Recipe – SPAGHETTI WITH RICOTTA AND BASIL

Pastas are loved by people across the globe. Found in various shapes and sizes, these beauties are so versatile that it can be cooked in many different ways. Makes a great weekend dinner or can be carried in lunch boxes too.

Spaghetti with fresh ricotta and basil is simple, quick, healthy and delicious; even a finicky eater would enjoy. If ricotta cheese is unavailable, can use paneer/cottage cheese instead; I have made this dish with paneer and it tastes great.

Here are some key areas to look out when following this recipe. Use good quality pasta. Fill lots of water in a large thick bottom stainless steel pot so that the pasta can move freely; don’t be stingy on that! When the water reaches boiling point, add salt generously; wait for a minute and then add the pasta. Once the pasta is fully submerged, gently stir with a wooden spoon, occasionally. Cook pasta till al dente; never over-cook. Drain it in a colander. Sometimes, I directly put the pasta into the sauce. Save little pasta water to make the sauce more flavourful. The sauce should only coat the pasta.

An incredibly easy, simple, flavourful and delicious spaghetti tossed with ricotta cheese, in tomato sauce, with the goodness of fresh basil and topped with parmesan to satisfy hunger pangs anytime.

prep time : 8 mins, cooking time :20 minutes, serves: 2, cuisine : italian, author : gloria

Ingredients

200 gms spaghetti

rock marine salt to cook pasta

water

1/4 cup ricotta (drained)

Olive oil

1 chilli pepper (minced) (optional)

1 onion (finely chopped)

1 big garlic clove (minced)

1 tomato (finely chopped)

1/4 cup tomato puree (home-made or store bought)

a pinch of sugar

few fresh basil leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

EVOO (extra virgin olive oil for drizzling)

parmesan cheese to taste

Method

Place a large pot of water on the stove-top. Once it comes to a rolling boil, add salt generously. Stir. Now, add spaghetti and cook till al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan over medium heat; add onion, garlic, chilli pepper, tomato and 2 pinches of salt. Saute and cook till everything is soft and well combined.

Now, add tomato puree, sugar and the reserved pasta water. Mix well and simmer on low heat for 6-7 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add freshly ground pepper.

Remove from the heat and spoon the ricotta into the tomato sauce, mix quickly. Do a taste-test and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Combine spaghetti and the sauce in a bowl; top it with fresh basil leaves; sprinkle some grated parmesan and drizzled EVOO. Serve piping hot immediately!

Buon Appetito!!

my observations/notes:

– use fresh ripened tomatoes

– can substitute tomatoes with sun dried tomatoes

– can use paneer instead of ricotta cheese

– can use chilli flakes instead of chilli pepper

– i whisked the ricotta however, just crumbling the ricotta would be a good idea

– leave little ricotta for the garnish which i missed out.

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Recipe – SIMPLE IRISH SODA BREAD

Irish Soda Bread is a fuss-free quick bread made with 4 basic simple ingredients – flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. A bread that is traditionally made on St. Patrik’s day however, you can make it all year round. It’s rustic, tender, soft, crumbly and dense bread with a hard crust.

Soda bread is leavened with baking soda. Additionally, the use of buttermilk enhances the rising process of the bread. It should be eaten fresh since it dries out faster.

We make Irish Soda Bread on  regular basis. Whenever, I make the brown soda bread from whole wheat flour, it is very heavier and drier compared to white soda bread; also takes a little longer time to bake. Sometimes, I like to add a half cup of raisins to the soda bread and enjoy it with our breakfast.

Here, in this recipe, the buttermilk is slowly added to the flour, baking soda, salt mixture and handled gently; just bringing everything together, the dough should be moist and not wet. Flatten and shape it into a rough round ball. If you overwork, it will become tough and the light and crumbly texture of the bread will be lost. It is important to score a deep cross into the top of the bread dough to allow the heat to penetrate inside and cook through. Bake it in a hot oven for 1 hour undisturbed and should sound hollow underneath when tapped with your knuckles. Wrap it with aluminium foil tightly when cooled completely. It tastes best on the day it is made or toasted the next day. Irish Soda Bread is delicious with rustic mutton curries, stews or soups.

Happy St. Patrick’s day!!!

