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Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

November 11, 2009
 Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Does this look like the same old broccoli that we are all used to?

I love broccoli. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s healthy, it’s fresh, it’s colourful, it’s crunchy, it’s tasty, it’s great!

It stumps me when I read stories about parents have a tough time shoving broccoli down their little ones’ throats while they make a fuss about eating their greens. In fact, the only vegetable I thought I didn’t like was green beans. That was until I tried a green bean stir fry at a restaurant in NYC. I couldn’t believe I asked for more! That’s when it struck me that it’s not about that vegetable, it’s about how it is cooked. Each vegetable is different and it needs to be cooked right to extract the maximum flavor from it.

So the other day while I was flipping through the pages of Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, I stopped at the photo of Parmesan roasted broccoli. Whenever I read Parmesan, my heart tends to skip a beat. And now that I had a few heads of broccoli in the refrigerator (along with all the other ingredients – yeah, I was surprised too!) this was the perfect opportunity to make myself some Parmesan roasted broccoli!

Just something that I’d like to share with you – I love this book a lot because it is filled with simple ideas that are so easy to put together in minutes. It is the ideal cookbook to refer to when you want a fix yourself a quick, healthy dinner. This and Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food are kept together in my bookshelf for meals that take under 30 minutes.

Back to the broccoli. It took about 10 minutes to prepare, and the parmesan along with the broccoli was so cruncy and flavourful! What complemented the broccoli the most was the lime zest (I love you, my Microplane zester, you made zesting so much easier!) – it added such a zing to the dish. Loved when my mouth was hit with some grated zest that had held together. And no points for guessing that I doubled the quantity of garlic involved.

Lemon Zest

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Serves 6
Adapted from: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics – Ina Garten

4-5 pounds / 2kgs broccoli
8 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon or lime zest (I used lime)
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice (lime, again)
4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 tbsp basil, julienned
Salt and pepper to season

  1. Cut and wash the broccoli into chunky florets (they will reduce in size after roasting). Then lay the broccoli out on a kitchen napkin to dry (like, very, very dry) while you prep things up.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C.
  3. Now in a sheet pan, arrange the broccoli in a single layer and toss the garlic on it. Drizzle with 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Roast for 20 minutes or until the broccoli has browned a bit and the broccoli has a crisp-tender texture.
  5. As soon as you remove it from the oven, toss it with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and the rest of the ingredients – lemon juice, lemon zest, pine nuts, Parmesan and basil. Serve hot.
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Some points that will help you along the way:

  • Make sure to dry the broccoli very well before you roast them – if they have water on them they will tend to steam more than dry roast. You could lay them on a kitchen napkin for 30 minutes after you’ve washed them.
  • Let your pan preheat in the oven so it gets scorching hot, and then toss the broccoli on it to get maximum crispiness.
  • I think the lemon is the key part – don’t skimp on the lime zest – add a squeeze of the lime juice if you like (I didn’t though).
  • I loved the pine nuts in them. I think walnuts would taste fab too.

I hope this works and you get your family to eat their greens. Though, I still haven’t replicated that green bean recipe, I’m so scared I might fail and go back to hating green beans!


Stuffed Aubergine

August 26, 2009
Ingredients for Stuffed Eggplant


Over the past weekend, while I was catching up on my feeds, my heart skipped a beat when I saw a beautiful photo of stuffed eggplants on La Tartine Gourmande. The stunning visual was enough to convince me to make them.


On my weekend grocery trip, I made sure to buy a firm and plump eggplant to make these stuffed shells of goodness. Grandma’s tip: run your finger over the eggplant and look closely – there shouldn’t be any tiny holes on it or you’ll have company when you cut it open.

This is one heck of a recipe that’s awfully flavourful and indescribably comforting. You will find yourself take one quick bite after another and will find it hard to share. I promise. What I also like about the recipe is that is excellent to make ahead of time and then reheat just before you want to eat it. This is one comfort food you should not deprive yourself of.


