Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the tag “vegetarian”

Review: Piali – The Curry Bistro

I recently went to Piali the Curry Bistro for lunch. I was pretty hassled that afternoon as my day was just not going according to plan (and I’m a planner believe me. I even have a notebook to jot down the day’s proceedings). Cut to three hours later. I have a big smile (all teeth showing sorts) plastered on my face, my stomach way too full and having forgotten everything worry-inducing. That’s the effect the the four-month old restaurant in K Block Connaught Place, Delhi, had on me. I had one of the best meals there and I can’t wait to go back soon to try new things on the menu.

It’s a small restaurant, just a 70-seater, but extremely warm, cosy and inviting. It has a fine dining space, a lounge and a bar. One of the few child-friendly places, as the name suggests Piali the Curry Bistro, the restaurant serves up delicious curries from around the world. From different parts of India to Sri Lanka, Myanmar to Thailand to name a few. They specialize in curries but their appetizers range from Mumbai’s street food to Singapore’s satays. An amalgamation of sorts, they wet the appetite for the second course fragrant curries which are accompanied by rice or breads.

Delicious cocktails

Delicious cocktails

The Chapli (left) and the Galouti

The Chapli (left) and the Galouti

Jaffran Prawns and more

Jaffran Prawns and more

Accompanied by a friend for this review, we started off with Piali the Curry Bistro’s signature vodka-based cocktails – Sex on the Beach and Aam Panna. Feeling refreshed, we waited eagerly for tasting portions to arrive. And arrive they did. The Chapli Kebab (pashtun style minced kebab) was tastefully seasoned while the Galouti Kebab (a vegetarian version with mushroom and singhare) was literally melt-in-your-mouth. I’m a hardcore non vegetarian but I would have gladly had second helpings of the vegetarian galouti. Then arrived spicy Jaffran Prawns with Curry Leaf. A big thumbs up to the prawns as we dipped them into the sauce.

Corn Tempura (left) and Sindhi Chole Tikki

Corn Tempura (left) and Sindhi Chole Tikki

Chicken satays with peanut sauce

Chicken satays with peanut sauce

Mumbai's Dhabeli

Mumbai’s Dhabeli

Corn Tempura and Sindhi Chole Tikki left us floored. We were licking our fingers long after the plates had been removed. Had we been eating at home, we would have licked the plates clean. People can stare when you do it in public so we refrained! Biting into the Chicken Satays reminded me of my frequent visits to Singapore and I was transported to East Coast Park where delicious satays leave the mouth watering. Dahi Batata Puri and Mumbai’s famous Dhabeli rounded off the first round.

For the mains we chose to taste Khao Suey from Myanmar (a coconut based soup with noodles and garnish), Green Curry with sticky rice from Thailand, Ambul Thiyal (a spicy fish curry from neighbouring Sri Lanka), Martaban Meat (tender pieces of lamb cooked to perfection in an earthen pot) and being a Bengali, Daab Chingri (prawns in coconut curry served inside a coconut) was a must have.

Ambul Thiyal or spicy fish curry from Sri Lanka

Ambul Thiyal or spicy fish curry from Sri Lanka

Martaban Meat with butter rotis

Martaban Meat with butter rotis

Yum Daab Chingri

Yum Daab Chingri

Khao Suey with condiments

Khao Suey with condiments

Thai Green curry

Thai Green curry

The Martaban lamb was so tender the meat fell off the bones as I dug into the gravy with butter rotis. The Daab Chingri was perfectly cooked and the gravy paired well with steamed rice. The Ambul Thiyal had just the right amount of spice and the fish ever-so-soft. The green curry was fragrant while the Khao Suey was rich, a meal in a bowl.

Despite our stomachs giving us hints that it was ready to burst any moment, we couldn’t help but take a quick bite of the signature Pineapple Halwa. Decadence in a bowl is a better way to describe the delicacy! It’s a must try when there.

Pineapple Halwa

Pineapple Halwa

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and Beverage: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: K Block, Connaught Place, New Delhi

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Review: 38 Barracks – A Twist on Traditional Navratra Celebrations

The interiors of 38 Barracks

The interiors of 38 Barracks

I had heard a lot about 38 Barracks but I visited the restaurant, situated in Connaught Place, thanks to a bloggers meet. Like most places, this eatery too was catering to the Navratra celebrations but unlike most restaurants which prefer to serve a set thali, 38 Barracks put a twist on it. “We are serving a four-course menu. One can either order each course separately, or the whole meal together,” says Ankur Agarwal, out host for the afternoon.

