Tag Archives: pasta

Cloudy with NO chance of meatballs.

12 Aug

Neatballs? I went online to see the kitchen exploits of fellow vegetarian cooks and came across several sites featuring recipes for Neatballs. One click later and I realised neatballs is a term that’s been coined for vegan meatballs.

Why “Neat”?  Well, the “N” represents the “normal” ingredients that go into a neatball. Normal as in common, everyday, easy to find ingredients. Seriously?

A neatball is really a new-fangled way of saying vegetarian or vegan koftas. Instead of ground meat as the base, vegetarians use beans, tofu, nuts, mushrooms, eggplant or pulses as the base for their balls/cutlets. The different base ingredients determine not only the taste of your cutlet but also the texture. Using eggplant, for example, will yield you a smooth, soft cutlet while a nut-bean combo will give you a rough, crunchy texture. Mushrooms, of course, make anything taste good 🙂

Mushrooms are my favourite base ingredient for vegetarian koftas. And, unlike most recipes using mushroom, with koftas, I find the stems more useful than the caps so I buy the king oyster mushrooms (the one where the stems are at least a couple of inches thick and the caps are tiny and pale) and mix them with some shitake (stems and caps). The stems give you the koftas a kind of toughness you won’t find with most vegetables.

I drained the mushrooms (about 2 cups)  and roughly chopped them up. Next, I seasoned them with just salt and pepper and dry roasted them for about 30 mins (150C). Let them cool.

Once cool, mix the caps with other ingredients of choice: I used walnuts (1/4 cup), some carrots (1/2 cup), parsley (a handful, chopped) and eggplant (1/2 cup, lightly roasted) and blend them till they are slightly pureed — allow for some chunkiness. Add some mash potato (1 potato) and breadcrumbs (just 1/2 cup, optional) and season with oregano, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Roll into balls, and you’re set.

Bake at 180C for 20 mins or till they’re nice and browned. I cooked my koftas in a tomato-based stew and ate it with spaghetti but I kept several aside to eat on their own for my dinner tomorrow. They’re that tasty ..

You had me at Aglio Olio

5 Jun

My friend Premah asked me a couple of days ago if I had a recipe for Pasta Aglio e Olio. Unfortunately, I didn’t, although the Angel Hair pasta with garlic and breadcrumbs I often make is a variation of the classic Aglio e Olio. Well, it’s been two days and I haven’t been able to get Aglio Olio out of my mind. Not that I was particularly craving for it, but I was itchy to try and make it. It isn’t complicated and it’s essentially vegetarian; vegan even as it  doesn’t have cheese.

Aglio Olio has neither a tomato base nor a creamy base. It’s a simple, straightforward, rustic pasta dish but that really doesn’t mean it’s a no brainer.

Aglio Olio is Italian for garlic and oil. And that’s basically what it takes to make this dish what it is. Parsley is also an essential ingredient as is chilli flakes or dried chillies while seasoning is salt and pepper.

Linguini is supposed to be the original pasta of choice for Aglio e Olio but I had angel hair so I didn’t have the luxury of choice.

Cooking the pasta: I decided to cook the pasta in vegetable stock to add flavour. At the World Gourmet Summit I attended in Singapaore a month or so ago, I attended a cooking masterclass by Italian Chef  Andrea Berton who cooked his pasta in stock to wonderful results. So I decided to follow suit. It was a great tip as the pasta soaks up the stock well. I would think a thicker noodle would perhaps be better but I made do with what I had.  As usual, cook in al dente.

In a skillet, heat about 4 tbsp of olive oil and add the garlic (8 cloves, squished and minced) and chilli flakes (2 tsp) and 2 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley (opt for the Italian flat leaf parsley as it’s more flavourful).  Toss the ingredients around and make sure you don’t let the garlic burn.

When it’s all toasty and fragrant add the cooked pasta. You can add the pasta straight from the saucepan or stockpot you boiled it in so that it’s still moist. Also add 3-4 tbsp of the stock in with the pasta. Season with salt and black pepper. Toss the pasta so it’s coated with the olive oil, garlic, chilli, parsley and the seasoning.

Cook on low heat for a few minutes, adding a little more  parsley. The pasta will be a little wet, but it should never be soupy.

Remove and serve.

Now, this is the basic Aglio e Olio and you will find variations like  adding seafood like  prawns or mussels, tomatoes and sometimes even minced meat. I tried it with some sauteed mushrooms — it tasted good but honestly, I preferred it plain with no frills.