Butter Croissants and Coffee

One of the most best aromas on a beautiful morning

Samosa Chaat

Snack a little

Seekh Kabab

Try something different!

Decadent Chocolate

Do not forget to indulge once in a while

Steamed goodness

Various cooking methods bring variety in your palette

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shrimp and Veggie Pasta Casserole

This is one my most favorite casseroles. I love shrimp and I love white sauce. Combine it with pasta, mixed veggies and you've got a solid meal!
This recipe is inspired from a mix of two recipes. One from the heritagecook and the other from stacey snacks.

For shrimp:
Large shrimp - 1 pound (1/2 kg) - shelled and deveined
Garlic - 3 cloves - minced
Green onions (spring onions) - 2 stalks
Butter - 4 tbsp - softened
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp
Ground black pepper - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Salt to taste

For garnish:
Panko breadcrumbs - 4 tbsp
Canola oil - 1 tsp
Parsley - 3 sprigs - minced
Grated parmesan cheese (optional) - as per taste

Linguine pasta - as per serving nos.
Water - to fill 3/4 of a stock pot
Salt to taste
Olive oil - 1 tbsp

For Bechamel (white sauce):
Butter - 2 tbsp
Flour - 2 tbsp
Milk - 1 cup (warmed or at least at room temperature)
Cream - 1/4 cup (optional)
Pepper - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt to taste

For veggie mix:
Cooking wine - 3/4 cup (I used rice cooking wine)
Green onions - 2 stalks
Yellow onion - 1/2 chopped
Frozen mixed vegetables - 1 cup
Oil - 1 tbsp

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix salt and lemon juice with shrimp and leave for 10 minutes. Meanwhile mix all the other ingredients in the shrimp section to form a buttery paste. Add this paste to the shrimp and coat well.
Lightly cook linguine pasta in boiling water in a stock pot with salt and olive oil. Drain and place onto the casserole dish. This is your first layer.
Onto the sauce. In a sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth and also giving some time for the flour to cook. This mixture is called the 'roux'. To this add a small amount of milk and whisk so that no lumps are formed. Add the rest of the milk and cream if using. You could also use half and half. The sauce will thicken. Season with salt, pepper and paprika if desired, and your bechamel sauce is ready.
In a separate pan, heat oil on medium heat. Fry the onions and whites of the green onions until soft. Then add the thawed mix of frozen vegetables. You could also use a mix of fresh vegetables. You can use your preferred combination like green peas, french beans, carrots, broccoli, corn kernels. Add remaining green onions. Pour the white wine into this and allow to cook until its reduced and thickened (for about 2-3 minutes). The alcohol would evaporate at this stage, but you could leave the wine out if you dont want the flavor. Pour this mixture into the bechamel sauce and combine well.
Pour this mixture all over the paste in the casserole. Use a fork to shake it a little so that the sauce seeps through the pasta.
Now for the third layer - place the shrimp mixture over this.
For the garnish, mix the canola oil with the panko or breadcrumbs so that its lightly coated but still fluffy. Mix grated parmesan cheese if desired. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Sprinkle chopped parsley over this.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. I had some leftover cooked bacon strips that I crumbled on top as well, so that I don't have to throw them away. It added more flavor to the already awesome dish!

Note: For a simple shrimp appetizer, you can just bake the shrimp mixture alone with the garnishing at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, until the crumbs are golden brown and shrimp is cooked through.
Also the recipe of the bechamel sauce is very versatile and is used in many continental dishes.

Egg and Vegetable Stew (with variations for chicken, beef or lamb)

This stew is a traditional Syrian Christian curry served for breakfast with Appam (lacy rice pancakes). I like to have it any time of the day with toasted bread, if there's no ready batter for appams. It's very rustic and hearty, like the filling of a pot pie. (Maybe I will try it in a pot pie someday).

Serves: 4-6

Eggs - 4 large
Onion - 1 medium size, chopped
Ginger - 1 inch, minced
Green chillies - 3 or as per your spice level
Chopped Vegetables - 2 cups (preferably potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, french beans, green peas)
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Cinnamon sticks - 1 large broken to small pieces
Cloves - 4-6
Green cardamom pods - 4
Bay leaf - 1
Curry leaves - 1 sprig (optional)
Black pepper corns - 6-8
White pepper powder - 2 tsp (optional)
Black pepper powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - a pinch
Red chilli powder - a pinch (optional)
Coriander powder - 1 tsp (optional)
Garam masala - a pinch (optional)
Coconut milk - 1 cup
Water - 2 cups
Oil (vegetable/canola) - 2 tbsp (For authenticity, use coconut oil - its an acquired taste)

Hard boil the eggs and keep aside to cool. Meanwhile chop all the vegetables and store in a mixing bowl.
In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp of oil. Add mustards seeds and let is splutter. Add the whole spices - cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, peppercorns. Once their aroma starts to exude, add the chopped onions, ginger, green chillies and curry leaves. Saute until the onions are translucent. Then add the powdered spices - turmeric, white pepper, black pepper, red chilli powder, coriander powder. Mix for a minute. Then add the chopped vegetables and enough water to just cover the vegetables. Cover and cook until the vegetables are cooked through. Meanwhile peel the cooled eggs and halve them, if desired. Once vegetables are cooked, reduce the heat, and pour coconut milk. Let it cook and reduce until you get the desired consistency of gravy. Finally sprinkle garam masala and add the hardboiled eggs. Serve with appams, chappathis or toasted slices of bread.

