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Mushroom and Garlic Chives Pasta

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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

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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.

Chili Garlic Sauteed Vegetables ~ Sandwich

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Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

This has to be the month of sandwiches for me. After detesting dry bread with cucumber and tomato slices, I have become a sandwich fiend with a vengeance. There is nothing better than a good sandwich made with fresh bread. Generally I do not like the bread to be slathered on with either butter or mayonnaise. Just a little to get things going and add flavour.  This sandwich filling has three of my current favourites ~ mushrooms, olive oil and a readymade chilli garlic paste which is handy to have in the fridge.

I add this paste to curries, dal, pasta sauce, vegetables and even spinach for a nice kick. It is not too spicy and yet lends a wonderful depth to the vegetables. Am sure this can be made at home, I just picked it up on a whim of my now aimless supermarket trips and am (for a change) making good use of it.

I used onions, sliced mushrooms and a little bit of bell peppers. Am sure zucchini, thin strips of carrot, and even slices of eggplant will taste terrific in this. The key is to add a lot of onions  and saute them on a medium flame till they are sweet from the caramelization, but not brown or crisp.

A box of these sauteed vegetables in the fridge will make it easy to rustle up pasta, a roti wrap or even as a vegetable side on a busy weeknight.

Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

Sauteed Vegetable Sandwich

Chili Garlic Sauteed Vegetables ~ Sandwich (Makes 2)

4 slices                       Bread of choice, lightly toasted

1 medium                   Onion, sliced (about 2/3 cup)

1 cup                          Vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach etc, sliced

1 tablespoon              Extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon                 Chilli garlic paste (or grind together one clove of garlic with 1 ripe red chilli)

a handful of fresh herbs such as coriander or basil

1 teaspoons               Salted butter

  • In a flat pan, heat the oil and add all the vegetables. Saute on medium heat till the vegetables have wilted and the onions are translucent(about 2 minutes).
  • Add the chilli garlic paste, salt to taste and the fresh herbs and mix well.  Continue to saute till the liquid from the vegetables has almost dried off. At this point, the onions should be a deep brown and still soft. Turn off the heat and cool.
  • On a medium hot tava, toast the bread lightly and apply the butter.
  • Place the sauteed vegetables in a thin layer, top with the other slice of bread and press down lightly. Toast for 1 minute on each side, ensuring the filling does not come out.
  • Slice diagonally and serve warm.

Note: these vegetables can be stored in the fridge in an air tight container for upto 5 days to make a quick meal tossed with cooked pasta or in a wrap.

 

{Quick Cooking} Pav Bhaji Masala Pulao

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A few days ago, I was busy with work and suddenly realised I had not made lunch but was ravenous. I could have made upma. I make it well even when I add purple coloured veggies to it! But any chance to dig into a rice dish will not be lost. I’m a one dish meal queen. I love the convenience and the versatility of a one dish meal. My preference of carb is of course rice. Which self respecting south Indian will not turn to rice? 

I generally use one particular masala in most of my preparations ~ curries, dals, rice and anything else I may be cooking. It could be the sambar powder using my MIL’s recipe (contrary to purists, I make it and stock it in the freezer minus the coconut for a month) or egg roast masala that I so love or as in this case, pav bhaji masala, a packet of which I had opened and wanted to use at every opportunity.

A masala to me is just something to zing up a dish. Usually, most masalas have a base of coriander, cumin, chillies. the add ons are usually an assortment of garam masala. For instance, pav bhaji has a bit of amchur (dried mango powder) and hence will be slightly sour as opposed to a sambar powder which has roasted channa dal and is great to thicken curries! So depending on my instinct, I reach out and add a few spoons of a masala to whatever I may be cooking.

When I was writing this post, I did an online search and found that pav bhaji masala is used to make a rice dish called Tava Pulao. I have not tasted it, but most recipes call for cooked basmati rice to be sauteed with the masala. When cooked with the raw rice and vegetables, this dish has a milder flavour and takes lesser time!

My neighbourhood supermarket is doing a ‘buy one get one’ offer on a brand of basmati and I decided to be indulgent. This pulao will taste just as good with regular rice as well.

Pav Bhaji Masala Pulao (serves 2, time taken: 20 minutes)

Basmati Rice                    1 cup, washed and soaked in water for 5 minutes

Vegetables                        1 cup ( I used equal parts of mushrooms, cauliflower florets, frozen corn kernels)

Onion                                  1 medium, sliced

Green Chilli                       1, slit lengthwise

Salt to taste

Pav Bhaji Masala            11/2 teaspoons

Ginger Garlic Paste        1 teaspoon

Mint Leaves                       2 tablespoons

Oil / Ghee                            1 tablespoon

Bay Leaf                               1

Cloves and green cardamom 2 each

Cinnamon stick               1 small piece

Shahi Jeera                       1/2 teaspoon

In a pressure cooker, heat the ghee/ oil and when hot add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom and shahi jeera. Saute for a few seconds.

Add the sliced onions and green chilli and saute till onions are translucent. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute.

