Saturday, 30 August 2014

Beef Masala



It's taken me only about 36 months,to put up my first beef recipe. So it isn't a surprise that I don't cook a lot of beef. I rarely do. In fact as a kid, I think the only time I ate beef was during those summer holidays I spent at my grandmother's. She made excellent beef masala . . . . . .  and coconut toffee and chicken curry , hell, even the dal she made was one helluva dish. What fond memories of a beautiful grandma, I miss her much, but I'm so thankful for all the memories I have with her. Precious!!!!

Soooooooo, I have a prejudice about beef dishes, that is; I believe the best beef dishes are made Kerala style. Justified right. I think they have some amazing recipes for meat, ones that use a variety of spices and greens. As always, I went through loads of recipes, before I stumbled across this one on this blog and decided to go ahead with it.
Though it was a recipe for beef curry, I ended up making a slightly dry version of it .The recipe makes great use of spices and the flavour of the curry leaves really shines through, and Oh btw, I love curries with curry leaves, just so much flavour. I used about half a kilo of beef, cut into small pieces and pressure cooked the beef first, before adding it to the masala. I tossed the beef into a pressure cooker with a bit of water and salt, and let it cook for about 20 minutes, till it was tender. This cooking time will of course depend on how tender the beef is. See, this is why I don't cook too much beef; I end up cooking it, opening the cooker, only to find that the meat needs to be cook a little longer. Sigh, buuuuuuuut, that isn't so much trouble once in a while is it? The recipe includes grinding a masala, don't be put off by it, it's simple and you don't need to roast any spices first. Also the recipe uses coconut oil, and I wouldn't change that. Keralite recipes mostly use coconut oil, and taste best using it.

So here's the recipe, adjust the spices according to your taste, and whichever way you go, you'll still end up with a great dish.



Here's what you will need :
Adapted from mariasmenu.com
Ingredients:

1/2 beef, cut into pieces, pressure cooked till tender

Grind to a fine paste :

10 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp corriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp fennel
2 pods of cardamom pods
1 star anise
1 piece cinnamon
2 cloves


Slice :
2 onions
1 piece of ginger
2 green chillies

You will also need
Salt
2 sprigs of curry leaves
Coconut oil 1 tbsp.

1. Start with pressure cooking the meat with a little water and salt. Cook till meat is tender. Reserve the water.
2. Grind all the ingredients for the masala.
3. Heat coconut oil in a non stick vessel. Fry the sliced onions.
4. Then add the curry leaves, green chilly, ginger. Cook till onions are soft
5. Add the ground masala, and fry till the oil and masala separate.
6. Add the meat,with the water, and check salt
7. Cook for about 5 minutes. If you don't want too much gravy, cook on high heat till the water dries up.
8. Serves with rice or rotis.



Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Baked Corn Dip

Dip Dip Dip......... I would love to have a stash of good dip recipes. As I write this I'm slowly building just that. Dips are great party food. Make a big bowl of a yummy dip, plonk some chips or nachos on a plate and you have a snack that'll keep going for a couple of hours. And yes a good dip is always addictive. I'm sure we've all had 'that' situation, where we sat next to the bowl of chips and dip and just ate them one by one, almost involuntary... No?

So my usual 'dip' is mayonnaise, homemade and times store bought and I desperately needed to try some new dip recipes. So I did what I always do when I want to find an interesting recipe, I turned to pinterest. I didn't have to browse a bit, I realized I had pinned this recipe,  long ago. So click, open and find I did, this recipe for baked corn dip.






Now, this dip does need a little extra effort, it's a little more than the usual 'put a scoop of mayo and serve with chips' kind of dip, but it's simple and it's worth the effort. I know it isn't too much trouble, because I've made it twice now. I usually don't repeat a recipe I thought was complicated. So trust me and try this. It instantly sets your party food standards high and is enjoyable and refreshing from the same old dip dip dips.


So in very simple steps then. I first started by chopping all the ingredients I had to. A little bit of garlic, spring onion, half a red and yellow pepper each.



