Tangy Tomato Basil Soup

Tangy Tomato Basil Soup

I have been trying to get the taste of this soup from my favourite restaurant in Singapore. After a lot of experimentation, I have come up with a version I love.

Ingredients

Tomatoes 4 large

Potato 1 large

Spring onions 5

Fresh basil leaves 10 sprigs

Paprika powder 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

Pepper powder to taste

Butter as needed

Method

Steam the potato, tomatoes and spring onions in a pressure cooker.

Skin the tomatoes.

Add the steamed vegetables to a blender and blend well.

Heat in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the basil leaves, paprika powder and salt. Adjust the water content and boil for five minutes.

Serve with a blob of butter, salt and pepper.

Vegetable Pulao

Vegetable Pulao

I could never understand how much time my aunt would spend on making Vegetable Pulao, ensuring each piece was of the same size, blanching and frying each kind of vegetable separately and then bringing it all together to make the final dish. Till the Covid-19 pandemic locked us in our homes. I found myself enjoying the care in cooking and the precision of each step in the making of a dish. I learnt to enjoy the magic of botany and chemistry in the process of cooking.

Ingredients

Basmati rice 2 cups

Cauliflower 1 cup of florets, each 1” thick

Carrots 1 cup of 1” cubes

Frozen peas 1 cup

Potatoes 2 medium, cut into 1” cubes

Onion 1 medium, sliced

Cumin seeds 1 tsp

Cinnamon 1” piece

Ginger 2” piece, crushed

Bay leaf 1

Peppercorns 1 tbsp

Cloves 4

Oil 5 tbsps

Method

Soak the rice for 20 minutes and drain.

Boil a pan of water with 2 tablespoons of salt and blanch the vegetables separately. Don’t blanch the peas.

Heat the oil in a iron pot — I use Le Creuset — and fry the onion slices till they are brown and keep aside.

Fry the blanched vegetables separately and keep aside. Don’t fry the peas.

Add the cumin seeds. When they stop sputtering, add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves and peppercorns.

Add the crushed ginger and sauté for a few minutes.

Add the peas and the drained rice. Add the fried vegetables and salt to taste.

Mix well and add enough water to cover the rice and 1” above.

Bring to a boil, reduce the flame, cover and cook till the rice is cooked and the water is completely absorbed.

Garnish with fried onions and serve hot.

Book Review: More Bread Machine Bounty

Book Review: More Bread Machine Bounty

Gayle Shockey Hockster; Better Homes and Gardens; Des Moines, 1994

I picked up this book when I was a novice with the bread maker and it soon became my go-to volume. I loved the recipes, which are easy to follow, and the tips given by the side or at the bottom are invaluable, especially if you are just starting to bake your own bread.

Baking bread has been something that we seem to have adopted en masse as we cope with the pandemic. Stores have been running out of bread flour and yeast, but people are continuing to bake. I agree that there is something magical about bread, watching the loaf rise and then bake to golden perfection.

Maybe it is an attempt by man to gain some control in a world that is spiralling out of control. That warm loaf of bread not only smells wholesome and delicious, it is life giving. Bread was what Christ broke with his disciples. Bread is essential to every culture in the world, to human being’s very survival.

One of the most popular breads that people around the world have been making during the current Covid-19 pandemic is sourdough bread. One reason could be that once you make the sourdough starter, the recipe for which is given in the book, you can continue to replenish it without adding more yeast. So even if yeast disappears from the store shelves, you can continue to bake your bread.

This book has a whole section devoted to sourdough breads.

I have tried many of these breads and each one has turned out perfect.

My favourite is the sourdough cheese bread, which is a fail-safe recipe. I make it pretty often as it goes so well with soups and stews and also makes a great sandwich.

Rice and Lentil Cakes

Rice and Lentil Cakes

This is a delicious and healthy steamed dish that works as a snack, breakfast dish or even for supper. It has a mix of lentils or dals and minimal amount of oil. Wrapped in banana leaves, the steaming brings out a unique flavour.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Parboiled rice 125 g

Moong dal 50 g

Masoor dal 50 g

Tuvar dal 50 g

Urad dal 50 g

Chana dal 50 g

Salt to taste

Red chilli flakes 1 tbsp

Any Indian pickle masala 2 tbsps

Jaggery 1 tbsp grated

Coriander leaves, chopped

Mustard seeds 1 tbsp

Oil 4 tbsps + 1 tbsp

Yoghurt 2 tbsps

Eno fruit salt 1 tbsp

Water as needed

Asafoetida 1/2 tsp

Banana leaves cut into squares and rolled to form cone-shaped pockets.

Method

Wash the dals and rice and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and grind to a paste along with the yoghurt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Add enough water to make a batter. Add salt and leave to ferment for 7 hours.

Add chopped coriander leaves, the pickle masala, jaggery and chilli flakes to the fermented batter. Add the Eno fruit salt and leave for a few minutes.

Heat water in a steamer.

Spoon batter into the banana leaf cones and steam for 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add the mustard seeds and asafoetida.

Unwrap the steamed cakes and pour the oil with mustard seeds over them.

Serve hot with chutney or pickle.

Lentils with Sausages

Lentils with Sausages

Almost three decades ago, I saw this being made on a TV cooking show. I made it, but it was too bland. Over the years, I have adjusted it to suit my family’s palate and now it is a mix of flavours from the red wine, garlic and olive oil. Accompanied by dinner rolls or bread, this makes a great supper.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Lentils or whole masoor dal 1 cup (200 g)

Green chillies 2, chopped

Onions 3 small or 2 medium, chopped

Garlic 5 cloves, two chopped

Coriander leaves, chopped, for garnish

Sausages 5

Butter 1 tbsp

Olive oil 2 tbsps

Peperoncino flakes 1 tbsp

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil 1 tbsp

Red wine 1 cup

Lemon wedges, optional

Method

Add the butter and olive oil to a sauce pan and sauté the onions, green chillies and garlic.

