One Skillet Enchilada

I’ve been on a homemade Mexican(ish) food binge the last few days. After eating fajitas, naked burrito bowl and quesadilla I wanted to try something different while also using up leftover tortillas and various sauces. What started as an experiment ended as an extremely delicious, healthy and flavour-explosion in my mouth! I promise you, once you try this recipe you won’t need the excuse of using leftover food to make this!

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 small bunch broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 handfulls of rocket, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup baba ganoush
  • 1 cup roast vegetable pasta sauce (or enchilada sauce)
  • 1tspn paprika
  • 1tspn cumin powder
  • 2tspn olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • cheese for garnish (optional)

Method

  1. Heat oven to 220C.
  2. Stack the tortillas on top of each other, place on a cutting board and cut into 6 wedges. (Think of the stack as the face of a clock and cut 3 lines through the stack: 12 to 6 o’clock, 2 to 8 and 4 to 10 o’clock).
  3. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper. Spread tortilla wedges in a single layer and bake for 10mins. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. (Taste one to make sure it’s crispy enough. Taste another with the baba ganoush and a third with the pasta sauce. Tell yourself off for being greedy and go back to cooking)
  4. Heat oil in a frying pan. Once heated add garlic and saute until golden. Add sliced onions, sprinkling of salt and cook till onions are soft.
  5. Add broccoli florets, paprika, cumin and fry till broccoli is cooked but still has a bite to it.
  6. Add baba ganoush and pasta sauce to the pan.
  7. Mix it all up. (Eat a couple of chips with the sauce; just to make sure it tastes alright of course). Adjust seasoning.
  8. Add the crispy chips to the pan, 1/4cup water, rocket and simmer for 5mins or just until the chips have absorbed the flavourful sauce and have started to go soft but are still chewy and a bit crunchy.
  9. Garnish with cheese. I did this for the pictures but honestly this dish is creamy and flavourful enough even without it. I’ll leave the cheese out next time.
  10. Transfer to a bowl and enjoy straightaway!

Notes

  1. Feel free to experiment with different veggies. You could use mushrooms, peppers or fresh corn.
  2. Throw in some cooked beans and some shredded chicken/pork for extra protein. You could even top this with a fried egg if you fancied!
  3. Whatever variations you try I’d suggest not swapping some things like garlic, red onion, baba ganoush (for the creaminess and smokiness it imparts to the dish), red sauce, rocket and the spices as they provide great depth of flavour!
  4. I used corn tortillas coz they retain their chewiness and crunchiness even after adding to the sauce. You could use flour tortillas too but these will likely go soggy.

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Mushroom Spinach & Caramelised Onion Quesadilla

The tried and tested combo of mushrooms, spinach and cheese never gets old! I go through phases where I can’t get enough of it and end up eating it for at least half a week either in pasta dishes, wraps, veggie bowls, naked burrito bowls, quesadillas, omelettes or just stacked on some wholemeal sourdough bread. This recipe makes for a super quick and comforting mid week meal!

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 100gms cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 50gms spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large white onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, 3 sliced and 1 minced
  • 150gms of greek yoghurt
  • 75-100gms of cheddar, grated (use as much or as little as you like)
  • salt, black pepper and balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2tbspns of olive oil

Method

  1. I start with the onions to give it time to caramalise slightly. Heat 2tspns of oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add onions, stir fry for a couple of mins. Lower heat to medium-low, add a pinch of salt and a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar and let it cook till you prepare other ingredients.
  2. In a separate pan, cook spinach until slightly wilted, transfer to a bowl and let cool. Drain excess water once cool enough to handle.
  3. Heat remaining oil in the same pan, add sliced garlic. Once they start turning golden add the mushrooms, some salt and stir fry till cooked but still chewy. Keep aside (in a sieve if it’s too watery).
  4. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Make sure the pan is hot, heat one corn tortilla for 10secs on each side. Add half the cheese, add some salt and cracked pepper, wait for 5secs or so before transferring to a plate to let the cheese melt completely. Repeat with the other tortilla but leave this one in the pan.
  5. Top with wilted spinach, transfer from the onions from the other pan onto the tortilla, add the mushrooms.
  6. Add the other tortilla with the melted cheese onto this stack, cheese side down (duh).
  7. Cook on low-med heat on both sides until the tortilla turns crispy (to your liking). While this happens add minced garlic to the greek yoghurt, salt to taste and give it a quick whisk. Adjust seasoning as per your taste. You could also use sour cream for this.
  8. Transfer quesadilla to a plate and cut in half. Dip the hot, cheesy and crispy goodness in the garlic sauce and devour!

