Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tom Yum Soup with Noodles (Vegan)

Thai Noodle Soup - as I have posted before - is a favourite in this house. Light on the stomach and tongue tickling to the palate, it's an instant favourite! I'm posting this last but it was a wonderful beginning to the Thai meal I cooked for a friend and her daughter.

There was also Som Tam Mia Noi - a piquant salad of cucumber and cherry tomatoes tossed with a dressing made of garlic, chillies, jaggery, lime juice and soy sauce pounded together and served over with crushed,roasted peanuts - and a creamy Thai Red Curry (Gaeng Daeng) with babycorn, mushrooms, bell pepper and tofu.

My version of Tom Yum Soup is almost the same as this one here (which could probably be called Tom Kha). The changes I made to that recipe -
--- I added 2 fresh red chillies, cubes of tofu, sliced galangal and ginger.
--- I did away with the coconut milk and the peanut butter.
--- I added a stalk of lemon grass and several stalks of coriander leaves.
--- I put in a tsp of the Thai Red Curry paste (more if you want it spicy) and increased the vegetable stock.

I know I know, seems like a lot of changes - but really - its very, very simple. (Sigh.. If you really think I'm being lazy and would like to know the complete recipe, please mail me and I will send it to you.)

Coincidentally, just after I posted the first of the Thai dishes I made, Priya of Akshayapaatram announced the next edition of Vaishali's event It's a Vegan World and the theme she picked was Thai! So sending the Thai Noodle Soup to Priya - can't wait for the delicious round up!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

White Chocolate Muffins (Eggless) and a Breakfast Picnic

Yes, you heard that right! A Breakfast picnic is what we did a couple of weekends back - the weather had been absolutely brilliant in the early am that whole week, so four families with 6 kids and a dog set out at 7 30 am to Lodhi Gardens (Delhi).
We have "our" spot, right under a big old tree with some benches nearby, which we use during the winters (we did two last year and one the year before) but since it was so early in the morning, that was taken over by people doing yoga and stuff. Winters we normally reach around 11 30 when the sun is out and there are fewer people at that time.

So we picked another spot a little further away - we were shaded by the big tomb and some trees cool breeze blew all around us - it was perfect! We spread our dhurries, poured out the tea from the thermos and brought out the food. The cheese sandwiches and rava idlis with gun powder came out first along with a whole bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice. So fortified, the kids went adventure hunting looking out for tunnels, ponds and "secret hiding" places along with some of the adults and the dog. The rest of us, lay back and chatted looking at the blue skies and the spring flowers and almost dozing with our eyes half-closed.

The children were back in no time chattering on about all the "treasures" they had unearthed and dived right back into the food - aloo parathas and gobi parathas, bananas and grapes. Games of catch followed and then turned into a quest for finding ladybugs in the bushes and flowers accompanied by squeals of delight when one would land on a tiny hand. It was worth all the "effort" of waking up on a Saturday morning and getting the kids ready in time - and I treasure these times so much because I have never had the chance to do these things in Mumbai or Chennai. Delhi is blessed with these wide, open spaces which are so easily accessible and I'm glad to be making the most of it while we are here.

Besides the rava idlis, I brought along these white chocolate muffins which I had made the previous day. I made them without eggs since MIL is visiting and she doesn't eat eggs. I added the banana to make up for the moisture content and consistency. And to complete my itch for one weird ingredient per recipe I threw in some chopped candied amla (gooseberry) into the batter. The muffins were nice and moist; some of you might want to add a bit more sugar if you prefer your muffins sweeter. You could also chop more walnuts and add them right into the batter. Replacing the white chocolate with dark chocolate is another option.

This goes to Joelen's Tasty Tools event - where this month's tool of choice is Muffin Pans.

