RSS Feed

Category Archives: vegetables

Garlic Rolls in a Convection Oven

Posted on

garlicbreadrolls.jpg

I posted this picture on instagram, and got so many comments about not being able to trust a convection oven to make bread/ cake and cookies.

 First things first, there are a lot of misconceptions about using a convection oven in India. Most low end models of convection ovens usually come in combination with a microwave and hence a lot of people feel they own a microwave oven and cannot bake in it. Higher end convection ovens are mostly stand alone ones. Check your oven user manual to find out how your’s works. These are observations I have made based on interactions with students and participants from my baking classes and I am hoping to debunk a few myths.

  • A convection oven is an oven which heats up using electric coil or a heating element, similar to an OTG. The difference is that in addition, convection ovens have a fan built in, which distributes the heat evenly. This means that heating is far more efficient in a convection oven when compared to an OTG. However in India, there is a feeling among users, that only OTGs (oven toaster griller) have the ability to bake cakes and cookies or bake them better than convection ovens. This is not true.
  • To use a convection oven, firstly read the manual thoroughly. Each oven functions differently and hearsay about what a friend / neighbour uses is mostly not helpful. If anything it only serves to confuse, unless validated with data.
  • To use your oven, you need to identify three functions and their controls in your oven. Thermostat – to set the temperature, Timer – to choose the time for baking, Preheat function – to preheat your oven, sometimes this is the power button or the start button if your oven does not have a separate preheat button.
  • Check if the thermostat is functioning efficiently. To do this, you can use an oven thermometer and place it inside the oven, after preheating, check if the thermometer is showing the same temperature as the thermostat indicates. If it shows a variation more than 5-10 degrees, get a technician to calibrate the oven and check again. Do not resort to guess work as it can lead to disastrous baking results. Get your oven fixed rather than trying to work around a heating problem.
  • Also, since most combination convection microwave ovens come with a turntable, it is important to place the wire tripod (usually provided with the oven) on the turntable and place the baking pan ON TOP of the wire rack. The heat needs to get to the baking pan from all sides. When the baking pan is placed on top of the turntable without any height, the bottom cooks poorly.
  • Once the oven is placed in the convection mode, oven proof utensils can be used. These include metal, aluminum, silicone, bake proof glass and paper.
  • One issue which most people complain about is that a convection oven does not result in a crust/ browning the way an OTG does. This is true, only because of the distribution of heat via the fan. To get a deeper coloured result, turn on the overhead grill in your convection oven for the last 1 minute of baking. Anything more and it will dry out your cake.
  • Unless the oven is overheating or underheating, do not change the baking temperature for any recipe. Follow the temperature and baking time as specified by the recipe instructions.
  • The key to getting the best results from your oven, no matter what kind it is, is PRACTICE. The more you bake, the more comfortable you get with your oven and its functions. All ovens are different and they do give varying results. But to solely blame the oven for a baking disaster is not correct. Many times, when probed, my students who complain about not getting proper results with a convection oven will confess that they messed up the recipe and then blamed the oven.
  • Baking is a science, mostly chemistry. It is the combination of the right proportion of Wet + Dry ingredients, combined with a rising agent and exposed to a certain amount of heat. An error in any of these elements will result in a bad product. I will do a baking 101 soon.

Garlic bread rolls recipe (Makes 12 rolls)

3 cups flour ( I used 1.5 cups wheat flour + 1.5 cups all purpose flour)

1 teaspoon active dried yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup warm milk (temperature of the milk should be about 95-97 degrees F – when you place your finger in the liquid, it should feel a few degrees warmer than your body temperature. Any hotter and you will kill the yeast)

1.5 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons soft butter

3-4 pods of fresh garlic, grated or use 1 tablespoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon herbs of choice (optional, use dried or fresh)

room temperature water as needed (about 2/3 cup)

1/4-1/2 cup dry flour for kneading

Method: warm the milk and add the sugar and yeast to it. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes. The yeast should froth up and form a foam like cappuccino. If this does not happen, wait a few more minutes. If there is no frothing, it is safe to assume that the yeast is either inactive or that the water is too hot. Discard the mixture and start again. If it does not work the second time as well, get a fresh batch of yeast.

