Monday, September 22, 2014

Roasted vegetables

We used to love eating at an Italian place that had a marvelous vegetarian pizza rightly named "vegetariana". That pizza was fairly simple and yet packed full of flavour. That's what made it one of our favourites, I guess. We love simple yet surprising recipes. The pizza was topped with a classic tomato sauce, lots of grilled and olive oil-marinated peppers and zucchini and just the right amount of mozzarella and oregano. And so that place stopped making that pizza and that was one of the reasons we don't go there so often. 

But that did not stop us from trying to make our own roasted vegetables to be stocked in jars, ready for use anytime! The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it gives way to your imagination, you can pop in almost any vegetable depending on your liking. It's no rocket science, it's just some grilled vegetables.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
2 bell peppers
1 zucchini
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 tablespoon of olive oil

Optional ingredients:


  • Pre-heat your over at 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Slice the vegetables thickly and place in a baking tray, making sure they don't overlap each other.
  • Toss in the peeled whole garlic cloves
  • Sprinkle the dried oregano, salt and pepper on the vegetables
  • Drizzle with olive oil, making sure each vegetable element gets a good dropping.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables feel soft and well-tanned. 
You can use this recipe as a pizza topping, or as a salad served with feta or a burrata. I had served this with spaghetti and a classic tomato sauce and some parmesan and it was delicious!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pizza Dough Recipe

This pizza dough recipe was taken from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home. The initial recipe yields 6 to 8 medium-sized thin pizza crusts and even if that amount might be too much for your planned use, I would honestly recommend that you make the whole amount of dough and then freeze it or chill it for later use. For me, who is constantly looking for shortcuts and quick ways round the kitchen, having pre-made pizza dough is a blessing. Yes! I am lazy and impatient. What I love about this dough is that it's quite versatile. You might use it for bread-making and use your imagination to add some ingredients such as sundried tomatoes, olives or herbs to the dough to yield some fancy breads! 

Let's move on with the ingredients, shall we?

1 kg white bread flour 
200g finely ground semolina flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 x 7 g dried yeast sachets
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650 ml lukewarm water

- Mix the yeast, sugar, olive oil and lukewarm water in a bowl and let that react for a bit. Yeast loves to "feed on" sugar and along with the warm water, this will activate the yeast.
- Sieve the white flour and add the semolina flour and salt, mix well and make a well in the centre of the dry mixture.
- Pour the yeast mixture in the flour well and gradually incorporate the flour to the wet mixture until you obtain a rough dough consistency.
- Work the dough by kneading it until you obtain a smooth and springy ball.
- Place the dough ball into a floured bowl and dust the top of the dough with some flour. Cover the bowl with either cling film or a damp cloth and let that prove in a warm place for about an hour.
- The dough should have doubled in size by the end of the proving.
- Now take out the dough and place it on a flour-dusted surface. Work the dough by knocking some of the air out. 
- The dough is ready to be used straight away or you can now chill it for later use. Cover the dough in clingfilm for chilling to prevent it from drying down in the fridge.
- When rolling out your dough, use some ground semolina flour for dusting. This gives a nice crispness to the pizza crust. 

Now you only have to top your dough with your favourite cheese and toppings and you're ready to go! The dough part is the toughest really. 

Total time required: 20 mins for the preparation, 1 hour proving time max.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

About pasta and fast food

We don't see many outlets proposing fast pasta dishes around where we live. Restaurants are different. I'm talking about fast food outlets. The other day, we were at a food court, stuffing our face with some great belgian waffles topped with cream and ice cream, with a very hot coffee (sigh!) and we were having a look around us, at the other food outlets. There used to be an outlet selling pasta in this food court. The place did not live long. I had once tried their pasta. If I remember well, it was on one of our various Top Gear nights and I wanted to eat pasta. Pasta goes well with just about any occasion; deal with it. And so, before embarking on our Top Gear night, we went to that place and I ordered a tagliatelle with red sauce and chicken. It was OK. The sauce was creamy when hot and it beautifully tangled with the tagliatelle to give it just the right amount of slip. And then things got cold. I ended up with a sticky, dry tagliatelle with some residue of red sauce on it and some chicken. Everything fell apart. It's like the sauce and chicken and tagliatelle were in a beautiful relationship at first, when things were hot and then suddenly everyone has decided to go their way. The tagliatelle had absorbed the life out of the sauce and the chicken was playing solo. Well, that's how I felt anyway. Am I too passionate about pasta?

