Fusilli with Basil Pesto

On a recent trip to Italy, I got to gorge on some of the best pasta ever and that included pasta with pesto sauce at a restaurant by the beach. I have always loved pesto but never actually tried making it myself (Costco sells a yummy bottled version!). Inspired during the holiday, I decided to make this beautiful sauce, borrowing from Antonio Carluccio, known to be the godfather of Italian food. You can find the original recipe here

Ingredients:

Basil leaves – 60 gms
Pine nuts – 2 tbsp
Extra virgin olive oil – 1/2 cup
Grated Parmesan cheese – 4 tbsp + extra for garnish
Grated Pecorino Cheese – 4 tbsp
Garlic – 1 clove
Fusilli pasta – 2.5 cups
Broccoli – 1 cup
Salt to taste

Method:

  • Bring water to a boil in a pot, add salt to taste and the pasta; cook for ten minutes till the pasta is al dente
  • With about five minutes left for the pasta to cook, toss in the broccoli florets
  • Combine the basil leaves, pine nuts, oil, cheese and garlic in a blender or food processor and blitz till everything is well-combined and you get a less-than-smooth sauce
  • Drain the pasta and broccoli
  • Mix this with the sauce
  • Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve immediately

Note: I have used fusilli pasta in this recipe. You can use any pasta that has a few curves and twists so that the sauce clings on to it.

Watermelon-Feta Salad

It’s hot and sweaty where we live, bang in the middle of summer. And slices of watermelon are a welcome relief! Nevertheless, this salad is a good one to have for lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

Watermelon, chopped – 2 cups
Arugula – 2 handfuls
Feta cheese – 2 tbsp
Lime juice – 2 tsp
Extra virgin olive oil – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Method:

  • Whisk together the olive oil and lime juice and set aside
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour in the above liquid mix
  • Serve immediately

Note: You can play around with the quantity of ingredients as per your taste.
– You could even add chopped almonds or walnuts to the salad.
– If you do not have extra virgin olive oil, you can use regular olive oil.
– Feta cheese adds a lovely saltiness to the dish. But if you can’t find any, use grated parmesan or pecorino.

Eral Iguru/ Shrimp Coconut Kurma

This recipe is a very traditional Tamil Nadu style preparation of shrimp/prawn and you just cannot go wrong with this one! The curry has just a handful of basic ingredients but the shrimp itself adds immense seafood flavor making this dish so aromatic and mouth-watering. This dish is also very easy to prepare and barely takes time. The only lengthy process is that of cleaning/de-veining the shrimp but if we have access to cleaned shrimp, then it cannot get any simpler. This tastes best with rice or dosa.

Ingredients:

Shrimp/ prawn (small variety) – 20
Bay leaf – 2
Cinnamon – 1/2 inch piece
Cloves – 3
Onion, finely chopped – 1 cup
Tomato, finely chopped – 1/2 cup
Garlic cloves, slivered – 6 to 8
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – 3 tbsp

To grind:
Green chilies – 3
Coriander leave stalks – 5 to 6
Coconut, grated – 1 cup

Method:

  • Clean and de-vein shrimp
  • Grind green chilies, coriander leaves and coconut into a smooth paste
  • Heat oil in a wide pot and add bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves
  • Add the garlic and saute well
  • Add onion and saute until it turns translucent
  • Add the tomato, turmeric and the ground paste and cook for couple more minutes
  • Add salt and a cup of water and bring it to a boil
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp
  • Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved
  • Serve hot with rice or dosa

Tip: A good way to clean shrimp is to wash them in a bowl of turmeric water after removing the shell and veins.

Copra Chutney Powder (Chutney Podi)

One of my favorite accompaniments to dosai is chutney podi. It can be made ahead or even store-bought. While some brands are pretty good (my favorite is the coarsely ground kind from Grand Sweets, Chennai), I tasted this home-made version at my brother’s place and realised how addictive it tastes! It’s a recipe from my sister-in-law’s family. It’s super easy to make and can be stored up to two weeks. This podi does not require any sesame seed oil or ghee. You can have it as is, given that the copra is quite oily in itself.

Ingredients:

Copra/Dry coconut – 2 cups, finely grated (see note)
Garlic – 1 pod
Dry red chillies – 12
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Roasted Split Gram – 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Oil

Method:

  • Blitz the copra in a food processor or grate finely and set aside
  • In a pan, dry roast the cumin seeds; allow to cool
  • In a pan, add a drop of vegetable oil and fry the dry red chillies; allow to cool
  • Combine the cumin seeds, dry red chillies and the whole garlic (cloves separated but unpeeled) and blitz them in a blender along with salt
  • Add the coconut and roasted split gram and blend again till the entire mixture is well-combined and ground well (it will not be a fine powder but a coarse one; ensure that everything is blitzed to as small a piece as possible)
  • Store in an air-tight container
  • Serve with dosai or idly

Note: I ground the copra in a food processer. And then ground it again even more finely in the mixer. If you do not have a food processor, you could grate it as finely as possible (exercise for the arms!) and then grind it in the mixer to get a finer powder. Another option is to slice the copra and then grind it in a mixer. Whatever works for you!

