Saturday, September 24, 2011

Corn Muffins With Spinach and Cheese


1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour (Maida)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup skimmed or reduced fat milk
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese or crumbles Feta or Goat Cheese
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (can use pickled ones for extra kick)


In a large bowl mix the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix the egg, milk and oil. Add with the dry ingredients and whip. Fold in the spinach, cheese and jalapenos. Coat muffin cups with butter; fill two-third full with batter. Bake at 400 F for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing from oven and serve.

Am sending this entry to WWC Corn for breakfast hosted by Anu's healthy kitchen 
and Lite Bite

Berry Good :D


1 cup fresh Blueberry
1/2 cup chopped Banana
1 cup fresh strawberries
1/2 glass fresh milk (use skim milk for low-cal version)
1 Blackberry
2-3 ice cubes
Sugar to taste  - (health conscious people can use honey or sweetener)

Put all the ingredients except the blackberry into a blender. Blend well. Pour in tall glass and serve chilled. Garnish with the blackberry.

Entering this in "Healing Foods - Berries" and 'Pritya Books' Giveaway!!  hosted by Smitha and Siri

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Basics of Italian Cooking - II (Sauces)

For years, I have been trying to master the art of making perfect authentic Italian sauces for my pastas and I have always been in a fix as the Internet throws up a million recipes for each kind. The truth is that there is no definitive recipe for any of them. After a lot of trials and tribulations, with the help and advice of my various Italian friends and with a lot of help from my favorite chef Guiliano Hazan, I have complied some recipes for 10 most popular and traditional pasta sauce.  The recipes below serve four people.

Aglio E Olio – Garlic & Olive Oil


Pasta – 1 lb (spaghetti or spaghettini)
Extra virgin olive oil – 8 tbs
Finely chopped garlic – 1 tbs
Finely chopped parsley – 1tbs
Crushed red chillies – ¼ to ½ tsp
Salt to taste


Cook the pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put olive oil in a skillet and put the chopped garlic in it. Then switch on the stove and saute’ over medium high heat. When the garlic changes color, add the parsley, crushed red chillies and the salt. Remove from heat. Toss in the pasta till it is completely coated and serve at once.

Pesto Di Basilico – Basil Pesto


Pasta – 1 lb (fettuccine or spaghetti or spaghettini)
Fresh basil leaves – 2 oz
Extra virgin olive oil – 8 tbs
Pine nuts – 2 tbs
Garlic – 2 cloves
Freshly grated parmigiano – reggiano cheese – 2oz
Freshly grated pecorino romano cheese – 2tbs
Butter – 1 ½ oz
Salt to taste


Cook the pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt into a blender and grind till fine or almost creamy. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cheeses. Then add two tbs of hot water, butter, pasta and toss.

Burro E Pomodoro – Butter and Tomato Sauce


Pasta – 1 lb (bucatini, penne, spaghetti, tortelloni di spinaci)
Fresh tomato (peeled, seeded, chopped) – 2lb
Butter – 3 ½ oz
Onion – 1 medium sized, peeled and cut in half
Parmigiano- reggiano cheese – 4tbs
Salt to taste


Cook the pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put in all ingredients except cheese in a saucepan and simmer over low heat till tomatoes have reduced and separated from butter. Remove from heat and discard the onion halves. Toss in the pasta and serve, garnished with freshly grated cheese.

Pomodoro E Basilico – Tomatoes, Basil, Olive Oil and Garlic


Pasta – 1 lb (penne, spaghetti, spaghettini)
Thinly sliced garlic – 3 tbs
Extra virgin olive oil – 5 tbs
Fresh tomato (peeled, seeded, chopped) – 2 lb
Fresh basil leaves – 4tbs (crushed by hands)
Crushed red chillies – optional
Salt to taste


Cook the pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put all but 1 tbs of olive oil and all garlic in a skillet over medium high flame and cook till garlic sizzles. Add the tomato. Cook till the liquid from tomato reduces. Then season with salt. Continue cooking till tomato separates from oil.  When sauce has reduced, add the basil, crushed red chillies and sauté. Remove from heat, toss pasta, remaining olive oil and serve.

