My kitchen at 7:00 A.M.

…is an unusually quiet place to be.

Soft sunlight through the shady panes, breezy drafts from the adjoining terrace garden, the odd vegetable lying around, empty Martini bottles stacked in a corner from the party last night and the subtle sizzle of portobello mushrooms cooking in cream and mozzarella.

Bucatini pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Aubergine and Martini
No, I haven’t gone completely crazy yet. But I admit I’m on a quest to use up all the alcohol that we have at home, mostly left over from parties. Generally speaking, I love my pasta best with wine.

This recipe uses Martini (Rossi).

What you need:

Bucatini pasta (I was cooking for two, so I used a big handful, about 100-120gms)

– 100 ml Martini & Rossi (you could substitute with Vermouth….or better yet, WHITE WINE)

– Half a cup of portobello mushrooms, sliced finely

– Half a cup of chopped aubergine (egg plants, brinjal, baingan, etc..)

– 2 tablespoons of good quality unsalted butter

– 2 spring onions, chopped (a better substitute would be red onions)

– 8 cloves of garlic, smashed (try using a side of your kitchen knife)

– 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

– 200 ml of fresh cream

– Half a teaspoon of dried oregano

– Half a teaspoon of dried basil

– 150-180 gms of mozarella (try not using the “rubbery” type), chopped into “melt-able” cubes

– Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (depends on how hot you like it…)

– 1 teaspoon of sugar

– Salt to taste

– 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

– Freshly chopped parsley

Directions:

Boil three cups of water and a measely teaspoon of salt in a deep bottomed pan. Add the pasta when the water boils. Cook for 11-15 minutes.

– Before straining the pasta, keep aside a cup of the starchy water it boils in, to be used in the sauce later.

– Strain the pasta and run cold water through it.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions, garlic and peppercorn and saute till the onions turn translucent.

– Add the mushrooms and aubergine. Cover and cook on low heat till the veggies soften.

– Pour in the alcohol and add sugar. Stir well. Cover and cook for another minute before adding the rest of the ingredients (except salt, olive oil and parsley) slowly.

– Cook on low heat till the chesse has melted completely and the cream starts to bubble up slightly.

– Do a taste check and add salt accordingly.

– Pour in the water, saved from the cooking pasta. and stir well.

– Cook for another five minutes.

– Combine the pasta and sauce well. Sprinkle olive oil and chopped parsely. Mix well.

– Eat.

Cashew & Cheese Cakelets

“But this is plain !” complained my brother with his eyebrows knit closely together. He put the piece of sponge cake back on the plate and pushed it away. Yes, I know…he pushed away cake!

This is what happens when you whip up desserts too often in our household. Everybody gets used to it and expects everything to be stuffed with nuts, or smothered in chocolate or topped with fruity cream. Whatever happened to enjoying the good ol’ plum cake with tea or a plain vanilla sponge cake, for that matter?

On my mother’s request, (why does she have to be so partial towards her son…that kid has it easy, I tell you…not fair at all!) I set to make one of my favorites of all times – Cashew & Cream Cheese Cakelets.

Usually, we’ve always liked it with ice-cream or some kind of jam/jelly glazing on top; this time I’ve dunked them in a crème fraîche bath.

For each cakelet:

1 egg

– 60gms all-purpose flour

– 2 tablespoons ground cashew nuts

– 50gms unsalted butter

– 3 tablespoons cream cheese

– 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (thick, hung, sour curd would do too)

– 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 350° C. Blitz all the ingredients in a processor till nice and smooth. Fill greased ramekins with the batter and bake for 15-20 minutes. You could also bake the batter in parts to make layered cakelets, like I did. Cool the cakelets in their ramekins, on the rack.

The icing (and filling) is a plain ganache, made by heating double cream with sugar and cocoa powder in equal parts. Add whipped cream or ice-cream with a sprinkling of chopped cashews before serving.

And I swear, I’m never baking again! Ever!

People just have to get use to plain old fruit cake now.