Category Archives: Pasta

Fettuccine Carbonara (with Spicy Sausage Meatballs)

Usually I talk about the weather when I am tongue tied or when I can’t think of anything to speak, but today it’s simply because the temperatures are soaring in Melbourne and I just can’t take it anymore.

The new home we moved into does not have air conditioning and the poor fans, there’s only so much it can do. I am a summer person generally but not a fan of these intense heat wave days which leaves you feeling so sick and dehydrated.

Cooking becomes a chore because I like rich, bold, big on flavour dinners but I can’t imagine toiling away in the kitchen making it. Takeaway options in my suburb are rather limited which means I have to do the job anyway.

And thus the carbonara!

Fettuccine Carbonara (with Spicy Sausage Meatballs) - thespiceadventuress.com

There’s hardly any cooking involved for a traditional carbonara; apart from cooking the pasta ofcourse. But I wanted something more meaty and delicious to complete my carbonara experience (without much effort though)! And spicy sausage meatballs were the answer…

Fresh sausages especially the flavoured ones are really delicious; all that you need to do is remove the outer casing and then you get the minced meat to make the meatballs. Easy!

You may use any type of sausage available at the deli but I have chosen hot Sucuk, which is a traditional style famous in the Balkans, Middle East and Central Asia. Both plain and hot Sucuk is available, but the hot one adds a lot of oooomph and flavour to an otherwise mild and creamy Carbonara.

Hot Sucuk - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Hot Sucuk - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

As I mentioned, you may use chorizo or any other sausage you wish to. Sucuk is a dry sausage, hence I used an egg to bring the minced meat together, or else the meatballs might disintegrate. If the sausage you are using is not dry, then the addition of the egg is not necessary.

And if you happen to try this recipe out, please do tag me #thespiceadventuress in your post; I love to see your pictures.

Ingredients:

  1. 250gms fettuccine
  2. 1 hot sucuk (approximately 400gms)
  3. 1 whole egg
  4. 150ml thin/cooking cream
  5. 2 egg yolks
  6. 20 gms grated parmesan (extra for garnish)
  7. Salt, to season
  8. 2 tbsp olive oil
  9. 2-3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Method:

  1. Remove the casing of the sucuk and add the minced meat along with 1 egg to a food processor. Blend just enough to combine the egg with the meat.
  2. Divide into small portions and shape into small meatballs.
  3. Heat oil in a large pan and shallow fry the meatballs in batches; keep aside.
  4. Beat the cream, egg yolks, parmesan till well combined in a bowl and season lightly with salt.
  5. Cook the fettuccine according to packet instructions; drain but reserving half a cup of the water in which the pasta was cooked.
  6. Return the pasta to the hot pan, add the cream egg mixture along with the meatballs and toss through. The residual heat in the pasta is enough; do not place on heat or the eggs will scramble. Add the pasta water if the sauce feels too thick.
  7. Garnish with chopped parsley and grated parmesan; serve warm.

Fettuccine Carbonara (with Spicy Sausage Meatballs) - thespiceadventuress.com

Fettuccine Carbonara (with Spicy Sausage Meatballs) - thespiceadventuress.com

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Back to School with Smash Lunch Boxes + a Recipe for Easy Lunchbox Pasta Stir Fry

I think life has become a series of shopping lists, one after the other. Still getting over the effects of the Christmas list and it’s time already for the ‘back to school’ list. Sigh!

But in all fairness, life must go on and so does the shopping list. And one of the top spots in the back to school list is always reserved for a new lunch box.

Now we all agree that the lunch box is such an integral part of the school life. Apart from the fact that it is a source of nourishment and good health for our little ones, it is also an integral part of school memories. I can recollect so many fond memories when it comes to school lunches and so will all of you.

So presenting to you my favourite brand of lunch boxes from Smash. I discovered this brand two years back and haven’t looked back ever since. In fact, I even wrote a blog post about it last year; there is also another easy lunch box recipe so do check it out.

Back to school with Smash - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash is an Australian brand so that means they totally understand our needs and requirements better. All the products are BPA free and extremely durable and reliable. In fact, all the lunch boxes, drink bottles from last year are still in great condition and the only reason I would change is because I received these samples to test out. (The old ones will be donated to the local Red Cross, and I strongly urge you to do so too if your old ones are in reasonably good condition)

The new designs out this year are so bright and colourful making it real fun for the kids. Our favourite happens to be this one shown below…of course it has to be blue because Adi is in that phase where ‘pink is for girls’. I like how the compartments are divided in this model and also the fact that there is an outer insulated case (removable) which also has the new Blue IQ antibacterial lining. The wipe-clean formula helps to keep the case clean devoid of any sort of mould or mildew, smells fresh and also protects the life of the lunchbox.

