11 April 2008

Risotto Soup

One-dish meals have to be the second greatest invention ever.

One of the restaurants we like here, Coco's, makes this lovely Risotto soup that is light, warming and quite filling.

I made this attempt at home. With way smaller vegetable bits, and with little bits of what vegetables I could lay my hands on, and needles to say, left out vegetables that my three gourmets turn up their noses at. It turned out quite alright. Just right for an eat-as-you-work dinner. Ideally, the vegetable chunks could be larger. I made them bite sized for the kids.... artistic and culinary integrity take a flying leap.

Risotto Soup
(not quite the same as Coco's makes it)
serves 4

4 tbsp rice (uncooked)
1 tbsp barley
1 cup corn
1 medium carrot (peeled and diced)
4 French beans (chopped)
1/4 cup cauliflower florets (cut into small pieces)
2 soup cubes
6 cups water
1 tbsp butter
salt and white pepper to taste

Wash and rinse rice and barley.
Soak in 6 cups hot water for 1 hour.
Strain the rice and barley. Reserve the water used for soaking.
Melt butter in a saucepan.
Sauté the cauliflower florets, carrots, corn and Beans in butter for 2 minutes.
Add rice and barley, sauté for a minute.
Add the reserved water, and the soup cubes.
Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or till the rice and barley are cooked.
Adjust salt to taste.
Season with white pepper and serve hot

Some things that would taste great in this soup (which were left out for the sake of fussy eaters) mushrooms, turnips, edamame (green beans, a local speciality), daikon pieces, all cut in bigger chunks.

Fruity dessert

Much as I hate to admit it, I spend more time leafing through some of my cookbooks, than to try and make something out of those glossy pages. More often than not, I am too zonked by the time the kids are fed and watered. And end up simply looking at a dessert instead of making and eating some.

And there are days when I'm motivated enough to make something, and the other half goes... "Hmmmm... make anything you feel. I don't want to eat any. I'm getting fat..."

If anything could kill the enthusiasm to try something new, that certainly did.

But then, there are days when one simply has to munch on something sweet. Some indulgence, or comfort food is called for.

On one of those days of flipping through one of my books, I saw THE dessert. It was a warm dessert (perfect on a late winter day), it was healthy, it had no added sugar, no fat.... In other words, it was PERFECT. There was no reason that the other half could even say no to this one.

When I brought this to the table after a light lunch, he looked rather skeptical, and said he'd eat some later. I used a up a month's worth of guilt trips to coax him into eating some.

Surprisingly, the kids loved it too. The older one (who's the founder president of the Fussy-Eaters Anonymous) had seconds, and the baby ate certain parts of it, and spit out the rest. But she did eat plenty.

Here's the recipe.

I did make a few changes to the original recipe. I was in the zone to make this dessert, and used what I had on hand, as I was not up to dressing my toddler in half her wardrobe for a ten minute trip to a store. Because the end result was spectacular, I believe that this recipe lends itself to a lot of flexibility.

Baked Winter Fruit Salad
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Desserts

1 cup mixed dried fruit (apricots, pitted prunes, raisins)
2 Apples (peeled, cored, cut in wedges)
1 Oranges (peeled, sectioned, membranes removed)
2 Pears (peeled, cored and cut in wedges)
1 stick Cinnamon
2 cups fresh Orange juice (or apple cider)

Place all the fruits, Orange juice (or apple cider)in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
Cover and allow to soak for 3 hours at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Pour the fruits with liquid and cinnamon stick in a large ceramic or glass baking dish.
Cover with aluminium foil and bake for about 40 minutes, until the liquid is bubbling and the fruits are soft.
Remove from oven, and allow to cool a little.
Remove cinnamon stick.
Spoon into individual dishes and serve warm.


  • The original recipe calls for a combination of orange juice and sherry for soaking the fruits. I left out the sherry.
  • I baked the fruit in two batches (oven is too small). The first time, I baked the fruits in a metal dish. That's an absolute no-no. The metal and the citrus of the orange juice have a weird reaction, and leave a terrible aftertaste. The second batch was baked in a ceramic dish. That tasted wonderful.
  • For some odd reason, my oranges totally disintegrated during the baking. Anyone know why?

