Tag Archives: pasta recipes

Cauliflower & Halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron

13 Feb

 Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

De-waste of time stuff

I took a walk with the boy the other day, before the storms.  I was a bit bleary eyed and I can blame only late nights and very good apple and pecan bread, oh and the cinnamon and raisin loaf.  We stopped to look at the blooming snowdrops and daffodils and I smiled that spring is almost here.   Lines of them fluttered for us and we had a little chat about the colour and how they need water and light to grow. My boy asked me, ‘like mumma and me’. I chuckled and said sort of, yes and that people need love and food too. Some groups of pre-teens walked past, in categories of pretty and flamboyant, comical and loud, and simply cheeky.  I, now feeling category-less, tried to reflect on what groupings I had grown through and what sort of company had influenced me, then decided that this was a pointless activity but you do become like the people you surround yourself with. We then stopped in the supermarket and a tot wanted to engage with me, I asked his mother how old he was, but she was tapping away at her phone and didn’t answer.  My phone buzzed away with messages about things that could have been more positive. My heart sank a few notches and I wondered why .

We talk about de-cluttering and detoxing in our family, quite a bit.  Clear the things or undertakings that are draining distractions or energy suckers. For example; omitting energy-draining foods, clearing unwanted magazines, removing damaged toys, halting diverting activities like too much time on Facebook that waste precious time, deleting fuzzy pictures on the laptop, giving away unused Christmas bits and bobs…and closing our eyes to the people that want to walk in our minds with their dirty feet.

I drank a lot of dill water when I was nursing.  I can’t admit to ever liking it but as a first time mother my protective maternal instinct was at lioness levels and I knew that the dill water helped to stimulate precious milk production and would help keep my new-born baby’s tummy clear and wind-free. That’s what inspired my recipe but do believe that this recipe is boring. Oh no.

What excites me about this recipe is that both cauliflower and Halloumi absorb flavours superbly. They are mellow in themselves and the cauliflower is a giver and receiver of flavour. The Halloumi softens politely and accepts the juices of this dish graciously. No longer chewy, the cheese becomes pleasurably oozy. The fennel stock is distinctly there, but not loudly. The saffron is absolutely showy in the colour and the delicate flavour, but not overpoweringly. The thyme, the lemon, the onion… all accents this dish subtly. There is nothing overwhelming about this recipe. But it is heart-warming. Do it.

Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients to serve 4-6

One medium head of cauliflower, separated into large florets

One medium onion, sliced

1 ½ tbsp. fennel seeds

500ml boiling hot water

One can of chopped tomatoes

200g Halloumi cheese cut into thick fingers

A few springs of thyme

Half a lemon

A good pinch of saffron

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. mustard oil

Method

  1. Put the fennel seeds into a jug and pour in the boiling water. Let it settle for an hour or so and when the stock looks like its infused with the seeds, begin cooking.
  2. In a deep pan heat the oil and add the onion with the salt and sauté for a minute. Add the cauliflower and Halloumi and coat them well with the oil. Allow them to catch a light golden colour, before pouring in the chopped tomatoes and mix it well. Pour in the fennel stock, but not the seeds. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  3. Add 1 tsp. of the fennel seeds and a good pinch of saffron and let them fuse with the stock.
  4. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add a few (4 or so) springs of thyme and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked.

 

Serve with pasta or rice or mop it up with bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My pasta Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

23 Dec
Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Often my mind races through evaluation and check list mode; what of that email I was supposed to send…the music isn’t right is it, did I buy kitchen foil? Why did that person say/do that, am I looking too much into it? Do I need to make a doctors appointment, what was that recipe submission date? Will I get that contract and when will I get a chance to paint my nails? What shall I make for dinner and what should I charge as daily rate?

But then a little head lands in my lap, ‘happy birthday mumma’. It’s not my birthday, but I know he means that he loves me. I run my hand through his hair, cup his face and tell him that I love him. ‘Thank you mumma, you’re welcome, I love you’.

As we race matchstick cars down the track and talk about dinosaurs, planets and animals I reflect on how blessed I am and that with each day that passes, it is one less from his childhood. That’s why it’s so important to be ‘here and now’. In the present, in the moment and cherishing it all. Of course there are practicalities like working, bathing, eating, cooking etc, but you know what I mean. This is also why, at Christmas time when we have family and friends visiting us over a couple of weeks and I do much of the cooking, I don’t want to make elaborate, fiddly dishes that take hours to cooks and ages to clean up after. I want something that shows effort, looks like a feast and above, is utterly delicious.