Though I'm more of a 'chop as you cook' kind of cook, sometimes it's just simpler to have all your ingredients ready. So once I had the veggies chopped, I turned to the corn. I used sweet corn. I removed the outer husk, and then removed the corn kernels by placing the ear of corn in a bowl and then using a sharp knife in downward strokes to trim the corn. A little bit of butter in the pan and the sweet corn, stir fried to brown it a bit.





Then, keeping the corn aside, a little more butter in the pan , to fry the chopped bell peppers, onion and garlic. Sweet corn and bell peppers make suuuuuuuuuch a good combination. You don't need to cook the bell peppers but the stir fry helps them get a bit buttery and lose their rawness. 




So really, it needs just a minute or two in the pan. Then it's all easy peasy from here. Just toss the corn and bell pepper mixture in an oven proof bowl, grate some cheese over it, a scoop of mayonnaise, a dust of paprika. While the recipe originally added jalapeno, I used a bit of store bought green chilly sauce. Cheese, corn and green chilly make a very delicious concoction.





 For the cheese I used milky mist mozarella cheese, you can use any cheese you like, any cheese that will melt and form lovely long strings of cheesiness..



You can make the dip up to this step in advance and then bake it just before you want to serve it. This way, it'll be warm and nice and the cheese will stay nice and melted. Also it takes just about 10-15  minutes in the oven, so you can time it to bake, according to when you need it. 





Once ready, serve it with nachos or chips. I had a tablespoon leftover after the party and I enjoyed the dip between two slices of toasted bread, which makes me think this will make an equally good sandwich spread. What do you think.
By the way, I'd hate for you to miss a post. So just enter your email address in the "Follow by Email" box on the right side of this page and get regular updates from the blog. Also send me pictures of  dishes you try from my blog. Would love love love to see them and share them with other readers. All for now.



Baked Corn Dip:

Adapted from Our Best Bites

Ingredients: 

2 tbsps butter
2 cups fresh sweet corn
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 tbsps chopped spring onions
2 tsps minced garlic
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp paprika
100 gms cheese
3 tbsp green chilly sauce
Salt and pepper to taste


Method:

1. In a pan, heat one tbsp of butter. Toss in the sweet corn, salt and pepper, and stir fry for about 5 minutes till the corn softens. Once cooked, put in a medium sized oven proof bowl. 
2. In the same pan, heat the remaining butter, add the minced garlic, fry for a minute and then add the bell peppers, and spring onions. Fry further for a minute, then add to the corn.
3. Add in the grated cheese, the mayonnaise, green chilly sauce and paprika.
4. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Chocolate Cake: The best one everrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

At last............... No, I'm not singing Etta James, but at last,  I have found my chocolaty chocolate cake recipe. The one I have been waiting for all this time, I have found THE chocolate recipe, my go to chocolate recipe, the one I know I will make when I have my chocolate cravings, the one I'll dig into to with absolute no restraint. I have been waiting for you all my life and here you are, MY FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE CAKE.



It was my birthday last week....... :) Yayyyyyyy. And now I have to wait a whole year for it to be here again........ Boo  hoo. ......I looove my birthday. With each passing year, I get more excited about my birthday, totally disproportional to the number on the cake, but that's me. I get excited like a little kid in the days running up to my birthday. The smiles are extra wide, the mornings just seem happier and there is no need for that alarm clock to wake up early. Too bad my birthday just passed me by... Sigh...


So it's become a tradition these days at home, that I bake my own birthday cake. My family figured that since I am the baker in the family, I might as well bake my own birthday cake. And honestly I love the idea. Though I went thru 100s of ideas of what I should bake, from elegant scroll work, to damask stenciling, to butter cream flowers, I finally realized that I really really wanted just a super chocolaty chocolate cake. I mentioned to you earlier about my healthy eating plan, and since I've been sticking to it mostly, I just wanted to indulge in some totally decadent cake, because................ it's my birthdayyyyyyyyyy..... And so after I looked up scores of recipes, I finally decided to go with the cocoa buttermilk cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.  This book is a treasure pile of recipes and it is one of the 10 books you'll find in my kitchen library., one of my 10 favourite books.




