Author and recipe developer chef Natasha Celmi carved a niche for herself by publishing stories, videos and books on easy and eye-catching Italian and Mediterranean dishes. In her newest book, My Mediterranean Table: Bring Home the Flavours, published by Notion Press last month, Celmi demystifies dishes from Greece, Spain, Egypt and beyond for the Indian kitchen.
Here's an excerpt of three recipes—with suggestions for vegans—from her wholesome book. Serve with warm bread drizzled with olive oil.
Frittata di spaghetti or spaghetti omelet is a humble dish made with leftover spaghetti and eggs in most Italian homes. A much-loved beach or picnic food which requires no heating, my husband often makes them in our home too. These cute baked spaghetti muffins are my modern adaptation and one that your family is sure to love too
1 cup Italian tomato sauce
400 gms cooked spaghetti
One-fourth cup parmesan
1 egg or 2 tbsp cheddar cheese extra
One-fourth cup grated vegetables (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
One-fourth cup breadcrumbs
One-fourth cup sliced black olives
One-fourth cup grated cheddar cheese
Handful of basil leaves
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Chili flakes, to taste
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix half the quantity of tomato sauce and all the spaghetti in a large bowl. Add parmesan, a couple of pinches of salt, pepper, chili flakes and a tablespoon of chopped basil leaves. Mix well.
2. Whisk an egg in a small bowl and pour it into the spaghetti (OR 2 tablespoons extra grated cheddar as an egg replacement). If you like, throw in some grated carrots, zucchini or finely chopped spinach.
3. Brush a silicon or metallic muffin tin well with olive oil and line the base of each cavity with some breadcrumbs. Twirl the spaghetti with a fork neatly into the cavities. Top with a teaspoon of the remaining tomato sauce, olive slices and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs.
4. Bake the spaghetti muffins for 10 minutes on the middle rack. Remove the tray from the oven and sprinkle cheddar cheese on each muffin. Bake for 5 more minutes till the top is golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool down in the tray for at least 20 minutes. This step is important so the muffins set well.
5. Gently demould the spaghetti muffins (use a knife to help, if using a metallic muffin tin) and garnish with basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature
Spaghetti muffins can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat slightly in the microwave or serve at room temperature
Use a vegan cooking cheese
Souvlaki is a popular street food all around Greece. Literally meaning ‘meat on skewers’, these are succulent kebabs loaded with fresh flavors of lemon, garlic and rosemary. Wrap a warm pita or naan with chicken souvlaki, some tomato and cucumber slices and a drizzle of seasoned Greek yogurt. My family likes pairing these with Beetroot Tzatziki, Hummus and a couple of salads to make it a meal
500 gms chicken thighs, boneless
2 tsp minced garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Half tsp paprika powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
6 Wooden or metallic skewers
Cut the chicken into 2” squares and place in a large bowl. Make the marinade by combining all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisking together.
Add the chicken to the bowl and use your hands to massage the marinade into the chicken. Cover with cling wrap and leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight for the flavors to seep into the chicken.
Soak 6 wooden skewers in water for 10 minutes to prevent them from burning when exposed to heat. Skewer 3-4 chicken pieces on each stick.
Heat a griddle pan or non-stick pan on a high flame and brush olive oil. Sear the chicken skewers on one side for 4-5 minutes till browned and flip to cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes till browned. Spoon over any remaining marinade while the chicken is cooking.
Serve the chicken on or off the skewers, with some flatbreads and Greek Salad
Marinate the chicken up to a day ahead and grill in a jiffy for a weekday dinner. The leftover chicken stays well till the next day in the refrigerator.
Ti-ra-mi-su literally means ‘pick me up’ in Italian. Well, the name is rather apt given that this classic dessert is so alluring and addictive; it calls out to people. This is a recipe I learned to make at a cooking school in Tuscany and the outcome is a light moist dessert which has everyone reaching for seconds. The secret is to use good coffee- either Italian espresso or artisanal filter coffee. If ladyfingers (savoiardi cookies) are not available, strips of firm vanilla sponge cake work just as well
250 gms mascarpone cheese
100 gms (1 cup) + 2 tbsp icing sugar
200 gms (three-fourth cup) whipping cream, unsweetened
1 cup espresso or filter coffee decoction room temperature
2 tbsp dark rum/ brandy (optional)
1 pack (200 gms) ladyfinger (savoiardi) cookies
In a large bowl, combine the mascarpone and 100 gms of icing sugar. Whip lightly with an electric hand mixer till smooth - about 30 seconds. Avoid overwhipping.
Whip the cream with an electric hand mixer at medium speed till you have soft peaks. Gently fold into the mascarpone mixture and keep chilled in the fridge till required.
Mix the espresso with the alcohol (if using). Add 1/4 cup water and the remaining 2 tbsp of icing sugar to make the coffee soaking liquid.
To assemble the tiramisu, take a rectangle or square dish (8” x 8”) of minimum 2” height. Dip each ladyfinger cookie on both sides in the coffee liquid and place side by side on the base, forming a layer. Pour half the mascarpone cream over the base layer, using a spatula to smoothen the surface.
Repeat the above process for the next layer of coffee-soaked cookies and mascarpone cream. Spoon any remaining coffee liquid over the last layer of mascarpone cream. Cover the dish loosely with foil so the surface is untouched. Refrigerate for 5-6 hours or time permitting, overnight - thereby allowing flavors to seep in.
Once set, finish by dusting some cocoa powder through a fine sieve all over the surface for that characteristic tiramisu look. Scatter dark chocolate shavings across the dish
Cocoa powder dusting
One-fourth cup dark chocolate shavings (optional)
A perfect dessert to make in advance, leftovers are good for up to two days when refrigerated
Follow the same layering process in individual stemmed glasses for a touch of elegance