All’ Arrabbiata – Spicy Tomato Sauce


Pasta – 1 lb (penne or spaghetti)
Extra virgin olive oil – 7 tbs
Finely chopped garlic – ½ tsp
Pancetta – 2 oz (sliced into thin strips) (vegetarians can avoid)
Tomato  - 14 oz tins, chopped
Crushed red chillies – 1 tsp (more if you want it to be real spicy)
Basil – 1-2 tsp
Pecorino – Romano (freshly grated) – 2 tbs


Cook the pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put all but 1 tbs of olive oil and all garlic in a skillet over medium high flame and cook till garlic sizzles. Add pancetta strips and cook till it’s browned but not crisp. Add tomatoes, salt and crushed red chillies. Simmer until tomato has separated from the oil. Remove from heat, toss in pasta and olive oil, garnish with grated cheese and serve.

Puttanesca – Tomato, Capers, Olives and Anchovies


Pasta – 1lb (spaghetti or spaghettini or penne)
Extra virgin olive oil – 7 tbs
Anchovy fillets, chopped – 6
Finely chopped garlic – ½ tsp
Chopped tomato cans – 14 oz
Oregano – ½ tsp dry
Capers – 2 tbs
Black olives – 8 sliced
Salt to taste


Cook the pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put all but 1 tbs of olive oil and all anchovies, garlic in a skillet over low flame and cook till anchovies dissolve. Raise heat to medium add tomato and salt. Simmer until tomato has separated from the oil add the oregano, capers and olives. Remove from heat, toss in pasta and olive oil and serve.

Primavera – Spring Vegetables and Cream


Pasta – 1 lb (Fettuccine or Tagliatelle)
Asparagus – 4 oz
Butter – 2 oz
Finely chopped onion – 4tbs
Celery – 4 tbs
Finely diced carrot – 60 gm
Finely diced zucchini -60 gm
Finely diced red pepper – 4 tbs
Double cream – 250 ml
Finley chopped parsley – 2 tbs
Freshly grated parmigiano- reggiano  - 30 gm
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Trim and peel the lower green portion of the asparagus. Cook whole in salted boiling water until tender. Cut into 1 cm length. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Put in the onion and sauté to rich golden colour. Add celery and carrot and sauté for five minutes. Add other vegetables and sauté. Add cream and keep stirring till cream has reduced in half, remove from heat and set aside. Toss in pasta, garnish with cheese and basil and serve.

Ragu – Meat Bolognese Sauce


Pasta – 1 lb ( tagliatelle or rigatoni or fusili or pappardelle)
Extra virgin olive oil – 3tbs
Butter – 2 ½ oz
Chopped onion – 2 tbs
Finely diced carrot – 2 tbs
Finely diced celery – 2 tbs
Coarsely minced lean beef – 350 gm
Dry white wine – 250 ml
Full cream milk – 8 tbs
Freshly grated nutmeg – 14 tsp
Tomato, chopped – 1 lb
Freshly grated parmigiano – reggiano – 2 oz
salt to taste


Put the olive oil and just over half the butter and onion in a heavy bottomed sauce oan over medium high heat and sauté onion till it turns golden brown. Add the carrots and celery and sauté. Put the beef, sprinkle on a little salt and cook till it’s lost its raw color. Pour in the wine and cook until completely evaporated. Pour in the milk, sprinkle nutmeg and continue to cook until most milk evaporates. Add the tomato, stir and once they bubble, turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for three hours stirring occasionally. Cook pasta al dante’ and toss in with remaining butter and freshly grated cheese. Serve at once.

Alfredo – Butter and Cream

Pasta – 1 lb (fettuccine or tagliatelle)
Butter – 1  ½ oz
Double cream – 250 ml
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated parmigiano – reggiano – 2 oz


Cook pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put butter and cream in a large sauce pan over medium high heat and boil stirring continuously till cream has reduced almost by half. Add the freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.  Toss on the pasta, add the cheese and serve at once.