The recipe is easy to follow. What I love about Dorie Greenspan's recipes is that it reads like she's in the kitchen with you. Every little detail is written in the recipe, whether the mixture will curdle, bubble, splatter, every little step is there in the book, so you know at all times if you'r recipe is on track. So you can blindly follow her recipe, knowing very well that it is tried and tested.

Now in all the excitement of the birthday, answering calls, and jumping around just because it was my birthday, I forgot to click a picture of my cake... I know........ but it was my birthday!!!!!!!!!!! you can forgive me. When I cut the cake and tasted it I knew I wanted to share this recipe with my readers as a birthday special, but then again, forgot to get a picture. Then I ended up parceling a large chunk of the cake for my niece and nephew, coz I knew I'd end up eating all of it by myself otherwise. So when I finally sat down to writing this post the next day, all I had remaining was one massive wedge of the cake, so here you go.


The cake makes quite a large cake, of 2 , 9 inch cakes, though I used 2 , 8 inch cake pans and it turned out just fine and quite a big cake, and you can cut out beautiful chocolate wedges for like 10 -12 people. It's got layers of intense chocolate cake, matched with a great chocolate butter cream frosting.

I started with buttering 2, 8 inch pans and dusting them with flour, and setting my oven to pre heat at 175 C. Also, as the recipe suggests, I cut out a round of baking paper to line the bottom of the pans. No worrying about lifting that cake out now.

Then quickly I got all my ingredients ready. Flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk. The recipe also suggests optionally using melted chocolate, so I skipped that bit. I used super fine sugar for this cake. You could use castor sugar as well. Also since it's difficult( read as impossible) to get plain buttermilk in any store, I used this little tip I read sometime ago. To make plain milk into buttermilk, all you need to do is add some vinegar to plain milk, mix it and let it stand for about 10-15 mins, about 1 tbsp for every 1 cup of milk. So when I have a recipe that needs buttermilk, I first start with making the buttermilk, so I can give it enough time to curdle while I get the other ingredients ready and prep the cake pans.




Then to make life easier, you can just whisk all the dry ingredients. Yes, I prefer this to sifting flour and baking powder into a bowl, only to have my kitchen dusted in flour. So in a bowl, I whisked together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and an inkling of salt.

Then in a separate bowl, the usual butter and sugar creaming together bit. Then the eggs. The recipe uses 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, so quite rich I know, but I had set my heart on this recipe and I didn't want 2 extra yolks stand in the way. Then the vanilla, buttermilk and dry ingredients. That's batter ready. I divided the mixture between the 2 pans and then it was baking time. The batter was quite thick, so I used a knife to spread and flatten it out in the cake pan. About 30 mins later I had the cakes ready.

As the cakes cooled, I took them out of the pan and let them cool on a board, while I got to making the frosting. The recipe was for a chocolate malt buttercream, I skipped the malt bit of it. I'm generally not a fan of buttercream frosting , I prefer fresh cream icing, but this chocolate buttercream was yummmmmmm. Did I mention, it had melted chocolate in it, maybe that's why...  I skipped the malted milk powder mentioned in the recipe and also reduced the amount of butter and sugar.
I let the cakes cool completely, before I frosted them. To layer them and get an even top, using a serrated knife I cut the dome that had formed on top of the cake. I also sliced one cake into two layers and sandwiched them with a generous amount of frosting. I used the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cakes. I just spread it around in a rustic sort of way and it was perfect for me. No fussing over clean edges and even icing on the sides.

I made the cake a day in advance and let it sit in the fridge overnight, but brought it to room temperature before cutting it and serving. Do not serve the cake straight from the fridge, the soft and creamy layers of the cake are best tasted at room temperature. So make your cake a day in advance, refrigerate it, and keep it out of the fridge for an hour or before you serve it.


