Saturday, December 12, 2009

Technical Glitch and Repost

Sincere apologies to all subscribers of Cuisine Virtuelle. Due to a technical glitch associated with template change, I had to delete all my old posts and repost them. Your inbox must have been spammed today with old recipes. I have sorted it now and there will be no more repeat posts. Thank you for your patience and support.


Rava Badam Laddoos

It's sacrilegious for a Bengali to confess that she likes another sweetmeat more than rasogola, pantua and the likes but I do. I used to stay in a primarily Kannadiga hostel during my first year in Bangalore. Of course, the cook there tried her best to put me off Kanada food for life and she did quite well till Diwali. Most of the in-state girls went home for the festival and came back with jars and steel dabbas of home made sweetmeats and desserts to share with friends in the true Diwali spirit. Note I say most!
A couple of days, after Diwali my neighbor who had been visiting her parents in north Karnataka knocked my door hard uncharacteristically early in the morning. Groggy, concerned and angry all at the same time, I opened the door only to have something shoved into my mouth. Jaggery, coconut, dal and ghee exploded in my mouth. Voila, so happened my quick induction to the legion of Kannada sweet lovers!
If you haven't guessed yet, she had fed me a piece of obbattu. Over the years, I have relished much green payasa, huggi ,Dharwad pedas and kajayas.
Couple of Diwalis back, stuck in rural Indiana, I was craving for Kannada sweets. Well aware of my shortcomings and in the absence of recipes, I went about recreating from my remembrance of taste, Rava Laddoos and Besan Burfi. Why I picked them? I figured they would be the easiest and I wasn't wrong! They turned out exactly like a friend's mother and the batch of 20 was soon finished by N and I. However, me being me, was not satisfied with just recreating; I had to add my own. So the next time I made Rava Badam Laddoos and Besan Pista Burfis which have since been established as N and my Diwali tradition.
Rava Badam Laddoos
1 cup fine wheat sooji/rava
3/4 cup fine sugar or 1 cup crystal sugar
3 cloves
3 tsp raisins
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp ghee for frying + 1/2 cup for badam coat
Few strands of saffron (optional)
1/2 cup almond slivers
For Laddoo -
  • Slightly crush cloves.
  • Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan and add cloves and raisins. Fry for 20 seconds or till the cloves and raisins don't puff. Take care not to burn them.
  • Add sooji and keep frying over medium heat. Cook till sooji turns red and emits a delicious aroma. Transfer the fried sooji onto a dish.
  • In another pan heat water,sugar and saffron(if using) to a rolling boil.Remove from heat.
  • Mix sooji and cardamom powder into the sugar syrup. The mixture will be very watery at this stage. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. The sooji should have absorbed the syrup by then and reached a dry halwa like consistency.
  • Apply some ghee on your palms and make balls out of the mixture.
For Badam Coat-
  • Dry roast the almond slivers and coarse grind them to crumbs.
  • Add the almond crumbs to 1/2 cup of ghee and mix well into a slightly runny paste.
  • Dip the laddoos in the paste and allow them to cool on a dish. The ladoos should have a thin layer of badam paste. Wipe off excess paste.
  • Once cooled, store in air tight jars. They stay good for a fortnight that is if they last that long.
Makes 16-18 laddoos.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Chingri Maacher Malai Curry - Coconut Shrimp Curry

