If you’re Indian and you’re more than 20 years old, chances are your family didn’t have an oven at home growing up, and all baked goods were bought from the local Irani or — on a special occasion — Monginis.
Every house I’ve been in since 1991 has had a full featured cooking range with oven in it, yet I haven’t tried to bake anything in them since perhaps the late nineties. Ovens around the house have been used to store various extra pots and pans and other things. The microwave has an overhead grill element so I’ve used that sometimes, but it’s quite a pain since it takes forever to reach a good heat and has no temperature settings of its own. There is this small electric oven my mother bought ten years ago, but since that sucks up so much power it’s carefully packed away awaiting some future time when it will be put to good use as a towel warmer or something. Both the electric oven and the microwave also suffer from a small size, meaning that if I have to make pizza I need to cook each one individually (that’s 40 minutes gone right there).
The current apartment came with its own cooker but while I’ve put the stove-tops to good use I didn’t even bother — like, it seems, the previous tenant — to even turn on the oven. This is a bit of a sacreligious thing for someone who could probably live only on raw, grilled and baked goods forever, but I’ve never been much of a home baker other than the odd cake-from-a-box and the twice-yearly or so attempt at pizza (so far in the microwave grill).
Yesterday I figured I might as well clean out the oven and see if, after all these years, it actually works. Turned out to be in good shape, was relatively easy to light and use (the first oven I ever used had no light and its match-hole was waaaay at the back in one corner, which made lighting it a game of Russian Roulette with exploding LPG). It has its own rotary grill attachment with self-turning kebab skewers for even cooking (a nice touch), and an easy to light overhead gas grill.
In order to test the thing I whipped up some pizza using store-bought sauce (I found a brand that doesn’t taste like tin), cheese, zucchini, mushrooms and spicy sausage. For the bases I used Egyptian flat bread. I’ve even tried pitta bread and chapattis and they work fine as long as you don’t overcook them.
Which brings me to the only problem I encountered. Unfortunately in the hot oven, by the time the toppings were all cooked the edges of the (already cooked) flatbread had turned rock hard. It wasn’t too bad, seeing as everything that was under the toppings was soft, but not something I would like in a pizza. I tried another batch, and this time instead of the oven I just put the tray higher and lit the grill without a pre-heat. I tried the much thinner pitta bread with that, and it worked like a charm.
I finally have a working oven I can just chuck a bunch of stuff into. Thank God, all that cooking was cutting into my
pr0n work time!