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The Colour Purple

……… I DO THIS, MY WAY! …..”

A fruit of many different names – its common name is ‘Eggplant’, in British English it is called ‘Aubergine’ and here and the whole of South Asia and South Africa its ‘Brinjal’. And although it is technically a fruit – the Brinjal is all over the world used as a vegetable.

I have been collecting different Brinjal recipes now for a very long time – so today I take you to Italy, to Milan to be precise.

My friend Antonia had a splendid housekeeper, Maria, who was an excellent cook. Every time we visited Antonia’s home she used to spoil us with one delicious dish after the other. I have only one major regret – that I did not take lessons from Maria. There was always so much to do in a relatively short time that cooking lessons, I am afraid, were put on the back burner.

If and when you make this dish, try to get the little Baby Brinjal – ok, so they will be 5 minutes more work but, oh, your effort will be well rewarded.
Maria served those with polenta, cooked, cooled and then cut into squares and fried in little olive oil. Do not count calories this time, just use little oil. Those little ones are also very good to be used as part of a buffet, hot or cold – they are equally good. Two bites – and they are gone. But do not fret too much if you cannot get the baby Brinjals – just use their big brothers instead.

Maria called this “una ricetta da cucina povera” (a recipe from the poor kitchen).

This recipe is for 2 as a starter or for 1 hungry person a main dish.

Ingredients

6 x Baby Brinjal
1 x cup (homemade) pasta sauce
6 x cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh basil leaves (or 1 tsp dried basil)
1 x tsp of red chilli flakes (or 1 ½ tsp of paprika powder)
½ x cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or more!)
2 x Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Wash and dry (with a paper towel) your Brinjal.

With a sharp knife cut each one in half and then cut out enough flesh to make a ‘boat’ without cutting into the skin. Do not remove the little stem

Cut the flesh very finely and keep aside.

With a brush ‘paint’ olive oil inside and outside of the Brinjal.
Add 2 tsp of oil into a pan, when hot fry garlic quickly without letting them get brown.
Add chilli flakes (or paprika), stir and then add the chopped Brinjal flesh.
Cook on medium to low heat for a few minutes, until the flesh is quite tender.
Now add your fresh basil (or dried) and the pasta sauce, stir and let simmer for another few minutes.
Add salt and pepper – taste.

When everything is cooked fill your little Brinjal ‘boats’ with this mixture and sprinkle plenty of grated cheese on top of each one.

Transfer to a baking pan or to a low (ovenproof) serving dish – as seen in my photograph – and bake in oven at 180 C for 20-30 minutes.

That’s it – enjoy

Namaskaram
Carina

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Meatless Bolognese all Paseo

……… I DO THIS, MY WAY! …..

Meatless Bolognese all Paseo

June is the month of Saint Antony of Padova and for many years we have travelled to this lovely city, saying our prayers at the shrine in the Basilica and seeing our friends, some of whom actually live or work at the Basilica.

But alas, this year sadly we were not able to travel – but we do so hope that there will be soon a ‘next time’.

So it was a chance for me to telephone a couple of our friends in Padova and have one of our pleasant little chats.

Whilst speaking with Antonia, she somehow mentioned a mutual visit to a charming restaurant on our last trip called “Bastioni Del Moro” in Via Pilade Bronzetti (roughly translated to “Ramparts of the Moor). This is a place which is mostly frequented by locals. We always prefer those kind of restaurants whilst abroad.

Antonia, who is a Vegetarian, ordered her food, Spaghetti con Bolognese. This raised an eyebrow with me – Bolognese? How could she!!! She just smiled and urged me to taste from her plate. And gosh, was I glad I did – it was absolutely delicious and no mincemeat (Keema) in sight. Pure vegetarian, a dish laden with beautiful vegetables and lentils and I really did not miss the meat at all. To be honest, I had forgotten all about this dish and now, speaking to her, I wanted this recipe very badly.

Since then I have made this “Bolognese” a few times, served with pasta, rice, to be eaten with chapatti or naan. Next time I will make thin pancakes, stuff those with my “Bolognese” and serve this dish as a ‘faux lasagne’.