Measure the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and garlic to the bowl and mix with your fingers. Add the herbs also if using.

Once the yeast has frothed up, add the milk to the flour and combine to make a dough. Add extra water, at room temperature, to make a dough that feels a little soft and sticky. The dough should be much softer and wetter than roti dough. Do not be tempted to add dry flour to this mixture.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

On a clean and dry surface, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of dry flour, dump the dough onto the surface and knead with your hands for 10 minutes. At first the dough will be very sticky and difficult to manage. But resist the temptation to add more dry flour. Add the butter and oil a little at a time to create a smooth and elastic dough. Use only half the dry flour and only IF needed. When you touch the dough, it should feel rubbery to the touch once kneaded. Roughly 10 minutes of kneading should be sufficient.

to check if the dough is ready, take a small marble sized piece and roll it into a ball. Gently spread it between your fingers to see if it spreads without tearing. If it tears too easily, the dough needs to be kneaded some more.

Spread a little oil on a clean bowl, shape the dough into a round and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm or a damp cloth. Leave it to rise in a warm spot which doesnt get direct breeze for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the weather and how warm your kitchen is.

The dough should become double in size. If you are unsure, just place the dough in a plastic see through container. On the outside, take a ruler and mark the inches. When you place the dough, if it is at 4 inches, it should come up to 8 inches when it is ready. When you place the dough in the container if it was at 3 inches, it should come up to 6inches. Etc.

Once the dough has risen, gently turn it onto a kneading surface. Press out the air gently and divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape them into balls, ensuring to press and seal the loose ends at the bottom. Repeat with all the dough balls.

Prepare a 9 inch round or square baking pan by brushing it with melted butter or oil. Place an aluminum foil at the bottom of the baking pan and brush this too with oil/ melted butter. This is optional, but makes for an easy clean up and prevents the rolls from sticking to the pan.

Place the shaped rolls 1 inch apart in the baking pan. Cover with a damp cloth or clingfilm and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes to rise to double. The space between the rolls should be filled with the plumped up dough. The tops can be brushed with a beaten egg, I skipped this step. This egg wash gives a deep browning to the top.

Preheat your oven to 200 Degrees Celsius. Place the metal baking rack in the middle of the oven. Place the baking pan with the rolls on this. Close the oven door and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Check the doneness at 25 minutes, by gently opening the oven door & checking the rolls. They should have a uniform golden brown top. If they are still pale, continue to bake for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Brush the hot rolls with melted butter. Remove the rolls gently from the pan by turning the pan upside down onto a rack or a plate, cover with a dry clean kitchen cloth and cool another 5 minutes.

Enjoy the rolls warm with butter or a gravy curry/ stew or soup.

Home made bread will dry out if left exposed. Cover with a clean dry cloth until needed. Do not put the hot rolls in a closed container, they will steam and get soggy.

To store leftovers, either wrap with clingfilm and store, or place it on paper towels and then put it in an airtight container. Always refrigerate bread if not using within 24 hours.

I would love to answer any questions you may have for this recipe. If you have read this far, then thank you for your patience. If you try this out, please send me a picture of your bread rolls.

Happy baking!

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake with Garam Masala

Posted on

IMG_20160328_121406.jpgPS: This post has been in the writing since Easter………Yes it has taken me that long! And it isn’t even a spectacular post!

The long weekend of Easter was spent mostly in sloth. Even baths were taken only when I was threatened by the presence of people other than K. Wait….. that’s not true. We went out for a party on Friday night, so I had the said bath and dressed up, even wore lipstick to draw the attention away from my overgrown brows, Saturday I finished class and got home at 3 p.m. Which only left Sunday for sloth, which I think is acceptable.

