“Oh! I will never eat it!” , she shouted back as she stormed in to the room. Without a word to me, she walked straight into the washroom banging the door behind her. I think I had seen tears in the eyes of my eight-year old niece.
With just eight years of experience on this earth she had found more than eight hundred excuses to escape the daily dishes her mom lovingly cooked. I wish I could explain her the importance of this food and the fact that this is the food that she will miss the most in her future years of hostel. But for now I can only hear her complaining, labeling these food items as boring and mundane and hence rejecting them outright. I wonder if I even knew these words when I was her age, forget even saying them aloud in a tone highly unacceptable to parents.
“Di, you tell me. Do you love this food? Does your mom cook same boring dishes?”
I haven’t noticed that R has come to sit down beside me. She now looked at me for an answer, hoping I will support her. I chose my words carefully as not to hurt her.
“Umm.. Yes… But I always found out ways to make them interesting”, I said And I knew what question would come next.
” You are smart! I wish I could do that “, she was happy that I was her partner in hating the dishes her mom labelled as healthy.
” So, tell me R, what’s your favorite dish?”
“That one is hard to answer”, she said innocently and paused for a few seconds as if to think which one qualified to be on the top. Then she spoke, ” Pasta.. Yes that’s definitely number one.” I could see her eyes shine as the happiness returned to her just on the mere mention of Pasta.
“But there are more, you know. I love Burger, Pizza and chowmein too!” Her stories went on and she looked adorable talking about her favourite topic : food.
“So, you are one little foodie in making?” I said as I planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Let’s order some thing please. I am so hungry now”, she said.
I didn’t want to give in to her demand but didn’t want to upset her either. I was still thinking about what to say to her when Di, her mom, called my name.
” I’ll be right back, ok?” I said as I got up to leave.
“OK”, she mumbled.
” Yup Di, you called me? ”
“I am going out to get some fruits and vegetables. Can you please cook something for R in the meantime? She hasn’t eaten anything since morning. She is hungry for sure.”
“Yah sure”, I nodded. She has over heard our conversation, I guessed. Not wanting to melt down in front of her daughter’s tantrums yet again, she has assigned this task to me. Mothers and their love! I missed my mom instantly, and way she used to make me eat.
Di took my silence as hesitation and quickly added, ” Oh, don’t bother much. There’s ready-to-cook pasta in the cupboard up there “, she pointed to the cupboard as she said this, “and add a few vegetables. At least something healthy would reach her.” Her voice was full of concern for her daughter’s health.
“Don’t worry Di, I will cook something that she will love”, I tried to convince her that cooking for R wasn’t any trouble.
“Thanks a lot dear. Don’t let her order anything. She ate pizza yesterday only. Try talk some sense into her please. She adores you, she might listen to what you may say “, she said picking up her handbag from the table and gesturing me to lock the door as she left.
So, it was time not only to serve R some food but also some food for thought.
After talking to R for a few minutes, I learned that she hated Spinach and especially the palak paneer that her mom cooked. She dared that no one can make her even taste it let alone eat it. I decided to take it as a challenge and let the fun begin. Of course I didn’t spill out my intentions in front of her else she would have locked me inside the room itself. 😛
I politely asked her to finish her homework while I cooked something for her and which would be a surprise.
So while she racked her brains to solve the problems in her mathematics book, I opened the refrigerator to find my inspiration. And I found it staring back at me : Spinach and paneer. Not disobeying the instructions I had been given, I took out the pasta packet but not the ready-to-cook one but rather the one that was hiding behind it – Del Monte Pasta.
Wearing my chef cap, I walked into the kitchen, smiling to myself at my idea and hoping that R will like it.
After around 30 minutes or so, I knocked at her door with a plate of pasta in my hand. She shrieked in happiness on seeing her favorite dish but looked a bit suspicious.
“Is it Pasta?” She enquired, putting both her hands on her waist.
“Yes, what else does it looks like if not Pasta?”
“Well, it looks different.”
“It tastes different too, try taste it?”
“OK, Don’t know what you did with it, so just one bite.”
“I am sure, you won’t be able to resist it after tasting it.”
She very consciously tasted one bite and as I predicted, gobbled every bite off the plate.
“It was different but it was delicious”, she announced after having savored the taste of it.
” I’m happy that you liked it. ”
“But what was it?”
“Stuffed Paneer Pasta (recipe below) “, I cleverly chalked out the word ‘Spinach‘ from it, might it change her opinion about it but I decided to tell her mom the whole recipe along with the secret ingredient.
STUFFED PANEER PASTA : KILLING HUNGER INDO-ITALIAN STYLE
Blending Indian Paneer with Italian Pasta for a irresistible mouth-watering recipe!!
Del Monte Pasta : 100gm
Paneer/cottage cheese : 50gm
Spinach : 200gm
Cream : 100 ml
Onion : 2
Green chillies : 2-3
Olive oil : 5 tea spoon
Butter : 2 table spoon
Powdered Black pepper : 1 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Oregano : 2 teaspoon
Basil : 2 teaspoon
Thyme : 2 teaspon
Preparation Time : 30 Minutes
Cooking Time : 10 Minutes
Boiling Pan : 1
Sauce Pan : 1
Water Strainer : 1
Serving Dish : 1
Separate a few spinach leaves for later garnishing and Boil the rest of it. (3 mins on gas stove or microwave for 3 mins). After cooling it, Grind the boiled spinach leaves with green chillies to create a thick paste out of it.
Boil water and Add 1 spoon salt and 1 spoon olive. Add pasta and cook for 10-15 minutes until it is fully cooked.
Drain the water and Cool the bolied pasta with cold water to stop further cooking of pasta. Apply olive oil to avoid stickiness.
Mash paneer and mix it with the prepared spinach paste. Add salt to taste.
Fill the pasta pieces with the prepared paneer-spinach mixture. (You may cut the pasta piece into half for easy filling of mixture.)
Chop the remaining spinach leaves.
Heat the pan. Add butter. Heat till it melts.
Add sliced onion and 1 tbsp basil and sauté it for 2-3 minutes.
Add cream and cook for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile add thyme.
Add stuffed pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Put off the flame. Add half of chopped spinach leaves and powdered black pepper.
Garnish and serve.