Cold, festive nights beg for inviting treats— even better when they are homemade. This week, the boys helped me make almond flour thumb prints with raspberry jam. A glass of milk goes really well with these subtle-sweet almond medallions with a fruity, chewy jam to challenge the texture. Almond flour is delicate in its nutty taste, and is often accompanied by cardamom— at least in the delectable Indian desserts I grew up with. The aroma alone is heaven for the hippocampus; paired with the coziness of wintertime, it’s pure holiday perfection.
The kids are off still off from school. Last night I needed to make dinner whilst keeping my little guys entertained. I decided to put them to work as we made sweet potato gnocchi for a cozy supper. It was fun and as long as they were approximately the same size, I wasn’t a stickler for the shape. Gnocchi is usually a hard sell on me. I am not a fan of potato-based gnocchi at restaurants as it tends to be gummy and too often, tossed in a heavy and single tone sauce. That was until I tried sweet potato gnocchi. Sweet potatoes have a lot more flavor which echo through as they are kneaded with flour. Once the auburn dumplings were ready, I tossed them with some Italian hot sausage and pistachios. YUM. The kids and I were very happy. The dish is perfect for a cold night like the many we have ahead. Something in the act of rolling, cutting and lightly pillow shaping left me and my boys with a relaxed state of mind – them shedding their high octane energy and me shedding my high strung tone (not sure what set that off yesterday). Recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi Ingredients 2 pounds sweet potatoes 1 cup grated parmesan cheese 1 1/2 teaspoons salt ½ tsp. cinnamon Pinch of nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter top Method 1) Wash the sweet potatoes, prick all over. Wrap each potato in foil and bake at 400 degrees for an hour 2) Scoop out the flesh in to a large mixing bowl. Add the parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper combine well. Add ½ a cup of flour at a time until it becomes like a soft dough (you may need more flour if the sweet potatoes have too much moisture) – set aside to rest for 30 minutes 3) Generously sprinkle the work surface with flour, and a tray where you will keep the gnocchi pieces 4) Divide mixture in to 6 parts and roll in to logs (1” thick), cut in to 1 ½ cm pieces, roll each piece with a fork for slight grooves (this will let the sauce latch on to the gnocchi) 5) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook in small batches until the gnocchis float to the top – usually happens within 5 minutes – Drain and set aside 6) Toss in your sauce of choice Sauce suggestions: 1) Italian hot sausage 2) Pesto 3) Brown butter and sage
Monday being Monday always leaves me in a state of anxiety. If you master Monday, the rest of the week falls into place, but if Monday sends you in a tail spin, what will it do to the rest of your week? Well, I guess, The Bangles did give me a melodious heads-up on it. And yes! I do wish it was Sunday. This past Monday was a little different. In addition to being overwhelmed, I was perpetually hungry. Well it was lunch time and there I was again, rummaging through shelves and cabinets again. I certainly didn’t have time to create a gourmet affair, but then a sandwich wouldn’t cut it either. What were my choices? There was some wilting pea shoots, left over tomatoes that were slushy from last night’s vinaigrette and a handful of lonely cauliflower florets. I set water aside to boil for some Kamut pasta elbows (only 8 minutes), threw down another pan with a touch of oil, garlic and fennel seeds, pan roasted my cauliflower (4 minutes). I then added my limp tomatoes and cooked them for 2 minutes, cleared away the kitchen taking another 2 minutes and presto, the pasta was boiled and ready to make its introduction to the dish. I added my final touches of chili and pea shoots and took 10 minutes to enjoy my lunch peacefully. My hotchpotch pasta was pretty topnotch. But when I really broke it down, it should have been. Pan roasting the cauliflower gave it a lovely a mellow and caramelized flavor, the left over salad tomatoes shared an intensity that one experiences with sundried tomatoes, and the light wilting of the pea shoots triggered by the heat of the dish beneath it made the texture both crunchy and soft. Ingredients 500 grams of any pasta (good time to consolidate all the leftover pasta in various boxes) 2 clove of garlic Half a cauliflower head broken in to small florets (or any other vegetable in need of resurrection) 2 tomatoes sliced in to thin pieces and left to soak in 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar Generous handful of and leafy greens/ herbs (basil, mesclun, pea shoots, chives, arugula) Method 1) Boil the pasta, set aside, reserving ¼ cup of the starchy water 2) Sweat the garlic in the oil in a wide pan 3) Crank the heat up to ‘high’. add salt, pepper and cauliflower. Sauté the cauliflower until it is nice and golden (do it in batches to avoid over-crowding) 4) Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes to soften them and allow them to release some of their juices 5) Add the pasta to the pan with the starchy water and cook for another 2 minutes 6) Serve the dish with a heap of greens piled over the top 7) Sprinkle with chili flakes
Grandmothers could fill books on practical measures for sustainability, respecting ingredients and getting mileage from having very little resources. Many of them have lived through wars or belong to early settling immigration communities where they had to work very hard for what they had. My nanima was certainly amongst this generation of people. The word ‘wastage’ did not exist for her and through her reverence for food, even today; she continues to connect with food in a way which was unfamiliar to me until recently. If there was an excess of certain unused produce, she found a way to put them to work. If the season was closing in on certain fruits and vegetables, she would preserve them through pickles, chutneys and Indian salsas. First of all, how resourceful! Secondly, at any given moment in our home, there was always a few of her condiments in our refrigerator that would brighten up even the dullest of sandwich. Lemon and ginger that ferments in its own juices, positively pungent mango pickle in mustard oil, mint pesto like chutney were just resident pickles at our home. Lately, I have taken her philosophy and incorporated it with some of my other influences. With an abundance of mangoes at home, I made the classic Anglo-Indian ‘mango chutney’. Mango chutney is a derivation of the traditional Indian mango pickle, only it is sweeter and has a jam-like consistency. It has been a mainstay at restaurants in the U.S. and U.K. and is served with poppadum’s. The chutney was such a hit amongst my kids and as I saw my younger son slather it over his roast chicken, it jostled me to become a little more inventive with my usage of it. I tried it later that evening with goat cheese on a cracker and gave my fig spread a break, what a combination! The chutney has sweetness from the mangoes but the spices and vinegar give it that ‘pop’. Even though it may take an hour to fully mature and lose moisture on the stove, it couldn’t be less demanding of your active participation. Ingredients 3lb Ripe Mexican mangoes, peeled and chopped in to small pieces 1 medium-sized onion, diced 2 tbsp. thinly sliced ginger 400g rice wine vinegar 400g jaggery (if you can’t find jiggery at your ethnic specialty store, substitute for sugar), broken down to small pieces 2 tbsp. cooking oil 2 fresh red or green chilies, chopped in to 0.5 cm pieces SPICES: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, coriander powder (or crushed coriander seeds), fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds 4-6 cloves 6 whole peppercorns Method * Sterilize the pickling jars in boiling water 1) Heat the oil. Add the cumin, fenugreek and Nigella seeds, coriander powder, cloves and whole peppercorns, allow them to turn a couple of shades darker. 