At four, when all other kids wanted to be doctors, I wanted to grow up to fry and eat fish in my parents' kitchen. Yes my first ambition was to be a fish fryer! Many dreams and aspirations have since come and gone but none as dear as the first. Of course with age my ambition has been trimmed to fish eater. The exhilarating anticipation I experience standing in my parents' kitchen as ma puts a turmeric-stained hilsa steak in hissing mustard oil is tantamount to a virgin's before the first time.
I loved my fish and rice and my parents grateful to have at least one kid who inherited the true bengali love heartily indulged my piscine appetite. So much so, that during season the pricey hilsa was a staple at my parents’. During the months when hilsa was unavailable or supposedly didn't taste as well, we ate koi, tangra, pabda and the likes. Another fish, which though not a fish, that often found itself on our dinner table was the prawn; its distinction being the only marine life my sister obliged to consume.
According to family lore, as a child I supposedly couldn't distinguish between prawns and roaches. Though I don't want to believe that hackneyed tale, I can sense the rationale. I often watched the domestic help kill live prawns in our kitchen by holding them under boiling water. In the process, some crustaceans frequently escaped her and went crawling and fluttering their antennae all around.
When I met N, I was aghast at his lack of knowledge of fish and seafood. That man only ate rohu, an Indian carp! Realizing that most freshwater fish would be too bony for him, I first introduced him to pomfret and then to shrimp, keeping my fingers crossed all the while. After he had enjoyed his first shrimp fried rice, I cooked chingri maacher malai curry, the reluctant Bengali delicacy for him and with that, I won him over, across murky waters to the side of fish lovers.
The first time I made malai curry, ma instructed me over phone on how to devein prawns, milk a coconut and cook the crustacean. Due to inevitable miscommunication, I cooked the curry little different from her, which I actually liked more. Of course, I have never told her that! I always used bagda chingri (tiger prawns) like ma but after moving to the States, I never found them at the stores. I suspect even if I do, I won't be able to afford them. Hence like many Indian recipes, I substituted - this time with shrimp. However, here I find canned coconut milk, so that kind of evens out the absence of tiger prawns.
Ma cooks them with the heads on. She sincerely believes eating crustacean brains increases the abilities of the eater's own! Myths aside, if you are brave enough go ahead and suck the brain off a prawn - you just might enjoy the gooey, salty cerebral fluid as much as I did. N however, is squeamish around animal heads, so I buy decapitated ones.
Chingri Maacher Malai Curry
Fresh shrimp/ prawn - 1/2 lb (if using non-decapitated prawns use 3/4 lb)
Coconut Milk - 8 fl. oz or 1/2 can (not the thickened or sweetened kind)
Onion paste - 2 tbsp
Garlic - 1 large clove coarsely chopped and crushed
Ginger - 1 tsp
Slit Green Chillies - 4
Bay Leaves - 3 small
Red Chilli Powder - 1 tsp or to taste
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp for marinade and 1/4 tsp for curry
Salt - to taste
Water - 1/2 cup plus more if required
Ground Masala:
Green Cardamom - 2
Cloves - 3
Cinnamon - 2 small sticks
Dried red chillies - 3 large
Black Peppercorns - 10
Mustard Oil - 2tbps (I use canola)
Prepping the shrimps/prawns - Wash the shrimp. Remove the hard shell; be careful not to remove the tail or the head(if using) . Check if the shrimp has been deveined, if not slit the back a little and remove the black thread. Marinate the shrimp in salt and turmeric powder for half hour.
Prepping the ground masala - While the shrimp marinates dry roast the whole spices and grind to a coarse powder. N eats particularly hot food and I, being the vegetarian heeds to his taste when cooking non vegetarian food. If you like curry mild, omit the dried red chillies and peppercorns like ma.
Cooking -
  • Heat 2tbsp of oil in a heavy bottom skillet. Put the marinated shrimp to the hot oil and let them fry till they turn reddish. Remove from oil. Be careful not to fry the shrimp crisp as fish.
  • Add the crushed garlic to the same oil and fry till golden brown and remove.
  • To this same oil add bayleaves. After 10 seconds, add the ground masala. (Ma doesn't roast and grind the whole garam masala but I don't like chewing on whole cloves and cardamom while enjoying my curry.)
  • When the garam masala starts giving off their aroma, add the onion paste and fry till golden brown.
  • Add ginger paste and chillies and fry for another 30 seconds.
  • Now add the coconut milk and 1/2 cup of water.
  • Immediately add red chili powder, turmeric and salt.
  • Bring the curry to a boil. Add the fried shrimp. You can add more water now if you curry has already become very thick.
  • Let it simmer for another 5 minutes or till the curry reaches a creamy consistency.
  • Remove from heat and enjoy with steamed white rice. Though I usually eat brown rice, I have never tried malai curry with it.
Serves - 2