But my brain works in mysterious ways and told me it was Easter, in another life I would have been up at 4 a.m to attend sunrise service. We’ve come a long way from it and I woke up well after 8 a.m. After realising the day would not have any tedious activities, I started to feel guilty for not doing anything. Chatting back and forth with a new friend, I was prompted to make a carrot cake that she sent me the recipe for. I thought I’ll make it eggless since we were contemplating an evening visit to the in laws who don’t eat eggs, but I was out of yogurt and surprisingly well stocked with eggs. So egg wala cake it was!

I more or less used the blueprint of the Banana Loaf I posted here. This works well with whole wheat flour and gives it a beautiful crust. You can use all refined flour if that’s all you have. Indian kitchens/ pantries have whole wheat flour that is used to make rotis and the commercial ones are very good for baking. If you are using a home made / freshly ground flour which contains more bran, then the recipe may need some more moisture and a little extra pinch of baking powder for aeration.

The cake turned out very good. I was happy with the texture and the mild sweetness. We had it with a scoop of vanilla icecream to celebrate Easter! The flavours intensified the next day. I love nutmeg in bakes and really think cinnamon is so overrated as a spice/ flavour.

Here’s the recipe for this simple carrot cake.

1 cup Whole wheat flour

1 cup Maida (all purpose flour)

1.5 teaspoons Baking powder

1 teaspoon Baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional but substitute with cinnamon powder if you prefer)

1/4 teaspoon Garam masala (yes! I know. Trust me on this!)

2/3 cup sugar ( a mix of brown and white gives it a deeper colour – can add upto 1 cup)

2 medium Eggs at room temperature

1.5 cups Grated carrots

1/2 cup Milk

1/4 cup Vegetable oil or melted butter (I used sunflower oil)

1 teaspoon Vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, line a 7 inch loaf Pan or a 7 inch square cake pan and brush with oil or melted butter and set aside.

Into a bowl, add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garam masala and nutmeg, whisk to mix well and set aside. This can also be sifted a couple of times. 

In a blender jar (or another bowl, whisk by hand), add the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, oil and pulse till it resembles a thick milkshake. Make sure the sugar has dissolved.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and gently whisk till there are no lumps. Add the grated carrot and mix gently again. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place on the middle rack of the oven and bake at 180 degrees C for 40-45 minutes, depending on the oven, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. 

This is a rustic style cake and will crack in the middle a bit. If you do not want it to crack, add 3-4 tablespoons extra melted butter / oil and bake it at 170 C.

When done, leave in the pan to cool for 15 minutes, remove from the pan and peel off the paper lining, slice and serve.

Keeps well in an airtight box for 1 day at room temperature or in the fridge for upto a week.

 

Multi Millet Thepla with Methi and Palak

Posted on

methi thepla

That’s a mouthful, to say and to eat. I posted a picture of this on my instagram feed and I had a lot of friends asking for the recipe. To my mind, that was odd, because this was more of a ‘throw everything you have in the fridge together’ type of preparation. I’ve had this long standing habit of making a roti / flatbread mixed with fresh vegetables (grated carrot or bottlegourd) or leafy vegetables such as spinach or even pureed leftover dal and curries. Its an effective way to get some flavour into a plain roti and cleans up your fridge, what’s not to love?

I have been using a multi millet mix for rotis off and on and used the same to make these theplas. Millets grow in abundance in the Telangana region, of which Hyderabad is the capital city. The area is land locked, dry and arid and millets which do not need much water, are suitable for these semi drought conditions. Millets are also extensively eaten in Maharashtra and Karnataka. All this changed over the last few decades with everyone shifting both cultivation and consumption to rice. However, the last few years have brought a surge in the interest and consumption of millets, much to the delight of farmers. This is due to the fact that millets are gluten free and low in glycemic index, making it suitable for those on a gluten free diet or people who need slow release foods, like diabetics. Millets are very ‘filling’ that’s what a lay person would call a low GI food. It makes one feel less hungry and delays the next meal. Farmers would make a gruel from millets such as ragi and consume it early in the morning before they head out to the fields. This would keep them full till their next meal.

