Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese 

My vegetarian bolognese brings all the Italian Nonnas to the yard…

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Everytime I go to an Italian restaurant I’m so tempted to order Nonnas homestyle spaghetti bolognese. After all there is nothing more comforting than rustic homestyle Italian food. The only problem is that a classic bolognese sauce is cooked with mince meat, which makes it a deal breaker for me. Not anymore! I can have my bolognese and can eat it too.

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This vegetarian bolognese packs the rustic Ialian homestyle flavourful punch, no animals were harmed or killed in its making and it’s just so easy.  You could make a big batch and freeze it too for ready to eat meals on weeks nights when cooking is the last thing on your mind.

Ingredients: 16  Cooking time: 60 minutes

Serves: 6

  • 400 gms of canned brown lentils
  • 300 gms of firm tofu, crumbled
  • One red onion, finely chopped
  • Two medium Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 400 gms of canned tomatoes or Pasata
  • Three to four pods of garlic, minced
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One large bayleaf
  • One teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves
  • One teaspoon smoked paprika
  • One teaspoon cumin powder
  • Half a teaspoon chilli powder
  • Two teaspoons of sugar
  • Salt to season
  • Four tablespoons of olive oil
  • One litre of vegetable stock

Drain the lentils, thoroughly rinse them  and keep aside.

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot. Add cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Once aromatic add garlic and onion, cook until onions are lightly caramelised.

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Now add tomatoes, Passata and all the dried herbs and spices, mix well. Add crumbled tofu, cover the pot and cook the ingredients on a medium for seven to ten minutes.


Once the tofu is soft, add the stock and lentils. Mix well, cover the pot and cook the sauce of a low heat for 40 to 45 minutes. Stir the sauce from time to time to help break the protein and infuse the flavour thoroughly.


Season with salt and mix well. Let the sauce simmer for another five to seven minutes. In the meantime cook spaghetti as per packet instructions.

To serve toss the sauce with pasta and ladle a generous serve on top. Garnish with cracked pepper and grated Parmesan. I can guarantee this spaghetti will bring all the Italian Nonnas to the yard and you can say – Damn right it is better than yours!

Masala Aloo Gobi (Indian Spiced Potato and Cauliflower)

You haven’t eaten it all till you’ve eaten Aloo Gobi…

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Every Punjabi mother  dreams of a world where she cooks all day and her children eat all day. There are few vegetarian dishes every Punjabi mother swears by. These staples made up most of my childhood and continue to delight my tastebuds even today. For instance Rajma Chawal (red kidney bean stew with rice), Kaali Dal aur paratha (creamy black lentils with crispy flatbread), Kadhi Chawal (Chickpea flour and yogurt curry with rice), Aloo Paratha ( Potato stuffed crispy flatbread) and finally Aloo Gobi (potato with cauliflower).

So far I’ve brought you recipes for Rajma, Kaali Dal, Kadhi, and Parathas. Therefore it only makes sense to add Aloo Gobi,  another lip smackingly delicious dish to sort of complete your vegetarian Punjabi repertoire. There are many different ways to make aloo gobi but my favourite is cooking it in a onion, ginger and tomato paste with loads of garam masala, cumin and coriander powder.

So without further ado here’s the recipe for masala aloo gobi.



Ingredients: 15  Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 6

  • One medium sized cauliflower cut into florets
  • Cauliflower stalks, roughly sliced
  • Three to four medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • One red onion, roughly chopped
  • Two tomatoes, cut in big chunks
  • One thumbsized piece of ginger grated
  • One tablespoon garam masala
  • One teaspoon cumin powder
  • One teaspoon coriander powder
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Half a teaspoon chilli powder
  • Quarter teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to season
  • One tablespoon of ghee
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan. Add cumin seeds and let them splutter. Once aromatic add onion, cook until lightly caramelised. Now add tomatoes, grated ginger, one teaspoon of garam masala and all the other dried spices.


Once the tomatoes are soft, add potatoes and mix well. Cover the pan and cook the potatoes for five to seven minutes on a medium heat. Now add the cauliflower, stalks, remaining garam masala and season with salt. Mix well, cover the pan and cook the vegetables on a medium heat for 20 – 25 minutes. From time to time stir the aloo gobi to cook it evenly.