2) Sweat the onions and fresh chili until the onions are translucent, add the jiggery/ sugar and vinegar and allow the sweetening agent to fully dissolve 3) Add the mangoes and ginger, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook for approximately 1 hour or until the chutney has thickened and that ‘wet look’ from the mango juices have disappeared. The mango will have become translucent at this point and will have a sheen to it 4) Fill the sterilized jars whilst the chutney is still hot and seal
Last week, I was invited by Haven Havens Kitchen to take part in their cooking class. For those of you who live in New York City, Havens Kitchen is a most charming cooking school with a feel of Nantucket, a backyard farm, flip flops and Lionel Rand’s ‘Let there be love’. The pace in that kitchen is certainly a novelty for this city and the class has that ‘super-chilled’ dinner party feel. There is a little store and café at the front and a kitchen that is lined with jars of rose petals, celery seeds and bark-like spices. I took a class Vegetarian Summer’s Meal class taught by cooking instructor Ashton Keefe. The class confirmed my recent findings at the farmers market – the produce may cost a little more but the strong flavors means there is a large impact with less ingredients. We made chili corn pasta from fresh corn kernels, cheese and tomato pie and wheat berry salad. Feeling inspired by the wheat berry salad, I came home and made an adapted version of the dish with left over veggies. Try this dish, it is a great alternative for rice and works really well as side dish or a salad. I briefly threw down some peppers, fennel slices and snap peas on a hot griddle pan for some charring and tossed them together with the cooked wheat berries and a mustard-basil dressing. Ingredients 1 red pepper 1 medium sized red onion 1 medium sized fennel Handful of snap peas 1 cup of uncooked wheat berries ¼ cup olive oil 1 tbsp. honey grain mustard Handful of basil leaves Salt and pepper 1 tsp. honey 2 tsp. red wine vinegar Method 1) Bring wheat berries to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour until tender. Drain and set aside 2) Coat the griddle pan with oil and cook the vegetables on high heat for a couple of minutes each side until there is some charring, remove and set aside 3) Whisk together the honey, mustard, oil, basil, red wine vinegar to create an emulsion 4) Dress the salad ingredients together whilst warm to allow flavors to weld 5) Serve warm or cold
France is getting busy. And why not? After-all, this Saturday is one of the most important national holidays of the year for them. It is this July 14th back in 1789 that brought democracy and freedom to it’s people, a time when the aristocracy fell from grace and were forced to surrender their all-entitled ways, The French Revolution was in full swing. No longer was a man confined to a predestined future regardless of his social standing, life was now giving way to merit and equal opportunity. July 14th, the day liberty was found is also known as Bastille Day. Fast forward to 2012, the Champs Elysees will be lined with kids sitting on their parent’s shoulders, the elderly and the French youth as they watch the procession marching down the wide street. The French don’t acknowledge the event from a simple festivity point of view, but rather, are fully immersed in the history of it all. They remember the works of Voltaire, Beaumarchais and Didierot and they discuss it and what times were like at the times of Louis Quatorze. Across the pond, right here in NYC, the same conversations are taking place at French café, Le Moulin A Cafe. The café has a subtle entrance and feels like you have just ‘stumbled upon it’ the way you would in the streets of Bordeaux or St. Paul De Vince. It is home to the French, Francophiles and the local community. No gimmicks, no fuss, just simple rustic furniture, some really great pastries imported from France and a mélange of newspaper readers, morning re-groupers and people catching-up over a cup of coffee and morning politics. This week there is an unusual addition of color to the otherwise ‘antique white’ café through flags and streamers. The vibe is similar to that of July 14th’s Champs Elysees. Why of course, with a holiday this important, café partners N’Diaye, Colonna and Lecuq didn’t want their NYC French community to miss out whilst wanting the local community to be part of something that is so important to them. They will be celebrating Bastille day the whole week and what better way than to do it with pastoral cheeses, charcuterie and a glass of Cote Du Rhone? I have spent my morning performing my case study on all things Bastille and have had to taste a variety of cheeses and meats, what can I say, it comes with the job! Why not jump on board and celebrate Bastille day too. If you can’t get on a flight to come to Le Moulin A Café, here is how Lecuq put the meat and cheese board together with some of his tips and details: Plating Arrangements Never display an even number of cheeses. They should be one of the following: 3, 5 or 7. Cheese Follow the sequence in order of: least to most sharp First cheese Lecuq suggested a cheese from Normandie (produces the Grand Cru of all cheeses). It is a soft camembert which continues to ripple and drip on the board as you speak. Secondcheese Franche Comte – a hard cheese with a notch up in strength. It is made in the Fort Des Russes, a military bunker. Third cheese My shining star – Roquefort. With it’s distinct blue ash that has been collected from caves and mountains, this cheese sends the palate to a frenzy with its sharp, salty and sour edge. The Meat Lecuq suggests selecting the meat to fulfill the following three criteria: livers, ham and sausage Livers A fine country pate Ham Prosciutto di Parma and not Prosciutto Parma (a huge difference, the former comes from Parma, Italy and the latter does not) Sausage A salami spiced with fennel
