Category Archives: Quick Meal Ideas

Broccoli,Baby Potato and Tomato Salad

Yesterday, when I realized suddenly that I did not have as much time to cook dinner as I had initially thought, I decided to make this salad on a whim, to go with grilled pesto and onion toast.

I kept the broccoli florets quite small and since the salad also had the girls’ favorite tomate marzounette (a type of small-sized tomatoes that have an oblong shape and are grown from a variety native to San Marzano in Italy) they ate it without comment.

I haven’t combined them before, but potatoes and broccoli do seem to go well together. I can even see this salad as part of a more formal meal, with baby potatoes in place of the regular sort for a nice touch.

Broccoli, Potato and Tomato Salad

steamed broccoli florets

boiled, peeled and diced potatoes (the potatoes should be firm, not overcooked) OR boiled and peeled baby potatoes

cherry tomatoes, sliced in to halves (or quartered lengthwise if the tomatoes are the marzounette variety)

Put the tomatoes, the broccoli and the potatoes in to a large salad bowl. Add some olive oil, toss the vegetables lightly in it, and leave aside for an hour.

Just before serving, sprinkle some sea-salt and lime juice and mix the salad.

Light, colorful, GOOD ! Definitely one to make again.

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Jenny’s Spinach Pie

I ate this once last summer at Jenny’s and it was really quite nice.

So earlier today evening, when I happened to be in her kitchen as she made it for guests that she will have at lunch tomorrow, I noted down the quantities of the ingredients as she cooked.

It looked quite simple to put together, so I am going to try and make it some time soon.

Spinach Pie

2 rolls of store-bought pie crust

a kilo of frozen,very very finely chopped spinach

3-4 tablespoons of creme fraiche

a 210 gm bag of Gruyere cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 egg, lightly whisked

De-frost the spinach and squeeze out all the water.

In a pan, heat a little oil and fry the onion for a while.

In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, the onion, the seasoning, the cheese and the creme fraiche.

Place one of the pie crusts at the bottom of a pie dish. Fill with the spinach mixture and spread it evenly. Cover with the second pie crust.

Brush the top with the egg and bake at 175degreesC till done.

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Filed under Baked Main Meal Dishes, Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Versatile Accompaniments

Italian Rice Salad with Tuna, Vegetables and Cheese

At the buffet served after the OIB graduation ceremony held at the CIV tonight – I was there to help with the aperitif and the buffet – there was a delicious rice salad which was contributed by the mum of a student in the Italian section.

Here’s the recipe, as I remember it, which she told me as we served the crowd so I hope I’ve got the details right !

Italian Rice Salad

Cooked and cooled rice (from a region in Italy, if I understood her right, near the one that arborio rice come from) tossed with canned tuna (with the oil), olives, capers, very finely sliced raw carrots(or they may have been very lightly steamed), tomatoes (optional) and small pieces of provolone cheese. Though I forgot to ask if she had used any herbs, I don’t think there was any  seasoning in the salad other than salt.

I am going to try this soon as it would make such a simple, fresh and delicious summer meal though I’ll have to figure out first what the rice variety she’d used might be.  I wonder if it is Carnaroli?  The name she used sounded sort of like that from what I remember and when I google Arborio, I find many references to the Carnaroli rice variety as a great base for risottos and salads – indeed for the former it appears to be a better choice than Arborio.

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas, Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths, Salads

Warm Spinach and Fennel Salad

At the same hotel – the Sophia Country Club – where I had the avocado and orange salad, I also had a dish for lunch one afternoon which had a very new and unlikely – to me – combination of finely sliced fennel and spinach leaves.

The vegetables seemed to make up a sort of warm salad that included some kind of seafood.

I had only the vegetables from this dish, however, and the combination was surprisingly good.

I need to figure out now how they’d been cooked together.

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Filed under Quick Meal Ideas, Salads, Versatile Accompaniments

Thakkali Sadam or Tomato Fried Rice

This rice preparation – native to the south of India – would make a nice meal on a summer day, with a raita on the side and perhaps a light vegetable dish such as cauliflower with paanchphoran or beans poriyal or jeera aloo.

I have adapted the recipe from “Samayal”, a cookbook by Viji Vardarajan. To make it interesting for the customers of the local boulangerie – where they served this today with mint- and coriander-flavored chicken, pumpkin raita and salad greens- I skipped the green chillies in the original recipe and added cashew nuts on a whim.

Thakkali Sadam

1 and a 1/2 cups of Basmati rice

2 large tomatoes, chopped fine

1 small onion, chopped fine

3 tablespoons of oil plus 1 teaspoon to add to the water in which the rice will be cooked.

