Tag Archives: entertaining

A Back Pocket Recipe – Roasted and Spiced Aubergine Pulp and Ricotta Conchiglioni

21 Dec

I’m thoroughly fatigued. When I squint, my eyes feel sore.  I am reassuringly, duck-feather cushioned on the sofa at home with my feet up, blanket thrown on my legs and scented candles are flickering whilst gentle aromas of sandalwood fill my head. The fire sizzles as the flames dance and lull me to sleep, or very nearly. That glowing pulse of the wood and coal always does it for me.

Its 3pm and the sensory treat of golden, orange and red colours and fragrances are a rare treat, before a 4pm meeting.

It’s worth it though, we had fabulous company for dinner last night and we laughed and chattered until the early hours. Unfortunately for them it’s a school night and they work in the city. Oops.

So yesterday, I had some energy for meal-making, but that’s purely from the love of doing it, rather than my physical levels of get-up-and-go. But you know me, I am not one for serving up a jacket-spuds, or fajita’s (I read that under a dinner party section of a food website!)  Some of the conversation at dinner, should revolve around the food, right?  And some of the fun of it all is in the food…correct?

Luckily, I keep a few back-pocket recipes for easy meals that can form part of a casual meal that’s more than a lasagne (again).  This is a recipe which I sometimes pull out because it looks like a lot of effort (I like to flatter guests) but really isn’t…and most importantly, it tastes gorgeous.  You can’t go wrong with huge pasta shells with a good stuffing in them.  Don’t worry about aubergine sensitive people, I have found that even they love it! Win-win.

I’ve bulk-made this one for parties, small and large get-togethers and the brilliance is that you can cook ahead the components and assemble it all at the last moment.  Pull it out during this festive period and kick back…

Recipe

Serves 4-6

25-30 conchiglioni shells

 A good couple of handfuls of your favourite hard cheese (I used mature cheddar infused with pickled onions and mixed herbs)

For the stuffing

A large red onion, thinly sliced and shallow fried

3 medium sized aubergines

A 250g tub of Ricotta cheese

The spices; salt to taste, 1 ½ tsp. curry powder, 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. garam masala

For the sauce

2 tins of plum tomatoes

2-3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

A handful of freshly chopped basil

1 tsp. sugar

The spices; ½ tsp. black pepper, salt to taste, 2 tsp. paprika

 

Method for the stuffing

  1. Lightly grease, stab and then roast the aubergines in a hot oven (pre-heated to aprox 180 degrees), until they blister and shrivel.  This should take about 40minutes.
  2. Allow the aubergines to cool, before skinning them and remove the pulp.  Smooth it out with a knife to given an even consistency
  3. Blend the red onion to a puree.  When you add this to the stuffing it will infiltrate a lovely sweetness that will help to lift the aubergine.
  4. Heat a deep pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil and then add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle. Then add the curry powder, paprika and allow them to infuse into the oil for about a minute. Don’t allow the spices to brown, they should just glow orange and red.
  5. Add the aubergine pulp and the salt, garam masala and mix through thoroughly. Stir in the sweet red onion and mix again.
  6. Let the mixture cool to a room temperature whilst you prepare the rest of it

Boil the conchiglioni until el-dente and in the meanwhile, turn your attention to the sauce. When the pasta is el-dente, drain and leave it to a side.

Method for the Tomato Sauce

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil and then add the chopped garlic and the paprika and allow the garlic to soften for a couple of minutes on a medium heat
  2. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and the salt and simmer
  3. Stir in the sugar and the black pepper
  4. Reduce the sauce for 4-5 minutes before adding the chopped basil.

when you are ready for assembly, add the ricotta cheese into the aubergine stuffing and mix it through thoroughly.

Assembly

It couldn’t get an easier.

  1. Pour the sauce evenly between your oven dishes
  2. Take a teaspoon, stuff the pasta shells with the aubergine stuffing and place into the tomato sauce
  3. Top the trays with cheese
  4. Bake in the oven for about 7-8 minutes at 180degrees, or until the pasta is soft enogh to pierce through with a knife

See…I told you it was easy!

Social Grazing; Masala Peanuts

13 Nov

Most people I talk to these days reckon I should put my (swollen) feet up and chill (despite my internal combustion system) out, eat and watch movies etc. and let the (busy-at-work-due-to Christmas) husband indulge me.  Thinking about it is relaxing, but those who know me, know that I never stop!

So, my thinking has been that I want to pack in as much as I can before the baby arrives so that I feel upbeat and productive…a great mood to welcome a new little person with. Funnily enough I have been doing a lot of entertaining, chatting and late nights too (the baby websites express how naughty that is, after all, people in my ‘condition’ need the rest.)  This weekend for instance has been filled with the laughter of people in three different cities and multiple cuisines. I am generating and storing memories and bonds…the stuff of smiles.

Besides, I feel so blessed that well-wishers want to see me for adult-chat before the baby arrives and they want to see and track the development of the ever-growing bump.

This is a joyful time and you know that all of my happy times have a strong association with food and it’s usually me doing the cooking, of course. I have enjoyed treating my friends and family as guinea-pigs and seeing as I struggle with big meals, there has been grazing-a-plenty! 

I love this recipe…you can’t go wrong with crunchy, spicy nuts with a light sour kick.  A bowl full of these won’t last very long…but I love them for filling the gaps between courses, or simply for nibbling on whilst giggling, laughing crunching.

Masala Peanuts

Ingredients

3/4 cup shelled peanuts

3/4 cup gram flour

1/4 cup rice flour

The spices; 1 tbsp. coriander powder, ½ tbsp. cumin powder, ½ tsp. dried mango powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder, 1 tsp. paprika, ½ tsp. ground black pepper, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, ¼ tsp. dried ginger powder

Up to 1 cup Water as needed

Oil to fry

Method

  1. In a hot, non-stick pan, lightly roast the peanuts until they have slightly browned, then leave them to cool
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients and then add the water and the peanuts to form a batter and ensure all of the peanuts are covered evenly.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep bottomed pan to fry the peanuts, the oil should be a couple of inches depth.
  4. Fry the peanuts until they are golden brown, but make sure that they are separate and don’t clog together when frying.  Remove them onto kitchen paper and allow them to cool.  You can devour them just as they are.
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