30 October, 2007

Winter Warmers - Cream of Broccoli Soup

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Cream of Broccoli Soup with Garlic Baguettes

BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beauti--FUL SOUP!
-Lewis Carroll


Remember this poem from Lewis Carroll’s magnificent creativity Alice in Wonderland? The story has always intrigued me ever since I was a small kid. I loved the strange and absurd things that happens in the wonderland and the amazing creativity behind it that never failed to take me to my own wonderland, playing with Dinah and singing and dancing with bizarre characters from Wonderland. Oh yes!!! I grew up as a kid with wild imaginations, just like Alice. I laughed at absurdity and loved Alice’s curiosity and cheered her courage when faced with difficult phases. Carroll opened the new world, a wonderland, to me and made me see the beauty in the unknown.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

At first, the story of Alice in Wonderland would sound quite mundane. However, if you read the story carefully you will realise its not just any ordinary child fiction. Alice in Wonderland is a story filled with underlying philosophy and many secrets. It’s these strangeness and nonsensical ideas which are quite compelling. Remember the annoyingly witty Cheshire Cat? That’s one character I loved to hate. He would put Alice in trouble and yet his wittiness and that stupid grin never failed me to grudgingly adore him. Some characters made me laugh and some scared me, some of them are funny and others are rude. However, all the characters are quite colourful and will always remain part of my childhood memories be it stupid Dodo or foul tempered Queen of Hearts and her diminutive husband the King of Hearts or eccentric White Rabbit and many more…

Coming back to present from my wonderland, I was singing “Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!“ while making Cream of Broccoli Soup and soon hubby dear joined me when slurping this warm and delicious bowl of soup. Simple soup with few ingredients and very little preparation needed is a joyous song to my soul ;) Little chunks of broccoli are simmered in hearty vegetable stock and milk and lightly flavoured with garlic and a peppercorn is sure to win everyone’s heart. When served with herbed garlic baguette it becomes one satisfying meal all together.

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Cream of Broccoli Soup
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 3-4


Ingredients:
1 small Broccoli (approx 3 tightly packed cups)
½ medium Onion, very finely chopped
1-2 Garlic Flakes, very finely chopped
1-1½ tbsp Corn Flour
1 tbsp Butter/Oil
¼ cup Cream (optional, I used single cream)
1 cup Milk
4-5 cups Vegetable Stock (Broth)/2-3 Veg Stock Cubes
Salt & Pepper to taste
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Cream of Broccoli Soup

Method:
Chop the broccoli head and stems to very fine pieces and keep them aside.
Heat butter/oil in a pan and add finely chopped garlic flakes and sauté them till they turn light golden.
Now add very finely chopped onions and sauté them for 2-3 minutes over a medium flame till the raw smell disappears and they turn light golden.
To this add vegetable broth and finely chopped broccoli. Cover and cook for 10 minutes till the broccoli becomes tender.
At this stage you can cool the stock completely and blend it into smooth puree without any lumps. Or else if you like some body to the soup and don’t mind the broccoli pieces like me continue the following steps.
Add milk, salt and pepper to taste and simmer the flame. Keep stirring the soup for few more minutes so that the milk doesn’t curdle.
Dissolve cornflour in ¼ cup of cold water without forming any lumps and pour slowly to the soup. Keep stirring the soup so that no lumps are formed.
Add cream and simmer and cook for another 5-10 minutes till the soup thickens and bubbles are formed on the surface. Serve hot with garlic baguettes and enjoy.
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Cream of Broccoli Soup with Garlic Baguettes


Tips:
If you prefer thick soup then increase the amount of corn flour used.
Adding fresh cream gives extra smoothness and body to the soup. Addition of cream is optional if you don't prefer heavy soups.