So here it is, and I am happy to share it with you. Of course, as usual, I have given this recipe a little tweak here and there. Do give it a try and you too will be surprised how truly delicious it is.

Ingredients:

1 x large onion, finely chopped
4 x garlic cloves (crushed or finely chopped)
3 x carrots, coarsely grated
2 x large celery sticks – chopped
2 x Tbsp Olive oil
½ x cup of red lentils
4 x large tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ x Tbsp tomato puree
2 x cups vegetable stock
1 x Tbsp mixed (dry) Italian herbs
1 x Tbsp Kashmiri Chilli powder
Salt and pepper to taste

And this is how I made it:

Gently fry Onion, garlic, carrots and celery in oil for appr 5 minutes or until they are all soft.

Add lentils, tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, herbs and chilli powder as well as salt and pepper. Stir.

Cover vessel partially with a lid and simmer for 20 or so minutes – timing depends on how soft you want your lentils.

That’s it – enjoy.

Namaskaram
Carina

TILAPIA IN A LEMON-PARSLEY SAUCE

This here is such an easy and quick fish recipe, which I first tasted in Florence/Italy in one of our friend’s houses. She knew that Jo absolutely adores fish (coming from the coastal area in Kerala this is no wonder!) – and so this was really for him.

Tilapia recipes are seen in profusion all over the Net but it has not, here in Kerala, quite reached the appeal this fish has outside our State.

Compared to Seer fish/King Fish (which is the absolute number One fish here), the price of which has gone literally through the roof, Tilapia is much easier on one’s pocket and apart from that it is a delicious light fish and our freezer is always well stocked.

So I do hope you will enjoy my “<strong>Italian Tilapia dish” as we do. Buon appetito!

For 2 people you will need the following:

For the fish:
400 g Tilapia fillet
25 g Butter
Juice of ½ lemon
Freshly grounded pepper

For the Sauce:
1 Tbsp Butter
1 ½ Tbsp flour
250 ml Milk
Juice from the other ½ of your lemon
A nice handful of Parsley (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

And here is what you do:

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and keep aside.
Heat oven to 190 C.
Wash fish well and dry completely, using paper towels.
Melt butter and stir in the lemon juice.
With a pastry brush, spread this mixture all over the fish fillets, grind the pepper over this and bake in the oven for app. 30 minutes.

In the meantime melt butter on the lowest!! heat.
Add the flour into this and cook for app. 3 minutes, keep stirring all the time.
Now add the cold!! milk and with a balloon whisk, mix everything together.
Bring to a slight boil and then turn down heat to medium for 5-10 minutes – stirring all the while.
Finish this off with salt, lemon juice and chopped up parsley.

To plate:
Place your fish on a plate and top it with the sauce and some basmati rice or a few “finger chips” on the side.

That’s it – all done. Enjoy.

Namaskaram
Carina

Late Valentine’s Day

I know, I know – today is the 27th and Valentine’s Day has been here and gone – but for today I still like to share with you one of my family’s favourite pasta dishes ( and like most this too comes attached with very fond memories of our many many visits to Italy).

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No doubt each and everyone of you who has grownup ‘children’ or grand-children received the occasional (and often slightly frantic) telephone call requesting help with a certain recipe for a lunch or dinner in an hours’ time.

And just this did happen to me again exactly 14 days ago.

Our eldest daughter Bianca and her flat mate had decided in the last minute to throw a small impromptu Valentines Day Party for some of their friends. And since both girls were working long hours there was of course not much time left to do shopping, cooking, decorating their flat etc. So Bianca requested the recipe of a quite simple, but delicious, dish she occasionally likes me to cook for her when she comes home to Cochin.

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Not only is this one of her (many!) favourite pasta dishes (see above), but by chance she had most of the ingredients already in her own kitchen, which made it of course so much easier for her and took hardly any time to prepare after work. So off I went to visit my computer and quickly send her the recipe with minute step-by-step instructions……..and her end result is shown in her own ‘whatsup’ picture.

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And the next day a short message arrived back with me “Success!!! Thank you”

Her friends now got hooked on ‘pasta the Italian way’ and I will have to find the time to send some more recipes off to Bangalore.

