Fusili with Red and Yellow Peppers and Curry Leaf Oil

The grilled red and yellow peppers enhance their natural sweetness and adds to the flavour of this simple pasta dish. It also imparts a smoky deliciousness to the dish.

I prepared the peppers on the previous day and refrigerated them overnight. This saves a lot of time. Any short pasta can be used for this recipe.

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I added some spices to give it an interesting twist. I find that spices and pasta go well together. It should just awaken the taste buds and have you salivating for more.

I wanted a herb oil to elevate this simple dish and I decided to try curry leaves. In the recent Masterchef Australia, there was a lot of emphasis on curry leaf. It has a strong but subtle flavour. I was really happy with the results because the curry leaf oil was so flavourful and paired beautifully with the pasta. Absolutely divine.

This recipe has been adapted from Vegetarian published by Hermes House (Consultant Editor Nicola Graimes).

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PREP: 1 hour COOK TIME: 30 minutes SERVES: 4

Ingredients

  • 450 g red and yellow peppers
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 400 g mini fusili or other short pasta
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Curry Leaf Oil

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup curry leaves

Instructions

Place the peppers under a hot grill and turn occasionally until they are blackened and blistered on all sides. Remove and place in a paper bag for 5 minutes.

Peel the peppers and quarter them. Cut the flesh into long thin strips discarding the stem and seeds.

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onions. Cook until they are transparent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sautè for about 2 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and stir fry for a minute. Add the chilli powder and coriander powder and mix well. Add salt to taste and the peppers and mix together.

Add salt and pasta to the boiling water and cook until the pasta is tender.

Add about ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water to the onion and pepper mixture. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the peppers and cook over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix the pasta and the sauce well.

To make the curry leaf oil, heat the oil in a pan and add the curry leaves when it is hot. They will splutter. Remove immediately or they will change colour. Cool and blitz in the blender. Spoon into a serving dish.

Serve hot with the curry leaf oil and Parmesan cheese passed separately.

Mac and Cheese

This is my go-to recipe for Mac and Cheese for a very long time. It’s very quick besides being rich and creamy. It’s so much better than eating it out of a box and it’s sure to be loved by everyone.

The ingredients used are all staples that one can find in any kitchen. I used cheddar and parmesan. This is something that many of us grew up on and it’s a classic comfort food.

Instead of making a roux in the classic way, I find that adding onions to the butter and then adding the flour prevents the lumps forming. I prefer to do it this way.

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Vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, etc can all be used. I just used some green pepper and carrots. It’s a very versatile dish in that way. The topping of breadcrumbs is what gives it that extra texture – chewy pasta with a crisp topping. Just lovely!

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PREP: 10 minutes COOK TIME: 1 hour

Ingredients

½ cup butter

6 tbsp flour

2 large onions, minced

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli powder

½ tsp mustard

4 cups milk, warmed

450 grams elbow macaroni

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

4 tbsp black olives, cut in half

200 grams Cheddar, grated

50 grams Parmesan, grated

½ cup breadcrumbs

4 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped finely

Salt to taste

Instructions

Grease a baking dish and preheat the oven to 180 C.

Melt the ½ cup butter in a large, heavy pan. Add the onions and cumin seeds and cook until the onions are transparent. Add the flour and mix well. Saute for two minutes and add the pepper, turmeric, chilli powder, mustard and salt.

Add the warm milk gradually, stirring all the time and cook on low heat until the sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add the grated cheddar cheese olives and tomato ketchup.

Bring plenty of salted water to a rolling boil and add the macaroni. Stir well and add a cup of cold water immediately. This will prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook on moderate heat until the macaroni is just cooked or al dente.

Drain immediately and mix with the cheese sauce. Spoon into the greased baking dish.

For the topping, add the grated Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, melted butter and chopped coriander together. Spread this on top of the macaroni and bake for about 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Pasta Alla Norma

I was first introduced to this classic Sicilian dish when I was watching Kitchen Boss by Buddy Valastro. Since then, it has become one of my favourite pasta recipes.