Like many areas of our life, different foods trend at different points of time. Part of this comes from a shift in awareness, globalization, a greater understanding of seasonal and local and health factors. However, there are also a number of dishes that simply fell off the radar. These are perfectly lovely dishes which perhaps our mothers relied upon their mothers to make. The result: like Latin, these homemade dishes too are dying out. I think many would agree that quiches fall in to this category. Whilst some of us are willing to give it an extra consideration on a brunch menu, the thought of making it at home would turn us in to ‘granny’ entertaining her friends at afternoon tea. Ever wondered why? Are only cute little old ladies and their stories about the war, equipped to enjoy a crumbly tart filled with warm savory custard and perhaps some ham and cheese? This week, I decided to ‘go there’. With beautiful seasonal asparagus in my refrigerator, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, it was a delicious pairing of sweet, tart and nutty flavors. It wasn’t as time consuming as I thought and required a lot less of my time at the stove itself. If you are like me and have 2 left hands, making the tart shell will require some concentration, but with a little practice, that too becomes a lot easier. This is a perfect summers dish when one shy’s away from heavy, hot and rich dishes. The tart shell provides a lovely texture to contrast with the smooth and soft custard filling. Serve with a green salad tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar and a nice chilled rose. Ingredients Makes 4 small tarts or 1 large one Tart Shell 4oz All Purpose Flour ¼ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. granulated sugar 2oz cold butter 1 egg Toppings Asparagus – 4 spears 6 Cherry Tomatoes Fresh Chives 2 tsp. ¼ cup of Goats Cheese Custard filling ½ cup whole milk ½ cup heavy whipping cream 1 large egg 1 large egg yolk ¼ tsp. salt Pinch of paprika and nutmeg 1/2cupcrumbled aged goat cheese (such as Bûcheron), without rind Method Tart 1) Add egg, butter, salt and sugar to food processor and pulse until they are the size of small lentils 2) Add the egg and pulse a few times just until it comes together. DO NOT overwork the dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes t rest 3) Roll out until it is 2mm thick. Grease your tart shell pan. Gently slide a rolling pin under the dough and lay over the pan. Push in to the pan corners and trim around the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes 4) Prod holes in the pastry with a fork (docking) and blind bake* at 400 degrees until golden brown around the edges (for approximately 20 minutes). Remove the weights and foil *To blind bake, line the pastry with some foil and fill the foil with beans to or pastry beads to hold down the pastry from rising. Toppings 1) Blanche the asparagus and distribute amongst the tarts shells 2) Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place three in each shell 3) Distribute lumps of goats cheese in each shell Custard 1) Combine milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in medium bowl. Pour milk mixture over tart ingredients. Sprinkle chives. Bake until filling is almost set, 35 to 40 minutes (do not overcook as it continues to cook when removed from oven). Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or cold Serving suggestions Nothing more than a fresh green salad Pearls of wisdom Don’t over work the dough or you will take it to a point of no return
Like people, nations also possess personality traits. Some are exhibitionists, others are guided by ‘joie de vivre’ and some are simply subtle and understated. Surrounded by neighbors, each with their own unique strengths lies a country that is humble and quiet. Belgium. When one thinks of Belgium, we think of her in light of the finest of chocolate, the sweet smell of waffles, and that classic combination of ‘moules et frites’. Yet, she has excelled in so many areas that are unknown to most of us. She has churned out talents like Rene Magritte – painter and theorist of surrealism, George Remi of Tin Tin, Plastic Bertrand and George Lemaitre -inventor of The Big Bang Theory. But her work is not done and today Belgian artists are making waves on the global art scene. There is a lot to express and the Belgians are certainly doing it by way of food and art. Navigating Belgium, culinary excellence is the only option when a country as small this is home to three distinct cultures and languages: French, Flemish and German. Order your food and expect to receive food that is prepared using the finest of techniques but presented without the fuss and frill. Order a beer and there is a good chance that it was made by the hands of a Trappist monk. I strolled over to meet owner of Belgian gem ‘Petite Abeille’ in Stuy Town, Yves Jadot. The restaurant certainly echoes the Belgian sensibilities and sense of humor. There are portraits of Tin Tin plastered all over the walls, happy and very European blue and white checkered table cloths and an impressive display of over 50 Belgian ales. As I spoke with Jadot, it became clear that Belgium has exported a very limited view of its cuisine and culture. “People around the world that seek good food will often go to France, but has anyone ever wondered where the French go? Belgium!” said Jadot. The critics have certainly recognized the craft behind the dishes at Petite Abeille and have not held back in sharing their excitement. Yet the food does not aim to dazzle, it aims to comfort, satisfy and provide nostalgia with native dishes of Stoemp Saucisse (mashed potato and leek with sausage), Carbonnade Flammande (Flemish beef stew), macaroni and cheese made with a sauce bechamel and the famous ‘mitraillette’ sandwich (literal translation -machine gun). I couldn’t understand what could warrant any sandwich to be termed ‘machine gun’. And then it became clear, the sandwich was truly loaded. Also known as the hangover sandwich, this demi-baguette is intensely filled with hamburger, salted fries and sautéed onions. Just one warning, if you nurse a hangover with the mitraillette, both may soon become a habit. Ingredients 1 Demi-baguette 1 tsp butter 2 small beef burger patties 1 cup of French fries, seasoned with salt Ketch-up ¼ cup of Sauteed onions Method 1) Butter and toast the baguette on a frying pan until golden. Smear one side with ketchup 2) Layer the inside of the baguette with the sautéed onions, beef burgers and French fries Serving Suggestions Perhaps a nice cozy bed to jump right back into
Anyone that grew up in the U.K. would attest to how the school dinner hall was the birthplace of mastery in how to avoid eating. The canteen or ‘dinner hall’ was policed by old ladies with blue rinsed hair, and in the eyes of a 6 year old, they were evil. As for the food; there was beef that revealed ‘radioactive’ shades of grey and peas that smelt like manure. And we ate it day after day, with the same sense of dread and nausea. However, there was one saving grace. It came at the end of the meal and was a great way to learn that ‘the best things come to those who wait… and persevere’. Good old-fashioned English desserts. Not even the most ‘haute’ of desserts stood a chance next to these gooey treats. When everything else at the buffet line looked like it had jumped off a conveyer belt, these soft cakey-puddings conjured up images of a granny in warm slippers baking away in her little cottage. The tongue nuzzled with jam roly poly, lemon meringue pie, warm apple crumble with hot custard and of course butter scotch tart. Butterscotch tart was amongst my favorite. It boasted of a toffee cream – so smooth that it glided over the tongue whilst its pastry vessel added robustness and a very buttery crunch. Whilst my kids were spared the blue rinse police, they certainly got to experience the brighter side of British school lunches. Ingredients Tart Shell 4 oz All Purpose Flour ¼ tsp salt ¼ tsp granulated sugar 2oz cold butter 1 egg Butterscotch Filling 17oz demerara sugar 8oz butter 6oz milk 2 tbsp. All Purpose Flour 1/2 tsp. of sea salt crystals Method Tart Shell 1) Add egg, butter, salt and sugar to food processor and pulse until they are the size of small lentils 2) Add the egg and pulse a few times just until it comes together. DO NOT overwork the dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes t rest 3) Roll out until it is 2mm thick. Grease your tart shell pan. Gently slide a rolling pin under the dough and lay over the pan. Push in to the pan corners and trim around the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes 4) Prod holes in the pastry with a fork (docking) and blind bake* at 400 degrees until golden brown around the edges (for approximately 20 minutes). Remove the weights and foil *To blind bake, line the pastry with some foil and fill the foil with beans to or pastry beads to hold down the pastry from rising. Butterscotch Filling 1) In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the milk and sugar until and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the flour. Remove from heat once the butterscotch sauce thickens coats the back of a spoon Assembly Pour the butterscotch in the baked tart shell. Allow to cool and refridgerate. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Lately, I have run into a lot of Europeans who in some fashion or another work in the arts. The interactions have left me both inspired and puzzled. Inspired, because they are behind some truly magnificent craft be it through the medium of sculptures and paintings or be it food. Yet puzzled, because they choose to remain below the ‘radar’. I recently stumbled upon a tiny Italian café in Murray Hill called ‘Piccolo Café’. How could I not give this give this charming San Gimignano-like place a shot? The walls were filled with Italian newspapers on one side and a sprawling basil plant on the other and then of course there was the food counter playing host to a variety of baked goods. The blackboard was chalked with inscriptions of dishes that I had not seen since my days in Italy. Great Southern dishes full of flavor and yet unmistakably honest. These dishes weren’t masked by an amalgamation of many ingredients, but rather, executed using only 3 or 4. The little Latin food haven pulled in a crowd of regulars and newcomers and one thing was certain for them all; they were in for a treat that would be hard to rival. Such a great place and yet I had never heard of it. How could that be possible? Were they not aware of the plethora of social networking available to them? This is after all the 21st century. And then it dawned on me. In a world where it has become common practice to put the cart before the horse, one forgets the pleasures in honing in on ones skills before blowing their own trumpet. There is of course the added pleasure of being discovered by chance, like stumbling upon a pot of gold when one least expects to. The element of surprise is far more gratifying than the instant gratification of internet hits and fan page likes. Funny how simple things like ‘food’ can bring up such thought provocation. As for the dish I ate, it was a zucchini parmigiana. Simple layers of shaved zucchini, tomatoes and a light dusting of parmesan truly allowed the ingredients to do all the talking. Ingredients 3 zucchinis 2 tomatoes Olive oil ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, grated 1 can crushed tomatoes 2 tbsp pesto sauce (fresh or store bought), or just some basil leaves 2 cloves garlic Salt and pepper Method Prepping the zucchini and tomato slices 1) Preheat oven to 320 degrees 2) Slice the zucchinis thinly on a mandolin, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 5 minutes 3) Slice the tomatoes in rounds, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 5 minutes 4) Drain off the excess water from both 5) Lay zucchini strips and tomatoes on lightly greased parchment paper and cook until they have dried out. Remove from oven Tomato Sauce 1) Sweat the garlic cloves in olive oil to infuse and then discard the garlic 2) Add the crushed tomatoes, season with salt and cook until most of the moisture is evaporated Assembly 1) Grease a narrow, oven proof dish (like a meatloaf pan) 2) Lay down strips of the zucchini, followed by half of the sliced tomatoes, sprinkle with the parmesan, top with half the pesto and ½ the tomato sauce. Repeat this one more time and then complete the final layer with a generous spread of the tomato sauce and a few pieces of mozzarella 3) Bake in the oven at 350 for approx. 30 minutes Serving suggestions A few wedges of toasted bread and a simple salad tossed in olive oil and vinegar Pearls of wisdom To avoid a sinking titanic, do not skip drying the zucchini and tomatoes in the oven first. The tomato sauce must also be reasonably well dried off
It was a bone chillingly damp day and all I could think of was comfort. After a full on conversation with my friend from London, her accent left me with a craving for British Comfort because believe me, it never fails to provide just that. I grabbed my brolly (umbrella for those unfamiliar with the U.K. slang) and off I headed with appetite in my stomach and a UK state of mind to the Jones Wood Foundry. The Jones Wood Foundry is a hidden gem on the Upper East Side that serves British fare in the historic neighborhood of Jones Wood, before it became the Upper East Side. The moment I walk in, I take a deep breath and think ‘home’ and this moment; this place is nothing less than a mecca for me. Everything from the smell of the restaurant to the trinkets and treasures evoke memories of Wellington boots, football Sundays and tea-dunked digestives. I hang out with Chef Jason, partner and Executive Chef, where he is already in conversation about the match of the day with his friend and team member Stu. For Jason, the restaurant isn’t trying to carry out a theme, but rather, its his way to be self-expressed, reflecting his childhood in Stratford-Upon Avon, birth place of Shakespeare and his own culinary journey. It’s not about labels and drama, but rather, a place for locals to hangout, grab a beer and enjoy his honest dinner of ‘meat and 2 veg’. He calls his food simple, I call it amazing with slow braises, savory pastries and no-nonsense deserts. Jason had promised to open his kitchen doors and share a recipe with me and today I was asking for it. I demanded the recipe for his toad in the hole as I have never ventured there from my own kitchen before. Toad in the whole is a sausage that is dramatically engulfed by an oversized Yorkshire pudding (pop-overs) and topped with caramelized onions. The unity yields crispness, sweetness, saltiness and softness. When the next damp day comes around, I say ‘bring it on’. Ingredients 10 oz. All-Purpose Flour 6 eggs 2 ½ tsp salt 1 ½ cup milk ½ cup of beer Beef drippings or lard Breakfast Sausages Method Batter 1) Beat eggs, salt, milk, beer and flour on high speed. Pour through a strainer to remove any lumps 2) Allow to rest for at least 1 hour (12 hours for best results) Toad in the hole 1) Brown the sausages on a skillet, set aside on paper towels 2) When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees and heat the baking dish (pyrex glass dishes work well) 3) When hot, add 1 tablespoon of beef drippings or lard. Place the sausages in the center and pout in the batter 2” higher than the sausage. Bake until golden brown and crisp (abt 20-25 mins) Serving suggestions Top with carmelized onions and parsley for a rcih touch and serve with mushy peas or mashed potatoes Pearls of wisdom To experiment with sausages other than breakfast sausage will give you a different dish completely. Breakfast sausages or Walls sausages from a local British specialty store have the correct seasoning and will ultimately offer up that true British flavor.