So yes, coming back to our issue. Why is it so hard to deliver good pasta dishes when you're a fast food outlet?

If you are one of those people who often make pasta dishes (and I know you are) you would know that making pasta is a very time-compelling task. You might look cozy doing it but in your head you are not. You are thinking about the exact moment to put your pasta to boil and how much time to cook your sauce so that the sauce is ready at the exact time when your pasta is boiled al dente so that you can blend the two together and create a miracle. You have to think about your family, you have to start shrieking at them to get ready to eat, to come and fetch their plate. To eat that damn pasta as if it were a nuclear time bomb. But in fact it is a nuclear time bomb. A very vicious one at it. If your sauce is not liquid enough, it would absorb that darn thing in less time that it takes to say "bon appetit".

Now let's transpose this situation to a fast food outlet. You see where the problem lies? Add to that the fact that customers will wander around and come fetch their food much much later after it was prepared. You can't just compel your customers to eat their pasta right away. Appropriate containers to hold the sauce are sparse. You might serve the sauce and pasta separately but both elements would cool much faster - a larger volume takes less time to cool. Pre-boiled pasta is a crime against Italy. You might bank on pasta salads solely. But really, who would like to eat pasta salad so much? Am I biased here? Think about the unctuous velvety texture of some tomato sauce and cream on a fresh boiled pasta and this served hot with a touch of basil and some parmesan. Heaven.

So yeah, if you are looking for a good pasta, either make it at home or go to a good restaurant. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Spaghetti alla puttanesca definitely tops our favourite go-to recipes. It's so simple to make and has those absolutely wonderful tangy, briny and robust flavours. No wonder it's often referred to as the "whore's pasta". The basis for this recipe was taken from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen with some modifications:

  • We've used basil leaves instead of the Parsley
  • We've used some of the oil in which the anchovy was stored for some added flavour

For 2 gluttons you will need:
250 grams of spaghetti
1-2 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
4-5 anchovies
200 grams of chopped peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon of dried chili flakes
2 tablespoon of black pitted olives
1 teaspoon of capers
Salt and pepper
Chopped basil leaves

The cooking method is simple:
Let your spaghetti boil in a large pan of salted boiling water
Simultaneous prepare your sauce.

Heat the olive oil and add in the anchovies (with their oil) and garlic slices.
Let that cook for about 1 minute
The anchovies will melt in the olive oil
Add the tomatoes and dried chili flakes
Let that simmer for about 4-5 minutes
Add the olives and capers and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes
The sauce should have by now reached a smooth consistency
Have a taste before adding the salt and pepper.
Remember the anchovies, capers and olives are inherently salty.

Once your spaghetti is beautifully al dente, toss them in the sauce and blend together.
Add in the basil leaves and eat!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Roasted eggs recipe

I love roasted eggs. In Mauritius here you get it in almost all Chinese restaurants and I`m always keen to try it out at new places. Last year, amongst the colleagues, we had decided to carry out a pot-luck. Each person had to bring something on which we could snack. One of my colleagues brought those eggs and since then I can say that we`re all very much hooked on it. Those roasted eggs have become a must-have of our snack-lunches.

So here we go with the recipe, that I was lucky enough to get from my colleague. As you will notice, I have not provided any measurement for the ingredients required. The thing with this recipe (and I honestly think that is what makes it so fabulous) is that the amount of ingredients used depends on your own taste.

Hard-boiled eggs
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Cinnamon stick
Oyster sauce
Soya sauce
Wine (red or rose)

Boil the eggs and set aside.

In a skillet or pan heat the oil. Add the garlic and cinnamon to let them infuse the oil with their scent.
Add in the eggs and season with salt, pepper and chinese salt. Add in the oyster sauce and soya sauce until the colour seems adequate.
Last but not least, add the wine. In her note, Kaj mentioned that for the wine "the more, the merrier", so you might just let yourself go with the wine.
Let the alcohol evaporate and let the whole preparation cool together and tadaaaaa!