Awell-known and well-respected British food writer once told my youngest son (then aged about 10) that he had a very fine palate. She said that children who are extremely fussy (and my son was so fussy at the time that he only ate things that were white or beige—rice, pasta, eggs, occasionally toast) sometimes have very delicate taste buds. He’s less picky now but he has remained very proud of his palate, although I do sometimes wonder if he invokes it merely as a way of avoiding foods that he just doesn’t fancy eating—like vegetables.

For instance, his “refined palate" is often brought into play when he doesn’t like the look of what I’ve made for dinner and would prefer to order in pizza. Personally I would rather eat the cardboard box they come in—it probably has more nutritional content, and certainly more flavour—but I do sometimes give in.

From time to time I’ve made pizzas to try and wean him off the delivery pizza habit but they’ve never quite hit the mark for him. And it’s true, home-made pizza crust is usually too heavy or bready. Then I came across a recipe recently that suggested putting semolina in the dough to make the crust a bit more crisp, and we had something of a breakthrough.

I’m pleased to report that The Palate is finally happy—although while I’ve been testing the recipe, he has offered endless minute alterations: “not quite so much tomato", “a little bit of Cheddar with the mozzarella", “grated, not sliced", and “in separate mounds so the cheese doesn’t all join up and come off with the first bite" (I know!). But still, we haven’t ordered pizza for about two weeks, which is a record.

Making the initial batch does involve waiting for the dough to proof (double in size) but once it’s made, you can put it in the fridge. For a few days, you’ll have pizza on hand whenever you want it. Simply take it out of the fridge, roll out, add toppings and bake—in the time it takes to place an order for a pizza.

Margherita pizza for fusspots

Makes 4

Ingredients

400g ‘00’ flour (available in gourmet stores, it does make a better pizza crust but if you can’t find it, use refined flour)

100g semolina (suji)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp fast-action dried yeast

325ml warm water

For the topping

500g tomatoes (as ripe as possible)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

100ml tomato purée (Indian, not the European concentrated type)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

200g mozzarella, grated

80g Cheddar, grated

Method

Put the flour, semolina, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Add the water and mix everything together. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and very elastic when stretched. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover and leave for about 1 hour or until the dough has proved.

If you don’t want to bake the pizza straight away, you could put the kneaded dough in the fridge, where it will proof much more slowly. So if you made the dough in the morning, it would be ready to bake in the evening. If you make the topping in advance too, then you have an almost instant supper.

To make the topping, skin the tomatoes by first covering them in boiling water. Leave them for 1 minute, then peel off the skin. Chop them. Put the olive oil in a pan and heat gently, then add the chopped garlic. Let the garlic turn light brown, then add the chopped tomatoes. Stir in the tomato purée, salt and sugar (the tomatoes used for pizza in Italy would be a lot sweeter than the ones we get in India, so I always add a bit of sugar to tomato sauces for pizza or pasta). Let the sauce simmer gently for about 20 minutes, by which time the tomatoes should be fairly mushy—if not, mash them down with a fork. Let the sauce cool a little before using.

When you’re ready to bake the pizza, turn the oven to 240 degrees Celsius and put a baking sheet (or pizza stone if you have one) into the oven to heat up (this will help the base of the pizza to become crisp).

Divide the proved pizza dough into four pieces. Knead each one into a neat ball and leave to rest for the time it takes for the oven to heat up. Roll out one of the balls on a large sheet of floured baking paper into an oval or circle approximately 20cm wide. Spread two tablespoons of tomato sauce on to the dough (leaving a 2cm border at the edge). Sprinkle the mozzarella and Cheddar over the sauce. Lift the baking paper and pizza on to the hot baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until the edge of the pizza is nicely browned and the cheese and tomato are bubbling invitingly.

I like to sprinkle rocket leaves as soon as the pizza comes out of the oven—obviously, my youngest son does not approve.

Pamela Timms is a New Delhi-based journalist, food writer and author of Korma, Kheer And Kismet. She blogs at Eatanddust.com.

Read Pamela’s previous Lounge columns here.

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