Ingredients for Stuffed eggplant


Stuffed Eggplants
Adapted from: Beatrice Peltre
Yield: 2 servings

2 medium or 1 large eggplant
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 medium ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup paneer or whole milk ricotta (I used crumbled paneer)
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 sausages or 2 slices ham, finely diced, or omit this if you’re vegetarian (I used chicken sausages)
1 egg, beaten
Extra fresh cilantro, chopped (for sprinkling)

  1. Set the oven at 400°F/200°C.
  2. Halve the eggplant lengthwise. Place them in the baking dish, cut sides up. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Scoop out the eggplant flesh with a spoon and mash it gently with a fork.
  4. In a skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When it is hot, add the coriander, cumin and chopped garlic to it. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant.
  5. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Stir in the eggplant flesh. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until the mixture is pulpy and well flavored. Discard the bay leaf.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F/190C.
  8. Stir the paneer/ricotta, parmesan, cilantro, sausages/ham, salt, and pepper into the eggplant mixture. Once the mixture is little cool, stir in the beaten egg. Fill the eggplant shells back with the stuffing. Reserve some of the parmesan for later.
  9. Return the shells to the baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil. Bake the eggplant for 30-40 minutes or until the shells are tender when pierced with a skewer. During the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the reserved parmesan on top of the eggplant for a golden, cheesy finish!
  10. Plate it. Eat it.
Stuffed Aubergine

Again, go make this – your family will love you more. I’m talking from experience.


Three Pepper Spaghetti Carbonara

December 5, 2008
image_3I’ve got to admit, I have a fear of raw eggs. Actually, fear is an understatement; it’s more like paranoia. And that it why it took me a lot of reading up to finally make some Spaghetti Carbonara. Right now Carbonara veterans and lovers probably think I’m crazy, and will tell me that the eggs get cooked in the heat from the spaghetti. Thinking rationally – Duh, of course it would! However, to me it just didn’t *feel* right. That was until the day I made some Spaghetti Carbonara of my own.

After hearing good things about this dish and sneaking a bite from a friend’s place at a restaurant, I thought it was high time I gave it a shot. And once I did, I realised how very simple it is to prepare and yet so delicious. Given the time spent in preparing it, the returns are HUGE!

I set out to make spaghetti with a mix of black peppercorn, pink peppercorn (yes, PINK!) and Sichuan peppercorns, which my friend got me all the way from McLeod Ganj!


Spaghetti Carbonara
Yield : 2 servings

250g spaghetti
Water for boiling the spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
100g bacon, cubed -I used chicken bacon for that’s my only option.
2 raw egg*, beaten
2 tbsp mixed peppers (pink peppercorn, black peppercorn, Sichuan peppercorn), ground together
50g Parmesan/Grana Padano or any hard cheese, grated
2 tbsp parsley, chopped

* A lot of the recipes call for yolks only, I almost always end up throwing away the white, so I thought I ‘d rather use up the entire thing – a good decision!


  1. 1. Bring the water to the boil. Add the salt and drop the dried spaghetti. Cook according to package instructions / al dente. While the pasta boils, continue with the next step.
    Deviating here a bit, but do you add oil to your pasta water? I used to but now I don’t. For if the oil floats on top then how will it ever keep the pasta from sticking?
  2. In a large pot (more space to toss the pasta, therefore more convenient) heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic. Let it soften a bit. Add the chopped onions and continue to sauté until it has softened. Add the cubes of bacon and let it cook until it’s golden on the edges and the onions are pink. Do not let the onions brown.
  3. Drain the pasta and toss it into the large pot. Mix well to coat evenly with the onions and olive oil. If at all the pasta looks dry, add a splash of extra virgin olive oil to it. Turn off the heat. Now what’s left is the addition of eggs.
    Tip: Add the salt and the peppers to beaten eggs for it to spread evenly. However, keep in mind that both, the bacon and cheese will add a touch of salt.
    What I was thinking in my head at this point: Would the eggs cook? Would I be having spaghetti with a raw egg sauce? *eek*
  4. Now is when you add the beaten eggs. And with all your might just STIR, STIR, STIR. And stir a bit more. And a bit more. Okay, you’re done. :)
  5. Next, add the grated cheese and cover it for a minute or so for all the beautiful fragrances to sit together.
  6. Sprinkle over some cilantro, more pepper and cheese and serve. Yum yum yum!
    Tip: If you think you’re behind time with the sautéing, and the pasta is almost (almost, and not completely) done, turn off the head and let it sit in water. Drain it when required so the spaghetti is still hot.

