Slow roasted cherry tomato spirelli pasta salad

For new years' eve wanted to try something new and chose the slow roasted cherry tomato pasta salad from Kalyn's kitchen. I had all the ingredients for this and started it right away.

zucchini - 1 whole slit into thin long pieces.
cubed yellow pepper - 1/4 cup .
cherry tomatoes: 10
basil  - 2 tea spoons
oregano - 1 tea spoon
celery leaves - 1 tea spoon
garlic - 1 big clove/1 tea spoon crushed 
olive oil - 1/2 cup
cooked pasta - 3 cups
cheese - 1 cup (I used Emmental cheese)
pepper - 2 tea spoons
honey - 1 tea spoon
Preheat oven to 130 C for 20 minutes.
Prepare the marinade by mixing Olive oil , oregano and Basil.
wash and cut cherry tomatoes into half and mix with the marinade.
I do not have a cookie tray here so used a wide baking sheet folded the edges, more like box, just to contain any cooking juice that would ooze out. Grease the baking sheet with oil and place the tomatoes cut side down one by one , Roughly spread garlic on top. Place it in the oven for around a total time of 6 hours. Let the remaining marinade remain in the bowl.
I started making this very late in the afternoon, around 3 PM and I wanted this ready by 9 PM for dinner. So after 4 hours of cooking(at 7 PM), I increased the temperature to 175 C for about 10 minutes and then reverted back. At 8 PM I saw that skin was all dry and the little juices which had come out were turning blackish(which is very normal). at this point I turned the tomatoes and roasted for another one hour. 

- Slit Zucchini, apply marinade and then roast it on the skillet till it gets slight brown color at random places. turn it around to get the same effect on the other side. now dice them into cubes and add it to the bowl with the leftover marinade.
- Toss the yellow ball pepper on the skillet for around 2-3 minutes and add it to the marinade bowl.
-cook pasta as per directions and drain.
- Add cooked pasta, cheese and pepper into the marinade bowl.
- once the cherry tomatoes are done, remove from the oven, cut each into 4 pieces and add to the bowl and mix well.
I added a tea spoon of honey to get a sweet tinge though would have preferred pineapple.

Eve of 2011

Another year has passed by and the same feeling prevails every new years eve. I am an year older! Definitely cannot say have grown wiser as I am in as much of a confusion as I was in 1999. The state of mind then and now is almost similar in terms of having to choose a career,interests,love,life, marriage, friendship and promises. It is hard to decide when you are not clear of what you want and you can overcome that by only prioritising. But along with prioritization which your mind does your heart also should be in sync. somehow they were never in sync for me through out I guess. And to complicate matters I take resolutions which hardly last a month.
To evade these thoughts from diseminating further I am cooking a three course meal.
Menu for 2011 Eve
1. Mushroom cheese fry
2. Spirelli pasta cheese salad with slow dried chery tomato and yellow ball peppers
3. Banana nut cake with vanilla and chocolate pudding layers
Recipe in other blog
all accompanied with Belgian Draught and fruit infused beer.
Hope this year I will be able to get both my head and heart in sync and do things which will not make me regret the next year.

Musings - I

How is it that 'Bloody Mary'  still appears in the bar-menu without being offensive to neither the queen nor any  community?

