Spaghetti with roasted red pepper & cream sauce

Roasting peppers is something that we don’t do often enough. The tender smoky flesh inside all that charred blackness is the heart of this dish, literally and metaphorically speaking.

This simple pasta dish has it all – it’s wholesome, not entirely different from what makes it comforting, and makes for a very fulfilling meal. I understand that we’re only talking pasta here, but how often do we manage to add a completely different dimension to our everyday pasta, right?

I’d come across this recipe a few months ago, but as most things go..um, it went. You know the thing with blogging? You end up focusing on dishes that are ‘different’ – unusual food pairings, unique ingredients and the like. The truth is, even though all that is fun and impressive, most often all I crave is something familiar. Comforting. Even though this recipe came into my life just a few months ago, it’s definitely one that’s here to stay! Continue reading

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Mixed tomato salad with pesto

This recipe (and a blog update) has been long overdue. But I think I may have found the perfect way to end this lengthy hiatus – a quick and easy tomato salad with a vibrant pesto dressing. Just wanted to subtly also point out that ALL THE TOMATOES WERE GROWN IN MY GARDEN! All organic and pesticide-free. There’s no going back now.

The striking medley of hybrid tomatoes that I’ve used are more sweet than tart, and the light pungency of the balsamic vinaigrette really accentuates their sweetness. You know, like sprinkling salt on a slice of watermelon? It’s magical.

The pesto is from a jar, but I bet it would taste even better if you made some fresh. Here’s a recipe, if you’re interested (they even show you how to make it in a mortar and pestle if you’re into that kind of thing). It feels so good to be back here again, and I can’t wait to show you what else I did with my big bounty from last week!  Continue reading

Moroccan spiced carrots with harissa, cumin & maple syrup

Harissa is a North-African spice paste that blows my mind (and mouth) on many different levels. Roasted peppers, chillies, coriander, garlic and spices form its base, and this fiery blend is used extensively to flavour meats, soups, stews, and couscous, apart from being used as a condiment in dips etc. I read somewhere that it’s also common to find people slathering it on bread and eating it for breakfast! Oh, that would definitely kick-start your day now, wouldn’t it.

A small dollop of this paste goes a long way – it can be used as a marinade for your chicken drumsticks, mixed into a spicy soup (I think chickpeas would work nicely here), slathered on some fish and pan-seared, the list is endless. I think it might just have overtaken Sriracha in my kitchen this season. That’s a bold statement, I know.

I sliced the carrots into thick batons because I wanted them to retain their shape upon roasting, and also to still have a bite to them. If I’d found a smaller, thinner variety of them here I would’ve roasted them whole. The balance of the spicy harissa against the earthy sweetness of maple syrup is subtle without being too overpowering.. you know it’s all about the yin and yang. Continue reading

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts

I have kale growing in my little terrace garden. When you look up information on plants that can handle humidity and soaring temperatures in tropical climates, kale is definitely one that wouldn’t feature anywhere on that list. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my plants are in the best shape (they seem to be a little stunted and taking forever to grow), but what even with their constant share of burns and pest attacks, they seem to be thriving. Real fighters.

Let’s talk about Brussels sprouts..we have got to first stop bullying them so much. Sure they smell like fart sometimes when steamed, but hey, so do cabbages! Maybe it’s because they belong to the same family tree (or plant, as the case may be) as them along with broccoli, kale and kohlrabi. Who knew!

I’m not going to tell you that this is the only way to eat these oval green nubs, because I honestly never disliked them in the first place. This however, is a really good way of getting acquainted with it – the pungent balsamic vinegar cuts through the sulphur-y odour that is often emitted when you cook Brussels sprouts. Also, slow roasting in the oven after being tossed in this robust marinade makes them caramelize perfectly just around the edges, keeping them slightly crispy on the outside and delicately tender within.

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Lotus stem with chilli and honey

I have this really annoying habit. I like to peer into other people’s shopping baskets to see what they’ve bought, and try and figure out what they might end up doing with it. I mean, I think you really can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their grocery basket. Shopping cart psychology – when you see a packet of crisps, you’re also most likely to see a few cans of Coke in there. Canned food, Ramen noodles, and beer : college kid. Canned (baby) food, high-fibre noodles, and chamomile tea : new mom. Not the biggest revelation I know, but you get my drift.

I’m not sure what that says about me, but if the person has a good read, something along the lines of “is she shopping for three different households?” might enter their mind.

When I come across something that I’ve never seen or heard of before, I’m most likely to pick it up anyway and ask the person at the check-out counter what it is, while simultaneously looking it up to confirm whether he/she is right. I have a legitimate reason for my constant doubting though : the last time I picked up leeks and it showed up on my bill as celery, she was insistent that that’s what it was. I mean, c’mon.

When I bought these lotus stems at my local grocer and took it up to the counter, the manager had to be summoned to figure out what it was. After a bit of poking and prodding (and after I confirmed that they were definitely not sweet potatoes or a native variety of yam), he made a new entry in his system that said “lots stem”. Continue reading

Cajun-roasted sweet potato fries

This is completely different – fries, but ones with the most desirable culmination of sweet and savoury. I hope I haven’t lost you yet, ‘cause these..these are so good.

I love sweet potatoes. As you might’ve guessed from my earlier posts, I go a little cuckoo in the head with food pairings. Like this for instance. I’ll have you know though, that this only works sometimes (I still don’t understand the chocolate-chilli hype). But, there obviously is some kind of a yin-yang balance to this theory – fig and ham, salted caramel – now these I agree with wholeheartedly.

These fries are squidgy in the middle with a slight crispiness on the outside. The sugar content in the sweet potatoes helps the edges char ever so slightly in the heat, and the subtle smokiness from it works gloriously with the natural nuttiness of the tuber. A healthier, more exciting substitute to its ubiquitous counterpart that is half the calories with so much more flavour! Continue reading

Honeydew melon & cucumber gazpacho

Who goes and puts honeydew melon in a soup, right? Sounds bizarre. If you feel the same way, I wouldn’t blame you. But..I like bizarre. And this gazpacho is kind of just that.

I’ve tried very hard to visually capture the exact texture of this soup, but I’m not sure if I’ve done a good enough job at it. Have you ever tried making honeydew melon, mango or even papaya juice? They blend well and get velvety and smooth, but it’s not the same consistency as you’d find in say, watermelon juice. It’s pulpier. That’s what the consistency of this gazpacho is like. It’s denser than any other soup I’ve made – even withstood the cucumber slices that I used as garnish!

Traditionally, gazpacho was made by hand pounding green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. Stale bread soaked in water is a popular addition, which purists claim to be the ‘superior’ version. This is the kind that you’d most likely encounter in Andalusia (south of Spain), which also happens to be where this dish originates from. But as is the case with the evolution of food habits, people living in other areas came up with their own intra-regional versions of the gazpacho with the ingredients that they had ready access to, and tweaking it to fit their palates. Some would make them without the bread, while white gazpachos have no tomatoes; they have pine nuts or almonds instead. There are now over hundreds, if not thousands of variations for it!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just a glorified smoothie. It does look like it, doesn’t it? Sautéed onions and garlic with a kick of chilli form its base, before the fresh melon and cucumbers are added in. I would strongly recommend a dash of fiery Tabasco over the top for that extra pizazz! Summery, velvety, bizarre..all pulverized together to give you this perfect chilled soup.

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