Tag Archives: fusion pasta

My food onesie; ‘samosa filling’ macaroni and cheese

11 Nov


Samosa filling macaroni cheese

When I am tired and cold (which is pretty much every evening theses days) I want foods that will soothe me into my natural rhythm and it’s not always posh nosh. I am a fan of strange and superb concoctions, novel recipes that get the mind and the taste buds tingling…but when I am feeling this way, you know what I want. I want a hot water bottle, a blanket, cuddles, Mahabharata on the telly ( the only programme I watch these days) and some proper comforting and nostalgic comfort food. This is why I call it my food onsie.

What’s happened to me? Thinking back a few years I never wore my hair up when I was out, wore contact lenses only when socialising and mostly wore make up when I left the house. I went shopping for clothes regularly and knew about what was trending. I watched films and knew what was hot and not. And now?

Now I am cold and tired and I need more sleep. Last week I went to playgroup with snot on my shoulder and I wear leggings way too often. My hair is up because I don’t want it pulled and I wear glasses more than lenses. I wear cosy socks and thought of investing in a slanket (blanket with sleeves). I need sleep and comfort food that tastes hot and moderately spiced and just delicious. That’s it. Talk about the simple things eh?

This one is indulgent and is like eating a samosa in the rain. It just works. The vegetables are simple and easy, just how life should be. The mac is cheesy and the top is crunchy with breadcrumbs and its good. Just how life should be. Let me tell you, you won’t get the munchies after eating this dish…you will sleep well…just as we all should.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

600g macaroni
Half a medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
75g petit pois
75g sweetcorn kernels
One medium onion, diced
100g green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
5-6 curry leaves
2 green chilies
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
2tbsp, vegetable oil for cooking
1/2 tsp turmeric
One medium potato, diced
One medium leek, cut into bite sized chunks
120g mature cheese, grated plus another couple of handfuls for the topping
100g breadcrumbs
1200ml milk
20g butter
4tbsp. Plain flour

Method

1. Boil the macaroni per the packet instructions. Wash and drain when it is cooked and leave it to a side.
2. In the meantime, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin, turmeric, curry leaves and chilli. Let the seeds sizzle and then add the onion and salt. Sauté until the onion is softened and then add the rest of the vegetables.
3. Mix the vegetables in the oil well and then sprinkle in the garam masala. Cook until the potato is soft enough to pierce. This should take 10-12 minutes.
4. In the meantime, make the cheese sauce by melting the butter and adding the plain flour to make a soft paste. Loosen it up with a bit of oil if needed. Add the milk and whisk on a medium to low flame until the paste is absorbed into the milk. Then add the cheese and whisk lightly and loosely until the sauce thickens. Turn the heat off.
5. Take a deep and long baking tray and spread the macaroni into the tray. Combine it with the cooked vegetables and mic thoroughly. Introduce the cheese sauce and mix again. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and and then top with the breadcrumbs, evenly.
6. Put the tray under the grill and brown lightly.

Serve hot and you won’t need a hot water bottle. Snooze afterwards if you can, it adds to the effect.

Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

22 Sep

Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

My new husband grabbed my hand and gently led me out of the Bangkok shopping centre food court whilst I whimpered. I felt like a four-year old. But my hands were printed with Henna and every salesperson, tour guide or hotel staff would stop me to ask, sweetly , ‘honey moon?’

utterly frustrated and despairingly famished, I was just too worn out to talk. Or rather, complain. We were on honeymoon and spent the day sight-seeing, talking excitedly and traveling fair distances and had eventually landed up in a shopping centre where the shoes were the stuff of my dreams; very affordable, stylish and I gasped when I saw how small they were! I’m of course petite and wear size 3 shoes. I was delighted. Could it get any better? The morning had passed hearing traders haggle whilst I bobbed up and down a teeny boat on the floating market. I was inside that Jacobs advert. I’d inhaled the sweet smells from mounds of saffron and stopped on the water to buy an oversized straw hat. And now, look…small shoes!
So time elapsed and once the thrills had lulled, our tummies shouted in plight. The problem was that we couldn’t find any vegetarian food. The so-called-veggie dishes had oyster sauce in them or a fishy stock. I’d been served some in a noodle bar and the taste sent me out of the shopping centre.

So we were on the restless main road; sky train rumbling above us, cars honking past us and traders yelling at us. It was hot, dusty and it was all just too much. What we in awe of just hours ago, was now simply draining. Husband rang the hotel and they directed us to a restaurant they advised would actually serve proper veggie food.

It looked alright when we got there, but frankly I didn’t care anymore. My plate arrived and it was green. The noodles I mean, not the plate itself. I didn’t expect that; I was expecting coconut cream. It smelt like coriander and I almost wept. I told my husband about the time when my dad made mashed potatoes for my cousin, my brother and I when we were kids and he put coriander in it and we all gagged. My cousin held his breath and downed it because my dad bribed him with a giant bar of bounty. I looked down and my noodles and just wanted a bowl of tomato pasta. ‘Just eat it sweetheart, it is vegetarian and you haven’t eaten anything’.

I’d never tasted anything like it, it was like an Asian chutney on noodles. Garlicky heat and coriander with Thai sweet basil totally lifted me and the aroma of sesame oil, it was phenomenal. So simple, so fresh, moist and quite powerful. I asked for another portion as a take-away and I resolved to come home and make my own version.

I love this recipe because all of the fresh flavours that come through really decisively. They don’t over power each other and you can taste them all. I’ve used fresh basil and ginger along with coriander and the juices are those you get carried away by. This is perfect as a mid-week meal because it is easy to do. Please do use sesame oil, this dish wouldn’t taste the same without the perfume of nutty sesame seeds. I’ve also added toasted cashews and peanuts on top which for me, compete the Asian feel on this pasta. Don’t ruin it by adding cheese, you really don’t need it.

Ingredients to serve four

4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
4 cloves of garlic , minced
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
Salt to taste (I added 1tsp)
2 tsp fresh lime juice
4 tbsp finely chopped basil
500g fresh pasta

3 handfuls of cashew nuts and one handful of peanuts (shelled)

Method

1. Sauté the garlic and ginger in a splash of oil in a pan for 2-3 minutes and stir intermittently to avoid sticking.
2. In a grinder, combine the coriander, basil, sesame oil, garlic and ginger, salt and lime juice and blitz it until it’s a smooth pesto.
3. Put the pasta on the boil and cook it per the packet instructions. Meanwhile, in a hot, non stick pan toast the nuts until they are golden brown
4. Once the pasta is drained, stir the pesto through it and top it with the nuts. We’ve warm. It’s best that way.

Cooking with Herbs

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!

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