Guide to Indians coming to Brussels - Part I

Living in a country where English is not the widely spoken language, can be intimidating at times.  The initial settlement time can be quite long. Unlike the US and UK where atleast 2 Indians can be pointed out on any street at any given time, in Belgium it is not common. Not that it matters even if you locate Asians because no smiles are exchanged except for some cold second glances.
1.       Weather:
They say Belgium weather is ‘mild’. I wouldn’t classify it as mild for one reason that the weather here is never predictable and this winter was quite harsh on us. Even weather forecast you can see predictions only for 3 days ahead. You cannot plan for a weekend trip a week in advance, based on the weather. Apparently in Belgium it should not snow but due to global warming the country is facing colder winters.
We have seen so far the coldest is -10 C during November/December. Snow is random followed by rain.
2.       Travel
After arriving at the airport you can either take a taxi, train or bus to reach the city. Taxi can cost you 30-40 € to reach the city centre. Train is 5 € from city to Rogier, a station in north of Brussels capital region. Once you reach Rogier you can take the metro to any other place. Bus connects the airport and the various parts of the city. We live in Schuman, where you can see many Europe union buildings. The following buses connect to the airport from here.
Bus 12: Express with very few stops
Bus 21: airport to Luxembourg station via Schuman.
a.       Train: trains are outgoing railway connections and they are there in the following stations. All Train stations are maintained by SNCB. Sometimes the Metro Stations and the train stations are in the same underground holes like in Schuman.  The Luxembourg station is also called as ‘Luxembourg’ so initially it can be confusing with the country Luxembourg. The tickets are not sold everywhere. I have seen them only in grand central station. Once you get the ticket, make sure you write the from and to places of travel along with the date as soon as you board the train. Ticket checking is random and you can get fined if you have not written the travel details on it.
                             i.      Schuman             - Train and Metro in same place
                            ii.      Grand Centrale - Train and Metro are separate but both are very close.
                            iii.      Gare du Midi      - Train and Metro
                            iv.      Rogier                  -  Train and Metro in the same place.
                            v.      Luxembourg      - Only Train. The closest station to this place is Troone.
b.    Metro: There are Metro rails which run around the Brussels City. They are maintained by STIB. There are kiosks and vending machines in every underground where you can buy travel cards of various denominations like one time travel, 5 jumps , 10 jumps. Each time you travel you have to swipe the card at the entry points and it is valid for an hour. Some stations like Rogier are modern and to enter or exit out of the station you need to swipe the card else you can get stranded there. There is random checking here too.
c.    Trams: Trams run along the roads again maintained by STIB. The Metro Travel card works here.
d.    Bus : They are maintained by STIB. The Metro Travel card works here too. The timings of the bus is also published at the bus stops. You can pay by cash for a single trip in the bus(driver collects them). Inside the bus there is a monitor which shows the current and coming up stations. When the stop of your travel destination is the next stop then don’t forget to press the blue button found on the handle rods. Once you press the button a light near the exit door is lighted and this tells the driver to stop at the coming bus stop. Sometimes they will not stop at all if the button is not pressed.
e.   Cycles: There are cycle kiosks ‘VILLO’at some specific places where you can pay and chose to ride around the city. Once done you can leave the cycle at the kiosks.
3.       Housing/Accomodation: you can contact estate agents to show you the house and provide him/her with the specifications.  It is always good to take a fully furnished apartment/house and have a checklist of items you would definitely need.  Alternatively you can check for houses on websites( as well. If you just walk around in the city, you can find pamphlets stuck on walls reading ‘A Louer’ and ‘A Vendre’ which means ‘For rent’ and ‘For sale’ respectively. There will be contact information on the pamphlet and you can call and choose to see the house as well.  Good thing is the agents are paid by the owner so you do not have to pay them anything. One month rent is paid as booking and 2 months advance is deposited at the bank as guarantee. This will be in the bank and when you are leaving the house, your owner needs to sign to release the amount.
4.      Residence permit: Within one week of landing in Belgium you need to find a house, make the house agreement and go to the commune (based on the location of your house) and register there. List of documents are published on the Brussel website.
Communes are open on weekdays between 8 to 12 pm only and there is a huge queue to take the token. So people go early morning like 7 AM and stand in line though the window for token opens only at 8 AM. Once you get the token, you are called serial number wise for giving the documents and registering.  You will get an acknowledgement letter on day 1. Next there will be a police verification at your residence. If you are there at home when the police comes then that is easy, else either they will leave a note for you to come to the police station or check with your neighbours. Or sometimes without verification the report is sent to the Commune. Once commune receives this report they send a letter to us at our residence to visit the commune at the specified appointment time. You have to go there and again take token and you might be questioned about your stay etc and if all is well you will get the card based on how much cash you have. To get the card within one day, you have to shell out 200/- and if you do not choose to pay anything then you might get the card in another month’s time. The whole process end to end can take 2- 3 months.
5.     Grocery store
a.    Garam Masala : this is in Ixelles  and you get almost all Indian groceries, masala and vegetables here. Maggi, south Indian sona massorie rice, bitter gourd, all kinds of masala and spice powders, puttu powder, Dosa mix etc.  Almost all the pulses and masala packets are of the same brand – a lady wearing a red veil and grinding pulses with the grindingstone. ‘Chakki peesing’ J.
b.    Green Pepper:  this is also in Ixelles and close to the first shop.
c.    Compte De Flandre : this is a metro station, 3 stations to the west of Grand Centrale station. (grand central > Debrockere > St Catherine > compte De Flandre). Ask anyone for the Fortis bank and just opposite to this there is a store where you get all Indian/pakistan stuff. There are other shops in the same street where you get the roling pin, cutlery, Indian kadai and tawa.
d.    Alimentation general stores: they are found at every corner and they too keep Indian Masalas and stuff which are priced highly.
6.       Other household items and groceries
a.    Colruyt : is the cheapest  good store with fewer branches.
b.    IKEA : there are two stores: one in zaventem(East of Brussels) and one in Ceria(south west of Brussels)
c.    DELHAIZE : found almost everywhere.
d.    GB Carrefour and Carrefour express : found almost everywhere.
e.    Lidl : at Ixellles is also very cheap.
7.        Prayer place
a.    Centre for Bhatki Yoga:  Rue Royale 185, 2nd floor, Brussels
This place is somebody’s house where they do bhajans and devotional reading on saturday afternoons only.
b.   Radhadesh : Ch√Ęteau de Petite Somme,6940 Durbuy (Septon) 
8.      Chocolates
       You get lots of varieties of chocolates. Neuhaus and Leonidas stores are there almost there everywhere. Out of these known brands, Leonidas is comparatively cheaper. Cote d’or chocolates are found in most of the general stores.
For part II click here 
Useful Links:

