Couscous with roasted vegetables

Is it just me, or did you also think that Couscous was a grain? I remember reading somewhere a while ago that it was actually a pasta in a minuscule granular form, but it must’ve completely skipped my mind when I made it alongside some Spaghetti arrabiata for dinner last night. How very un-savvy of me for having forgotten that, what with all the cooking shows that I watch in the name of research.

I just looked it up again to clarify though, and it looks like we weren’t completely off. While some argue that since the method of making couscous is rather unconventional, it doesn’t really fall under the ‘pasta’ category, whereas, the flip side is that it technically cannot be called a grain since it’s actually just crushed durum wheat. So the sum and substance of it is that it’s neither here nor there. So we were neither right nor wrong. I wish more things in life were this ambiguous.

Arguably one of the most versatile grain/pasta there is, it holds well with almost any flavour combination you give it. I had roasted vegetables mixed through along with some fresh figs and pomegranate seeds for a slight variation, and for no other reason than that I had them lying around. See what I mean by versatile?

I have a lemon and thyme version in mind for next time. Or maybe one with a spicy Indian twist.. I’m neither here nor there just yet.

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Baked eggs with purple Amaranth

Confession – I bought this without knowing what the hell it was, because it was purple. Didn’t have a name, and didn’t know what I was going to do with it. But I had to have it. A quick Google search along the lines of “purple spinach like plant” threw up a ton of options (there are so many different foods that are purple  what in the world are purple strawberries? Dipping in food colouring doesn’t count, you know. But seriously, do they really exist?) I know I’m digressing here, but blue/purple tomatoes too? Whaaat.

It’s Amaranth. You get them both in green and purple, and this one I had stumbled upon was the latter variety. What was a staple food of the Aztecs and Incas, and still a native crop in Peru, it apparently has been cultivated for over 8000 years now. Chock full of calcium, iron and protein, it’s been rightly named the “future crop of the year”! The grains of the plant have their equal share of nutrients too, and contain an unusually high quality of protein as compared to their more commonly found counterparts.

I wanted the keep the preparation as simple as possible and retain the vibrancy of its colour. Hence these simple baked eggs. The amaranth is lightly wilted and assembled like a wreath around the eggs. I’ve used chicken eggs, but just wanted to show from the picture that different types can be used (the smaller freckled ones are quail eggs).

Very quick to rustle up and makes for a great simple meal with a side of toasted bread. Moral of the story  venture out more and try new ingredients; you don’t know how much you might love it!

(I’ve fully cooked my eggs, but runny yolks would work wonderfully too).

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Roasted pumpkin & garlic soup

I’ve been mildly obsessed with oven-roasting vegetables. In the last two weeks, I’ve made two huge batches of heirloom tomatoes (much to my family’s profound bliss), and now, this roasted pumpkin and garlic soup. I knew that the tomatoes would shrink in size upon roasting, but little did I know that all those 12 plump fruits would reduce down to yield just a small jam-jar sized amount! The taste is elevated 12-fold though, so it’s most definitely worth it. Quality over quantity.

My unbridled love for garlic is no secret. Here, it is roasted along with the pumpkin for extra flavour, and then the soft pulp inside is squished out with your fingers. Got to love some hands-on garlic action!

Velvety and smooth and loaded with all things good for you (I even left out the cream that the recipe called for), this soup effortlessly straddles the fence between comforting and complex all at once – that’s the killer combination, right?

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Spiced baked figs with Vanilla mascarpone

I’ve recently discovered a part of myself that I never knew existed..an inherent need, a kind of maternal instinct if you will, to feed my family with an extra dose of fruit and vegetables. I’m not getting ahead of myself here, I’m still talking mascarpone, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be the kind of mum who will conceal a few pieces of broccoli under a blanket of melted cheese, make sweets out of dried fruits, or just..hide figs under some mascarpone. I try. (My dear husband is the fruit ninja in question here). Enough practice for when we have little ones of our own!

This dessert is simple enough to be called a weekday dessert, and at the same time looks super extravagant to be a party piece. The figs retain and hold their shape when baked, and the honey and cinnamon form an oozy syrup to be poured over the top for extra flavour. The mascarpone, slightly tart, gives you the perfect balance in every bite.

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CHICKEN AND SOBA NOODLE SOUP

I recently discovered the joys of Japanese Soba (buckwheat) noodles. I’d eaten it several times at restaurants, but only recently found out that a speciality store I frequent stocked them.

If there was one term that I could use to describe this dish, I think ‘restorative’ would be it. The noodles, made from buckwheat flour have this certain huskiness about them that your brain immediately classifies as being good for you. Which it is, but you actually feel like you’re nourishing your body from within. Also, the fact that there was no oil used in this recipe speaks for itself. But get this..Soba noodles are chock full of proteins and fibre, fat-free, cholesterol-free AND gluten-free. It’s a superhero amongst the noodle clan. The silent protector, the watchful guardian..the dark (brown) knight.

This was my first attempt at the elusive chicken soup, but I was very happy with the results I got, and so, confident enough to brag blog and share with you. Happy slurping!

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NECTARINE CRUMBLE

Brace yourself for this. I may just have the simplest, quickest recipe for you which actually looks like you put in a whole load of effort (says the same person who layered lemon curd over fresh fruit and made it a dessert), so you know I’m onto something here.

This crumble can be used as a staple and adapts beautifully to any kind of fruit base. Apple is a classic which I adore also, but in this version, I’ve used fresh ripe nectarines. It tastes like summer in every bite.

A dollop of ice cream over warm crumble is classy, but straight out of the oven is most likely what you’d see me doing – jumping straight for the sticky caramelized bits that stick to the sides of the ramekin, and invariably burning my tongue every.single.time. It happens to the best of us (I kid myself).

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PEACH ICED TEA

We know that iced tea is synonymous with summer. It’s not often that I find peaches in my market, and the mere sight of these plump beauties had me so excited! For something that doesn’t grow locally, I expected them to be tart and almost inedible, leaving me with the only option of cooking them. I was pleasantly surprised  sweet and zingy with that irresistible peachy flavour in every bite. In the tea, the fruit soaks up a lot of the sugar and gets super juicy. Get your hand into the glass and fish them out..go ahead, no one’s judging.

I always make my own iced teas (lemon and peach flavours) and store in the refrigerator. The lemon is a combination of freshly brewed tea and lemonade, which I found out recently, is also known as an ‘Arnold Palmer‘. The peach variation gets a swig of peach syrup added into it. Spiking it with vodka is another option.. follow your own adventure.

Purely for aesthetic reasons, freeze some mint leaves in ice trays and drop some into your glasses for some extra effect. A fancy shmancy patio drink you can enjoy all through the sunny days!

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