Pesto Pasta Impromptu

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Today, I had an urge to eat pasta, with pesto sauce. All I had was pasta and two handfuls of fresh basil from our little kitchen garden. No, no Olive oil, no Pine kernels and no Parmesan! So then, how on earth am I going to make a pesto?!

As usual, I improvised and believe me it was one of the best pasta I have ever made! Yum!

So here goes the recipe:

Ingredients:

Pasta spirals – 300g

French beans, cut into long pieces (1-2 inch long)  – 200g

Processed cheese, grated – a small block about 50-75g

Basil leaves – 2 handfuls

Almonds, blanched and skin removed – 8-10

Dry red chillies – 2-3

Cooking oil – 1 tbsp

Garlic – 2 cloves, crushed

Eggs, poached/ sunny side up – 4

Butter – 1 tbsp (small block)

Black Pepper – freshly pounded (to taste)

Salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Boil pasta with plenty of water and 2 tsp salt until it is tender and has a bite to it.
  • In the meantime blanch the cut beans or you can microwave, as I did, without any liquid in a glass bowl, covered for 3-4 minutes (on high power)
  • Make a paste of a handful of basil leaves, cheese and almonds with a tbsp water from pasta.
  • In a heavy base pan heat the butter and oil together, add crushed garlic and break dry chilies into it. Sauté for about a minute or until you get the smoky aroma of chilli and garlic.
  • Add drained pasta and cooked beans to the pan. Mix well.
  • Next add the pesto paste, mix well and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Finally break rest of the basil leaves with hands and add to the pasta.
  • Serve hot topped with poached eggs.  
  • And enjoy!

 

Serves: 4

Please try and post comments to encourage me to create more recipes.

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Rich Carrot Cake

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The winter season….. ahh! what I like most about it is lovely colourful vegetables. My little one is very fond of carrots, loves to eat red juicy carrots raw as snack, more than cooked. Moreover, in this part of Asia carrot is cooked, in fact simmered in milk for hours to make ‘Halwa’, a dessert! I grew up eating loads and loads of carrot halwa everyday during winters.

So the other day I planned to make halwa ‘ for my kids and therefore grated about a kilogram of red juicy carrots. But my little one insisted on cake, any type of cake.

“Well then” I said “cake you must have for dessert!” I found this really easy recipe in my old notes (a diary where I have been making notes for past 19 years! Must admit it has torn apart but I still love to write in it…..it’s precious!!!)

What I like about this recipe is that it’s light and nutritious as you use whole meal flour and lots of dry fruits.

So here we go with the recipe:

Ingredients:

Grated carrot 200g

Whole-meal flour 200g

Sugar 175g

Sunflower oil (any cooking oil) 150 ml

Two large eggs, whisked

Grated coconut ½ cup

Chopped walnut ½ cup

Or/and chopped pistachios ½ cup

Sultanas ½ cup

Zest of one orange

Cinnamon powder 1 tsp

Baking powder 1 tsp

Baking soda 1tsp

Instructions:

  • Whisk sugar and oil together until it looks light and seems mixed thoroughly.
  • Separately mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon powder and sieve it to add in some air.
  • Into the liquid mixture now add beaten eggs slowly while whisking.
  • Next add in all the dry ingredients one by one and fold in well until it’s all mixed thoroughly.
  • Transfer the mixture into greased and lined baking tin and bake in pre-heated oven at 175oC for 40- 45 minutes or until cake leaves the side of the tin.
  • Remove from oven and let it rest for about five minutes before removing from the tin.

I believe it tastes much better the next day if one has patience to keep it for a day (or children allow it to rest!!!) with some whipped cream.

 

 

 

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Wholesome Chunky Vegetable Soup

My little one reminded me “Juice season is over Ma, it is the soup season now!” Well not exactly so but she is quite right as winter is here and so is the season of soups. Everyone in my family is fond of soups – chicken soup, mushroom soup, sea food soup, lentil soup, pea soup and the list goes on…  My most favorite one is the chunky vegetable soup, in which I use any and every vegetable in my refrigerator.  I chop the veggies in bite size chunks, roast a small cup of bulgur wheat and I am ready to fix a wholesome meal. It is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals and also is a good source of fiber and low in fat. A perfect dinner that one can enjoy, on a cold evening, in a cozy couch, in front of television!