Due to the nature of the grain, millet rotis tend to become dry and are best eaten hot, smeared with a little butter or ghee. It is also a little difficult to roll out as a roti, again because it doesn’t contain gluten, the roti breaks and tears and doesn’t hold shape. The traditional way to combat this, is to knead the dough with warm water, and pat out the rotis instead of rolling them. It is a treat to watch ladies do this, ofcourse this is a dying skill.

To make my life easy, I simply add a little bit of wheat flour to act as a binder and help roll out the rotis. Wheat also ensures the theplas remain soft for a few hours after making them. Millet flours are coarse, they also have a strong nutty taste which takes a little getting used to. Adding spices, grated or pureed vegetables or even a dab of ghee or butter, makes it easier to eat. It is definitely an acquired taste. So start with small quantities.

There is a pseudo grain amongst millets, looks and tastes like cooked broken rice, this is my favourite, because it can be cooked and eaten in place of rice. Do check out Foxtail millet. I have a few recipes for it on this blog such as patties and pulav. Jowar/ pearl millet can effectively be used in many non Indian dishes too, I have a recipe for a tabbouleh salad that uses jowar instead of Bulgar wheat!

For a recipe that I didn’t think was blogging worthy, that’s a lot of story!

I make my own multi grain flour mix but you can also use a premix. I add equal quantities of Ragi, Jowar, Bajra to a container and mix it. The wheat flour is added when I knead the dough and in as much quantity as desired. For this thepla, I used equal quantities of ragi, jowar, bajra and wheat flours.

 

1/2 cup each of ragi, jowar, bajra and wheat flours (2 cups flour in all)

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust according to taste)

1-1.5 cups finely chopped spinach and fenugreek leaves

1/2 – 3/4 cup warm water to knead the dough

3-4 teaspoons of oil / ghee

Mix together all of the ingredients except the water, add water slowly and knead into a slightly stiff dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a tava / griddle on medium high heat, divide the dough into 8 portions and make balls out of them.

Using a little dry wheat flour and a rolling pin, roll out the dough balls into thin discs, about 5 inches in diameter. Repeat with all of the dough balls.

When the griddle is hot, cook the theplas on the first side for 20 seconds, flip over when small bubbles/ brown spots form. Cook the other side for 30-45 seconds, press down gently with a clean kitchen towel, to ensure all the edges are cooked, drizzle some oil/ ghee and repeat the pressing down on the other side. This is to ensure that the edges get a few crispy bits.

Take it off the flame and keep it in layers of a kitchen towel or serve immediately. Repeat with all the dough. Serve them hot with lots of white butter (:D), yogurt and pickle on the side.

If you liked this recipe, or tried it out, do let me know how it turned out. You can also write about how you use millets in your kitchen, or what your favourite recipe for thepla is.

 

 

 

Spiced Pumpkin and Carrot Multigrain Loaf

Posted on
garam masala spiced pumpkin loaf

garam masala spiced pumpkin loaf

I posted this picture to my instagram account and a lot of friends asked for the recipe. I thought I would do a quick post. I teach this in my healthy baking workshop and students are usually quite surprised at the soft texture which I believe is largely due to pumpkin puree.

I have a special love for yellow pumpkin. I love it as a vegetable, made into a really tangy curry, the way we make it in the south, stir fried with minimal spices and eaten with roti, and as a base for creamy soups minus any cream. But I love baking with pumpkin. The puree of yellow pumpkin lends itself beautifully to rolls and loaves and makes eggless baking particularly moist and soft. Fruit and vegetable purees are great if one wants to do any of the following:

1) Bake eggless versions of cakes and loaves

2) Cut back on sugar and fat

3) Bake with wholegrain flours because coarser flours need more moisture and purees are perfect for this

So this is a recipe that has very little fat, I used vegetable oil, but feel free to use melted butter in the same amount. I’ve used powdered organic jaggery for sweetness. I love using garam masala to bake with, for one it is easily accessible on the kitchen shelf and has great depth of flavour due to the blend of spices over a single spice like nutmeg (to which I am very partial) or cinnamon.

