I was in a mood to experiment in the kitchen last night and made this pasta sauce with tomatoes, chillies, garlic, and spices from South India to create this delightful spaghetti dish with an Asian flair. This turned out to be a lovely combination of flavours and got a big thumbs up from my husband (half- Spanish and half-German), who is my resident food critic.
This dish came together quickly and was pretty straightforward to make. You basically just sauté some garlic, tomatoes, chilli and add the Indian spices, and let everything cook just as you would do when making a traditional pasta sauce. The squid only needs a minute or two to cook; more and you risk rubber squid.
South Indian cuisine is a generic term for cuisines from the southern states of India: Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telengana. South Indian cuisine is very diverse with immense regional variations. It is a continent of flavours on its own. I have used two base spices commonly used across cuisines in South Indian cooking – curry leaves and mustard seeds.
Curry leaves has a more herbal feel, slightly like bay leaves or basil. It’s not a dominant flavour in most dishes; instead it takes a backseat role. But it adds a distinct flavour and is used as a tempering imparting subtle aroma to the dishes. In Ayurveda medicine, curry leaves are believed to have several medicinal properties. My granny (from Mangalore, South India) used to say that it aids digestion and told us to chew curry leaves when having a tummy ache.
Curry leaves are typically bruised in the hand, then fried in hot oil with other spices at the start of a dish. Their flavour mellows as they cook, but remains distinct even after hours of stewing.
There are no hard and fast rules here, but if you start a dish with a blend of mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic, and dried chillies, chances are you’re going to happen on something delicious. The mustard seeds and curry leaves enhance the taste of the sauce without overpowering it. There wasn’t a lot of frying and cooking of spices involved. I didn’t use onions. I just added three ingredients to create a magical sauce.
Preparation time- 5 minutes
Cooking time – 15 – 20 minutes
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2-3 dried red chillies
- 8-10 curry leaves (fresh)
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ can of crushed tomatoes
- 300 gms of squid tubes (cut into rings)
- 150 gms of spaghetti
- Salt to taste
- 1 lime for lime juice (half a lime to marinade the squid and the other half to pour of the sauce after it has cooked)
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil until it is hot.
- Add the mustard seeds. The oil has to be hot to make the mustard seeds pop (splutter in oil). Then add the red chillies, half of the curry leaves and the garlic, cook for one minute.
- Stir in the tomatoes and salt and bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked. Add a little water of the sauce thickens.
- Add the squid, turn the heat high and quickly stir fry the squid for 3-4 minutes. Make sure you don’t overcook them as they will become chewy. Do not allow to boil.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti until is done, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta.
- Add the remaining curry leaves and the spaghetti to the sauce and mix well until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce. Squeeze the lime juice.
- Fresh curry leaves freeze well and retain their flavour for many weeks, although it will eventually diminish. Freeze in an airtight container or strong plastic bag, as the fragrance will taint other food in your freezer
- You can substitute shelled prawns instead of the squid.
- You can marinade the squid in lime juice for 15-20 minutes to add the extra zing