22 June 2007

Potatoes Galore

It was one of those days! I got up with a minor headache, a cranky infant and a little one who wanted something 'cute' for lunch. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the chief gourmet had just had a tooth extraction, and was as cheerful as a bear with a sore paw. So there I was, I had to make a 'cute' lunch for baby bear, liquid lunch for papa bear, and something light and filling for mama bear.

And trying to get my daughter ready for kindergarten, my little one soothed and cold packs for my husband, the kitchen was in chaos. By the time the baby was rocked to sleep, and the other one well on her way getting ready for school, I went into the kitchen to get cracking on the lunchbox. I looked at my cooker. What on earth were so many potatoes doing there?? Just what am I supposed to do with 6 LARGE boiled potatoes? In all that chaos, I'd dumped the entire potato bag into the cooker, and I had plenty of boiled potatoes.

Well, there was nothing to be done, but finish it all. First the lunch box. A fruit assortment, rice rolls, and crispy potato rolls. Potato soup was the obvious choice for the liquid lunch (not that there was a choice) and a potato salad for me. Easy... and done!

Crispy Potato Rolls
makes 10 small rolls

1 potato (boiled and peeled)
1/4 cup cooked rice (cooled)
salt to taste
oil for frying

Mash potatoes with rice and salt.
Shape into rolls or patties.
Deep fry in hot oil.
Drain rolls on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

That's that. No jokes, that's all it takes. Try adding a pinch of turmeric and some cumin powder. This is one of a repertoire of never fail recipes. And the potato fingers stay crisp till lunch time.

Potato and Pineapple Salad
serves 2

2 potatoes (boiled, peeled, diced)
1 small onion (diced)
1 cup pineapple (diced)
4 tbsp sour cream
1/4 tsp dried peppermint
salt to taste

Stir peppermint and salt into the sour cream.
In a large bowl, mix potatoes, onion and pineapple.
Add dressing, and toss lightly till evenly coated.
Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Serve cold.

Potato, Leek and Garlic Soup
makes 2 helpings

3 potatoes (boiled, peeled, grated fine)
1 cup leek (finely sliced)
1 head garlic
2 tbsp butter
2 cups low fat milk
2 tbsp almond paste
1 tbsp vegetable stock (dissolved in 1/4 cup water)
salt to taste
pepper for garnish

Wrap garlic in aluminium foil and bake for 30 minutes at 160°C.
Cool slightly, and squeeze garlic of of skin. Mince lightly and keep aside.
Heat butter. Lightly fry leeks till they start to brown.
Add garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
Puree one potato in a blender.
(If you want a smooth soup, puree the leeks and garlic along with it)
Add the grated and blended potatoes, the vegetable stock and mix well, mashing lightly against the sides of the pan with the back of a spoon.
Add milk a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add almond paste, and stir well, ensuring there are no lumps.
Season with salt.
Garnish with white pepper and serve hot.

11 June 2007

Spicy Tomato Soup

A couple of years ago, on a visit to the US, my family and I had dinner at a friends' restaurant in NJ. It was a wet wet day, and we were rather disoriented after a non-stop 18 hour flight. As we waited for dinner, we were served some soup.

I wasn't really in a mood for any little bits and nibbles. I just wanted my dinner, and wanted to hit the sack, and reset my body clock. It was also one of those occassions where I couldn't refuse, or not eat it. So I took a sip, then a gulp and then slurped it all down and asked for seconds.

It was such a wonderful soup, a cross between tomato soup and rasam. Light, thin, sweet, spicy, and made me feel at peace with the world after a long long journey with my little one in tow.

And since then I've always tried to replicate that lovely soup, and I finally got it just right. It's simple, tasty, and very unfussy.

Spicy tomato soup
makes 3 cups

1 (200 ml) can tomato sauce (NOT ketchup)
400 ml water
1 tbsp rasam powder (or to taste)
1 lemon sized ball of jaggery
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
Hing (Asafetida)
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
salt to taste

Bring tomato sauce, water, rasam powder and salt to a boil.
Add jaggery.
Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
Heat ghee. Add jeera and fry until lightly browned. Add hing. Pour over soup.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

1. Hunts tomato sauce is my favourite. It works better than most other brands. I usually measure out one small can of sauce, and 4 cans of water.
2. Use water according to desired consistency. I like this soup thin. Use less water for a thicker soup.
3. In case you can't find tomato sauce, puree a can of diced tomatoes, strain the puree, and add water accordingly.