Asparagus and potato bake

It is amazing what one can find in a fridge if one looks hard enough. I have been on a mission to empty the contents of my fridge ever since my return from a conference trip. This task seems never ending and the more I take out, the more there seems to be. Since Sunday the 5th of May Friday the 10th of May, I have made (1) brie and chive biscuits (2) gouda, chilli and rosemary biscuits (3) a banana raspberry cake (4) a flan aux speculoos (gingerbread flan) (5) fresh yoghurt (6) a yoghurt based curry with spinach (7) eggplant with miso glaze (8) chickpea bread (9) asparagus and potato bake (10) sautéed okra and the fridge is still not empty. You must imagine that I am a veritable fatty eating all this food but I’m not doing too badly….right now at least. In my defence, I shared pretty much all the snack-like/sweet things with friends and colleagues.

Where does the asparagus and potato bake come into this ? Well as you might have guess, I had asparagus and potato – check! On Tuesday night, I went to a friend’s for dinner and she made this amazing eggplant parmigiana with a beautiful tomato sauce (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2876664/roast-aubergine-parmigiana). I also had mozzarella that needed to be used soon. So I decided to put all these things together and make an asparagus-potato “parmigiana” if you will. I then wondered what I’d like to eat it with and bread seemed an ideal candidate. Since our local Sainsbury’s (and most English supermarkets) stock nothing but crap bread, I decided I’d make my own. For bread recipes, I trust a fellow-blogger  Silvia (http://silviascucina.net/) where I came across an interesting take on bread involving chickpea (http://silviascucina.net/2011/10/08/chickpea-garbanzo-beans-bread/). I took it one step further and made it with some chickpea flour and fine cornmeal. The overall result was quite exciting. I was quite pleased with myself before the realisation hit me that there was no way I could eat 2 small loaves of bread and a baking dish full of “parmigiana”. So off it went to the neighbours and they thought it was decent so here I am talking about it.

Do give this recipe a try and tell me what you think! I still can’t get over the fact that everything I put in this dish was in my fridge/pantry/herb garden 🙂

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Asparagus-potato-bake-with-chickpea-bread

Ingredients (Picture 1 below):

15-20 spears of baby asparagus

1/2 a large potato , sliced into 3mm thick slices

400 gms (1 can) of chopped Roma or cherry tomatoes

125 gm ball of mozzarella, halved and then cut into 3mm thick slices

5 pieces of sun-dried tomato, finely chopped

1/2 cup of grated smoked cheddar or grated parmesan

1/2 cup of stuffing mix (I used a toasted chestnut, roasted hazelnut and thyme one)

1 tablespoon of honey

2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 hot red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon of thyme, finely chopped

a handful of mint, coarsely chopped (substituted for basil so use basil if you have some)

2 tablespoons of oil

salt to suit your taste

pepper to suit your taste

Method:

1. Grease a baking dish with oil/butter and preheat the oven to 180ºC.

2. Heat the oil in a deep pot and when hot, throw in the asparagus spears. Cook the spears until you see a bit of brown blistering on their skin.

3. Remove the asparagus from the pot and arrange them to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Grind some sea salt over them (Picture 2).

4. Add the potato the the same pot, add a pinch of salt and cook until the pieces of potato start to blister and go brown (Picture 3).

5. Remove the potato slices from the pot and arrange them on top of the asparagus (Picture 4).

6. Sprinkle the potato with the chopped mint and some freshly ground pepper (Picture 4).

7. Top the pot with a tablespoon of oil if required and add the thyme, chilli and garlic to the pot (Picture 5). Cook them until the raw smell of garlic no longer lingers. Don’t let the chilli burn or you will go into a coughing fit.

8. To the chilli/garlic mixture, add the canned tomatoes, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and honey. Season with enough salt to suit your taste (Picture 6).

9. Bring the sauce to a boil and take the sauce off the heat.

10. Arrange pieces of mozzarella on top of the potato layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle half the cheddar/parmesan on top of the mozzarella and grind some more pepper onto the cheese (Picture 7).

11. Pour the tomato sauce on the cheese layer and spread it so that it covers the entire dish (Picture 8).

12. Cover the dish with silver foil and bake for 30-40 mins in the oven (Picture 9).

13. During this time, mix the remaining cheddar/parmesan with the stuffing mix to use as a crunchy topping (Pictures 10 & 11).

14. After 30-40 minutes, remove the silver foil from the dish and check that the potatoes are soft and your knife/skewer should go right through it.

15. Sprinkle the cheddar-stuffing mixture on top of the tomato sauce and bake for another 10-12 minutes until the cheese has melted into a golden brown colour (Picture 12).

16. Serve while warm with some fresh bread (Pictures 13-15) or couscous (Picture 16 and main picture above).

Tips:

1. I find stuffing a more exciting substitute for a breadcrumb topping. Keep a box of it in your pantry and stock up after Christmas when it is usually on sale 🙂

2. After all that, I don’t think I liked the asparagus in the dish so much. I would make it again just with the potato or some other vegetable.