We’ve all had those excruciating moments during entertaining loved ones, were the as the host we end up in the kitchen tossing, baking, simmering and assembling. We hear laughter and cheer in the living or dining room and wish we could be part of it. Why not prepare a dish you can stick some cling film ver and pop in the oven whilst you sit down and smile with the group, clutching a cup of something hot and sweet?

Cue my pasta rotolo; how does it look? Good eh? Let me tell you…it tastes like a spicy, tangy, slippery, crispy, cheesy and smooth gorgeous little nest. Just look at it, it’s quite impressive isn’t it? And guess what, it’s so easy to do! Here’s how.

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines
350g frozen spinach
150g feta cheese
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5shallots
5 tbsp oil for cooking
1 tsp cumin seeds
1.5. tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of pepper
3 fresh lasagne sheets
Vegetarian hard cheese or mature cheddar for sprinkling on top

Method
1. Wash the aubergines, coat them in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees for 30mins or until they are soft on the inside and shrivelled on the outside. Let them cool and scoop out the insides. Mash them lightly on a plate until they are pulpy.image
2. To make the aubergine masala, heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the onions and some salt. I added 3/4 tsp. cook the onions until they are golden before adding half the minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are lightly browned before adding the cumin powder, turmeric, 3/4 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add the aubergine masala and mix throughly. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.image
2. To make the tomato sauce, heat 2 tbsp oil and then add the remaining garlic, paprika, chilli and salt (I added 1 tsp) and then sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and bring it to simmer. Add a pinch of sugar if your tomatoes are sour.
3. To make the spices spinach, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, fennel and allow the mustard to pop. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and 3/4 tsp of garam masala. Cook for4-5 minutes, check that there are no frozen bits and turn it off the heat. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes on a medium flame.image
4. Heat the oven at 180 degrees and then start on the rotolo. Take one lasagne sheet and spread it with one third of the aubergine masala. then spread the spinach on top (a third) and crumble on some feta. Roll it up, then cut it in half, then half again.image
5. In a deep dish, spread the tomato sauce. Then, gentle place the rotolo pieces inside the sauce before sprinkling the cheese on top. Bake in the oven for 30mins or until golden brown.

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

11 Dec

Vegetarian Christmas recipe - open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto



I have a fabulous new recipe for nut roast’, my friend told me yesterday. Apparently it is different and definitely not dry.

‘What shall I make for my in-laws’ my neighbour asked. ‘I’m planning a mushroom pie’.

‘Well, I suppose we could all have turkey and the vegetarian can have the vegetables and some vegetarian gravy’. Said one of the ladies emailing me this week.

‘I might just get something vegetarian from Marks and Spencer’s or Waitrose and I’m sure it’ll be lovely’ proposed another.

I’m not mocking the traditional nut roast that is rich and nutritious. It doesn’t have to taste like dehydrated sawdust, honestly it doesn’t. And mushroom pie? Nothing wrong with it. I am sure you know how I feel about mushroom risotto but mushroom pie I can eat…and then I feel a bit icky.

So, here’s a colourful option for Christmas that has a balance of spicy and creamy mushrooms, sweet and spicy butternut squash and a punchy and herby coriander and parsley pesto on top. Lovely slippery pasta, some toasted cashew…it just looks and tastes special and that is what is about at Christmas I reckon.

To serve 4

To make the mushroom masala
250g chestnut mushroom, sliced
125g ricotta cheese
Salt to taste
2 cloves of garlic
One red onion, finely diced
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp oil

To make the butternut squash filling
1/2 peeled and grated butternut squash
1 tsp chilli flakes
A good pinch of saffron
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cooking oil

To make the pesto
30g coriander, finely chopped
30g pesto
2 tbsp sesame oil
One chilli
Salt to taste

You will also need
A handful of toasted cashew nuts
Extra virgin oil for drizzling
6-8 large, fresh lasagne sheets

Method
1. To make the butternut squash filling, heat the oil in a pan and the add the butternut squash. Sauté for a minute then add the chilli flakes, salt and saffron. Cook until it is soft enough to squash between fingers, but it should not go mushy. It should take approximately 7-8minutes.
2. To make the mushroom masala, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When they sizzle add the red onion, then salt and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir in the coriander powder and then the mushrooms and garam masala. Sauté for two minutes before adding the ricotta. When the ricotta is bubbling, cook for 3 minutes.
3. To make the pesto, simply combine all the ingredients in a grinder and blitz it together until it is fairly smooth.
4. When you are ready to serve, boil the pasta sheets per packet instructions. Wash and drain the lasagne sheets and then again in hot water.
Cut the sheet in half, then half again so that you have 8squares. Layer each square with 1tbsp. Mushrooms masala, then place another square on top of that. Place 1tbsp. Of butternut squash filling on that layer and place one more layer and top it with a tsp of pesto. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of toasted cashew nuts.