And since by chance I too had all the ingredients in my kitchen, I decided to make the very same dish for JS – my own Valentine – and for myself. You may want to go back and also look at my Valentine’s Recipe for 2016.

So today I like to share this recipe with you – it is not only for Valentine’s Day but for any day when you just want to enjoy a nice little Italy inspired meal.

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Creamy Mushroom Sauce over a mountain of spaghetti

1. Spaghetti – enough for 2 people –
2. 1 x box of Champignons (button mushrooms) just wiped clean, but NEVER washed. Sliced and kept aside.
3. A handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in halve
4. 3-4 x cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5. Good helping of fresh parsley and thyme
6. ¾ pack of either Coconut milk or cream (I used Coconut milk today)
7. Salt and pepper to taste
8. 2 tsp of Vegetable Oil ( I am rather mean on oil for health reason)

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The ‘cooking’ is so easy and only takes 15 minutes – so ideal for some of us busy people.

Take a large frying pan, add oil and on medium heat sauté your garlic briefly. Add sliced champignons, stir and continue to cook for a few more minutes.
Now add your personal choice of either coconut milk or cream to this, stir again and check your seasoning, add salt and pepper, most of the chopped parsley and thyme. In the last minute add the baby tomatoes.

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Spaghetti should be ready by now, just take them out of their cooking pot with a spaghetti spoon and add to the sauce in the pan.

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Gently mix everything together, sprinkle the remaining parsley over the finished dish and serve – either directly on individual plates or into a large dish or onto a big platter (whatever!)

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Now just sit down and enjoy this pasta with a beautiful chilled white wine and the company of your nearest-and-dearest…. Whoever that may be.
That’s it – all done – enjoy and Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina

Leg of Lamb

– Part of our memories of England, Tuscany and now India –

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The dish I served at one of my first dinner parties I gave way back in England to introduce JS to some of my friends was, at his request “English Leg of Lamb with all the trimmings” and he still keeps talking about it. He absolutely loved it and I could have made this for him quite easily once a week then.
When later we went to Florence, this beautiful city, I happen to mention to some of our Italian friends the “English Leg of Lamb……” story and guess what! Yes – right, one day at a beautiful Lunch in the Tuscan Countryside they served “Tuscan Leg of Lamb with a spread of beautifully oven roasted vegetables” from their garden – both JS and I thought we had gone to heaven.

But with all this incredible deliciousness maybe secretly a few of Indian spices were missing? So, it happened that when we returned home to South India we managed to get a nice piece of Lamb from one of our meat suppliers in town and set about making for a change an “Indian Leg of Lamb….

All this happened nearly 14 years ago and over time all three variations merged somewhat and we came up with our own Lamb dish.

We managed to get this piece of meat, just around 1 kg, from our new Hypermarket and …… forgot about it for some time in our freezer, until the other day when I had some sort of clear-out.

So in order not to keep on talking about all this, here is what we did earlier this week. But be warned, the “heat” is on (to suit our own taste), but of course, as always, you can turn it down a bit – not too much, though!!

For 2 people I used:

1 x Leg of Lamb, just around 1 kg
6 x green chillies (1 x cut into very thin rings, the rest cut in half)
3 x Onions, peeled and cut into quarters
6 x Carrots, peeled and cut into little chunks (see photos)
6 x Tomatoes, skin removed and cut into quarters
6 x Potatoes, peeled and cut into halves
1 x whole garlic bulb
8 – 10 x garlic cloves, peeled
Some slices of fresh ginger
1 ½ x tsp of Fennel seeds
1 ½ x tsp of Cumin powder
2 x Tbsp Chilli powder
1 ½ Tbsp Garam Masala powder
Salt and black pepper, to your taste
Some Bay leafs
1 whole bunch of fresh Coriander, washed, roots removed
1 x small bunch of fresh Mint, washed, roots removed
1 x handful of olives (from a jar)
1 x Tbsp good Balsamic Vinegar
1 – 2 x Tbsp of Malt Vinegar (check for your taste)
1 – 2 x cups of Water (mixed with the 2 vinegars)

How to prepare your Leg of Lamb:

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On a large baking sheet (big enough to hold the whole leg) put the following: chilli powder, cumin powder, garam masala powder, some salt and black pepper; mix this well, take your Leg of Lamb and just lay it on top of all your above spices and cover the whole leg well from all sides.

