29 January 2010

Shrimp primavera pasta

Until just a few years back, the word 'primavera' would have sounded quite distant to me...I mean where does pasta and primavera fit in with daily desi food like varan-baath (i.e. dal-rice), kolambi aamti (shrimp curry), right? My biggest leap by far for 'change-from-the-routine-ghar-ka-khana' would have been the North Indian palak paneer or rajma masala.

But coming to Vancity has changed all that, and definitely for the better. The city is one heck of a vibrant, multicultural cosmopolitan city and one of the best things it has to offer are the food joints scattered all across the city. Fresh, colorful produce at farmer's markets make food making not only enjoyable but also refreshingly healthy. And ever since our trip to Italy last year, we are all into healthy (notice the underline) pastas and pizzas!

Today I share a recipe of shrimp primavera pasta that I came up with one night when we were looking for a change from the routine and wanted to wrap up dinner with a quick, one-meal dish. The sauce turns out superbly creamy and the shrimp brings in the seafood flavour just the way we like it.

A warning before you continue reading: this is a cheater's recipe. I don't make the primavera sauce myself (use a store-bought sauce) but the end result is really fabulously creamy and spicy!

15-20 medium zed shrimps, cleaned and de-veined
1 cup uncooked pasta (any type of pasta will work fine, I used the shell shaped one)
1.5 tbsp oil (olive oil works best)
1 small onion, diced
2 scallions (spring onions), diced
2 big cloves of garlic, minced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 packet Knorr parma-rosa sauce mix
1.5 cups milk
salt and pepper for seasoning

-Cook the pasta as per instructions on its packet (dont forget to add salt to the water) and set aside.
-Heat the oil in a pan and add onions and the scallions. Saute on medium heat till they turn transluscent.
-Add the garlic and saute for another 15-20 seconds until fragrant. Take care its does not burn.
-Add the green pepper and saute again for 1 minute or until they turn a little soft.
-Now add the sauce mix and the milk, whisk and stir well. Let the mixture cook on low heat for 3 mins. Stir once in a while. It will thicken considerably and turn creamy.
-Add the shrimp and let it cook on medium-low heat for about 2-3 mins. Take care not to overcook. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
-Remove from heat, garnish with the green portion of the scallions and serve.

-I have tried a few sauce mixes and this one is by far the best.
-I usually dont add too many spices (the sauce mix is spicy enough for me) but dried oregano or rosemary would work well.


P.S. Do you like the new look of my blog? I had problems with my earlier template..like this one so much better!

26 January 2010

A trip down the memory lane

Just as N and I sat down for our dinner last night, he announced that there was nothing interesting for us to watch over dinner. For any 'watching-TV-while-having-dinner' critics out there, we have tried the so-called 'let just talk- no more TV' tactic...it lasted for exactly 5 mins...the forced talking made us feel like idiots..and on came the idiot box!

Anywho, last night, N and I turned to you-tube and one video led to another, till we came on to this one. Anyone who grew up in the 80's and 90's in India will know exactly what this video is about- the commercials on the one and only national TV at that time, Doordarshan. Some of the DD ad gems: hamara bajaj, rasna, vicco vajrdanti, dabur amla tel, lijjat papad...the list goes on!

There are even more DD-ads nostalgia videos out there..check one out here.

N quickly reminded me of two videos that not one child in those days could have missed:

And remember all the crazy movie songs? Like the Govinda-Neelam song Aap ke aa jaane se? Given how good the music is, I am pretty sure its an 'inspired' tune! Govinda's jhatkas and matkas are to die for :)

N warns me about the abrupt start on the next video...on my part, I just could not believe he had even seen the video before!!!