Smash lunchbox and outercase with Blue IQ antibacterial lining - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash has an extensive collection so there are plenty of choices for all sorts of lunch requirements. I love the add-on containers in various sizes, shapes and colours which mean that the food can be kept divided. The yoghurt container is so cool; it keeps it chilled and my son absolutely loves his during summer. The tube shaped box for wraps and rolls are so cool too.

Back to school with Smash lunch boxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Back to school with Smash lunch boxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Back to school with Smash lunchboxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash has a good collection for the grownups too especially taking into account the male/female preferences. I remember my hubby cribbing about the lack of ‘male’ colours till we started using Smash. Now he has his favourite blue and brown case which I must admit is really cool.

I also love the ‘Soup, Salad, Smoothie’ containers that were launched this year. Extremely thoughtful designs; for eg: the salad container has a separate portion for the dressing which means goodbye to soggy salads for lunch. I have been using these containers a lot while travelling too. Sturdy and great for road trips.

Smash products are available easily at many department stores and leading supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths, Officeworks, Target, Kmart and David Jones.

Smash office lunchbox collection - thespiceadventuress.com

Now that we have chosen the perfect lunch box, let’s go ahead with the perfect lunch too – a delicious easy to make Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables.

For those who are new to Mortadella, it is basically an Italian sausage or luncheon meat that can be purchased from a deli. Often had as a cold cut like ham or salami in a sandwich, but I am going to lightly stir fry it for this recipe. If you do not have Mortadella, you can substitute it with ham, salami, sausages or any other kind of meat. Or even skip it all together if you want a vegetarian version. The only thing to remember while purchasing from a deli is to ask the staff to cut it into a thick chunk instead of thin slices.

Apart from the fact that this dish is ready in less than 30 minutes, I also like the fact that there is no sauce involved which makes it a great lunch box option; tastes great even when it has gone a bit cold. I usually prepare this pasta stir fry for dinner which doubles up for the next day’s lunch for all of us. One dish for everyone in the family…..

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 300 gms pasta curls
  2. 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  3. 200 gms Mortadella (cut into a single thick chunk); diced
  4. 2-3 garlic cloves; chopped
  5. 1 large red onion; diced
  6. 1 cup mushrooms; diced
  7. 1 red bell pepper; diced
  8. 1 zucchini; diced
  9. 1 ½ tsp chilli flakes (adjust to preference)
  10. 1 tbsp mixed dried Italian herbs (a mix of oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  11. Salt, to season
  12. Freshly milled black pepper; to season

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta as per packet instructions in salted boiling water and keep aside; reserve a little pasta water too.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan and add the chopped garlic; sauté on low heat for a few seconds and then add the diced Mortadella; stir fry on high for a minute.
  3. Next add the onions and mushrooms; continue to stir fry for another 30 seconds. Finally add the zucchini and bell peppers; mix well to combine and season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and Italian herbs. Reduce heat and cook for a few seconds.
  4. Add the cooked pasta with ½ cup past water and mix well to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and enjoy; or ensure it’s cooled well before packing into lunch boxes.

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – This post has been brought to you in collaboration with Smash Enterprises but the opinions expressed and recipe are entirely mine.

WWFreshBox by Aussie Farmers Direct + a Recipe for Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms

‘So what do I cook tonight?’

How many times in a week do you ask yourself that question? I do…almost every single day. Friends often assume that meal planning is something I enjoy and ace at, being a food blogger. Definitely not, at least not most of the time because in addition to the everyday food, I have to plan ahead for the recipes that are to be created for the blog, clients etc…..

It takes me two days to get my meal plans and grocery shopping list in order and there are weeks when the whole exercise freaks me out. So you can imagine my excitement when I get a mail from Aussie Farmers Direct asking if I would like to review the new WWFresh Box that has been designed and created by Weight Watchers. Yes please….bring it on!

Aussie Farmers Direct and Weight Watchers – two brands that we are pretty familiar with and so I am not going into the details here. There’s plenty of information on their websites for the newcomers. Instead, I am going to talk about the WWFreshbox; this perfectly packed box full of absolutely gorgeous and fresh ingredients that has been sourced from local farms and food producers. And also, the printed recipes that got me really excited.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

So my choice was the Family Freshbox which includes ingredients and fresh produce to serve 5 meals for 4 people. I have been testing out and cooking from the WWFreshbox for the past couple of days using the Weightwatchers recipes that was included. And here is what I think;

(Aussie Farmers Direct has also offered a generous discount for all the subscribers of The Spice Adventuress. More details at the end of the post)

Pros:

  • No more meal planning – You don’t have to break your head wondering what you are going to cook each day and then shop around for ingredients. You get the ingredients delivered straight to your door with the recipes included. Definitely a time saver!
  • Choose from different types of WWFreshbox – there are plenty of choices when it comes to the size of the WWFreshBox designed to serve 2 or 4 people for 3 or 5 meals. Ensures zero wastage.
  • High Quality Fresh Ingredients – that are packed to perfection in a special temperature controlled box. Aussie Farmers Direct does a brilliant job at sourcing all the produce from local farmers which means that you not only eat healthy and fresh but also support the local community.
  • Free Delivery – Yup, you heard it right….free delivery to your door.
  • Excellent Packaging – Since all the ingredients are packed in a temperature controlled box, everything stays fresh till you reach home and put it away. The vegetables are packed neatly, in sealed containers where necessary and all the protein is in a special cover with gel packs. The gel packs inside can be reused and if you do not wish to keep it, you may leave it inside the box and place it outside on the day your next delivery happens.
  • Delicious and Healthy Recipes – I mean it guys, really delicious recipes. All the recipes are designed by the nutrition experts at Weight Watchers and includes the Smart Points so that you can keep track. And even if you are not watching your weight, you still can eat healthy. The recipes change every week so it doesn’t get boring at all. Every week’s recipes are updated on the website so you can check out that before placing your order.What I really loved about the recipes is that there is no compromise on flavour and taste as you can see from the dish I will be sharing with you guys shortly.

Cons:

  • Delivery can be an issue for those who live in apartments with unit numbers; the box will need to be delivered to a friend’s place or your business address. Also, delivery is currently not available in certain suburbs. Do check if your suburb is covered on the website.
  • No dry ingredients provided.
  • No exclusively vegetarian WWFreshbox.

Getting to my favourite part; the recipe that I tried out from the WW Freshbox and absolutely loved – Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

We are not big on kale in our house. I don’t mind it but the boys are not very enthusiastic about it and the only way I have been able to make them eat it is in a lentil curry. So with this recipe, I was both excited and apprehensive. But went ahead anyway, hoping the bacon will work its magic even if the kale fails.

And let me tell you peeps, we loved it!

This pasta dish was a winner on all counts – it was light, refreshing, healthy, low on calories and super packed with flavour. From prep to finish, on the table in 30 minutes. All thanks to Weight Watchers, we have found our favourite kale dish.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms

Serves: 4

7 SmartPoints® value per serve

Ingredients:

  1. 200gms dried pasta
  2. 5 tsp olive oil
  3. 125gms lean bacon (fat trimmed); chopped
  4. 1 red capsicum; chopped
  5. 200gms button mushrooms; sliced
  6. 2 medium garlic cloves; crushed
  7. 2 small fresh red chilli; finely chopped
  8. 200gms kale; chopped
  9. 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  10. 2 tbsp lemon juice
  11. Salt; to season

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as per packet instructions till al dente. Drain (reserve ½ cup liquid) and keep aside.
  2. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large pan and add the chopped bacon. Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes till the bacon pieces have turned golden and crisp. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. In the same pan, add 2 tsp olive oil and add the garlic, chillies and capsicum. Cook for 30 seconds and then add the mushrooms. Cook over high heat for another 2-3 minutes till the mushrooms have softened. Transfer to the same bowl as the bacon.
  4. Heat the remaining olive oil and add the kale. Season with salt and cook covered for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Then add ¼ cup water to the kale, mix and continue to cook covered for another 2-3 minutes or till the kale has become tender.
  5. Increase heat and return the bacon and vegetables to the pan. Also add the lemon rind and juice; season with salt if necessary.
  6. Add the cooked pasta, half of the reserved liquid and toss on high flame for a few seconds.
  7. Serve warm

I served this pasta dish with a fresh salad made from cherry tomatoes, red onion, coriander leaves, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

And if you would like to make this delicious recipe or make several like these, all that you need to do is place an order with Aussie Farmers Direct for the all new WW Freshbox.

Thanks to Aussie Farmers Direct, a special discount code has been offered to all the subscribers of ‘The Spice Adventuress’ (make sure you subscribe to my blog). Enjoy $25 off* with your first WW Freshbox. Use promo code ‘FRESHSPICE’ on checkout – T&Cs below.  

(Offer open to new customers. Minimum spend $65. For full T&Cs visit AussieFarmers.com.au. Valid until 31/08/2016. Order must be placed by 12 noon 30/08/2016.)

So go ahead, place your order today and enjoy fresh ingredients with healthy recipes, delivered straight to your doorstep. And if you prepare the above recipe, make sure to tag me #thespiceadventuress so that I may see it too.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – This post has been bought to you in collaboration with Aussie Farmers Direct. All the opinions stated in this review are mine; hope it helps you make an informed choice. 

 

Penne with Chilli Squid in a Roasted Tomato Sauce

We tend to eat a lot of pasta dishes during the colder months. I tend to be rather grouchy and lazy when the cold, damp weather arrives which translates into easier, one pot, packed with flavour dishes in the kitchen.

This dish ticks all the right boxes in that regard. It comes together really quickly, doesn’t require a ton of prep work and is the perfect dish to retreat to the couch with especially that Masterchef 2016 has begun. A glass of wine too perhaps, and you would feel grand.

Penne with Chilli Squid in a Roasted Tomato Sauce - simple, delicious and full of flavour - thespiceadventuress.com

Roasting vegetables is a great way of intensifying flavours which is why this roasted tomato sauce is just so delicious. Diced tomatoes with onion, garlic and thyme, onto a baking tray and in the oven for 15 minutes; blend and your sauce is ready. How easy is that! And this can be made in bulk and frozen in batches as it works as a delicious base sauce for any kind of pasta dish.

Fresh Tomatoes - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Roasting vegetables - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Given my love for seafood, I chose to play around with squid rings for this recipe but if you don’t eat or like squid, there are tons of other options. Like I always say, the recipe is just a guideline and you must embrace and make it your own. Prawns and lobsters work brilliantly or you can keep it vegetarian with just the mushrooms or your preferred assortment.

It’s interesting how climate affects me and my style of cooking these days. I have noticed that I tend to play around more with chillies when it’s cold than any other spice. So it’s a generous helping of chilli flakes and hot paprika to season the squid rings and mushrooms.

If I want to bulk up the dish and make it for two days (which I sometimes do when I have work commitments), I prepare the sauce and the squid mixture and store separately. Pasta is cooked only at the time of the meal so that it is served warm, straight off the pan which all of us know is the best way to eat it.

Penne with Chilli Squid in a Roasted Tomato Sauce - simple, delicious and full of flavour - thespiceadventuress.com

Penne with Chilli Squid in a Roasted Tomato Sauce - simple, delicious and full of flavour - thespiceadventuress.com

So here you go; Penne with Chilli Squid in a Roasted Tomato Sauce – an extremely simple pasta dish that speaks volumes of flavour.

Ingredients:

  1. 500 gms ripe red tomatoes; quartered
  2. 1medium red onion; diced
  3. 4 large garlic cloves

Find the full recipe here.

Penne with Chilli Squid in a Roasted Tomato Sauce - simple, delicious and full of flavour - thespiceadventuress.com

Recipe developed, styled and shot for Supreme Seafood. 

Rigatoni Chilli Bolognese

The saga of one pot meals continue especially after the loooong weekend. Well, it was a quiet Easter for us this year; just the three of us catching up on….us!

We did everything we enjoyed (read lazing around). Which included this big pot of Bolognese made from scratch!

Well, making Bolognese is not rocket science; it’s become an everyday dish in almost all Australian households. But most people make the mistake of using bottled sauces for the same. I agree it’s convenient, we are all pressed for time but pause – have you ever thought how many chemicals you would have consumed in just one meal?

And speaking of flavour, the store bought sauce doesn’t stand a chance against a pot of deliciously bubbling, rich and vibrant homemade bolognese.

Now coming to today’s dish, the Rigatoni Chilli Bolognese is a twist to the classic we have all come to love.

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The reason for using rigatoni – I am not a big fan of spaghetti. I can’t be bothered to perfectly twirl the delicate strands of spaghetti around my fork for every single mouth. The rigatoni is robust and big, perfect to soak up my rich chilli bolognese, it’s all about comfort.

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This chilli bolognese is all about flavour, deep and rich. Slow-cooking is the best way to extract and get those robust flavours. And a hint of chilli to warm your insides on a cold, rainy day.

So picture this…..on my favourite spot on the couch with a bowl of hot steaming and delicious chilli bolognese in my hand, a glass of red by my side, and my favourite movie running.

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Are you drooling by now? Then you know what you ought to do!

Ingredients:

  1. 500 gm rigatoni
  2. 150 gm bacon, chopped
  3. 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  4. 1 dry bay leaf
  5. 1 cup red wine
  6. 1 beef stock, dissolved in 1 cup water
  7. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  8. 6 fresh basil leaves
  9. ¾ th cup chilli sauce (adjust to heat preferences)
  10. 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  11. 1 kg lean beef mince
  12. Sugar, a pinch
  13. Salt, to season
  14. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
  15. ½ cup olive oil
  16. Parmesan, as much as you wish

Method:

  1. In a large heavy bottom pan, heat the oil; brown the mince in batches and keep aside.
  2. In the same pan, add the bacon and fry for about a minute.
  3. Add the bay leaf and garlic; sauté till the garlic is just beginning to brown.
  4. Add the red wine and cook on low heat till the alcohol burns off completely; about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Then add the beef stock along with the rosemary and basil; bring to boil.
  6. Next, add the chilli sauce and crushed tomatoes along with 1 cup water. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Cook covered on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the mince and continue to cook covered for another 30 minutes. Add water if the mixture looks dry.
  9. Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water till al dente or follow packet instructions.
  10. Drain the pasta reserving a cup of liquid.
  11. Add to the bolognese along with the reserved liquid. Mix well to combine.
  12. Serve warm with grated Parmesan.
  13. Tuck in!

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What’s your comfort food? Do share your story……

Warm Summer Pasta with tomatoes, olives and salami

I am a late ‘wine bloomer’ being introduced to it in the right way only in my late 20s. Till then, my only experience of wine was the occasional glass of homemade ones my mum used to prepare annually in time for Christmas.

But living in India, it was not easy to experience wines on a frequent basis. Good wines are hard to come by and cost through the roof so wine-drinking was a very occasional affair exclusively reserved for special occasions. But thanks to friends living abroad, a good bottle of wine often made its way to our table which we would guardedly use making sure that we paired it with the right kind of meal and ambience.

Aussies are big on wine (but then they are big on beer, cider…basically big drinkers anyway!) and this is the best place to experience wine from across the globe, without having to burn a hole in our pockets.

With both of us having a real interest in wines, we began to experiment and learn more about it, in our own small way. We are no wine connoisseurs, but we are definitely beginning to understand and appreciate our bottles better.

One of the better known Australian wine brands is the De Bortoli Wines. And when I received a discount voucher, it was the best time to put these wines to the test.

We got two bottles, a Chardonnay and a Shiraz. The wines arrived carefully packaged along with a copy of the 2015 De Bortoli food and wine calendar. The calendar got my attention immediately with a bunch of amazing recipes paired perfectly with a De Bortoli wine. It is a beautiful calendar with amazing rustic food photography, notes on the De Bortoli family, information about wines and recipes. A well-thought of and put together calendar…..

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Today’s warm summer pasta recipe comes from this calendar and we paired it with the 2012 Windy Park Chardonnay from Yarra Valley.

This is a simple and classic Italian recipe; just perfect for the warm, humid summers of Melbourne. Not one of those sauce laden, heavy dishes, this warm summer pasta incorporates fresh tomatoes, olives, garlic, herbs, sun dried tomatoes and spicy salami.

It’s quick and easy to prepare; slightly cook the ingredients with some good quality olive oil and toss the tagliatelle through it. Ready in minutes and a boon for days when you don’t want to slave away in the kitchen heat, especially during this festive season.

I really cannot describe wines in the flowery wine language but I can say so much – this one was medium-bodied with fruity, floral notes. And it paired beautifully with this warm summer pasta.

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So, with wine or not, this warm summer pasta is a great family dish and so simple, that you must try it for sure;

Original recipe by Leanne De Bortoli

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Ingredients:

1. 500 gm tagliatelle (or any ribbon-type pasta)
2. 5 ripe, red tomatoes; peeled and chopped
3. 8 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
4. 60gm black olives, pitted
5. 10 slices spicy salami, cut into strips
6. 2 tbsp olive oil
7. 3 garlic cloves, crushed
8. 2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
9. 3 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
10. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
11. Parmesan cheese, grated
12. Salt, to season
13. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Method:

(Slightly altered from original)

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water till al dente or according to packet instructions. Drain and keep aside, reserving ½ cup of the water.
2. In a deep pan, heat olive oil and sauté the salami strips for a minute or two.
3. Add the fresh tomatoes and garlic and sauté on high for one more minute or till the tomatoes are slightly mushy.
4. Add the sun dried tomatoes, sage, olives and balsamic vinegar; mix well and immediately add the drained pasta.
5. Season with salt, black pepper.
6. If the dish feels a bit dry, add a few spoons of the reserved water to loosen it up.
7. Remove from heat and add the basil and Parmesan; toss well to combine.
8. Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese.
9. Enjoy with a glass of wine and your loved ones!

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Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post; I received a discount voucher for De Bortoli wines at a blogging conference but paid the rest from my own pocket. All the opinions expressed are mine.

Louisiana Chicken Pasta

I got introduced to pastas very late in life, somewhere in my late-20s but when I did, I was hooked for life.

At that time, the pasta dishes used to be quite rudimentary in the Indian culinary scene. Apart from a handful of five star speciality restaurants, most places sold either pasta in white sauce or red tomato sauce. While it was comforting, there wasn’t much variety to choose from.

I learnt my first basic white sauce recipe from a colleague and I still remember vividly the thrill it gave me when I had mastered it at home. After that, pastas became a pretty common feature in our household especially after my little one was born. Children love pasta, don’t they!

But once I started making pasta dishes at home, I wanted to venture out beyond these two sauces. I started reading and researching more on Italian cuisine and it was a surprise to discover the sheer variety of pasta dishes available.

The real experimentation with pasta recipes happened after arriving in Australia especially with the abundance of ingredients and produce here. I have learnt many classic ones and also experimented and created some wacky ones; you can find it all here.

Today’s pasta dish, Louisiana chicken pasta, is not my creation but one I found on a fellow blogger’s site. Apparently, this is an Americanized version made famous by The Cheesecake Factory. What instantly captured my attention was the versatility of this recipe. You can use the Cajun sauce and come up with other pasta recipes of your own or you can use the fried chicken in many other ways; as a starter, in subs etc….

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Louisiana chicken pasta incorporates all the flavours we enjoy as a family – creamy, luscious, rich sauce with the aroma and flavours of the Cajun seasoning wafting through tossed through perfectly cooked penne and topped with succulent, fried Cajun spiced chicken pieces. And yes, a generous grating of Parmesan to transport you to culinary heaven.

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And before we head over to the recipe, I want to share with all of you that I have been nominated for the Indian Food Blogger Awards under the General Food Blog Category. To proceed to the next step, I need to garner as much as votes as possible. So if you think I deserve this chance, then please visit this page, to vote for me (check my blog name under General food blog category). Thank you.

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Recipe Courtesy – Savory and Sweet Food


Ingredients:

1. Cajun Sauce

• 1 Tbsp butter
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 small bell pepper, chopped ( you can mix red green and yellow)
• ½ small onion, chopped
• 3 whole garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 ½ cups heavy cream
• 1 ½ tsp Cajun spice or Creole seasoning
• ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
2. 2 Tbsp fresh basil or parsley
3. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
4. Salt, to season
5. freshly ground black pepper, to season
6. 250g Fusili
7. Chilli flakes (optional), for garnish
8. Chicken

• 300 gm or 2 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into big cubes
• 1 ½ tsp Cajun spice
• ¾ cup breadcrumbs
• 1 Tbsp flour
• ½ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
• ½ cup milk
• 4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

For Cajun Sauce:

• Melt butter and olive oil in large pan over medium heat.
• Add the peppers, and onion to same pan, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
• Add garlic and crushed red pepper to pan and sauté 3 minutes.
• Add cream and chicken stock and mix in the Cajun spice blend.
• Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
• Add basil and Parmesan cheese to sauce, stirring to incorporate.
• Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer till the sauce thickens.


For the chicken:

• Marinate chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning and leave for 30 minutes.
• Mix breadcrumbs, flour, and Parmesan cheese together.
• Place milk in dish for dipping.
• Dip chicken in breadcrumb mixture and then in milk and then back in breadcrumbs.
• Heat oil in a pan, fry the chicken pieces till golden brown and keep aside.


For the final dish:

• Cook the fusili in large pot of boiling salted water and drain.
• Add sauce and toss to coat.
• Place pasta with sauce on plate, sprinkle chilli flakes and top with chicken breast.
• Serve hot and tuck in!

collage

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Tuna Fusilli

The excessive use of technology in today’s world especially in our children’s lives….there has been much debate about this topic already. Apart from the scientific research studies, our everyday life and relationships stand testimony to the destructive nature of excessive technology use. Still most of us refuse to accept it or do anything about it.

I have entered into much debate, sometimes heated ones, with other parents regarding this, desperately trying to get the point across that you need to spend more time with your children than thrust a gadget into their hands so that we are not disturbed at the end of a tiring day’s work.

Believe me, I have nothing against technology; my whole career depends on it. In its own space, it is extremely useful and I cannot think of a life without it. My child knows enough about gadgets and technology to fit into this society in spite of not being a ‘glued to the iphone/ipad’ child.

Recently, I came across an article by Renee Robinson which captured the essence of what I have wanted to say to each parent. Renee has written it beautifully in the form of a letter to her sons on why she says ‘no to electronics’. Do take a moment to read this article as no one could have said it better than her.

Today’s recipe is a pasta dish – one that my boy loves to eat. It’s an easy, one-pot meal packed with delicious flavour and perfect for weekday dinners. Today’s working parents struggle to eat right on weekdays and this tuna fusilli helps you dish out a great meal within minutes leaving you less stressed out with more time to spend with your loved ones.

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A Curtis Stone recipe, this pasta dish is all about the tuna. The rich, meaty flavour of tuna goes well with pasta, throw in some veggies and you have a balanced dish on hand. I have used the Coles brand canned tuna but you can use just about any brand or even fresh tuna if you have some on hand.

Try and get your hand on fresh thyme if possible instead of the dried ones; the flavour is lighter and more refreshing. So, here’s the way to prepare tuna fusilli with crushed tomatoes, green beans and flavoured with fresh thyme and chilli flakes. The perfect one-pot comfort meal!

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Ingredients:

1. 200 gm fresh green beans, trimmed, cut crossways into 5cm-long pieces
2. 500 gm fusilli
3. ½ cup olive oil
4. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
5. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6. 2 large, ripe, red tomatoes, chopped finely
7. 4 large sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
8. 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
9. 2 x 150gm canned tuna (I used Italian style tuna but any type would do)
10. Salt, to season
11. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Method:

1. Blanch the green beans in salted water and keep aside.
2. Cook fusilli in boiling water according to packet directions. Drain and keep aside, reserving 1 cup water.
3. Heat half the oil in a large pan and add onion and garlic, cook for 1 min or until tender. Add tomatoes, thyme and chilli flakes and cook for 3 mins, or till the tomatoes have softened and turned mushy. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and salt.
4. Add reserved pasta water, beans and remaining oil to the tomato mixture. Add pasta and tuna and toss to coat, gently breaking up tuna with a spoon into large bite-size pieces.
5. Serve hot.

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And this sparkling brut was a special release as part of the 150th year celebrations of St. James Anglican Church of which I am a member of.

And to end, hope you have taken part in my blog’s first anniversary giveaway. If not, head over to this post to do the same. It is an international competition so make sure to invite your foodie friends too!

Penne with Kransky and Vine-Ripened Tomatoes

I know that I have written enough about the dull, dreary winter out here in Melbourne but I continue to write about it because I have turned into the laziest, slouchiest (if there is such a word) person in the world. Instead of embracing the beauty of the winter whites, all that I can think of and do is – sleep.

Oh! I can sleep – hours altogether without a worry in the world. I enjoy late nights and then sleep into the late mornings, sometimes afternoons. But the euphoria of the long, relaxing sleep does not last long. The mountain of household and professional chores gets to me and before long, I get grumpy and moody (vehemently making a mental resolution to follow better and disciplined sleeping habits). And to repeat it all again the next day. Sigh!

During the weekdays, I do not get to indulge in this erratic behavior and try to maintain a semblance of normality. But with the winter and school holidays setting in, I am back to my crazy schedule which leaves me hardly any time to cook elaborate meals or even get creative and experimentative in the kitchen.

And my go to dish for such days is pasta. There are a zillion recipes that you can come up for pasta and many of these require very few ingredients. Pasta is extremely forgiving and versatile, ready to take up any flavours that you infuse into it.

Today’s dish is penne with kransky and vine-ripened tomatoes; just as the name suggests, the main ingredients complimenting the pasta are the sweet and juicy vine-ripened tomatoes and the salty, earthy kransky. For those of you who do not know, kransky or Kranjska klobasa is a Slovenian sausage usually made from pork and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. This has a rich and meaty flavour and works really well with pasta.

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And before we head off to the recipe, let me tell you of a little perk-me-up that I received during the past week. I got a mail from the US chapter of the website, Sulekha.com saying that they would like to feature my blog on their website and also want to do a short interview for them. I was flabbergasted but happy too for this attention that my blog has received. So I did the interview, a very short one, and if interested, you can read it here.