1/4 of a teaspoon of mustard seeds

1/4 of a teaspoon of cumin seeds

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder

a few curry leaves

50-60 grams of cashew nuts, halved and then fried lightly for a minute or so in a teaspoon of oil

Wash and soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes , then drain the water and cook the rice with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of oil in 2 and a quarter cups of water.

When the rice has cooled a little, separate the grains a little with a fork.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When these start to pop, add the curry leaves, fry for a couple of seconds and add the cumin seeds. As soon as they start to darken in color, add the onions and fry fora few minutes till they begin to look translucent. Now add the tomatoes, cover the pan and cook till the tomatoes are quite soft and their juice has almost dried up.

Add the turmeric, fry the mixture for another minute, then add the rice and toss everything together. Cover the pan and cook the rice for 6-7 minutes, turning over the rice a couple of times till all of it acquires a uniform yellow color. Just before taking the pan off the heat, mix in the cashew nuts.

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Baaths

Rava Idlis

This is another of Pooja’s recipes, adapted a little by me.

Maybe I ought to start paying her a royalty for all these inspirations !

Thanks to this one, the girls loved their gouter today and I am looking forward to having the idlis for dinner tonight, with sambhar.

In the background – Ruhin’s artwork, from a year or so ago, which Boudi creatively transformed in to a set of place mats for us.

Rava Idlis

1 cup of suji/semolina/rava, slightly roasted

1 and a 1/2 cups of smooth yogurt

1 large carrot, finely grated

1 or 2 tablespoons of cashew nuts, sliced in half

5-6 curry leaves, finely chopped

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

2 teaspoons of sunflower oil

salt to taste

1 teaspoon of Eno fruit salt

Mix the yogurt in to the rava, adding a little water – about 1/2 to 1/3 of a small cup – if the batter seems too thick.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a small frying pan, then add the mustard seeds. When these start to pop, add the curry leaves, fry for a few seconds and then pour this mixture in to the rava batter. Now mix in the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly.

Lightly oil the idli mold, pour about 2 tablespoons of batter in each section and steam the idlis till done. This will take about 15 minutes.

Take the idlis out with a butter knife.

The top of some of the idlis was a little damp still when I took them out of their molds but the moisture dried up in a few minutes.

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Filed under Breakfast Ideas, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas, Starters and Snacks

Curried Potatoes aka Rasedar Aloo Tamatar

Shri loves this potato curry – he calls it aloo shak, which is probably an Indori name for it since he talks fondly of having eaten this many times in the sarafa bazaar of Indore – with puris and if he had his way this is what I would make each time we have friends over for a meal.

Yesterday, for dinner with Vishal and Shefali’s family, we had this curry with palak puris.  And it was so pleasing to see Twisha and Vayun enjoy the carrot salad I had made to go with the aloo-puri as much as Shri, Indira and Noor do.

Curries Potatoes/Rasedar Aloo Tamatar

600 gms of potatoes (enough for 4-6 people)

300 gms of tomatoes or an equivalent amount of canned tomato pulp (about 6 tablespoons)

4-5 tablespoons of oil

1/4 teaspoon each of the ingredients of paanchphoran – mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds and fenugreek seeds

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon of coriander powder

1/4 teaspoon of kashmiri red chilli powder (or to taste)

2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped fine

1 teaspoon of kasoori methi and/or 1/2 a teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

1 large dry red chili (optional), broken in half

salt to taste

fresh, green coriander,chopped fine

Leave the tomatoes in very hot water – freshly boiled – till their skin comes off easily.  Then drain and leave aside to cool.

In the meanwhile cook the potatoes, till they are soft, in a pressure cooker. When the cooker has cooled a bit, open the lid, drain the water, take out the potatoes in a colander and leave aside to dry and cool.

Peel and chop the tomatoes in to very fine pieces.

When the potatoes are cold, peel them and dice them in to small pieces.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and put in the  red chili, the mustard seeds and the nigella seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the fennel seeds, fry for a couple of seconds, then add the garlic and fry for a few seconds till the garlic loses it’s raw look. Now add the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and fry for just another couple of seconds else the fenugreek seeds can burn and will develop a bitter taste.

Add the tomatoes next and cook on medium heat till their juice starts to dry up. Then add all the dry spices and fry for a minute or so, till the oil starts to appear on the sides of the mixture. Now stir in the kasoori methi and fry for another few seconds.

Add the potatoes, along with salt. Fry for a few minutes till the potatoes are  well-coated with the tomato mixture.  Then add about 2 cups of water and simmer the curry for a while till the gravy is as thick as you like (add more water if needed). Once way to ensure the curry is well-done is to let it simmer, stirring occasionally, till the surface starts to acquire a rich red color/glaze.

Garnish with green coriander , if you haven’t used kasoori methi.