28 October, 2007

Life is Beautiful-1

Today I received this pic from one of my friends in my mailbox. I loved it so much and thought of sharing it with you all. Next time take a moment to check those forward mails before deleting them;)



"Friendship and love defined in a single photo"

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24 October, 2007

Curries from Thailand

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Veg & Tofu Thai Green Curry


"Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements."
- Marcel Boulestin

One thing I have learnt from my ‘almost’ two years of kitchen adventure is learning how to balance and harmonize flavours. Even the fresh ingredients, such as herbs, spices and vegetables, can differ depending on their freshness, the soil and climate condition where they are grown, the way they are packed and stored etc. Same chilli I had bought few days back was less spicy and the tomatoes were more juicer than the one from my previous shopping trip to same old supermarket. Similarly, tamarind puree from same brand may differ in degree of sourness depending on how thick or thin it is made while the colour of chilli powder may be brighter than the last pack you consumed. For any cook, amateur or experienced, it is important to make adjustments in the quantity used to bring out the right flavour of the ingredients to suit your taste buds rather than blindly following the given recipes religiously. Recipes should serve as guidelines as they cannot speak for our taste preference or the variance in the ingredients we get from different places. Rather following the cooking instructions, I follow my instinct and my palate as it is these two which tells me what I would like in a particular dish, a hint of this a dash of that which creates a perfect harmony between flavour, aroma and the complete satisfaction of creating something which my loved ones enjoy.

Following your instinct and taste should not be limited to the ingredients you are familiar with, to the food which you are grown up with or to the one’s which you have had tasted hundred times. For me it is more important when I create a foreign cuisine where the ingredients used can vary considerably from batch to batch, brand to brand and seasonality. Never hesitate to cut down the number of chillies if you can’t take too much of heat, increase the amount of lime juice if you enjoy sharp and sour taste. Don’t panic if you are short of one or two ingredients. Add or omit herbs and spices to suit your taste and adjust the flavour according to your preference. Play around with the ingredients until you get the right combination of flavours that are most suited to your palate.

One cuisine which I feel I can safely tweak to my preference is Thai food. For a hard core south Indian who has more than average percentage of coconut milk flowing in her blood stream, Thai curry is as dear to me as any Rasams and Sambars. Who wouldn’t fall for a subtle blend of hot, salty, sweet and sour flavors of Thai curry which makes the taste buds tingling? When cooked with home-made curry paste it’s a cherry on icing. Don’t hesitate to make these curries if you are short of any ingredients and pick vegetables of your choice depending on your taste and seasonality. I am posting the substitutes for few ingredients which otherwise is not easily available in few places and I can safely vouch for these as I have tried them myself. I am sending these two curries to Margot of Coffee & Vanilla who is hosting Vegetarian Awareness Month.

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Veg and Tofu Thai Green Curry
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Serves: 3-4


Ingredients:
1 cup Tofu, cubed
½ cup Red & Green Bell Peppers, thinly sliced
½ cup Baby Corn, sliced
½ cup Sugar Snaps/French Beans, chopped
½ cup Mushrooms (I used Shiitake)
½ cup Green Peas
½ cup carrot, thin stripes
½ cup Yam/Sweet Potato
1 can Coconut Milk
2 fresh/frozen/dried Kaffir Lime Leaves, snipped into thin strips
1½ tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste
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Green Curry Paste

For Green Curry Paste:
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced (lower half)
2 Tbsp ground Coriander Seeds
2 Tbsp Vegetarian Fish Sauce/Soy Sauce
1 tsp Brown Sugar (optional)
3-6 Green Chillies, deseeded (adjust acc to taste)
1 small Onion
1-2 Garlic Cloves
1 tsp Lime Zest
1 thumb-size piece Galangal/Ginger
1 cup/1 bunch Fresh Coriander, including Stems
1 cup fresh Holy/Sweet Basil, including stems
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Veg & Tofu Thai Green Curry

