Sunday, July 24, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper/Capsicum Soup - Italian style - Step-By-Step Recipe

My hands have been itching to try this soup ever-since we relished it at a restaurant in Trastevere in Rome.  This is a hearty soup that fills you up so much that half-a-sandwich is good enough to complete your meal. There is no cream or milk added, so this is absolutely vegan and really really healthy and low in fat!

Roasted Red Pepper Soup - Hearty Italian Soup

I tried to re-create the taste with whatever tools and ingredients I had in hand and it was delicious and fulfilling! The quantities I have given below are good for 2 adults.

Ingredients -

Red peppers - 2 medium/big
Garlic - 8 pods
Onion - 1 medium
Tomato - 1 medium
Italian spices - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Pepper pods - 8, to be crushed
Red Chilli flakes - 1 tsp (from 3 dry chillies)
Sugar - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Olive oil - 3 tsp
Water / Vegetable stock- 1 cup

Procedure -

  • Wash and clean red peppers with water. 

  • Roast one-by-one by placing them directly on the flame. (Folks who have an oven might find it easier to grill/broil them). 

  • Turn them around so that the whole surface turns black and you can spot blisters. 

  • Carefully transfer the blackened pepper/capsicum into a bowl and close it with a lid. In 5 minutes, the condensed water will soften the skin and you can easily peel off the black skin by showing it under running water. Trust me, it worked perfectly for me, even the very first time!
  • Take a pan, heat olive oil and fry chopped onions and garlic till onions turn pink.
  • Tear the soft capsicum/red pepper into big pieces and fry them together with onions and garlic. Remember to de-seed the core.
  • Add salt, crushed pepper, Italian spices and chilli flakes. Add 1/2 tsp sugar if you want to.

  • Cube tomato and add to this. Fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of water or vegetable stock and keep covered with a lid for 10 minutes.
  • Use a hand blender or an electric mixer to blend them all together into a puree. I used the versatile Indian mixer that my mom gave me.

  • If too thick, add 1/2 cup water and boil again for 3 minutes et Voila!

  • Add toasted bread to the soup, if you like!

Bon Appetit! :)

This is my entry to Soups and Salads Mela hosted by Srivalli

Garlic Rasam (Spiced lentil soup with ghee-roasted garlic) / Poondu Rasam - Quick & Tasty

Rasam is usually the second course (after sambar) on a traditional South-Indian menu. Typically, it's made from pureed tomatoes spiced with cumin + pepper powder combined with cooked lentils mashed. Tamarind juice is used by many in Rasam but this recipe is simple yet delicious and there's no mess of tamarind! Don't you wanna try it too?

Here's What I Used -

Garlic pods - 10
Toor dhall - 2 handfuls
Rasam powder - 2 to 3 tsp (I use Ambika's but any brand works. Home-made rasam powder is great!)
Jeera powder / Cumin powder - 3/4 tsp
Black Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 3/4 tsp 
Turmeric powder/Haldi - 1/2 tsp
Hing/ Asafoetida - a pinch
Lemon juice - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp (optional)

To Temper:
Ghee - 1 tsp
Whole Jeera/Cumin - 1 tsp

Here's How I Make It -

  • Pressure cook toor dal with twice the quantity of water.
  • Meanwhile, take a pan, melt ghee (butter is ok too) and roast chopped garlic.
  • Take a pot, boil 1 cup water with rasam powder, hing, jeera powder, pepper powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder.
  • Add ghee-roasted garlic to the pot.
  • Add some salt.
  • Add lemon juice. 
  • By now, the dal is cooked and ready to use. First, add the water from the dal (paruppu-thanni) and let boil.
  • Mash the dal well and add that to the rasam pot. 
  • Mash jaggery and add now. Boil for another 5 minutes and you're done.
  • Finally, roast whole cumin/jeera in ghee and add to rasam. Close the rasam pot with a lid to retain the aroma of ghee-roasted jeera. This is a great tip I learnt from my ammamma (mom's mom), when I was in my teens and I still do it everytime I make any rasam. Though ammamma is not around with us anymore, I know, deep inside my heart, that she's always watching our family from heaven and would be happy to see me pursue her passion - cooking!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Murunga Keerai (Drumstick leaves with lentils) - Simple & Quick

Drum stick leaves are full of iron and in my opinion, taste better than other greens/spinach varieties. Back home, we used to have a beautiful garden around the house with drumstick tree, coconut trees, plantain trees, mehendi tree (mignonette tree), plants of vegetables like tomato, lady's finger, brinjal and some flowering plants like hibiscus and lilies. When I was a child, every morning, I used to walk around proudly in the garden, holding my dad's hand and marvelling at every single flower or vegetable that has flowered :) In the evenings, we enjoyed chit-chatting in the backyard with tea and hot snacks that amma keeps refilling our plates with, while we enjoy the breeze and sunset. That was a long time, 15 years ago!

My mom makes murunga keerai quite regularly and I love the way she makes it. It is gently spiced with coconut, green chillies, jeera and the addition of moong dal enhances the taste of the dish. I tried amma's recipe and I was glad that it tasted quite close to hers. Since this is not something you can get in restaurants, I enjoyed murunga keerai after a very long time. 

Murunga Keerai / Drumstick leaves cooked the Indian way

What She Uses - 

Drumstick leaves - 2 cups
Moong dal (Siru paruppu/ paasi paruppu) - 2 handfuls
Turmeric powder / Haldi - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp - to temper
Salt - to taste

To Grind Together -

Coconut (Grated) - 5 tbsp

Green chillies - 3 
Jeera / Cumin seeds - 1.5 tsp

How She Makes It -

Tip~ Removing the drumstick leaves from the stalk is a painful process and it doesn't seem to end forever. But you can save time by getting help from your partner and get this boring chore done while watching TV ^_^ 
Once this is done, the rest of the recipe is super-simple and quick!

  • Cook moong dal with 3 times water. Moong Dal is easy to get cooked so you can do it without a pressure cooker, just using a pot with lid. 
  • Salt the water. 
  •  When water starts boiling, add the keerai, i.e., drumstick leaves.
  • Add turmeric. It is said to kill bacteria and other harmful germs/pesticide that could be present in the leaves. In fact, I add turmeric to Cauliflower and Broccoli also for the same reason.
  • Dal and drumstick leaves do take too long to get cooked. Around 10-15 minutes. 
  • Strain the water and save it to drink later as clear soup :)
  • Now, take a kadai, heat 1 tsp oil, allow mustard seeds to splutter.
  • Grind together coconut, green chillies and jeera to a paste and add that.
  • Add the cooked keerai + dal next and mix well. 

That's about it :) In 20 minutes or less, you have a nutritious dish ready to eat n serve

Kovakkai/ Dondakaya/ Tindora/ Ivy-gourd Masala

Kovakkai is not my favorite vegetable but somehow felt like picking it up when I saw it after a long long time (never bought it even once as hubby darling detests it) at Mustafa last week. My mom makes kovakkai fry that tastes awesomely crispy,  however, that requires a lot of patience! Hence, I decided to use onions n tomatoes with spices to make it palatable to my hubby as well as save time for myself . It did taste wonderful with Garlic Rasam.

Kovakkai Masala/ Ivy gourd Masala

What I Used -

Ivy gourd / Kovakkai

Kovakkai / Ivy gourd - 500 g
Onions- 2 medium/big
Tomatoes - 2 big/medium
Ginger-Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Green chillies - 3 or 4
Turmeric powder / Haldi - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Home-made Curry powder - 1.5 tsp
Garam masala/Pav Bhaji masala - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

To Temper-

Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves  - a few (optional)

How I Made It -

  • Heat oil in a deep kadai and temper with mustard and jeera. Throw in some curry leaves if you like.
  • Add chopped onions and fry until light-brown.
  • Add ginger-garlic paste, fry for 3 mins.
  • When the raw smell goes off, add chopped tomatoes. Alternatively, you can pour juice of 1 tomato and add the other one chopped.
  • Slit each kovakkai into 4 height-wise and add to the kadai.
Slit tindora / kovakkai

  • Add all the spice powders - curry powder, garam masala (or pav bhaji masala or channa masala, whichever is available), turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. 
  • Add 1/2 cup water and close the pan with a lid. Allow the vegetable to cook on low-medium flame for 15 minutes.
  • Mix them together so that the spices get incorporated with kovakkai giving it a better taste.
  • You can either serve at this stage like a gravy or add 2 tsp of oil and let it get a bit crispy and dry after another 30 minutes.

As you might have guessed, I took the easy, first route . Garnish with coriander leaves.  Serve with Rice or Roti varieties.

Sending this to "Subzis for Rotis" event hosted by Tickling Palates

Brinjal Thogayal/Thokku/Chutney (Spiced Eggplant Paste - South-Indian style)

Thogayal is a South-Indian preparation which is pasty in texture and spiced with fresh home-made powders of dry-roasted lentils. It is usually mixed with white rice and enjoyed with another vegetable dish and some crispy papads! :) South-Indians typically eat curd rice with any kind of thogayal.

Eggplant is my hubby's first love (no kidding) and this thogayal is another of his favorites. Since I don't use coconut in this recipe, this can be stored for upto 4 days in the fridge.

Brinjal / Eggplant Thogayal /Spiced Paste

What You Need -

Eggplant / Brinjal - 1 long (400 grams)
Onion - 1 big/medium
Garlic - 5 cloves
Ginger - 2 inch piece
Green chillies - 3 or 4

Tamarind - a small lime sized ball (Or Dry Tam powder - 1 tsp)
Cilantro/ Coriander leaves - a little  (optional)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tsp

For Fresh Spice Powder (Dry-roast and powder together)

Urad dal - 2 tsp
Channa dal - 2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek (Vendayam) - 1/2 tsp

Freshly roasted and ground spice powder

How To -

  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a deep kadai and add finely chopped onion, ginger, garlic and green chillies.

  • Chop eggplant/brinjal into cubes and microwave for 8-10 minutes. 
  • Add cooked brinjal to kadai once onions get fried well and turn pink.

  • Add turmeric, red chilli powder and salt.

  • Mix them well for about 7 minutes. At this stage, you can actually eat this as Brinjal Dry Curry :)
  • Allow the cooked brinjal to cool for 10 minutes and then blend the whole thing in an electric mixer/blender to a paste. It is here that you add tamarind. I also like to add the stalks of coriander leaves.
  • Now, take the same kadai (now empty), heat 1 tsp oil and temper with mustard and urad dal. 
  • Add the blended paste and add the freshly roasted spice powder (made from ingredients listed above) to it.

Mix well, check for salt and there you go! Eggplant Thogayal is ready!

Brinjal/ Eggplant Thogayal
It should not be a smooth paste. As you can see, thogayal is supposed to be 80% blended with strands of the vegetables/other ingredients seen so that you can bite into them. Bon Appetit!


 This is one of my entries to Priya's "Dip In" event at Now Serving


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