This post is dedicated to my sister, Anu. During the good old days when we used to stay together at home, every once in a while she would get into a good mood and decide to cook this dish for me – Macaroni in white sauce. Today I had a sudden craving to replicate my sister’s delicious recipe. I called her up and even though she was at work, she quickly gave me the recipe on the phone. She’d also given me some expert tips which I have included under the “Anu Says” section. Hope you enjoy it.

Before we get started, a little bit about the Béchamel sauce itself from our dear friends at Wikipedia.

Béchamel sauce , also known as white sauce (sauce blanche), is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine and is used in many recipes of the Italian cuisine. According to Larousse Gastronomique, the sauce is named after the Marquis de Béchamel, Béchameil was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to Louis XIV.

Before we get started, the preparation will be in five simple stages. Milk, Béchamel, Pasta, Vegetables,  Mixing. Onto to the show.

What you will need

(serves 2 and then some)

For the Béchamel-

40 g unsalted butter

40 g plain flour (maida)

400 ml milk

Anu Says: An easy way to remember the proportion to make the Béchamel sauce is that its one part butter to one part flour to 10 parts of milk.

1 bayleaf

1 slice of onion

3-4 stalks of parsley

8 corns of black pepper, ground to coarse powder

For the vegetables

Onions, peas, sweet corn, carrot, broccoli (choose any 4 ) cut into small cubes.

For the macaroni

200 g macaroni

2 tbsp oil

salt

Let’s Do This

Step 1 :- Getting the milk ready

Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Add one bayleaf, the parsley leaves and the onion. Keep the milk on simmer and wait for about 5-6 minutes.

When the milk comes to boil, turn off the gas. Pour the milk through a strainer to remove the flavorings and keep the infused milk aside.

Step 2 – Macaroni

Bring a large bowl of water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or any oil). This is just to keep the pasta from sticking to each other. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt and mix well. Make sure you add the macaroni when the water is boiling.

Stir contantly making sure to use a wooden spoon so as not to damage the macaroni. Keep the macaroni boiling till it gets cooked just right

Anu says: Al dente is cooking the macaroni  firm but not hard, good enough to bite and not too gooey. The pasta should be cooked through, but when you put it in your mouth it will give some resistance to bite.

Drain out the water and keep the macaroni aside.

Step 3 – The vegetables

You’ll need to boil the vegetables for about 10 minutes in water. Bring water to boil in a pan and add your choice of vegetables. I chose sweet corn, green peas, carrots. The main reason for this choice was a) I loved the colors – yellow, green and orange b) My local supermarket had run out of broccoli 🙂

When the vegetables are cooked well, remove them from water and keep them in small cup. Chop the onions fine. Heat some butter in a pan and saute the onions well till they become translucent. Put them in a small cup as well.

Step 4:-  Making the Béchamel

Clean out the saucepan you used above. After wiping it dry, put in the butter. Heat it on a low flame. The idea is to just melt the butter, and not to burn/brown it. This could affect the color of the sauce later on.

Just when the butter melts, throw in the flour and stir quickly. In a few seconds, it will become a nice golden-yellow paste.

Right, now its time to bring the infused milk. Add the milk 25ml at a time. Every time you add the milk, make sure to stir quickly and vigorously till the milk gets absorbed into the mixture. When it does, add another 25 ml. Keep doing this till about half the milk has gone in. After that add the balance milk at one go. The mixture will tend to lump immediately.

No worries, just keep whisking briskly for about 5 minutes and soon the mixture will be free of lumps and you’ll have a smooth a lovely looking paste.

Keep it on the sim flame for another 5 minutes.

Add some salt to taste, and add black pepper powder. Say hello to your very own Béchamel sauce.

Anu says: If you’re not planning to make the dish right away, don’t do the next step now. Melt some butter and pour it over the sauce. It will protect the sauce. When you want to cook, just heat it up and mix it nicely.

Step 5:- Putting it together

Mix the vegetables into the sauce. Make sure you keep some vegetables for the plating. Put the macaroni in next, stirring gently so as not to break the it. Make sure the sauce gets nicely distributed.

Step 6:- Plating

Put the macaroni in white sauce in a bowl. Sprinkle some of the left-over vegetables that you had kept aside. Put a slice of cheese on top and melt in the microwave. Garnish with some parsley and you’re ready to serve.

Whenever Anu used to make this dish for me,  I remember I used to feel so happy. I made this dish for D today and saw the smile that I remembered this dish used to bring to my face. Thanks Sis!

It all comes together!

Pomegranate Raita – left – from Nigella Lawson’s show – and my cooking here.

Muttar Panner – bottom – from Nigella Lawson’s show – and my cooking here.

Or rather Peas & Cheese

Or as the British would have it .. Muttah pan-Knee-yur!

This recipe is also from Nigella Lawson. It’s from the same show as the pomegranate raita. I usually avoid paneer altogether. But, I haven’t seen paneer dancing with peas in a long time. So I thought, let’s turn on the gas stove and make us some paneer.