Method:
Grind all the ingredients below green curry paste to smooth paste adding little coconut milk at a time.
Heat oil in wok or deep frying pan and add ground paste and sauté it over medium flame for about one minute.
Add coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and tofu and turn down the heat. Allow the curry to simmer, stirring occasionally for about five minutes.
Add all the vegetables, salt to taste and cover and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes till the vegetables are well cooked.
Stir in soy sauce and lime juice if required and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Garnish with fresh basil and coriander leaves and serve hot with Jasmine or sticky rice and enjoy.
Tips:
1. Vegetarian Fish Sauce is a mixture of soy beans, salt, sugar, water, chilli, and citric acid which acts as a preservative. I make my own Veg Fish Sauce when I am short of strore bought by adding ½ cup Soya Sauce+1 tbsp Sugar+1 tbsp Red Chilli Paste+ ¼ tsp Citric Acid/1 fresh Lime Juice.
2. Galangal is available as fresh/dried/paste form in local oriental stores or Asian stores and sometime in supermarkets. If you don’t have Galangal in your pantry use Ginger and 1 tsp Lime juice instead. I usually add small piece of ginger along with galangal which gives extra flavour and kick to the curry.
3. Sambal Olek is basically a spicy chilli paste. You can make your own Sambal Olek at home by grinding
10-15 Red Chillies (with seeds) + 2-3 tbsp White Vinegar + 1-2 tsp Salt (OR)
10-15 Red Chillies (with seeds) + 2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar + 1 tbsp Palm Sugar + Salt (OR)
10-15 Red Chillies (with seeds) + 2 tbsp Lime Juice + 2 tbsp Sesame Oil + Salt
Store this paste in a sterilised glass jar and store it in fridge. It usually lasts for few weeks.
4. Kaffir Lime Leaves are usually available in Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai stores as fresh or in frozen section. Dry Kaffir Leaves are available in any big supermarket in their dry herbs or oriental food aisle. When they are not available substitute them with lime zest and juice.
5. Lemon Grass is available as fresh/frozen/dry/paste. You can substitute them with lime zest and juice.
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Veg Thai Red Curry

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Veg Thai Red Curry
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Serves: 3-4


Ingredients:
½ cup Carrot, thinly sliced
½ cup Mushrooms (I used Shiitake Mushrooms), sliced
½ cup Potato, diced into a 1 cm cubes
½ cup Baby Corns, sliced
½ cup Sugar Snaps/French Beans, cut into 1 cm pieces
½ cup Green Peas
½ cup Red Bell Pepper, cut into small pieces
½ cup Spring Onion Greens, thinly chopped
1 can Coconut Milk
2 tbsp Sambal Olek/1 tbsp Red Chilli Paste
2 fresh/frozen/dry Kaffir Lime Leaves, snipped into thin strips (Optional)
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste
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Red Curry Paste

For Red Curry Paste:
1½ tbsp Coriander Seeds
3 Green Cardamom Pods, (only the seeds)
4-5 Dry Red Chilies, adjust acc to taste
¼ tsp Black Pepper
2 Garlic Flakes
1 small Onion
1 inch Galangal/Ginger
2 sticks Lemon Grass (lower half)/ ½ Lime zest + 2 tbsp Lime Juice
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
1 tbsp Tamarind Juice
½ cup Coriander Stems (not leaves)
2 tbsp Basil/1 tsp Dry Basil Powder
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Veg Thai Red Curry

Method:
Dry roast coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, dry red chilies and black pepper over a medium heat for around 1 minute.
Grind the above roasted spices with garlic flakes, galangal, lemon grass, tomato paste, tamarind juice, coriander stems, onion and basil to a smooth paste.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and add ground red curry paste and sauté it over a medium flame for around a minute.
Add all the vegetables except for spring onion greens and pour water so that the vegetables are just covered and cook over a medium flame for around 5 minutes till the vegetables are half cooked.
Then add coconut milk, salt to taste, kaffir lime leaves, sambal olek and cook for further 10-15 minutes till the vegetables are cooked.
Switch off the flame and chopped coriander leaves, greens of spring onion and serve hot with aromatic Jasmine Rice.

Jasmine Rice is one of the two main types of rice grown in Thailand; the other is sticky rice (which is not the same as sushi rice). Jasmine rice is an aromatic long-grain rice with almost translucent grains and often it is called as milagrosa or mali rice. For a perfectly cooked scented Jasmine Rice the trick is to use less water. By this way the rice is actually being steamed instead of boiled during the second half of the cooking process.