Add the vegetables, mint leaves and the pav bhaji masala and saute for 1 minute.

Add the rice, salt and 2 cups of hot water and stir. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and put on the whistle. Cook on high heat for one whistle and turn down the heat for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Wait for the pressure to release, open the lid of the pressure cooker and fluff gently with a fork. Serve this pulao hot with a side dish of choice or just plain raita.

 

 

 

One Pot Spaghetti with Tomato and Mushrooms

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Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

Cooking for one is my most favourite and least favourite task in the kitchen. No I am not a person who cannot make up my mind. Cooking for one means I get to make and eat what I want, something which K doesn’t particularly care for (pasta) or even one of my not so successful experiments. Cooking for one also means that I will eat in solitude and that is not my favourite thing to do!

Last year, the one pot pasta recipe was a rage across the interwebs. Anyone who had access to the net and had one or more social networking account (from twitter to pinterest) was cooking a one pot pasta in a frenzy and marvelling at its convenience. I tried it too and the first time, it cooked itself into a flavourless gunk. I was so disappointed with the outcome that I almost cried. And that has not happened with me in a long time. I made the mistake of making it and serving it when we had guests. No one noticed because of the other dishes that were served, but I had a lot leftover which I sent to the freezer while I thought about salvaging it. Which I did a few days later, with a tonne of roasted vegetables, a layer of cheese and baked the gunk to resemble a casserole which I and amma ploughed through for a couple of meals! It would be a while before I attempted to cook this again I thought!

Today I was determined to get this right, and since I was cooking just for myself, I could quickly deal with the failure too incase that happened. 

When making a one pot pasta, the thing to remember and work around, is the kind of pasta that is being used. I used an Indian brand of spaghetti made by Bambino. The label reads “made of durum wheat’ but I find that this cooks into a gunk if not stirred atleast 3-4 times while it is being cooked. Maybe using another shape of pasta wouldn’t need baby sitting. But this is not a show stopper for me. I mean, one cooking pot, dunk everything in and stand around the stove (playing candy crush in between stirs) for 10 minutes cannot be that off putting.

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Tomato

One Pot Spaghetti with Tomato and Mushrooms

(serves 2, Time Taken: Prep time – 5 minutes, Cooking time – 12 minutes)

Spaghetti  – to serve 2 people (I eyeballed this, about 100 grams)

Onion – 1 medium, halved and sliced

Garlic pods – 2, sliced

Button Mushrooms – 1 cup, washed and quartered

Tomato – 1 large, chopped into 8-10 pieces

Olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper – to taste

Red Chilli Flakes – 1/2 teaspoon

Sugar – 1/4 teaspoon (the tomato I used was tart, skip if you are using sweet tomatoes)

a few sprigs of fresh basil

Cream Cheese – 2 teaspoons (optional but recommended or use grated cheese)

Method:

Slice the onion, mushroom, tomato and garlic. Fill a heavy bottomed cooking pot with 2 cups of water.

Put everything into a pot and boil

Put everything into a pot and boil

Add all the ingredients except the cream cheese / cheese to the pot and stir well, bring this to a boil.

Cook on medium high heat, stirring every 2 minutes for about 8-10 minutes or till the pasta is cooked.

The water would have reduced and the starch from the pasta along with the other ingredients makes a nice light sauce. Check for salt and adjust if needed.

Stir in the cream cheese/ grated cheese, give it a nice mix and spoon out into bowls. Garnish with a sprig of basil and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve hot.

Last year, I attended a cooking demonstration at an Italian restaurant. One of the most valuable tips the chef gave us was to fry thinly sliced garlic in olive oil and stock it to use as a flavour enhancer in recipes. Added to the most simple soups, salads or even pasta, the fried garlic and the infused oil, gives the dish an intense burst of flavour. I used a teaspoon of this oil to drizzle on my pasta. It was terrific even if I say so myself!

Baking ~ Multi Grain Bread Rolls Stuffed with Cottage Cheese and Herbs

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I made these yummy bread rolls and used it in an article on healthy eating I did recently for a publication. Healthy bread ~ did you just do an eye roll? Well they’re made from the same multi grain atta (flour) that is used for regular rotis (Indian flat bread) and the stuffing was a mix of low fat cottage cheese, low fat cheddar and a lot of vegetables and herbs, it was a good specimen to showcase how bread need not be treated as the enemy. Every time I see a blanket accusation that carbs are bad, or bread is to be avoided, I have this urge to dropkick the person who preaches this like the gospel truth. Eating every food group is essential; just don’t overdo the sugars and the white stuff and the refined stuff. Shunning any food group for reasons other than medical and upon medical advice especially for fad diets is ridiculous. While I am not qualified to comment on nutrition, I do follow what my common sense tells me to do.

