Bacon, Zucchini & Sundried Tomato Gnocchi

bacon gnocchi 01

This is lunch.

Sometimes I need to raid my fridge and pantry to put together odds and ends that aren’t quite enough for individual larger dishes, marrying pantry staples such as pastas with stray vegetables that will spoil in a short while.

The results can be delicious, such as this dish. The Gnocchi (a pillow-like morsel made of potato flour, pronounced nyo-kee) was bought from the store and pan fried in a little butter, which gives it a bit of crispness (they can be boiled like fresh pastas too). The sauce was some turkey bacon browned, then garlic, onion & celery, followed by chunks of zucchini, then tomato, and finished with a spoonful of sundried tomato paste and a little squeeze of harissa. No water was added. The prepared gnocchi was stirred in and left covered for a few minutes to soak up the sauce, then finally tossed with a good handful of chopped parsley.

bacon gnocchi 02


A Hankering for Noodles

ingredients for fried noodles
I am a lazy cook. No other way to say it. I have no patience for slowly stirred sauces, carefully watched pots, or preparations that need fifteen different components plated at the last minute. If it all sits together in a bowl and I can eat it with one utensil, then so much the better.

I am also a stubborn cook. Stir fries have often tantalised me, and every time I try my hand at one I learn a little more, make it a little better. I’m at the stage now where I can’t quite bang out a hundred plates of noodles that all look and taste the same, but the outcome is generally tasty, and even when my own pantry conspires to throw me a curveball, I can generally deal with it.

Today’s conundrum: the urge to eat fried noodles, with all the correct ingredients I like in fried noodles — except for noodles themselves. The closest thing I had was a packet of linguine — not the regular kind, which is a fine substitute for stir fries (spaghetti is too), but a dark green basil flavoured one.

Nevertheless, I soldiered on, and above is almost everything that went into it besides salt, pepper, oil and a last minute squirt of Sriracha, i.e.: an egg (fried as an omelet, cooled, cut into strips), noodles, celery, carrot, baby corn, garlic, asparagus, mushrooms — and mixed for the sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil.

plate of chinese fried noodles made with linguine
Put them all together and you get this. It didn’t taste half bad, though after a while the taste of basil completely disappeared, and that was a bit disappointing. Guess the noodles would benefit from a more delicate saucing than being tossed around in soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil until good old Maillard reactions do their magic.

close up of chinese fried noodles made with linguine


Recipe – Thai Green Curry Risotto with Vegetables

thai green curry risotto
I‘m not one of those people who is averse to what is generally known as ‘fusion’ cooking. In fact, if one thinks about the history of food then really everything is fusion cooking in one way or the other.

However, rarely do I attempt to combine things from two different food cultures — I’m still learning, but once in a while a bit of experimenting is good. So today’s dish combines two of my favourite dishes: Thai Green Curry and Italian Risotto. I’m certainly not the first person to make this dish — there are dozens of recipes online for the same — but I did go into it with a bit of trepidation. The results turned out pretty damn delicious, so here’s my recipe.

The basic method is the same as my usual lunchtime ‘one and a half pot risotto’, only with coconut milk and curry paste. But, since I’ve never written that recipe down on this blog, I’ll go over it as part of this.

Bring 1 to 1.5 litres of water or stock to under a boil, and keep it on a low flame (this is the ‘half’ pot). On a separate flame, into a heavy-bottom vessel add a couple of cloves of minced garlic to a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot and the garlic fragrant, add in one finely diced small onion (about a fistful of mass).

Saute the onion and garlic on low heat until translucent. Meanwhile dice one carrot, one handful of fresh baby corn, and one small head of broccoli* about the same size as the onion. Add these to the frying onions.

*(The conventional wisdom is that you only use the broccoli florets and discard the thick stalk. This is lunacy, as the stem is perfectly fine to eat and very flavourful, so dice that up too)

Now, usually these vegetables would be fried in a pan without the onions & garlic and set aside — only added to the risotto at the very end — but I’m lazy and since I don’t use vegetable stock I find that this method imparts quite a bit of flavour to the rice that the plain water doesn’t, even if the results are slightly less than pretty. You can always reserve some of the fried veg for colour and garnish.

To the sauteed vegetables add two-three good teaspoons of Thai Green Curry Paste. You can make your own (plenty of recipes on the net) but I just use the store-bought one. It tastes fine to me. The paste will begin to brown and maybe stick to the bottom. Wedge it off with your spoon.

Once the spice paste has sauteed for a few minutes, add in the Arborio risotto rice. 75g per person is usually quite generous (especially since we have quite a bit of veg), and 100 is probably overkill. With the measurements for the vegetables, you can generously feed 2-3 people as a main.