Grain-Free Veggie Bake

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 250gms cauliflower, grated (I used store bought cauliflower “rice”)
  • 250gms mushrooms (I used mix of white and cremini), sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 60gms baby spinach
  • 1stalk of spring onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
  • 2 tbspn olive oil
  • 300gms pasta sauce (I used Jamie Oliver’s Tomato & Chilli one)
  • 75-100gms cheddar or tasty cheese, grated
  • salt and cracked pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C
  2. Heat 1tbspn of oil in a pan. Saute garlic till golden, add mushrooms and stir fry till cooked but still chewy. Transfer to a baking dish.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Add grated cauliflower, spring onions and red pepper and stir fry for 3-4 mins till cooked but still crunchy. Transfer to the baking dish.
  4. Add spinach to the pan and let the heat wilt it a little and transfer to the dish.
  5. Add pasta sauce, adjust seasoning and stir through. 
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and add cracked pepper. 
  7. Bake for 10mins till the cheese is melted. Change setting to grill, turn up the temperature to 200C and grill till cheese is golden.
  8. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Notes

  1. Feel free to experiment with the veggies, the ones I used give out a lot of water so keep that in mind.
  2. Stir through some cooked pasta along with the sauce to make it more filling. Or serve the dish with some fresh sourdough bread to soak up the yummy sauce.
  3. For a vegan option, use cashew cheese instead.

Roasted cauliflower and garlic soup

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, washed and cut into 2cms thick florets
  • 1 head garlic, crushed with skin on
  • 1 tspn coriander powder
  • 1/2 tspn cumin power
  • 1/2 tspn turmeric
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 green chilli, chopped (optional)
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tbspn olive oil
  • 5 cups veggie broth
  • Chopped fresh herbs for garnish, I used mint and coriander
  • 1/2 cup cooked barley (optional)

Method

  1. Pre-heat regular oven to 200C
  2. Mix all dry spices, lemon zest and add olive oil, combine and set aside
  3. Add cauliflower florets and garlic to a mixing bowl, pour over the spice mix and combine thoroughly.
  4. Spread out florets on a baking tray lined to baking paper. Roast for 25-35mins till the edges of the florets are a bit charred.
  5. Remove tray from oven and let cool.
  6. Peel the garlic. Blend the cauliflower, garlic and broth in batches and add to a pot.
  7. Add the cooked barley if using and heat through.
  8. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh herbs and serve immediately

Quinoa Stir Fry

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1cup quinoa
  • 250gms mushrooms of your choice, sliced (I use either portobello or cremini)
  • 150gms brussel sprouts (or cabbage), thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 tbspns olive oil
  • Handful of spring onions, chopped
  • Light soy sauce, as needed
  • Sesame oil, as needed
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Cook quinoa.
    • Rinse quinoa for 3-5mins under cold water, rubbing grains together. This removes the Saponin which gives the grain a bitter taste.
    • (Optional) Add wet quinoa to the pot and roast on low till grains are dry and toasted.
    • Add 1cup of cold water to the pot and bring to a boil. (I know most recipes call for twice the amount of water but somehow this makes quinoa quite mush for me every time so after a lot of trial & error I came to this ratio which works for me every single time. Feel free to cook it the way you want though)
    • Turn flame to low, cover pot and cook for 15mins or until water is absorbed.
    • Turn off flame but do not uncover the pot. Leave for 30mins or so until completely cooled.
    • Open pot and fluff quinoa with a fork.
  2. In a pan, saute sliced mushrooms with de-seeded green chilli, half the garlic, salt and olive oil until just cooked. Set aside.
  3. Add brussel sprouts to the pan with a bit of oil and saute for 2-3mins until cooked but still enough bite to it. Add soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil to taste.
  4. Throw in the mushrooms, spring onions and quinoa and stir fry on high till there’s no liquid left. Add some soy sauce and sesame oil to your liking.
  5. Distribute into 2 bowls and serve straight away!