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

 

Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

29 Nov
Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

I was at lunch earlier this week with a very lovely lady of mixed, european origin. We were in a pretty decent Italian restaurant and I was craving strong cheese. I met a waiter who kept tilting onto one leg, grinning and telling me that I needed to add meat to my dish, even though told him I am vegetarian.

So this lovely lady and were trying each other on for size; gauging whether our frequencies matched. We were each asking each other obviously leading questions that would reveal thought processes, feelings on certain subjects and general outlook in unspoken agreement of openness. All during lunch. All the while we repeated the line, ‘I’m going to be completely honest’.

We spoke at length about the fusion of her european cultures compared to my own, and her close family of talented cooks, like mine. We spoke about money motivations and the sensible approach of working hard now to make life more comfortable in the future. We touched on how appearance conscious certain professions are and whether can be pull-off being less talented if you are exceptionally good-looking. All familiar topics that everyone has debated.

What happened? My ambitious and warm fellow diner, whose make-up was immaculately done, revealed the same thing that so many women do to me. So many women of my age group, broadly speaking. Her focused and formidable body language softened, her smile more gentle and she rushed, ‘I just want to settle down and have kids’.

‘No time’ was the problem we discussed. No time to stop, go out and have fun. No time to rest, no time for adventures, no time for stuff for the heart. No time.

The thing is, we all have our turnaround moment in life when we do, if we are fortunate enough. Mine was only three years ago, but life teaches us and shows us along the way, if we are open enough to see it. My husbands friends wife was diagnosed with a cancer this week, 42.

So as I was munching through my pasta with courgette fritters on top, I was asked whether I get annoyed by what I eat in restaurants because as a foodie I cook a lot. The answer is no. One of the many things I miss about being near my family is being cooked for. It always feels good to be cooked for. Sometimes, someone else’s cooking just feels refreshing.

On this occasion, I did find the need to tart up the pasta dish. The courgette balls didn’t have much favour and the pasta had been left dry. So in my version I’m using a variant of the popular Manchurian vegetable balls and using them on top of a mellow-sweet and spicy butternut squash sauce with spaghetti. So what happens is that you get these soft and spongy, spicy and salty vegetable balls contrasting with the spaghetti and balancing the whole dish out. You also get some pretty colours. Move over spaghetti and meatballs eh? Try it, let me know what you think

Ingredients to serve 2-3

For the vegetable balls

1/2 cabbage, grated
2 green chilies, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 carrot, grated
50g green beans, chopped into small bites
1/2 cup plain flour
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch stick of ginger, minced
Oil for deep-frying

Ingredients for the butternut squash sauce

One medium-sized butternut squash , peeled and cut into chunks
500ml vegetable stock
1 tsp red chilli flakes
One medium onion, cut into chunks
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste

You’ll need about 150g of spaghetti

Method
1. To make the butternut squash sauce, heat the oil in the pan and then add the onion . Brown the onion lightly before adding the squash and mixing it. Sprinkle in the salt and chilli flakes. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer until the butternut squash is soft enough to mash.
2. Turn off the heat and use a hand blender or food processor to purée the butternut squash sauce. The consistency should be like a thick soup, rather than paste. Add water if you need to loosen it up.
3. Heat the oil whilst you prepare the Manchurian balls.
2. To make the vegetable balls, combine the cabbage, carrot, green beans, chilli, garlic and ginger in a bowl and mix well.
3. Stir in the soy sauce and combine again, before adding the plain flour and making a dough.
4. Check the oil is hot by dropping a small amount of the mixture into the oil, if it rises and sizzles the oil is hot enough.
5. Make small balls the size of a large coin and then fry them until they are golden brown before removing them with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper.Manchurian vegetable balls

Manchurian veg balls
6. I would suggest making up individual plates by combining sauce and spaghetti in whatever proportions you like then top with vegetable balls.

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.

Garlic and cumin roasted cauliflower in parsley and chilli pesto pasta (plus giveaway)

29 Oct
Garlic and Cumin roasted cauliflower in parsley and chilli pesto pasta

Garlic and Cumin roasted cauliflower in parsley and chilli pesto pasta

It’s funny how tastes change as grow up.

