Saturday, September 27, 2008

Soup and Salad Lunch - Tomato Carrot Soup

I made two soups and a salad for lunch on Janmashtami after a heavy festive breakfast. One of the soups was this creamy Spinach soup and the other one was this delicious tomato carrot soup. The salad was my usual roasted salad with lots of mixed vegetables.

Shredded carrots and peeled tomatoes, cooked along with some herbs and spices and then pureed for a quick, tasty bowl of warm goodness! You can add a small grated potato to this for some thickness. This time though, I went with a small piece of pumpkin - it not only adds texture but also a beautiful orange colour.

Tomato Carrot Soup

3-4 tomatoes, blanched and peeled
(immerse the tomatoes in boiling water for 5 minutes, remove and plunge into cold water. Peel)
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 bay leaf
small piece of pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
salt and pepper powder to taste
a sprinkle of mixed dried herbs
oil - 1 tsp

1. Chop the peeled tomatoes. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the bay leaf and garlic.
2. Toss in the chopped onions and saute for 5 minutes till transluscent.
3. Add the grated carrots, chopped pumpkin and tomatoes and saute for about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the chilli powder, salt and cumin powder and after a minute, add 3-4 cups of water and bring to boil.
5. Reduce flame and simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes till the vegetables are cooked.
6. Cool, remove the bay leaf and puree the mixture. Add a little water if needed and return to the fire. Adjust salt and pepper, put in the mixed herbs and pepper and remove from flame.
7. Serve warm with a crusty bread.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Celebrating100 posts!

My creation
Originally uploaded by rajishanker
And what a delightful journey it has been since that first post in November, last year. Since then, I have found an amazing food blogging community, participated in blogging events, met one fellow food blogger, been part of a secret ingredient food chain, had baking days at home with kids, tried out new recipes and new ingredients like Goda masala and Rosematta rice, started baking bread and most importantly - broadened my horizons about cooking and eating healthy.

My favourite picks from the past 100 posts:

A soul satisfying Thai Noodle Soup

One of my first attempts at baking bread - Poee (Goan Pav) with Chicken Xacuti

A beautiful Shallot,Garlic, Olives and Sesame Focaccia

My daughter's third birthday spread

My version of fusion cooking - Lemon Coriander Chicken with a Coconut Mango sauce

A nutritious and delicious Eggless Pumpkin Walnut Bread

A Lebanese meal - Chickpeas, Raw mango and Apricot Tagine with Couscous

Traditional Christmas Cake

Home cooking posts - Kozhambu, Avial, Urulai Roast, Kozhukattai (Modak), Poriyal

Posts on regional dishes - Kadhi, Sindhi Sai Bhaji, Vankaya Poornam, Amti, Kadala Curry, Shaak

I have learnt so much along the way and an enjoying being a part of this vibrant and enthusiastic community (how do y'all do it!). Thank you so much for being part of this wonderful journey and your comments. Special thanks to my husband for encouraging my passion in his own way(what can I say, we can't eat sometimes till the photo has been clicked!) and to my dear neighbour A for cheering me on and being a willing guinea pig!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Soup and Salad Lunch - Spinach Soup

Krishna Jayanthi or Janmashtami arrives bang in the middle of the monsoons in India (atleast in the North and the West) and reminds us of the story of Krishna's birth. "It was a dark and stormy night..." seems particularly apt here! I still remember the classic Amar Chitra Katha illustrations (sorry, no fond memories of Grandma recounting the story to us!) which showed Vasudeva crossing the river in spate to make sure his newborn baby had a chance to survive.

I found that while in the South, the festival celebrated the evening before, in the North it is celebrated the next evening - I decided to go the North Indian way, simply because it was more convenient since it was a Sunday. The small footprints leading from outside to the pooja room fascinated my daughter and she did her own spot of painting while I drew the kolam outside. After a heavy breakfast of vadai, semiya payasam, pongal, chatni and sambar there was no way we could have a full meal for lunch.

So we decided on soup and a light salad. Husband was happy to have a spinach soup while I preferred a tomato carrot soup - recipe to come next.

The spinach soup is a very simple one - takes about fifteen minutes to make - the cleaning of the spinach probably takes more time than the actual preparation. But if you have spinach already separated from the stalks (I store them in Tupperware or other airtight containers) it makes it much easier.

Spinach Soup

3 bundles of spinach - separated from the stalks, cleaned in several changes of water and chopped
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
1 tsp butter
1/2 green chilli
Freshly crushed pepper powder
2 tbsp cream

1. Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed pan, add the bay leaf and then the garlic and onions. Saute till onions are transluscent.
2. Add the green chilli and the chopped spinach and cook for 4-5 minutes till the spinach wilts and is just cooked.
3. Remove from the pan and cool. Discard the bay lead and puree in a blender.
4. Return the pureed spinach to the pan, add water or vegetable stock and bring to boil.
5. Add salt, reduce flame and cook for about 4 minutes.
6. Add crushed pepper and one tablespoon of cream and remove from heat.
7. Serve warm with cream drizzled over.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Kozhukattai - Steamed dumplings filled with coconut and jaggery

Growing up in Mumbai, I think there are few people who remain untouched by the singular devotion to Lord Ganesha - on display for a full 10 days with serpentine queues in front of the bigger "mandals" which compete to have the biggest idols. While the "sarvanjanik" part of the mandals have become very commercialised over the years, the fondness with which the smallest of idols are brought into homes and decorated and worshipped, has remained unchanged.