And a final forgettable-video-superhit-song:

Cant believe how bad the choreography was!or how crazy the hero-heroines were!Not to mention the bad fashion trends they set ablaze- I cant help laughing out loud when I think of dhoti suits, banjaras, divided skirts, or baggie pants. N shakes his head thinking about how coloured slacks were once in fashion!I think the image of fat aunties moving on the roads in those slacks has scarred him forever :):)

But no matter how crazy, all these videos will always bring my most cherished memories..my childhood! A time when life was simple...and innocence and carefree laughter were my regular playmates!

Oh my!!!What a trip..needless to say, this was one dinner, N and I thoroughly enjoyed! Just couldn't help sharing it with you :)


17 January 2010

Signs of growing up: karela (bittergourd) bhaaji

It's pretty funny, isn't it? The very things you think as a child you will 'ban' once you grow up are the things you enjoy as an adult. Take karelas (or bitter gourds), for instance. I hated them when I was little, but I have been enjoying this bitter veggie in the last few years. I don't know when the change happened but seems like a sign of me growing up (N doesn't agree veggies should be the gauge of determining maturity but I do!)

This weekend I made karela bhaaji (thats what we call sabzis or curries in Mumbai); this is a very easy recipe and takes about 30 mins to make. I made it based on a recipe from Hamkhaas Pakshiddhi by Mrs. Jayashree Deshpande; a cookbook aai gave me when I got married. Mrs. Deshpande almost seems my like culinary mom to me now! The tamarind and jaggery (this is unrefined sugar with a distinct taste) in the recipe complement the bitterness of the gourd superbly and the roasted sesame seeds lend a lovely taste.

1/2 lbs (3-4 medium sized) fresh karela/bittergourds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
tadka ingredients (1 tsp mustard, 1/8 tsp asafoetida, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder)
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp goda masala (this is a typical Marathi masala; use garam masala if you don't have it)
1/2 tsp tamarind pulp
1-2 tbsp jaggery (substitute with sugar if you dont have jaggery; start with one tbsp and add more if you wish, depending on how much bitterness you can tolerate)
2 tbsp oil (Mrs. D says 3 tbsp in her recipe but I couldn't help cutting it down to two)
salt to taste

-Dry roast the sesame seeds and powder coarsely.
-Wash the gourds thoroughly; remove the outer ridges a little if you wish (i kept them intact). Cut the gourds into thin rings
-Take about 1.5 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed vessel, add the gourd rings and saute/fry them in the oil till the seeds turn brown and crispy (took me about 10 mins). Remove the rings and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil in the vessel and add the tadka ingredients.
- Once the mustard seed sputter, add the gourd rings, tamarind, jaggery, salt, chilli powder, sesame seed powder and goda masala. Add 2 cups of water and cover. Lower the heat to medium and let it cook for atleast 10-15 mins. Stir once in a while.
-After about 10-15 mins, the bhaaji should be ready. Cook a little longer on high heat if there is lots of water left and you want to thicken the gravy.
-Garnish with cilantro leaves. Once done, your bhaaji will look like this! Serve with hot rotis or dal-rice. Lovely comfort food!

Mrs. Deshpande has two lovely tips on cooking bitter gourds:
1. Covering the gourds while cooking results in a bhaaji that is not-very-bitter (true, I vouch).
2. Because you pre-fry/saute the gourd rings, they stay pretty crispy till the end.

I am also sending this recipe to Cooking with seeds- Sesame Seed Events hosted by Priya's EasyNTasty Recipes


11 January 2010

First 13 days of 2010: Never Let me go, 3 khans and amazing art

Time please!

That's what we yelled as kids if we needed a breather while playing [or in my case, cheat by asking for extra time :)]...20-odd years later, I still want to cheat and ask time to give me a breather. 13 days in the new year have already passed. What the heck?? I haven't done any-any-any!thing in the last 13 days except laze around and waste time with my one and only bakra N. One thing I did do was finished reading Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro [After the much-work, much'er'-fun food marathon in the last week of December, must admit I was quite ready to take a break from food posts]. I had heard some interesting things about the book so picked it up at the library a few weeks back.