Another view of the interiors

Another view of the interiors

It’s a great concept because one often doesn’t like to devour a whole thali. It can be the case of wanting to pick and choose what to eat instead of everything the set thali offers. The four-course meal is priced at Rs 799 only and curated by Michelin-recommended chef Gautam Chaudhry.

The Special Navratra menu

The Special Navratra menu

The food is not the usual fare, trust me. The humble sabudana (Tapioca Sago) which is widely used during the festival, is paired with raisins and the sago risotto was mouth-watering! Even the dips are unusual with coconut chutney taking centre stage with most starters.
A look at what we devoured:

Hello Pina colada!

Hello Pina Colada!

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi

The deep fried Kurkuri Kamal Kakdi with Sabudana papad

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sabudana and Prunes ki Tikki

Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Singhade aur Aloo ke Tikki

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Paneer Parcels on Sago Risotto

Chironjee ki Daal

Chironjee ki Daal

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Harissa Upma with Paneer Steaks (Not in the menu but just as delicious!)

Makhana kheer with fruits

Makhana Kheer with fruits

What really works is the ambiance. The old and retired colonel’s house-themed restaurant with nostalgic bric-a-brac on walls and fantastic live music for the visitors should be on the list of must-visit places in Delhi.

Ambiance: 5/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Connaught Place, New Delhi
Follow 38 Barracks on Facebook and Instagram

Review: Sattvik – Celebrating Navratra with a Thali

Thirst quenchers

Thirst quenchers

As I walked into the vegetarian fine dining establishment at Select CITIWALK in Saket, I could only wait in anticipation as to what will come my way. I love vegetarian food but I don’t really end up cooking a lot of it or going to eateries which specialize in the theme. It’s only after I shifted to Delhi that I realized how big Navratra is in this part of India. The different foods which are served during this time are cooked sans garlic and onion. While many may balk at such a thought, I think it’s a refreshing challenge. It showcases intuitiveness, creativity and the will to experiment.

Niravan... in a pineapple!

Niravana… in a pineapple!

Sattvik has been around for nine years and is widely regarded as one of the best vegetation eateries in Delhi. I soon understood why. The décor and ambiance is soothing, the staff is extremely nice and goes out of their way to make you comfortable and the quality of food is unmatched. Cooked to perfection, everything I tasted would surely have me going back again.

There are thirst quenchers aplenty but as the restaurant labels them Rasa (divine nectars), the first sips of ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Disha’ were pure bliss on a hot summer day. Nirvana has pineapple, blueberry and orange blended and served in a scooped out pineapple while Disha is a mixture of banana, melon and pineapple juice presented inside a melon.

The best Dahi Kebabs I've had

The best Dahi Kebabs I’ve had

Beetroot Seekh Kebabs, very innovative and healthy

Beetroot Seekh Kebabs, very innovative and healthy

Though I had come for the special Navratra thali, I was served two appetizers – Mehroon Beet ki Sikki Seekh and Dahi Kebab. Let me stop right there. The Dahi Kebabs were the best I’ve ever had. Made with pure cow milk and cooked to perfection, I wasn’t at all surprised being informed they were a bestseller. The beet seekhs were extremely innovative and a healthier option which is usually ordered by an elder crowd.

The Navratra Thali

The Navratra Thali

As the Navratri celebrations last for nine nights and 10 days, I would definitely suggest heading to Sattvik to devour their Navratra thali. The thali is huge with more than enough to make sure you don’t suffer from hunger pangs. Priced at R595 (+ taxes), the thali has Chach (buttermilk), Paneer Malai Tikka and Tandoori Shakarkandi (sweet potato) as starters. Then are the accompaniments such as Saboodana ke papad, fresh fruit salad and Kheera aur Anar ka raita (cucumber and pomegranate raita). The main course has Paneer Makhani, Malai Kofta and Pudina wala Aloo served with steamed Samak ke Pulao and Kutta aur Singara ki Puri. The deserts offered are Samak ki Kesharia Phirnee and Gud Makhana.

