Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vegetarian Lasagna

This is a very quick dish that I make when I'm out of time. I used off-the-shelf ingredients such as cooked tomato sauce and ready made cheese sauce.

There are two versions of this dish--a pasta version and a carb-free version. Both are as delicious and can be either served with a green side salad, garlic bread or garlic potatoes.

The availability of a microwave oven with grill function accelerates the cooking time. Otherwise, a classic oven is fine but cooking time may vary.


500 g of aubergines (eggplant), sliced lengthwise and soaked for a few minutes
500 g courgettes (zucchini), sliced lengthwise
1 can tomatoes, chopped
250 g soya mince
3 lasagna sheets (optional)
2 or 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
Packet of cheese sauce (optional)
125 g fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 large tomato, sliced in horizontally

  1. If using dry soya mince, soak in 4 times the quantity of boiling water for about 20 minutes to reconstitute.
  2. Prepare the tomato sauce. In a saucepan, fry the garlic and onion in a little olive oil. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir well.
  3. Add the reconstituted soya mince, salt and pepper to taste and allow to simmer on low heat for ten minutes. If sauce too thick, add a little hot water.
  4. Pre heat oven at 185 C (365 F).
  5. Coat a medium sized gratin dish with olive oil.
  6. Line the dish with the slices of courgettes.
  7. Pour half the soya mince sauce over the courgettes.
  8. Cover with the aubergine slices.
  9. Pour the other half of the soya mince sauce.
  10. Cover with the lasagna sheets.
  11. Top with the cheese sauce.
  12. Decorate with slices of fresh mozzarella and tomato.
  13. Bake in pre heated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, if not using lasagna sheets and 1 hr if using them.
  1. If you don't want to use the soya mince, diced carrots, peas or other diced vegetables can be used.
  2. The aubergines and courgettes can be used raw or slightly grilled after sprinkling with olive oil.
Garlic Potatoes

Cut the potatoes into wedges. Sprinkle with salt, dried herbs and finely chopped garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in microwave for 20 minutes per 500 g.

Garlic bread

Drizzle brown bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle with finely chopped garlic. Grill until crispy. I usually put it in the oven for 10 minutes at 150 C.

Bon appétit!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Simple Vegetarian 'Biryani'

This is a recipe that I have oversimplified over the years. I now make in one large pot--except for the one I use to cook the rice.

Before starting:

Gather and prepare all your ingredients before starting to cook to save time. This applies to all the recipes.
Cook the rice first and leave to cool. This can be done a few hours earlier if desired.

  • 2 cups basmati rice (Long grain will do if basmati is not available.)
  • 500 g green beans, stringed and cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 500 g carrots, peeled and cut same size as beans
  • 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into approximately 1 inch cubes
  • 250 g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced in rings
  • 1 small tub natural unsweetened yogurt
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, crushed or 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • bunch of mint or 3 tsp dried mint
  • 4 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 or 5 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt
  • ground pepper
  • 2 pinches of saffron strands (can be replaced with 1/2 tsp yellow food coloring)
  • 3 long green chillies (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil (sunflower, corn or soya)
  1. Cook the rice using twice the amount of water less 1 cup. (For 2 cups of rice, use 3 cups water; for 3 cups rice, 5 cups water). Wash the rice well. Add water, the cumin seeds, the cinnamon stick and 1 tsp salt. When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick or cast iron vessel. Fry the onion slices until brown. Don't leave unattended in the last few minutes. They'll burn. Transfer to a dry bowl.
  3. Allow the oil to heat a little.
  4. Add the cloves and peppercorns.
  5. Add the potato pieces and fry until half-cooked.
  6. Add the cut vegetables and peas and mix well.
  7. Add the spices--cumin powder, cinnamon powder, mint, ginger, garlic and yogurt--and stir well to coat the vegetables. Add salt and ground pepper to taste.
  8. Turn the heat down (not off) and allow the vegetables to simmer for 15 minutes. If the mixture is too dry add a little hot or boiling water.
  9. 'Grind' the saffron in half a cup of very hot water until the color is extracted.
  10. Spread the fried onions on the layer of vegetables, keeping a little for decoration.
  11. Spread the rice in a layer over the onions.
  12. Sprinkle the saffron mixture on to the rice.
  13. Stick the chillies into the rice and sprinkle the remaining fried onions over the rice.
  14. Cover the vessel and leave on very low heat until steam comes through the rice. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand a few minutes before serving.
Before serving, mix the contents well.
This can be served with a salad and a tomato chutney or salsa.

Mango and Carrot Side Salad


1 green mango
2 carrots
1 small onion
3 or 4 small green chillies
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel and grate the mango and the carrots.
Add the thinly sliced onion and the chopped chillies.
Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.