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Then, with a sharp knife, cut as many gashes into the meat as you like, (I cut 10) and stuff each one with a whole peeled garlic pod (remember, our garlic is small and so I use more here in India then I would back in Europe). I also cut 4 more gashes which I stuffed each with a sliver of fresh ginger. Cover lightly with a clean cloth and keep aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

How to prepare the “bed” for the Leg of Lamb:

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Take a baking pan (as in the photograph) – line the base loosely with a number of bay leaves, add all the green chillies, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, the garlic bulb, olives.

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Sprinkle some salt over the vegetables and then lay your Leg of Lamb on top of all this.

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And now here is something we learned in Tuscany, cover the meat with all your fresh mint and coriander. This not only gives your meat a subtle flavour but also protects it from coming in direct contact with the foil.

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Mix your 2 vinegars with the water and pour all around the meat and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil (you can of course also use vegetable oil) directly over the meat.

Now cover the whole lot loosely with foil and put it in the pre-heated oven for some time.

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Some time’ I say here, because it all varies from meat to meat and from oven to oven – never the 2 are the same!! So start of as usual, but keep checking after 1 ½ hours.

I checked this time after 2 hours but the meat was not quite ready, so back in it went again for another 20 minutes, checked, done! The smell was enticing – the meat came nearly off the bone.

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I let it rest, with cover on, for 15 minutes and then we were able to sit down for our Lunch.

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N.B. We also like to add some (frozen) green peas, but unfortunately I had non in the freezer this time.

Re the spices, of course you can tone this down a bit, but remember, this is not a traditional ‘European Leg of Lamb’.

Since I do not eat much rice, but enjoy lots of vegetables, I will include more carrots, onions and tomatoes next time.

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So, that’s it! Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina

Courgette Fritters With Fiery Onion Jam

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In 2013, Jo and I took our two girls for a one month vacation to beautiful Madrid. Ostensibly this was meant to be a little “educational trip” for Bianca to look at fashion (she is now a qualified Fashion Designer) and for Andrea to look at Architecture; she too has since qualified and is working as well.

One of the Studios/Salons Bianca and I visited was to this very beautiful Store of “Adolfo Domínguez“ (for more details look at my blog entry of 23.06.2013 – Fashion for comfort & love!). After our “work” we always made our way to the top floor where, to put it simply, we felt a bit like inside the world of “The Devil Wears Prada”. Sometimes it seemed to us, that every woman there nibbling on a lettuce leaf and/or having their glass of delicious wine, had walked straight out of pages of VOGUE. In retrospect I would have liked to eat (and photograph!) my way through Chef’s small but very delicious looking menu.

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(Pic. Above: Inside the top-floor Cafeteria at “Adolfo Domínguez” – a little heaven amidst the noise and hectic of Madrid.)

But one item from his blackboard I really loved and in the end he very kindly shared the recipe with me.

I have altered it a little bit – in order to suit our own pallet giving it a little bit more ‘kick’ especially re the spices -.

This is lovely for Snacky food served on a bed of beautifully crisp green salad with the Onion Jam as an accompaniment and when made smaller and a bit thicker also as cocktail party food.

So, why not give those little Fritters a try – maybe you too end up liking them as we do in my own little family.

Little Courgette Fritters with fiery onion jam

Recuerdos de Madrid – Memories of Madrid

Right at the beginning a little word of advice, when you make the onion jam, make double or even treble the amount you want for your fritters, this thick chutney like jam is so Moorish, it keeps well in your fridge up to a week – you also might want to have it with your favourite cheese!!!