Bacon seems to have experienced a tipping point in recent years. As many would agree ‘everything tastes better with bacon’. Does credit go to its fat content welding all the other flavors together and generously coating the mouth? Or should we credit this cured meat with its intensely smoky flavor? The answer is both. A flavor that is allowed to linger just a little bit longer thanks to its smoky echoing-like qualities and buttery contribution makes this ingredient a necessary must for many dishes. Whilst I have nothing against the pre-packaged, thinly sliced variety, it does not come close to the bacon slabs available at most deli counters. The wood smoked flavor is unmistakable and when cooked, this crispy and bold chunky meat would take any dish up a notch compared to its cooked and shriveled alternative. I decided to use this bacon as an accent to my warm potato salad. A reincarnation of the previously lifeless and congealed mayo stiff dish now received more than just a second glance at my dinner party. Dressing the warm potatoes in a creamy, warm, salty and of course smoky vinaigrette, it would be hard to go wrong. Ingredients 1 ½ lb New potatoes ½ lb slab of bacon, cut in to 1/2 cm wide pieces2 Shallots, finely diced 1 tsp smoked paprika 4 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 lemon zest and juice ¼ cup olive oil ½ tsp mustard Salt and pepper 1 tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream 1 tablespoon chopped chives Method 1) Bring the potatoes to boil, starting them off in cold water 2) Saute the bacon, remove with slotted spoon 3) Sweat shallots in the bacon fat 4) Dressing: Shake the vinegar, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper and paprika in a bottle 5) Once potatoes are boiled, cut them in half and toss whilst warm in to the vinaigrette 6) Combine the crème fraiche, shallots, bacon and 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat with the warm and dressed potatoes 7) Sprinkle chives before serving Pearls of wisdom The bacon can be quite salty so go lighter on the salt in the dressing Serving suggestion I intended for this dish to be served as a side dish, but one of my curious guests found it in the kitchen and insisted I serve it as an appetize
So here I am, it’s that trip that I bianually pent myself up for..LONDON!!! Representing all things indulgent, such as food, sleep, food, it is that moment where guilt is shoved aside to make space for whims and impulses, after all they can’t all live in the same world. This time, I showed up to London feeling more entitled than ever. My recent graduation from the French Culinary Institute was enlightening but let us not underestimate the elbow grease invlolved in getting me there. The flight to London was filled with hallucinations of me putting my feet up and my kids outsourced to my parents. Bliss. As we walked through immigration, I could hear my parents, uncles and aunts and cousins yell out various terms of endearment to welcome us along with “congratulations Saira!! We want to taste every thing you have learnt cooking for the past 6 months at school!” They had to be kidding with me. Was I really going to labour over a hot stove making and skimming stocks and sauces before I could even put a dish together? Given the willfullness of my family and my lameness of being tired, protesting would have been a waste of words. School taught me many elaborate techniques, but it also taught me to be tastfully smart in the kitchen. That’s when I turned to my ‘fish en papillote’. This dish is simple to assemble and yet it’s taste and appearance has never failed to woo me. The fish is baked in parchment paper parcels and cooked with aromas of tomatoes and garlic, mushrooms, celery and leeks. With looks to kill and a taste to match, from a distant glance one could be intimidated by the technique involved. Allow me to let you in on a secret. Nothing could be easier and the only effort required is to actually purchase the parchement paper (available at your local grocers). Simply wrap the fish and pop in the oven and enjoy watching your guests as they tear the paper and close their eyes as the steam and aromas waft over their face. Ingredients 4 x 4oz pieces of white fish, such as, cod, hake, sea bass 2 shallots, finely sliced in rounds1 zucchini, julienned 6 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped in to small cubes 1 bay leaf 2 cloves 1of garlic, crushed 8oz cremini mushrooms, finely sliced 8oz shitake mushrooms, finely sliced 3 leeks, (discard dark green parts), thin strips & 2cm long 2 celery sticks, thin strips & 2cm long Olive Oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup white wine Parchment paper Method Fish 1) Set the oven to 375F 2) Tomato coulis: Sweat the shallot until tender without caramelizing. Add the chopped and deseeded tomatoes, bayleaf and crushed garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cover until tender. Once the tomaotes are soft, cook uncovered until all the moisture has evaporated. Set aside. 3) Saute the mushroom in small batches in a sautepan and season with salt. Cook until the moisture has evaporated, drain on paper towels and set aside. 4) Add the leeks to a saucepan and fill half way with water. Season with salt and a knob of butter. Bring to a boil and then simmer with a lid. Once the leeks are tender, drain on paper towels. Repeat with the celery. Set aside Wrapping 1) The Pretty option: Fold a large piece of parchment paper in half. Cut half a heart with the heart points against the folded edge. Open and you will have a perfect heart. On one half of the heart, add a base of 2 tblsp of the tomato coulis. Lay fish on top and lay the trio of vegetables on the fish. Brush the heart ends with oil and fold the edges in 1 cm long fold along the heart opening to seal them tight. Brush the top of the heart with oil and place in the oven for 10 minutes. The heart will puff up and the fish will cook in the steam created by the vegetables. 2) The No Fuss rustic option: Place the pieces of fish in A4 sheet sized parchment paper, layer the fish as directed above. Fold the paper over lenghtwise and tightly crimp the paper ends (to look like an old fashined wrapped candy). Brush with oil. Serving Suggestions Serve by itself or a simple green salad Pearls of Wisdom Make sure to drain all excess water in the vegetables before cooking with the fish or the parcels will get too watery. Also, make sure the leeks are thorougly washed to remove all soil and grit. The best way to do this is to cut slits along the length of the leeks and wash between the layers