This recipe started with a disaster I can never forget. After I paid the bill for all the other ingredients, I realized that all the groceries around my house were out of stock on paneer. If you know me, you know that if I’ve decided mutter paneer, then nothing else can take it place. So after some googling I found out there were cheese substitues that I could use in it’s place. So I headed back to the store, and hello hello! There was plain, hallomi, feta, labneh and what not. Also, a lot of these packs had some ingredient called Cow’s Rennet. I did some googling from my mobile and found out this :-

Cheese is made by coagulating milk to give curds which are then separated from the liquid, whey, after which they can be processed and matured to produce a wide variety of cheeses. Milk is coagulated by the addition of rennet. The active ingredient of rennet is the enzyme, chymosin (also known as rennin). The usual source of rennet is the stomach of slaughtered newly-born calves. 

http://www.vegsoc.org/info/cheese.html
 

Whoops! That was scary! Stomach of a slaughtered newly born calf? No thank you! Just when I was about to give up, I read the next line –

 Vegetarian cheeses are manufactured using rennet from either fungal or bacterial sources. Advances in genetic engineering processes means they may now also be made using chymosin produced by genetically altered micro-organisms.

God bless genetics! I checked some more packs and found one that said – “Rennet cultured from microbes”. I did a little jig. What I had forgotten in my excitement was that I should have also googled whether the cheese melted under fire, or burnt. I didn’t. My bad! I came back home and tried heating the cheese cubes and watch my dreams melt away with them cubes. 

Day 2. Went looking further. In between calls to Chandrasur and 2kgwala, I managed to locate a shop selling paneer. One kilo of it. Amul Frozen Paneer. I actually heard the “Amul .. The Taste of Indiaaaaaa” in my head when I picked up the pack. 10 minutes later, go – time!

Muttar Paneer

What you will need:-

1/2 cup vegetable oil 
250 gms paneer
1 onion, halved 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
1-inch piece ginger, roughly chopped 
3 teaspoons of salt – adjust for your taste
1 teaspoon turmeric 
1 teaspoon garam masala 
500gm packet frozen peas 
1 teaspoon tomato puree 
1 cup vegetable stock (I used 2 cups water for this)

Let’s Do This! 

The first thing you can do is prepare the paneer cubes. I opened my 1 kg pack to find two 500 gm packs inside. Which meant I needed to break one of them to get my 250 gms. 2 knives, a hammer and a screwdriver gave me all they had, but alas! I could barely dent the surface. The instruction was to let it thaw for 30 mins. I couldn’t wait that long. I put in my microwave at Med. low for 6 mins, and voila! The knife ran through it smooth as butter..er..cheese. Careful though. You shouldn’t put back in to the freezer stuff that was frozen before and thawed. Keep such items in the fridge. Once you manage to get a chunk of paneer, cut them into darling 1″ cubes like this.

Heat the oil a large pan  and add the paneer cubes, in 2 batches, and fry until they are golden.  The paneer will give out some water when heated, and given that there is no love lost between Mr. Oil and Mr. Water, you may want to get an apron and some glasses on. Fry them on one side ..

And then flip each of them over to fry the other, so that you have something that looks like a grilled sandwich.

Remove the golden cubes to a double thickness of kitchen towel. It is possible to dry fry the paneer cubes in the pan with no oil, to avoid the oil splashing you. Then continue with the recipe below.

Pour all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil out of the pan. Put the onion, garlic cloves, and ginger into a food processor and blitz to a coarse pulp. Should look like this..

Fry gently for about 5 minutes with a sprinkling of salt. Stir in the garam masala and turmeric and cook for another 2 minutes before adding the still frozen peas. Dissolve the tomato puree in the vegetable stock and pour over the contents of the pan. Stir again and turn the heat down to low, cover with foil or a lid.

Before ..

Cook for 15 minutes, tasting to check that the peas are tender.

After..

You can cook muttar paneer up to this stage, if you like, uncovering and then reheating gently with the diced, oil-crisped paneer, or proceed directly now. In which case, take off the foil and add the paneer cubes to warm them through before serving. 

Do that and you have – 

~ Muttar Paneer ~

I saw this recipe on Nigella Feasts. I usually don’t like the show very much. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a wonderful cook. I just am very uncomfortable with the way she romances the camera, with her coy smiles, subtle shimmeys, blushes, eyelid bats etc. Watching a stranger coming on to me on television, when she’s cooking is a little nauseating.

However, this show had an Indian theme to it and I really like two of the items she cooked on it. One of them was a sweet and tangy pomegranate raita. If you don’t already know, a raita is a curd based dip that accompanies a lot of North Indian cooking, especially if there’s any Indian bread on the plate. South Indians have it too, but it’s called patchadi.