Crusty, soft, rustic, simple and quick Irish Soda Bread dunked in soups or stews enjoyed during dinner.

total time : 1 hr-10 mins, yields : 1 loaf, cuisine : ireland, author : gloria

Ingredients

450 gms/2 cups soft wheat flour or unbleached plain flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Method

Pre-heat oven 190° C/375° F.

Into a large bowl, place soft wheat flour/unbleached plain flour, baking soda and sea salt; combine to mix.

Make a well in the centre and slowly pour in the buttermilk; give a quick stir until the flour is evenly moistened.

Tip the dough on a lightly floured surface area and gently knead it for 30 seconds shaping it into a rough round ball. Handle as little as possible and do not overwork.

Flatten the dough and place it in a greased pan. Using a sharp knife, score a 1/2″ deep cross into the top and prick the four corners of the dough.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 1 hour or until golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Brush the top with butter and allow it to cool down for few minutes.

Slice the bread and serve warm with stew/soups or slather with some traditional Irish kerrygold butter. Also, tastes good the next day when toasted.

My observations/notes:

– oven temperature and baking time varies; keep an eye after 50 mins and use your judgement.

– it is advisable to sieve flour (whichever using) and baking soda while preparing this bread.

– If buttermilk is unavailable, make clabber milk by adding 1 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 1/2 cup of milk. Sir; keep aside for 10 minutes and proceed further.

– I used home-made buttermilk for this recipe.

Recipe – SERRADURA

Serradura is a popular Portuguese dessert which means ‘sawdust’ – because the finely powdered marie biscuit resembles sawdust. It is a simple delicious dessert which can be done in a jiffy. It has mainly 4 main ingredients – marie biscuits, cream, condensed milk and vanilla; layered alternatively till it is set.

Here in this recipe, the biscuits are grinded into fine powder with a teaspoon of sugar. The cream is whipped to stiff peaks; then the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla are added to give sweetness to this wonderful biscuit pudding which is garnished with chocolate shavings. You can use fresh fruits or even glaze as garnish. The sweetness of this dessert can be increased as per personal preference.

Quick, simple and delicious pudding made with finely powdered marie biscuits with the sweetness of condensed milk, vanilla and enriched with heavy cream to satisfy sweet cravings anytime.

prep time : 10 mins + 4-5 hours to set, serves : 3-4, cuisine : portugal, author : gloria

Ingredients

16 marie biscuits

1 tsp sugar

200 ml heavy cream/whipping cream

pinch of salt

6-7 tbsp sweetened condensed milk (as per preference)

1 tsp vanilla extract

garnish of your choice – fruits, chocolate shavings, glaze etc..

Method

Break the marie biscuits and place them in a food processor or mixie grinder and grind it along with sugar to a fine powder. Reserve.*

Put cream in a bowl. Add pinch of salt. Using a large whisk or an electric blender, start whipping/beating till soft peaks are obtained. Now, add condensed milk, vanilla extract and continue to whisk/beat till you get stiff peaks. Keep aside and start assembling the layers.**

To assemble :

Take a glass of your choice, arrange the biscuit layer evenly.*

Using a spoon, neatly put a uniform layer of cream mixture.**

Repeat process till the entire glass is filled and finish it with the biscuit layer on top.

Garnish it with chocolate shavings and refrigerate for 4-5 hours to set or ready to be served.

My observations/notes :

– can add more condensed milk as per level of sweetness

– can use zip-lock back and a rolling pin to crush the biscuits

– can also use fruits or glaze instead of chocolate shavings

– whip cream immediately after taking out from the fridge and do not over-whip

Recipe – CHEESE BLINTZ WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE

I love thin crepês for breakfast and my mum would make the pan-fried crepês only for very special occasions with different sweet fillings; dusted with powdered sugar. The ingredients to make the crepês were same and I have followed her method. The only addition to the ingredient is use of vanilla in the crepês.

I miss my mum’s tasty crepês and was thinking about it when suddenly I read the pan-cake challenge post. Natascha from Natascha Palace hosted a Pancake Party Challenge and am glad to be a part of it. I thought to make a ‘cheese blintz’. Blintz are thin crepês with cheese filling. They are simple, easy and delicious. I made it as per my little boy’s taste-buds. I topped it with fresh berries and a simple chocolate sauce. He was too glad to do the decorating part and he devoured it all  🙂

Thank you Natascha; here’s my first entry to the Pancake Party Challenge – Eastern Europe – blini or blintz. Had lots of fun doing it; especially with my little boy.