My 6 month period of culinary revelations has intensely begun. Since commencing classes at the French Culinary Institute, I have been humbled by how much more there is to learn. The past few weeks have been a period of cold turkey, getting a rid of my naughty kitchen habits and going back to the drawing board, learning the French way. Last week was fish week and I learnt how to filet a fish. Since the age of 6, I have always rushed past the fish counter to avoid that stench from going too far up my nose. The thought of performing something so surgical – and that too with fish – was more information than I cared for. Trying desperately to be mature about this and leaving that 6 year old at home, I showed up to class with the fish on my cutting board, a sharpened knife and ready for action. I must confess (vegetarians, please stop reading here) that it was one of the most fascinating classes so far. After removing the filet from it’s skeletal structure, we made the prettiest looking fish ‘goujonettes’. Fish goujonettes are thin and long slices of hand rolled filets that are crisped by dipping in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Served with a red pepper mayonnaise, a small additional step that will greatly appeal to the sophisticati, this is a perfect feature for any drinks and appetizer evening. Ingredients Fried Fish and Parsely 2 quarts oil Flounder – 1lb Salt and Pepper 5oz all purpose flour 2 whole eggs Salt 2tblsp oil 5oz breadcrumbs 1 bunch flat leaf parsley Red Pepper Mayonnaise 1 Deseeded red pepper, finely sliced 1 clove of garlic Salt and pepper ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper 1 cup Mayonnaise 2 tablespoons oil Method Fish Goujonettes Preparation 1) Finely slice the fish in long slices (4cm x 1cm) 2) Keep the fish chilled until ready to use 3) Assemble your coating ingredients in the correct order Dish with flour mixed with a little salt and pepper Dish with egg mixture (eggs combined with salt, and 2T oil) Dish with breadcrumbs 4) In a saucepan on medium heat, sweat the red peppers and garlic with a splash of water. Cover and cook on low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Once the peppers are tender, season with salt, pepper and cayenne and blend to a puree. Set aside to cool. Fish Goujonettes 1) Heat 2 quarts of oil to 350 degrees (or check by inserting a wooden spoon and if it steadily bubbles, the oil is ready for frying) 2) Roll the fish pieces between your hands to form pointed ends 3) Dredge the fish slices in flour and brush of excess, dip it in the egg mixture and roll in the breadcrumbs 4) Fry the fish in small batches until golden brown and drain on paper towels 5) One the fish is fried, fry the dried parsley in 2-3 batches for approx 15 seconds and drain on paper towel Red Pepper Dipping Sauce 1) Mix the cooled red pepper sauce with one cup of mayonnaise and 2tblsp oil Serving Suggestions Serve as a main course with some sweet potato fries or as an appetizer with lemon wedges Pearls of Wisdom Do not skip on any part of the breading steps, the flour sticks tightly to the fish and provides a protective layer, the egg is a glue and the breadcrumbs provide the final crunch.
The festive season has unleashed an insatiable appetite. Will I ever locate that tiny amount of restraint, once safely guarded in my will power? I am finding myself amidst strange conversations on the trajectory of ‘you only live once’. Sound familiar? Torn between guilt and pleasure I opt for ‘guilty pleasure’ and ask my cousin Shalina to make her highly sought after ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’. Sticky Toffee Pudding makes me completely surrender to it’s decadence and comforting charm and I know that I am not alone, I know because I have noted your facial expressions. After all, what else does one expect when dates, pudding and a hot buttery and nutty toffee sauce come together. Total heaven! Served with a tablespoon of creme fraiche and a Do Not Disturb sign, you’re good to go! Ingredients Makes 9 cupcake sized puddings Date Cake 3oz margarine (room temperature) 5oz caster sugar 6oz self raising flour 2 eggs 2oz finely sliced dates 1/2 tsp vanilla essence 2 tsp camp coffee 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda 9 cupcake cases Sticky Toffee and Pecan Sauce 1oz chopped pecans 6oz of soft brown sugar 6 tbsp double cream 4 oz margarine Method Sticky Toffee and Pecan Sauce 1. Combine sugar, margarine, double cream and pecans in a saucepan over med/ low heat until completely melted. Date Cake 1. Warm your oven to 350F 2. Beat margarine and sugar until fluffy 3. Combine eggs in a separate cup and slowly whisk in to the creamed margarine and sugar 4. Fold in the flour 5. In a separate jug, mix 6 fluid ounces of boiling water with vanilla essence, bicarbonate of soda and camp coffee and don’t be alarmed to see the liquid become fizzy 6. Stir the liquid into the butter, sugar, egg and flour mixture so that it forms a batter consistency. 7. Pour batter into cupcake cases about 3/4 full 8. Sprinkle on approximately 4 slivers of dates on to each pudding 9. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. 10. Insert a skewer and if it comes out clean, your pudding is ready 11. Pour the sauce over the cake just before serving. Serving Suggestions Serve hot with ice cream, single cream (half and half) or creme fraiche Pearls of Wisdom Taste the toffee sauce before you remove from the heat to ensure that the texture is not ‘gritty’. Once the gritty-ness has disappeared, this means that the sugar has been completely melted.
Spending a few months in Poitiers, France, was like being in food heaven. My excessive food indulgences would have made Emile Zola turn in his grave several times, but that was never more than a fleeting thought (he wrote ‘The Belly Of Paris, where he snarls upon the food extravagances of the middle class in 19th century Paris). My six months could be summed up by the routine of snacking on whole baguettes fresh from my local boulangerie without ‘beurre’ , treating myself to pistachio, lavender and raspberry macarons, always ordering my potato dauphinoise and going through the ritual of being told that it would take an extra 30 minutes. So many delights, yet only 1 favorite , ‘The Croque Monsieur’. Would I offend anyone to say that only the French could turn this ham and cheese sandwich into a seductive masterpiece? The collective spirit of the crisped bread, the sweetness of the ham, the musty contribution of the gruyere and the slathering of béchamel makes this sandwich a treat to wake up to any time. All you need now is some piping hot coffee and some French music by the likes of Edith Piaf to make you part of that ambience parisienne. Ingredients Makes 4 Croque Monsieurs 8 slices of white bread with ends trimmed 4 pieces of medium sliced, black forest ham (not too thin) 2 tablespoons of flour 2 table spoons butter 1lb of grated gruyere cheese 1 ½ cups of hot milk Pinch of nutmeg Salt to taste Pinch of black pepper Whole grain mustard or Dijon mustard (or both) Method 1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees 2. Toast the slices of bread until slightly golden 3. In a pan, add the butter and flour on medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Gradually pour in the milk and allow the béchamel to thicken. You’ll know it has reached the desired consistency by making fork lines in the sauce without them disappearing. Remove from heat. 4. Add about ½ of the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper 5. Lay your toast on an oven tray and smear with half a teaspoon of mustard (I make some sandwiches in Dijon and some in wholegrain.) 6. Lay down your ham and sprinkle with 1/4 of the remaining cheese. 7. Spread the béchamel on the toast and place faced down on the ham and cheese. 8. Spread the final layer with a tablespoon of béchamel sauce, and sprinkle with the remianing cheese 9. Place in the oven for about 5 minutes. Once the cheese has melted, switch the oven to broil/ grill until it is bubbly and brown. Serving Suggestion 1. Throw on a fried egg and you will turn Croque Monsieur into Croque Madame 2. Serve with a salad and this dish works wonderfully for lunch or dinner Pearl of Wisdom Don’t be concerned if your toast seems dry in the initial stages of putting the sandwich together. The béchamel sauce softens the bread as much as is required.