Another view of the Thali

Another view of the Thali

The special Navratra menu

The special Navratra menu

Exteriors of the restaurant

Exteriors of the restaurant

As I tasted one bowl after the other, a smile spread across my face. Everything was absolutely delicious. The kofta was melt-in-your-mouth soft, the potato had the correct spices while the raita was thick. None of the dishes were overtly spicy or salty. All had a mellow flavour and the perfect seasoning. Upon inquiring, I learnt the kitchen will make a dish less or more spicy depending on the customer’s specification. They will also make a dish without onion and garlic if requested on a normal day. The personal favourite was the phirnee. I don’t have a sweet tooth but if I had the space I would have gulped down two more bowls!

Gur

Gud Makhana, sweet and deelish!

If you’re celebrating Navratri and want to eat out, head to Sattvik situated on the top floor of Select CITIWALK in Saket. You won’t be disappointed!

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and Beverage: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: Select Citiwalk, Saket, New Delhi
Check out the restaurant website and visit Select CITIWALK

 

Review: Dimcha — Marrying Dimsums with Chai

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Green dimsums with beans

I love dimsums. Honestly, anytime is ‘momo time’. My sister, whom I share an apartment with in Delhi, often refuses to go out with me for dinner if I suggest going for dimsums because, let’s face it, when it comes to self control over stuffing my face with dimsums, I lack it completely. Secondly, I may have mentioned earlier how much I adore tea. Little wonder I dedicate a whole shelf in my kitchen to different types of teas from around the world. My favourite thing to buy on my travels to tea-friendly states and countries is – tea of course! So, when I get a chance to go to a place which has laid emphasis on two of my favourite things, it’s little wonder I didn’t do cartwheels. Well, maybe in my head.

Pickled ginger and kiwi coolers

Pickled ginger and kiwi coolers

The Concept

Dimcha, located in Nehru Place inside Epicuria Food Mall, is an interesting concept. Spinning off from the Chinese concept of Yum Cha (going for dimsums, this restaurant offers a wide array of dimsums and teas to accompany them. It’s not a very big place but has a very calm and laid back feel to it. The white and blue checkered floor gives it a very casual look. One can sit inside as well outside, though preferably in the winters. Considering it’s a dimsum place, the tables are laid out with chopsticks and very cute miniature coke bottles with sauce. And I loved their brown plates as I’m a sucker for pretty crockery. The walls are tiled and have popular recipes! The seating is very comfortable and one can see the live counter where chefs are preparing the meals.

The glass window kitchen

The glass window kitchen

Khowsuey soup!

Khowsuey soup!

Deliciousness Served

We started the meal with kiwi and pickled ginger coolers which were refreshing. Then were served two types of soups – Ba Mee and Khowsuey. The Burmese Khowsuey is usually served as a meal in a bowl but in Dimcha, the broth had been made lighter and portions smaller. The Ba Mee broth was spicy and had a good helping of vegetables and noodles. I would definitely recommend trying them if you enjoy spice.

Ba Mee - broth with noodles and veggies

Ba Mee – broth with noodles and veggies

Then came the raw papaya salad, a staple in many South East Asian regions. The crunchy peanuts paired very well with the lime-covered salad. But my favourite starter was the red turnip cake. I’m not a turnip fan at all. I avoid it at all cost. But it was just so delicious that I couldn’t help but ask for a second helping. Soft and subtly flavoured, I know what to order the next time I’m there.

Raw papaya salad

Raw papaya salad

Red turnip cakes, my favourite

Red turnip cakes, my favourite

Dimsums are the real deal at Dimcha. They have specially handcrafted  many on the menu with unusual pairings. Beet skin, carrot skin, prawns, chicken – each dumpling is created to suit every type of taste bud. You don’t like beans, no problem, try the steaming chicken one in Hoisin sauce instead. The beetroot and prawn ones were so succulent that I can’t wait to go back for them!

Mixed vegetable dimsums

Mixed vegetable dimsums

Prawn dimsums

Prawn dimsums

It’s a place I will recommend for dimsum lovers. Try their unique combinations because they really are good!

The crockery is really nice as the colours pop against the brown

The crockery is really nice as the colours pop against the brown

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Epicuria Food Mall, Nehru Place  

Review: Amreli, Hotel Diplomat

Welcome to Amreli

Welcome to Amreli

There’s something charming and gorgeous when you walk into an old building. Maybe it has something to do with nostalgia because the moment I walked into Hotel Diplomat, I was transported to a grandmother’s ancestral home back in Calcutta. The old-fashioned styled house with verandahs and railings nestled amidst greenery makes one feel welcome, makes one feel refreshed. What is so fabulous about Amreli, their restaurant, is that one can choose to sit indoors or outdoors amidst the luscious greenery. I would have loved to sit outdoors but rain played spoilsport. Well, there’s always a next time isn’t it.