3. If you want to make it a vegan dish, leave the cheese out and use a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs and olive-spread to make the crunchy topping.

Pictures:

Method for asparagus-potato bake

Method for asparagus-potato bake

Summer holiday series: 2. Red capsicum/pepper and tomato dip

Cooking is my favourite form of relaxation. It makes me really really happy and completely relieves all my daily stresses. When on holiday, it’s even better as I have all the time in the world to plan, shop, prepare and present food and share it with those dear to me. This holiday has been no different. As I mentioned before, I’m joint queen of a rather wonderful kitchen with all modern appliances, cool pull-out drawers and cookbooks to last me a lifetime. Given these luxuries, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time in the kitchen. Not to mention, it is the coolest (temperature wise) part of the house.

Last time I told you about a Hurry Burry Curry. That was dinner for four one evening. The next evening, I thought we’d have something more fancy. Some sort of self-inmposed challenge with French food being so pretty and tasty. One thing that French food is frequently not and my food almost always is, is vegetarian! The menu on this fine summer evening ended up being a 3-course meal with the following items accompanied by a lovely bottle of Malbec that my partner’s dad had bought earlier in the week.

Starter: Red capsicum and tomato dip with Walnut bread
Main: Summer spaghetti with zucchini and cherry tomatoes
Dessert: Peaches and nectarines baked with a macaroon topping

I will share these recipes with you over the next 3 posts. Hope you try them and like them!

This recipe is a Donna Hay classic from a magazine published many years ago. I’ve made some modifications to it – some out of necessity and some out of curiosity. The walnut bread that we had with the dip was from the local village bakery.

Red capsicum and tomato chunky dip

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Yennegai or Eggplant in a spicy peanut-ty sauce

This recipe takes me back to my early teens in Bangalore. Yennegai and its common companion “jolada rotti” are dishes from the northern part of Karnataka, the state I come from. “Jola” is the Kannada word for sorghum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorghum) which is  a gluten-free grain and jolada rotti is flatbread made out of finely ground sorghum flour. In Hindi, it is known as “Jowar” so you might want to look for jowar/sorghum flour in your local Indian grocer if you ever want to make bread out of it. As you can see in the map below, my former city of Bangalore is in the bottom-right of the state so almost the entire state is north of it. However, there is a green blob in the mid-top-left that says “Uttara Kannada” and “Uttara” means north so let’s say that this dish if from there upwards.

Left: The state of Karanataka with Bangalore being an orange blob in the bottom right Right: A sorghum/jola plant Websites: http://www.besttofind.com and http://www.wikipedia.com

In Bangalore, there is a very famous hotel called Kamath Yatrinivas which boasts a roof-top restaurant dedicated solely to North Karnataka food. I was only taken there once or twice as a teenager because a decade ago, it was an all you can eat for INR 25 (25pence, 33 euro cent, 50 US cents) and you didn’t want to take a fussy child and waste your money. What I found the most fascinating that the dining area was actually quite small because the rest of the roof-top was covered with women hand-making “jolada rotti” on little kerosene stoves. So when you ordered a plate, the rotis would be hot and fresh of the stove. They were served with yennegai, raita (yoghurt and cucumber dip) and a generous blob of home-made butter. I’ve always had a fondness for butter (I can see my partner screw his nose up because he absolutely doesn’t) and would go back for seconds on my trips to Kamath Yatrinivas.

The recipe for this dish came from a dear friend who is an amazing cook. I’ve never seen her or heard of her using store-bought packet mixes/spice mixes. Everyday, she cooks everything from scratch, despite being a mum of two and working full-time. Whenever I go over, she goes completely overboard in cooking for me. The spice combinations she puts together are pretty amazing and this is one of them. Hope you like it too.

Yennegai with corn bread

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Sanjeev Kapoor’s Dum Aloo Amritsari

THIS IS NOT MY OWN RECIPE !!

Source: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/dum-aloo-amritsari.aspx

Aloo’ means potatoes in Hindi. ‘Dum’ means strength or pressure and in this context, it means that the potatoes are cooked with a lid covering them so they are under pressure due to the build up of steam. The pressure is important as it helps the potatoes soak up the flavours of the sauce they are in. ‘Amritsari’ implies that it came from the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab.

This potato dish was a novelty when I was a child and I always imagined only special people in the restaurant could make it because my mum never did. My dad who worked in Calcutta, West Bengal when he was younger would rave about ‘Dum Aloo’ or ‘Aloo dum’ but I never got to taste it until I was an adult. All I knew was that you had to use whole baby potatoes to make it and that it was awesome.

In my early teens when mum would let me tinker in the kitchen, I’d attempt to make what I imagined dum aloo should be like. Of course, I only used the simplest of ingredients (onions, tomatoes, potatoes and garam masala +coriander for garnish) back then and mum had to help me fry the potatoes. I like this grown-ups recipe better with a lot more spice and a partiality towards chilli and I try not to fry the potatoes because they can be quite oily.

Sanjeev Kapoor's Dum Aloo Amritsari

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