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Aromatic Jasmine Rice


How to Cook Jasmine Rice:
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Serves: 2



Microwave Method:
Rinse the rice by gently moving your fingers through it until the water runs clear and drain.
Put 1 cup Jasmine rice into microwave container with a lid.
Add 1½ cups of boiling water to the rice and cover the dish with lid and cook on full power for around 13-15 minutes.
Remove from microwave and let stand for 5 minutes and fluff with chopsticks or a fork before serving.

Stove Top Method:
Rinse the rice by gently moving your fingers through it until the water runs clear and drain.
Put 11/2 cup of water to boil and add 1 cup of Jasmine rice.
Cover tightly, lower heat and simmer for 18-20 minutes
Remove from the heat and let stand for a few minutes and fluff with chopsticks or a fork before serving.

Tips:
The amount of water to add can vary depending on the rice. New crop rice – rice grown in the same year – is not as dry and needs less water.
Cooking jasmine rice in a rice cooker can be tricky. Try reducing the amount of water called for in the rice cooker's directions - even to a 1:1 ratio if necessary.
1½ cups jasmine rice gives about 3 1/2 cups cooked rice.
Cold jasmine rice is very good for making fried rice.
(Source: about.com)

17 October, 2007

Colour Me Red: Beet Kodhel

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Beet Kodhel

After gruesome days in office at last Krish and I decided to take a day off and packed our bags for our long weekend trip to Wales. Unlike Krish who did his masters in beautiful welsh university; it was my first encounter with majestic Welsh mountains and sea shores. My knowledge about Wales was limited to some unpronounceable names of places (I literally choke whenever I try to pronounce few place names in Welsh... Can you say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, allegedly the world's longest name), The Prince of Wales (both the man and the most popular local pub names), gorgeous country sides, Welsh flag which featured a red dragon against green and white and few nasty welsh jokes. We spent three days driving along precariously winding, narrow Welsh roads enjoying the fresh air and lush green country sides, melodious Celtic language of locals in pubs and exploring walking paths in high mountains. At times, it felt as if I was in dream land. It was the much needed break for us which we enjoyed to the fullest. I even started coming to grips with some Welsh names (oh no!!! not the one I mentioned above) and some road signs (Allan means Exit ;).

On a way back to home, we found few tables set near a farm land with few vegetables laid down. We being ultimate foodies couldn’t resist the temptation of buying fresh produce from farm. There were few bags of flat beans, box of cherry tomatoes which were the sweetest tomatoes I have ever tasted till now, a big marrow and gorgeous beetroots with greens. First thing I picked was the luscious beets because in my part of the world it’s not easy to get fresh beets with beautiful leaves. And moreover, I knew what I wanted to cook, my childhood favorite, Beetroot Kodhel with Beet Greens. Kodhel is a Mangalorean curry prepared by cooking in creamy coconut gravy spiced with hot red chillies and few spices. The ingredients used are minimal yet gives a rich look and taste to the curry. The gorgeous beets and beet greens gives bright red colour to the gravy and it is the reason why Beetroot Kodhel is every kids favorite. The sweetness of beets is well balanced with the spiciness of red chillies and aromatic coriander and cumin seeds take our taste bud through unforgettable journey. The recipe I am posting here is Kundapur version of Kodhel.

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Beetroot Kodhel with Leaves
Prep Time: 15-20 mins
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:
3-4 medium Beet roots with Greens
1 marble sized Tamarind Pulp
1 small piece of Jaggery
4-6 Dry Red Chillies (preferably Byadagi)
1½ tbsp Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tbsp Urad Dal
1 small Onion, peeled and quartered
1-1¼ Grated Coconut, fresh/frozen
Salt to taste

For Tempering:
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 Dry Red Chilli
Few Curry Leaves
1 tbsp Oil (preferably Coconut Oil)
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Gorgeous Beets with Greens