Spiced Pumpkin and Carrot Multigrain Loaf

(Makes one 9 inch loaf)

1+1/4  cup Whole wheat flour

1/2 cup Powdered oats (I use quick cooking oats, powdered in the blender)

¼ cup Ragi flour

2 teaspoons Baking powder

1 teaspoon Baking soda/ soda bi carb

½ teaspoon Salt

2 teaspoons Garam masala powder (or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of pepper)

3/4 cup Grated Jaggery/ palm sugar/ brown sugar

½ cup Vegetable oil

1 Egg (replace with 1/4 cup milk+ 1/2 teaspoon vinegar)

2/3 cup Pumpkin puree (pressure cook or boil chunks of peeled and deseeded yellow pumpkin till fully cooked and puree in a blender with a splash of water)

½ cup Grated yellow pumpkin

½ cup Grated carrot

½ cup raisins

½ cup Walnuts/ Almonds (optional, I did’nt add them)

  • Sift the flours with the salt, baking powder, baking soda, garam masala powder and set aside. Mix in the grated carrot and pumpkin with the flour.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a 9 inch loaf pan / baking pan.
  • Beat together the oil, egg, pumpkin puree. Add the jaggery/ brown sugar to the wet ingredients and whisk till well mixed.
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in 3 batches and fold in gently.
  • Bake for 45-55 minutes or till a tester comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan  for 10 minutes and transfer to  a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta

Posted on

K’s lunchbox is like my one excited cooking moment of the day. What to make (and subsequently pack) is a question I am asking myself almost everyday.

I make a weekly list of things I can make in the stupor of the morning that won’t take too long. It helps to have a list because in the mornings, the last thing I can do is to be creative while watching the clock hands tick away. This pasta (like most pastas in my life) is crowd pleasing and can be done in less than 20 minutes. Quantities can be altered according to need and passes muster on my benchmark for a dish that is a crowd pleaser – is welcome at a lunch / brunch buffet.

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta

You know those garlic pods, that decide to spring to life in the vegetable tray of the fridge? I planted a bunch of them in a plastic takeaway tub filled with growing medium. In a week, green garlic shoots were ready for cutting. I snip them with a pair of scissors and they grow back. Conveniently placed on the wall of my kitchen, they are at arms length to be thrown into scrambled eggs, omelets, pasta, soup or a salad. Sometimes I use them in place of fresh coriander leaves as a garnish for Indian style vegetable dishes. They add a mild garlic flavour and are subtle enough not to make you want to drink mouthwash after your meal 😛DSC_0406

Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta (Serves 2)

3  cups cooked pasta (I used penne, but any short pasta will do)

1 medium onion, sliced thickly

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

1/4 cup fresh garlic chives

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons Olive oil

Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the oil, when warm, toss in the red chilli flakes, after a couple of seconds, ensuring the chilli doesn’t burn, add the onion and mushrooms and a little of the salt.

Saute for 3-4 minutes until the mushroom and onions are very lightly caramelising.

Add the cooked pasta, and toss well. Season with salt as per taste, garnish with the garlic chives and toss again. Drizzle with 1/2 a teaspoon of olive oil and serve.

Done!

