Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Nidi = Italian for nests

Countless Italian foods, mainly pasta, are named after their shapes of after things of similar shape found in nature. For example, did you know "Farfalle" means butterfly, "Orecchitte" means little ears and "Conchiglie" means shells? Google up their images and you will instantly know how the names came about.
This recipe is one along those lines. Nido means nest and Nidi refers to several of them. These nests are made of pancake strips and house roasted vegetables and a makeshift filling with easily available Indian ingredients to substitute the actual recipe which calls for ricotta, as explained in the TV series "Simply Italian". That's where this recipe is inspired from. It can be served just plain, but pairs just excellently with a classic arrabbiata sauce. So here we go.

Ingredients for the pancakes:
1/2 (120ml) Cup Milk
1/2 Cup White Flour (maida)
1 Egg

Ingredients for the filling:
2 Tbsp Mawa/Khoya (unsweetened)
1 Tbsp Thick set Yogurt
1/2 tsp Red chilli flakes
4-5 large leaves of fresh Basil
Zest of half a lemon

Veggies to roast:
Egg plant, Zucchini, Peppers (Green/Red/Yellow), 1Tbsp olive oil, Salt. Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients for the arrabbiata sauce:
5-6 ripe Tomatoes
1/2 Onion
1Tbsp cooking Butter
2-3 pods of Garlic
Salt and Pepper
3Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil.

We start with the slowest. Slice the vegetables to be roasted. Do not chop them. You want to be able to spread them on the pancakes without piling too high. I have not given any measurement for how much of each vegetable because it depends on the size of the veggies. One whole Egg plant might be too much or too less depending on how big the Egg plant is and likewise for zucchini and peppers. So read till the end of the recipe and use your judgement. Apply a few drops of olive oil on a skillet and spread the veggies as much as possible on it and pop into an oven set to 180 degrees Celsius for 20-25mins. Pre-heating is not required.

We start on the next slowest. My recent discovery and my would-be all time favourite- The Classic Arrabbiata Sauce. This sauce is so simple and so awesome and will never let you down. Perfect to be used in any Italian recipe that calls for a tomato sauce or just toss in any cooked pasta grate cheese and you'll have the your Italian cravings satiated in minutes.
Quarter the tomatoes and put them in the jar of a blender. Pulse for exactly five seconds. We are trying to arrive at the consistency of "crushed" tomatoes, NOT tomato puree or paste. Set a non-stick pot on a medium-high flame and pour in the contents of the blender. Rinse the blender with no more than a tablespoon of water to get the remaining tomato and pour into the pot. Peel an onion, halve it and dunk one half into the pot. No chopping, no slicing- just half the onion as such. Plop in the tablespoon of butter, give the three (tomato, onion and butter) a good stir, cover the pot, reduce flame to simmer and forget about it for 15-20mins.

Next, the pancakes. With a hand or electric whisk mix all the pancake ingredients into a smooth batter. It should be quite runny. Ladle out onto a good non-stick skillet to get a large thin pancake. Use up the batter and you should have two large ones. Keep aside.

Filling. Except the basil leaves, mix the other ingredients well with a fork until well combined. The mawa will give a grainy texture, this is ok. Finely snip the basil leaves with kitchen scissors and mix in as well.

Give the tomato sauce a good stir now. Remove the half onion and return the lid. Let it go for another 5-10mins and turn off the heat. Keep aside with the lid on.

The veggies must be done now too. It's time to assemble the Nidi. Generously oil a baking dish (borosil) and keep ready. On a large cutting board place one of the pancakes, spread on it half of the filling in a thin layer stopping about 2cm before the edge. Place a layer of the roasted veggies without piling them. Gently but firmly roll the pancake, leave the last inch or so. Place the other pancake and repeat the same layers. Overlap the left out inch of the first pancake with the starting of the next and continue rolling. It sounds more complicated than it is. You are trying to simulate rolling up a longish mat by placing the pancakes one after the other. You should have a very thick roll of the two pancakes now. Using a very sharp knife, slice the roll into about one inch thick slices and place these on the oiled baking dish. The slices touching each other to hold shape. Grate parmesan cheese on top of the Nidi and bake for 10-15mins in a pre-heated oven at 180 Degrees Celsius until the cheese has melted and cooked through.

While the Nidi bake, resume the tomato sauce. Put back on the stove on low flame and stir in any juices that have separated. Crush the garlic pods with the side of a knife and add it to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and stir in 2-3 Tbsp of Extra virgin olive oil. Never heat Extra virgin olive oil. The virginity is lost! Literally.

Nidi must be done. Serve a couple of Nidi onto a plate and spoon some arrabbiata sauce on them. Serve with good white wine!