This was delicious. How can I be absolutely sure? Fussy little sister wiped the plate clean. Well almost.



Sage Garlic Butter Gnocchi

August 14, 2008


Gnocchi (NYOH-kee) are Italian potato dumplings. They are often dubbed as “smart pasta” because unlike pasta, they rise to the surface when ready. Gnocchi are widely available frozen at supermarkets and are a convenient choice for a quick meal or a side dish. When something is easily available you just doesn’t feel like going through all the trouble of making it from scratch. But when you’ve made your own gnocchi, there is a wonderful sense of accomplishment!


Because gnocchi are so delicate, they are best had with light sauces. Often they are dressed with only melted butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The sage, garlic and butter combination is perfect for me because I’m more than happy to have herbs wherever I get the opportunity. Besides, you wouldn’t want to toil in the kitchen after having spent so much time on the gnocchi anyway.

Gnocchi are lighter and more delicate when the potatoes are baked or roasted rather than boiled. That’s a because boiled potatoes will have a much higher water content and therefore, will need to be countered by a higher quantity of flour – resulting in more dense gnocchi. The flour merely does the job of binding the potato together. Thus, the lesser the flour, the lighter the gnocchi.

A little about shaping the gnocchi: It’s important to shape them evenly, else you’ll end up with some inconsistently cooked gnocchi. You could make different shapes. Below are two shapes that I’ve tried. To shape it like the first one, hold a fork in one hand and place a gnoccho against the tines of the fork. As for the second one, simple make tiny roundels will the dough and make a slight dent in the middle (this will help the gnocchi hold the sauce well). You should try the second shape if you want to finish quicker.

When you’ve become adept at making gnocchi you could also try potato gnocchi coloured with spinach, carrots, tomato or beetroot.

Sage Garlic Butter Gnocchi Recipe

For the gnocchi

1 kg (2 lbs) whole baking potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
150g (5 oz.) flour

Sage Garlic Butter

A splash of extra virgin olive oil
60g (2 oz.) tablespoons butter
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Sage leaves, cut lengthwise – quantity depends on your taste – I like mine very, very herby!


60g (2 oz.) Parmesan shavings
More sage leaves for garnish
Freshly cracked pepper
A drizzle of truffle oil if you feel like indulging :)

Roast and peel the potatoes and mash them while they’re still warm. After you’re done mashing, just fluff them up with a fork to give them some volume. If you have a potato ricer, you could use that instead.Add the flour, egg and salt. Mix by hand until you have a nice a pliable ball of dough. Do not over work the dough.
Dust your work area with flour. Take the dough, a piece at a time, and roll it out gently with your hands until you have rolls about 1.5cm/0.6″ in diameter. Key here, is do it gently.Cut the tubes of dough into pieces about 2 cms/0.8″ long. Using either the tines of a fork or your fingertip to form an indentation. At this point if you feel you’ve done enough hard work you could just hide the some in the freezer and surprise yourself later! Asyou are making the gnocchi, place them on flat baking pan, lightly dusted with flour or lined with wax paper.Freeze what you like, them first on a floured or lined tray, then once completely frozen you can put them into a freezer bag.
To cook, just put the frozen gnocchi into salted water (or add a cube of chicken stock to this for extra flavour) that has come to a rolling boil. Gently drop the gnocchi, a few at a time, into the water. As soon as they rise (about 4-6 minutes) to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon. Drain well.
Now for the Sage Garlic Butter; in a large pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil, add the butter and garlic and sauté. Make sure the garlic doesn’t turn brown. Add the sage, continue too cook for a minute then add the gnocchi. Sauté till the gnocchi is slightly golden.
Serve on a plate garnished with parmigiano reggiano shavings, cracked pepper and truffle oil.
This turned out so well, it makes me want to pack my bags and live and cook under the Tuscan sun and learn traditional Italian cooking (the perfect life!).