Carbonara – Pancetta and Raw Eggs


Pasta – 1 lb (spaghetti)
Butter – 1 oz
Extra virgin olive oil – 2tbs
Pancetta – 4oz cut into ½” thin strips
Dry white wine – 6tbs
Egg yolk – 4
Freshly grated parmigiano – reggiano – 3 tbs
Freshly grated pecorino - romano – 2 tbs
Finely chopped Parsley – 1 tbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Cook pasta al dante’ and set aside. Put butter and olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat a sitmmer add the pancetta and cook till browned but not crisp. Pour in white wine and continue cooking till reduced by half. Remove from heat and set aside. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and the two cheeses, parsley, pepper and salt. Toss in the pasta and pancetta mix from the pan. Serve at once.

Bibliography: Giuliano Hazan and pictures from Internet

Steamed Prawns Glazed With Home Made Mango - Habanero Sauce

Ingredients for Prawn/Shrimp

Prawn/Shrimp – 1 cup (deveined and shelled)
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Red chilli powder – ½ tsp
Coriander powder – ½ tsp
Cumin Powder – ¼  tsp
Fresh yogurt – 2 tbs
Lemon Juice – 2 tbs
Salt to taste


Mix all the above ingredients and marinate overnight in refrigerator.  Then place each piece of shrimp in a steaming plate separately and steam in pressure cooker or electric rice cooker or in a steamer till you get a whistles or for 10 minutes. Once steamed, set aside.

Ingredients for Mango – Habanero sauce:

Cebu Mangoes -3
Habanero peppers – 1 or 2 (depending on how much spice you want)
Minced Ginger – 2”
Lemon Juice – ½ cup
Salt to taste
Honey to taste


Roast the peppers over a flame or in a skillet set over medium heat until the skin blisters and blackens a bit and it softens. Remove from heat. Remove skin and seed and put mango into blender. Add peppers, ginger, and lime juice to the blender. Combine the ingredients until smooth. Pour into a medium saucepan, cover, and set over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer, but be careful because mango spatters. Adjust with honey if too spicy and adjust with red chilli powder if too sweet or with vinegar more sourness. 


Put the shrimps/prawns in a mixing bowl and add the desired quantity of sauce. Mix well and serve. Store rest of the sauce in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Aloo Tikki/ Ragda Pattice - (Normal & Low Cal Version)

Ingredients For Tikki

4 medium - Potatoes, boiled
1/2 of a - Onion, finely chopped
2 - Green chili, finely chopped
2 tbs - Coriander leaves, finely chopped
4tbs – All purpose flour/Corn flour/bread crumbs
4tbs – Lemon juice

1 tsp - Red chili powder
1/2 tsp - Coriander powder
1/2 tsp - Amchoor powder
1/2 tsp - Roasted jeera powder
1/2 tsp - Garam masala powder
Salt to taste


Boil potato with the skin. Discard the skin and mash potato finely, mix and knead to make smooth dough. Now add all the masala powders, lemon juice, salt to taste, onion, green chili and coriander leaves. Mix well. Now take a small portion of potato dough, make a ball, and then flatten it. Heat a skillet with enough oil to submerge half the side of a tikki. Coat the tikki in cornflour or all purpose flour or bread crumbs then place in the oil and shallow fry on both sides to a golden brown color. Take off the pan and drain in a paper towel. For low-calorie version, take some olive oil in your hand smear it and then take the dough and make the patties, don’t coat on flour and dry roast the tikkis on the pan. Set aside.

Dry Roasted Low-Cal Tikki

Ingredients for Chole

1 can 15 0z  - Chick peas/Garbanzo beans/Ceci
1/2 - Onion, chopped finely

3/4 – Big Tomato, chopped1/2 tsp - Fennel seeds
1/2  tsp - Coriander powder
1 tsp - Red chili powder
1/4 tsp - Turmeric powder
1 tsp - Amchoor powder
1/2 tsp - Garam masala powder
1/4 tsp - Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp - Asafoetida
2 - cloves
2 – Big black cardamom
1 small - Cinnamon Stick
1 - Bay leaf


Heat oil in a skittle, add cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon , bay leaf and asafoetida. Let the spices give out the aroma. Then add onion and fry till golden brown. Add coriander, red chili, turmeric, garam masala and Amchoor powder. Fry for a second. Add tomato and cook on low heat till tomato is well cooked and oil separates. Add cooked channa, little water and bring to a boil. Smash little channa, simmer; add salt to taste and cook till all the water is used up and semi dry. Take off the stove.


