Soba noodles with aubergine and mango

I love to cook and eat and what better person to share this passion with then the love of my life. Not that he’s much into cooking new recipes, but he definitely loves to eat. The best part is that he shares my enthusiasm for exciting food, textures and flavours. It’s such a joy to cook for someone who loves to eat as much as I do. He is always willing to try new things and is not fussy about certain ingredients. I don’t know if I would love cooking as much as I do if I had to adjust all recipes to fit his preferences.

I’m also lucky that my kids eat a lot of the dishes I cook, but kids will be kids and of course my kids are fussy sometimes. I do teach them that they are not allowed to say that they don’t like something when they have never tasted it before. That means they always have to taste everything I make. I have surprised them on a few occasions where they did not expect to like what I had put in front of them, and then they ended up having seconds. The first time that happened was when I made the green couscous from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. Of course, what kid likes green fuzzy stuff on first sight, right? It’s now their favorite couscous recipe. I will share that recipe on another occasion.

There is one exception to the ‘tasting’ rule. If I use chilies in a dish then they don’t have to taste it if they don’t want to. They are not accustomed to spicy food (yet). So, the first time I made the soba noodles with aubergine and mango I also made a separate dish for them because the recipe called for red chili in the dressing. However……..when the kids heard our mumbles of joy at the dinner table they both asked for a bite despite the chilies. Which was ok because the vinegar in the dressing had made the chilies less spicy. After one bite of our salad they shoved their plate of pasta away and asked for a bowl of this salad. Go figure……….. They said the salad tastes like sushi 😆 and they love sushi.

This salad is very simple and nutritious; it has the perfect balance of flavours and a great mix of textures. It’s a salad that keeps you going back for more and more and more………………

After I made it the first time it quickly turned into one of my favourite summer salads which you can also easily take to potlucks or BBQ parties. If you want to keep it all to yourself (which totally makes sense to me) just store it in the fridge for a perfect easy lunch during the week. It’s so refreshing, especially when the temperatures are warm and the sky is sunny. The mango might seem weird in this recipe, but it’s an absolute must. Just make sure your mangoes are of the juicy and delicious variety.

The original recipe has you frying the aubergine in 220ml sunflower oil, but besides the fact that all that oil is not that healthy I don’t like it when the aubergine soak up a lot of oil. I only use just enough oil to ‘bake’ the aubergine in a skillet on the stove. I think I don’t use more than 2 tbs per batch (2 batches).


I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me if you liked it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with aubergine and mango

Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with aubergine and mango

5 from 2 votes
Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango

Source: “Plenty” – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 4 people
  • 120 ml rice vinegar
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 4 tbs sunflower oil
  • 2 aubergines, cut into 2cm dice
  • 250 g soba noodles
  • 1 large ripe mango, cut into 1cm dice
  • 40 g basil leaves, chopped
  • 40 g coriander leaves, chopped
  • ½ red onion, very thinly sliced
  1. First make the dressing. In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chilli and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice. 

  2. Heat up 2 tbs of sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry/bake the aubergine in 2 batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain. Repeat with the remaining aubergine. I have to say that when I do this it never releases any fluids so I don’t do this anymore. Maybe because I don’t use a lot of oil.

  3. Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 4–5 minutes to become tender but still retaining a bite (check your package for instructions). Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a tea towel.

  4. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1–2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Gnocchi with Sausage, Spinach and Peas

Once upon a time…………. a few weeks ago I was in the mood for a gooey cheesy casserole. As I’m always looking for new pasta dishes I wanted to try a gnocchi recipe. Gnocchi is a small, dumpling-like pasta common throughout the whole of Italy made with semolina flour or potatoes. You’ll probably find them with the fresh or dried pasta in your supermarkets. While gnocchi is traditionally boiled and served with simple toppings such as olive oil and a little Parmesan, this recipe has you frying them for a crunchy twist.


I would not be surprised if this gnocchi dish becomes a regular in our meal rotation. It’s easy, fast and super tasty. I prefer to fry the gnocchi and cook the peas separately, but you could turn this into a one pot meal if you add the gnocchi and the peas into the tomato sauce. Then there will be only a little washing up to do afterwards. Sometimes cooking can be so relaxed, and sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax…….am I right?

My kids loved this gnocchi dish and gobbled it up before you I could say ‘bon appetit’. I’m sure it will also satisfy the carb lovers, the carnivores, the melty cheese eaters and even the veggie lovers in my life.

I usually serve this with a simple green salad but if you want to indulge you can always serve some crusty bread to mop up all the leftover sauce! For a less indulgent meal you can use minced chicken as a more healthy variant. Add spices like thyme and fennel seeds to mimic the seasoning of the Italian sausage used in this recipe.

Don’t you just love italian food? By the way…………did you hear about that italian chef that died?
He pasta way.
We cannoli do so much.
His legacy will become a pizza history.
He ran out of thyme

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!


Gnocchi with Sausage, Spinach and Peas
Servings: 5 people
  • 500 grams of gnocchi
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh sausages (choose a good brand with Italian spices or make your one)
  • 200 grams of fresh baby spinach (or chopped normal size spinach)
  • 1 tin of canned diced tomatoes with juices (do not drain)
  • 70 ml of water or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 2 tsp of paprika
  • 100 grams shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 25 grams of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 grams peas (fresh or frozen)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and peppe
  1. You start by cooking the gnocchi in a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes (check the package for directions) until they float to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to take the gnocchi out of the water and strain the gnocchi until all of the liquid drains off. Don’t throw them into a hot frying pan immediately, because the water on the outside of the pasta will not allow the gnocchi to develop a nice, golden crust. Drain all the water (in a strainer) and add a drizzle of olive oil to a large frying pan over medium heat.

  2. Put the gnocchi into the pan, and spread them around with the back of a spoon to create an even layer over the pan, this is very important for the crunchy crust. Let the gnocchi fry for a couple of minutes until they turn golden brown. Turn them gently with a spatula, and cook on the other side until brown and crispy. Take them out of the pan and set aside for later.

  3. Cook the peas in a pan with boiling water for 4 minutes, drain and also set aside for later.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large broiler-safe skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until brown which will take approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Take the sausages out of their casing and cut them in little pieces. Add the garlic to the pan and fry for a minute with the onion. Then add the sausage, salt and pepper and cook for 4 minutes while breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon. Add spinach a handful at a time and cook, stirring, until wilted,  this will take about 4 minutes.

  5. Then add the canned tomatoes, the water (or the stock) and the dried herbs and spices. Taste and add seasoning when necessary. Mix well and add the fried gnocchi to the pan. Make sure there is enough liquid in the pan and if necessary add a dash of water. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and let it simmer for a while, until the cheese forms a melted gooey cheesy layer on the pasta. That takes about four minutes. In the meantime preheat the broiler of your oven.

  6. Position a baking sheet in the upper third of oven. Broil until the cheese starts to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. This gives the cheese an irresistibly crusty crust. Remove from the oven, top with some chopped basil or oregano if desired. 

  7. Enjoy immediately.