weekends are the busiest and this particular recipe never happened and I decided to put it at the back of my mind for a while, until its really time. 

This weekend, my kids had been out with their dad for an entire day and I almost instantly knew that it was time for that long-time pending recipe - "Spinach Pizza - Indian style"! My kids love pizza (who doesn't?!) and I knew it would be a nice surprise for them when they are back at home and so I set out!!

Infact, the pizza wasn't as difficult as I had thought. I prepped the dough first and let it rise in the oven. While it was rising, I made spinach sauce, cut vegetables for the toppings. After the second rise, I stored the dough in my refrigerator and waited for the kids to arrive. 

When I knew they were on their way, I took the dough out of the refrigerator and let it rest on the kitchen countertop for sometime and also, pre-heated the oven. As soon as they came home, I rolled out the dough, assembled the pizza together, baked it in the oven and served them hot & fresh! That surprised & happy look on their faces - priceless!!!

This pizza tastes nothing like a conventional pizza, but loaded with tons of Indian flavors. Thanks to jalapeños and pineapples - the balance of sweet & spice is just perfect! You can skip jalapeños for the kids, and replace it with olives, bell-peppers or any other toppings that they might fancy.

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 1 - 1.5 hrs (includes time for proofing)
Cook time - 20 mins
Serves - 4 personal pizzas (with 4 slices each)

Pizza Base
Active dry yeast - 1 envelope (1/4 oz)
Water - 1.5 cups (+ 1/4 cup or less, as required)
Olive oil - 2 tbsp (+ a tsp to coat the bowl)
Honey - 1 tbsp

Dry Ingredients
Whole wheat flour - 1.5 cups
All purpose flour, unbleached & organic  - 2 cups
Garlic powder - 1.5 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp

Spinach Sauce
3.5 tightly packed cups of spinach
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp homemade organic Ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
3/4 tsp Cumin powder
2 tsp Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

A handful of cherry tomatoes, cut into fours
Pineapple slices, as needed
1/2 red Onion, chopped
1 medium jalapeno, sliced & deseeded
Paneer cubes marinated in yogurt and other spices, like you would marinate for paneer tikka (optional)
Organic Cheese blend - Mozzarella & Parmesan

Pizza Base
Take 1.5 cups of water in a bowl and heat it to approximately 110 degrees F. Water should be little  more than warm to the touch, but not uncomfortably hot. Mix 1 tbsp of honey to this. Add 1 envelope of yeast, mix well and let it sit in the room temperature for about 20 mins. During this time, yeast feeds on honey and starts to multiply & grow. After 20 mins, you should see a frothy, bubbly liquid that has almost doubled in size. This shows that the yeast is active & alive. If not, check the expiry on yeast and repeat the same steps with a new packet of yeast. When the yeast is ready & proofed, add olive oil and mix well.

In the meanwhile, mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients bowl, and gently pour the yeast mixture into it. Using a fork, slowly mix both dry & wet ingredients together working from the center. When the dough starts to come together,  take it out of the bowl and start to knead the dough on the work surface for about 8 mins. Do not over knead, but knead the dough to form a smooth ball.

Place the ball of dough in a bowl that has been coated lightly with olive oil. Turn the dough around in the bowl so that all the sides of the dough gets coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place for the dough to rise. I usually place the bowl inside my oven with the oven lights on. After an hour or so, a well fermented dough should be risen & doubled in size.

To check if the dough is ready, just poke the dough with couple of your fingers and the indentation mark should stay put. The dough shouldn't bounce back and close the indent mark. Now, punch the dough down so that it deflates a bit. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll the dough into balls. Cover them with a plastic wrap and let sit in the room temperature for 15 mins.

Spinach Sauce
Clean and wash spinach in fresh running water to remove any dirt or impurities. Bring a pot of water to rolling boil. Mix in a tsp of sugar and throw the washed spinach into it. Let the spinach simmer for couple of mins (or) until the leaves starts to wilt. Carefully remove & plunge the leaves into ice-cold water (this stops further cooking & retains the bright green color of spinach). Drain and blend blanched spinach into a smooth paste.

Heat ghee in a pan. When hot, add cumin seeds and let it sizzle. Add grated ginger, minced garlic and saute until the raw smell goes off. Add pureed spinach, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder and saute until the gravy thickens and comes together, for about 10 mins. Add kasoori methi (crushed between your palm), salt, mix well and save it for later.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Putting the Pizza together
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin (Using hands to roll out the dough is easy). Transfer this to a pizza pan that is already floured with some corn/all purpose flour. Brush little olive oil over the top of the dough concentrating on the edges. Prick all over the pizza base with a fork so that the dough doesn't puff up inside the oven.

Spread about 1/4 cup (or as required) of spinach/palak sauce all over the pizza.

Layer it with your favorite toppings (I used jalapenos, pineapples, tomatoes and thinly sliced onion).

Cover it with a layer of mozzarella & parmesan cheese. Sprinkle a pinch or two of black pepper powder on top.

Bake it for about 5-7 mins or until bubbly & golden brown. Turn the oven to broil mode and broil until the top and edges is all deep brown. Rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

Serve and enjoy!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Razina Javed! Tasted even better than it looks.. You should try this!

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