Tagged: vegetarian

Pea, Corn and Shiso Soup

A peak season ingredient such as a tomato is a thing of beauty, exquisite to behold and taste. To be sure, it doesn’t hold a candle to the highly travelled shadows of their former selves that you can find in the dead of winter. That, however, matters less if you were going to add it to other ingredients, or make a sauce or a soup. With perhaps a little spice, or some well-placed sauces, even the most out-of-season ingredients become delicious elements of an ensemble dish, creating a sum of parts far more enjoyable than individual ingredients. Either on merit of pure addition, or on how it is cooked, an ingredient can go far in adding flavour to a dish of ingredients.

Indian cooks know this to be true better than most, as can be seen by the many Indian recipes that ask for a combination of ingredients. Can one reduce that list of ingredients and still make a tasty dish? Of course, but when it comes to the traditional ones, it is the combination of those exact ingredients that makes a dish taste the way you remember it. Anything else could leave you yearning for what is in your memory.

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Coffee-cardamom banana bread with cashew nuts

My assigned childhood role was that of the good kid. The quiet one. The one who didn’t wreck tables and could be counted on to not torture the dog. Who worshiped books and didn’t need to be told that one doesn’t make paper airplanes and boats with sheets torn out of their history notebook. But even good kids aren’t perfect, because mom and I had our share of disagreements. Perhaps because I steadfastly refused to learn how to de-vein those prawns (ick!) properly. Or because I didn’t wipe the dishes completely dry. But mostly because my mother was convinced that you needed to take pride in whatever you do, be it writing an essay, drying a dish or folding a shirt. I subscribed to a much looser interpretation of this: that there were some things you took pride in doing, and that others were just work that you finished to get to the things you want to do. For me, folding laundry squarely fell in this category, but it was my chore. So when the day’s wash was off the clothesline, I would drag my feet over, rush through the sorting and folding and hurry back to my books and to intriguing statistics such as how much rice was grown in China versus India. I would remain thus engrossed until I heard the inevitable yell which signalled that mom had spotted my handiwork.

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Squash, Sweet potato & Chickpea Stew

I love flying in the rain. That may sound like an odd thing to like. Most people have a problem with this, but not me. Sure, these flights can be tedious before take-off but in the rain, there is a slowing down of things. The little window shows you a shiny tarmac in a world washed clean. People in cheery neon raincoats scurry about their jobs working to get your flight going on its way, hardly minding the dull weather. The bright orange cones and yellow leader signs dot the grey landscape, firmly guiding the planes. They lie scattered amidst the large gleaming tubes that lugubriously lumber about like lounging whales. It seems impossible that any of them could get moving with any amount of haste, let alone take off the ground and into the air. I love the unfolding choreographed drama of it all.

The drops of rain steadily trickle down the  window reminding me as they always do now of the title sequence of the movie The Matrix. I turn to check my IPad to see if I have a copy of it on there. I don’t, so I continue to watch the rain. It will be time to turn off electronic devices soon anyway.

Despite having been on numerous flights, I still have that breathless moment at take-off when it feels like this tin can I am in is straining every nerve and will likely never manage to pull off the take off. But, slowly, then with growing urgency, it always does. The ground falls away along with all of the roads, buildings and people on it.

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A new year and Russian Salad

Happy new year, you guys! Hope everyone had a wonderful couple of weeks.

Last year slipped away quickly from me at the end there. There was some traveling for work and wrapping up of projects. And then, when I was ready to find relaxation, the universe decided I wasn’t quite ready yet. I got hit by a nasty bug between Xmas and the new year that was quite tenacious in its hold on me. It was like nothing I’ve seen before and with my propensity for colds and coughs, that’s saying something. As I lay under my inadequately warm comforter, I imagined pumpkin bread pudding and strengthening stews to make when I got better, things you would find useful in this winter weather. But when I did get better, my stove decided to go on the fritz.

I can’t say the new year has started in the best possible fashion for me.

There are only two good things that came out of my stove throwing a tantrum. One is that I got to use ‘on the fritz’, a phrase that make me think of malfunctioning wires releasing sparks and makes me happy all out of proportion. The other is, I get to tell you about this salad.

One story about this salad is that it was developed in Russia by a restaurant chef who was basically robbing the owner blind. Well, they don’t say that exactly, but the story is tantamount to the same thing. It is said they gave him a kitchen allowance for supplies and told him that he could keep what was left at the end of the month. So he came up with this salad that is rich in taste but doesn’t need a lot of ingredients, thereby being able to pocket more of the money. There’s another story that says this chef developed the salad for his restaurant and it was a huge hit. It consisted of expensive ingredients like seafood and good cuts of meat and its recipe was a closely guarded secret. Then, one of the chef’s employees stole the recipe, became the chef at a competing restaurant and started serving a version of this salad, albeit with less expensive ingredients. It is said the exact original recipe died with its creator but copycat versions of the salad are still known as Salad Olivier in his honour. In India, we knew it simply as Russian Salad.

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Scrambled Paneer with peas, potatoes and mushrooms

Some things are created out of necessity.

I set out to make some form of an egg dish today. Some scrambled eggs with toast would make a nice, light dinner. But then I figured I’d make something more substantial that would also make a good lunch tomorrow. That’s when I thought of egg bhurji, a wonderful masala scrambled egg that is a great way to stretch what eggs you may have.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out the way I wanted.

I started out chopping onions, musing on the fact that most Indian recipes seem to start there. Then I looked for a couple of tomatoes to chop in, but then remembered that I had used the last of them up on Sunday. No matter, I told myself, tomatoes aren’t a requirement, so get on with it. I imagined Tim Gunn in my kitchen telling me to “Make it work”. Sure I could do this. There was nothing to it.

I made short work of the mandatory potatoes for this dish. Mandatory for me, that is. I like the one-skillet egg and potato combination. I proceeded to pull out the carton of eggs from the fridge and found it to be much lighter than I’d hoped. Opening it up, I found it to be as empty as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was bare. My absent-minded husband had struck again, using up the eggs and sticking the empty box in the refrigerator.

Since I already had the onion base in the pan, I checked for alternatives. I located a block of paneer, some leftover mushrooms, frozen peas and not much else. Since by this point I had my heart set on the one thing I couldn’t have, the eggs, I decided to make the dish I wanted but with paneer instead, turning back to my pantry for help.


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