It’s a very light and refreshing dish, full of fresh flavours. The tomatoes and aubergines adds colour and robust flavour to the pasta.

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It is recommended to use Ricotta Salata, but I used Parmesan cheese. I used mini fusili wholewheat pasta and it was really delicious.

I departed from the original recipe by adding a few spices (of course)! I really liked the end result. It was very satisfying and delicious.

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PREP: 1 hour COOK TIME: 45-50 minutes SERVES: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 4 cups strained tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 300 gms mini fusili
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3/4th cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Cut off the ends from each aubergine and peel them. Slice one aubergine into 1/8” round slices and dice the other into ½” cubes. Salt the slices and cubes and leave to drain in a colander for one hour.

Roast the caraway seeds and fennel seeds separately and powder them.

Prepare the breadcrumb mix by mixing them with 1 tsp each of the powdered caraway and fennel seeds. Add 1 tsp of the nutmeg powder to the breadcrumbs along with salt and 3 tbsp grated cheese. Mix well and set aside.

Bring a large pan of water to boil.

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions. When they are cooked add the garlic, red chilli flakes and the remaining of the powdered caraway seeds and fennel seeds. Add the remaining nutmeg and the diced aubergine. Saute for a few minutes and add the strained tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a simmer, simmering for 5 minutes. Add the butter and the chopped basil.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato sauce. Transfer to a serving dish.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Pat the sliced aubergines dry with a paper towel and toss them in flour, patting off the excess flour. Dip the slices in the beaten egg and coat with the breadcrumbs. Fry the slices a few at a time in the oil until they are golden brown on both sides.

Slice the fried aubergines into three strips and top the pasta. Garnish with the grated cheese and serve immediately.

Polenta Croquettes with Mushroom and Paneer Sauce

The Italians hold dear their porridge or polenta made from cornmeal. I love its versatality – served plain or enriched by being baked or fried with other ingredients. In this recipe, the polenta is mixed with red peppers, celery and spring onions, cooled and cut into fingers. The colours look so pretty. They are then crumbed and fried.

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While cooking the cornmeal, add the grains slowly, otherwise the grains will form lumps. Stir continuously and add a ladleful of boiling water each time it becomes too thick. Cook for 30 minutes or longer if you want a softer textured porridge.

As for the sauce, you can opt for just tomatoes blended with some spices and herbs of your choice. I added the mushrooms and cottage cheese for more taste and variation. You can also opt for canned and peeled tomatoes to save time.

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It takes a little time and patience, but the result is just yummy.

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PREP: 2 hours 45 minutes including cooling time  COOK TIME:  45 minutes  SERVES:  4

Ingredients

  • 1 litre vegetable stock or water
  • 200 g polenta
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped with the stalks
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • ½ small red pepper, finely chopped
  • Plain flour
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten with ½ cup milk
  • 200 g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Mushroom and Paneer Sauce

  • 500 g fresh tomatoes
  • 200 g mushrooms, sliced
  • 200 g fresh paneer, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Place the vegetable stock in a large saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. If you are using water, then it has to be salted. Strew in the cornmeal slowly from a height to distribute it evenly. The water should remain on boil as you add the grains, otherwise it will form lumps. Once the cornmeal has been added, lower the heat and begin stirring it with a wooden spoon.

Stir the polenta continuously. Keep a pan of boiling water ready. Each time the polenta becomes too thick to stir, add a ladleful of boiling water. Cook for at least 30 minutes, until it acquires an elastic texture and comes away from the sides of the pan. Add the spring onions, red pepper and celery and mix well. Spread into a lightly oiled (12X8 in) shallow pan. Set aside to stand for 2 hours.

Mix the cumin and coriander powder with the breadcrumbs.

Cut the polenta into fingers, toss in flour, dip in egg mixture and then in breadcrumb mixture. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until required.

To make the sauce, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and add the pepper. Add the mushrooms with a little salt. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and the mixture is dry.