1/4 cup - Beaten yogurt
1/4 cup – Sweet Sauce/Tamarind Chutney
1/4 cup - Spicy Green Chutney - I (For Chat Items)

1 tbsp - Onion, chopped
½ tsp Chaat masala
Little ginger julienne and coriander leaves

In a serving plate, place tikki, little choley over it, then drizzle with yogurt and chutneys. Sprinkle onion, ginger and coriander leaves. Garnish with some more red chilli powder, coriander powder and chaat masala. Serve immediately

Variation: Use Yellow Vatana/ Dried yellow peas instead of garbanzo beans, don't add the tomato. And while assembling, don't add the Yogurt. 

I have sent this entry to the event Hibernative Foods hosted by Tickling Palates  

Basics of Italian Cooking - I (Pasta)

A Mini Pasta Encyclopedia

Pastas come in varieties of shapes that serve for both decoration and act as carriers for different kinds of sauce. Everybody feels that they are pretty decent when it comes to cooking up a great Italian pasta dish. But just whipping up different sauces and getting any kind of pasta from the store and tossing them together is “NOT” authentic Italian cooking. 

When you go to the supermarket to get your dry pastas I am sure you spend a lot of time at the pasta aisle trying to decide which ones to buy and ultimately you pick out the ones that looks colorful, pretty or the ones that sound familiar. That is wrong.  To be an expert in authentic Italian cooking one “MUST” have the basic knowledge of the kinds of pastas that are available on the market shelves.  Every pasta is different in flavor, texture and requires different methods of cooking and sauces. A mismatch of pastas and the sauces really does have a huge impact on the recipe’s flavor. 

Let me take you through a lesson on the basics of pasta where I shall explain to you about the different kinds of pastas and some recipes and sauces that you can whip up. This will not only make your recipes more authentic but will also help you decide what to order from the menu card when you go to an Italian restaurant.

Pasta Lunga – Long Pasta

These are all long and noodle like pastas and are best suited with olive oil and tomato sauces rather than sauces with large chunks of meat or vegetables. Best way to eat them would be to twirl them on a fork as that is when the sauces cling to the pasta. The various kinds of Lunga pastas available at the market are – 

·         Spaghetti – Best known of all the pastas, are textured to go with variety of sauces.

·         Spaghettini – These are “thin” spaghetti ideal for light and spicy sauces.

·         Capelli D’Angelo – Also known as “Angel Hair”, makes a good desert and is never served with sauces.

·         Linguine – Means “Tongue” they are flat and slippery and interestingly found only Outside of Italy.

·         Bucatini – These are spaghettis with holes or hollows, like drinking straws, wonderful for robust sauces. 

·         Fusilli Lunghi – these are long spirals like telephone cords and are good with chunky sauces as they cling to the curves in the pasta.

Some well known recipes/sauces for Pasta Lunga – Spaghettini Alle Erbe,Fusilli Lunghi Alla Rustica, Linguine Al Sugo Di Vongole E Zucchine, Bucatini Alla Sorrentina, Spaghetti Alla Checca  Spaghetti Aglio E Olio.

Fettuce – Ribbons

This is the most popular type of pasta that is usually made with eggs in them. These are delicate and porous. So these are good for butter and cream based sauces as they have high absorbency rate. The various kinds of Fettuce pastas available at the market are – 

·         Tagliatelle – It originate at Bologna.  Classic match – Meat Bolognese Sauce, 8mm width.

·         Pappardelle – It is the widest ribbon pasta and are either straight or saw edged, 2cm width.

·         Pizzoccheri – Made of a combination of plain flour and buck wheat, is from Lombardy.

·         Tonnarelli –It originated in Abruzzi and resembles square spaghetti, 1.5mm width.

·         Fettuccine-Most famous ribbon pasta. Classic match – Alfredo sauce, 5mm width.

·         Tagliolini- Narrowest ribbon pasta usually served with broth and not sauce, 2mm width.