Simple, delicious and pan-fried crepês with the sweetness of fresh fruits dunked in chocolate sauce.

prep time : 15 mins, total cooking time 15 mins, cuisine : eastern europe, serves : 12, author : gloria

Ingredients

1 cup/250 gms wheat flour
1 cup/250 ml milk
3-4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 tbsp butter
pinch of salt

For the filling :
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
5 tbsp creme fraiche
4 tbsp organic sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
a dash of orange zest
a pinch of salt

Method

For the crepês :
Blend flour, eggs, vanilla, milk, butter, wheat flour and salt in a blender to form a smooth lump free batter. Allow it to stand on the counter for 30 minutes.

Heat a skillet and keep the heat over medium. Check the temperature by dropping little water and if it skitter across the surface; it’s ready. Wipe and brush lightly with butter; pour scant of ¼ cup batter onto the skillet. Swirl to get an even circular layer. Allow it to cook for a minute until light brown in colour; cooking one side only. Transfer it to a plate. Repeat process with the entire batter.

For the filling :
Strain ricotta cheese overnight to remove any excess liquid, if required. Next day into a bowl, add ricotta cheese, creme fraiche, sugar, salt, vanilla, orange zest and egg. With a wooden spoon, combine everything together until blended properly. Chill it for sometime so that it firms up slightly.

To assemble blintzes :
Place 3 tbsp of the filling an inch away from the edges of light brown side of the crepês. Now, fold the bottom edge and then fold the sides to bring it in the centre and roll completely ending with seam side facing downwards.  Repeat process with the entire crepês.

For frying blintzes :
Heat butter in a skillet and keeping the heat on medium, arrange the stuffed/rolled blintzes, seam side down (do not crowd them) and fry for 1-2 mins on both sides till crisp and golden in colour.

To serve :
Arrange 2 blintzes on a plate and dust lightly with icing sugar. Pour the chocolate sauce and top it with berries. It can also be eaten plain or with sour cream.

My observations/notes:
– can replace ricotta cheese with cottage cheese.
– can replace creme fraiche with sour cream or hung curd.
– do not overfill the filling.
– I used store-bought chocolate sauce. can replace with your favourite sauce.

Recipe – Mutton Shorwa (Afghani style)

Afghani cuisine is intense, rich in flavours and is neither too hot nor too spicy. Mutton Shorwa is delicious, healthy, aromatic and quick to prepare thin consistency gravy.

Here, the mutton is slow-cooked till soft, tender and juicy along with onions and simple spices available in the kitchen to create a most flavourful dish.

Serve warm with rotis or dunk it with naan or any breads of your choice. Goes well with rice too.

What better way to beat the cold chilly weather with this delicious stew!

Slow-cooked succulent, juicy, tender, melt-in-the mouth mutton beautifully flavoured with aromatic spices; a sure way to beat the chilly weather.

Prep time:15 minutes, Cooking time:55 mins, Cuisine: Afghanistan, Serves:6, Author : Gloria

Ingredients

500 gms goat meat

1 cup onion chopped

2 cups tomatoes chopped

½ tbsp ginger-garlic paste

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp mild red chilly powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp peppercorns

¼ tsp cumin powder

1 tsp garam-masala

1 bay leaf

1 green cardamom

2 cups water

Salt to taste

Oil

Method

Cut, clean and drain the meat nicely in a colander. Place it in a large bowl. Keep aside.

Take a heavy skillet; add oil and once it is moderately hot, tip in the onions. Sauté till it turns golden brown.

Add ginger-garlic paste and stir for a minute till it becomes fragrant.

Now, add the cleaned meat and mix well for 5 minutes on medium-high heat stirring constantly till it changes colour to light brown.

Tip in the tomatoes and give a mix.

Add bay leaf, cardamom and peppercorns along with turmeric powder, red chilly powder and coriander powder. Add salt and combine everything together. Simmer and cook the meat with a plate filled with water on top for 8 minutes till the masalas and tomatoes are blended well. Now, remove the plate filled with water and keep aside.

At this stage, add 2 cups of water and give it a stir. Cover with a lid and keep the heat on low. Cook the meat till tender and soft for 45 mins.

Once done, add the garam-masala. Stir. Switch off heat.

Dish up with hot steamed rice or breads or naan. Enjoy!!!

my observations/notes:

  • my afghan friend suggests adding potatoes to this dish to make it more tastier.