Sautee the rice for a few minutes more, then add in one can (400ml) of Coconut milk. Stir and bring to the boil. Adjust seasoning, and put in a half teaspoon of sugar.

Now you have to cook the rice like an ordinary risotto, i.e. as the liquid is absorbed add in a ladleful of water/stock from you other pot, until that is absorbed, stirring frequently. The final consistency you want should still be runny, though quite creamy. It can take between 15-20 minutes for the rice to cook to however much you like it. When it’s done mix in a good pinch of chopped basil, turn off the heat, and cover for a minute or two.


Om nom nom, etc.


Roasted Tofu Salad Recipe

A bowl of roasted tofu salad
(Since a couple of people asked for the recipe of this after I tweeted it yesterday, and I got tired of repeating the same in chat windows and comment boxes, and figured I might as well post it here.)

A couple of days ago, I tried to experiment with tofu. I’ve eaten it several times before in restaurants, but never cooked with it, and have always eyed the fairly inexpensive blocks sitting on supermarket shelves with some trepidation. But having seen enough cooking shows where tofu is used, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I didn’t, however, have any oriental ingredients in the house, it being ages since I last cooked stir fry. So while I would have liked to come up with some kind of sweet and spicy dark soy glaze, perhaps some celery and cashews, that implementation would have to wait until next time. I did have my faithful stock of everyday ingredients though, and I craved smoky, charred flavours that day. Instead of stir-frying it I decided to oven-roast it.

First, I heated some extra virgin olive oil in an oven-proof skillet, and added in a couple of cloves of sliced garlic, as well as a dried red chilli for heat (you can use chilli flakes or powder later, but I like the garlic and chilli to infuse the oil a little). When they started to colour, in went one medium sliced onion, which I slowly browned.

Meanwhile, I cubed a pack of fresh mushrooms, a medium sized carrot and a zucchini of roughly the same size. These went into the pan when the onions were not-quite brown (they’ll be finished off in the oven) and tossed about (I think that here you can add in pretty-much anything that might roast well: red bell peppers spring to mind, eggplant might work too).

Now for the tofu: it’s fairly delicate — at least the one I got was — but a steady, light hand and a sharp knife will yield few uneven pieces. I cubed these to around the same size as the other vegetables, and a couple of minutes later they went into the pan with everything else. I didn’t stir or toss vigorously now, because I wanted to keep the tofu chunks as whole as possible. Some breaking and crumbling will occur, so just go with it. later you’ll be blessed with tiny charred nuggets of goodness every now and then.

Then I seasoned it with salt, pepper, dry Italian herbs, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I tried to mix as best I could without destroying the tofu, and then took it off the heat and put it under a low grill

This gave me time to prepare the salad it was going into. I would have like to have something peppery in the house like rocket (arugula), but all I had was romaine lettuce, so that would have to do. I also had a can each of chick peas and sweet corn kernels. Since this was a hearty full-meal salad, I added those into the salad bowl too along with the chopped lettuce. I didn’t have tomatoes in the house, but one of those would be nice too (or something sweet and tart like green apple). For crunch and more flavour I tossed in some walnuts too.

(Now, I know this may sound like too many ingredients and flavours, but I like my meals complex. Feel free to omit anything you don’t like, or scale back accordingly.)

Every seven minutes or so, I checked on the tofu. It was grilling nicely, the edges going a nice brown colour. As they roast they get easier to handle, so I gently stirred them around to expose unroasted areas, then put them back under the grill. Since I was doing the salad meanwhile, time went by quickly, and by the time I thought the tofu was done around 25 minutes had passed under the grill. You can ramp up the heat and see what happens if you’re in a hurry.

The final step is to just place everything in a bowl. You can put the cold salad ingredients at the bottom and spoon the roasted tofu and veggies on top, but I jut put everything together. I don’t like heavy dressings, so just another splash of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil on top for me.

And there you have it. I liked the way it turned out, and I’m definitely going to try tofu at home again. I also proved to myself that it’s versatile enough that you don’t need to use it only in oriental dishes. I’m vaguely curious as to what saag-tofu tastes like now!

A bowl of roasted tofu salad


Scrambled Eggs, Indian Style

Scrambled Eggs, Indian Style.

Burji is an Indian Railway Station institution. Throughout the country, stands with sizzling cast iron griddles serve up plate after plate of this stuff with soft, butter-seared pillows of pav bread late into the night. You shovel it off steel plates, sopping up every last bit with the spongy bread, and perhaps contemplating another serving (or even eyeing the tray of sheep’s brains which the stall also prepares in a similar way.).