·         Paglia E Fieno – Combination of plain and spinach pasta (green colour).

Some well known recipes/sauces for Fettuce – Tagliolini Alla Romagnola, Pizzoccheri Della Valtellina, Fettucini Alfredo, Tagliatelle Coi Gamberi E Asparagi, Paglia E Fineo Ai Funghi, Tonnarelli Ai Gamberi E Funghi.

Tubi – Tubes

Tubular pastas are sturdy and filling. They go with variety of sauces. The hollow in the tubes are good for trapping sauces and meat in them thereby making them very flavorful. The various kinds of Tubi pastas available at the market are – 

·         Penne – Most widely used in the world. Called that as they resemble nibs of ink pen. Comes in different sizes. Some are plain and some have vertical texture on them.

·         Garganelli – Traditional handmade tube pasta that looks like a folded napkin.

·         Elicoidali – These are straight with no edges. They have circular circumference in edges.

·         Cavatappi – They look like corkscrews as they have twisted shapes.

·         Maccherroni – Mostly used in soups or mixed with butter and cheese for small kids. 

·         Rigatoni – Large and chewy. Best tossed in Parmigiano – Reggiano, butter and cream cheese.

·         Gigatoni- Largest tube pastas. Good for baked recipes.

Some well known recipes/sauces for Tubi – Penne Al Cavolfiore E Panna, Cavatapi Alla Boscaiola, Elicoidali Ai Pollo, Rigatoni Di Ragu Di Agnello, Maccheroni Alla Salsiccia E Ricotta.

Forme Speciali – Special Shapes

There are newly shaped pastas coming out in the market all the time but the traditional ones are always predominant. Each shape produces a particular sensation on the palate and is best suited to a particular type of sauce. Most recipes do not warrant sauces. The various kinds of Forme pastas available at the market are – 

·         Farfalle – Also known as bow-ties.

·         Conchiglie – Also known as shells come in different varieties. The smallest are usually used in soups, middle size is sauces and largest ones are stuffed.

·         Gnocchi – They are like potato dumplings. Are also made with sweet potato.

·         Lumache – They resemble the shells of snails.

·         Orecchiette – Hand made and resembles little ears.

·         Radiatori – They resemble little radiators or heaters.

·         Fusili – They resemble short springs

·         Ruote Di Carro – They are from Sicily and resemble cart wheels.

Some well known recipes/sauces for Forme – Fusili Corti Alle Zucchine, Farfalle Al Salmone, Ruote Di Carro Con Peperonata, Conchiglie Alla Salsiccia E Panna, Lumache Ai Carciofi, Pasta Salad.

   Pasta Per Minestre – Soup Pasta

These small shapes are collectively referred to as pastina or little pasta. They are good with homemade meat broth. They were created to amuse children. They are shaped and named after squares, rice, corn kernals, tubes, melon seeds, alphabets, peppercorn and stars.
Eg: Quadrucci, Risoni, Orzi, Tubetti, Semi di melone, Alfabetini, pepe, stellini.

Some well known recipes for Pasta Per Minestre – Minestra di pasta e verdure,  Minestrina dei bambini, Pasta e fagioli.

Pasta Ripiena – Stuffed Pasta

These are stuffed or layered pastas. The shape decides the quantity of stuffing. Mostly these recipes are baked recipes. The various kinds of Ripiena pastas available at the market are – 

·         Raviolini – These are meat filled pastas.

·         Pansoti – They are filled with ricotta and local greens, served with walnut pesto.

·         Tortelloni – Square, saw edged pastas filled with Swiss chard served with butter, parmigiano – reggiano or burro e pomodoro sauce.

·         Tortellini – Served with broth on New Year’s Eve or with cream sauce. 

·         Capppelletti – resemble Chinese wantons or fortune cookies.

·         Lasange – These are large sheets of pasta, sandwiched with layesr of meat, seafood or vegetables and baked.

Some well known stuffings – Sweet potato parsley and mortadella, Ricotta minced beef and mortadella, Spinach ricotta and prosciutto.

My Italian origin friends and neighbours, Giuliano Hazan and pictures from the Internet (Google Images)