Onto the rolls now… I’d been seeing the sweet version of bread rolls in the form of cinnamon rolls or pumpkin rolls all over the blogosphere (still not sure if that is a word) around autumn / Halloween and was tempted to try them out. Around Christmas, my namesake sends me a package with some baking supplies as a present. It also had a few sachets of instant yeast. Anyone who is baking with yeast inIndiawill tell you how difficult it is to find good yeast. The boxed stuff we get here needs to be proven and prayed over for it to rise well. But this was great yeast and I had to use it immediately. I made two versions, sweet and savoury that I will hopefully post quickly (hopefully). The average time I take to post a recipe here from the time I make it is …. Well I’d be ashamed to post the number here. Let’s just say it takes between a few days to a few years… yes I have posted posts that have been in drafts for say a year or more too and a lot of stuff still sits there…

Here is the recipe for the rolls. I used a commercially available Multi-grain chapatti atta which is 75% whole wheat and 25% assorted grain flour. Feel free to use all whole wheat flour or replace half with white/refined flour or Maida.

Cottage Cheese and Herb Stuffed Multi-grain Bread Rolls (makes 10 rolls)

Multigrain flour (regular atta) – 2 1/2 cups

Dry active yeast – 1 teaspoon

Olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Warm milk – ½ cup

Salt – ½ teaspoon

Sugar – 1 teaspoon

Chilli Flakes – 1 teaspoon (optional)

For the filling

Shredded Cottage Cheese – 1 cup ( I used home made paneer, crumbled)

Grated low fat cheese – ¼ cup (optional)

Shredded vegetables of choice – 1 cup (I used a mix of colored peppers, grated carrot, onion and finely chopped mushrooms)

Fresh herbs like mint, coriander, celery leaves or basil – ½ cup chopped fine

Salt to taste

Red chilli powder – ½ teaspoon

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside for use.

For the topping

Olive oil – 1 tablespoon

Garlic clove – 1 peeled and crushed

Sesame seeds – 2 tablespoons toasted

mix this together and set aside for use.

Method

In a bowl, mix the warm milk, sugar and yeast till the yeast is dissolved. Set aside for 20 minutes till it is frothy.

Mix the flour with salt and chilli flakes, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the rest of the ingredients including the milk and mix well, adding water to make a soft almost sticky dough.

On a clean surface, dust some dry flour; knead the dough with your palms for about 5 minutes till it becomes elastic. Oil it with the remaining olive oil and put it in a bowl to rise for 1 hour, cover with a clean damp cloth/ cling wrap.

After an hour, take the puffed up dough, punch it down and knead again. Divide into two equal portions, on a floured surface with a rolling pin roll out into a ½ inch thick rectangle.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together.

Spread half of the filling on the rolled out dough. Lift up two ends of the roll and roll it in gently to make a cylinder. Slice into 4-5 equal parts and place it in a greased baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Cover the rolls and let them rise for 30 minutes. Brush with the olive oil glaze, sprinkle sesame seeds liberally on top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 220 degrees F for 30 minutes till the tops are golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Note: Oven temperatures and hence baking times may vary. Do a skewer test to check for doneness.

These rolls are best eaten fresh and warm from the oven. But they do keep well for a couple of days in the fridge. Just gently reheat before you serve them.

Recreating Bhutan thru food – Shamu Datshi (Bhutanese Mushroom and Cheese Recipe)

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One of my favourite posts to write was the one I did post returning from a wonderful holiday inBhutan. The beautiful landscape, colours and gorgeous people, not to mention the lovely food we ate throughout the trip was enough to inspire me. Something that is severely missing on this blog, when yesterday I realised that I’d last posted in September.

In fact, funnily I have been cooking and baking quite a bit. What with the extra hours I have on hand because of early rising due to the pooch. Somehow, never got down to making it here and am about to remedy that!

With the weather finally getting a nip and winter deciding to descend on our neck of the woods, memories of the food we ate inBhutanbecame so strong that it urged me to try and recreate it.

We enjoyed the vegetable and cheese preparations almost daily. Ema Datshi – Chillies and Cheese, Kewa Datshi – Potato and Cheese and my favourite Shamu Datshi – Mushrooms and Cheese.

It’s a simple recipe, the most time consuming aspect of this is the chopping of the mushrooms! Because the dish cooks itself in less than 10 minutes!

I found a recipe online and used that as a base, I omitted the tomatoes, because the version we had didn’t have tomatoes in it. I also used Amul processed cheese as that is the only one I had on hand. Am sure a combination of cheddar and mozzarella would be ideal. The taste was almost the same as what I recall. Pretty good for a first attempt at recreation!

Shamu Datshi (Serves 3)

Button Mushrooms – 200 grams, washed thinly sliced

Unsalted butter – 1 tablespoon

Water – ¼ cup

Cheese – 2/3 cup, grated (I used 3 cubes of Amul Processed cheese)

Spring onions – 3-4 sliced thinly

The cheese I used was  quite salty so I did not add any more salt.

Method

In a pan, place the sliced mushrooms, water, butter, and salt (if using) over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 5 minutes till the mushrooms are cooked. Stir in the grated cheese, and green onion, cover, and cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Pour into a serving dish and serve with rice.

That’s it! It’s a fantastic dish to serve for cheese lovers. Makes a great and easy addition to a party table. Can be eaten with nice crusty bread as well, but goes best with hot Rosematta rice.

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