Picture source:from here

The story is narrated by Kathy, a 31-year old 'carer' giving the readers a peek into her memories of Hailsham, an offbeat boarding school in England where the children are brought up to believe they are special and different from others. Kathy's memories are mostly connected with her two dear childhood friends, Ruth and Tommy and their teachers at Hailsham and later. Just how 'special' Kathy and Tommy and Ruth are, the reader gets to know at the end. To be honest, the story gets a 'just okay' from me. But its Ishiguro's story telling that is definitely interesting. He manages to paints a picture of Hailsham right before your eyes- something that I know isn't easy with words. Reminded me of Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things. If you have read this book, you know what I mean. Sometimes, its not about the story itself but the way it is told. And just for that, you have to credit the writer. NLMG is one such story.

Speaking about good stories, N and I caught Aamir Khan's 3 idiots last weekend...yes, we were a little late on this one but we wanted to watch this one only in the theatre and the muhurat came by only last weekend..must say, what a fab movie!!!!!!!!!!Loved it...all izz well bhaiyya :) For those of you desis who haven't watched it yet, do yourself a favour and watch it for 3 hours of serious comedy! Also caught the first glimpse of Shahrukh Khan's My name is K-k-k-khan and Salman's Veer...the first seems like any other SRK-Karan Johar movie-foreign locales, multimillion homes and dhumdhum music..the only thing new/interesting seemed to be SRK's autistic character! Sallu's Veer seems equally uninteresting..after having tortured ouselves through some of his recent senseless movies (Mr & Mrs Khanna, Wanted, Hello), I have lost my faith in him....no more Sallu movies for me!Thanks, but no thanks, I say!Isn't movie making supposed to be an art?

While we are on the subject of art, here are an art video I cant resist sharing..got it in a forward email some days back and was absolutely awestruck!

This video shows the winner of " Ukraine’s Got Talent", Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary Ukrainian people were affected by the German invasion during World War II. Un-freaking-beleivable talent!!! Whatsay?

13 days older in 2010,

01 January 2010

WIPGYOR series: Red is for tangy prawns curry

I started my WIPGYOR series with a Goan dish and I am ending it with one too. The traditional Goan shrimp curry I make at home is a coconut-based one. But as I said before, we use too much coconut in our food so I am always on the lookout for some interesting alternatives. Which is why I decided to try Mahek's tomato-onion based prawns masala curry. Click here to go to Mahek's blog about Goa...she has some pictures there of Goan food, beaches, temples and markets that will make any Goan nostalgic!

I tried the curry for the first time last night and must say, it came out a winner. The onions substitute very well for the coconut and lend lovely consistency to the gravy. But its the tanginess of the tomatoes that compliments the prawns flavour perfectly. Try this curry out for its simplicity, taste and spiciness!I will definitely be revisiting this recipe, sometime very soon I think :)

Here are the ingredients I used:
About 15-20 medium sized prawns, cleaned, de-veined and salted
1/2 medium sized onion blanched and pureed [Mahek had more in her recipe, but I cut down on mine for two reasons- first, I think she means two Indian onions and not the giant American ones we get here. Second, I dont like too much onion in my curry]
2 small tomatoes pureed
1 tsp tomato paste (store bought, I used it for getting the red colour)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Finely chopped coriander and a wedge of lime for garnish

- Heat oil in a pan and saute the onion puree till light brown, add ginger garlic paste and stir.
- Add the pureed tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir till oil separates
- Add all the masala’s and stir well
- Add the prawns, add a little water and let it cook till the prawns are cooked, which takes about 5 mins
- Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and a wedge of lime
I served the curry with steaming rice. N absolutely loved it!!

That's it....I can't believe I am done with the series. And with the year! It has been a amazing joyride and I have enjoyed every bit of it. The year. The blog. The marathon. The mood. The sharing. The appreciation.

Thanks everyone for joining me on this joyride. I will see you all in the next year. May peace, joy and happiness be with you and your families as you start the new year.

Best wishes,