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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

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

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

‘TUSCAN CHICKEN WITH CAPERS’ or memories of Le Celle!

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Once again, Easter came and went. Life here has turned very quickly back to its normal hectic happening, and with that for me the question “what to cook for the family and what to post on my Blog” became a sort of minor issue.

Instead of going to sleep at night I lay awake thinking what to shop, cook etc. etc. I wanted to go away for a little while from my Indian dishes – like going international; to places where we had been in the past and where we sampled the local food.

So, Chicken jumped into my mind (I love chicken, cooked any which way!) So, one quick look into my freezer and having found a pack of Drumsticks I then opened my fridge and found a freshly opened bottle of Capers. And with that my memory jumped back just a few years ago when Jo and I once again were staying in Florence, this beautiful city. During that holiday friends took us in their car out into the Tuscan country site past the little town of Cortona to the beautiful Convent de Le Celle, which is a 13th-century Franciscan Convent located in Le Celle, just outside Cortona. A visit never to be forgotten – so beautiful and peaceful.
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On the way back we then briefly stopped in Cortona for a light lunch and when I saw this dish, Chicken with Capers, I simply had to try it. I love Capers and use it quite often in my cooking, especially with fish, eggs, etc. And also I had just seen the courtyard walls at Le Celle covered with Capparis spinosa, the caper bush but unfortunately for me the fruit was not matured enough to be picked.
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Now back home here in Kerala I now like to cook this dish whenever I am able to find a jar of capers.
So, not to leave you too long in suspense, here is my re-creation of this delicious dish, which I named simply:

‘TUSCAN CHICKEN WITH CAPERS’ or memories of Le Celle!
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For 2 people you will need:

4 chicken drumsticks (or more, if you are hungry)
1 large Onion, finely minced in your Mixy
Some salt and black pepper
Minced parsley, a very generous amount, app. ½ cup or so
2-3 Tbsp. of well-rinsed capers (whole)
Chicken broth, app. 1 ½ cup
3 Tbsp. of white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Some extra parsley for decoration.
How to cook:
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Heat your Wok with ½ the oil over medium heat, add the minced onions with a sprinkling of salt, and cook until soft. Stir once in a while.
When cooked transfer onions to a plate. Add remaining oil to Wok and turn up heat slightly.
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Now add your Chicken drumsticks (I like to rub them lightly with a mixture of salt and black pepper) and gently fry those all around until they are nicely golden. Remove and also keep on a plate.

Add onion puree, parsley and the capers to Wok, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. After this add broth and vinegar (check, you might want to use a bit more or less of vinegar – depending on your personal taste), followed by the chicken drumsticks and their juices.
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Gently stir, cover, keep heat on low and simmer until cooked to your liking.
Creamy mashed potatoes and some slightly steamed vegetables taste particularly good with this.
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Guten Appetit, my friends,
Carina

Valentine – Memories of Torcello

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                                                          Love is indescribable and unconditional.
I could tell you a thousand things that it is not,
but not one that it is.
– Duke Ellington

2V ….is for VALENTINE!
Right now the Internet is crowded with advertisements to buy this, that and the other for your loved one on the occasion of Valentine Day. Buy, buy, buy is the bombardment onto your brain, conscience and purse. So a small fortune will be spend on highly overprized flowers, mainly deep red roses, chocolates, champagne etc. etc.

Not in this house thou, take me for example – I loathe deep red roses (call it bad memories), don’t particular care for chocolates and champagne…….! hmm, now that is a totally different matter, but sadly this we cannot get here easily (so we will have to wait for another trip to Le Paris!).
JS today surprised me with two things: he wants to take me out for Dinner and a bit of dancing on Valentine’s Eve and he also wanted me to cook for him one of his favourite Pasta dishes for Lunch taking him (and me!) down a very beautiful memory lane.

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Venice lovers know of this beautiful little island just off the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon. For JS and I there has and never will be a time we visited Venice when we would not take the boat and motor away from the main frenzy of tourists from all over the world in order to enjoy nearly a whole day in the far more peaceful surroundings of this beautiful little island – Torcello!

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On the odd occasion we not only had our customary lazy lunch there but even spent a night in the famous LOCANDA CIPRIANI. Heaven – sheer Heaven!

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The Locanda and the Island deserve their own story, but another time, for now just enjoy the recipe given here and maybe you too have your own memory of this place; do let me know. So, at my very own Valentine’s request I give you today

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Memories of Torcello
(i.e. Spaghetti, Prawns in a creamy caper-white-wine sauce)
For 2 servings I used today:

½ lb spaghetti
½ lb of cleaned/deveined prawns
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp capers in their brine
1 big handful of Spring onions (greens and all), chopped, app. 2 cups
1 Tbsp crushed dry red pepper flakes (adjust to your personal taste)
1 large lemon, zest and the juice of…
½ cup of dry white wine (adjust to your personal taste)
¼ cup of heavy cream
Salt to taste

Preparation:
Boil your Spaghetti in a large pot of salted water until just ‘al dente’.
Wash prawns, pat dry and add some salt, mix.
Heat ½ of your olive oil in a wide pot (I used my Wok), add prawns and cook only for 2-3 minutes maximum i.e. until they turn just a bit pink. Lift out of the oil and keep aside.
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Now add the rest of the oil and all the spring onions for another 2-3 minutes, keep stirring all the time. Add the capers and the chilli flakes and cook these for app. another minute. Add lemon zest and juice and white wine and simmer for another 2 minutes or so.
Take ¾ – 1 cup of the cooking water from the boiling spaghetti, add this to the pan together with the cream. Simmer very gently for another couple of minutes.
When Spaghettis are cooked remove from their water with a tong and move them straight into the sauce.
Gently mix all this together. Garnish with a few more red chilli flakes, green Spring onions and prawns and serve with a big smile to your loved one.
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Mangia Bene – Enjoy our memories.
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PS: For a more in-depth story re. Valentine’s Day, please read JS own story on his personal blog http://www.manningtreearchive.com : “The Roots and Wings of Valentine

PPS: Sadly I lost most of my pictures in a computer crash, hence I used other sources.