My very first childhood memory is of cooking from a recipe. And ever since I can remember, recipes have inspired me to cook. When accompanied by pics of illustrations, they take me captive.. enamoured, mesmerism, bewitch me. I become their person. Over time my ways of finding and evaluating recipes have changed. What hasn’t changed though is a bit of a demon that takes over when I follow recipes. I have been known to walk for an hour to get the exact ingredient I want, wait for months to get and use the equipment I need. Any deviation from a recipe..a quarter of a spoon more or less… unsifted flour instead of sifted, dark chocolate instead of milk, walnuts instead of pecans would drive me crazy…cause nightmares, cause sleepless nights and leave me feeling undone.
The past one year has changed my attitude to cooking. A bit of a liberation.. I still think of recipes as my best friends..my secret army against the world but I am now more at ease with winging it. Enjoy it even. Could even say look forward to it!! Maybe its that I am finally confident or just that I am ready to take risks. Disasters in the kitchen don’t kill my will to cook anymore. Perhaps I have finally grown up a little !! Today, as I threw together breakfast of fried rice (please don’t squirm at eating rice for breakfast, we are Mallus and rice is surely better than white bread) without my typical 4 hours of recipe search, shortlisting and finalising, I realised the sense of newfound freedom that the release from slavish recipe replication has given me. This may not be new to many.. but for me its a whole new plane of living. Infact, of-late My best dishes and worst disasters have been a result of cooking as I go…
Dont get me wrong, I am not rejecting the value of following a good recipe. There are ones that shouldn’t musn’t can’t be tampered with. I know I would be a fool to screw around with my cinnamon roll recipe that has stood the test of many many repeats but I have learnt that there is definitely a time and place where unplanned spur of the moment concoctions are the order of the day. It’s a bit like travelling without a plan. You are delighted by the surprises that your choices throw your way, you can play by your own mood and feed your fancy as and when you want to .. you can mould the flavours into exactly what you want, when you want. There is no long wait to hunt and find the exact ingredient, no wastage of packets of perfectly good stuff when you only needed a teaspoonful and the magic that comes from throwing together what you have at hand. The ingredients are easier to come by and you can use up a lot of odds and ends that linger in the fridge. Most of these recipes are simple and quick and the dividends and huge!
The good news is that I can use the blog to record the recipes that work before they evaporate from my mind and for those of you who would like to cook at home but don’t know what to cook, these recipes will hopefully offer a good place to start.
But the very best part is that this way I can actually get food to the table on time (a rare occurrence in my house anyone with experience will tell you).
So to start with, here is an easy lazy lunchtime favourite – Roast Vegetable Pasta (as shown above)
This is my go to dish for those days when I don’t want to sweat it out in the kitchen but I’m craving a yummy, satisfying pasta meal, low on effort and big on pay off. Do give this a shot. The main skill you need is to be able to switch on and off the oven. Improvise on this dish as you will…add fruit like apples, pear or grapes to the roasting mix for a fresh sweet contrast, lemon peel for that tang, vary the cheeses, add olives, nuts or fresh herbs at the end..the possibilities are endless. Go ahead and make this yours.
- Diced Vegetables - 6 cups (You can use a mix of various vegetables including eggplant, bell peppers, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, dudhi, tori, pumpkin).
- Herbs - 2 tablespoon each (Fresh thyme and sage, dried oregano)
- Garlic - 6-9 cloves, skin on
- Grated Orange peel - 2-3 teaspoons
- Sugar - 2 teaspoons
- Pasta - Half packet
- Fresh paneer or feta cheeses - 150 gm
- Salt and freshly crushed pepper
- Preheat oven upto 200 degree
- Toss vegetables with the garlic cloves, orange peel, herbs and olive oil. Sprinkle with sugar and season with salt and pepper
- Spread on foil lined trays and roast in oven till brown. Make sure you stir vegetables around from time to time to ensure even caramelisation. This should take about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste a piece for done-ness and correct seasoning.
- Cook pasta in well salted boiling water till al dente (the pasta needs to have a bite to it)
- Drain pasta and reserve a cup of the liquid
- Toss the hot pasta with the vegetables adding reserved liquid to keep the pasta moist
- Crumble cheese on top and serve