Pesto Spinach Pasta

We are a family of pasta-fanatics! I have my pantry full of different shapes and types of pasta. I would really love to make fresh pasta for my meals soon. I attended a fun pasta making class at Galeries Lafayette two years back, more on this here. Need to put the knowledge to some use!

This makes an interesting lunch option on weekends. The pasta comes together in literally a couple of minutes. This is a go-to recipe even on week nights when after work, all I want is an indulgent bowl of warm pasta and griddled bread.

I usually do my groceries from the Fruit & Vegetable market on Saturday afternoons. So making a fresh batch of pesto early on to use the fresh basil seems a good idea. I readily use up the pesto within the first half of the week for this recipe.

The pasta sauce is fragrant and oozes with flavours of basil, garlic, olive oil, sea salt, a handful of parmesan and pine nuts. I am not sharing the pesto recipe since I do not follow any standard measurements when making one.

This is my husband’s favourite recipe as well. Some days I just toss the pasta in the sauce and top to with kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes and then there are times when I add some spinach to the mix.

Pesto Spinach Pasta

Here’s the recipe with spinach:

Cooking Time : 15 minutes
Serves : 3

1 cup pesto
3 tsp roasted pine nuts
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic mayo (Add more if you’re feeling naughty!)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 red onion thinly sliced
250 grams of Tagliatelle pasta
250 grams baby spinach
Flaky sea salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In a pan, heat some olive oil and add sliced onions. Cook with minced garlic until it is lightly browned.

Add pesto and make a sauce with little water in which the pasta is getting cooked. Season as required, add garlic mayo to provide some more creaminess to the sauce. Go easy on the salt since the pesto already has salt from the parmesan cheese added to it. Add some spinach at this point and just sauté it gently.

Pesto Sauce

Cook the pasta, drain and add it to the sauce. Coat well and serve with a side of toasted baguette.

Until next time, happy cooking! 🙂

Green Beans & Carrot Sabzi

Green Beans is a very versatile ingredient and can be cooked in various ways. Steam, blanch, braise, roast, sautee – they really adapt well to different cooking techniques.

They are good source of antioxidants and cartenoids apart from being a powerhouse of Vitamin K. I picked up some lovely organic green beans from Waitrose after work, it was trimmed already and made them on one weeknight. I love the ease of using pre-cut vegetables at times.

Here’s a simple recipe of making them Indian style, I have just substituted the usual potato with carrots and given it a tangy twist.

The dish came out quite saucy and I served them with a side of Surati Dal and steamed rice.

Green Beans

Cooking Time : 20 minutes
Serves : 4

Ingredients

2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 green chilly finely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 red onion finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
300 grams french beans trimmed
2 carrots cut at an angle
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp chaat masala/ amchur powder
1 tsp tomato paste
Salt to taste

Blanch the trimmed beans in boiling and salted water for a couple of minutes.

Drain them while they still have a bite to them.

In a wok / wide pan, heat the oil and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds.

Once they splutter, add green chillies and follow it up with onions and garlic.

Once onions have browned a bit, add the chopped tomatoes and cook them for a few minutes.

Add the carrots and sauté them until they have slightly softened. Add beans followed by all dry spices, salt, tomato and tamarind paste.

Cook until the mixture is well coated and just about to leave a ring of oil on the sides.

Green Beans & Carrot Sabzi

Remove off heat and serve with fluffy rotis or dal-rice. Until next time, happy cooking!

Aloo Jeera – Potatoes with Cumin

Some days you crave the same old good old classic home cooked recipe! Aloo Jeera or potatoes tempered with cumin seeds and spices are a staple side dish in most Punjabi households.

I guess potatoes find their place place in every pantry. I even go through some of my own “can’t-do-without-my-aloo” days. My Punjabi genes dominating, I set one such evening post work to settle for a simple dinner of Dal Tadka tempered with rai and jeera, Jeera Rice and Aloo Jeera.

Thali

Err! Isn’t this too much of cumin for one evening ? I know I must be high on cumin!

I vividly remember this fine evening as I roasted cumin, the entire house smelled divine. I had some lovely Indian classical instrumental music playing in the background, sipping chai along the way, I ground the freshly roasted cumin and couldn’t help but add that on to every thing I set to cook eventually.

Aloo Sabzi

Cooking Time : 20 minutes

Ingredients
2 tsp canola oil
2 green chillies finely chopped
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 large potatoes diced & parboiled
1/2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp amchur powder
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp red chilly powder
Salt to taste
Handful of parsley finely chopped

In a wok, heat some oil. Add green chillies, mustard seeds and cumin seeds to the same and let it sizzle.

Now add the ginger followed by potatoes and the dry spices.

Cook until the potatoes have softened and have a roasted texture.

Add lemon juice and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Voila! My dinner table looked lovely. Until next time happy cooking.

Aloo Mutter – Potatoes & Pea Stew

Simple meals are sometime the trickiest to create. Many a days all you are left with is limited pantry staples. That for me would be canned chickpeas, herbs, dried pasta, potatoes, ginger, garlic, onion and tomatoes.