Back in the day, a weekend in Skegness with chips, rides, candy floss, sand castles and good company was the making of exhilarating times. The smell of fried onions, the smacking of the sea, the sun in our hair and on our backs. Wearing shorts, but skies, seagulls. When my husband and I were a relatively new couple we escaped the pressures of the festive season by going to Scotland. We we young. We stopped by Blackpool of all places and it was so windy, I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I remember mr.bean on a tiny TV with a long aerial in our modest lodging for the night. The simple things.

Then for my 30th we were in an island just off Mauritius that we could walk around within 20mins. The waters were so shallow and still, you could just walk from one end to another. Quiet and scorching, still and stunning. They weren’t wrong when they said, ‘welcome to paradise’. I wasn’t one to stop and stare, I like to keep busy. But on an island as movingly beautiful, it was just instinctive to stop and admire…for a long time. I had flutters in my tummy, it was thrilling. I was making the memories I had imagined for so long.

I remember watching one of my uncles grilling full cloves of garlic on top of toast on one of those old school cookers where the flames would dance on the grill. I remember being utterly repulsed; how DID he eat THAT. I listened to him telling my dad how he ate it every day and how raw garlic was good for the heart, blah blah. They drank karela juice and ate raw mung bean sprouts. What was wrong with my family…surely everyone else’s family ate pizza and certainly not raw garlic?

And now? I’ve tweeted excitedly about roasted garlic with salt and sighing with smiles at the same time. It’s incredibly smooth, sweet and creamy. I love roasting whole bulbs and then squeezing the individual cloves out of their skins. It’s art. It’s so pretty. Surely simple food like this had to be sensual, or is that just taking it too far?

As you may have noticed from my posts, I’m rather fond of pasta. Who doesn’t love it? One of my favourite things about pasta is the versatility; there are just so, so many varieties. This recipe is fresh, garlicky, smooth and easy. I want to know what you think of this recipe and I want to hear about your favourite variety f pasta.

Leave me a comment with your thoughts on this recipe and your fave recipe and be in with a chance of receiving one of these JML twist n choppers which has made my life in the kitchen tidier. closing date 17th November.

image

Ingredients

One large head f cauliflower cut into 1 inch florets
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
1 tsp cumin
Salt to taste
1/4 cup of oil
1tbsp chilli oil or sesame oil and one chilli
75g parsley
2tsp lemon juice
400g pasta

1. Mix the oil, cauliflower, salt and cumin seeds in a large bowl and ensure the cauliflower is well coated
2. Roast the cauliflower in the oven at 180degrees for about 20mins or until it is has browned lightly.
3. In the meantime, cook the packet instructions and make the pesto by grinding together the parsley, chilli oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add 1tbp water if you struggle to get a smooth pesto.
4. When the cauliflower and pasta are cooked, drain the pasta and mix wth the pasta. Toss the cauliflower into the bowl and ensure they are evenly distributed. Don’t stir it in, just toss it gently,

Serve hot and crisp.

Faster And Vaster Pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

19 Oct

The other day my lovely friend and her gorgeous boy came over for a play date. As soon as the biscuits and fruits came out my friends happy and eager toddler was at them and when he had finished his, he wanted mine and everyone else’s and he whimpered in protest when we denied his prizing goodies from our mouths. Meanwhile, when my boy was offered fruits, chocolate biscuits, rice cakes…guess what his answer was? ‘

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

No mumma’.

I do concern myself about how to get some sort of varied and balanced diet into my boy when he is so reluctant, if not refuting active participation. I wish I could just give him raw carrots and raisins for him to tuck into, particularly as we know that raw foods are more nutrition packed than cooked foods. Some of the principles I’m learning are important;

1. Variety, keep them interested by offering small portions of a few food groups at meal times

2. Eat the same foods as the little ones, they often want to join in

3. Keep it tasty, why would they want to eat bland and boring food?

4. New recipes, new stimulations. It may seem easy to stick to their favourite recipes, but new foods arouse new interest and it’s just easier to hook them in!

5. Be happy and relax. Participation is more likely to happen if everyone is having fun.

Now, I’m all for having one meal for everyone; less time in the kitchen and less cleaning-hooray! But I’m not eating teeny broccoli and cheese pasta. This very grown up and somewhat classy recipe is a gorgeous blend of fresh flavours. Each ingredient speaks volumes and is very detectable without being difficult or slow to munch. It’s a grainy pesto that is nutty, herby and slightly tangy-sweet. It’s moist and moorish. It’s a filling dish with a variety of nutrients and has a pretty colour of green nuts. We all enjoyed this recipe at lunch time today, I wish I had made some extra pesto and frozen it. Next time….

