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.

Vegan Zucchini Frittata

I made this frittata for my daughter who’s turned vegan for some years now. A light and tasty dish – it’s ideal for a light summer lunch or supper. It can also be served cold. A refreshing tomato salad would be perfect to go with it.

The oatmeal gives this frittata a moistness and the addition of some spices and herbs makes it delicious. The vegan cheese works wonderfully well on this frittata.

You can also substitute the zucchini with other vegetables such as Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mushrooms or a combination of mixed vegetables.

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PREP: 30 minutes COOK TIME: 50 minutes SERVES: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchinis, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4th cup chickpea flour
  • 3/4th cup oatmeal
  • ½ tsp asafoetida powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2/3rd cup vegan cheese (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Grease a round 8” pan or line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Grind the oatmeal in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the cumin seeds. Add the garlic, onions and green chillies. When the onions are transparent, add the spinach and salt. Do not cook the spinach. Mix well and remove immediately. Set aside.

Mix the chickpea flour with the ground oatmeal and add the asafoetida, turmeric, chilli powder, baking soda and yoghurt. Add salt to taste and enough water to make a thick batter as for pancakes. Add the fresh coriander and the spinach mixture to this batter and mix well.

Line the zucchini slices in the buttered pan and spoon in the prepared batter on top. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out almost clean. Sprinkle the cheese on top (if using) and grill until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and let it sit in the pan for 30 minutes. Invert gently on to a serving plate.

 

 

 

Feathery Buttermilk Pancakes with Plum Compote

The aroma of pancakes frying for breakfast is so satisfying. In fact, I make pancakes at anytime of the day. This is a foolproof recipe that ensures fluffy pancakes every time.

A ready mix may seem a good option, but just a few simple ingredients are all you need to put together to make these soft and delectable pancakes. They are so easy – just mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Eggs are optional. I haven’t used any eggs in this recipe though.

Cultured foods are very good for the functioning of our bodies. Buttermilk is what makes these pancakes sensational. I usually make the buttermilk by diluting yoghurt with water and beating the mixture in the blender.

If the batter seems a little lumpy, don’t worry about it. It will be fine once you make the pancakes.

The plum compote goes beautifully – a little sweet but not overly so. The tartness of the plums makes for a satisfying contrast. You could of course use any fruit of your choice – berries, apples, peaches or whatever fruit is in season. A refreshing change from maple syrup!

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PREP: 30 minutes COOK TIME: 20 minutes Serves:4

Ingredients

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Melted butter
  • Water if needed

For the compote

  • 400 gms fresh plums
  • 150 gms sugar
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

Sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk and eggs (if using). Combine together quickly to make a thick batter. It should be of pouring consistency but thick enough to adhere to the ladle. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Heat a large frying pan or griddle over moderate heat, brush with butter and pour or scoop about 1/2 cup of batter onto the pan. Brown on both sides, using more butter if necessary and serve hot with the plum compote.

For the plum compote, halve the plums and deseed them. Cut each piece into two.

Add the sugar and spices to the water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the plums and cook until it is done, 20 to 30 minutes.

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.