Pumpkin Pie

Baba always cringes when I say Holi is my favorite festival. First I have the gall to pick Holi over Durga poojo and then I don't even give into small mercies by calling the festival of colors Dol, like Bengalis aught to. A daughter completely lost to the cow belt. I wonder what he'll say on knowing that even Holi is gradually losing out to Halloween, in all its gory and sweetness. Slightly transgressing, but I think I was Irish in a previous birth. My third favorite festival is St. Patrick's Day. Do I really need to explain why?
I am sure if I lived in a Halloween celebrating country as a kid, it'd be undoubtedly my favorite festival. No Santa or Krishna can beat dressing up, messing mom's kitchen in the name of pumpkin carving and stuffing one's face with candies and chocolates!
Though not a holiday itself, Halloween also marks the beginning of the holiday season, okay at least for me. The winter coats and gloves come out as do the tins of cocoa and my various baking sheets and pans. It may sound strange to many but I hardly use the oven in summer, may be a couple of times to broil some tandoori chicken but no cookies, cakes or muffins are made in my kitchen when it's hundred outside.
Every Halloween, I bake pumpkin pie to declare loud and clear the opening of the baking season in the Suman-Ray household. Bless the smell of hot butter, cinnamon and smoked paprika (yes!) that infuses every fiber of our house and thereby inspires its residents to giddy levels of food lust. We like our pumpkin pie filled with the warm spices of fall, topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. For Halloween, I also top it with some peanut butter haystacks, to add some spookiness to an otherwise bliss-inducing humble pie.
Since I warm up my baking skills every fall with this pie, I use every culinary shortcut possible while making one. In simpler words, I use ready made Graham's cracker crust and canned mashed pumpkins. I can hear the tongues going tsk tsk. I promise I'll show you how to make a pie crust before Thanksgiving. To be honest, one fall crunched for time, I gave into sloth and used canned pumpkin pie mix. Lesson learnt in consequence: sloth is evil even when I am dressed as the Devil herself!
Pumpkin Pie
Cream cheese, softened - 8 ounce
Canned mashed pumpkin - 1 can
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Eggs - For filling :1 plus 2 yolks, for crust : 1
Half-and-half- 1 cup
Butter, softened - 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Ground cinnamon - 1 tsp
Ginger powder - 1/2 tsp
Ground nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Ground cloves - 1/4 tsp
Chili flakes - 1 tsp
9" pie crust - 1 ( I use Graham's, you may use your favorite)
Whipped cream for topping
Prepping the crust:
  • Heat the oven to 350F.
  • Lightly beat an egg with a tablespoon of cold water and brush the sides and bottom of the crust with the egg wash.
  • Bake the crust in the oven for 3 minutes until the egg wash is dry. (Graham's pre-baked crust comes with instructions for baking the crust with egg wash for 5 minutes but I have noticed that browns the crust a bit too much.)
  • Cool on a wire rack.
Preparing the filling:
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a spoon or hand mixer for 2 minutes.
  • Add the pumpkin and beat until combined.
  • Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined.
  • Slightly beat the egg and yolks together and add to the pumpkin mix with half-and-half, softened butter. Beat until combined.
  • Finally, add vanilla and all the spices. Beat until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  • Be careful not to over beat. The filling shouldn't be fluffy like cake batter. If there's more air the pie will rise like a cake and then collapse, living you with what N calls a crater pie (a pit in the center). Also pay special attention to use a dry bowl and dry mixing spoon, excess moisture will cause the filling to leave the sides of the crust.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and start baking.
  • After the first 30 minutes, take the pie out of the oven and cover the crust with another layer of aluminium foil to prevent the crust from burning. Be careful not to touch the filling along the rim with the foil as it may cause the filling to leave the sides of the crust.
  • Return pie to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until the sides are set but the center is still just a little jiggly.
  • Switch off the oven and leave the pie in it for another 10mins.
  • Take the pie out and place on a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
  • Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.
Serves - 8


Curried Goat - Pathar Maangsho

Mangsho in Bengali mostly refers to mutton which if often Bengalized to motton. Then again, mutton in most of India refers to goat. Goat milk or cheese is not very popular in the country and the animals are raised mainly for their meat. I have seen rows of whole skinned goats dangling from hooks at the butcher’s. Though I never realized then, since eating goat is such a big part of the Bengali life but now I wonder how vegetarians went about shopping from potatoes and tomatoes with those dead animals hanging around.
Mangsho technically is meat and can be white as in murgir mangsho or red as in pathar mangsho. However, in most Bengali homes mangsho simply mean curried goat. Though how the goat is cooked is important, the true taste of a great curry lies in the meat itself. Mangsho was usually our Sunday lunch staple and every Saturday morning, baba would travel the three kilometers to the Park Circus market to buy khashir mangsho from Haji. To be honest, I don’t know whether khashir mangsho means goat or a particular goat breed and if Haji was the name of a butcher, a shop or a generic term for Muslim butchers. Whatever it may have been, the meat was very smooth, succulent and didn’t stink like the ones from our neighborhood butcher. At times, I miss that dedication for buying fresh meat and fish in N as much as I miss the dedication to devote an entire Sunday morning to cooking in me.
Unlike other homes, Sunday breakfast was a simple fare usually of toast and jam. I also have memories of Sharma’s hot kachoris and jalebis or steaming idlis from a local eatery, eaten in bed while watching Madhuri Dixit and Mumtaz gyrate on screen in Rangoli. In short, Sunday breakfast was nothing ma would toil over.
Other than, curried goat Sunday lunch usually comprised of the steamed white rice, plain masoor dal, a vegetable curry and fried seasonal fish. Each dish was kept light and simple to cool the palate for the grande affaire. Lunch was enjoyed over hours with Doordarshan’s telecast of regional National award winning films for company. There was no rush to tend to unfinished chores. It was a meal enjoyed in the pleasant lassitude of a warm afternoon.
The same curry would be further reduced to very thick gravy for breakfast the next day, when it’d be enjoyed with luchi, the Bengali flour poori or paratha. During vacations, my friends often chose my place for Sunday night stays just for Monday’s breakfast. Ma’s curried goat was so good, a childhood friend I had lost touch with after primary school, called on ma after twenty years simply for the recipe. I say was since my mother unfortunately no longer has the patience to cook a good goat curry. Hence, this is the only recipe in my cookbook that comes straight out of her kitchen, no adulteration by yours truly this time. However, me being no ma, curried goat is enjoyed with steamed rice minus any sides and the reduced leftovers with paratha or roti in my house.
Pathar Maangsho or Curried Goat
Goat Meat - 2lbs (shoulder and front thighs are the best cuts)
Potatoes - 3 medium, halved (quartered if large)
Red onions - 1 medium, coarsely chopped
Garlic - 3 cloves, crushed
Indian green chili - 6 smallish, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 2 medium Romas, finely chopped
Dried bay leaves (tej pata) - 3
Green cardamom - 2 slightly crushed pods
Cloves - 4 slightly crushed
Black pepper corns - 10
Dried red chili - 3-4 large, roughly halved
Salt - to taste
Mustard Oil - 2 tbsp ( I use canola, you can use your preferred cooking oil)
Lime - to taste
Onion paste - 3 tbsp
Garlic paste - 4 tbsp
Ginger paste - 3tbsp
Beaten plain yogurt - 1/2 cup
Garam Masala - 2 tbsp
Red Chili Powder - 2 tbsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Freshly ground black pepper - 1/2 tbsp
Mace - 1/2 tsp
Mustard Oil - 4 tbsp (I use olive oil)
Prepping the meat
  • Wash and trim as much fat as you want off the meat. I usually trim most of it keeping just a little for flavoring the currying.
  • Rub some salt onto the pieces and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • Mix all ingredients of the marinade but chili powder, turmeric and ground black pepper.
  • Heat a tsp of oil in a small pan and add the spice powders. Let the oil bubble but be careful not to burn the spices. Remove from heat and add the hot oil to the marinade.
  • Mix the ingredients well and pour over the meat. Rub the marinade into the meat and knead the meat for better absorption.
  • Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight. I usually refrigerate for twenty hours.
  • Heat some oil in a pan. Fry half the potatoes till well cooked. You may roast them too. Keep aside.
  • Heat 2tbsp of oil in a large wok. Add bay leaves, green cardamom, cloves and black pepper corns.
  • As soon as the cloves puff a little, add the red chilies and crushed garlic.
  • When the garlic starts turning golden,giving off an aroma, add the chopped onions and green chilies. Saute till oil seeps from the sides of the onion mixture.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and keep cooking this curry masala till the tomatoes turn mushy and oil starts separating from the mix.
  • Rub extra marinade off the meat and add the goat pieces to the masala in the wok.
  • Saute the meat for 3 minutes. Then add the marinade. Add salt and cook for 10 minutes. The yogurt will leave water and the meat will release some fat.
  • Now add the raw potatoes and enough water to cover every piece of meat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for 2 hours. Every half hour check for water, if needed add more. Add the fried potatoes when the meat's almost done. You may fry all the potatoes and add them now but I like adding half the amount raw since it thickens and flavors the gravy.
  • After two hours, the meat should be cooked and slide right off the bones. If not, cook till meat's done.
  • If gravy is too thin for your liking, increase heat and cook uncovered till gravy is reduced to desired consistency.
  • Squeeze lime juice over each individual bowl of curry. The lime not only adds to flavor but also provides the vitamins necessary to better absorb the iron in the meat.
  • Serve piping hot with steamed rice, parathas or bread of your choice.
Serves - 6-8
PS: Good goat meat should be juicy and slide right off the bones once fully cooked. If the cooked meat needs much pulling to tear then it's not cooked enough. However, on further cooking if the meat turns dry then it has been over cooked which actually means the meat itself is of poor quality. Curried goat can't be enjoyed with silverware, it's best eaten messy like barbecue!


Karaishutir Kochuri - Green Peas Stuffed Pastry

Come late November and the colorful Rajasthani quilts, plaid Bombay Dyeing wool blankets along with a wild assortment of woolens are out in and around Calcutta. Never mind that the mercury never dips below 10C in all of winter. After the sultry summer-monsoon, when the sky finally is clear and blue, the sun deliciously warm on your shoulders and there’s a definite nip in the air, the city revels in romance.
Middle aged men and women, bundled in bulky colorful sweaters teamed with mufflers and obnoxious monkey caps brave the early morning chill to walk in the few green parks in the city under the cover of thick fog. I have grown up watching neighbors shiver and tremble as they made their way to the Dhakuria Lake maidan and Safari Park. However no Calcuttan loses weight in winter except those teen girls ultra determined to fit into LBDs a size too small for the Christmas Eve dance at Tolly.
Winter is also when residents flock to Flurys and Nahums for plum cakes, to the neighborhood market for Darjeeling oranges for puddings and to the vegetable vendor for cauliflowers and green peas in their pods for samosas and kachoris. Little wonder we stay as round as ever. Ma, who never cooks much fried or junk food at home, always makes the exception every winter by making Karaishutir Kochuri, savory green pea stuffed pastry. It is the only dish my father, who can’t even make tea, helps her make. Baba must have spent half of his life’s winter afternoons shelling peas!
Away from the warmth of Calcutta winters, I make Karaishutir Kochuri every year when the mercury starts to dip to rekindle in my heart the innocent romance of book fairs,quiz competitions, music conferences and holiday dance parties of years gone by.
Karaishuti is also call Motorshuti in Bangla hence these kachoris are called Motorshutir Kochuris too.
Green Peas Stuffed Pastry
For the filling -
Shelled green peas - 1/2 lb
Minced ginger - 1tbsp
Green chilies - 2-3
For dough -
All purpose flour (maida) - 1lb
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tbsp or to taste
Ghee/ clarified butter/ oil - 1tbsp
Lukewarm water
For cooking -
Ground roasted cumin seeds - 1tsp
Fennel seeds - 1tsp
Asafoetida - large pinch
Salt - 1 tbsp or to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp plus for frying
  • Blend peas, ginger and chilies to a smooth paste adding as little water as required.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt together thrice. Add ghee/oil and combine to crumbly dough. Knead to a moderately stiff dough using lukewarm water. Cover and let sit for at least half hour.
  • Heat 1tbsp of oil in a heavy skillet. Add asafoetida.
  • After the asafoetida sizzles, roughly 10 seconds, add the green peas paste and salt. Cook on medium heat for five minutes or till all moisture evaporates and oil separates. Keep stirring to prevent the paste from burning.
  • Turn the heat off. Add powdered roasted cumin seed and fennel seeds. Mix well and remove from heat. Allow the mixture to cool completely say for twenty minutes.
  • Wet your palms and knead the pastry dough a little more till you get a stiff shiny dough. Divide the dough into 16 equal balls.
  • Cover the dough balls with a damp cheese cloth.
  • When the peas mixture has cooled completely, divide into 16 equal balls.
  • Roll a dough ball into 3" diameter circle. Place a peas ball in the center and gather the edges of the dough to cover the filling and make a disc. Continue with other dough balls.
  • Allow the stuffed discs to sit for 3-4 minutes.
  • Using your palms flatten each disc to 4" diameter. Be careful not to make holes in the dough or allow the filling to spill along the edge. This will let oil seep into the kachoris and make them soggy.
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom skillet and deep fry the discs one or two at a time on medium-high heat. They will puff up like Indian puri. Fry till golden brown on both sides, turning once.
Serves - 4-6
Serve hot with your favorite pickle, green chutney, ketchup or as Bengalis do with spicy curried potatoes. These kachoris cannot be stored, they have to be eaten hot.
However, if you want to make the kachoris to store, heat about 2" of oil in the skillet on medium heat. The oil is ready when a little piece of dough when put in oil sizzles and comes up slowly. If the dough comes up immediately then the oil is too hot and allow it cool a little and test again. Once the oil is ready fry the discs one or two at a time on medium-low heat until golden brown on both sides, turning once. If you fry in very hot oil, the kachoris will turn soggy when cooled and will not store well. Cool and store in air tight containers. Kachoris will stay good for 2-3 days.
Alternatively, you can cook them on a heated dry skillet brushing each side with little oil like parathas. They taste the best as hot kachoris though.


Spicy Pumpkin and Legumes

Pumpkin and winter squashes rank quite high in my favored veggie list, particularly in the colder months. Cinnamon flavored pumpkin never fails to ignite holiday happiness in me. On a pleasant fall Sunday, when I was gloomy for no rhyme or reason, N made me some spicy pumpkin and peas. He called my mother for the recipe and gave it some Bihari twist. Then he set the table outside for a quiet, romantic brunch. It was oh so perfect. He even sacrificed some NFL!
Back at my parents', this spicy pumpkin recipe is my mother's take on the traditional Bengali Kumror Chokka. She makes it sans cinnamon and turmeric and uses either coconut flakes or cooked whole bengal gram. N used both coconut and legumes and made it spicier. Since I had soaked some dried field peas or matara the previous night, he used them instead of bengal gram. As Ma never visits my blog, I'll confess I liked his version more.
Since that afternoon, N has made it couple of more times for friends, once with whole bengal gram and then with garbanzo. We both like it best when cooked with whole bengal gram though others were relished too.
Spicy Pumpkin and Legumes
Pumpkin - 2 cups, peeled and diced to 1/4" cubes
Dried field peas/ your choice of legumes - 1 cup, cooked
Dried red chilies - 3-4, broken
Kalonji/ Black onion seeds - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 small stick
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Cayenne powder - 1/2 tsp
Coconut flakes - 1/4 cup, packed
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add onion seeds and let it splutter. Add red chilies and cinnamon stick. Saute for 20 seconds.
Add pumpkin, turmeric and pepper. Saute for 2 minutes. Pumpkin should start leaving some water.
Add salt and 1 tbsp of water. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Keep checking for water and add more if required.
After 7 minutes, pumpkin should be tender but not mushy. Liquid should have evaporated.
Add the cooked legumes and toss well. Cook covered for another 2 minutes. Be careful not to mash the pumpkin.
Turn off the heat. Add the coconut flakes and toss well. Let it sit covered for another 2-3 minutes.
Serve with pooris, parathas or freshly baked baguette.
Serves - 4


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Butternut Squash and Kidney Bean Soup

Since I turned vegetarian a year back, I had much difficulty adjusting my diet to ensure that I got enough iron and protein which I earlier received from fish, poultry, meat and eggs from non animal sources. Though I am not vegan, I am lactose intolerant to some extent. I can eat yogurt and certain types of ripened cheese but no milk, butter and the likes. Hence it became doubly difficult to consume the suggested daily iron intake. Inevitably, I who always had above normal hemoglobin percentage was diagnosed with anemia eight months into my restricted diet.
I was asked to consume large amounts of spinach, tofu and dried beans every day. After a month of Indian daals, spinach soup and tofu salad, I had to find innovate new ways to cook these for my food lust. A friend sent me to 101 cookbooks and among scores of nutritious veggie recipes; I found adzuki butternut squash soup.
I didn’t know what adzuki was nor did I want to go to the store to buy a new kind of bean when I already had enough jars of them to last me a year. Thus I did what I have learnt to do well. I substituted adzuki with regular kidney beans or rajma. The butternut squash, kidney beans and cinnamon blend for a robust and very holiday-ey flavor.
After the initial attempt which we both liked, I added to and subtracted from the original recipe to create a soup that can give chicken noodle soup tough competition in the comfort food category even for meat loving N. On a cold fall evening, this soup will warm your body and soul.
Taking another giant step in the world of cookery bloggery, this soup is going to Susan's MLA-17, hosted by Sra of When My Soup Came Alive.

Butternut Squash and Kidney Bean Soup
Butternut squash - 2 cups, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about half a normal size squash)
Kidney beans - 2 cups, canned or cooked
Red onions - 1 medium, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 1 finely chopped
Garlic - 4 cloves, minced
Dried red chili - 3, crushed
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp, coarsely crushed
Cinnamon - 1tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp (I use canola)
Salt - 1 tsp (fine grain sea salt is recommended but if you don't have it use regular table salt)
Water - 3 cups
For Garnish:
Smoked paprika/ roasted chili flakes - 1/2 tsp or to taste
Roasted almond slivers - 1tbsp
Goat cheese - 1 tbsp, crumbled

  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add cinnamon, coriander seeds, chilies and salt and saute until aromatic.
  • Add onions and saute to golden.
  • Add garlic, tomatoes and butternut squash, stir well, and then add 3 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil, and once boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for a few minutes, until the squash begins to soften about 8-10 minutes.
  • Once the squash has softened, mash the squash pieces a bit with either a masher or the back of a ladle.
  • Add the beans and cook a couple more minutes. Check for salt and add more if needed. Remove from heat.
  • Serve garnished with smoked paprika, roasted almonds and crumbled goat cheese. Of course, I give the cheese a miss but N says it goes very well with the sweetness of the soup.
Serves - 4
Suggestion: Everybody, including trained chefs have a tough time peeling hard skinned squashes. If you find peeling the squash extremely difficult and frustrating, bring a large pot of water to boil. The pot should be large enough to hold a whole squash without water flowing over. Submerge the squash in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. This will soften the skin and the meat just beneath the skin will get cooked making it easier to cut and peel the skin off.

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