Tag Archives: indian

Soup Duo … Vegetarian Friendly

Half an onion and four cups of stock (vegetable or chicken) form the base of both these soups. Your choice depends on whether you want the final product to be vegetarian or veggie-friendly. For some reason, both of my soups are in the orange-red colour palette.

First, an Indian flavoured vegetarian soup. The soup that inspired this used whole cumin seeds but I couldn’t find them in my pantry and I was out of ground cumin so I used a combination of curry powder and garam masala. For a middle-Eastern themed soup, you may used harissa paste or a dry harissa seasoning mixture.

Spiced Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

Spiced Carrot and Red Lentil Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
400 g carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely chopped
140 g split red lentils, rinsed and drained
4 cups/ 1 liter vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
salt to taste (start with about 1/2 tsp)

Yogurt for garnish
Warmed naan bread, to serve

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in vegetable oil until it gets translucent and pick up some colour on the edges.

Add the curry powder and garam masala and toast for a few minutes to freshen the dry spice mix. Add the carrots, lentils, salt and the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Puree the soup with a stick blender, in a stand blender (in several batches) or in a food processor until smooth.

Season to taste and adjust the thickness with more vegetable stock or water. Another option is to add some milk (coconut or regular milk) to thin down the soup.

Serve with a spoonful of yogurt and warmed naan breads, if desired.

A dozen home made ravioli (sweet potato, ricotta and Parmesan cheese) stretched to serve four in this hearty soup which is put together quickly with the help of a liter of stock and a cup of jarred marinara (or spaghetti) sauce. If you have fresh tomatoes, you can peel, seed and dice them and add them to the soup instead. For a vegetarian version, omit the sausages and use vegetable instead of chicken stock as a base.

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels, cut from a whole cob (diced zucchini are another vegetable option)
3 links hot Italian sausage, removed from casing (optional)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp dried basil or Italian herb mix
4 cups/ 1 liter vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 cup/250 ml marinara or spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 dozen frozen ravioli, home made or purchased

Frozen sweet Potato, ricotta and Parmesan cheese ravioli

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in vegetable oil until it gets translucent and pick up some colour on the edges

Crumble the sausages over the surface of the pan and cook until no longer pink. Try to break up the sausage as much as possible. Add the minced garlic, corn kernels and dry herb mixture and saute for a few more minutes.

Pour the chicken stock and marinara over the vegetables and sausage. Add about half of the salt and the ground black pepper and bring the soup mixture to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the frozen ravioli, making sure that they’re submerged in the broth and cook covered for 5 minutes, then flip the ravioli and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Serve.

Advertisements

Victoria Day Weekend and Palak (Spinach) Paneer

Between taking time off for a bad cold which started with the sore throat from …. well, you can guess, and a Friday without any calls, I’ve been home for six days. And doing very little cooking that I can post about.

So, this palak paneer is a stretch to be creative with very little energy.

Palak, means spinach, but the more broadly defined saag paneer, which refers to various ‘greens’ including spinach, mustard greens and fresh fenugreek leaves, is the more commonly served vegetarian dish found on Indian menus. Paneer refers to a fresh cheese which you can buy in Indian grocery stores but make, quite easily, at home.

I combined a couple of different recipes I found on line for the recipe below.

Palak (Spinach) Paneer – serves 3-4

250 grams / 8-9 oz cooked spinach*
250 grams / 8-9 oz fresh cottage cheese (paneer), cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tbsp vegetable oil

For the gravy or sauce:

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 bay leaf (medium to large)
1 onion, medium, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 or 2 fresh green chilies, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp red chili powder)
1 pinch turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), use 2 tsp if you want a more bitter taste
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 cup whipping cream or drained plain yogurt**
a pinch of sugar
salt as required
1-2 fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (optional)

*  I used a 10 oz box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and cooked according to package directions.
** I would have used the yogurt but I didn’t have any this time.

Blanch spinach leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water with 1/2 cup of ice cubes in it and leave for 1 minutes to cold shock (stop the cooking). Drain the spinach well and puree in a food processor or blender if you want the spinach to be a fine puree. Otherwise, just chop as finely as possible.

Optional: Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Pan fry the paneer cubes until golden brown on several sides to add additional flavour and texture. Remove the paneer cubes and drain them on paper towels.

Making the gravy or sauce:

In the same oil in which you pan fried the paneer, add the cumin seeds and the bay leaf and saute over medium high heat until the cumin seeds crackle. Then add the finely chopped onions and stir well cooking until they turn a light golden colour.

Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and finely chopped green chilies, stir and saute till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic goes away. (If using the tomatoes, add them now.) Now add the spice powders – turmeric powder, black pepper, and dry fenugreek leaves, crushing the leaves before adding.