White Chocolate Muffins (Eggless)

Wheat Flour (atta) - 1.5 cups
Refined flour - 3/4 cup
Baking powder - 1.5 tsp
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Castor Sugar - 1 cup

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 mashed banana
white chocolate - 100gms, chopped into pieces
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Walnuts - 6, broken into halves
Candied amla - 2 tbsp, chopped (optional)

1. Sieve both the flours with the baking powder, soda and the powdered sugar. Keep aside.
2. Melt the white chocolate pieces in a microwave at 30 second intervals till soft. You can also put the chocolate into a steel bowl which goes into another vessel half filled with water and then heat it on the stove, stirring till it melts.
3. When the chocolate cools a bit, add it to the mashed bananas along with butter and vanilla essence.
4. Mix the flour into this mixture and whip with a blender. Add the milk a little at a time till the mixture is thick and creamy, but not too runny.
5. Add the chopped candied amla, mix and drop spoonfuls of the batter into muffin covers or a greased muffin tray, taking care to fill only three fourth of the mould.
6. Place half a walnut into the top of each muffin and then bake for 14 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180C. Cool completely.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gaeng Daeng - Thai Red Curry

The Thai meal I had mentioned a couple of posts back had one of my favourites - Thai Red Curry. Nothing as satisfying as a well made Thai Red Curry - the curry redolent of the spices and herbs and made creamy with coconut milk - but not cloyingly so. I seem to prefer the Red Curry to the Green Curry and while I can't exactly pinpoint where the preference stems from, I think it might be due to the fact that the flavours are much more subtle in this one.

The curry that I made was vegetarian and while red curry seems to be associated more with meat and the sweeter green curry with vegetables, that is probably an association shaped from restaurant menus than any culinary tradition per se. In fact, as this beautiful pictorial post about Thai Red Curry tells us - red curry is the household standby which uses readily available ingredients and is often made with vegetables like white Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots and green beans. I used babycorn, bell peppers, tofu and mushrooms and they went very well with the curry.

The curry pastes used for each curry in Thai cuisine are distinctive because of their ingredients and are key to making sure that one doesn't taste like the other. Fortunately it has become easier in the past decade to get most of the ingredients needed for Thai cooking, in India. So basil, galangal and lemon grass can be found at the bigger supermarkets or even some of the local markets in the bigger cities. I substitute Gandhraj lemon leaves for the kaffir lime leaves ans their amazing aroma along with freshly squeezed coconut milk, seals the deal for me!

Packaged Thai curry paste can of course be used to make this dish, but with just a little planning to assemble the ingredients, you can have Thai curry made from scratch and the difference is just too obvious to miss. This lip smacking curry goes to Vaishali's Its a Vegan World - which is being hosted by Priya of Akshayapatram this month and who has zeroed in on Thai cuisine as the flavour of the month.

Gaeng Daeng - Thai Red Curry

Red Curry Paste

8 kashmiri red chillies, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
3 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
5 small onions (sambar onions) chopped
4 garlic cloves , peeled and chopped
1 " galangal chopped
2 stalks lemon grass chopped
2 stalks coriander leaves
3 Gandharaj lemon leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black peppercorns

Drain the water used to soak the chillies and grind to a paste in a mixie. Store the paste in an air tight container and freeze.

Red Curry

6 tbsp red curry paste
3 cups coconut milk
(Grate 1/2 fresh coconut and grind with 1.5 cup warm water, squeeze and strain the first milk and keep aside. Grind the coconut again with 2.5 cups warm water, squeeze and strain the second milk and keep aside separately)
3 Gandharaj leaves, torn
2 cups vegetables sliced long (I used mushrooms, bell peppers and babycorn)
1/2 cup tofu cubes

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a pan, add the red curry paste and lightly saute for 3 minutes.
2. Add the mixed vegetables, saute on high for 2 minutes and add the second (thinner) coconut milk and tofu sauce and simmer for 10 minutes till the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the tofu, adjust the seasoning and then pour in the first extract of coconut milk, simmer along with the lemon leaves for 3-4 minutes and remove from fire.
4. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mangai Pachadi - Raw Mango Chutney

Iniya Puthandu Nall Vazhthukkal! Wishing you a very Happy Tamil New Year!!