In the absence of mangoes, use more carrots but add a little lemon juice or spirit vinegar to the seasoning.
You can also used thinly sliced cucumber in lieu of grated carrots/mango.

Tomato and Coriander chutney

Process a few ripe tomatoes and a bunch of coriander (with or without green chilly) in a wet grinder or with a stick blender.
Add salt just before serving.

Tomato Salsa

Coarsely chop and mix a few tomatoes, a small onion and green chillies. Add salt just before serving.

Bon appétit!

Extra Tips

To make this dish non vegetarian, you may substitute chicken or meat pieces or fried fish slices. Chicken and meat should be marinated in the spice mixture overnight in the fridge and half cooked before potatoes

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vegetarian Fried Rice

This is a recipe I promised Diane a few weeks ago. There you go, Diane. Hope you like it.

Ingredients for 4 persons
  • 2 cups cooked long grain or basmati rice
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • small can of sweet corn, drained
  • 4 shitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes
  • 1 inch of ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
  • Soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoonful (tsp) sesame oil (as flavoring)
  • 2 tablespoons (tbs) sunflower or peanut oil
  1. Prepare the rice. I usually make this with leftover rice, but you can also make it with freshly cooked rice. However, in this case, to avoid making a sticky mess, cook the rice at least a couple of hours earlier and allow to cool before using. I cook the rice in the microwave or an electric rice cooker. For fried rice and biryani, I use 3 cups of water for 2 cups of rice. You can add a little vegetable oil to the water to prevent the rice from clumping.
  2. Chop the ginger and garlic finely.
  3. Drain the shitake mushroom. You may keep the water and use it as stock for soup.
  4. Chop the carrots, peppers and shitake in small pieces.
  5. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large (deep) pan, preferably non stick.
  6. When the oil is hot, stir fry the ginger and garlic for a few seconds. Do not allow to burn.
  7. Add the chopped vegetables and shitake and stir fry for two minutes.
  8. Add the drained sweet corn and stir fry for a few seconds.
  9. To the stir fried mixture, add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil.
  10. Add the prepared rice and stir fry rapidly. DO NOT ALLOW TO STICK OR BURN.
  11. Remove from heat and add more soy sauce if required. It is preferable to make less salty and allow each person to season to taste.
You may also add pieces of fried tofu to this dish at the end.

Serve with Garlic/Chilly sauce and a side salad.

Garlic Chilly Sauce
  • One clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green or red chilly, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Soy sauce
In a mortar, grind the chopped garlic, chilly and sugar together. Transfer to a small sauce bowl and add light soy sauce. White spirit vinegar can be used instead of soy sauce.

Tips for non-vegetarians
  • You can cut boneless chicken, prawns, or fish into small pieces and fry with the garlic and ginger before adding the other ingredients.
  • Beat and fry an egg. Cut into thin slices and serve with the fried rice.

Bon appetit!

Shopping List

My fresh market shopping list always includes the following:
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Scallion
  • Coriander
  • Mint
  • Curry leaves
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Chillies (all sizes and shapes)
  • Chives
  • Basil
  • Oregano
If any of the above is not available fresh, the dried or frozen forms can be used.

Other commonly available vegetables in Mauritius are the same as in most tropical countries/states.
  • French beans
  • Aubergines
  • Courgettes
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Okra--Lady's fingers
  • Bitter gourd
  • Green leafy vegetables (we call them Brède)
  • Peppers (green, red and yellow)
I'll add to the list as we go along.

Pulses we consume a lot of include
  • Lentils (Black, red and green)
  • Red beans
  • Broad beans
  • Butter beans
  • Split peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Soya beans
Pulses are mostly cooked in a liquid, more soupy form than a curry. They are flavored with fresh or dried herbs and spices. They are similar in form to Indian dals.

Spices are used in ground and whole form depending on the dish.
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Fennel
  • Star Anise (optional)
  • Cinnamon
  • Green Cardamom
  • Black pepper
  • Cloves
  • Mustard seeds
  • Saffron (optional due to cost)
For Chinese (inspired) dishes, these additional ingredients may be required.
  • Fresh tofu
  • Soy sauce, also available as Shoyu and Tamari. There are subtle differences in these different forms, but for my easy cuisine, any of them can be used. The important thing to note is their high salt content. I never add salt in dishes where I use soy sauce.
  • Vegetarian oyster sauce (made from mushroom)
  • Dried mushrooms, such as shitake or flower mushroom.
  • Baby corn
  • Bamboo
  • Rice wine vinegar
Soya, available in many forms, are used as meat substitutes to provide protein in the vegetarian diet. We also use mock-meat and fish, available in frozen form from the Far East.

Whatever you have in your fridge can be turned into a meal. Never stick to my recipes. Be creative and be bold. It's the only way.