Method:
Wash and clean the beetroots and greens. Peel beetroots and dice them into 1 inch squares. Chop beet green stems and greens into 1 inch pieces.
Place beetroot pieces and stems in a deep bottomed pan and pour enough water till all the pieces are immersed in water. Add salt, jaggery and tamarind pulp and cook the beets in medium flame for 15 minutes.
In a meanwhile, dry roast red chillies, coriander seeds, jeera and urad dal for around 1 minute on a medium flame till you get a nice aroma.
Grind these roasted spices with grated coconut and onion with little water to very smooth paste.
Add this ground masala and beet greens to the cooked beetroots and mix well. Cook this for another 15 minutes over a low-medium flame till the gravy starts to boil and thicken.
For tempering, heat oil in a pan and add red chilli, mustard seeds and curry leaves in that order and transfer the tadka to the gravy when mustard starts to pop and splutter. Mix well and serve this delicious Kodhel with streamed rice, or idli or dosas.

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Beet Kodhel


Did You Know?
The Romans considered beetroot an aphrodisiac (it’s rich in the mineral boron which is important in the production of human sex hormones). The belief persists to this day that if a man and a woman eat from the same beetroot, they will fall in love (with each other, presumably.)
Beetroot contains betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used to treat depression. It also contains trytophan (also found in chocolate!) which contributes to a sense of well being.
Betanins, a substance obtained from beetroot, are used industrially as red food colourants – e.g. to improve the colour of tomato paste, sauces, jams and ice cream.
Cooked beetroot is a great source of folate that can protect you against high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Beetroot is virtually fat free and low in calories. It has an extremely low GL which means it’s converted into sugars very slowly which helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.
(Source: Lovebeetroot.co.uk)

15 October, 2007

FAHC: Donate Smiles!

Facts:
  • The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world's hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately 40%, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world.
  • In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty".
  • Every year 15 million children die of hunger.
  • Half of all children under five years of age in South Asia and one third of those in sub-Saharan Africa are malnourished.
  • About 183 million children weigh less than they should for their age.
  • Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.
Everyday we read about how India’s high-tech industries are booming, the ever growing GDP rates and how our nation is going to become world super power in few years. While we are proud of these facts as many development indicators are improving, including literacy and child mortality rates, we still can’t ignore the facts that nearly half of India’s children younger than four are still underweight, and our country has more hungry people than all of sub-Saharan Africa.

For many of us the right time to eat is when we are hungry but for a poor it is when he has something to eat. We are among few blessed one’s who don’t have to worry about feeding ourselves but there are millions of people out there those who don’t know if they will have a food on their plate. What can we do about it? Can we fight against hunger?

I say, yes, we can all fight against hunger. Not by just being sympathetic, but by joining our hands together. Aristophanes once said “Hunger knows no friend but its feeder” and there is one such friend in our food blogging community whom we all are proud of. It’s none other than V.K. Narayanan of My Dhaba who decided fight against poverty by initiating Feed A Hungry Child (FAHC) campaign.

What is FAHC?
feedahungrychild.org is a not-for-profit charitable organization formed in a collaborative effort of the like-minded people from all around the world. It aims to replace the empty plates of the underprivileged children and replace them with ones of food. While FAHC addresses the holistic needs of each children it supports, it believes illiteracy, malnutrition, and other concerns can only be addressed when hunger is appeased.

How can You help?
With the help of volunteers, FAHC has begun its support to a pilot batch of 14 children and their families since April 2007 out of which 8 children are girls. Funds from FAHC programs go directly to the children and their families. According to FAHC website, they do not have any paid employees or any other direct administrative expenses. This year FAHC is also fundraising to support more children by “Donate Smiles” drive and the goal is to raise $3,360 by October 23, 2007.


Are you still wondering what difference you can make? Think about the smile you will bring on to needy and underprivileged children just by donating few pennies. I, along with my fellow bloggers and friends from all over the world, am determined to make this a huge success because food is meant to be shared with others. This year when we will be celebrating Diwali, Eid and Christmas we will be replacing the empty plates of few families with the ones with food and what more can be gratifying than the feeling of seeing those happy faces.