Take the lid of at this point, cook the aloo gobi on a high heat to crisp it up for about four to five minutes. Your lip smackingly delicious aloo gobi is ready to serve. It’s best eaten as a side along with dal, rotis and rice. Alternatively it can also be served with a nice piece of fish and some salad.

Superfood Pesto

Why do regular pesto when you can do super pesto…


With my little boy getting more and more interested in food, I am constantly looking for new ways to incorporate healthy ingredients into his meals. In my world healthy does not need to be boring. Healthy meals can be equally exciting if done well, a little inspiration is all you need.

Take this superfood pesto for instance. I had lotsa greens and herbs in the fridge that needed to be used. So I decided to take the concept of pesto and turn it up a gazillion notches by combining all the herbs and veggies together. The result was absolutely sensational.  I used some rocket, mint, Vietnamese mint, dill, continental parsley, peas and spinach. Combined all that with some chilli flakes, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and toasted pine nuts. You can replace the spinach with silverbeet or kale too. 


My little boy absolutely demolished his superfood pesto pasta, I added some cheeky bits of steamed Beetroot for that extra dose of iron. Checkout the recipe below, a quick and easy meal for the whole family.

 

Ingredients: 11 Preparation time: 10 minutes

  • Half a bunch of fresh mint
  • Half a bunch of continental parsley
  • Quarter bunch of Vietnamese mint
  • Quarter bunch of dill
  • One cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
  • One cup of spinach
  • Two pods of garlic
  • Two tablespoons of lemon juice 
  • Two tablespoons of toasted pine nuts
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 125ml of extra virgin olive oil


Steam the peas and spinach until soft. Wash all the herbs, pat dry and add to the blender along with the other ingredients. Blitz until smooth. Your pesto is now ready. 


These proportions make enough for you to freeze a good chunk and use on days when putting a meal together for your family is the last thing on your mind.


I served this superfood pesto with rigatoni pasta, which my nine month old could easily grasp and feed himself. So in my books this is – Winner winner super dinner!

Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

If winter had a fragrance, this would be it…

There’s a real chill in the air these days. A perfect reason to stock up on vegetables and make soups to last for days. After all there is nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup on a cold night, watching Netflix wrapped up in a blanket. 

I am a big fan of combining different vegetables and spices whilst making soup. Take this soup for instance, pumpkin and carrot are combined with cinnamon and ginger. Now if winter had a   fragrance this would be it. Cinnamon brings out the sweetness in pumpkin and ginger, while ginger gives the soup a really earthiness. I don’t even have to begin to tell you the health benefits of these ingredients. Let’s just say it’s like winning a jackpot of good health.

So without further ado here’s the recipe.

Ingredients: 18  Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Half a pumpkin, peeled and cubed (I used Kent pumpkin)
  • Four medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped 
  • One medium sized onion, sliced
  • Three to four pods of garlic, chopped
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated 
  • One large cinnamon stick 
  • Two bayleaves
  • Half a teaspoon of rosemary leaves
  • Half a teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin powder
  • Salt to season 
  • Three tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1.25 ltr of stock or water

For the garnish 

  • Sage leaves
  • Small piece of ginger
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil 
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)

Heat oil in a crockpot. Add garlic, once aromatic add onion, ginger, bay leaves and cinnamon. Cook on medium heat for three to four minutes. 


Now add pumpkin and carrots, followed by all the dried herbs and spices. Mix well, cover the pot and cook on a medium heat for five to seven minutes.

Add water or stock, cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on a medium heat. 


Now take out the bayleaves and cinnamon stick. Season with salt as required and blend the soup. Add the bayleaves and cinnamon stick back in the soup. Cover the pot again and let the soup simmer again for five to ten minutes.

To prepare the garnish, mix olive oil, sage and smashed ginger in a skillet. Heat until aromatic. Keep aside.

Your lip smackingly delicious soup is ready to be served. Ladle a generous serve into a bowl, glaze it with the sensational sage and ginger oil, add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and finally top with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with some toasted sourdough bread. Aaahhh!!!! Heaven.

Aloo Shimla Mirch (Potato with Capsicum)

A childhood memory, a taste of home…


Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my Beeji (maternal grandmother) and Massi (maternal aunty). These two women are cornerstones of my upbringing. I owe a big part of who I am today to them. Even now every year when we visit India, I can’t help but feel the same excitement I did when I would visit Beeji and Massi during my school holidays.

