Saturday, March 14, 2015

Instant green chilli pickle: Get you chilli fix

Sometimes a new product or idea can spread like fire, which is exactly what happened when the chilli pepper was introduced to the Indian continent by the Portuguese who in turn brought it from either the Caribbean islands or Chile/Brazil.

Indian cooking and Ayurveda are not exactly accepting of "foreign" foods but the green chilli was quickly incorporated into our cuisine and particularly Ayurvedic medicines. The chilli pepper soon pushed aside the black pepper in many Ayurvedic formulations to cure diseases from Cholera to medicated ointments/balms to relieve joint aches. Today one cannot dream of indian cooking without the chilli in its many forms, fresh, dry, powder, marinated...

Last week I visited the produce market several times and each time I picked a batch of green chillies....I cannot understand why I did that considering we don't really consume too many chillies as the boys don't like to eat even faintly spicy foods! It's okay though, as I really needed to make a batch of Instant chilli pickle. Ever since I started eating unpolished brown rice, Jowar berries and ragi rotis...I CRAVE some chilli heat, so I always have a small jar of this pickle in the fridge. It goes well with dal roti/rice or mixed into a salad.


100-150 gms fresh green chillies, washed, dried and cut into small pieces

1/3 cup split mustard seeds
1tbsp Nigella seeds
1/2 cup white vinegar
3tbsp mustard oil or any oil you may have at home
1tsp turmeric powder
2-3 tbsp salt


Mix all the ingredients and stir well. Store in a glass jar, preferably in the refrigerator to keep the chillies crisp. The pickle is ready to consume in a few days after the chilli heat has had a chance to mellow in the salty sour brine.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pasta Perfect: Aglio Olio e peperoncino

For a foodie there is nothing more sublime then biting into a piece of Pasta that has been cooked just right. Add a burst of flavor from fresh garlic and a hint of heat from chilli flakes tied together with the silky texture of olive oil and you are sure to be transported into sheer bliss.

I ALWAYS have several packages of dried pasta in my pantry, and the Penne shape is the preferred choice for the boys at home....something about its shape and ridges that hold on to a sauce real well!

When I'm all out of ideas and the fridge is nearing empty, a big bowl of Aglio Olio e peperoncino is the dish I love to make. Good quality olive oil, loads of freshly minced garlic, a generous pinch of bright red chilli flakes, chopped parsley and you have made a soul satisfying dish. The trick to making this fabulous bowl of pasta is cooking the pasta only 90% through and using a very good quality extra virgin olive oil that is from the first cold pressing. The flavor of the oil is very important as it adds a bit of fruity acidity to the dish. However if you don't have a good EVOO, just add some lemon/lime zest to the pasta.

1 package dried pasta of your choice (approx 500 gms), cooked al dente
6-8 tbsp EVOO ( olive oil)
3-4 tbsp minced/finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 tsp lime zest (optional)

Bring a large pot of water (3-4 ltr) to a boil. Add 2 tsp of salt, the dried pasta and let it cook on a medium flame for about 8 mins or as per the directions on the package. When about 90% cooked (still a bit firm to the bite) remove from heat and drain the pasta, keeping aside 200 ml of the drained water. Set aside. Heat olive oil, add minced garlic, chili flakes and parsley and let it sizzle for a minute. In a large bowl place the pasta and add the olive oil mixture, add lemon zest and toss so that all the pasta is coated, adding few tablespoons at a time of the pasta water to keep it moist. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve immediately into individual bowls and garnish with some fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese! Mangia!