The pretty menu

The pretty menu

Interesting concept
Amreli is an interesting concept which has been started by Sidhant Lamba. A cross between a diner and bistro, the 105-seating capacity upscale restaurant is perfect for families, friends or/and a perfect date. From the art hanging on the walls to the chequered flooring, the use of purple and gold on paper table mats with elephant-shaped side plates, Amreli offers a nice sobering ambiance, perfect for an elegant evening. The service was really good as everyone made me feel welcome, right from the time I entered till the time I left.

The restaurant

The restaurant

Comfortable seating

Comfortable seating

Delicious Starters

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Amreli offers North Indian, South Indian and Pan Asian cuisines. I decided to try Pan Asian simply because I was craving it the past couple of days. And Chef Neelam made sure I wasn’t disappointed. The Chilli Prawns with coconut, scallion, pepper and onion were perfect as were the platter of vegetarian dim sums. Steamed perfectly, each bite was a delight. The prawns were cooked fine and the hints of chilli absolutely didn’t overpower. The size of the prawns and quantity left me impressed.

Hello there prawns

Hello there prawns

View from the top

View from the top (see the pretty flooring!)

Mains & Sweets
With two starters consumed along with a glass of Old Fashioned (did I mention they have a fabulous cocktail menu? Well, check it out for yourself when you visit!) I asked Chef Neelam for a tasting platter for the mains. The wait for a bit long-ish but when the food came, I wished I had more space in my stomach to eat more. For the vegetarian tasting platter there was Tofu in Sambal Sauce, Mushroom in Black Bean Sauce along with rice and noodles. The non-vegetarian platter had Red Thai Chicken Curry and Balinese Prawn Curry with sticky rice and fried rice. I like vegetarian food but the tofu blew me away. Given a choice I wouldn’t have ordered for it but I’m glad Chef Neelam made it. The softness of the Tofu was perfect with the spicy Sambal sauce. The Red Thai Chicken Curry was perfectly balanced with sticky rice and the prawns stood out on their own. I know what to eat when I go back next!
For dessert, Chef brought out a Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cake and Tiramisu. I would surely recommend the Tiramisu because the taste was great and it was light. The fudge cake tasted nice but it was too heavy for me personally to enjoy after such a decadent meal.

The non-veg platter

The non-veg platter – chicken and prawns

The vegetarian platter

The vegetarian platter – tofu and mushrooms

Close ups, smile please :)

Close ups, smile please 🙂

The light as feather Tiramisu

The light as feather Tiramisu

Decadent Fudge

Decadent Fudge

Would I go back?
Whenever visiting a new restaurant, the last question I ask myself after a meal is would I go back. If I say yes, there are three aspects involved in that decision. One, is the food obviously. Second, the price and third, the ambiance. After visiting Amreli, it was an easy decision for me. The food is definitely worth the money and the ambiance is wonderful. If you find yourself in Chanakyapuri, do go visit.

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Hotel Diplomat, 9 Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, #011 46050200

When Roasted Veggies Are The Way To Go

I love simple food. It’s a life saver when you’re back from a 30-hour jet-lagged journey and exhausted. Recipes which call for a zillion ingredients and a lot of time, I don’t really have the patience for. So, when I opened the fridge to find two aubergines and tomatoes staring at me, shouting ‘eat me, eat me’, I just couldn’t help myself.
It’s November when the weather is neither hot or cold — just the perfect balance. A time you need comforting food for the troubled soul.
Out came the roasting pan and on the stove went a pot of salted water. In 30 minutes I was hungrily digging into a plate of roasted vegetables with Penne, topped with grated cheese all gorgeous and oozing with flavour.

Roasted Vegetables with Penne

Penne (handful)
2 tomatoes (chopped roughly)
2 aubergines (chopped roughly)
4-5 cloves of garlic (peeled)
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs dried chilly flakes
Pinch of salt and sugar
Grated cheese (for garnishing)

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degree C.

Cook the Penne as per packet instructions in salted water.

In a roasting dish, put all the ingredients and toss so everything is coated with the oil. Cover with foil and pop into the over for 25 minutes.

By the time the vegetables are roasted, the pasta would have cooked. Keep aside a bit of the starchy water.

Mix the Penne with the vegetables. Add the water if there’s not enough sauce to coat everything.

