Monday, November 7, 2011

Mushroom tomato sauce

Shortly after I moved to Germany for my Ph.D, I was visited by two close friends , Faaizah and Nadeem working in England. My artless comments about Heidelberg must have convinced them that whatever modcons of civilisation the charming town contained, it must lack the wherewithal to supply me with Indian spices. So my Christmas hamper (and it was a wonderful one, I can remember most items it contained even now) had half a dozen bottles of Indian spices, "packaged and marketed" by Sainsbury's. Among them was nutmeg. Nutmeg is not commonly added to daily fare in India, and it was certainly my first rendezvous with the spice. While many Indian spices can be put in spoonfuls, nutmeg MUST be used only in pinches . With the result that not only did my bottle of nutmeg last me my sojourn in Germany (four and a half years), but I carried that bottle with a couple of intact nutmegs back when I moved back to India! That bottle still serves me well, though stocked with nutmeg from Coorg or Kerala nowadays. Nutmeg comes wrapped in layers. Indeed it took me a minute to realise the first time I purchased nutmeg in India, that several layers would need to be removed before I saw something familiar to the original contents of the Sainsbury bottle. The following sauce uses nutmeg and can be used equally well with pasta, rice or bread. The bread that I ate with it was made by my neighbours, Amritansu and Anita. They have bought a bread machine. And using it to its fullest potential. The bread was handed over to me the moment I unlocked my door. They had timed it beautifully. May they continue their good work :). I have presently a wonderful cheese table at hand. My husband Sitabhra did a splendid job of stocking from Germany on his recent trip. I couldn't resist sprinkling some of the Schnittkase he lugged back to India. But really, the sauce is great even without such ornamentation.

2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
10 button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Bak choy, coarsely chopped (spinach can be used as substitute)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 basil leaves
1 Tablespoon grated cheese

Wash and chop the vegetables. In a dry pan cook the sliced mushrooms for about 5 minutes, until they shrink and brown a little. Keep moving them so that they don't stick. Remove from the pan and add oil. Lightly brown the garlic and add the tomatoes. Add salt and sugar and cook uncovered for 7-10 minutes. Add the Bak choy (or its substitute). Stir to coat it with the tomato sauce and let it reduce. This should not take more than 3-5 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste. Add ground pepper, nutmeg and basil leaves cut into chiffonade. Stir everything well, cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve warm.

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