Friday night for a while was fish and chip night at our house. Why? Because fish and chips, gastro sovereignty of Great Britain, has been traditionally consumed on Friday nights in the same way that a roast meal has been served on a Sunday afternoon. My mum would often park outside our local ‘chippy’ in Richmond and I would run in and pick up our orders. Tearing open those sheets of paper, I would drench my fish and chips in malt vinegar and tomato and tartar sauce. All Brits will verify the necessity of all 3 condiments, fish and chips, steam and the sheets of paper they are wrapped in. To not eat directly from the paper wrapping means you have not eaten fish and chips, so, save your fine china for high tea sandwiches as it will just interfere with this dish. Whilst I have not provided the recipe for chips (thick hand cut fries) trusting that you will fill in the blanks, I am offering you my humble beer battered fish. The batter is crispy and fluffy allowing the fish to steam inside. Serve with chips, a chilled bottle of beer and an episode of the British ‘Office’. Ingredients 4 (1lb) pieces of cod (or haddock)1 cup of plain flour8oz of beer (lager/ stout)1 beaten eggTsp thymeSalt and pepper Method 1) Heat the oil for deep frying2) Combine the flour, beer, egg, thyme, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth3) Sprinkle the fish with flour and dip into the batter4) Fry until golden brown (approx 5 minutes)Serving Suggestions:Serve with thick, hand cut fries (similar to steak fries), salt, malt vinegar, tomato sauce and tartar sauce Pearls of Wisdom Very little wisdom required in these 4 steps
Today I made a risotto. I have always contemplated making this dish as I peruse the grocery aisles and then ‘incorrectly’ remind myself that this dish should only be made by a seasoned chef. Abandoning this superstition that I had created in my own mind, I tossed the Arborio rice box in to my shopping cart. We were going to eat risotto con pancetta e gorgonzola….che buono!! Cooking Arborio rice requires labor of love and so any desire I had of roasting and boiling carcasses for the stock were sharply dismissed. So, what was my next stop at the grocery store? Correct indeed, it was the organic premade stock section. I like organic chicken stock because the bouillon cubes have a synthetic flavor and exaggerate the taste of chicken not to mention the high sodium content. By contrast, the organic chicken stock cartons have a more subtle flavor and are correctly balanced with minimal salt. I have an association from my wonderful months spent in Florence of any creamy preparations of pasta and rice with pancetta. Creaminess was definitely on this menu given the blend of gorgonzola and the starch from the Arborio rice and so, the next call to action was: Pancetta. Pancetta is similar to bacon but stronger in flavor. For this dish, the pancetta serves primarily to lace the oil with it’s deep and smoky aroma. And now, for the gorgonzola, I selected this cheese as it is ‘illustrious’ and since risotto has been on a pedestal in my mind for many years, it deserved nothing less. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese and is pungent in flavor when consumed at room temperature, however, when it is cooked in a dish, the flavor mellows and it shows it’s ‘kinder side’, not dominating the dish it is somewhat of an equal participant. Furthermore, I have picked a Dolce gorgonzola which is younger and creamier and can even be spread on a toast in place of butter. I would like to acknowledge that there will be several moments you will wish to ditch your risotto thinking that it will never soften no matter how much broth you use…believe me, I did. My advice to you is to ‘hang in there’ because, if it worked for me, it will work for you. It will show signs of reaching the desired state about 4 minutes before it is meant to be cooked. For this dish to work, ‘let go’ of your preconceived notions of rice, whether you are accustomed to cooking basmati or jasmine. For risotto, your role is to be calm, collected and fully engaged as you gently pour in the stock ladle by ladle. After 15 minutes of nurture and love, your dish is ready and you can now serve this plated decadence. Ingredients 4oz pancetta 4 shallots finely diced ½ a cup of white wine 4 cups of organic chicken stock 2 cups of Arborio rice 1cup of Dolce Gorgonzola (this is a creamier and milder cheese compared to the crubly and aged gorgonzola) Garnish fresh green herb (such as, parsley, chives, basil, any microgreen) or nuts (walnuts, pistachios, slivered almonds) Method 1) In a sauce pan heat up the chicken stock 2) Slice the pancetta in to small squares and sauté in olive oil on medium heat in a large pan 3) Add the shallots and sauté until the shallots soften (approx 3 minutes) 4) Toss the 2 cups of rice in the pan with the onions and pancetta and add the wine. Stir constantly to prevent the rice from sticking 5) Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add the chicken stock ½ a cup at a time and allow the rice to absorb the juices. After a couple of minutes, repeat this step by adding chicken stock ½ a cup at a time and allowing the rice to absorb the stock for 2 minutes. After approximately 20 minutes, your rice will be ready. 6) Season with salt and fresh pepper and stir in the gorgonzola. 7) Serve immediately and sprinkle with any fresh green herbs in your refrigerator for color or a few slices of pistachios Serving Suggestions With a little green garnish and a knob of butter thrown on the top, this is a perfect standalone dish Pearls of Wisdom 1) If you feel you rice is still undercooked, add another half cup of broth but it will not require more than this. 2) Serve immediately as this dish become stodgy very quickly.