Ingredients:

Carrots, chopped 2 cups

French beans, chopped 1 cup

Green peppers chopped 1 cup

Red Onion 1 large – chopped

Bulgur wheat / dahlia – ¾ cup

Tomato puree (I use Mutti Passata di pomodoro al basilico), 4 tbsp

Garlic – 4 cloves, crushed

Basil leaves 10-15, roughly torn with hands

Olive oil – 1 ½ tbsp (extra virgin preferably)

Black pepper 1 tsp, freshly ground

Parmesan, grated 2 tbsp

Vegetable or chicken stock (optional), 500 ml

Salt to taste

Any other vegetables of your choice

Instructions:

  • In a pan dry roast bulgur until it turns golden and a sweet aroma is given out.
  • Add about 500 ml of water to the pan, bring it to boil and then allow it to simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
  • In another pan, heat oil and add crushed garlic, sauté for a minute or so.
  • Add chopped onion and sauté till onion gets golden color.
  • Next add the chopped veggies one by one and sauté for about 5 minutes on moderate heat.
  • Mix in the tomato puree, stir it in well, let it fry for 2 minutes. Add vegetable/ chicken stock.
  • Next add in the simmering bulgur along with all the water in which it is boiling. Stir it well and allow it to cook on moderate to low heat for 15 – 20 minutes until veggies are done and so is the bulgur (I use this time to either grate some cheese and/or asking kids again and again to lay the table! Which then doesn’t happen and finally we end up eating on that cozy couch in front of television).
  • Last but not the least season it with salt, pepper and torn basil. Sprinkle it with some grated Parmesan.

Serves: 4-6

Serve this nutritious soup hot with some garlic bread or dinner rolls. You can though avoid bread (as I do) because the bulgur in the soup provides carbs and proteins and minerals too.

Tangy Warm French beans Salad

I grew up on farms as my father worked as an Agriculture scientist. My father is very fond of gardening and we always had a kitchen garden where he would grow all sorts of seasonal vegetables, free of any chemicals. I still remember we used to get French beans only in winter season. My father would pluck them fresh from the garden and my mom would cook them with potatoes as a curry (which my brother and I didn’t like much).

Later, when I travelled to Europe I learnt that French beans could be prepared in so many different ways. I liked slightly blanched ones, seasoned and topped with butter (simple and my all time favorite). Apart from that they can be used in various salads, and of course there are so many versions in salads as well.

Much later in Sri Lanka I learnt completely different way of cooking them, in coconut milk with lots of spices, as fragrant hot curry, which I would like to share with you some other time.

Recently I got my hands on two big bundles of very fresh French beans, so delicate and full of flavor that couldn’t think of any other recipe but this tangy salad, which can be used as entrée or a side dish.

Tangy Warm French beans Salad:

Ingredients:

500g tender French beans, topped and tailed

Dressing:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp honey

2 tbsp yellow mustard paste or half and half yellow and English mustard

1 tbsp White wine vinegar (or any other natural vinegar)

2 tbsp capers

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed (I like a lot of garlic)

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Handful of fresh basil, torn with hands

Salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Mix all the ingredients of dressing in a large bowl and keep it aside.
  • To blanch beans bring 3/4th pan of water to boil (in a large pan) with half teaspoon of sugar and 1 tsp salt.
  • Add beans to the boiling water, stir well.
  • Bring it to boil once more on full heat and let it blanch for a minute or so.
  • Drain all the water through colander. Add to the bowl with dressing, mix well.

Serve as you wish, warm or cold, great as side dish with roasted or baked chicken.

P. S.: Sometimes I also add a piece of boiled chicken breast, torn into small pieces with hands and just thrown in. And voila – a wholesome meal is ready to be enjoyed!

Alternative to cous-cous…….

In my last post I included cous-cous as one of the ingredients. I thought I should share much healthier option as well which is bulgur wheat as called in the West and ‘dalia’ as called in most parts of India. Basically it is broken wheat which is rich in dietary fiber and protein and of course has more nutritional value than cous-cous. And it tastes great as well. Another reason for using bulgur wheat or ‘dalia’ could be that you ran out of cous-cous!

This is how you prepare bulgur wheat for salad:

  • Dry roast half cup of bulgur on medium heat in heavy-base pan until golden-brown and gives out sweet aroma.
  • Add 2 and a half cup of water along with salt to taste, bring it to boil.
  • Simmer it for 5 minutes.
  • Cover with a lid, turn off the heat and leave it to stand for 7-10 minutes.
  • Uncover and fluff with a fork, add a knob of butter or a teaspoon of olive oil. Allow it to cool.

It is now ready to be used to mix with the remaining ingredients of the salad. And we call it now ‘Hearty bulgur salad’!!!