“If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”
- Mother Teresa


Join hands to fight against hunger. Chip-in now and Spread Smiles…
Thank you
Sia

For more information or any queries, please send an e-mail to FAHC team at: info.fahc@gmail.com

11 October, 2007

Tomato Saaru & Pepper-Carrot Palya

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Our Comfort Food: Rasam Rice, Papads, Pepper-Carrot Palya and Salad

"Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort."
-Norman Kolpas

Our senses hold some of our most potent memories. Touching the silk or smelling herbal soap, aroma of ground coffee brewing in coffee maker or sizzling of curry leaves in oil sends me back in time to my Ajji’s kitchen. There is a delicious Rasam bubbling in a large copper pot over an open fire-wood heated stove in one corner; one helper is pounding red chillies and spices in other corner while my aunt is grinding freshly grated coconut with chillies for chutney in a stone grinder. There is a small stream of water flowing close to the kitchen, with just the right breeze causing a mist to drift across my face, tickling my nose. I am sitting cross legged on red oxide floor with my sister and cousins wondering where to have our picnic lunch, that day’s most important question. The sight, smell and taste of what my granny cooked are fresh and vivid memories which I will always carry with me.

While cooking everyday meals, I find myself musing lately over comfort foods. If I were to ask you what food you associate with feeling good, what would be your answer? I know that your answer is probably different from what I consider to be my comfort food, mainly because of our individual life experiences, backgrounds and cultures. Comfort food satisfies our soul as well as the stomach and that’s why we love it so much. Often these dishes remind us of our childhood, happy memories. Cooking up that dish our Granny or Mom or Aunt used to make is as soothing as eating it because it reminds us of a time when life was simpler. My Amma would always say that the reason why comfort food always tastes best is because it is shared with our loving family and friends with no frills, just with love. The kitchen filled with the aroma and scent of food that brings back warm and fond memories is what makes it more comforting and as these recollections takes place around the table with our loved one, yet another fond and loving memory is born.

Like most people, I don’t have just one memory associated with just one food. I have good number of favourite foods which fall under comfort food zone. These recipes are simple with minimal ingredients used and are unpretentious. But these are the food which oozes with flavours and make me feel good when preparing and eating them. One such dish is simple tangy Tomato Saaru with Pepper-Carrot Palya. They are simple culinary delights I crave, just for comfort...

After many unsuccessful attempts at making simple Tomato Saaru which I wanted to taste just like the one my Amma and Ajji makes my hubby surprised me with his Rasam. It tasted as good as the one I remembered eating when growing up-same flavour, same aroma, same colour and same taste. Although he used the similar ingredients which most of us use when making Rasam it tasted different from what I cook. I immediately wrote down his recipe and tried it next time using same measures and ingredients and following his method. Darn!!! There was still something missing, may be it’s to do with the taste which goes into ingredients when he touches them. Since then it’s Krish who makes Rasam for me, the one which is comfort food for me and takes me down the memory lane.

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Tangy Tomato Saaru

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Tomato Rasam
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20-25 mins
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:
3-4 large ripe & juicy Tomatoes, thinly sliced or chopped
¾ cup Toor Dal, picked and washed
1 tbsp Rasam Powder
1 large marble sized Tamarind Pulp/½ tbsp Tamarind Puree
2 Green Chillies, slit
½-1 medium Onion, thinly sliced or roughly chopped
½ inch Ginger, crushed
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
½ tsp Black Pepper, lightly crushed using pestle and mortar
½-1 tbsp Jaggery
2-3 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste

For Tempering:

1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tsp Black Peppers
3-4 cloves of Garlic
1-2 Dry Red Chilli, broken
Few Curry Leaves
A big pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
½ tbsp Oil/Ghee
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Rasam Rice with Papads