I write today’s entry with much restraint. There is so much I want to share with you about a discovery I made this week but am conflicted with simply dumping my overload of excitement on to you. . In moments, perhaps described best as temporary insanity, when one imagines one has seen it all, New York City springs upon you, a most delightful, decadent indulgence. “Eataly” is exactly one such place that will send your senses in a tizzy! Home to the finest Italian produce, utensils, artisanal epicurious treasures and restaurants, Eataly has taken New York by storm. If you live around here and have not been to Eataly, what are you waiting for?!? If you aren’t a local, it’s worth a trip. Perusing the various market-like squares reminding me of my much missed ‘Piazza dela Cure’ in Florence, it was hard to know where to start. My husband and I started at the cheese counter that was a small and somewhat less overwhelming counter. Forty minutes later, we were still sampling rarities, such as, tobacco and cognac infused cheese (don’t judge it until you try it). After being pushed along by murmurs and heavy sighs coming from behind us, we moved on into a world beyond imagination. Fresh pastas; breads (the one with fig being most memorable); a vegetable butcher serving samples of celeriac carpaccio with olive oil and lemon juice. To describe Eataly would be doing it a great disservice. I will say however, that it turned even the Alpha-est of males into a child in a candy store. Our last stop was at the butcher’s counter. How they had managed to make that counter look so beautiful was beyond me. With a flurry of ideas rushing to my mind for this weeks blog, I wanted it all. Of course, I couldn’t have it all and in my husband’s weakening moment of all things delicious, he suggested I should make Italian sweet sausage with pasta for this weeks entry. Great idea I thought and as my eyes darted across to the pasta counter, I felt papadelle would work really well with this. We made simple and sweet sausage pasta which had that seldom-experienced flavor from the fennel seeds. I love fennel seeds and despite its presence in the sausage, I sneaked a little more in. Ingredients 1 lb of Italian sweet sausage (squeezed out from casing) 1 lb of fresh papadelle or tagliatelle Olive oil 1/8 of a cup 3 cloves fresh and pounded garlic 1 tsp chilli flakes 1 tsp of fennel seeds (optional) ½ cup of white wine ¼ cup of starched water from the pasta Handful of fresh flat leaved parsely (Finely chopped leaves only) 4 vine-ripened tomatoes 1 tblsp butter Method 1) Heat the oil and add the garlic. Saute on low heat for a few minutes and until the garlic softens. Add the crushed chili and fennel seeds to toast them and extract the full flavor 2) Coarsely crumble and add the sausage to the garlic oil adding the wine after 3 minutes and cook until golden brown (usually 7 minutes) 3) Boil the pasta as per directions and add ¼ cup of the pasta water to the sausage 4) Toss the pasta with the sausage 5) Quarter your tomatoes, melt butter in a pan and on low heat, glaze the tomatoes for 3 minutes 6) When serving, garnish with a couple of pieces of tomato and sprinkle with the parsley. Serving Suggestions Help yourself to a glass of wine from the bottle you will use for the cooking. Pearls of Wisdom Remember ‘if it ain’t good enough to drink, it ain’t good enough to cook with’..Please use a good quality white wine.
The past few days, I have felt like my palate has been receiving very predictable flavors. Whilst everything has been well made and full of flavor, it just hasn’t been fulfilling. I felt like I needed to trade cumin for perhaps basil or parsley. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Then I started thinking of summer and all of a sudden, my mind felt like a school blackboard with a spider diagram sprouting all kinds of summery words…’bikini’, ‘sunscreen’, ‘chilled lemonade’… NO NO NO.. not even close.. and then I had my aha moment.. ‘TOMATOES’!!!.. YES!! TOMATOES!!! I didn’t want something rich and heavy but then I am not exactly a candidate for gazpacho either. I felt like a light and fresh tasting summer’s pasta was on the cards. If you haven’t noticed already, the use of the word ‘summer’ has been gratuitously thrown around by me, but just one last comment on summer. Summer is the time when tomatoes take the center stage. They are sweet and juicy and some people even eat them as a fruit. So what’s the bottom line? It is a crime to overcook your tomatoes and bad karma (a little dramatic perhaps). Getting back to our dish, this light summer’s pasta has a real flavor of the Mediterranean. Crushed pepperoncino (dried chili flakes) and plenty of garlic sizzling away in hot olive oil was only the beginning. The tomatoes also exceeded expectations and added tang, sweetness and bursts of juiciness. I wanted to add something else to the dish but didn’t want it to dominate the natural flavor of the tomatoes and garlic. I felt rocket and watercress would do the trick without being omnipresent in every bite. These leaves added another dimension of flavor given their peppery and sharp taste. The tomatoes were removed from the heat when they barely began to soften and the greens were added after the dish had been removed from the heat, wilting very slightly. Having talked about the sauce so much, I must tell you that pasta was not left neglected…I couldn’t afford to do that since it was after all a ‘pasta-al-fresco’ dish. This al-dente pasta tossed in the tomatoes and greens looked like summer on a plate. This pasta-al-fresco dish can be served warm, but given that most of us are trying desperately to eradicate our inner heat from this heat wave, I prefer it at room temperature. If some of you read the pearls of wisdom section after you have cooked this dish, this one is for you: please have all your ingredients prepared before you start cooking as this dish cooks within 10 minutes and you don’t want to have to scramble to keep up. Ingredients 10 vine-ripened deseeded and diced tomatoes 6-7 cloves of garlic ¼ cup of oil 3 whole dried pepperoncino or ½ tsp dried chili flakes 1 fresh chopped green chili (as it suits your spicy taste buds) 3 handful rocket and watercress combined 1lb uncooked pasta (fusili, spiral, bucatini) Salt Crushed black-pepper Parmesan Method Pound and roughly chop the de-skinned garlic cloves (pounding the garlic a little first makes the juices seep out of the garlic, bringing out the intensity of flavor) Chop your tomatoes in ½, pull out the seeds and the fleshy part around the seeds and then dice Set your pasta to boil (follow instructions on the pasta box) Heat the olive oil in a large size pan (if you use a small pan, the tomatoes will get mushy later on) Add the garlic and the dried chili to the oil and cook until the garlic is golden brown to really flavor the oil. (The oil will also turn a light red saffron color as the dried chili cooks in the oil) Add your green chili and after a minute add the tomatoes Delicately toss the tomatoes and olive oil mixture on medium heat and cook until the tomato just begins to soften. Be careful not to overcook the tomatoes or stir excessively, this will break the tomatoes down too much Add salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste and remove from heat Add 3 large handfuls of the rocket and watercress and gently fold the mixture. The greens will wilt slightly in the heat of the sauce. Toss with sauce with your pasta Finish it off with sprinkle shavings of parmesan Serving Suggestions But of course, a glass of wine Serve at room temperature Pearls of Wisdom 1. Wash and chop your ingredients before cooking 2. If you skip the deseeding of your tomato step, your dish will become watery and the seeds sometimes lend bitterness to a lightly cooked tomato dish 3. Be thoughtful when cooking the tomatoes so they don’t become mushy and the skin separates from the flesh 4. If the tomatoes are out of season, add ½ a teaspoon of sugar to remove the sourness 5. Mix the sauce and pasta just before serving or the pasta will absorb the juices of the sauce and swell up