Notes/Ideas:

  1. I never used to enjoy quinoa in stir fries as the grains tend to get “lost” and the dish didn’t have enough bite or chewiness to it like it does with rice. But ensuring that quinoa is cooked right and adding it to dishes without a sauce helps. I sometimes throw in a handful of leftover barley just to get that extra chewiness.
  2. To give this an Indian twist you could forgo the soy and sesame oil and add a couple teaspoons of curry powder (or mixed Moroccon spice) in step 4 and serve it like Quinoa Pulao with some lemon on the side.

Life after Auroville

Too much happened in the months after Auroville. As mentioned in my previous post, I had reached a point where even thinking about anymore travels was making physically and mentally exhausted. I needed a place where I could settle down temporarily. So the plan when I left Auroville was to head back to my folks’ in Pune, pack my backpack and come straight to Australia but as life would have it I ended up retracing my steps around the globe.

Before I settled down anywhere (I knew it wasn’t going to be in Europe just yet) I wanted to spend time with my sister in Germany so that was my first stop. In the month that I was there, I spent time trying to get used to not being in Asia, getting used to the cold after being in tropical climate for a year, getting over the jet lag and getting used to the German language again which started to seem rude and curt after having spent so much time away. I couldn’t make it to London to see my friends or to Munich for that matter (which was just 45mins away) as I was seriously rationing my travels and trying not to over burden my travel-fatigued body.

From Germany, I went to the US to spend a few months with somebody who I thought was interesting. It became obvious after the very first weekend that it was going to be a waste of my time and that sadly he was not up to my standards so I (quite literally) made a run for it and decided, despite being traveled out, to visit some friends and family that I very much wanted to see. I spent a week in NYC with some of my dearest friends, Akshay and Anne, with whom it is like being home. And NYC itself is beginning to grow on me!

With Anuja, a friend from high school, whom I bump into every 6 years in different cities around the world!
With Anuja, a friend from high school, whom I bump into every 6 years in different cities around the world!

From New York, my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen for 3 years, and I drove to Columbus where he lives with his family. I spent a week with them, just chilling and eating way too much food (although my cousin disagrees as I don’t eat half as much as I used to back when we still lived in India). While in Columbus I also met Ryan whom I never thought I’d see again after we first met in Portugal 2 years ago!! Seeing him was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

With my favourite niece and sis-in-law in Columbus
With my favourite niece and sis-in-law in Columbus

After that it was a week with Vivek in, what is now one of my favourite cities, Washington D.C. I luuuuved DC. The architecture, the young student/professional crowd, the suburban neighbourhoods, the history, museums, restaurants and café was basically everything I could ask for in a city. Ok, so DC doesn’t have a beach close by but it has a river which I love for those long solitary walks/bike rides. I’d go as far as to say that I would want to live in DC, even if it’s just for a few months.

Lincoln Memorial at twiight
Lincoln Memorial at twilight
Washington monument at sunset
Washington monument at sunset
Washington memorial and Thomas Jefferson memorial
A view of Washington monument and Jefferson memorial captured during a bike ride along the river

Long story short, US was one hell of a trip! After a quick stop back in NY it was time to (finally) head to Australia and I was nervous! I had one person I counted as a friend, couple of other acquaintances, a very low bank balance, a traveled out body, a 33hr hour journey and a 14hr time difference and resulting jet lag to look forward to. I knew my body needed rest, I knew my mind needed rest from constantly thinking about “where to next”. I was craving for the known, for a 9 to 5 life that I so needed a break from 18months ago.

As I write, it’s been a little over a month since I arrived in Melbourne and I am pretty sure this is where I want to live for the next year or so. It’s not been easy coming to this decision. I haven’t lived in one place for longer than 1.5 years since 2008. I have moved house 10 times in the 7years I was in the UK. And now I’ve been traveling for the last 18months. It’s almost as if I have forgotten how to put down roots anywhere. The feeling of knowing (or assuming) I’ll have to move again soon makes me wary of committing to live anywhere for too long (too long being longer than a couple of months). Or perhaps I’m just spoilt for choice and I want to keep my options open. But after all that uncertainty I’m finally beginning to be sure that I’ll stay out this year in Melbourne.