Either one of these said ingredients needs to be replenished, in order for me to make the run to the supermarket. These days my run to the supermarket is slightly different, I mostly visit the Fruits and Vegetable Market.

It gives me immense pleasure to get the fresh produce straight from the market, not your fancy farmer’s market setup but very economical. I have made some friends with a few stall owners who provide me with their freshest produce of the day. One stall owner Mehran whom we visit for buying greens and herbs, keeps stock of basil and spinach handy for me. He knows I visit Saturdays.

I have successfully been able to slash my grocery budget substantially. Moving on to the recipe of home style Aloo Mutter served with Jeera Rice and yogurt.

Aloo Mutter

Cooking Time : 25 minutes
Ingredients

3 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp carrom seeds
2 green chillies finely chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 onions finely chopped
300 ml tomato puree / 2 tomatoes finely chopped
3/4 cup frozen peas thawed
2 cups diced potatoes
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chaat masala
3 cups water
Salt to taste
Handful of fresh coriander roughly chopped to garnish

In a pressure cooker, heat some oil, add cumin seeds.

Let it splutter, add carom seeds followed by onions. Once cooked, add minced ginger and garlic and tomatoes, cook them well.

Add dry spices, salt and then the potatoes to the mix. Blend well, add water as required.

Close the lid and pressure cook until there are 2-3 whistles. Uncover after a while and garnish with some freshly chopped coriander.

Aloo Mutter1

Serve with fluffy rotis or Jeera Rice. Until next time happy cooking!

Meeting Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

The Dubai Food Carnival happened earlier this month and brought back memories of the lovely time I had there.

This was almost 10 months back but today when I glanced through the pictures, the memories of that wonderful afternoon spent seeing my culinary idol came rushing back!

I hesitated posting about my experience for the longest time but then reminded myself that this blog is my journal for the highs I have had when it came to my blogging journey. So here I share this great moment with you all before we see another edition of the Dubai Food Carnival.

So how did this all begin, read on. Facebook contests have been lucky for me (touchwood!). I got to travel on an all expense paid trip to Paris and Amsterdam late 2013 and I thought nothing gets as awesome as this.

And then cut to late March 2014, I saw this contest by Melia Hotel about a Meet & Greet Opportunity with Sanjeev Kapoor, a complimentary meal at his much acclaimed restaurant Signature at Dubai Food Carnival.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

I participated with bated breath and to my utter amazement I won the chance. I had anyways bought tickets for Dubai Food Carnival to see his cooking demonstration.

I rushed to collect the winner’s pass and was a bundle of giddy nerves until next afternoon. The cooking demonstration started and Chef Sanjeev mesmerized everyone with his humble anecdotes and stories. The one thing which stuck me was how grounded and unassuming he is about his success.

Maybe this quality is what has helped him reach where he is now. The best thing is how he likes to keep things and food simple. He discussed how his wife makes the best biryani and fondly remembers the tasty Gujrati food his mother-in-law makes.

The funny re-collection of his encounter with dealing with the myth that Indian food is spicy and just loaded with chillies, when he was working in New Zealand. The dish turning out to be a bestseller on the restaurant menu after a customer requesting to make it spicier over there was quite amusing.

Midway through the demo, he showcased how simple tweaks to the way simple ingredients are handled can help home cooks create restaurant style plating and garnishes.

Tikkis

He asked someone from the audience with good knife skills to volunteer. I jumped at the opportunity.

With shaking hands, he handed me a potato and asked me to make cuts similar to a hassle back potato but in a nice square shape.

Call it stage fright or me being star stuck with him around, I managed the cut well but forgot the square shape. He being the gentleman simply complimented me for the knife skills and getting the cut right. He jokingly said that here I will gift you the knife, if the organizers allow me!

Also take this opportunity to thank Joselin from Melia Hotel and the great team at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor. As a part of the contest, I was also treated to a meal at their stand at Dubai Food Carnival.

I loved the Makai (Corn Flour) ki Roti, Sarson Ka Saag (Cooked Mustard Greens) and the Paneer Tikka Masala they did.

Sarson Ka Saag

Paneer Tikka

The revelation was the Lemongrass flavoured Buttermilk topped with roasted cumin seeds, very refreshing!

Lemongrass Buttermilk

Sahil had some meat dish and Galouti Kebabs and my man was grinning!

Chicken

Galouti Kebab

Why I revisited these pictures after all these months? I missed the Food Carnival this year as I was on a vacation and I realized it’s been close to a year already. Phew! Time does fly. Better late than never! 🙂

Apart from that I was also craving Sarso Ka Saag and thought of the one I ate at Chef Sanjeev’s restaurant stand. Utterly delicious with the Makke Ki Roti topped with white butter!

Apart from this I also got all my cookbooks signed by the chef extraordinaire. It makes me happy every time I flip open one for some inspiration.

Next time around August last year, I got a chance to see Chef Sanjeev Kapoor at his restaurant “Options” while they were hosting the Independence Day Dinner. While we spoke, he gave some honest life lessons in embracing positivity in life and taking the burnt toast with a smile.

More food stories to follow as I do a round up of events I attended in 2014 and how it was one eventful year!