A simple summer spaghetti recipe and a long story

Posted on

Some days Most days, I cook just to get done with a meal and don’t put too much thought when my only aim is to whiz in and out of the kitchen. I always wonder how my mom did it. These days, I have far greater respect for her than she could imagine. As a working woman in the 80’s with school going children, a bed ridden mother in law, a blind brother, rambling house, pets and assorted creatures living and a retinue of permanent and semi permanent house guests, I wonder how she managed. Not that I or my brother gave it much thought, but we always had a welcoming if sometimes messy home, hot freshly made food on the table at all meals and some non negotiable rules about things such as eating what is on the plate and rudeness quotient for behaviour.

Everything else was pretty much flexible. We didn’t have maddening schedules but we had to help around the house. I cannot remember not being a house / kitchen help since I was 5-6. We had strict rules about eating as a family at the table and no TV while eating. Duties were gender neutral and included bathing and dressing ourselves, laying and clearing the table, filling bottles with drinking water from the blasted water filters and feeding and bathing the pets.

I cannot remember her asking for ‘me time’ or ever laboring over what to cook. Favorites were made by rotation on the weekend, but that apart no fuss about food was entertained. She discharged her duties with utmost responsibility and made sure everyone was taken care of without feeling smothered.

What's an occasion that isn't marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

What’s an occasion that isn’t marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

Yesterday Amma had an eye surgery for cataract. This is in today’s time a simple 15 minute procedure. In her case, it is far more complicated because she has only one eye. A few years ago, after multiple operations to help her with her eyesight failed, Amma became fully blind in one eye with an irreversible damage to her optical nerve. The last couple of surgeries had to be abandoned because of complications and contributed to the rapid loss of her eye. The other eye has 30% vision and that made this operation even more critical.

She travels between my brother’s home and mine alone, manages her daily routine, even reads the newspapers with a magnifying glass, chops vegetables and cooks full meals. She is determined to make the best use of whatever vision she has and not be a bother to anyone around. She has a busy circle of friends and family that she keeps in touch with. Watches her favourite TV programs sometimes relying only on the dialogues to figure out what is happening and freely gives her opinion on everything from how clumsy I sometimes am to football teams in the current world cup :). We were fortunate to find a doctor who invested almost 2 years to understand her case and gain her trust. He reassured her that he would operate only when it was absolutely needed and only in her interest.

So last week when the doctor told her at the end of a routine check up that it was time, though she was anxious, she agreed. She spent the week preparing mentally for being sightless for atleast 6 hours post operation. She counted the steps from her bed to the washroom and dining table and back and practiced with her eyes closed. She made little packets of her medication and kept them ready so that I wouldn’t have to help her figure out which ones to take. She told the doctor that she was in his hands and that he was in God’s hands as she walked in for her procedure.

After a half day’s stay at the hospital, we came back home yesterday. The procedure went well and the doctor has said that he was happy with the outcome. He was able to successfully remove the cataract and some growth that would help her see a little clearer than before. Amma is recovering well. She has eaten all her meals by herself with a spoon, seated at the table. While I was busy in the kitchen, she found her clothes, freshened up, changed herself and combed her hair. I am scanning all phone calls from her close circle of trusted friends and family who are checking on her progress. She is tenacious and determined not to ask for help unless needed, yet she knows her limitations and wont jeopardize herself by taking unnecessary risks.

If I turn out to be even a fraction of what she is as a person, I will be very happy with myself.

The recipe I am sharing today is unlike what Amma would have rustled up. On the busiest day too, the table would be laden with rice, rotis, dal and atleast one vegetable or meat dish, all made from scratch. The kitchen appliances and other conveniences I so much take for granted were not available, no pastes, no frozen masalas, no fuss.

I turn to pasta when in doubt. When I need to feed just myself, when I couldn’t care less about what to cook. This is an ingredient that lends itself so well to any situation. It is a summer pasta and inspired by what I saw my current TV chef obsession David Rocco cook in an episode while travelling in India. My fellow salivator over David Rocco, R too made something similar and when I saw her post, I thought I should post this recipe of easy pasta (do I ever post anything that I don’t claim is easy to make?) too.