Here's the recipe:

Cocoa Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Adapted from Baking: Dorie Greenspan

For the cake:
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

226 gms butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk


For the frosting :
150 gms chocolate
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp boiling water
175 gms butter
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 cups icing sugar.


1. Butter  2, 8 inch pans and dust with flour. Line the bottom of the pans with a round of baking paper.
2. Pre heat the oven to 175 C
3.Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and butter till creamy.
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the yolks, one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
6, Beat in the vanilla.
7.Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
8. Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes, till the cakes start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
9. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and invert them onto a board and let them cool completely before frosting.


To make the frosting:
1.Mix the cocoa powder and boiling water
2.Melt the chocolate with half the brown sugar in a bowl, set over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat.
3. Whisking the melted chocolate mixture, gradually pour in the hot cocoa mixture till it blends
4.In a large bowl, whisk the butter till soft, add the remaining brown sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes
5.Beat in the vanilla extract and then the chocolate mixture.
6. Gradually add the icing sugar, enough to make it as sweet as you like.


To assemble the cake:

Sandwich the cakes with the frosting and use the remaining frosting to cover the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least one hour to set the frosting . Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.


Monday, 14 July 2014

Orange and Lemon Cake

The rains are juuuust setting in.... and I love the monsoon. Set aside the flooded roads, mucky pathways and how my dog smells after getting wet on his walks, I love the sentiments the rains bring. I get nostalgic, and I'm reminded of paper boats, and raincoats, muddy puddles, rain dancing and rain holidays in school. You've heard me say that baking is a good activity for any season of the year, and yes it is, but it's special in the monsoon. It's a perfect rainy day activity. As the kitchen fills up with the aroma of freshly baked cake, some good music to set the ambience and raindrops on the balcony railings, baking can be so much fun. I know I sound 30 years older saying this, but truth is I'd be happy spending a weekend doing just this..

This orange cake,  is from my go to cake book, Cake by Rachel Allen, which by the way is available at a discounted rate on Amazon, right now :). This is her recipe for St. Clement's drizzle cake, which is named after the bells in the famous nursery rhyme. Famous apparently, because I never heard of  it. Oooops.
The cake is a lovely citrus cake, inside out, and it uses a combination of oranges and lemons, like in that famous rhyme.
I enjoyed this cake and it kept well in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The cake is made in a loaf tin and then drizzled with orange and lemon juice, while it is still hot, letting the cake soak up all the citrus flavour.






I used a medium sized loaf tin for the cake. The recipe suggests you the line the base and sides of the loaf tin with baking parchment, with the paper coming above the sides of the tin, enabling the cake to be lifted out easily when baked. I however, skipped this part and instead gave it a good greasing of butter and a dusting of flour. Yes, I use short cuts, aaaaallllllll the time.

The cake needs very few ingredients and the method is fairly simple. It's the usual, beat butter sugar, eggs and flour kind. I started by zesting the lime and the orange. My zester is of so much help. I loved seeing the long lovely strands of orange peel. Same with the lime. You can also use a vegetable peeler or a cheese grater to zest the fruit. Just make sure you peel only the first layer of skin, and not the bitter white pith.





 The orange and lemon zest add a lovely flavour to the cake and such a dash of colour. Once you have zested the fruits, squeeze the juice and keep it aside to make the icing later.


From here on the process is very simple. Also the recipe is fairly easy because it uses equal amounts of flour, butter and sugar; something like a pound cake. Well almost. So first I beat the softened butter . I almost always don't remember/bother keeping the butter out to soften. Thank heavens for microwaves, I just measure the amount of butter I need, put it in my baking bowl and defrost it in the microwave in 10-15 seconds spurts. You don't really want to end up with melted butter, and it's just a matter of seconds that decides whether it's soft or melted. 


Coming back to the recipe, sugar was the usual next ingredient and followed by a couple of eggs. Eggs in a cake batter are always always always added one at a time, I have never bothered finding out why, but it's just a rule. So in goes one egg, you beat it till it is incorporated, and then goes the next and you repeat the process. Also don't over beat a cake mixture at any stage, it loses it fluffiness. 