Helpful tips:

If it’s going to be a while before your sauce is ready, then remove the cooked gnocchi in a dish and coat with some extra virgin olive oil, else it might stick to each other.
If the potatoes aren’t warm enough while mashing, heat them over a double boiler until warm again and continue to mash.
This makes for an interesting read: The great gnocchi debate.


Mughal Flavours: Mutton Biryani

January 10, 2008
10 days into the month and finally a post! I know I’m very late, but wish you all a wonderful New Year ahead! :)

A few days ago, I made mutton biryani. I followed the recipe that I’d learnt from a chef at the Dumphukth Restaurant at the ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton. I made certain additions to it, like adding more spices (always a good thing). Also, the biryani can be made of mutton, beef or chicken. Pick your favourite. It takes a while to prepare it all at one go, so what I usually do is keep the birasta ready, or better still marinate it the night before (this is what I do when I have to rush to office the next day).

Here is my version of the recipe:

Mutton Biryani

1 kg Boneless mutton
5 medium potatoes cut into 4 and deep fried till partially cooked.
3 tomatoes, diced

1½ cups yoghurt
1 cup birasta (browned onions – read ahead for the method of browning)
¼ cup oil
2 tsps Garam Masala powder
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 black cardamoms
3 star anise
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
2-4 bay leaves
1 cup coriander/parlsey leaves (chopped)
1 cup mint leaves (chopped)
10 slit green chillies (or to taste)
3 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
Salt to taste

For the Rice:
1 kg Basmati rice
1/4th tsp saffron, dry roasted for a few seconds and then dissolved in a little milk
Few drops of rose water
Few drops of kewra water (screwpine essence) – they add to the fragrance of the Basmati rice, but it’s okay if you don’t have it.
Salt to taste
½ cup ghee (clarified butter)
A few table spoons of the mint and parsley mixture as well as some browned onions.

Browning onions:
Using a mandolin slice about 6 medium onions (these will reduce after frying). Salt it and let it stand for a few minutes. Squeeze out the excess water. Deep fry until the colour is that of almonds. Be very careful, you might be tempted to fry it for a few seconds more, but don’t! They will continue to cook and become dark, even after they’re out of the fryer. This is called a birasta. This tastes wonderful when made properly. A little extra time, and you’ve got yourself burnt onions and a little less time will give you a lumpy mass instead of separate strands. I tend to much on them while I’m cooking so I always make a little extra. :-P

Cooking the biryani:
  1. Prepare a marinade with all the ingredients and marinate the mutton for at least 1 hour.
  2. Wash and soak rice for 30 minutes.
  3. Boil water and add rice to it. Add salt, rose water and screwpine essence.
  4. Place marinated mutton in a thick bottomed pan, add the tomatoes and potatoes and cook for about 15-20 minutes (if you’re using chicken, you don’t need to cook it at this stage).
  5. Cook rice till it is 70% done. Strain and while it’s still steaming, spoon layers of rice over the mutton and sprinkle with mint, coriander and browned onions and saffron milk between the layers.
  6. Pour the melted ghee over it evenly.
  7. Cover this with a lid and place some heavy weight on it so that no steam can escape.
  8. Let it cook for about an hour.
  9. Garnish with fresh coriander, mint, fried cashews and birasta.


2 cups yoghurt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 medium tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
A handful of chopped coriander

Mix all the above ingredients together and keep it refrigerated.
Serve steaming hot biryani with the cold raita.

22nd Feb, ’08 edit: I added black cardamom and star anise this time to the recipe, and it made it so much more fragrant!