Pasta With Lentils

This is one-pot, wholesome and super-easy dish that definitely deserves a flaunting. If you’re done with the monotony of cooking lentils the same old ways – soups, stews, salads, etc. – this will come as a respite. This is me. I get bored easily, cooking the same recipes over and over again. Need, as they say, is the mother of all inventions… this applies in the kitchen too. Thus, this recipe. The deep, rich flavored sauce when tossed with pasta, is a crowd-pleaser, specially the kids. Pasta doesn’t need any cajoling after all 🙂

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:
200 gms brown lentils, washed thoroughly and soaked in water for 15 minutes.
200gms pasta of your choice. I’ve used Macaroni here.
2 medium size onions, finely chopped.
2 medium size tomatoes, pureed. I always go an extra mile by roasting the tomatoes before pureeing them. This I feel, makes the puree more flavorful.
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsps chili sauce
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 heaped tsps Kashmiri chili powder or smoked or regular paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsps corriander powder
3 cloves
3 green cardamoms
1 bay leaf
1 medium cinnamon stick
5-6 cups of water
Oil for frying. I’ve used Olive oil. Any cooking oil will suffice.
Salt as per taste
Chopped corriander
Grated parmesan cheese

Method:
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add all the whole spices – cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaf. Fry for few seconds till aromatic.
2. Tumble in the onions and fry till translucent.
3. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a minute till the raw smell goes away.
4. Now add the spice powders – chili, turmeric, corriander and fry on low for a minute.
5. Add the pureed tomatoes and saute on medium till the oil starts leaving from sides.
6. Add the tomato ketchup and chili sauce and stir.
7. Now add the soaked lentils, water and salt. Mix well and simmer on medium for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender, lid on.
8. Stir occasionally. Add more water if you feel the sauce is drying out.
9. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook on medium, lid on. This should take about ten minutes, depending on the type of pasta you use.
Alternatively, you can cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain and then tumble it into the sauce along with some pasta water.
10. While plating, generously grate Parmesan and garnish with chopped corriander.

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Whole Masoor Dal – Pressure Cooked

Whole Masoor or Sabut Masoor are these mighty nutritional members of the legume family, typically dark brown on the outside and salmon-pink on the inside. They cook super fast, even without a pressure cooker and are a powerhouse of proteins, dietary fibre, iron, zinc, vitamins, minerals and are super low on calories. These wholesome food staple are quite versatile when it comes to cooking…soups, salads, stews, lentil bowls or simply a delicious dal that I’ve cooked here.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:
1 cup black masoor or sabut masoor, washed thoroughly. Soak it in water for about 15 minutes.
2 medium size onions, finely chopped
2 medium onions, sliced, for tadka
4 green chilies, slit, for tadka
2 medium size tomatoes, finely chopped (or pureed)
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tsps Kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsps corriander powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida
2 tsp cumin seeds for dal and 1 tsp for tadka
3 cloves
3 green cardamoms
1 black cardamom
1 bay leaf
1 medium cinnamon stick
5 cups of water
Oil for frying
2 tbsp ghee for tadka
Salt as per taste

Method:
1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add asafoetida, cumin seeds and fry for a bit.
2. Add all the whole spices – cloves, cinnamon, green and black cardamom and bay leaf. Fry for few seconds till aromatic.
3. Tumble in the onions and fry till translucent and golden brown.
4. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a minute till the raw smell goes away.
5. Now add the spice powders – chili, turmeric, cumin and garam masala and fry on low for one minute.
6. Add the pureed tomatoes and saute on medium till the oil starts leaving from sides.
7. Now add the soaked masoor, water and salt. Stir and pressure cook on medium for about 15 minutes after the first whistle.
8. Open the lid and add more water if you feel the consistency is too thick. Boil for few minutes.
9. In a separate pan, heat ghee and add a tsp of cumin seeds and sliced onions. Fry till the onions are dark brown and crisp. Be careful not to burn.
10. Now add the slit green chilies and fry for few seconds.
11. Lastly, add this tadka to the cooked lentils and mix well.
12. Garnish with chopped coriander. Mix and leave the lid on for about 5 minutes so all the flavours are thoroughly absorbed. Serve hot with steamed rice or parathas