Matt Preston’s Chicken Schnitzel

I have written here earlier about Masterchef Australia being one of my top favorite food shows on TV. This is only the second time I am attempting a dish from the show. This one is by food critic and judge Matt Preston during a masterclass in Season 9 of the show. While he made a host of other dishes along with this schnitzel including sweet potato chips and a mayonnaise, I decided to tread cautiously and chose to make only one item. This schnitzel is so simple and easy to make and fairly healthy, given that it is baked. While I have made minor changes to the original version (you can find the recipe here), I am stoked with how it turned out! With a wedge of lemon and a cold drink, this dish is good to go 🙂 Happy fourth of July!

Ingredients:

Chicken Breast – 700 gms
Butter – 5 tbsp
Dried Thyme – 1/4 tsp
Red chilli flakes – 1/4 tsp
Whole Wheat Bread crumbs – 1 cup
Grated parmesan cheese – 1/2 cup

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius
  • Prepare at least two baking trays, lining them with aluminium foil
  • Place the butter in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water and allow to melt; once melted, turn off gas
  • Meanwhile, place the chicken breast in between parchment paper and flatten it out using a mallet or a rolling pin
  • Cut into strips and keep aside
  • In a flat-bottomed dish, combine the bread crumbs, cheese, thyme and chilli flakes
  • Place the chicken strips in the melted butter and coat them well
  • Remove the strips, shaking off excess butter and place them in the crumb mixture
  • Toss the chicken pieces ensuring they are coated completely in crumb
  • Place the chicken in the prepared trays
  • Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, flipping the pieces mid-way through the cook
  • Serve hot on a bed of salad with a ranch or mayonnaise dressing

Coconut Chutney

Coconut Chutney is a staple south Indian recipe. Every household has its own version and it is crucial to a breakfast of dosai, idli or uthappam. As a child I remember spreading this chutney on a slice of bread, toasting it on a tava and then eating it with sugar. That hit of spice and sweet is yummy! Or you can stick to its more traditional use 🙂

My version is fairly simple and straight-forward. You can very easily leave out the coriander leaves, tamarind and roasted gram dal and you will still be left with a delicious chutney. 

Ingredients:

To Grind

Coconut – 1/2
Green chillies – 3
Ginger – 1 tsp, chopped
Roasted Gram dal – 2 tsp
Coriander leaves – 1/3 cup, chopped
Tamarind – 1 cm piece
Salt to taste

To Temper

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Dry red chillies – 2
Curry leaves – 4
Oil

Method:

  • Grind all the ingredients mentioned under ‘To Grind’
  • Add enough water till you get a thick chutney consistency or more if you prefer it to be watery
  • Transfer to a clean container 
  • In a kadai, heat oil and add mustard seeds
  • Once they crackle, add cumin seeds, ural dal, dry red chillies and curry leaves
  • Add to the chutney and mix
  • Serve with dosai or idly

Summer Corn Salad

A friend of mine brought this salad to a potluck lunch last year and it is one of the best things I have eaten. Simple but packed full of flavor! It’s also versatile enough to play around with the ingredients. Toss in some cooked rajma or pasta. You can add some chaat masala or coriander-chilli chutney for an Indian twist. You can even throw in some shredded chicken. My friend recommends the use of black salt in this salad. I didn’t have any, so I ended up using regular salt. It’s a good salad to prepare ahead and perfect on a hot summer day. Thank you, V, for bringing this to school 🙂

Ingredients

Corn – 4 cobs
Bell pepper – 1/2
Spring Onions – 1/2 cup, chopped
Tomato – 1/2
Potato – 1/2, boiled
Lime – 1/2
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Yogurt – 3 tbsp
Garlic – 3 cloves
Tortilla Chips – 1 cup, crushed

Method

  • Place the corn in a pressure cooker with water. Cook for one whistle. Once pressure releases, remove the corn and slice length-wise such that you get the kernels.
  • Add chopped bell peppers, tomato and potato
  • Add spring onions (all of the white part and some of the green)
  • Refrigerate this mix

Assembling

  • Just before serving, add salt and black pepper to taste
  • Mince the garlic cloves and add to the yoghurt. Add this dressing to the salad
  • Squeeze the juice of half a lime
  • Toss in crushed chips 

Akki Roti with Methi / Rice Flour Roti with Fenugreek Leaves

Akki Roti is a breakfast staple in Karnataka, and being from Bangalore myself, this is one of my favorite breakfast/dinner items. This is an easy and quick to prepare dish and requires very simple and basic ingredients. I have used Methi leaves in this version to make it more nutritious. Grated carrots are also used commonly. Again, this is one of those recipes where keeping the base ingredients the same, you can play with different add-ons like different types of greens or nuts. Any type of chutney goes well with Akki Roti but some tangy and spicy tomato chutney sure tastes great with it!