Wash and drain the lentils and add to the sautéed vegetables. Add salt and peperoncino flakes. If you don’t have peperoncino, use any kind of chilli flakes.

Add about 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook covered till the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile fry the sausages in a tablespoon of vegetable oil on medium heat. Add the three whole pods of garlic.

When the garlic pods are brown, take them out and add them to the lentils along with a cup of red wine. You can use any red wine that is available in your cupboard. I used a Zinfandel from Sula. Increase the heat to high.

When the wine is completely absorbed, transfer the lentils to a serving dish. Arrange the sausages on top and garnish with coriander leaves. Add a twist of lemon, though this is optional.

Serve hot with dinner rolls or bread and butter.

Green Garlic Chutney

Green Garlic Chutney

Garlic cloves are said to be good for your health, but fresh green garlic is even better. It is available only for a limited season in winter. Fresh green garlic is easier to consume than garlic cloves as the smell is less pungent. It can be had in salads or made into a chutney. This chutney goes well with paranthas or chilla.

Ingredients

Fresh green garlic 10 stalks
Green chillies 5
Coriander leaves 1 cup
Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Oil 1 tbsp
Asafoetida 1/2 tsp

Method

Clean and chop the green garlic stalks. They look like spring onions, but are thinner.

Blend them with the green chillies and coriander leaves. Try to use as little water as you can.

Add salt.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the mustard seeds stop sputtering, add it to the chutney.

This chutney will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Brazilian Corn Bread

Brazilian Corn Bread

I love corn bread and this one has a rustic flavour with a hint of sweetness from the corn. It goes well with stew, cold cuts, chilli cooked in a slow cooker, or beans.

Ingredients

Corn meal or makki ka atta 1 1/2 cup
All-purpose flour 3 cups
Yeast 3 tsps
Milk 1/2 litre
Butter 30 g
Rice flour 2 tbsps
Sugar 2 tbsps + 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Olive oil 2 tbsps

Method

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Heat the milk and add the butter to it. As the milk begins to bubble, reduce the heat and whisk in the cornmeal. Let it cool to room temperature.

Mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add the yeast mixture and the cornmeal mixture. Make a dough.

Transfer the dough to a bowl greased with olive oil and cover with cling film. Leave it to rise for two hours.

Divide the dough into two boules. Dust with rice flour and criss-cross the top with a knife. Spritz with water.

Pour boiling water into a tray and place in the oven. Bake the bread in the middle rack for 35-40 minutes.

Slice when cool.

Moong Dal

Moong Dal

When we were a newly married couple, my husband and I used to cook dinner together. We had a lovely terrace off the kitchen in our first home. We would take a drink each — my preferred drink was and is Coca Cola — and we would concoct all kinds of delectable dishes. One of our favourites was the simple moong dal, made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and fresh coriander leaves. We would team it with paranthas or rotis and rice and with fried fish or prawns as a side dish.

Ingredients

(Serves 3)

Moong dal, split 1/2 cup
Onion 1 medium, chopped
Tomatoes 2 medium, chopped
Green chillies 2, chopped
Garlic 5 cloves, chopped
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Ghee 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnish, chopped

Method

Wash and drain the moong dal. Add the onions, tomatoes, green chillies and garlic. Add water and boil.

Add salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Simmer till the dal is cooked completely. Add water as needed.

Heat the ghee in a small frying pan and cumin seeds. When they stop sputtering, add them to the dal.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or roti.

Carrot Halwa

Carrot Halwa

Cooking Carrot Halwa or Gajrela will fill your kitchen with the most comforting smells. The aroma of grated carrot boiling in milk takes me back to my childhood, my son’s childhood, and winters in Delhi. For a healthier version, I use less sugar and skimmed milk.

Carrot halwa is good to have in winter as the combination of sugar and ghee helps to prevent chills. Carrots are full of Vitamin C, which can help boost immunity, something that is immensely useful during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ingredients

Carrots 750 g
Sugar 15 tbsps
Milk 1/2 litre
Ghee 1 tsp

Method

Wash, peel and grate the carrots.

Boil it with the milk on low heat in a heavy bottomed pan. I used Mother Dairy Toned Milk as I wanted to make a lighter version. In Singapore and Australia, I used Paul’s Fresh Milk. In the UK, I preferred to use Ivy House Farm.

Once all the milk has evaporated, add the sugar. Keep stirring after adding the sugar so that the carrots do stick to the bottom of the pan.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed, add the ghee. This will give a lovely glaze to the halwa.

Tomato soup: Comfort in a Cup

Tomato soup: Comfort in a Cup

I feel that tomato soup is like the Indian dal — there are as many ways of preparing it as there are people in the world. And each recipe is unique. With winter setting in, there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of hot tomato soup.

This particular recipe I learnt from a friend when we were schoolgirls. I have adapted it to my taste and it became a family favourite, especially with my mom.

Healthy cup of warmth and taste

Ingredients

(Serves 2)

Tomatoes 6 large
Potato 1 large
Spring onions 6
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Bread 4 slices, cut into croutons
Butter 2 tbsps

Method

Wash the tomatoes. Peel the potato. Clean the spring onions.

Steam them whole in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of water.

Peel the steamed tomatoes. Add the steamed vegetables to a blender and grind.

Transfer to a wok and add the red chilli powder and salt. Add water from the steamed vegetables if needed. Bring to a boil, stirring it continuously. Simmer for four minutes. Switch off the heat.

Add a tablespoonful of butter to a frying pan and toss the bread croutons on high heat for about three minutes.

Serve the soup in a bowl with a blob of butter and the croutons. Enjoy!