Asparagus Pesto

Asparagus Pesto

Asparagus is a fairly new addition to my kitchen, about four years I would say. Usually I just roast the asparagus in a griddle pan or under the grill with some olive oil and then sprinkle some salt and drizzle either lemon, vinegar or balsamic vinegar. This simple vegetable tastes just great as it has a very distinct flavour. I remember making mashed asparagus for my son when he was a baby and my mother saying will he like that? As she had never tried it before, I asked her to try it and she thought it was an ok taste. I am glad that I have introduced such great flavours to my son from an early age, as it has introduced him to a great range of flavours, textures and tastes.

Recently, when I saw a recipe on one of the blogs I regularly visit, I thought I have to try it because the  British asparagus season does not last very long. It is said that Asparagus is high in potassium, folic acid and low in sodium and calories, and is good for us as it does not contain any fat or cholesterol. I am a great believer in eating the right foods to help us maintain a healthy lifestyle and if the food that I eat contains things I know that are good for our health/well-being then we should eat more of them. As a result I was glad that I tried this recipe. It was a great hit with the family and a recipe which I will make again with a few changes next time.

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Stuffed Pointed Peppers with Pasta

stuffed-pointed-peppers-with-pasta

Some years back we had enjoyed a dinner, made by one of my sister in-laws, of large shell pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese. It was a very enjoyable experience that I have recreated when ever I can get a hold of the large pasta shells.  I felt that the same filling would work well with the sweet pointed pepper, as the flavours would compliment each other and they did. Just to make it into a meal we ate it with some pasta with sun dried tomatoes & basil pesto, for a very heavy filling meal.  Although it could have also been served with some salad for a lighter option. Unlike the other recipe of pointed peppers, this is a more Italian style as opposed to Mediterranean.

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Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Pesto

sun-dried-tomato-basil-pesto

I only started using pesto after marriage and used to buy ready made jars. It was a convenient thing to do, as at the time I was on an interior design course on Tuesday evenings, so that was a pasta day 🙂 . It used to be a chore to find the vegetarian version of this classic Italian dish. Then about three or four years back I had bought a basil plant for the kitchen window sill and it had produces so many basil leaves, so I thought I should venture into making my own pesto. It was successful and so simple to make that I decided I would buy a basil plant each Spring and make my own pesto.

From looking at various TV chefs and other recipes, as well as a friend (who lives in Italy) telling me that I do not need to add cheese or pine nuts (as they are so expensive), just normal salted nuts are fine – I started making my own version as below. To make it more creamy I sometimes use almond, cashew, and pistachios nuts powder.

There are many uses for pesto, not only as a pasta sauce but also as a dressing for salads, for adding flavour to soups, a spread for sandwiches and roasted mushroom or eggplant. You can also create many different versions like I did by adding the sun-dried tomatoes. Other herbs and vegetables can also be added to give it an extra added flavour.

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Vegetarian Paella

vegetarian-paella

I was asked by my dear brother in-law some time back if there is such a thing as a vegetarian paella and I said yes just replace the meat or fish with vegetables.  I had never made it before but always enjoyed the passionate description given by TV chefs when they make or try paella. Every time I would say to myself I should make it but never did venture out to try and find a recipe or recreate a traditional paella with just vegetables.

So as he was coming around for dinner one day I thought  let me try making it. I looked at various different  traditional recipes. Some had just seafood and others with game and seafood mixed together. Certain things that came out of my research were that there is usually wine, saffron, and specific types of rice used. However the method changes per region and family recipe, much like the Indian biryani or the Creole rice dish jambalaya, which I make often. So I started thinking of the vegetables that I could use, or that would have similar colours to a seafood paella – orange, black, green, red etc. It turned out to be a tasty dish which we all enjoyed.

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Moroccan Style Vegetables with Couscous

moroccan-style-vegetables-with-couscous

On a recent visit to my local library I met a friend who was looking for ideas on hosting a dinner party for a few friends. She was thinking of a Moroccan theme so in my enthusiasm  I suggested serving Moroccan Style Vegetables with Couscous as it is so simple to make and would fit the theme she was thinking of.

I first saw a version of this recipe a couple of years back in a supermarket magazine where it was giving ideas on how to use a tagine and this was the vegetarian option. The vegetables were slightly different in the magazine so when I recreated it at home, I just used the vegetables that I had and it turned out to be really good. As I don’t have a tagine I just roasted the vegetables in the oven.

This recipe reminds me of the time when we went on a desert safari excursion on a trip to Dubai.  The desert  safari included a traditional meal and this dish was served as the vegetarian option. The vegetables were less tasty but the idea of the couscous I got from there so I mixed the two together to create this meal.

This dish of Moroccan Style Vegetables with Couscous works well for large gatherings where you want to try and have fuss free cooking plus it would be good to take on picnics as it tastes good when served cold. The best thing about this dish is the fact that not only is it simple to make,  especially for a large group, but it is vibrantly colourful, which to me is brilliant as half of the way we enjoy food comes from the visual impact.

I was told by Parita from Parita’s World about this event on Moroccan food hosted by Home Cook Recipes and originated by Holy Cow!

I look forward to seeing other vegetarian/vegan recipes from this event.

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Brussel Sprouts Curry

brussel-sprouts

There are very few vegetables I don’t particularly enjoy eating, and they generally tend to be curries made with cabbage or brussel sprouts. I guess it is perhaps because sometimes they are over cooked to make them tender, which in turn makes them bland. We once had this conversation with my sister in-law and I about how our mothers tend to over cook certain vegetables and even foods like pasta and noodles just to make sure that we don’t eat food that is half cooked or raw. By over cooking you loose out on the taste, nutrients and texture of the food, however, if cooked properly and with a good blend of spices, then even these foods are bearable 😉

Wikipedia has this about brussel sprouts:- Whatever cooking method is employed, care must be taken not to overcook. Overcooking releases the sulphur smelling glucosinolate, sinigrin. This is the reason many people profess to dislike Brussels sprouts; only ever having tried them overcooked with the accompanying sulfuric taste and smell. Generally 6–7 minutes boiled or steamed is enough to cook, without overcooking and releasing the sinigrin.

So I guess the key is to cook it like as if stir frying, i.e. fast cooked food to ensure that the nutrients remain as well as the taste 🙂

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Curly Kale, Rice and Beans

curly-kale-rice-and-beans

There are times when I am challenged by my dear husband to use  new ingredients and come up with a meal that meets his seal of approval 🙂 . I sent him shopping one day and he came back with an extra item to the list – Curly Kale. As soon as I saw it I thought Oh NO ! I have tried to cook with curly kale before some years back but found it too irony in taste and it did not quite work with what I made. So this time I thought I will look for some inspiration and then try and create a dish. I did a search and looked at a blogger and from there to a site dedicated to curly kale, which had lots of recipe ideas and nutritionist information. Both the sites seem to talk about the curly kale with a lot of fondness and suggested to use it as a cabbage. So I thought, right, looked at the ingredients I had then added the ingredients to this dish until it was an aesthetically pleasing. Then I served it up and it tasted great, even my son enjoyed it – I removed the green pepper corns from his dish. I thought that something so good for us and tasty, can’t go wrong really. So I will not be avoiding this vegetable in the future. I got some more curly kale soon after and used it in a curry as well as in a pasta sauce, which also tasted good.

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