Cut the tops of the tomatoes crosswise and plunge in boiling water for a few minutes until the skins start to come off. Drain and cool. Peel the tomatoes and chop them. Add 2 tbsp of oil in a pan, add the onions and garlic and cook until they are soft. Add the curry powder and enough salt.

Add the paneer and mix well. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until it thickens. Add the mushrooms. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook the polenta fingers a few at a time until golden. Drain on absorbent kitchen paper and serve with the sauce. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach and Paneer Gnocchi

Fluffy, light as air gnocchis with the goodness of greens and cottage cheese. What could be better?

This recipe has been adapted from a book called ‘Great Greens’. I love to experiment with different spices. My palate is not suited to bland food. Besides spices are very good for the health.

The nutrients in spinach strengthen the body, contain calcium, iron, Vitamin K and folic acid. Even children will love these tasty gnocchis.

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You can also substitute ricotta cheese if you don’t have paneer. The dressing gives it the extra flavour to make it absolutely delicious. They just disappear when I make them at home for dinner.

 

PREP:20 minutes plus chilling COOK TIME: 20-25 minutes SERVES:4

Ingredients

  • 750 g fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 200 g fresh paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 green chili, chopped
  • 2 flakes garlic, chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50 g Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 50 g plain flour, plus extra for shaping
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Dressing

  • 75 g butter
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder


To serve

  • 125 g Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

Place the spinach in a pan with the cumin seeds, green chili, garlic and 1 tablespoon water. Cover and cook for a few minutes until the leaves are wilted and tender. Increase the heat to drive off any remaining water. Squeeze dry and leave to cool.

To make the gnocchis, place the spinach, paneer, egg yolks, Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Turn into a large mixing bowl, sift over the flour and mix to form a dough. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Using well-floured hands, take small pieces of the gnocchi mixture (about 15 g) and shape them into 24 ovals or egg shapes. As each gnocchi is made, place it on a lightly floured tray until ready to cook.

Bring lightly salted water to boil in a large pan, reduce the heat to simmer and poach 5-6 gnocchi at a time for a few minutes until they puff up and rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and pile into individual warmed dishes.

Melt the butter and add the chilli powder. Take it off the heat immediately. Spoon over the gnocchis, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Cabbage and Tofu with Noodles

I bought some purple cabbage recently and I was looking up some recipes online and found this interesting dish from https://www.vibrantplate.com/purple-cabbage-chicken-lo-mein/.

Being a vegetarian, I decided to substitute tofu instead and also made a few changes. I marinated the tofu with some spices, because in my experience the tofu soaks up the spices and creates a subtle yet interesting flavour.

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This recipe is so delicious and just takes about 15 minutes. Purple cabbage with veggies, tofu and nuts! Couldn’t be healthier and tastier than that! Just toss in the ingredients and stir-fry.

 

It’s perfect for lunch/dinner.

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PREP: 30 minutes COOK TIME: 15 minutes SERVES: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups purple cabbage, shredded
  • 6 small spring onion, sliced thinly 
  • Green stems of spring onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 green chillies, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 150 grams hakka noodles
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 200 grams tofu, cubed
  • Salt and Pepper as needed

Toasted Nuts

  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp peanuts, chopped

Instructions

Marinate the tofu with the ginger, garlic, red chili flakes, soy sauce, and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes or longer if you prefer it.

Heat a pan to medium, then add the sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. Toast until golden brown, stirring regularly. Remove from pan and set aside to cool. Add the peanuts and mix well.

Prepare the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large wok, add about 2 tbsp sesame oil and add the marinated tofu. Stir-fry until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat about 2 tbsp sesame oil in the same wok. Add the green chilies, sliced spring onions with the chopped green stems and carrots to the pan. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes until the vegetables are tender and add the cooked noodles, shredded purple cabbage and tofu. Mix together and stir-fry for a few minutes more. Add more soy sauce if needed. Season with salt and pepper. 

Serve hot sprinkled with the toasted nuts.