And finally to go in the batter were milk, zest and flour. The cake takes about 45 mins to bake and it turns a nice golden brown on the top when it has baked. I love the sight of that lovely brown crust. It reminds me of the sponge cake I used to bake as a kid, it was also almost the ONLY cake I baked and I never ever got tired of it. I juuuuuust realized that I haven't baked that sponge cake for a really long time now, so there, one more rainy day activity on the list.

The icing for the cake is really simple, it's just the orange and lemon juice mixed with granulated sugar. Make sure to use granulated sugar, it gives the cake a slight crunch. The recipe suggested 100 gms sugar, but in my last minute effort to cut down on the calories,( such a futile attempt, since I gorged on the cake anyway) I used only about 50 gms of sugar, and it was sweet enough for me.




 When the cake had baked, I let it cool for about 5 minutes, before I tapped it out on to a tray and immediately drizzled the icing all over the cake. To allow the cake to soak up all the syrup, the recipe suggests to prick the cake with a skewer times, before you drizzle the icing, this way, the syrup makes it way to all over the cake. Then, once the cake has cooled, (yeah, too bad you got to let it cool, before you take a bite; it's difficult to cut a slice while it is still warm,) cut into slices. I enjoyed this cake at tea time, but it's a perfect bite for any time of the day. I managed to save some for over a day and it stayed well refrigerated for a couple of days. I look forward to baking it another time real soon...


Here's the recipe :


Orange and Lemon Cake
Adapted from : Cake by Rachel Allen


Ingredients:

For the cake :
175 gms butter softened
175 gms castor sugar ( I used powdered granulated sugar)
2 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
50 ml milk
175 gms flour
1 1/2  tsp baking powder

For the icing :
Juice of 1 lime and 1 orange
Sugar 50 gms ( The recipe states 100gms)



Method :

1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 180 C. Butter a medium sized loaf tin and dust with flour. Tap out the excess flour.
2.Cream the butter and sugar till it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one and mix till they are just incorporated.
3. Beat in the orange and lemon zest, followed by the milk.
4. Fold in the flour sifted with the baking powder.
5. Bake for about 45 minutes, till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean
6. As the cake cooks, make the icing syrup. For the syrup, pour the lemon and orange juice in a bowl and mix well with the granulated sugar
7.When the cake has baked, let it cool in the tray for 5 mins, then gently tap it on to a tray. Prick it with a toothpick all over and then drizzle the syrup all over the cake. Leave the cake to cool completely, and then cut into slices to serve.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Baked Chicken with Yogurt and Herb Marinade

Helllllllllooooooooooo....... Happy July!!!!!!!! What?????Wait a minute......... It's July already?????? What happened to April, May , June ????????? It's crazy when you think of it, half the year has gone by????? Phew!!!!!!! I'm about a month into my healthy eating plan, or shall I say,' trying' to eat healthy plan, and it's been going great. Got to remind you, healthy for me means just a healthier option like maybe 80 % of the time. I cheat on the weekends you know, mostly, there's just too much happiness about a Saturday and Sunday and I feel almost compelled to cook something very rich, greasy, and totally unhealthy and against my healthy eating plan. Luckily, I'm getting a hold of my cravings these days and eating healthy has sort of become a regular thing now. 


I love to bake, of course you know that, but I mean not just cakes, I love to bake chicken, lamb, fish... There's something so charming about a dish that's been baked to perfection, the texture, the moistness, the absence of oil and all that jazz. SIGH....... I wish I could find a baked recipe for everyday........... 


I tried this baked chicken a while ago and sadly didn't make the time to post it. I loooooooved, loved the idea of using a yogurt marinade, mixed with a bunch of herbs and to let it bake in the oven to a perfect brown. When I came across this recipe here, thanks to my pinterest interest, he he,  I couldn't wait to try it. I modified the recipe using what ingredients I had readily available in my kitchen and I was elated with the way the dish turned out. I think this recipe is going to be a favourite. Nah, that's lie...... it already IS.