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 1.5 cups plus extra for dusting
Methi/ Fenugreek leaves – 2 cups
Onion, finely chopped – 2/3 cup
Coriander leaves, finely chopped – 4 tbsp
Green chillies, finely chopped – 2
Grated coconut – 4 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – for pan frying

Method:

  • Wash the Methi leaves well and chop them finely
  • In a mixing bowl, take all the ingredients (except oil) and mix well

  • Add water gradually and knead into a soft dough

  • Divide the dough into equal sized portions
  • Take a sheet of parchment or wax paper and apply few drops of oil
  • Place the dough on the paper and press with your fingers. Do not use rolling pin
  • Use more oil or dust with extra flour if it gets sticky
  • Spread the dough into a nice circular roti

  • Heat a tawa/griddle and apply 1/4 tsp oil
  • Once the griddle is nice and hot, transfer the roti. For easy transfer, flip the parchment paper with the roti on the pan and slowly peel off the paper and re-use for next roti. If you are using wax paper, be quick in removing it as it is not as heat resistant as the parchment paper
  • Cook the roti well on both sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side until it starts browning slightly. Use extra oil if needed

  • Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining rotis
  • Serve with your choice of chutney

Quinoa Chickpea Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

I have learnt a few different ways of preparing quinoa and feel that it goes so well with chickpeas. In fact, sometimes when I make Chole Masala, I have it with plain cooked quinoa instead of rice, which also is a better choice if you want to avoid rice for dinner. This salad is healthy but at the same time filling. I have used carrots for some sweetness but you can add other vegetables and/or greens and make it more nutritious!

Ingredients:

Quinoa – 1 cup
Vegetable broth – 3 cups
Chickpeas, cooked – 1.5 cups (see note below)
Carrot, grated – 1 cup
Cilantro – 7 to 8 stalks
Garlic – 2 cloves
Ginger, grated – 1/4 tsp (optional)
Green chili pepper – 1/2
Olive oil – 2 to 3 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Juice of half a lime/lemon

Yield: 2 servings

Method:

  • Wash the quinoa well
  • In a pan, add the quinoa and vegetable broth. Cook covered, on medium heat for 15 -20 mins
  • Reduce the heat to low when most of the liquid is absorbed. Once cooked, you can fluff it with the help of a fork and allow it to cool a bit
  • To prepare the cilantro dressing, in a mixer or food processor, take cilantro, garlic, ginger, green chili pepper, salt and lemon juice and pulse a few times until coarsely ground
  • Now, with the mixer on, keep adding olive oil until the mixture emulsifies. You can also add the oil and beat with a whisk instead of using the mixer. Note that the quantity used here serves 2. You can also prepare more and refrigerate it for about a week

  • In a big mixing bowl, add the quinoa, chickpeas, grated carrot and the dressing and toss well
  • Serve warm or chilled

Note: Soak chickpeas in water for 8 hours or overnight and pressure cooker on medium heat for 2-3 whistles. You can substitute the vegetable broth with chicken broth or just water. Using the broth will give some added flavor.

Onion Bhaji/Fritters

Deep-fried Pakoras and Bhajis have always been my favorite and love having them as a side with rice/Sambar/Rasam. My mom regularly made these and regardless of what type she made (potato, raw plantain, etc), there always had to be onion bhajis as well made specially for my sister who always insisted on these! It worked out well for me as I got to enjoy more than one variety! This recipe is one step above the basic bhaji and uses aromatics such as garlic, cumin and curry leaves for an enhanced flavor. Enjoy these as a side for lunch/dinner when you are out of veggies or as a snack on a cold rainy day with some piping hot chai!

Ingredients:

Onion, sliced lengthwise – 1 cup
Besan/ Chickpea flour – 3 tbsp
Rice flour – 3 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped – 1 to 2
Curry leaves, finely chopped – 6 to 8
Baking soda – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Oil – for deep frying

Yield: 2 servings

Method:

  • In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients except the onions

  • Gradually add water to make a thick paste. Start off with 2-3 tbsp of water and add more if needed. The consistency must be like a paste, slightly thicker than you would use for potato or plantain bhajis

  • Add the sliced onions and mix well. The batter should only lightly coat the onion

  • Heat oil in a kadai/wok
  • When the oil is ready (a small piece of the batter dropped should immediately rise to the top), add the onions. Use your fingers to separate them out as you are dropping them in the oil so as to not form big lumps. Also, do not overcrowd them or they will become soggy
  • Fry until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel
  • Serve as a side with any meal or as an evening snack