Life was pretty simple as a child. Eat, play, nap and repeat. Although I think all I did was eat, eat, eat and eat. Among all the lip smackingly delicious dishes Beeji and Massi made, Aloo Shimla Mirch was my favourite. So much so I demanded that it be cooked everyday.

After all what’s not to love about potato and capsicum cooked in an onion and tomato paste. Flavoured with cumin and coriander powder. This dish right here is a perfect side dish to an Indian meal.

Ingredients: 11  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Three to four medium potatoes, sliced
  • Two medium green capsicums, sliced
  • One medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • Two medium sized tomatoes, chopped
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons coriander powder
  • Half a teaspoon chilli powder
  • Quarter teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to season 
  • Three tablespoons of olive oil 

Heat oil in a wok. Add cumin seeds, once aromatic add onions and cook until lightly caramelised.

Once the onions are browned, add tomatoes. Followed by all the dried spices. Mix well and cook the onion tomato paste on a medium heat for five to seven minutes.


Now add the potatoes and mix well. Cover the pan, turn the heat down and cook the potatoes for ten to fifteen minutes.
Finally add the capsicum, season with salt and mix well. Coven the pan and cook the dish on a low heat for another 15 minutes. 


Your lip smackingly delicious Aloo Shimla mirch is ready to serve. Serve alongside dal tadka and plain yogurt, enjoy it with warm rotis or plain rice. 

Leek, potato and cabbage soup

Another classic, with a twist…

  
I love ‘fridge clean-out’ kind of soups. The other day I found a globe of Savoy cabbage and leek in my fridge. Rustling through the pantry I found a couple of potatoes. There was only one way these ingredients were headed, into a large crockpot and coming out as a warm bowl of comforting soup.

Cabbage gives this classic potato and leek soup a real textural twist. My philosophy behind cooking is about always trying new things. Whether that is flavours, ingredients or cooking techniques they all make us one step closer to becoming culinary geniuses.

Ingredients: 10  Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

  • One leek, finely chopped  
  • One Savoy cabbage, finely sliced
  • Two medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Two to three pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One medium sized bay leaf
  • One litre of vegetable stock 
  • One teaspoon crushed black pepper
  • Salt to season
  • One tablespoon butter
  • Two tablespoons olive oil

In a heavy bottom pot, melt butter and heat olive oil together. Add garlic, once aromatic add leek. I usually use the white part of the leek only, but this time I used the green bits too. Lower the heat and cook until leeks are slightly soft.

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Now add the cabbage and mix the ingredients well. Add potatoes, stock, season with salt and pepper. Finally add a bay leaf and cover the pot.

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Cook on a medium heat until potatoes are soft. Your lip smackingly delicious soup is ready to serve. Personally I like my soups with texture, but you can blend yours if you wish. 

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Garnish with some more crushed black pepper, serve alongside some warm crusty bread. Another winter warmer to comfort you on a cold night.

  

Rajma (Red Kidney Bean Stew)

The Punjabi happy meal…

  

Growing up as a Punjabi kid life was very simple. There were three commandments to live by. First, beta nashta  kha lo ( eat your breakfast kiddo). Second, beta khaana kha lo (eat your lunch/dinner kiddo). Third, beta kuch aur kha lo ( eat something else kiddo). Life was all about breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything else sort of fit around it. 

Besides the three commandments one thing common in every Punjabi kids life is the Punjabi Happy Meal. No it’s not McDonalds because no self-respecting Punjabi mother would dare to feed their child that. It’s Rajma Chawal! A red kidney bean stew served on a bed of steamed basmati rice. Nothing says happy meal and happiness like this dish in a Punjabi household.

There is such depth and flavour in this curry.  It is like a mother has squeezed all the love out of her heart and put it straight into Rajma. 

  

Ingredients: 14 Cooking time: 90 minutes

Serves: 6

  • 400gms of Rajma (kidney beans)
  • One large onion, finely chopped
  • Four medium tomatoes, grated
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One large bayleaf
  • One teaspoon of cumin seeds 
  • 1.5 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons of coriander powder
  • One teaspoon of chilli
  • Half a teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Quarter teaspoon of asafoetida (hing)
  • Three tablespoons of ghee
  • Salt to season
  • Fresh coriander, chopped (for garnish)

Soak the kidney beans overnight or at least for five to six hours. This helps to break the protein, soften the beans and cook them quicker.