Stir well, reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach puree. Season with salt and sugar. Stir well, simmering the gravy for 5 to 6 minutes or until it thickens slightly and the spinach is cooked well.

Add the whipping cream along with the garam masala powder and stir very well. The cream should be mixed thoroughly with the spinach gravy.

Turn off the heat, add the paneer cubes and stir them gently with the rest of the gravy so as not to break up the cubes.

Serve the palak paneer hot with various Indian breads ie. rotis, naan, chapatis, paratha or cumin basmati rice or biryani rice.

I had to eat even though I was sick so I made some other quick and easy dishes …

pan-fried boneless pork chops with leftover enchilada quinoa and

roasted chicken drumsticks which had been marinated in Italian salad dressing, steamed broccoli dressed with sweet Thai chili sauce, vanilla bean panna cotta topped with a compote made with frozen blackberries, blueberries, orange juice and some orange zest.

I even made another sourdough tartine loaf with dried dill weed and minced onion. Great as a snack with some butter or toasted and spread with cream cheese.

Oh, and there was a sourdough pizza and sourdough pancakes with macerated strawberries and strawberry coulis.

Cauliflower Duo – Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” and Aloo Gobi

I’ve mentioned my vegi-phobia over the years, so I never thought that I’d make a post about THIS.

I remember my mom dipping cauliflower florettes into seasoned flour and then beaten egg before shallow frying them. I don’t know what they tasted like, cause I never tried them. I HAVE had steamed cauliflower as part of the ‘mixed veg’ on my plate in restaurants, but they were soggy and flavourless. Not exactly something I ever wanted to replicate at home. But I recently ran across a spicy hot ‘vegetarian’ version of Buffalo chicken wings made with cauliflower florettes and couldn’t resist trying it out. It’s just a bit fiddly to prepare but crunchy enough to appeal texturally and with enough spice to satisfy anyone who likes things ‘hot’ hot.

The original recipe had a batter for the cauliflower made up of seasoned flour, milk and water, baked, turned and then basted with a hot sauce/melted butter. In the reviews, someone suggested adding the hot sauce to the batter itself as a substitute for some of the liquid. So that’s what I did. Because the hot sauce is absorbed by the cauliflower, a little hot sauce goes a lot farther without any wasted. The heat sneaks up on you so you may not be aware of it until later. Just a word to the wise.

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” – appetizer with a blue cheese and ranch dressing dip

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” – serves 2 as a side dish

1/2 medium sized head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florettes (~400 gm, 4 cups)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping

Pre-heat your oven to 425-450 deg F depending on whether or not it runs hot.

Generously oil a baking sheet. Or, if you prefer to cut back on the fat, line the sheet with parchment paper.

Add salt, pepper and spices to the flour. Whisk in the hot sauce and water until you get a smooth batter. You may want to add a bit more water to thin the batter enough to coat the florettes evenly.

Spread the florettes evenly over the baking sheet, one layer thick, and bake for 20-25 min. Turn over each florette and bake for another 20-25 minutes.

Watch carefully as, at the higher temperature, that extra 5 minutes may result in burned bits.

Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Indian cooking is quite complex. There are regional and religious variations. And, of course, familial preferences. So, when I went searching for a recipe for this dish which combines potatoes (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi), there were endless versions.

The first version I looked at used what many consider the Indian ‘trinity’ of onion, garlic and ginger paste … which is often the base for a wet preparation or masala along with peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes. The second version omitted all three and focussed on toasted whole spices as well as the ground form to give the dish flavour … in what was usually a dry preparation.

Prior preparation of the vegetables also varied. Potatoes and/or the cauliflower were sometimes parboiled or steamed separately until tender before adding them to the saute pan. Personal preference and convenience may dictate the method used.

The recipe below is my novice attempt at aloo gobi along with some variations. If you have leftover steamed cauliflower or baked potatoes, you can save yourself some work and use them instead of cooking everything from scratch.

Quick Aloo Gobi

Quick Aloo Gobi (Potato with Cauliflower) – serves 4 as a side dish

1 lb (400 gm) potatoes
1 lb (400 gm) cauliflower florettes
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 chopped green chile pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp chile powder**
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
salt to taste
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves for garnish

** I used 1 tbsp mulato/chipotle pepper puree cause I had it around but you might want to just use ground red chile pepper.

NOTE: You can also use a paste made up of garlic (1-2 cloves), ginger (1 tbsp grated) and onion (1/2 medium size) as a base for this dish. For a wet dish, you might want to add a couple of peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes with their juices and a bit of water to make a sort of sauce that you can serve over basmati rice. For a heartier dish, peas and/or carrots may be added along with the cauliflower.