Zucchini Bread

All purpose flour  - 2 cups (150 grams)
Instant yeast      - half sachet  (6 grams)
Sugar – 2 tea spoons
Salt – 1 tea spoon
Olive oil  - 4 table spoons
Grated zucchini 1 cup)
Butter –unsalted  
Egg – 1
Milk – 2 tblspoon
In a bowl mix flour, yeast , salt and sugar. Add zucchini and egg into this mixture and mix it up until they bind together. Add more flour if required and knead the dough  for 10-12 minutes. It should be softer than the chapathi/roti dough. Now apply oil on all the sides of a big bowl and transfer the dough into it. Leave it covered for an hour. Remove the raised dough from the bowl and mould again and transfer to a greased baking tray. Let it rest  for 30 minutes. The dough raises again and is doubled in volume. Place the baking tray in the middle rack of a preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, apply butter on top and place it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
I served it with tomato chutney for breakfast.

The electric oven I have here has the temperature knob in celcius and the baking type knob has three indicators. Heat from bottom only,  Heat from both top and bottom , heat from top only /broiler. I kept it pointing to heat from both top and bottom.

Preheat time: 175 C for 10 minutes  
Bake time: 175 degrees for 30 minutes + 10 minutes.

Next time I will add garlic and chilli flakes to this just to give a punch.
I referred to the below links for baking this bread

Mushroom cheese roast

Mushroom : 100 gms
Rice flour : 2 tea spoons
Fine semolina(Bombay Rava): 4 tbl spoons
Chilli powder: 1 tbl spoon
Salt to taste.
Grated Cheese – ( I used the leftover mixed pasta cheese)
Slit mushrooms into half apply salt and leave it aside for a while. Mix all the other ingredients and a pinch of salt and roll the mushrooms on this dry batter. Heat a pan and drizzle oil and place the mushrooms . We are going to toast mushrooms only once on each side. Once it is slightly brownish on one side, turn it around and now make clusters of mushrooms i.e just place 4-5 mushrooms close to each other and then top it up with the grated cheese. Once the cheese melts pan out each cluster. Serve hot. It is just DELICIOUS.
Notes: Make sure that the while frying the heat should medium for both the sides. If you keep it very low then it will take longer to cook mushrooms and meanwhile they become soggy. If you keep it at high flame then it will get charred.

cake or bake?