In a pressure cooker or a heavy bottom saucepan add the beans. Cover them with water, add cinnamon and bayleaf. Cook until the beans are soft and can be mashed between two fingers.

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For the tadka (tempering), heat ghee in a saucepan. Add asafoetida (hing), cumin seeds, once aromatic add onions and cook until onions are lightly browned.

Now add grated tomatoes, key for this stew is use the freshest tomatoes. Add all the dried spices. Cook on a medium heat for 10 to fifteen minutes.

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Add the beans and the broth. Season with salt. Cover the saucepan and let the stew cook on a low heat for about an hour.


Your lipsmackingly delicious kidney bean stew or Rajma are ready. Garnish with fresh coriander. Serve over steamed basmati rice and enjoy this happy meal with your beautiful family.

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Hyderabadi Baigan 

When memories create meals, they are one of a kind…

  

Many things in life are easy to forget but one seldom forgets a delicious dish. One such dish I found myself recently reminiscing about and relentlessly craving was Hyberabadi Baigan, also known as Bhagare Baigan. An eggplant curry inspired by flavours from Hyderabad, a former princely state in the southern belt of India.

Hyderabadi cuisine has evolved over centuries through local and foreign influences. The key ingredients of Hyderabadi cuisine are coconut, tamarind, peanuts and sesame seeds. While the cuisine is more meat based, you can also find some real vegetarian gems in the mix.

Here’s my take on this Hyderabadi classic. To be enjoyed with parathas or rice,  every mouthful is lip smackingly delicious.

  

Ingredients: 15  Cooking time:  45 minutes

Serves: 6

  • 1.5 dozen of baby eggplants, quartered and soaking in water 
  • One medium-sized onion, sliced
  • Two medium tomatoes, quartered 
  • 200 gms of peanuts, roasted
  • 400 ml of coconut milk 
  • Six to eight curry leaves
  • One lemon sized tamarind ball or juice of one lemon
  • One bay large bay leaf
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Half teaspoon chilli powder 
  • One cinnamon stick
  • Three tablespoons of mustard oil
  • Vegetable oil for pan frying the eggplants.
  • Salt to season 
  • One teaspoon sugar

For tempering (optional)

  • One tablespoon of ghee
  • One teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Six to eight curry leaves

Begin by pan frying the quartered eggplants until they slightly change colour and are soft. Keep aside.

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To make the sauce, heat oil in a kadahi or a heavy based pot. If you can’t find mustard oil you can use vegetable oil, ghee or olive oil.

Once the oil is aromatic add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and curry leaves. When the spices splutter and are aromatic add sliced onions. Cook until onions are slightly caramelised.

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Now add roasted peanuts and mix well. Cook onion and peanuts for about five to seven minutes. Then add the tomatoes and dried spices. Mix well. 

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While the tomatoes soften, soak the tamarind ball in quarter cup hot water. Once soft squeeze the pulp and strain the juice. If you don’t have tamarind you can also use juice of one lemon. Add the tamarind  juice, one teaspoon of sugar and two cups of water to the tomato mix. 

Give the ingredients a good stir. Once it comes to a boil turn the gas off and let the gravy cool. Then blend until smooth. Finally add coconut milk to the gravy, season with salt and cover the pot and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes on a low heat.

  
Now the gravy is ready for the eggplants. Drop eggplants gently into the gravy. Let the gravy simmer again for 10 to 15 minutes so the eggplants soak in all the flavour.

 

Last step is to add the tadka or temper the gravy with aromatic flavours of mustard seeds and curry leaves. Heat ghee in a skillet. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once they splutter and are aromatic add to the curry and mix well to infuse the flavours.

Your lip smackingly delicious Hyderabadi Baigan are ready to be served. 

  

Sweet potato and lentil soup 

The soup season is here…

  

Today I don’t really have a story and nor did I attempt any artistic photos last night while making this pot of healthy goodness. What I do have is a cracker of a soup recipe!