Method:
Cook toor dal with 2 cups of water, turmeric and a tsp of oil in pressure cooker for about 15-20 minutes till they are nicely cooked.
Release the pressure from pressure cooker before you open the lid and roughly mash the cooked dal with ladle or potato masher.
Soak tamarind pulp in half a cup of warm water for about 5 minutes and squeeze the pulp to release its juice. Discard the pulp once used.
Transfer cooked dal into heavy bottomed pan and add sliced onions, slit green chillies, crushed ginger and about 2-3 cups of water and boil it for about 5 minutes in medium flame.
Add sliced tomatoes, tamarind extract, rasam powder, jaggery, crushed black peppers and salt to taste and simmer the heat and cook for another 20-30 minutes on medium to low flame.
Add more water if you feel the rasam is thick. When rasam is reduced to ¾th of its quantity, mix in chopped coriander leaves.
For tempering, first crush cumin seeds and black pepper in a mortar and pestle. Also roughly crush garlic cloves and keep it aside. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, broken red chillis, crushed cumin-pepper-garlic, hing and curry leaves in that order and when mustard starts to pop and splutter transfer the tadka to rasam and mix well. Let the Rasam simmer for another 5 minutes for all the flavours to blend well.
Serve hot rasam with steamed rice and papad or serve in a bowl as a soup.

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Rasam Rice, Papads, Pepper-Carrot Palya and Salad: Our Simple Meal

There is nothing better than a simple vegetable stir fry and Pepper-Carrot Palya which my mom made is something I would happily eat as a salad with Yogurt or as a side dish with Rasam Rice. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity with minimal preparation and cooking time. Stir fried green pepper and grated carrot is spiced up with simple seasoning and a splash of lime juice makes it comfort food for me.

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Pepper-Carrot Palya

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Pepper-Carrot Palya
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 5 mins
Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:
2 cups Grated Carrot
1 large Green Pepper/Capsicum, cut into 1 cm squares
1 Green Chilli, sliced (Optional)
1-2 tbsp Lemon Juice
½ tsp Jaggery/Sugar
A pinch of Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp Coriander, finely chopped
Salt to taste

For Tempering:
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 tsp Urad Dal
1 Dry Red Chilli, broken
A Spring of Curry Leaves
1 tsp Oil
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
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Pepper-Carrot Palya

Method:
Heat oil in a pan and add urad dal, broken red chilli, mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves in that order.
When urad dal turns golden yellow and mustard starts to pop and splutter, add chopped capsicum pieces, slit green chilli and sauté over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes till its skin starts to wilt.
Now add turmeric powder, jaggery, grated carrots and salt to taste and sauté them for about 1 minute till the heat is equally spread. Make sure that you don’t over cook pepper and carrots and they should retain their colour and crunch.
Turn of the gas and mix in lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with Rasam Rice or eat it with yogurt the way I prefer.

08 October, 2007

Paneer Koftas in Creamy Saffron Gravy

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Paneer Koftas in Creamy Saffron Gravy

"When the trees their summer splendour
Change to raiment red and gold,
When the summer moon turns mellow,
And the nights are getting cold;
When the squirrels hide their acorns,
And the woodchucks disappear;
Then we know that it is autumn,
Loveliest season of the year."
- Charlotte L. Riser


It’s fall now as I write this. While walking back to home I noticed the change around me. There is nip in the air, colourful leaves are floating around, the dusk is rapidly approaching on the once bright and blue sky, birds are chirping the last of summer’s song… Summer has come to an end… A wave of nostalgia hit me as I carefully folded my summer dresses and strappy sandals and removed my tall boots and long coat from cupboard. I am going to miss bright sunny spells on my face, lazy weekend afternoon’s BBQ with friends, wearing flowing summer dresses, biting greedily the big crescent of watermelon, licking the ice cream melting down my arm… But the changing colours of leaves thrills me thinking of celebrating Diwali and Christmas with friends and family, smell of apple and pumpkin pie baking in oven, sipping a hot bowl of soup, curling with loved one sitting close to fireplace… Autumn is the season of transition, a season where change is brought before all our senses. How beautifully the leaves grow old!!! Its pleasure to watch fruit trees lavishing their hues on fruits when other trees lavish upon their trees makes me merry. I feel like a Queen when I tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze leaves, woven by the winds and rains while we slept… I welcome autumn the way I feel, with Paneer Kofta in Creamy Saffron Sauce. Royal and bursting with autumn colour… A dish fit for royalties…


The word kofta is derived from Persian kūfta. In Persian, کوفتن (Kuftan) means "to beat" or "to grind" or meatball. (Source: Wiki) In vegetarian versions of koftas different vegetables like Potato, Cabbage, Beetroots, Spinach, Paneer etc are minced and mixed with different spices. These spicy vegetable balls are then deep fried or grilled or baked and then served with rich creamy, spicy and aromatic gravy.