Note: You can make different variations of this stew. Leave the eggs out and it becomes a vegetable stew. Add cubed chicken pieces instead of the vegetables and it becomes a chicken stew. For beef or lamb stew, cook the meat separately with a small amount of water or even pressure cook it, before adding it to the stew.
If you don't have coconut milk, use regular milk.

Canneloni Florentine

This is a dish I first ate at a vegetarian Italian restaurant in Bangalore called Little Italy. Its one of the fewest restaurants where I did not miss meat!

Canneloni tubes - 12 tubes

For canneloni filling:
Butter - 4 tbsp
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Garlic - 6 large cloves, minced
Carrot - 2, peeled and grated
Spinach - 2 cups,chopped
White pepper powder - 2 tsp
Breadcrumbs - 2 tbsp
Feta cheese/Grated paneer/Ricotta cheese - 1/2 cup, crumbled

Cheesy Bechamel sauce:
Butter - 4 tbsp
Flour - 2 tbsp
Milk - 2 cups
Shallot - 1, whole, peeled
Cloves - 6
White cheddar cheese - 1/4 cup grated
Parmesan cheese - 2 tbsp. grated
White pepper powder - 1 tsp
Nutmeg powder - a pinch

Spinach layer: (optional)
Spinach - 1 cup, chopped coarsely
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Rosemary - a small sprig

Tomato pasta sauce - 4 tbsp (optional)
White Cheddar cheese for garnish - 1/2 cup, grated
Parmesan cheese for garnish - 3 tbsp

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
Start with Bechamel sauce:
Take the whole peeled shallot and pierce cloves into it.
In a saucepan, pour milk and warm on low-medium. Place the piece of shallot with cloves into it, to allow the flavor to seep in.
In another saucepan, melt butter and add flour to make the roux. Mix for about a minute till the raw smell of flour is gone. Whisk in milk, little by little to get a creamy but less thick sauce. Add grated cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. Take a taste test and adjust salt (as cheese contains salt too). Add white pepper powder and nutmeg powder.

For filling:
Melt butter in a pan. Saute chopped onions and garlic till its translucent. Then add grated carrots and salt. Now add chopped spinach, white pepper powder and allow for spinach to wilt. Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add crumbled feta cheese, breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp of the bechamel sauce.
Fill the canneloni tubes with this filling

Spinach layer:
Heat olive oil in the same pan used for filling. Add rosemary (rub it with your fingers first to release flavor). Then add chopped spinach and allow it to wilt.

In a casserole dish, first pour the cheese bechamel sauce.

Spread the spinach layer on top of this. Now arrange 6 or 7 canneloni tubes to form a layer. Pour more bechamel sauce over this. Sprinkle white cheddar sauce. Place remaining canneloni tubes to form second layer.

Pour remaining bechamel sauce. Spread pasta sauce or marinara sauce, if using. Finally sprinkle white cheddar and parmesan over it.

Bake the casserole for 40 mins.
Note: Do not make the bechamel sauce too thick, or the canneloni tubes will not cook.

Keema Matar

Keema matar is one of my favorite dishes. My mom used to make this for me and my sister when she feels like treating us to something special. She used to also make a pan grilled bread that was a lot like naan to go with this. When I started to cook on my own, this is one of the first recipes that I decided to master. Its quite simple and delicious!

1 lb ground beef (you can use ground lamb, chicken or turkey too)
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
2 green chillies sliced fine
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch piece cinnamon
4 cloves
2 cardamom
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp asafoetida
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
4 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp yoghurt
2 tsp lemon juice

Heat oil in a wok. Add cumin seeds, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom and cloves. Then add onion and salt. Saute on medium heat for about 10 mins, till  it turns brown. Add ginger, garlic and green chillies. Continue sauteeing for a long time till everything softens up. Add turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, garam masala and asafoetida. Mix till raw smell disappears. Add tomato puree. Cook till raw smell goes. Then add ground beef. Mix thoroughly so that no chunks form. Add 2 tbsp milk. When beef turns brown, add more tomato puree if required. Adjust salt as well. Add green peas and cook further for another 5 minutes. Take off heat and let cool down. Mix yoghurt and sprinkle lemon juice before serving.

Stir-fry noodles

This recipe is very similar to my Pancit Bihon recipe. The main difference is that I use rice noodle in the Pancit recipe. In this one, I use either Udon noodles or Ramen (Maggi noodles is also Ramen).

Noodles: 2 packets
Bacon - 4 strips
Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped fine
Ginger - 1 inch piece, chopped fine
Onion - 1 chopped (optional)
Assorted vegetables (choice of grated carrots, sliced french beans, corn kernels, green peas, sliced bell pepper, bean sprouts)
Green onions (spring onion/scallion) - 2 stalks, chopped
Sambal oelek - 1 tbsp
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Noodle flavor sachet (your choice of flavor)- 2
Black pepper powder - 1/2 tp (optional)


Cook noodles, drain and keep aside.
Heat a wide pan, cook 4 bacon strips till crisp. (no need to use oil as bacon has fat). Take bacon out on a plate, keep aside. In the same pan with bacon fat, fry onions, garlic and ginger. Once onions soften, add the vegetables. Cover and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add green onions, soy sauce and mix. Then add sambal. Add in the noodles, noodle flavor, black pepper and mix until well combined. Serve hot with spicy ketchup or siracha sauce, if desired.