It’s hard to say which came first; the silky, creamy Continental version of scrambled eggs, or this spicy Indian one (anda bhurji). It’s fair to say that both could have cropped up independently, and I’m certain that scrambled eggs were invented before the omelet (everyone tries to pass off a failed omelet as scrambled eggs when they’re learning).

I like both versions; they each have their purpose. The Indian, for instance, wouldn’t be the best match with buttered white toast and ketchup, and the Continental would not take to chapattis very well. They’re both easy and quick to make (though this one requires a few more ingredients), and are equally scrumptious.



In a heavy bottom pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on a medium flame, and add in one clove of garlic, sliced or minced, and one thumb-sized green chilli slit down the middle (you may scrape away the seeds to reduce its heat, and remember, in India at least the smaller the chilli the hotter it is). Finely dice a medium onion and add it to the pan; sautee until translucent (I know some people who like it still crunchy, and some who prefer it brown and caramelised. It’s up to you).

Take a tomato that’s a little smaller than the onion and dice it large. If you’re using cherry tomatoes you can simply halve two or three of them. When the onion is cooked add the tomato and sautee further.

When the tomatoes are cooked, add a pinch of turmeric powder. Good turmeric is strong, so use sparingly, and use a spoon to dispense it if you don’t want your fingertips to turn yellow for a few days. The rich, deep yellow colour that results from adding it is something you’ll want to replicate in all egg dishes, and so turmeric may be used in omelet mixes as well (just dissolve it in a teaspoon of milk or water so that no lumps are fomed).

Along with the turmeric I also add a little chilli powder. The powdered red chilli adds a different kind of heat to the sharper fresh green chilli, and when used in tandem they give a more rounded spicy taste.

Note that adding in curry powder instead of turmeric may be okay but I wouldn’t advise it. Curry powder contains several other spices such as coriander and cumin that would interfere with the generally clean and simple taste of the eggs.

Sautee for a minute until the spices take to the onions and tomato. Turn the heat up to high and add in a quarter cup of water, bringing it up to a simmer.

(A Side Note: This mix you have in the pan right now — before you add the eggs — is a very versatile one, and is sort of like the ‘trinity’ they use in Cajun cuisine. From this point, you can pretty-much add anything to this and come out with a good dish. Green beans. Mushrooms. Strips of Chicken. Tuna. Spinach. Paneer. Boiled, diced Potatoes. Tofu. Broccoli. A drained can of beans. Seafood. The list is endless, and what you’ll end up with can be called a bhaji. Anyway, back to the burji…)

If you like, you can break all your eggs into a bowl beforehand and beat them as you would an omelet mix, seasoning that with salt and pepper. I just season the onions and tomato and break the eggs in whole, scrambling them in the pan one or two at a time with a wooden fork. Either way now is the time to add in 4-6 eggs, depending on their size (i.e. 2-3 per head).

Stir the mixture around until the eggs are cooked. That water we added earlier will make the burji crumbly and more like mincemeat rather than creamy scrambled eggs. You can keep it creamy by omitting the water, beating the eggs up with some milk beforehand and not cooking them as much, but in general this is how burji is prepared in India. Finally, plate up and garnish with finely chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately with either chapattis or spongy bread that has been buttered on one side and seared on a pan (soft baguettes work well).

Eggsplicitly Speaking… (and not)

I mentioned before that the basic preparation of onions, tomatoes, garlic and chilli with turmeric is a base for a lot of dishes — bhajis — in Indian cuisine. If you’re vegetarian in the Indian sense then you may substitute crumbled paneer for the eggs, and end up with a popular dish called paneer burji. It’ve also had a similar paneer dish where the tomatoes and onions were pureed instead of whole (blitz the raw ingredients seperately beforehand, then fry as above), and the dish was finished off with cream for a strangely italian-tasting dish that might have gone well with the right kind of pasta.

Indeed, even this kind of burji might make a nice variation on Chinese Egg Fried Rice, if made in a wok with cold cooked rice put in just before you add beaten eggs.

I’ve had proper scrambled eggs much fewer times than burji. Chalk it up to the more pungent taste and the fact that it is easier to get right; you can prepare it without obsessing over it. It also works as a good lunch or dinner for one, and it firmly fits in the category of Comfort Food for me.

Perhaps it’s the memory of late nights coming home in Bombay, hungry and tired, when the only things open are the hawkers outside the train stations; islands of enticing aromas lit by kerosene lamp beacons. In the pool of their turmeric light, many a truly great meal has been had.