Tag Archives: pasta

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.

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.

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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

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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

Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and veg base

5 Sep

Gram Flour pasta in a Indian spiced tomato and vegetable base

pasta final

A few weeks before I fell pregnant with my baby boy, we did a tour around India.  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect of being guided around historical monuments I’d already seen a couple of times, that too in the sweltering orange and dusty heat.  My husband had never done it though and he was really keen.  So, I looked up some contacts and I cooked with chefs throughout our journey; aloo wadiya and kulcha in Amritsar, kofta in Udaipur, mughlai dishes in Delhi, juicy paneer in Agra, chaat in Mumbai…It was so much fun.  The passion and skill in the chefs was moving.  The chefs and I nattered for hours, perched on the edge of our comfy chairs, about their ancestry, their feelings about food, how their family regard their chosen path.  It was so exhilarating  to be around people who love what they do.  We’d slump back in our chairs in smiling consideration.
To close our bustling and rousing trip we headed over to Gujarat to see family and get it touch with our religious roots.
So we arrived at one of Porabander’s best hotels really late into the night.  The bed had blue neon lights around it.  I don’t think I need to say any more.  As l stood there whispering WTF, familiar fishy smells of this seemingly standstill coastal town overwhelmed me. It didn’t feel any different to how it did 20 years ago.  Now I’m the sort of person that enjoys foods from around the world, it thrills me.  The experience of new senses in my mouth makes me giddily happy.  I love Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Moroccan, Thai, Spanish…but.  After all of that, the cuisine that cajoles me into my natural rhythm is Gujarati food.  After being separated from my native food for over two weeks, I was restless with hankerings.  I was looking forward to Dhokla, Thepla, okra curry, gram flour straws in spicy tomato.
So I asked my husband to ring reception to see what sort of Gujarati food we could get so late and how we could get a thali the next day.  You know what they told us? No Gujarati food in the hotel. That’s right.  Noodles or a sandwich were offered to me. I was aghast.
My recipe today is inspired by Gujarati Dhokli, which is effectively gram flour pasta.  Traditionally it is simmered in dhal, but my recipe is quicker and just different, as it is in a spicy tomato and vegetable base.  It’s a filling and comforting dish that is pretty simple to make. You’ll sleep we’ll on this one.
Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and vegetable base
Ingredients

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

Tomato and veg base

200g green beans trimmed and cut into bit size 2cm chunks

150g baby corn, trimmed and cut into 2cm bites

2 medium new potatoes cut into small cubes

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 green chilies chopped

1400ml warm water

1 ½ tin of tomatoes

The spices; 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 6-7 curry leaves, salt to taste, 3 cloves, a pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. garam masala

The Gram Flour Pasta

¾ cup gram flour

1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour

1.5 tbsp Vegetable oil

The spices; 3/4 tsp. ajwain, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder and salt to taste

150ml warm water

Method

  1. Start by making the pasta dough by mix all of the dry ingredients and spices.  Make a well in the middle and pour into the middle.   With your fingers massage the oil into the flour, creating a lightly crumbly texture and then with your fingers mix together the water, little by little, together with the flour and spices to form a ball. Coat the ball with vegetable oil and wrap in Clingfilm and rest it whilst you continue to prepare vegetables.pasta 1.1
  2. Roll out the dough to one centimeter thickness and cut into rectangles of between 4cm by 3cm. Once they are all rolled and cut out place them onto a dish and dust the pieces lightly.  If your kitchen is very warm, put the pasta in the fridge, so that the pieces do not stick togetherpasta 1
  3. To make the tomato and veg  base, heat 2 tbsp. oil and add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, chilies and cloves before allowing the seeds to pop.
  4. Stir in the onions and salt, then sauté for a couple of minutes before stirring in the garlic.   Soften both before adding in the potatoes, green beans and the baby corn and mixing through thoroughly. Add the black pepper
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer before cooking for 4-5 minutes
  6. Drop in the pasta simmer for 10-12 minutes before sprinkling in the garam masala and serving lashings of it.

Proper mock chicken curry

8 Aug

Proper mock chicken curry

 
It was my sister in laws birthday party this weekend just gone and one of the things I heard people talk eagerly about was the food.  More specifically, the meat dishes.  I made the chickpea curry, but it was undeniably the meat that got the hands rubbing with the the jack-in-the-box walk going towards the trays of brightly coloured animal curries.  So I had a good look at them.
 
They looked like thick and happy curries…the sort where you know balanced spices had infiltrated the meat.  One was green…but the green looked fresh and healthy, not bitterly blackened.  The other was juicy and red and looked quite luscious, full of aromatic spices.  I watched cousins and friends tuck in with both hands…lots of mmm’s and aahs.  ‘You don’t know what you’re missing’ they said shyly in between sucks and unrestrained noshing.  So it got me thinking, why do people just love a chicken curry? 
 
I converted to vegetarianism at the age of 12, so I do remember what a chicken curry tastes like and I know my dad made a scrumptious one. But why is it a national favourite? Why do I people get hankerings for it, define it as their weakness and why do mouths salivate at the thought of chicken curry? 
 
Is it the texture? You know, the fact that is has a bite and oozes with curry juices with every mouthful? Is it the flavour of chicken (eww), or is it that chicken just soaks up all the flavours of a curry completely, ravenously and then generously releases then with each bite? 
 
Being a vegetarian, I don’t miss or desire the flavour of chicken.  I don’t want to eat an animal and yes I am raising my little one as a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like food with a bite and food that does all of those sensational things I just described with chicken curry.  I haven’t yet shared a mock chicken curry recipe for a reason.  I am categorically saying that I find the meat replacements available widely in supermarkets, less than impressive.  They’re rubbery, rather dry and taste mushroomy.  Why would I want to make a curry out of that?! Gross.  Frankly, I find recipes shared in magazines using that meat replacing rather unappealing. Yuck.
 
Oh but the Soya and potato chunks dubbed as mock chicken in Wing Yip (oriental supermarket)…now that’s the stuff.  Whenever I make a curry out of that stuff we have finger licking, sighing, leftover watching and even picture-taking in abundance. I kid you not…this is the probably the best mock chicken for a curry that I’ve come across.
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Recipe for proper mock chicken curry
 
Ingredients
 
TKC vegetarian chicken pieces 500g
2tbsp vegetable oil
One medium sized red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic
Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
500ml water
3 tsp sambal oelek 
150ml blended tinned tomatoes
A squeeze of lemon juice
 
The spices; 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika, salt to taste
 
Method 
1. Defrost the mock chicken and leave it to a side once defrosted
2. In a non stick pan heat the oil before adding cumin seeds and allowing them to sizzle. Then add the onion, salt and turmeric and sauté until the onion starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and sauté for another couple of minutes
3. Stir in the cumin powder, coriander powder, paprika and mix well and com for another minute.  Then add the lemon juice.
4. Stir in the mock chicken and coat in the paste ensuring full coverage.  Add the hot water and the tomatoes and then bring the curry to a simmer before sprinkling in the garam masala and blending in the sambal oelek.
5.  Turn the curry down to a gentle simmer on a low flame and cook for 20minutes.
Serve with rice, chapatti or pasta.
 
 

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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