Here it is the Anarkali of Raitas –

The Pomegranate Raita a la Nigella

What you need:-

1 1/2 cups natural yogurt

3 spring onions
1 pomegranate, to give 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 
1/2 teaspoon salt

Let’s Do This:-

Chop the spring onions. Spring onions are supposed to be milder than actual onions, but I didn’t feel it at all. Cut off the leaves, the roots and slice about 2-3 mm thick circles across.

 

Next, we need to deseed the pomegranate. A nice trick is to cut the thing in half. Once you’ve done that, take a hard bottomed spoon, keep the seeded side away from you and well, for want of a better word, spank! 🙂

Give the skin some nice hard but firm thwacks and all the seeds should pop right out.

This should ensure that you get something that looks like this –

 

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, reserving some pomegranate seeds for garnish. Add a squeeze of pomegranate juice from the husks of the seeded pomegranate at the end.

Stir everything together, and serve in a bowl scattering the reserved pomegranate seeds over as a garnish. 

 

Now doesn’t that look yummy or what? I’ll warn you – don’t try licking it. If you do, you’ll end up making it your main course!

It’s my birthday today. I turn 27 and decided I would make something nice to celebrate. I decided to have a Calorie Extravaganza.

I made Pasta and Garlic bread. I had some white wine that was begging me to open it, so I bought that out as well. And I bought some of my favorite Pralines and Cream ice cream.

What was it they say about being sinful on your birthday?

As my dad said … Happy Birthday Mr. Bean!

The pasta needed garlic bread. So, here goes!

Microwave Garlic Bread

What you need

One french loaf

5-6 garlic cloves

100 gms butter

some parsley

A slice of cheese

Let’s do this

Fine chop the garlic and the parsley. If you have a garlic crusher, so much the better. Otherwise, chop,chop,chop.

But some butter in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds on medium heat.

Take out the butter and mix in the garlic and parsley.

Cut the french loaf as wedges. You can do this by cutting 2 cm thick pieces. While cutting remember not to cut down straight, but to rather cut diagonally.

Apply the butter mix on the wedges. You could also add some cheese on the top and put it in the microwave.

Heat it up at full tempetrature for 2 minutes.


Ta-da!

I’m thought I’d start a guest post column. What I can do here, is have someone send me a recipe and I make the dish. Simple enough.

I’m using the mail that Wika sent, with the pictures from my attempt to do justice to the recipe.

Ladies and gentlemen, without any further I give you Wika’s Ghost-at-1:00 Pasta

Take it away Wika!

“Here’s what I did for a quick pasta dinner. My ingredients etc are not strictly measured  and most are approximate amounts. So please bear with me, but then I’m not a FridayCook. Guess what you just became one. Anyways here goes.

Pasta Prep:

Put about a 100gms of Penne pasta (2 cups full – one cup each for the number of servings you require) in a saucepan full of water and boil it with a pinch of salt and a tea spoon of cooking oil. The oil will prevent the pasta from sticking.

Simmer it on low flame for about 15 mins till the pasta is al-dente ( The “just right” state when the pasta is neither too sticky or too hard). Just pick out one  bit of  pasta and bite into it  to find out if its reached that state yet . Then drain out the excess water and add some cool water to the pasta and drain it off in about 30 secs. This way the pasta doesn’t stick while you make the sauce.

The Sauce:

Take 3 tomatoes and halve it . Put in a container with boiling water and let it blanch for about 5 mins. Blanching involves boiling the tomatoes for 5 minutes and then plunging it in cold water.

In the meanwhile, since you don’t have much to do, why don’t you also chop about 5 cloves of garlic finely and similarly take about one medium sized onion and a medium sized capsicum and finely chop it. Now slit a long green chilly and keep aside along with the other chopped vegetables. You may also include a small amount of parsley. Wash and chop.

Now drain the tomatoes which have been blanched and grind it into a fine paste in the grinder.Keep it aside for use later.

Pasta Time:

Now, put some oil into a deep bottomed frying pan and add a small (mind it !! ) dollop of butter into it . Let it warm and then add the chopped garlic into it.Saute it well, till it turns slightly brown and add the chopped onions, chilly, parsley and capsicum to it. Stir it well and fry till onions turn golden brown. You might want to cover it for about a minute so that the capsicum cooks in the low heat as well. Now add the tomato puree and add some salt (about 2 tspns) and chilly powder (2 tspsns)– if you a fancy a little extra  spice in life!! Cook this sauce for about 2 mins so the water content reduces a bit . If you have oregano powder, add it at the end.

Now add the pasta which is lying aside – bored and carefully mix in the pasta to the sauce. Don’t stir too much or you might get a paste .. not pasta !! For garnishing .. you can grate some cheese at the top after you’ve served a generous amount of pasta onto your plate.

And you are ready to enjoy – a quick, delicious, piping hot Wika -Pasta !!!

– Wika-turned-fridaycook-for-the-day !!

Salut!