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From the pantry: The Queen of Spices

The delicate fragrance of saffron as it cooks is invitation enough to make a meal with it

morefromlifestyle Updated: Aug 14, 2015 18:53 IST
saffron,Independence Day,HT48Hours
Saffron and Thyme-Scented Semolina Gnocchi with Tomato Chilli Jam and Caponata. (Vidya Subramanian/HT photo; Location: APB cook studio)

There’s a good reason saffron is among the most expensive of spices. The richness it adds to a dish is unmatched. Moreover, it lends itself well to pretty much anything — be it biryani, curries, soup, pasta or desserts. This Independence Day, try your hand at cooking with saffron.

Saffron and Thyme-Scented Semolina Gnocchi with Tomato Chilli Jam and Caponata - By Ajay Chopra, chef and TV show host

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Serves: Two

For the gnocchi:
*Semolina: 200g *Milk: 1l *Black pepper (freshly crushed): a pinch *Thyme: 3-4 sprigs *Butter: 100g; *Salt to taste

For the Caponata:
*Extra virgin olive oil: 2 tsp *Garlic (finely chopped): 2 tsp *Onions finely chopped: 2 *Red pepper (diced): 5 *Yellow pepper (diced): 2 *Zucchini (diced): 250g
*Aubergine (diced and deep—fried): 250g *Tomatoes (blanched and chopped): 4 *Italian basil: 4-5 leaves *Black pepper (freshly crushed: a pinch *Salt to taste

For the Tomato—Chilli Jam:
*Extra virgin olive oil: 3 tbsp *Garlic:1 tsp *Onion (chopped): 1 *Whole red chilies (Dried): 3 *Tomatoes (blanched, peeled and chopped): 1kg *Brown sugar: 100g *Balsamic vinegar: 50ml *Thyme: 2-3 sprigs *Salt to taste

To Assemble:
*Extra virgin olive oil: 1 tsp *Chives (chopped): 2 tsp

Ajay Chopra, chef and TV show host


For the Semolina Gnocchi:
* Roast semolina in a pan till light brown. Set aside.
* In a saucepan, boil milk and add saffron, salt, pepper, butter and thyme. Bring it to a boil till golden yellow and fragrant.
* After a minute, remove the sprig of thyme.
* Then, add the toasted semolina and whisk vigorously.
* Next, pour the semolina mixture into a greased baking tray and flatten it out.
* Refrigerate for an hour. For the Caponata:
* In a pan, heat some oil.
* Add chopped garlic and onion. Sauté till translucent.
* Add diced bell pepper and sauté for two minutes.
* Season it with salt and pepper.
* Add the chopped tomatoes.
* Finally, add fried aubergines and gently mix to combine.
* Scatter torn, fresh basil and continue to cook for two minutes.

For the Tomato Chilli Jam:
* Heat the oil in a wide pan.
* Add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté till caramelised.
* Add the dried red chilies and the tomatoes. Stir for a minute.
* Pour in the balsamic vinegar, add brown sugar and thyme.
* Season with salt.
* Cook for 8-10 minutes on a slow flame.
* Taste and adjust seasoning.
* Remove thyme sprigs and then set aside to cool.
* Next, puree this mixture till smooth.
* To assemble:
* Cut the semolina gnocchi into roundels.
* Heat the oil in a flat pan.
* Quickly pan sear and lightly heat the gnocchi.
* Transfer to the serving pan.
* Spoon some caponata around the gnocchi and drizzle with the tomato chilli jam.
* Garnish with chopped chives.

(Vidya Subramanian/HT photo; Location: APB cook studio)

Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal is the author of A Pinch of This, A Handful of That, and runs APB Cook Studio

First Published: Aug 14, 2015 18:43 IST