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup
My first post for 2015! Happy new year everyone! I hope 2015 brings everyone loads of success, happiness and good health.
Last 2 months or so has being difficult for the family with us constantly battling ill health and bouts of recurring flu. This left us making many much required lifestyle changes, less socializing, taking it easy at work for a bit, eating out occasionally and staying put at home reading or watching favorite movies.
I was eating light most days and also did not bake much over the festive season. Soups and toasted bread with garlic butter was dinner most days.
 
My experiments with new recipes for smoothies and soups continued. One recipe which was well received was Minestrone Soup

My earliest memories of having this soup are at my home when mum doused leftover cooked macroni in the mixed vegetable soup she made for us. A successful attempt by her to feed my younger brother some veggies, the macroni got him excited and he found himself busy trying to find the pasta in bowl of vegetables.

 

There is no one fixed recipe when making minestrone soup. I usually make this with the ingredients readily available in my kitchen. Sometimes I add spinach or kale to bring some color to the soup but mostly it is from the vegetables listed in the recipe below:

 
Serves : 4 
Prep Time : 15 Minutes
Cooking Time : 30-35 Minutes
 
Ingredients
1 large white onion finely chopped
2 stalks celery finely chopped
2 carrots diced
4 tomatoes finely chopped
50 ml tomato paste (optional)
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
1/2 cup green beans finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic butter
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cooked pasta
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
3 tsp olive oil
Fine sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
 
In a big pot, heat some oil and add garlic. Cook for a minute or so.
Vegies
 
Add onions, celery, carrots and french beans and cook them until they are soft.
Minestrone Soup 6
 
Add tomatoes to the mix and cook the mixture well.
Minestrone Soup 5
Follow this with cooked chickpeas, pasta and tomato paste.
 Minestrone Soup 4
Minestrone Soup 3
Add salt, black pepper and dried herbs and blend well. Add vegetable stock and allow the soup to simmer on low heat.
Minestrone Soup 7
I usually make vegetable stock at home else use some cubes of organic stock cubes from Waitrose. Meanwhile add fresh basil and garlic butter to the mix.
Minestrone Soup 8
Cook until the soup reaches the consistency your are after. This is usually after 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and relish the goodness.
Minestrone Soup2
Serve this with Foccaccia or toasted bread with garlic or herb butter.  The soup is quite comforting and the chunky vegetables and pasta in there make it interesting with the crunchy texture of the bread.
Minestrone Soup1
In the month of January I intend to do a recap of the beautiful 2014 I had. Some events where I got to see my celeb chefs, cooked some new recipes which friends and family loved and also two of my articles got published in an e-magazine by Food Blogger’s Association of India.
I promise to share my food stories with you all shortly, until next time, happy cooking!
I definitely have a lot to do since I’d be hosting an Italian themed dinner party for my very close friend and his pretty wife tonight, wish me luck!

Dukkah Spiced Chickpea Rice

What do I pack for lunch tomorrow ? This is a question I ask almost every day to my dearest husband and he never has a good enough answer. He does not like to take leftovers of dinner last night as is. This leaves me in a fix!

So I have to work a lot with leftovers in one way or another. Some days I use the curry or vegetable in parathas and make kathi rolls or if I have stir fried veggies, use them up in noodles. On most days, I have a bowl of left over rice staring back at me. When I am at leisure, I sometimes make Spicy Peanut Balls from leftover rice.

On one such instance, I made this rice with chickpeas and spices. This is a easy office lunch option, gets ready in few minutes and is very easy to prep.

Chickpeas add a source of protein to an otherwise basic recipe. I used to always spice this up with the usual coriander and cumin powder. However this time around I decided to experiment with dukkah spice mix.

My colleague recently visited his home back in Egypt and his mum lovingly packed homemade dukkah spice mix for me. See packing brownies for team mates comes with it’s own advantages! 😀

Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mix comprising of toasted sesame seeds, hazelnuts, coriander, almond meal and cumin. I’m no expert about these spice mixes but just sharing the information imparted by my colleague’s mum!

I have used chaat masala previously to add some zing to rice dishes like Tawa Pulao. This time since I was using a Middle Eastern spice mix, I decided to substitute the chaat masala with some sumac. And I’m glad that I did so!

Here’s my recipe for the Dukkah Spiced Chickpea Pulao:

Chole Pulao

Comes together in : 20 Minutes
Ingredients

2 onions finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
1 green chilly finely chopped
1/3 cup carrots finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 1/2 tsp dukkah masala
1 tsp sumac powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp carrom seeds (optional)
1 tsp coriander powder
3 tsp canola oil
4 cups cooked rice
A handful of parsley roughly chopped
Salt to taste

In a sauté pan, heat some oil and add cumin seeds and carom seeds. Once it sizzles, add green chilly followed by onions.

Cook onions until they are translucent, add tomatoes. Let them cook till they are mushy.

Add the spices, salt to taste and blend well together followed by chickpeas. Let it stand in the mixture for a while.

Add the cooked rice and mix it well with the mixture. Garnish with parsley and serve hot with a side of cucumber raita.

Chole Pulao1

Until next time, happy cooking!