Ingredients

200g broccoli cut into medium-sized florets
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup of oily sundried tomatoes
2/3 cup of walnuts
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cup of chopped basil
3tbsp of the sundried tomato oil (from the jar)
3tbsp water
Some feta or cheese of your choice to crumble on top
500g pasta

Method

1. Toast the nuts on a non stick pan until they catch a lightly browned colour, then let them cool
2. Boil the broccoli for about  3 minutes and then drain the water
3. Put the broccoli, basil, nuts, lemon juice, salt and sundried tomatoes into a food processor and blitz it together.
4. When the mixture is coarse, mix drizzle in the oil and water whilst the processor is still churning the pesto.image
5. Boil the pasta per the packet instructions and drain. When the pesto is ready, mix it well with the pasta and serve with a little crumbled feta (or cheese of your choice).

If you like novel  and scrummy pasta recipes, why not check these out 

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

Indian spiced pea puree pasta

Cooking with Herbs

image

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

Indian spiced pea puree pasta

8 Sep

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This week I read about all this stuff to do with food for the  poor and Jamie Oliver’s thoughts around it.  Essentially he wants to show people how to eat better on a budget and he’s doing a TV show called, ‘Jamie’s money saving meals’ and he’s written a book called, ‘Save with Jamie’.
Now the controversy, if you want to call it that, is apparently because of the connections he’s made between a poor persons diet to productivity and comparisons made with poor folks in Italy who supposedly eat fresh pasta and veg and the alleged relative superior productivity of Eastern European people.

So it’s got me thinking. I do think that you can eat well on a budget;

– a simple chickpea curry costs under a pound to make when you use canned chickpeas
– good old sweetcorn soup with a few asian spices and crusty bread can also cost £2 for feed two people
– a lovely indian spiced mixed vegetable omelette is also inexpensive when using frozen vegetables
– have you seen my BBC Good Food recipe for parsnip pancakes? If you have gram flour in the house, you could make enough for two people and them in bread as a sarnie for under a couple of quid
– if you are using tinned tomatoes, a simple tomato and basil spaghetti dish can cost around £3 for four people

However, as far as I can see, whichever way you cut it, chips are cheap.  Cheaper than most healthier alternatives.  If you’re buying them, they are filling, you don’t need any gas to cook them or water to wash plates.  They are one of life’s little comforts and if everything else is looking grim, the smell of fresh chips and a cuddle can do something lovely for the soul, for a bit.

So, I’m not sharing a recipe for the poor.  This is not a recipe that is labelled in any such way.  I’m sharing an absolutely scrummy, lightly tangy and pea-sweet, luminous, moorish and easy to cook recipe that happens to be pretty inexpensive to cook. Bonus
A lot of my mummy peers have come out of their previous careers, or have taken reduced hours.  It doesn’t mean our tastes have changed,  we still like to eat well; as well as we always have and perhaps even better now that little mouths want to copy us.  Saving a few quid along the way is a bonus though isn’t it?

When I was a teen people ate pasta on a diet, for the relatively low fat content.  I remember watching Oprah discussing her huge weight loss saying that she could eat pasta every day of the week and that her chef would do something completely different with pasta every day.  I think this is what I love about pasta.  I still haven’t fallen out of love with it and am not yet bored of it.  Funnily enough though, I spoke to a relative who was cooking pasta as we spoke.  I asked her what sort of sauce she was making and she said, ‘the normal one’.  This made me chuckle. The default pasta sauce is of course some sort of tomato sauce…come on, do something different today.

Ingredients

One medium onion, finely diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely diced
2cups petite pois, defrosted
200g creme Fraiche
2-3 tsp vegetable oil
100ml water
400g pasta
Some shavings of vegetarian hard cheese

The spices; 1tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp ajwain (carom) seeds, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric, salt to taste, 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

Method

1 . Put the pasta on the boil in salted water, per packet instructions. Don’t forget to wash it in plenty of cold water when it is cooked
2. Heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds and carom seeds together with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and salt. Soften the onions for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic and soften until the onions are transparent.
3. Add the peas and stir in the coriander powder, coat the peas and then add the water. Bring the peas to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Then stir in the creme Fraiche and the back pepper and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
4. Pour the peas into a food processor and blitz it until its almost smooth.  It’s lovely with some texture in there, so don’t try and get it completely smooth
5. Place the pea purée into the cooking pan again and stir in the pasta
6. Serve and garnish with the shavings of cheese

I am submitting my recipe to this month’s Pasta Please, a monthly event by Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes. This month’s host is Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe and the topic is long pasta.

pasta please

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