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Filed under Curries, Everyday Subzis, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas

Fish Fillets in Coconut-flavored Sauce aka Fish Malai Curry

Inspired by the decent results from the trial run of the Prawn Malai curry – I made a very small portion to take to the boulangerie for Patrick to taste and he liked it a lot – and prompted by Indira who was very curious to know what sort of curry I am going to make for this Tuesday’s order from the boulangerie, I decided to make the same curry with white fish fillets and the result is very nice too.

The fish that I used is called cabillaud in French and that’s haddock/hake/cod in English, I think.

We had this tonight with a peas pulav and a small, very fresh-tasting salad of red bell pepper slices and mesclun (the Provencal term for a mixture of young salad greens) tossed in an olive oil, lime juice and basil flakes dressing.

The girls said they liked their dinner very much so I am glad I gave this a try.

Fish Malai Curry

300 gms of fish fillets, cut in to 2 or 3 inch pieces

2 small onions, chopped really fine

4-5 tablespoons of tomato puree

2 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic paste

a couple of bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon of garam masala powder

3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder

1 green chilli, slit in half (optional)

salt to taste

3 tablespoons of oil

50-75 ml of packaged coconut milk (vary to taste – I like the coconut flavor to not be too strong)

Cut the fillets into 2 or 3 inch pieces.

Mix the salt and turmeric in a large bowl and turn the pieces of fish in this mixture gently, to coat them well.

In a frying pan, heat the oil, add the bay leaves, fry for a minute, then add the green chilli and the onions and fry till they are a golden color. Now add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry everything for a few minutes till th onions start to turn a golden brown- but without letting the onions burn or brown too much as this will affect the final color of the curry.

Add the tomato puree next and once the oil starts to appear on the sides, add the turmeric powder and the red chilli powder and fry everything for a minute. Now add the fish pieces, turn over gently a couple of times to coat them well with the onion-tomato mixture, then pour in the coconut milk and water. Simmer the curry for about 10 minutes or till it has the right consistency (not thin and runny, but it shouldn’t be too thick either).

Stir in the garam masala and garnish with fresh, chopped coriander leaves.

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Filed under Curries, Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas

Simple Scrambled Eggs

This is such a simple recipe that maybe it doesn’t need to be written down, but Noor asked me when I cooked eggs this way for dinner one day last week, to go with a vegetable soup, whether I’ll teach her when she is older how to make this dish.

So I figure she likes this a lot, so it may be worth writing about here too.

Scrambled Eggs

6 eggs

3 tablespoons of milk

a teaspoon of butter (or a little more)

a tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Crack the eggs in to a bowl, season with salt and mix the yolks and whites till they are quite well blended with a spoon or fork.

Heat a pan, add the butter and when it  melts spread it all over the base of the pan with a cooking spoon, then pour the eggs in.  Cook the eggs on a low-to-medium heat, stirring very frequently (scrape at the bottom of the pan as well, to lift up the mixture since it will tend to stick) so that the folds that form are small. Take the pan off the heat while the egg mixture still looks a little wet i.e while the eggs are still not completely cooked. The pan will be hot for a little longer and this will finish the cooking process and allow the scrambled eggs to stay soft and creamy when they are served;otherwise they can become a little dry.

Just before taking the pan off the heat, add the cheese and fold it in. This is an optional ingredient but adds a very nice touch.

Add freshly ground pepper to each portion when it’s served.

This dish is ideally made just before it is brought to the table.

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Prawn Malai Curry

When the boulanger asked if I could do a fish curry for next Tuesday, my first reaction was to tell him honestly that I have very little experience cooking fish. But then I remembered that I made this Bengali curry, which combines prawns and coconut milk, once a long time ago and the girls did like it.

He was quite happy with that suggestion when I mentioned it so this is what I am going to make for next Tuesday along with some peas pulav, batata vada, mint-coriander chutney and carrot salad.

The classical chingri (that’s Bengali for prawn) malai curry does not include tomatoes I think, but I prefer to make it with them.

Prawn Malai Curry

10-12 medium-sized prawns (shelled and de-veined; so I like to use the frozen, ready-to-use variety)

1 small onion, chopped really fine

3 tablespoons of tomato puree

1 teaspoon each of ginger and garlic paste

a couple of bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon of garam masala powder

3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder

1 green chilli, slit in to half (optional)

salt to taste

3 tablespoons of oil

50 ml of packaged coconut milk (or a little less would be okay too)

3/4 cup of water

Soak the frozen prawns in some water for a few minutes, then drain the water and pat the prawns dry.

Mix the salt and turmeric in a large bowl and turn the prawns in this mixture gently to coat them well.

In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the prawns till they are a golden color (don’t fry for too long else the prawns can become a little hard). Take them out and keep them aside.