I used the following:

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Appr. 1 lb courgettes (yellow or green), top and tailed, coarsely grated and kept aside in a bowl
A small chunk of hard cheese (either freshly! grated Parmesan or Cheddar), kept aside

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2 eggs, slightly beaten with a fork
App. 4 Tbsp of Besan (yellow) flour also known as garbanzo bean flour, chickpea flour (or plain)
Salt and pepper (you will need a bit more salt here than usual)
¾ Tbsp of Kashmiri Chilli powder
½ tsp of fennel powder
½ tsp of cumin powder
Small bunch of Spring onions (use the green part only!)
Vegetable Oil for frying
1 very clean cheese clothes
A few sheets of kitchen paper towel

To make the onion jam I used the following:

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4 large onion, thinly sliced
½ Tbsp Oil
3 green chillies
5 small garlic pods
1 Tbsp (maximum) soft brown sugar
½ tsp of dry red chilli flakes
Heat oil in a wide pan, add your onions and the garlic, stir and on low heat and cook this for the next 20 minutes, approx.. or until onions are very soft.

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When done let this cool down quickly and transfer to your Blender with the chillies, sugar and the chilli flakes and “blitz” until everything is very smooth.
Return to the pan and once again on very low flame cook for an additional 10 minutes. Done! And ready to be used with the fritters.

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Tip the grated Courgettes onto the cheesecloth and wring out as much of the liquid, which will have appeared, and move to a large mixing bowl. Now add the eggs, cheese, flour and all the spices and the spring onion greens and mix well. Check seasoning.

Take your pan, add just enough oil to cover the pan and heat on medium flame. When hot add dollops of your fritter mixture with a big spoon carefully into the oil, flatten the fritters slightly and gently fry for 3-4 minutes on either side. A word of warning: do not take your eyes off them for a second – they can turn dark very quickly (see my own disastrous first attempt: delicious but near cinder top and bottom!!)

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Remove and keep on the sheets of kitchen paper to lose some of the oil (do not cover). If you make a large batch, keep them on a baking sheet inside your oven on very low heat to keep warm.

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When you finished making all your fritters, bring them to your table with the beautiful jam in a separate bowl and enjoy!!

Carina

Notes: You can of course also use half/half (yellow/green) courgettes.
The amount of chillies used is suited for our own pallet; tone it down if you want, but……you do want ‘the kick
’!

Carina’s Version of “Polpette al Sugo”

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This is my very own quick version of a sort of “Polpette al Sugo” – the original we often have when back in Italy – nothing can beat those wonderful fresh Italian tomatoes and their addictive (at least for us) “ mozzarella di buffalo

Prep time 20 mins cooking time 45 mins Serves 4

1 lb. lean beef, minced 2 x (or Chicken, if you prefer)
1 x cup fresh white breadcrumbs
2 x garlic cloves, crushed
3 x Tbsp Parsley, chopped finely
Salt and pepper, to your taste
1x egg, slightly beaten
150 g x mozzarella cheese (cut into appr. 16 small cubes)
1x Tbsp vegetable oil
1 x large onion, finely chopped
400 g x fresh tomatoes, skin removed and squashed with your hands
1 x pack of spaghetti

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1.. Take a bowl; add beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, half the parsley, salt and pepper and the egg, mix well.
2.. Take one of the previously cut cheese cubes and 1 large tsp of beef mixture and cover the cube with this.
3.. Take large pan, heat oil, add prepared meat balls and brown on all sides on medium heat.

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4.. Add chopped onion, cook for 3-5 mins, and then add all the tomatoes with their juice. Simmer, cover with lid and cook for another 30 minutes.

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5.. Uncover pan and continue cooking for another 10 mins, so that sauce will reduce and slightly thickens.

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6.. While all this is going on, boil your spaghetti following packet instructions; but keep ‘tasting and testing’ – don’t overcook pasta.
7.. When done, drain and put into a slightly warmed big bowl.

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8.. Serve with the Meat Balls, sprinkled with the remaining parsley, from a separate bowl.

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NOTES:
With this I often just serve a nice crisp green salad or a tomato salad, which JS loves very much.

Also occasionally I add a couple of teaspoons of Curry powder to the meat mixture – it always depends who is coming and joins us for a meal. It really is purely a question of individual taste.

Of course you can also use tinned chopped tomatoes if you really have to.

Buon Appetito – Guten Appetit
Carina