Chicken and Chorizo Traybake

If there was a competition for the easiest lunch recipe, my tray-bake would take away the trophy hands down.
Sight of the chicken sizzling in the tray, soaking itself in the luscious red juices of the chorizo, is something to behold. I keep peeping into the oven all the time. Bad habit, I know. But the aromas that fill the kitchen are so unbelievably hypnotic, you just can’t leave.
This is one rustic dish I love.  No precision slicing or chopping or even the measurements. Just being sloppy throughout. At the end, there’s always a fight for who’ll mop up the leftovers in the tray. I always win. And so should you.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:
500 gms Chicken breasts. You can also use the thighs or the drumsticks
25 beads of chorizo sausages. Remove the casing
2 medium size onions, roughly sliced
2 potatoes with skin, roughly cut into wedges
4 cloves of garlic, left whole
2 tsps lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp black pepper, crushed or powder
2 tbsps olive oil or any cooking oil
Salt to taste

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Marinate chicken in lemon juice, pepper and salt (you can also skip this step altogether and start off directly with the bake. I’ve tried both ways and it tastes equally good).
2. Put oil in the baking tray. Sit the chicken pieces inside while rubbing them roughly with oil, so they don’t go dry while baking.
3. Make space for the chorizo, potato wedges and onion slices. Toss in the garlic and grate the lemon zest straight over the contents. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
4. Cook for 40 minutes or until done.

Lucknowi Chicken Korma

Lucknowi cuisine has a unique identity and character of its own, just like the city of Nawabs where it was born. Lucknow was under rule of the Mughal Empire during the 16th century. The bawarchis or chefs of the Shahi kitchen were trained to cook an elaborate fair comprising high levels of dexterity and finesse. It was a meal fit for the kings.
The food was cooked on Dum, which means, on a low flame and this technique is used in the Lucknowi kitchens even today.
Korma is one of the famous dishes cooked using the dum technique. It’s a typical Mughal dish and its roots can be traced back to the 16th century as well. The edginess of Korma comes from the perfect blend of spices and dum style of cooking which incorporates the flavours perfectly into the meat.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:
Chicken breast – 500 gms
3 medium size onions – pureed
2 green chilies+ 1 inch ginger + 3 cloves garlic + few coriander leaves – marinating the chicken
1 tsp lime juice
1 bay leaf
3 cardamom pods
4 cloves
A piece of cinammon
2 tsps Kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tbsps cashewnuts
2 tbsps dessicated coconut
Ghee for frying
Salt for seasoning

Method:
1. Grind the marination ingredients into fine paste. Apply to the chicken along with lime juice and salt and let it sit aside.
2. Puree the onions.
3. Blitz poppy seeds, cashew-nuts and desiccated coconut into fine paste.
4. Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan. Add the whole spices – bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Fry on low till aromatic.
5. Spoon in the pureed onions and fry till the water in the puree evaporates.
6. Add chili powder, turmeric powder and fry on low for a bit.
6. Slowly tumble in the marinated chicken and add the ground cashew-nut paste.
7. Stir well so the chicken is covered thoroughly in the mixture.
8. Check for seasoning. Add salt if needed.
9. Lid on and simmer on low till the chicken is cooked and tender.
10. Garnish with raisins, chopped cashews and serve hot with Parathas, lime wedges and slices of onions.

Flemish Beef and Beer Stew

It’s amazing how the places you visit just once, leave an indelible mark on you. From my last trip to Belgium, I packed a little bit of Bruges back home. Did you know Bruges is the chocolate capital of the world? Beer, comic books and fries are the first loves of a true-bred Belgian. And they go crazy over Mussels and…fries.
But, what you must try out as a first timer, is their Beef and Beer Stew. Accompanied with of course…the F R I E S 🙂
I was itching to try it out at home, and so I did. This of course, is a Googled recipe, but with a little twist of my own.
It poured last evening…thunderstorms, lightning and all. There couldn’t be a better way to keep warm and cooped up at home.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: Around 3 hours
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 kg stew beef (shoulder meat preferable)
2 large onions, roughly sliced
500 ml of dark beer
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 cloves
1 clove of garlic, minced
The recipe said 2 laurel leaves. I couldn’t find them in the supermarket. So I added 2 bay leaves.
3-4 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp of flour to thicken the gravy
A splash of balsamic vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps butter
Salt & pepper for seasoning

Method:
1. Take a small piece of cheese cloth and tie the rosemary, thyme & cloves in it. You’ll want to be able to remove it from the stew easily later on. If you don’t have one, that’s okay too. Picking out the sprigs later, isn’t that big of a deal.