Melbourne is not a city I would call beautiful, especially after having traveled around Europe quite a bit. But something I wasn’t aware of was that people come to Melbourne for food and culture and these are the top 2 reasons I undertake any travel! From what I’ve seen so far, Melbourne is like a smaller version of London, with a much better pace of life, with better weather, a beach close by, countless cafes and restaurants, a big street food and coffee culture, and such friendly people. I couldn’t have chosen a better city to live in! Fingers crossed that I find a good job so I can stick to my decision of living here!

Auroville

When planning my next solo trip in India, the only thing I knew was that I desperately needed me-time and that I didn’t want to do touristy things. So basically I just needed a home away from home but for the life of me I could not figure out where to go or how long for.

I’d first heard of Auroville from Jen, a Kiwi I met while traveling from Cambodia to Thailand in June of 2015, and it drew up images of people living in caravans (wrong) somewhere far away from civilization (wrong again) and working on the farms (partly right). Then I heard about Auroville a couple of times more in January from other people I knew. Hearing about the same thing from multiple sources is usually a cue for me to check it out.

So I booked a one way flight to Chennai, a taxi to the Auroville town, a room in a guesthouse and off I went. I reached the town at night so I couldn’t make out much about my surroundings except that we were driving in what seemed to be a forest, there were no street lights, no cars and a lot of noise from night creatures. And then I entered the room in my guesthouse… and I just knew that I wouldn’t leave this place for at least a month.

As luck would have it, my landlord Alok was a lovely guy and the other housemates were good company too. Laurie, a Brit, and I had so much in common that it wasn’t even funny. Or may be it was. Our thoughts on marriage, having/not having kids, our discomfort in bigger groups, how much we cherish solitude, the way we spend time alone (sometimes just lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling) and even our choice in music (we could be listening to the same playlist on spotify!) was SO similar. She was probably the only one I spoke with the first couple of weeks. Rest of the time I was either shut in my room or chilling in a café with a “leave me alone” face.

My need for solitude was as it’s highest and Auroville, particularly my guesthouse, was the perfect place to get this. One could stay in communities and work on farms and get all the stimulation from meeting new people. My guesthouse thankfully was a stand alone building somewhere in the woods.

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Auroville, also called the City of Dawn, is a universal township where people work not for money but the betterment of the community. From what I heard people are usually paid for their jobs in food and lodging plus some expense money (unless you have your own business). It’s a community based on human values instead of spiritual or religious beliefs or nationality. People seemed to dress to cover their body and not as a fashion statement. Of course, this was my perception from the limited interaction I’ve had with other people. I’ve read stories which speak to the contrary as well.

Even though Auroville is a town you feel like you are in a village. When cycling or walking on the dirt roads a lot of the times you are alone on the road, nothing but the forest around you. Sometimes you see community settlements or taking a small turn somewhere will lead you to some beautiful garden café or restaurant. I spent my days there doing yoga, meditation, cooking, cycling around the village, eating delicious farm grown organic food, chilling in my favourite cafes (Well Café, La Terrace and Naturellement are must tries if you visit) and attending seminars on nutrition, breathing techniques, meditation etc., nothing exciting but just what I needed. After a month of this routine though, it was time to leave. I wanted to go back to work, I wanted to find a place where I could live for a few months perhaps even a year or two. I didn’t know where that would be although I had an inkling and I wanted to find out if there was any merit to that feeling.

My favourite café in Auroville, Well Cafe
My favourite café in Auroville, Well Café
One of the most delicious hummus and falafel I've tasted. @ Well Cafe
One of the most delicious hummus and falafel I’ve tasted. @ Well Cafe
Thali (food platter) prepared using ingredients available on the farm on that day. @ Solitude Farm
Thali (food platter) prepared using ingredients available on the farm on that day. @ Solitude Farm