Sprinkle with cheese and serve hot!

Hot and delicious! Hits the right spot

Hot and delicious! Hits the right spot

A Nigella-inspired weekday lunch

I don’t know about you, but I love leafing through cook books or surf online for inspiring recipes. In a way, thanks to TLC, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson came into our homes a few years ago and thus began the love affair. What was really interesting about the two was they emphasised on easy. You don’t need to be a professional to make something unique and creative.
Then, Masterchef Australia had all our tastebuds tingling from season 1. In fact, when I was in Sydney last summer, the home section in QVB had the Nigella range. If I wasn’t travelling with just the backpack or had enough dough, I think I would have bought everything they had. Seriously, the pans and pots are gorgeous!
I’m digressing. I recently came across Nigella’s Vietnamese dressing. It is just so versatile that one can use it for a number of salads and main courses and it’s easy to add ingredients to it to make it different. Vietnam is a country I’m yet to visit but the first time I made the dressing, it invoked flavours similar to what I had tasted in Thailand.
I was pressed for time today and needed something quick and satisfying for lunch. Hey, presto! Thus was created a Thai salad inspired by Nigella but perfect for vegetarians!

Delicious!

Delicious!

Thai salad with cottage cheese

For salad
200 g fresh cottage cheese i.e paneer (cut into bite-sized cubes)
2 tbs sesame oil (this can be substituted with vegetable oil and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds)
1 small white cabbage (finely shredded)
2 small carrots (finely shredded)
Handful of chopped coriander

For dressing
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 green/red chilly (chopped)
2 tbs vinegar
2 tbs light soy (use fish sauce for a non-vegetarian option)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs lime juice

In a bowl, add the onion, garlic, chilly, vinegar, soy, sugar and lime juice. Soak everything for about 10 minutes.

Mix the cabbage, carrots and coriander in a bowl. Toss the dressing in and coat every bit of the raw salad with it. You don’t need a lot of dressing for it.

Heat the sesame oil in a small flat pan. Once hot, add the cubes of cottage cheese. When one side starts browning, turn over. Once browned, it would take about 5 minutes, toss the browned cubes onto the salad with whatever sesame oil still remains in the pan.

Serve immediately with some fresh coriander.
PS: Tastes great with Tom Yum Soup !

A side view!

A side view!

Of Remy and Ratatouille

I enjoy watching animated films, I really do. I love the colours, the soundtrack, the plots; animation takes me back to my childhood days when my grandfather would bring video tapes of Disney films and the two of us would watch them in the evenings. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella…

Last weekend I re-watched Ratatouille. I love the film. It’s a film which leaves me salivating, eager to try new flavour combinations I could never even have imagined could work. The film just makes food so appealing that it makes you hungry watching Remy (the little rat) create magic in the kitchen thanks to Linguini’s hands.

The fresh veggies

The fresh veggies from the market

But what left me wide-eyed was at the end of the film. It was the mishmash of green, yellow and red — the Ratatouille — he created I couldn’t stop dreaming about. All perfectly sliced and standing tall in a baking dish. It just looked so ridiculously delicious that even a staunch non-vegetarian would drool over it. Just as Anton Engo’s (the food critic) cold heart melted tasting the simple flavours, I knew I had to try and make it.

Thus, I went to the market and picked up fresh veggies and tried to recreate the hearty French regional vegetable dish. (It’s not perfect and pretty but believe me, tasted heavenly!)

Standing tall before the remaining tomato sauce gets drizzled

Standing tall before the remaining tomato sauce gets drizzled

Ingredients
1 zucchini (thinly sliced)
1 eggplant (thinly sliced. I couldn’t get the small ones so used a bigger size and cut it in half)
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper (thinly sliced. Again, I couldn’t get smaller sized ones so I just cut it in half)
1 cup tomato puree or 2 fresh tomatoes pureed
4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 small onion (thinly sliced)
3-4 tbp olive oil
1 tsp dried herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 degree C.

In a small sauce pan heat 1 tbp olive oil. Add the garlic and onions and saute. Add the tomato puree and season with salt and pepper. Keep aside.

In a baking dish, put 3/4 of the tomato sauce at the bottom. At this point, layer the thinly sliced vegetables on top of it. Drizzle over the rest of the olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper and the remaining tomato sauce.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Serve with freshly toasted bread, rice, cous cous or just plain with some good quality cheese. (I used the versatile Ricotta)

A good dollop of ricotta on top and buttered toast

A good dollop of ricotta on top and buttered toast

A better view!