I remember this part and also the fun part which was a huge part of my childhood - the 10 day "culturals" our colony hosted. Dance, drama, music, fancy dress, film screenings, rangoli competitions - it was an amazing 10 days we looked forward the whole year. Some of the teenagers who used to put up a Marathi play (complete with three acts!) every year are now full fledged theatre actors and I am proud to have seen them first!

What has changed now is that I cringe at the sight of those huge idols going in procession for the immersion ritual and think of the polluted sea water at the end of it. There are many people who now buy only clay idols and shun the plaster of paris one with toxic colours, but unfortunately not too many of them as yet to really make a difference.

The Ganesh festival isn't very big in Delhi and I had to go into work since it wasn't a public holiday. Which meant that I had to finish the pooja by 9! Kozhukattais - which are steamed rice flour dumplings with a coconut-jaggery filling - are a traditional offering for this festival in Tamil Nadu. The Maharashtrian version is called "ukadiche modak". I also made "kunnuku" - deep fried fritters made from mixed lentils. Then there was idli, sambar and chutney - a filling breakfast and I'm sure Ganesha was as satisfied as we were :) Ganpati Bappa Morya!


Rice flour - 3/4 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
salt to taste

Grated coconut - 1 cup
Grated jaggery - 1 cup
Cardamom powder (elaichi) - 1 tsp

1. Heat the jaggery in a heavy bottomed pan with 2 -3 tbsp of water and heat till it dissolves. Add the grated coconut and cook till it becomes a thick mixture but not completely dry (about 5 minutes). Add the cardamom powder and switch off the flame. Transfer to another bow and cool.
2. Heat the water in a heavy bottomed pan and add a pinch of salt and a few drops of oil. When it is just about simmering, add the rice flour a little at a time, constantly stirring to avoid lumps.
3. Keep some extra rice flour and hot water on hand to add to the pan in case either is needed. The consistency should be like that of a smooth dough which can be kneaded.
4. Allow it to cool a bit but not completely. As soon as you can handle it, break of bits of the dough, roll into a ball. Smear some oil on your hands, flatten the ball in the palm of your hands and with your thumb and index finger make a shallow cup. Fill it with a small ball of the coconut jaggery mixture and seal it into a conical shape. Break off any excess dough at the top and reshape into a cone. You can also use moulds available in the market.
5. The trick is not to have too much dough so that the dumpling becomes very thick but not so thin either that the filling oozes out. Keep some oil in a cup to dip your fingers so the flour doesn't stick. Reheat the filling if it hardens.
6. When all the dough and filling is used up, grease an idli plate or a steamer, arrange the kozhukattais on it and steam for just 5 minutes.

This goes to the Sweet Series - Deep Fried or Steam Cooked Sweets , being hosted by Paajaka Recipes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Moong Dal - Chilkewali (Split mung lentils with skin)

Moong (also called mung or green gram) is one of the most popular lentils in and also native to India. Widely used in other Asian cuisines too (munggo or monggo in Philippines and đậu xanh in Vietnam.) this lentil goes by the name moog, paasi payirru, hesaru bele and pesalu in different states in India.

It is known to be the most easy to digest lentil - especially the split lentil - and is often one of the first weaning foods given to babies. A rich source of protein, it is also used in recipes for people recovering from illnesses since it is light on the stomach.

In our kitchen the yellow split lentil without the skin (moong dal) is used atleast twice a week - moong ka cheela and pongal for breakfast, dals and kootu for our meals and a spoonful thrown in to thicken and nourish some soups. It is a versatile lentil and I find it takes on different flavours - from garlic to cloves - very easily.

But this recipe uses the split moong dal with the skin on (Moong dal chilka) and I find it to be a refreshing change from the usual skinless version. It has more character to it and retains its own flavour instead of blending in namelessly into the dish du jour. This recipe is a very simple one with a simple tadka of onions, tomato and garlic. Perfect with hot phulkas and can even hold its own with rice.

Moong Dal - Chilkewali (Split mung lentils with skin)

Split Moong dal with skin (green gram) - 3/4 cup
Onion - 1 chopped fine
Tomato - 1 big chopped fine
Garlic - 2-3 cloves chopped fine
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida (hing) - pinch
Oil - 1 tsp

1. Cook the moong dal with skin in a pressure cooker in 3 cups of water. Cook along with turmeric powder.
2. Drain the stock and reserve.
3. Heat the oil in a kadai, add the asafoetida and garlic and fry for half a minute.
4. Add the onions and saute for about 3-4 minutes till translucent.
5. Add the chilli powder and cumin powder and cook for another 3 minutes.
6. Add the tomatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes till they turn just soft.
7. Add the cooked moong dal, salt and as much as stock as you prefer.
8. Bring to boil, simmer for 5 minutes and remove from flame.
9. Serve hot with chapatis or steamed rice.