Just the other day I was wondering what to cook for lunch. I had spent most of the morning vacuuming and cleaning the house and I wasn’t feeling like doing too much of cooking. My husband was out of town on work and there were just the two of us. I asked Akshaya what she would like and she picked pasta.
As I started checking out what vegetables were in the fridge, I suddenly remembered the pasta meals my friends and I used to share at University. This was a while ago. My parents were then teachers in Nigeria and I was studying at the University there. I used to stay on the campus and a small group of us, all Asian and mostly Indian, often used to get together to study at night. I was the only vegetarian in this group!
We used to get meals at the hostel cafeteria, but it was non-vegetarian. The only vegetarian meal available was rice and a beans (made from dried beans) preparation. For how many days can one eat beans cooked the same way, everyday for dinner?
Of course, I was lucky my home wasn’t too far away and used to go home most weekends bringing back home-cooked food for my friends.
In our women’s hostel, each floor of rooms used to have 2 kitchenettes, one at each end. So on some days, we would get together in one room and take turns cooking meals (usually one dish meals with everything going into one pot). Maybe its was that we were usually hungry, not too fussy or the company, but I remember those meals as being tasty and very satisfying.
One of those meals was a curried pasta which had no name and not too many vegetables in it. Unless we had gone vegetable shopping, we mostly had two vegetables in stock, onions and potatoes as these didn’t spoil very easily. As for spices, it was usually chilli powder and curry powder.
I have to say, when I first saw curry powder, I didn’t know it was supposed to be an Indian spice! It was only much later that I found out that curry was supposed to be an Indian dish, but something I had never seen in India.
I guess it is a bit like the popular Chinese preparation called Cauliflower Manchurian (which a Chinese Indian called Nelson Wang is supposed to have invented) we find in Indian restaurants which the Chinese have never heard of!!
I have not seen curry powder in India so far, so I tried to recreate that curried pasta with the spices in my kitchen. Elbow macaroni works best, though I used a pasta (as I had run out of elbow macaroni) which the packet very imaginatively claimed were “springs” but didn’t look like spiralli.
Using a minimal amount of vegetables also works best. You can add tomatoes and add them after the onions are done, if you prefer. I used ketchup as tomatoes aren’t Akshaya’s favourite vegetable though she will tolerate them if she can’t actually see them in food.
This version came pretty close to the version in my memories and this is how I made it.