I used chicken with skin, ah hem, I know, not a very healthy option, but chicken with skin tastes so much better when you bake a chicken. I used legs and thighs, but you could use any chicken pieces, also without skin will turn out almost as tasty, and minus all the guilt . You don't really need to marinate the chicken for too long, even 20 mins will do, that's what I did. If you have the time, you can marinate it longer, even overnight. You can make the marinade and mix it with the chicken and toss it all in a zip lock and let it sit in the fridge overnight. 

Making the marinade was hardly any trouble. It was like taking a few of my favourite ingredients and making an alluring concoction. Delightful!!!!!!!!!  To a good amount of yogurt, I mixed in all my flavourings. First I added a good amount of lemon zest. I have a zester something like this, which works really well and makes this job reallllly easy. I love using it to get some orange zest as well, nice, pretty and long strands.


Get the lemon zest first, before you cut the lime. You could use a vegetable peeler as well to get the zest. Once you have the zest, squeeze out the juice of the lime. 

Next, to go into the marinade was garlic. Garlic and yogurt is such a great combination for savoury dishes , don't you think. The garlic needs to be chopped really small, so you don't bite into chunks of it. I used a small grater for the garlic and this is so much simpler than worrying about not chopping the garlic small enough.



Then, a really favourite part of the marinade was adding the herbs. You can use any fresh or dry herbs you have, in small quantities. I often fancy having a fresh herb garden in my kitchen balcony. How very pleasant it would be if I could just step out into my kitchen garden and pick fresh herbs for my cooking. Thinking of it, I must try growing a patch of herbs in my garden.

For the herbs,  I used fresh basil and corriander,roughly chopped , though in hindsight finely would be better. I also added dry oregano. You could use parsley, rosemary and thyme. It almost reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel; Have to been to Scarborough fair ? 




And of course, the usual, salt and pepper. And a good stir. To prepare the chicken, once washed and patted dry, I scored them well, so they could absorb all the lovely flavours. After having the patience to let them marinate for only about 20 mins, I let them bake in a moderate oven for about 40 mins. 




As they turned brown, I could barely wait for them to get cooked. And to make my meal complete, I toasted some bread, stir fried some vegetables, added a couple of baked chicken pieces and truly relished my meal. I think you will enjoy this dish just as much as I did. 




So ingredients and recipe :

You will need :
Chicken pieces with skin, fairly large pieces : 700 gms ( Use skinless if you prefer)
Zest and juice of one lime
4 cloves of garlic
Yogurt : 300 gms
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
A bunch of fresh corriander and basil , chopped.


How to :

1. Wash the chicken and pat dry using a kitchen towel. Score the meat, using a sharp knife
2. To make the marinade, in a bowl, mix the yogurt with the zest of one lime. Add the juice of the lime and grate in the garlic. Toss in the chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste
3. Mix the chicken with the marinade and let it sit in the fridge for about 20 mins.
4. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Place the marinated chicken with the marinade, on a baking tray, greased just a bit. Bake the chicken pieces for about 40 -60 mins, till the chicken is thoroughly cooked. 



Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Pumpkin Soup

Some more from my attempts at healthy cooking. Pumpkin soup?????!!!!!!
Yeah I know how it sounds. I've never ever ever like ever ever been a fan of pumpkin. I guess I've always tasted it in curries or some stir fries and though I ate it, I never enjoyed it. I didn't ever look forward to eating it for sure, and when I finally ate it, I never went back for a second helping. So that's my history with pumpkin. Fast forward to June 2014, I am now a big lover of pumpkin, YES I AM. I got to be specific here, I love pumpkin SOUP. I still think I would not like it in my curry  but I definitely looooooove it in my soup. So there's some food for thought, literally. If you don't like a vegetable, try it in a different form. You never know, when and how you will be transformed. So I had a friend stay here one weekend and I offered her pumpkin soup, she obviously didn't seem too excited. She looked at me with the surprised, disappointed, confused, what the hell are you talking about look, and I totally understood why,  but I convinced her to try some, "just trust me" I told her and she did. Jump to the end of the story, she wanted to take home the leftover soup. Sadly, the pot was empty...






So, the moral of the story is this; this may not or probably I'm safer saying' will not' become your favourite soup ever, (mine is sweet corn by the way.The obsession started when I was 7 and 20 years later, the obsession continues and I know I can speak here for my siblings as well. We cannot look beyond sweet corn chicken soup, and I just can't make it the way I like to have it. Do you have a recipe I can try, I would loooooooooooove to ) buuuuuttttt, it can make you like pumpkin and it can become your favourite way to eat pumpkin. Pumpkin by the way has many benefits; it's rich in vitamins and low in calories, Perfecto!!!!!!!


Now, as a rule, any cooking I do has to be simple, and fast and so this fit the rules. So Yaayyyyyyy!!!!!
I love trying out soups and often, the recipe calls for adding milk cream to thicken the soup, and while this works very well with the soup, I've often hoped to find a substitute, healthier or something more available in my kitchen. My cooking is almost always about using the ingredients I already have in my kitchen, I rarely look a t a recipe and then go grocery shopping to buy the ingredients it might require. So about that cream substitute, I finally found one and the best part is that it works for almost soup you want make, as long as you plan to blend the ingredients at the end...... and that substitute is............... RICE!!!!!! Thank you Jamie Oliver for this indispensable trick. I watched this on his 15 minute meals show, ( which  had some really easy and delicious recipes) where he was making a mushroom soup. So Jamie ( like he is my friend Jamie, sigh, love the blue eyes) suggests that instead of using cream, just add a handful of raw basmati rice to the vegetables while cooking and finally blend all the ingredients to make the soup. The rice thickens the soup and lets it stay creamy even if you keep adding water.. What a genius. I now make a variety of vegetable soups, by just combining different vegetables and just adding a little rice.

Soooo this pumpkin soup I made, it's zero oil by the way!!!! oh but I should also mention, it uses a blob of butter....oops........ but come on,  you're eating pumpkin, so a little bit of butter is allowed, or should I say needed..... So it is really simple. I bought a pack of cut pumpkin, it sounds lazy, I know, but it was so much easier to use it. I have no idea of how to peel a pumpkin or cut it, probably because I've never tried, and this pumpkin looked so easy and inviting when it sat on the shelf at the supermarket all cut , packed and sitting pretty , saying Pick me, pick me and I did.

                                                                  Say no to my face!!!!!!!!!!


I used yellow pumpkin. The soup starts off with heating a pan, a little bit of butter, chopped garlic, and stir frying the pumpkin till it changes colour a bit, roughly about 5 minutes. The pumpkin will soften as it cooks.  I added a bit of salt, as I used unsalted butter, but that is something you can adjust as your soup gets ready. For the seasoning bit, I used pepper, some mixed herbs; oregano, thyme and all. You can add any herbs you like, fresh or dry, just be sure to add them in small quantities as they have very strong flavours. When the pumpkin had cooked a bit, I added a handful of raw basmati rice and some water to help the rice cook. You can cover the vessel and let it cook on a slow flame for about 10 minutes.







Once the rice had cooked, I let the mixture cool a bit, before I tossed it in a mixie and blended it, not too smooth, but to a little nice and grainy texture. You can blend it to a texture you like. An voila, I had a gorgeous bowl of pumpkin soup, ready and it said "pick me , pick me and I did. I loved it.



So again, I know it's soup and I know it's PUMPKIN soup, but I have a feeling you are going to like this. Really would I lead you astray????




Here is the recipe :
1 1/2 tsp butter
200 gms pumpkin sliced
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs
2tbsps raw basmati rice
3 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Start with putting a non stick vessel to heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Toss in the garlic and let it fry till the raw smell disappears. Don't let the garlic burn.
2. Add the sliced pumpkin, salt, pepper and herbs. Just let it cook in the butter, till the pumpkin becomes soft, about 5 mins.
3. Add the rice, washed and drained and the water.
4. Check salt and bring the water to a boil. Turn down the flame, let it simmer till the rice is cooked, about 10 mins.
5. When the rice has cooked, turn off the flame and let the mixture cool down. Blend it to a creamy texture in the mixer. Heat the soup just before serving, adding water if you want a thinner consistency.










Friday, 20 June 2014

Avocado Chicken Salad

In my very earnest attempt at eating healthy, I have been trying to include more veggies and salads in my meals. My idea of eating healthy doesn't really mean cutting out all the indulgent stuff, but just choosing healthier substitutes and yes occasional indulgences must be allowed, and yes I'll face the consequences.
I've been trying out a bunch of salads with different fruits and vegetables, and while all this time, my only known dressing was mayonnaise, (best loved too), I have now discovered some healthier options that taste just as good. So yayyyy to this discovery.

Happy dance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Annnyyyyywayyyyyy, I've been wanting to try this avocado salad for a really long time, but the plan's usually been put off with not finding avocados or the ones that are perfectly ripe. Luckily, this week , I managed to get a lovely lot of avocados and I just let them ripen on the kitchen counter for a couple of days. This was a very simple salad, that involved almost no cooking, except for the shredded chicken and the salad dressing is very easy to make and healthy too. I loved this salad and gorged on bowls of it, and all guilt free. And that made me very very happy........... I adapted this recipe I found on pinterest to make this salad. Pinterest is wonderful and can inspire a 100 ideas. Sign up, though I must warn you, it can be addictive. You can also follow me on Pinterest, as I pin some interesting recipes and tutorials. Think about it,, :)


I didn't really get the best picture of it... I know. . .  :(



So this salad..... It involves scooping, chopping, shredding and mixing. So lets see how this is done.



Step 1. Cooking and shredding the chicken 

Boil the chicken in a little water with some salt for taste. Once it has cooked, let it cool and then just roughly shred it.







Step 2 : Chop Chop Chop

It's going to take less than 5 minutes to chop all these veggies. I started with chopping the bell peppers, red and yellow,








and I then chopped the onion, not as finely as possible, but somewhere close.







Time for some herbs, you can add as many as you like, but not as much as you can. Some herbs have very strong flavours and can totally overpower all the other flavours of the dish, so use them in small quantities and they'll blend just fine. I used coriander and basil. Basil has a very strong flavour, so don't use too much of it, it can overpower the dish. You could also add some mint. Also in goes the garlic. Try and chop these finely. It's not  pleasant at all to bite into chunks of these.










Step 3: The salad dressing.

For the dressing, scoop out the avocado. I just make a cut in the middle of the fruit, twist the two halves against each other, till they separate and scoop it out, using a sharp spoon.


Mash the avocado fruit a bit. Don't worry about getting it too smooth, a few chunks of avocado in the salad is going to taste just fine.
Add the yogurt and the lime. The lime is important as it prevents the avocado from discolouring, specially if you're making the salad in advance or want to keep it refrigerated for a while before serving.




 Add salt, a bit of pepper and mix this to the chopped veggies and chicken. Healthy salad accomplished!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!







Here is the recipe :

Here is what you will need :


300 gms boneless chicken, cooked and shredded.
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Few leaves of corrainder and basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 ripe avocados
Juice from 1/2 a  lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Here's how you make it :

1. Boil the chicken with a little salt. When it has cooked, let it cool and then shred into pieces
2. Slice the bell peppers, finely chop the onion, garlic, the coriander and basil leaves. Add the chicken to this mixture.
3. To make the salad dressing, scoop the avocados and roughly mash it Mix it with the yogurt and lime,  and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Mix the avocado dressing with the chicken and vegetables.
5. You can refrigerate it till serving time and serve it cold.