Unlike vegetables koftas, panner koftas have creamy texture. Grated paneer is added with vegetables of our choice and spices and then deep fried. When deep fried or baked, they are golden and crisp and have rich melt-in-mouth taste. These Koftas are then served with creamy gravy of onion and tomatoes and a pinch of saffron to give it a rich look and flavor. I used fresh homemade Paneer to make this koftes and don’t hesitate to use store bought Paneer if you don’t have homemade ones in hand. This is my contribution to lovely Sunita's Think Spice: Think Saffron event. I am also sending these koftas to Margot of Coffee & Vanilla who is hosting Vegetarian Awareness Month.



Paneer Koftas in Creamy Saffron Gravy
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 4-5 People

Ingredients:
For Koftas:
2 cups Paneer, crumbled or grated
2 medium Potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
½ cup Green Peas
1 small Carrot, grated or very finely chopped
5-6 French Beans, finely chopped
1 tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Kitchen King Masala
3-4 tbsp Corn Flour
2 tbsp Cashew, chopped (Optional)
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste

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Koftas before deep frying

For Gravy:
2 medium Onions, finely chopped
4 large Tomatoes/1 can Tomatoes
8-10 Cashews
2 flakes Garlic, finely chopped
1 inch Ginger, crushed and finely chopped
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Kitchen King Masala
½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Powder, roasted and powdered
½ tsp Coriander Powder, roasted and powdered
½ tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi
¼ cup Fresh Cream
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1 inch Cinnamon Stick
2 Green Cardamon
2 Cloves
1 Bay Leaf
A big pinch of Saffron, soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk
1 tbsp Oil/Ghee
2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste

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Koftas after deep frying


Method:
For Gravy:
Make a plus mark on tomatoes and blanch them in boiling water for about 3 minutes and peel their skin.
Grind these tomatoes with cashews, jeera powder, coriander powder, garam masala, kitchen king masala, chilli powder and turmeric powder to smooth paste without adding any water.
Heat oil in a pan and add cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom and bay leaf and sauté it for a minutes on medium flame till you get nice aroma.
Add jeera and when it starts to sizzle add finely chopped onion, kasuri methi, garlic and ginger. Sauté them till onion turns golden brown.
To this add tomato paste, ½ cup of water and salt to taste and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Now mix saffron soaked in warm milk and fresh cream and cook for further 10-15 minutes over a low flame.
Switch off the flame and mix in finely chopped coriander leaves and keep it aside.



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Paneer Koftas in Creamy Saffron Gravy


For Koftas:
Take finely chopped carrot, beans and green peas in a microwave safe bowl and cook for 3 minutes or steam cook them for 5 minutes.
Add them with finely mashed potatoes and grated paneer.
Add chopped cashews, garam masala, kitchen king masala, salt to taste and corn flour and mix them well using your hands. The consistency should be as that of chapatti dough to prevent it from breaking while deep frying.
Make small lemon sized balls and deep fry them in batches in hot oil at slow-medium flame till they turn golden brown and crisp from outside. Alternatively you can also bake them in oven at 175 degrees for about 20-30 minutes till they turn golden brown.Transfer the fried koftas on paper towel.
Just before serving arrange the koftas in gravy garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves.

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Paneer Koftas in Creamy Saffron Gravy


Tips:
When you deep fry the koftas, first make sure that the oil is hot enough before you place them for deep frying.
Place one kofta at a time in a pan when deep frying. If the Kofta starts to break or crumble add about 1-2 tbsp of cornflour and mix well as corn flour helps the paneer and vegetables to bind well and they will not break when you deep fry them.
Always fry the koftas in low-medium flame so that they are cooked well and get lovely golden brown colour.
Other Kofta Recipes from Monsoon Spice:
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