A better view!

The left over bake

I realised on Sunday that it’s been a while since I’ve written about what I’ve been cooking! Yes I’ve posted about the new things I’ve eaten but having cooked something new, no. Everyone has a grocery day and mine happens to be Saturdays. On Saturdays I go to the weekly vegetable market, where farmers set up little stalls filled to the brim with delicious and fresh veggies. However, thanks to pending deadlines I was unable purchase my weekly goods.

So Sunday morning, tummy rumbling, I opened the fridge to find some tomatoes, two bell peppers, two cucumbers and an eggplant. This is what happens when you forgo your weekly visit to the vegetable market! The only thing left to do was create something exciting (it’s Sunday after all). And thus my ‘left over bake’ is exactly what it sounds like. An attempt to finish off remaining vegetables but create something delicious at the same time.

Ingredients

100g pasta (I used macaroni)
2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow, diced)
1 tomato (diced)
1 onion (chopped fine)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped fine)
1 tsp chilly flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbp olive oil
2-3 cheese slices (I only had the processed kind)

Heat the olive oil and saute the garlic and chilly flakes first. Add the onions and bell peppers. Stir for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato, tomato sauce and oregano. Stir till about cooked through. Season according to taste. Keep aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Cook the macaroni till al dente in a pan of boiling salted water. (You can do this while preheating the oven)

In a baking dish mix the cooked vegetables and macaroni together. Layer the top with the cheese slices and bake for 15 minutes. (To get a crunchy cheese layer, change the oven nob to top heat for the last 5 minutes).

Serve with a side salad or garlic bread.

Just out of the oven... hot hot hot!

Just out of the oven… hot hot hot!

Just perfect with a glass of white!

Just perfect with a glass of white!

All for the love of pasta

There’s something about Italian cuisine which has gotten the world hooked on to it. Pasta is a regular dinner feature on every family menu while thanks to home delivery, pizza and its many versions have become party/game food. I mean have you watched any match at your home with crazy friends without beer and pizza? (Surprisingly I found more Italian restaurants in Paris than French!) Italian cuisine has a wide variety of foods of course, but you’ll come across pasta and pizza anywhere in the world.

Like every other family, I love pasta. Many a night after work I’m thankful to the Italians for having invented this delicious time saver. Boil water, put pasta in, cook and drain. Easy four steps with a sauce and some grated cheese! Takes me less than 15 minutes I swear!

I’m digressing again. I keep pasta in all forms and shapes. Macaroni, Fettuccine, Spaghetti, Penne, Linguine, Fusilli… Come and check out my pasta cupboard! In fact in a flea market in Florence, I kinda went nuts staring at the variety of pastas rather than buying jackets or shoes!

Anyway, when I have some time I prefer to make pasta with a lot of love and care instead like the ones during late night hunger pangs. Recently I made spaghetti using button mushrooms with cheese sauce and a side of apple salad. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.

Spaghetti with mushrooms and cheese sauce

Ingredients

Half packet spaghetti (for 2)
Handful button mushrooms (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
Half teaspoon chilli flakes (use the packets you get during pizza delivery)
500ml milk
1 tbp regular flour
Knob of butter
1 cube cheese (grated. I used regular processed but feel free)
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg (grated, according to taste)
Parsley to garnish

For the salad

1 small apple (diced)
1 small cucumber (diced)
Handful of crushed pistachios
1 tbs mustard
1 tbs vinegar

Method

Boil the spaghetti as per instructions on the packets and when done, drain and keep aside.

In a pan add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat the onions first. Once translucent, add the garlic and chilli flakes. Then put in the mushrooms and let them cook through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Be a little patient.

For the cheese sauce, start with the roux. Heat butter and flour in a pan until the mixture has browned. Add the milk while continuously stirring. Make sure no lumps form. When a thick bechamel sauce is made, grate in the nutmeg and add the cheese. Your cheese sauce is ready. Finally, mix the now cooked mushrooms to the sauce. Then, to make life simpler, add the spaghetti to the sauce. Coat well and garnish with parsley.

The salad takes five minutes to make. Add the diced apples, cucumber and pistachios in a bowl. Then for the dressing, mix the mustard and vinegar well and drizzle over the salad.

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There you have it, lunch is ready in a matter of 30 minutes or so! And it’s a great recipe for vegetarians!

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