Friday, September 18, 2009

Zoya Factor inspired cooking
Apologies for not posting last week.9th was my birthday and I took the week off to catch up with myself. The plan was to read and generally slow down, no cooking, no writing, no work, just lots of time thanking my stars for the happy place I am in now.
So in keeping with my plan I decided to start with rereadng Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan.
I discovered it, and the entire genre of chick lit novels last year. I have been addicted to these speed reads ever since but ZF has set a high standard. In fact I have been known to accost total strangers in bookstores and told them to buy it!!
So ZF was a total riot the first time round. It revolves around protagonist Zoya Solanki, a client service rep with an advertising agency whose life starts happening when she’s asked to quit an ad film shoot featuring a lustworthy SRK, to go to Dhaka to shoot stills of the Indian cricket team! (I’d be pissed too!). Junior members of the team begin to consider her lucky, since they never lose a game after breakfasting with her! And a quirk of fate that had her being born at the exact moment India won the world cup in 1983 quickly makes her the lucky mascot for the team! The strong sultry team captain that adds both conflict and chemistry to the story but I won’t spoil the rest of it for you. It is an absolute riot though and I laughed silently to myself late into the night buried under my sleeping kids and drifted off to sleep in the aftermath...
so you will understand the disorientation in which I woke up to my husband gentle snores, rain beating down on the window and my toddler, Natasha sitting on me demanding cheese. (She’s recently discovered the stuff and taken to fridge hugging in a less than knee high assertion of her right to eat what she wants!) I was just digging into a steaming hot plate of the ‘balls curry’ (no innuendos intended WHATSOEVER) that Zoya’s maid specialises in, in my dreams when I was woken to a litany of ‘mama cheese chaiye, mama cheese chaiye’.
Bleary eyed I stumbled out, plopped her in her baby chair, quelled maternal instincts that were screamiiing HEALTHY BREAKFASTt, gave her the damn cheese (trust me a peaceful morning can empower mothers!) and went looking for the gourmet coffee I had bought (at great cost to the monthly budget) for just such a morning.
Only to be burried under a landslide of ingredients from the kitchen cupboard!
The next 15 mins are censored!

Two hours, one highly efficient, understanding, patient FINALLY AWAKE husband and a whirlwind kitchen cleanup later, I was sitting at the dining table, spicy ginger chai in hand, revelling in pride for myself. After all I had risen – ok I started a little slow and all – to the occasion and survived in the face of the odds. Besides my kitchen cupboards and fridge were in perfect order with stuff that needed to be consumed on a priority basis neatly lined up in front of me; odds and ends leftover from photo shoots and developing recipes, half packets of frozen stuff that had been hiding in the bottom of the freezer, opened packets of pasta and other debris that had accumulated as a result of my hurried meal preparations in the last few months. I would make irresistible delicious sense of the of random stuff staring at me.

I began thinking of the rajma pasta inspired Zoya’s aunt makes in the book… When I first read the book I was so intrigued by the concept of a spicy pasta, I had even written to Anuja Chauhan to ask for a recipe. She probably thought I was start raving nutters.. Anyways, I found myself thinking along those lines again...

Combining traditional Rajma with pasta was a no brainer. Pasta works perfectly with Keema in my Keema pasta so I figured that it would be fab here as well. I chose a nice garam masalla spiked North Indian style rajma rich with tomatoes as my base and then, keeping in mind that Rajma and Pasta would take care of protien and carbohydrates respectively on the nutrition front, I added a generous dose of veggies to the mix for fibre. A robust, hearty meal in one .....

Zoya's aunt's Rajma Pasta as envisioned by me...

Serves 4-6, time 1 hour
2 cups kidney beans, soaked overnight OR I can of ready cooked beans
2 tbsp ghee or to taste (I dont compromise on ghee in my cooking)
2 cups assorted veggies, diced (cauliflower, carrot, beans, sweet corn)
Pinch of Hing
½ tsp cumin1 tbsp ginger garlic paste2 large onions, chopped fine2 cups tomato puree1 tsp coriander powder1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp Garam masalla
3 cups cooked pasta
1/3 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese OR rind of Parmiggiano Reggiano + grated for serving
Cover the beans with water till about 3 inches over the surface of the beans and soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Place the pan of a pressure cooker on the flame and heat 1 tsp of ghee. Add veggies and stirfry till well coated and half cooked. Remove and set aside. Heat rest of the ghee, add hing and cumin seeds and allow to splutter. Add onions and stirfry untill transluscent. Add ginger garlic paste and cook till fragrant and onions have browned. Add the tomato puree and cook till the oil rises to the top. Add the spices and cook for another few minutes. Add the soaked beans to the pan with 6 cups of water and salt. (If you are using cooked beans out of a can you do niot need a preassure cooker.) Close the cooker and cook for 20 mins. Your cooking time will vary depending on the beans you use. You are aiming for thoroughly cooked. When done, open pan, using a ladle, smash up some of the beans against the walls of the pan (these will thicken the sauce eventually. Add the cheese and veggies to the pan and cook untill veggies are tender but firm. Add pasta, simmer 10 mins and serve hot. Sprinkle a little cheese over if you like.

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