(And before you ask, I was not concentrating while adding a title to the photo, and ended up calling it 'compote'. I just noticed that, and will get around to correcting it sometime..... I don't want to lose blogging momentum while I'm at this :P)

05 April 2008

Chhole without onion and garlic

I've become a fan of onion-garlic free food. I have nothing against onions and garlic, but sometimes, especially in an ill-ventilated kitchen, the smells can be rather overwhelming. After marathon cleaning and spraying and polishing sessions, I have this tendency to avoid cooking with strong, pungent smelling stuff in the kitchen. For about a day or tow.

I saw this recipe on Tarla Dalal's website. The ingredient list made me curiouser and curiouser. Cabbage and lauki in Chhole?? It was then the tail end of summer, I was rather fortunate to find white pumpkin in the friendly neighbourhood vegetable store. I just had to try this out.

This recipe was wonderful. I think I overcooked the white pumpkin, but the end result was a smooth, velvety, creamy gravy, that was wonderfully spicy. The first time around, I felt that the flavour of cloves was overwhelming. After that I reduced the amount of cloves (and red chillies too) called for in the recipe, and it was just fine.

The OH had some. It was fine, he said. Was this a new recipe? I casually mentioned that there was cabbage and white pumpkin in the chhole. He looked so horrified. Until I reminded him that he had eaten a generous serving, and had seconds too. And he graciously consented to let me make it again.

Chhole without onion/garlic

2 cups soaked chana (chick peas)
1 cup white pumpkin or bottle gourd (doodhi/lauki peeled and chopped)
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 cup grated cabbage
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp dry ginger powder
1 tsp dry mango powder (amchur)
3 tbsp chopped coriander
2 tbsp cream (or milk)
2 tomatoes (cubed)
3 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (garnish)

Chhole masala
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
4 tsp coriander seeds
2 dry red chillies
2 cloves
3 peppercons
1 cardamom
1" piece cinnamon
3 tsp dried pomegranate seeds

Dry roast each of the ingredients for the chhole masala individually. Grind them to a powder and keep aside.
Pressure cook the chana with 1-1/2 cups water and the white pumpkin/lauki with a little salt.
If using canned beans, cook the lauki/pumpkin with a little salt and water. Add chana, bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Heat the oil in a pan. Temper with cumin seeds and bayleaf.
Add the cabbage and sauté till it lightly browns.
Add in the roasted and chhole masala, and other powder spices (ginger, amchur)and coriander.
Add the cooked chana and white pumpkin along with the water.
Adjust salt to taste.
Simmer for ten minutes.
Stir in the cream (or milk), add the tomatoes, mix well and simmer for two minutes before removing from heat.
Serve hot garnished with coriander.

03 April 2008

Bento for a party

"There's a party for the graduating class later this month," Aditi's teacher tells me, "and there's a special lunch for that day."

That sounded nice... Not the graduation bit.. the special lunch, a party-Obento! I have this arrangement with Aditi's teacher. Since Aditi is a vegetarian, and the school cannot accomodate her dietary needs in their thrice-a-week lunch program, they give me a whole month's menu at the start of each month. All I need to do then, is adapt it to a vegetarian diet. Actually, those 3 days of the week when the other kids get lunch at school, are easier for me. I don't have to think about what to make.. from scratch. Suitable substitutes for the non-vgetarian items in the menu are all I need to think about.

Initially the other half and I did considering just sending anything in hr lunch box, but I began to feel that she might not feel left out if she were eating from the same type of lunch box as everyone else, and food as similar as possible to what her friends are eating. Some days thinking of a suitable vegetarian alternative can drive me up the wall.

For the party, sensei not only gave me a lunchbox, but also this....

The menu, and also a picture of what the final bento was supposed to look like. And believe me, that made life way easier.

Here, I have to admit that I misplaced my notes, and totaly forgot what a couple of things were. That brown thingie peeping out from beneath the tempura for one. Most of the menu is rather obvious. All I had to do was think of substitutes for shrimp tempura and hamburger. And for salmon filled Onigiri.

This was my vegetarian version of the party lunch.

Kabocha tempura instead of shrimp.
Potato croquette instead of hamburger.
Ongiri with carrot chunks instead of salmon.
And a packet of ketchup instead of the brown thingie.

And yes, the little one came back from school.... and said that lunch was nice... and thinks that sensei makes cute lunches for her.. why can't amma do the same?