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti Recipe (serves 2)

Spaghetti or any other dry pasta for 2 servings

1/2 piece of Green Zucchini (About 4-5 inches, sliced)

6-8 button Mushrooms, washed (yes they are dirty in India), wiped and quartered

1 large Roma or other firm ripe tomato, chopped into 8 pieces

2-3 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil (be generous)

a small sprig of fresh basil (1/2 teaspoon of dried)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pods of garlic, peeled and sliced finely

2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese (optional, I never have this on hand)

In a wide pan, bring about 2 litres of water to a rolling boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt to it.

Add the spaghetti and cook stirring till done the way you like it. I do not like it al dente, so I cook it 1 minute more than that. By all means cook the pasta the way YOU like eating it 😀

Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the water. Set aside the cooked pasta.

In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and fry the garlic till just turning a shade darker. Add the zucchini slices and cook till they are turning golden around the edges, turn over gently and repeat. Remove the zucchini slices to a plate.

Add the tomatoes and mushrooms to the remaining hot oil and toss till they are beginning to wilt about 2 minutes but retain a crunch. The idea is not to cook them till mushy so cooking time is flexible as per your taste. Add the cooked spaghetti, zucchini slices and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste and the torn basil leaves. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid if it is very dry.

Turn off the heat. Drizzle on the lemon juice and toss well before serving it out into bowls and top with some parmesan cheese if you have it or drizzle the remaining olive oil. Serve.

This is a simple dish and can be served with a nice soup or salad on the side. For a non veg version, grilled chicken or prawns can be added to the mix. The simple flavours are so refreshing from the loaded with tomato / sauce / cheese pasta dishes that we usually reach out for.

Fusilli with Pine Nuts and Basil in Marinara Sauce

Posted on

Last year, I attended a live demonstration at a recently opened bistro in Hyderabad where the Chef showed us how to make fresh pasta. I have attempted to make fresh pasta in the past and I loved it. It was nice to interact with the Chef, ask questions and get answers for best techniques, ingredients, etc. We were served a pasta in a basic Marinara Sauce for which the chef gave us a rough recipe. What makes me want to cry is most of these recipes for sauces, need to be cooked for hours and hours and simmered and have all kinds of fussy ingredients. No doubt they taste fabulous, but I am nothing if not a cook who wants to always cheat!

There is nothing I loathe more than standing and stirring for hours. Even when a special celebration meal with several dishes is

So here is my version of a quick Marinara, ready in under 20 minutes, and tastes fabulous (even if i say so myself). I know a lot of cooks blanch tomatoes and peel the skin off and I do it too sometimes, but not this time, this is a quick sauce. I used local desi tomatoes, if you are using the Roma variety, you may need to blanch and peel the skin off as it is thicker than the skin of country variety of tomatoes.

Fusili Pasta

Fusili Pasta

Fusili Pasta in a Quick Marinara Sauce

2 cups cooked fusili (or any other pasta of choice) pasta {Cook according to packet instructions in salted water, drain and reserve some of the water}

3-4 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used regular desi tomatoes)

1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 pods of garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon each of sugar, red chilli powder/ red chilli flakes, dried/ fresh oregano and dried/ fresh basil

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of grated cheese (I used cheddar, parmesan is also good)

1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts (use almonds to substitute)

a small sprig of basil leaves

Put the chopped tomato, garlic, onion and 1/4 cup of water in a blender and pulse till smooth.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and tip over the pureed tomatoes. Add the red chilli powder / flakes, oregano and basil and half the salt and pepper, cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times in between.

Taste the sauce and add the remaining salt and pepper if needed. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Turn off the flame and cool for a couple of minutes.

Toss in the cooked pasta, stir and add the cheese.

Serve out into serving bowls, top with fresh basil and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Eat when it is still warm.

This sauce can be refrigerated and stored after completely being cooled in an air tight box for upto 1 week. Makes for a good pasta / pizza sauce and also as a sandwich spread.

%d bloggers like this: