A penne for your thoughts

Down foodpath

A penne for your thoughts

At first, the art of cooking came to me through a challenge and a will to impress my mother. But by the end, the art and its details itself left me impressed. When I was a child, my classmates would cook a few exciting dishes which my mother would relish.

This got me going as I wanted to impress her with my cuisines as well. I started with baking and tried out things like cakes and desserts. Though I had my mother as my initial guide, from whom I learnt a few authentic recipes, I also attended some baking courses. Soon, cooking became one of those wonderfully messy artforms that never got me listless.

Fortunately for me, I entered a joint family after marriage. This phase of life set my burning creative sparks in various directions. Since I was required to cater to the diverse palates of one big Indian family, I began cooking dishes from the traditional Iyengar recipes to the exotic Continental cuisines. Nothing came out perfectly in the beginning. I recall that I would buy two kgs of chillies and cook whatever I could from it. However, I am now glad that I was open to constructive criticism and learnt from my mistakes.

As life progressed, I began to love what I cooked and was glad to see my family and guests happy through my cooking.  However, this was not enough as I wanted to share the little knowledge that I had cultivated over the years with others. So, I wrote a cook book called ‘The Vegetarian Navarathna’ which comprises 240 vegetarian recipes. My idea was to acquaint people with various styles of cooking — from exotic dishes and savouries to Continental cuisines.

Today, I feel the younger ones who have an inclination for culinary science should be guided by an expert. They should also watch shows and reading books opens them to excellent ideas. Now, it’s much easier for youngsters to eat at a restaurant because they are busy and work all day. However, I feel that they can always take time off to cook a dish. Many also have a condescending attitude towards cooking and don’t see it as a pleasurable activity.

Coming to the recipe, it was a blunder at first, but now my son’s favourite. When I first tried it out, the white sauce wasn’t very thick. So I added flour and milk to it so that the sauce could be layered well. Cooking told me that I can perfect an art and learn it well, only after several mistakes.

My other passion — teaching — harmonises with cooking when I see the happiness on people’s faces. For me, cooking is therapeutic and gives me a sense of fulfillment.

(As told to Anushka Sivakumar)

For details, email mukundsridhar@gamesrnd.com

Pasta Hot pot

Recipe

Ingredients

* 1 medium packet macaroni

* 3 tbsps butter

* 2 cups milk

* 1/2 cup maida or white flour

* 1 cup cooking cheese

* 1/2 cup boiled peas or 1 cup boiled corn

* Assorted vegetables cut finely like carrots, beans, capsicum and cauliflower 1-2 cups

* 2 onions finely chopped

* 2 large tomatoes chopped

* 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste

* Salt, chilli powder and 1 tsp of pepper powder

Method

Boil six cups of water and add the macaroni to it. Add a teaspoon of oil to the water to prevent it from becoming sticky. Boil until done. Don’t over boil it and when done, check by breaking the macaroni with your knife.

Keep it covered for about 10 mins. Drain the water and let it cool. Heat two tbsps of butter in the pan and fry the drained macaroni on low heat until the butter is  absorbed. Put it aside.

In the meantime, add two tbsps of oil and fry the onions. Next fry the ginger garlic paste. Then add the chopped vegetables and fry for a while. After that, add the tomatoes, pepper, salt and chilli powders. Cook on low heat until the vegetables are done and tomatoes form an even paste. Do not add any water. Mix this prepared masala to the macaroni and toss lightly.

Preparation of cheese sauce

Fry the flour in one tbsp of butter until light brown. When slightly cool mix it with two cups of milk until it is smooth.

For best results strain the sauce and boil on low heat until it is thick. Add in the pieces of cheese. Let it cook to an even paste. Pour this sauce on the masala macaroni and bake on medium heat for half an hour or microwave on high heat for 3 minutes.

Variations

*  You can lightly fry mushrooms, paneer and boiled peas and add to the macaroni or you can lightly fry two bundles of spinach , boil it in a little water, puree it and add to the pasta.

*  If you want to savour a completely English taste, then you can omit the macaroni and use only the white cheese sauce. Cauliflower boiled and not overcooked can be added to the white sauce along with the fried ginger and garlic.

You need one teaspoon of pepper and salt. You can grind some chillies and add it to the sauce if you want it to be spicy. You can add pureed spinach and mushrooms lightly fried. Toss in some corn as well and bake for 20 minutes or microwave on high heat for two minutes.

Mashed potatoes and paneer can also be used in the sauce and baked. If you like eggs, then you can make a cheese soufflé by making the white sauce and adding to it a cup of cooking cheese. After it is warm add two egg yolks and mix well. Do not cook it.

Grease your microwave glass dish or your cake tin and pour in the batter. Beat the whites stiff and add in to the souffle. Do not mix, bake as instructed.

Spinach and paneer or cauliflower and boiled peas can be fried and added to the souffle. Frying the vegetables lightly and adding it to the sauce enhances the taste. A wholesome meal can thus be prepared for the family without any accompaniment.

*  Macaroni hot pot can also be prepared without the cheese sauce.

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