Imagine your kitchen coming to life with the alluring aromas of cinnamon, garam masala and bayleaves. This soup packs a punch in the flavour department and will most certainly kick the butt of any cold or related ailments the onset of winter may bring with it.

  

Even my husband who dislikes curry based soups (yeah go figure, loves curry but not curry flavoured soups) went back for seconds. SammyK totally demolished his soup bowl and let out a ferocious victory growl as all that pepper tickled his throat. Yes sir! We are a family that loves our herbs and spices.

So without further ado here’s the recipe for this beauty.

Ingredients: 15   Cooking time: 45 mins

Serves: 4

  • One sweet potato, peeled and cubed 
  • 250 gms of split green lentils
  • 400ml of light coconut milk
  • One small lemon
  • One onion, finely chopped
  • A thumbsized piece of ginger, grated
  • One cinnamon stick
  • Two bayleaves
  • One teaspoon garam masala
  • One teaspoon pepper
  • Half teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Salt to season 
  • Four tablespoons of olive oil
  • Four tablespoons of yogurt (optional)
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

Heat oil in a crockpot. Add cinnamon stick. Once aromatic add onions and grated ginger. Cook until onion is translucent. Now add sweet potatoes and mix well.

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Now add the lentils, garam masala, pepper, chilli flakes (leave some for garnish), bay leaves. Mix well till all the ingredients are coated with the spices. Then about a litre of water or vegetable stock. Cover the saucepan and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes. 

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Now add juice of half a lemon, mix well. Finally add coconut milk. Give the pot a real good stir and let the soup simmer for another 15 – 20 minutes on low heat. To finish off the soup mash the lentils and sweet potatoes. This way it has some texture but is mostly rich and creamy. Scoop some soup out for the little ones prior to seasoning with salt.

For the garnish add four tablespoons of yogurt in a bowl. Mix about a teaspoon of lemon juice. For the next garnish hear two tablespoons of olive oil. Add quarter teaspoon of chilli flakes. Once aromatic turn off the heat. 

Serve this lip smackingly delicious soup with a dollop of lemon yogurt, a drizzle of chilli oil and sprinklings of fresh parsley.

  

Palak Khichdi 

A spoonful of health and flavour…

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This humble old recipe is every Indian mothers answer when someone in the house says they are feeling under the weather. 

Traditionally defined as bland, boring but healthy. Khichdi is made from lentils, rice, turmeric and a bit of salt. As a child I labelled this dish ‘bimaaron ka khaana’ i.e. ‘ill people’s meal’. I never wanted to eat it and you wouldn’t blame me! 

Today Khichdi and I are good friends. What changed? Well Khichdi became a little more glamorous. Different spices and veggies have elevated this dish and put it at par with risotto from Italy or paella from Spain. All Khichdi is missing now is an exotic name.

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Ingredients: 14  Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

  • 250 gms of rice
  • 250 gms of yellow split peas (channa dal)
  • 500 ml of spinach puree
  • One brown onion, finely chopped
  • Two pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One large cinnamon stick
  • Six to eight cloves
  • One to two blades of mace
  • One teaspoon garam masala
  • One teaspoon coriander powder
  • One teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • One tablespoon butter
  • Salt to season 
  • Fresh lemon for garnish 

Begin by washing the rice and lentils thoroughly. Soak them for about 15-20 minutes before cooking.

In a heavy-set pot, melt butter. Add mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves and mace. Mace gives this dish a subtle peppery flavour and goes really well with any rice dish. If you can’t find mace you can use half a teaspoon of grounded nutmeg, but add it along with other powdered spices later in the dish.

Once aromatic add onion and garlic. Cook on a medium heat for five to seven minutes or until the onion is lightly browned.

Drain the rice and lentils and add them to the onion mixture. Now add garam masala, coriander powder and nutmeg if using it. Mix well, evenly coating all the ingredients.

Finally add the spinach pureè, about four cups of water and season with salt as desired. Cover the pot with a lid and let the Khichdi simmer on a low heat for 25 to 30 minutes. Whilst Khichdi is simmering remember to stir it occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Your lip smackingly delicious Khichdi is ready to be served. I have served it with a side of crispy cumin potatoes and garnished it with a wedge of lemon. Here’s to health and happiness in every bite of life!!!

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