Par-boil the potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry the cumin and mustard seeds for several minutes, until they begin to burst. Add the green chile (plus garlic, ginger, onion paste and pepper puree, if using) and fry for a few more minutes until the oil starts seeping away from the paste. (You’re drying it out by doing this.)

Add the cauliflower florettes and fry, stirring, for 5 minutes. (I added about 1/4 cup of water and put the lid on at this point so the cauliflower would ‘steam’ cook and not burn.)

Add the potatoes, the ground spices and salt and cook for 7-10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. You’ll probably need more salt than you think as the potatoes and cauliflower soak it up. (A splash of water will help dissolve the salt and help it get absorbed by the potatoes and cauliflower.) Taste both the vegetables.

Garnish the aloo gobi with coriander and serve with tomato and onion salad and pickle for an Indian menu.

Weekday BBQ: Steaks, Chicken Tikka Skewers etc. (Peach Crumble Bars for Dessert)

Years ago, my parents gave me a full sized propane bbq as a housewarming gift.

That may not sound like a practical gift for a single person … but with some planning, you get some great tasting meals, at a good price, for very little effort, especially if you fill up the grill. Personally, I find hot dogs bland and boring but, throw them on a grill, and you’ve got a taste treat that you can pair with chili, throw into a pot of baked beans or even serve over pasta in a marinara sauce.

The star of today’s bbq was this pair of sirloin steaks. A bit pricey at $18.60 for the two, but after bbq’ing them and cutting each steak into 3 or 4 portions, the results were much more economical.

Blackberry/raspberry lemonade with a splash of club soda. Cause you need something cold and refreshing while you’re standing over a hot bbq grill wielding your tongs.

I didn’t have any sour cream for the baked potato so I spooned on some tzatziki sauce. Yummy.

The BBQ – Sirloin steaks, package of hot dogs and 2 chicken breasts marinaded in tikka masala paste and yogurt then threaded on metal skewers.

And ended up with

Steaks

Hot Dogs – Normally, I forget these little guys and they get charred but this time, I got them JUST RIGHT.

Chicken Tikka Skewers and Baked Potatoes – au jus (for the sirloin steak) in the background

Throwing meat on the barbecue somehow seems like cheating. It’s not really cooking the way I do it. I ‘sometimes’ marinate the meat but more often I just salt and pepper it. So, I try to do a little extra for the sides or the dessert. I put back the 3 packages of blueberries I bought this rainy Saturday morning and instead bagged 9 peaches so I could make a tray of peach crumble bars.

The peaches were BEAUTIFUL even if not as sweet and juicy as I would have liked.

I’ve used this crumble recipe before with cherries, nectarines and, of course, peaches. You can use berries or mangoes, if you want. This Peach Melba (raspberries and peaches) variation was delicious. The juiciness of the fruit really makes the crumble special. That’s why I don’t think apples or pears would work as well, but, since I haven’t tried them, I may be wrong. If you try those fruit, let me know.

I had some extra filling so I used it to fill a frozen mini pie shell from the pastry I made a couple of weeks ago. I stole some of the crumb topping from the bars in place of a top crust.

Indian Weekend Feast

On the way home from work on Friday, I stopped in at the Indian grocery store and picked up a pound box of sweets. Which served as the inspiration to this weekend’s menu. I also picked up a few other goodies to round out the meal.

Menu inspiration: back row (rasgulla and gulab jamun), front two rows (various burfees or Indian fudges)

I’ve made Indian foods from scratch before, but sometimes, you need a break, so buying one or two items to add to your meal isn’t a bad thing. Nor is using prepared pastes, chutneys or even breads.

I was going to make mattar paneer but I didn’t have enough milk in the house to make my own paneer (cheese), and I blew the budget with the other items, so I couldn’t BUY it. Still, I think the menu was good enough, even if it was one of the easiest I’ve made in a long time.

Samosas, easy chicken vindaloo, cheater’s chickpea curry (or chana masala), basmati rice, roti and various sweets.

Chicken vindaloo – a very spicy chicken and potato stew made with a jarred paste mixture and served over plain basmati rice with some cooling yogurt or a cucumber or tomato raita (yogurt based dip)

Close-up of the interior of the samosa – potatoes, peas, toasted spices in a crispy pastry, served with a mint chutney

Two of my favourite Indian sweets – rasgulla (left) and gulab jamun (right)

Both of these sweets are milk based and soaked in a sugar syrup. Cardamom is a flavouring that’s sometimes used in the syrup. The rasgulla is made with kneaded fresh paneer cheese poached in a sugar syrup. When you bite into it you get the  squeaky texture of biting into fresh cheese curds. The gulab jamun is made with milk powder and butter or whipping cream, kneaded into a ball and deep fried and then soaked in the sugar syrup.

Closeups of Indian sweets – various burfees (fudges)