Its a beautiful day outside and I am feeling really happy to be home today - after initially deciding that I would go into work, I finally got into the festive spirit and cooked up the whole traditional spread of vadai, payasam, pongal, sambar, coconut chutney.

MIL is spending a couple of months with us, so I asked her to make my favourite food for this festival - mangai pachadi. Somehow, food cooked by Moms are that much tastier, aren't they?!

Raw mangoes which just about make their appearance around this time are chopped and cooked till soft and then cooked again in a jaggery syrup till it reduces to a sweet and sour chutney. We usually take a small part of this chutney aside and mix into it crushed and fried neem flowers to impart a tinge of bitterness. Tasting this chutney which is sweet, sour and bitter is supposed to prepare us for the New Year ahead - which will have some sweet stuff and some not so sweet stuff too.

This pachadi is very addictive and I can often be found at the table, long after the meal is done - putting spoonfuls of it on my plate (this is the last spoon - absolutely the last!!) and licking it off my fingers :)

This is going off to Manina's Eating with the Seasons event; she want's us to find out what's in season - and in India, it almost summer and definitely the start of the mango season!.

Manga Pachadi - Raw Mango Chutney

2 small raw mangoes
1 small slit green chilli
1 cup grated jaggery (you can use 1/2 cup sugar instead)
pinch of salt


1. Peel and chop the raw mangoes into small pieces. Cook covered in a glass of water (about 200ml) till the pieces are soft and mushy, with the slit green chilli.
2. You can keep the pieces whole if you like a chunky chutney - I drained and reserved the water and mashed the pieces lightly. Remove the green chilli.
3. Put the mashed mango with the reserved water, a pinch of salt and the grated jaggery back on the fire for about 8 -10 minutes till it reduces to a thick consistency.

That's it - in about 15 minutes you have a lip smacking chutney ready!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Instant Handvo

Handvo is not much known outside of Gujarati home cooking; it's a savoury lentil snack which comes from the Kathiawad region. I have had the traditional recipe for handvo for a long time now, but have never got around to actually making it. Then when I was visiting my best friend last year, on my annual trip to Mumbai, I had this for breakfast at her place. Which was when I decided I had to make it - it was so delicious.

Of course, it took me a whole year to actually make it, since I initially wanted to make it by soaking and grinding it the traditional way. Finally, I gave up and decided to make an instant version of it - which was anyway the version I had at my friend's place - and it tasted great. Her version was cooked directly on a tava - I wasn't that brave so I tried pouring the batter into my muffin pan and baked it.

It made a really great breakfast served with some spicy coriander chutney - next time when I am a little more organised, I will make the longer version - till then, try this one, it makes for a really tasty and filling breakfast or snack.

I have made this a couple of times more after that first time and by cutting down on the green chillies in part of the batter, have managed to invent a lunch box item for my daughter who just started "big school" this week. This goes to this month's edition of Monthly Mingle - Meeta's wonderful event - which is being hosted by Srivalli who has decided to go with Kid's Lunches as the theme.

I am also sending this to Joelen's Tasty Tools event - the tool of the month is Muffin Pans

Instant Handvo (Savoury lentil cake)

1.5 cups semolina (sooji/rava)
1/2 cup gram flour (besan)
1 cup yoghurt
Pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste

Green chillies - 3
Ginger - 1" piece

Grated bottle gourd (ghiya/dudhi) or pumpkin - 1/2 cup

Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
oil - 1 tsp

1 tsp baking soda

1. Mix the semolina, gram flour and yoghurt together till smooth.
2. Add the paste and the grated vegetable along with the salt and asafoetida.
3. Pour some water if needed to make a thick batter. Mix in the baking soda.
4. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds till the splutter. Pour over the handvo batter.
5. Drop spoonfuls of the batter into a greased muffin pan and bake covered with foil, in a preheated oven at 180 C (350F) for about 15 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
6. Serve warm with green chutney.