2. Cut the meat in roughly 1-inch or bite-size cubes. Season with salt and pepper and leave aside.

3. In a large non-stick pan, heat the olive oil and brown the meat over medium heat. It’s best to do this in batches, as you don’t want to overcrowd the meat. Overcrowding means the meat won’t brown, it’ll rather steam and you don’t want this. You want a nice crispy brown edge on each piece of meat. Set each batch of meat aside. Don’t be alarmed by the brownish ‘crud’ that forms on the bottom of your pan, and definitely don’t try to get rid of it… This is where a lot of the flavor forms.

4. When all meat is browned, turn up the heat a bit and pour a splash or two of the beer in the pan. Save the rest for later. Scrape the bottom of your pan to loosen the browned bits the meat formed.

5. When most of the bits are loosened and starting to dissolve in the beer, add butter, sliced onions and minced garlic, and continue to cook on medium until the onions are translucent.

6. Add the remainder of the beer, browned beef, cheese cloth with herbs and the sugar, and cook over low heat for 2-3 hours until the beef is fork-tender. Add a teaspoon of flour to thicken the gravy.

7. Keep the lid off of your pot. Once you have reached the desired thickness of the sauce, only then place the lid on the pot.

8. When the stew is ready, remove the cheese cloth wrapped herbs and bay leaves, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and stir.

9. Serve hot with sides of hash browns, french fries, buttery potato mash or baked potato wedges. Potato is such a versatile veggie, no.

Chettinad Prawn Curry

Chettinad, a region in Tamil Nadu state of South India, is synonymous with hyper-spicy and aromatic food laced with well-balanced flavors. If there’s any cuisine that celebrates spices with utmost devotion, it’s this cuisine. The fiery flavors come largely from the use of red chilies and black peppers. Variety of spices are roasted and freshly ground, which adds to the sharpness of any dish.
Chettinad cuisine isn’t for the faint-hearted or rather, faint-gutted. You either have a really strong gut or a really close loo. Because the flavors are so lip-smacking, you are bound to keep going for seconds.

Preparation time:15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
A. For marinating prawns:
Prawns, cleaned and deveined – 500 gms (It’s always good to stock your refrigerator with a packet of frozen prawns. Saves a great deal of time.)
Kashmiri chili powder – 2 tsps
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp

B. Ground spice mix:
Dry red chilies – 3
Black pepper corns – 7
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Cloves – 4
Cardamom – 4
Cinnamon – small piece
Mace – small piece
Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
Poppy seeds – 1 tsp

C. For the curry:
2 medium size onions – thinly sliced
2 green chilies – slit
2 medium size tomatoes – finely chopped
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Ginger-garlic paste – 11/2 tsp
Kashmiri chili powder – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Ground spice powder – 2 tsp
Tamarind pulp – 1 tbsp
Oil for frying
Salt as per taste
Water as per desired consistency

Method:
1. Marinate the prawns in chili powder, turmeric powder and salt and let it sit aside.
2. Dry roast all the spices on low flame till aromatic. Be careful not to burn.
3. Set aside to cool and then grind to fine powder.
4.  Heat oil in a heavy bottom. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter.
5. Add curry leaves and fry a bit.
6. Toss in the onions and green chilies and fry till the onions are soft and translucent.
7. Add ginger-garlic paste and fry for a minute or until the raw smell of ginger goes away.
8. Now add the spice powders – kashmiri chili, turmeric, coriander and the ground spice mix. Fry on medium till aromatic.
9. Now add the chopped tomatoes and tamarind pulp and saute till oil starts separating at the sides.
10. Tumble in the prawns and mix well.
11. Lastly, add water as per your desired consistency and check for the seasoning. Add more salt if required.
12. Bring it to boil. Then let it simmer on low for around 5 minutes or until the gravy becomes thick.
13. Garnish with curry leaves and serve hot with steamed rice, appams or neer dosa.

Shakshouka

A staple in the Middle East, Shakshouka is a one-pan wonder of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. The traditional recipe calls for eggs along with the other spices. However, you can create your own versions by adding sausages, meat balls, boiled potatoes or even cheese for that matter.
It is usually on the breakfast menus, but can make a wholesome meal as well.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
6 eggs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green or red peppers, diced
4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsps chili powder. Add more if you like it hot.
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar. Just enough to lift the flavors
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Finely chopped coriander for garnishing

Method:
1. Heat oil in a wide-bottomed pan. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent.
2. Add minced garlic and saute till fragrant.
3. Add diced peppers and cook on medium till soft.
4. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix and let it simmer so the tomatoes are soft enough to blend well into rest of the mixture.
5. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin powder, salt and pepper. Stir and let it simmer till the sauce starts to thicken.
6. Break the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, spacing evenly.
7. Cook till done to your liking, garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot.