Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Cucumber and cottage cheese soup

Cooking feeds my curiosity.

The distinguished aromas of the spices, scent of the vegetables intrigues me each time I am planning on cooking something. Offcourse the beautiful pictures, the description starts the process. 

My recent treasure is ‘The Joy of vegetarian cooking’ by Jasleen Dhamija.  Book talks about the selected vegetables in details and then lists down few recipes for each.. Most of the recipes are simple with few ingredients. You could randomly pick choose a recipe and find all the ingredients in your house or in the closest grocery store.

What excites me to try this book are the various combination of spices and vegetables to make simple meals pleasurable.

For today I am trying out her ‘Cucumber and cottage cheese soup’

Cucumber soup? Now what that? Its very simple. Core the cucumber, stuff it with cottage cheese and coriander mixture (it literally has only these 2 ingredients), cook it with lemongrass leaves and voila… ready to serve. Being used to spices tomato and hot and sour soups.. this is a fresh change in taste, method and look. There are absolutely no spices in it except for the flavor of lemon grass and coriander. 

Lemon grass and coriander are together used extensively in Thai cooking but is also combined with ginger and chillies. This soup is influenced traditionally Thai cuisine but stuffed with chicken instead of cottage cheese.  

Recipe: Cucumber and cottage cheese soup

Adapted: The Joy of vegetarian cooking’ by Jasleen Dhamija

Serves 6

Cooking time: 20 minutes


 3 cucumbers, 8 inch long

200 gm cottage cheese

100 gm green coriander, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

3 leaves of lemon grass

2 tbsp lime juice


-   Peel cucumber and taste for bitterness. Discard bitter cucumbers. Cut both ends and set aside

-   Hollow out the inside, removing all the seeds and set aside.

-   Take 200 gm cottage cheese, mash it well and mix with 50gm coriander, ½ tsp salt and stuff the cucumbers. I added more to adjust the taste.

-   Close both ends with the pieces set aside, using wooden toothpicks.

-   Put cucumbers flat into a pot and add 7 cups water, lemon grass and remaining salt. Add the remaining cottage cheese stuffing as well as the remaining coriander.

-  Cook covered on slow fire for 10 to 15 minutes. Test with a fork to see if the cucumbers are done. Remove from fire and add lime juice.

-   Take the cucumbers from the pot and remove the ends. Cut the cucumbers into 4 pieces. Put 2 pieces in each bowl and ladle soup on top.  

     This soup should be served hot.

  Have you tried cucumber soup before? What spices do you think will go well with it?

Monday, 29 April 2013

Watermelon curry

  For the longest, I have eaten only Pav bhaji in the fast food joints I often frequented. My friends would ask, "Aren't you supposed to get nauseated by now?", frankly i did't.

  A few months back I visited Guru Kripa, Sion. But obviously I had Pav Bhaji. Right after the first bite, the taste had me reminiscing my childhood days. Was it the aroma, masala or my hunger, I still dont know. But that was it. I felt content and comforted.

 And just like that, my need to frequent fast food joints especially for Pav Bhaji tapered off.

I realised 2 things. 
 -  Mumbai street food has changed drastically. ( why, for good or bad, I leave it for later discussion)
 - All this while unconsciously I was searching for 'a' particular taste that I had decades ago. It wasnt about what i want but my longing to taste something familiar

What childhood familiar food do you crave for?

For this post I am back with Camellia Panjabi's 'Watermelon Curry' from 50 Great curries of India . Watermelons are literally raining out here and i was searching for different ways in which I can consume it. The curry is spicy, tangy, hot exactly opposite of how this fruit tastes in its natural form.

This curry is quick, can be served hot or cold. It tastes really good with steam rice or as a side dish on its own. The longer you keep, the flavors get well absorbed. Only catch, if its kept out for too long, it get a bit watery with the juices from the fruit.

Author’s notes
‘In the summer, temperatures in the arid desert region of Rajasthan exceed 100F and before foodstuffs from other regions were easily available, the Rajasthani had to rely on what was locally available. Watermelons were one of the few fruits available in the summer, and are used to make an interesting semi-dry curry.

The flavour should be hot, sweet and sour, hence the large amount of chilli powder - and Rajasthan chilli is pungent. You can substitute paprika, which is milder. Quite interesting to eat with rice, or as a side dish.’

Serves 2, or 4 as a side dish

1/4 large watermelon
1 1/2 teaspoons red chilli powder
a pinch of turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garlic puree
salt to taste
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2-3 teaspoons lime or lemon juice
sugar to taste (optional)

1)   Cut up the watermelon and remove the seeds, then peel. Take a slice to blend and make juice. Add the chilli, turmeric and coriander powders, garlic puree and salt, to taste. Chop the rest of the watermelon into 1 1/2 in/4cm cubes.

2)   Heat the oil in a wok and add the cumin seeds and within 20 seconds add the juice. Lower the heat and simmer for five minutes or so, so that the spices cook completely and the liquid is reduced by a third. If using sugar, add it now, then add the lime or lemon juice and cook for one minute.

3)   Add the chopped watermelon and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes, gently tossing it until all the pieces are covered in the spice mixture.

 Bon Appetit!!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Aubergine Curry

I like simple food when I am cooking. Vegetables or pulses with a simple tadka. I have always steered away from curries or anything that involves complex, multiple stages. That being said I love spices… I like the way they are used in Indian food. I can finish up an entire plate of a subzi (vegetable) or dal (lentils and pulses) just to imagine the flavors and the spices used to make it so aromatic.
Now its high time that I take my culinary escapade to the next level of intricate cooking. My current treasure is Camellia Panjabi’s 50Great curries of India. I was looking for a vegetarian curry with basic spices available in everyday kitchen... Finally selecting ‘Aubergine Curry’ as the first recipe
After one and half hours of chopping, roasting, grinding, sauteing, sweating and cooking the result was just rich, flavorful, aromatic and delectable.
Although the recipe calls for good quantity of coconut and onion, the flavor of limited spices still remain intact. The key is to give each stage it’s time to complete the process. Sweating the onion for 25 minutes, sautéing the curry paste in it for 15 minutes… at the end of each stage comes distinct aromas and that will keep you going to find the final taste. I highly recommend giving this one a try. Also it’s so versatile that aubergies can be replaced by your choice of vegetables: potatoes, mushroom, paneer (cottage cheese), plantain.
I would adjust the taste a bit by reducing tamarind to 20gms and adding 3 tbsp of kashmiri red chili powder for more heat and beautiful red colour. You can have it with simple steamed rice or Indian bread.

Aubergine Curry
Recipe: Adapted from 50 Great curries of India
Total time: 90 minutes
Serves 4 


40g tamarind pulp 

500g baby aubergines

½ fresh coconut grated, or 125g frozen

6 whole red chillies

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

4 tablespoons oil 

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped

8-10 curry leaves

1 teaspoon garlic, chopped

400g onions, chopped

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves, to garnish 

Salt to taste
1) Soak the tamarind in 100ml of hot water for at least 30 mins.
2) Make two incisions, like a cross, halfway up each aubergine. Cut off the stems. Soak in water with a pinch of salt for 15 minutes, to reduce the natural bitterness.
     3) On a heated griddle toast the coconut for 5-6 minutes, then add the chillies and     coriander seeds and toast for 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin and toast for 1 minute. Put in a small grinder and grind to a paste, adding a little water.
      4) Heat the oil in a cooking pot and add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the garlic, ginger and curry leaves, then add the onions and turmeric. After 25 minutes, add the spice paste and sauté for a further 10-15 minutes, adding a little water if the spices stick.
      5) Add 400ml of water, stir well, add salt to taste, and the aubergines, then cover. After 15 minutes add the tamarind water (after squeezing the tamarind and straining it).
       6) Cook until the aubergines are tender, then remove from the heat and sprinkle with the coriander leaves when serving.