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Recipe Courtesy – Woman’s Day

Ingredients:

• 500g penne
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 red capsicum – deseeded and sliced
• 1 onion – sliced
• 2 garlic cloves – crushed
• 1 red chilli – sliced finely
• 4 kransky (or other continental sausage) – thickly sliced
• Vine-ripened tomatoes – 4
• 50g baby spinach leaves
• 90g feta – crumbled
• Salt – to season
• Black pepper – to season

Method:

1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes.
2. In the meantime, heat oil in a large pan on medium. Sauté capsicum, onion, garlic and chilli for 4-5 minutes until softened.
3. Add sausage and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir spinach through until it starts to wilt.
4. The pasta would have cooked by now, drain and add to the tomato-sausage mixture.
5. Toss well to combine; season with salt and pepper after tasting. Garnish with crumbled feta cheese.
6. Serve hot.

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And if you are a pasta lover, then check out some of these awesome recipes.

Penne with ham, egg and roasted seasonal vegetables

A sense of belonging – that’s what really matters when you start life in a new country. It has never been friends or family that helped me feel connected or welcome in any new place but rather the food. The accessibility of fresh produce, availability of ingredients and the independence of roaming around the markets – all these have helped me adjust to a foreign environment. Maybe it’s my food obsession or my inherent inability to make friends easily…..

Migrating to Australia was no different. It was the presence of a local market, fresh produce and availability of all kinds of ingredients that made me feel at home here. I cannot altogether discredit the presence of friends in my life – I have made some extraordinary and irreplaceable friendships in my life. But speaking of developing and forging new friendships, it happens always over food for me, even here.

And that were my thoughts and rationale when I decided to take a dish for the Maundy Thursday meal at our local church. Now this was a very new tradition for us – but we loved the concept. A potluck meal shared together by all the congregation members before the main church service. The members could bring any dish but must fall under 3 categories – lamb, vegetarian or fruits. It is believed that Jesus Christ at these at the Last Supper table before He was betrayed and crucified.

Walking into the dining hall with my dish in hand, placing it amongst many others symbolized that ‘sense of belonging’. Isn’t it such a joy to share the food you cooked with others? It is, it truly is, because you are sharing not just food – you are sharing love. I finally belong here!

And here are some of the delicious dishes that were a part of the potluck meal. I made grilled paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and vegetable skewers with yoghurt, saffron and spice marinade.

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Coming to today’s recipe, it is a classic pasta dish – a simple, hearty pasta dish with roasted seasonal vegetables, ham and eggs.

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Apart from the fact that it is an extremely easy one to make, this is a wholesome and healthy dish as it has the right mix of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. I used zucchini, tomatoes, red onion and bell peppers but you can use any type of vegetables that are in season. And if you like gooey, runny yolk, replace the boiled eggs with poached ones. Personally, I would go with the poached egg but no other fans at home so did the boiled ones.

To spice up the dish a bit, I used Nando’s peri-peri salt. If you haven’t tried it yet, you must – it adds just the slightest hint of spice and a dash of salt which is perfect for seasoning fries, steaks, roast vegetables etc…

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Recipe Courtesy – Loosely based on a recipe from Coles magazine.

Ingredients:

1. Penne (use any type that you want) – 500 gm
2. Zucchini – 1, diced
3. Spanish red onion – 1, diced
4. Ripe yet firm tomatoes – 2, deseeded and diced
5. Broccoli florets – 1 cup
6. Bell pepper – 1, diced
7. Garlic – 4 cloves, whole
8. Ham – 100 gm, diced
9. Eggs – 4
10. Olive oil – 3 tbsp
11. Nando’s peri peri salt – to sprinkle
12. Baby spinach leaves – 50gm
13. Freshly shaved parmesan – to serve

Method:

• Boil the eggs in salted boiling water; peel, cut into halves and keep aside.
• Line a tray with baking paper and add all the diced vegetables except spinach leaves. Add the whole garlic cloves, sprinkle with peri-peri salt and olive oil. Mix well and roast in oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes or till done. Keep aside.
• Boil the pasta in salted boiling water, drain and keep aside.
• Heat olive oil in a large pan, add the ham and cook on high heat for a minute. Add the roasted vegetables, baby spinach leaves and cooked pasta; mix well and cook for another minute.
• To assemble, divide the pasta into bowl, add 2 halved eggs and shave parmesan cheese on top. Sprinkle the egg with peri-peri salt.
• Enjoy your bowl of goodness!

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