I always thought baking a cake at home was very difficult task because of the effort that goes in while making the batter. You have to whisk the batter thoroughly if you want a fluffy bread cake. When I was a kid I loved the plain cake which mom would make it at home in a pressure cooker. We did not own a microwave nor did we have a blender. So mom would knead and mix the batter briskly with her fingers. She never liked cakes because she was a vegetarian and she hated the smell of egg cooking. However MOMs are MOMs. If you tell her that you want a pinafore dress just like what Kajol wears in Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jaayenge then no matter what you do to pursue her she will just not buy you one. If you tell her that you want a piece of cake just like they pile up in the gass counters of a bakery then she will not buy you that either instead she will make it at home for you. And hence she made cake just for me. Soft fluffy plain yellow cake with a thin light brownish crust at the bottom, hidden inside the air vents were mixed nuts and raisins.
When I started working one of the first things I bought for myself was a microwave oven with grill convection all in one oven. The day I got the microwave installation done I went through the entire manual and the recipe booklet and headed right to the stores to get ingredients for baking a cake. I mixed the batter and whipped it and put it in the big flat plate like microwave safe dish and all i got was a flat tasty crispy cookie. The batter had not risen either because the baking powder did not react well or because the microwave was not right. I’m generally categorized by people as ‘Typical Arien’ and I do live up to the attitude they expect me to wear all the time ‘I never do mistakes’. :) Well after that microwave was used just for reheating for almost a year and later I actually messed with the batter several times and made better cakes.
When I landed in Brussels a month back with all the hours of the day just for myself and a builtin oven at my disposal, the craving to bake had gotten back. Every day I have a project to finish ..errrrr or let’s rephrase it. every day i have a project to START. Projects like going for long walks without any particular direction in mind and then heading back home OR like going to the park and sketching whatever appeals me OR Cleaning the house OR baking projects. But baking projects was a double challenge because in Belgium, French and dutch are dominant languages and all hoardings, address, ingredients, usage everything is in those two languages and in some cases German too. Only on some imported goods you can see some rumblings in English. Even at the stores if you ask someone to translate they give blank stares. So I have to do my homework before going to the super market to buy anything. Inspite of the homework I end up getting lost in those counters full of ‘options’ I get for one single item. I wasn't sure of what I would end up with if at all I followed a recipe from a US/UK blog for baking cake using the products available here which are described only in french... a French SHO(r)T Bread ? (considering my earlier experiences of cake turned cookie, here a cake can turn into a short bread too), and probably a must visit to either a dentist or a pathologist after trying to devour it. So I decided not to bake cake bake pastas instead.
I made baked pasta one day with spirellis and vegetable lasagne the next day. my first attempt at baked pasta and it was appreciated very well by V. When there is cheese at home I cannot think of anything else but recipes with cheese. I had fresh mushrooms and I wanted cheese. So made this mushroom cheese fry Indian style.
Mushroom : 100 gms
Rice flour : 3 tbl spoons
Fine semolina(Bombay Rava): 2 tbl spoons
Chilli powder: 1 tbl spoon
Salt to taste.
Grated Cheese – ( I used the mix pasta cheese)
Slit mushrooms into half apply salt and leave it aside for a while. It leaves out water. Mix all the other ingredients and a pinch of salt and roll the mushrooms on this dry batter. Heat a pan and drizzle oil and place the mushrooms . We are going to toast mushrooms only once on each side. Once it is slightly brownish on one side, turn it around and now i make clusters of mushrooms i.e just place 4-5 mushrooms close to each other and then top it up with the grated cheese. Once the cheese melts pan out each cluster. Serve hot. It is just DELICIOUS.
Notes: Make sure that the while frying the heat should medium for both the sides. If you keep it very low then it will take longer to cook mushrooms and meanwhile they become soggy. If you keep it at high flame then it will get charred.
I loved my experiences with pasta, baking and cheese. Here is a pic of the same. presentation is baaaaaad and rough but all is maaaf for the taste.

Au Revoir...
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