In the same oil, add the bay leaves, fry for a minute, then add the green chilli and the onions and fry till they are a golden color. Now add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry everything for a couple of minutes, without letting the onions brown as this will affect the final color of the curry.

Add the tomato puree next and once the oil starts to appear on the sides, add the turmeric powder and the red chilli powder and fry everything for a minute. Now add the prawns, stir together everything well, then pour in the coconut milk and water. Simmer the curry for about 10 minutes or till it has the right consistency (not thin and runny, but it shouldn’t be too thick either).

Stir in the garam masala and garnish with fresh, chopped coriander leaves.

This curry is best eaten with plain, hot Basmati rice or a peas pulav, IMO and makes a great change from the more time-consuming chicken or lamb curries. It reminds me of that ad from long ago – I think it was the TV commercial for Maggie noodles when they were first introduced in India – “quick to cook, good to eat!”

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Filed under Curries, Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas

Chicken Pulav(1)

I wanted to persuade the boulanger to try something other than chicken curry – though that does seem to work well with his clients – for next week’s order.

So since I had some boneless chicken left over in the fridge, I used it to make chicken pulav. The girls liked it a lot and fortunately there is enough that they can have it for dinner tonight.

As for the boulanger, his reaction was so pleasing.  He said, without tasting either the pulav or the upma (which is what I have had made for lunch today so I took some of that too, for him to taste) that he would like me to make both these things for next week; when I asked him to taste both dishes so as  to be sure, he said that wasn’t necessary since “whatever you bring is all delicious “.

Now, I have my fingers crossed that his clients feel the same way next week 🙂

This recipe is adapted from one in Rocky Mohan’s “Art of Indian Cuisine”.

Chicken Pulav

2 cups of basmati rice, washed and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained thereafter

400-500 gms of boneless chicken, cut in to small pieces

3 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic pastes

2 medium sized onions, chopped fine

4-5 cloves

4 pods of green cardamom

3-4 small sticks of cinnamon

2 green chillies, finely chopped

4 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or 3 of oil and 1 of ghee)

To be mixed together:

150 ml of yoghurt

1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a teaspoon of red chilli powder

1 tablespoon of coriander powder

1/2 a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

the juice of 1 large lime

salt to taste

To make the Pulav:

In a large frying pan, warm the oil and add the green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Fry for a few seconds till their aroma begins to be released.

Add the onions and fry till they begin to look translucent.

Now add the pastes and the green chillies (optional; I skipped this) and fry again till everything turns a golden-brown color.

Add the chicken pieces next, turn up the heat a little and fry till they are golden all over.

Add the yogurt mixture, season with salt and mix everything together well. Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook till the chicken is tender and the water in the yogurt dries up, turning the mixture over every once in a while.

Add the rice, mix it in thoroughly, then add 3 and a half cups of hot water. Cover the pan, turn up the heat and bring the water to a boil. Now reduce the heat again to quite a low setting and simmer till the rice is cooked and all the water is absorbed.

Leave the pulav covered for a while before serving it as I feel this allows the flavors to develop further.

This is so quick and easy to make; a great alternative to biryani.






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Vangi Baath: An unorthodox variation

Traditionally, vangi baath is a pulav/fried rice that has only one vegetable in it and that is the aubergine which gives the dish its’ name.

But when I decided to make it for dinner tonight,along with some khatti-meethi daal, I felt there ought to be a dash of green in our meal.

So I made this rice dish today with aubergines and green beans.

The girls don’t know what the original is like, in any case, and Shri usually gamely goes along with all these variations to the classics!

This recipe is adapted from the one in Viji Varadarajan’s “Samayal”, a book about South Indian vegetarian cuisine.

2 cups of rice, cooked-with a little salt-  beforehand in 3 cups of water (which makes this recipe a great way to use leftover rice)

1 thin and long aubergine, diced

1 medium-sized tomato

1 cup of chopped green beans (optional)

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 green chilly , slit in to half (optional)

1/2 or 3/4 of a teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a tsp of mustard seeds

6-8 curry leaves

1 and a 1/2 tablespoons of pitlai powder

3-4 tablespoons of thick tamarind juice

4 tablespoons of sunflower oil

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. After a few seconds, when the seeds crackle, add the green chilly, the onions and sauté till the onions start to look translucent. Add the beans, cover the pan and cook till they start to soften just a little. Now add the aubergine, cover and cook again till the aubergines begin to soften too, turning everything over once in a while.

Now add the tomato and fry for a few minutes till the tomatoes begins to become quite soft.  Add the spices next, fry for a minute or two, then add the tamarind juice and mix it in well.  Season the vegetables with salt, add the rice – separate the grains gently with a fork first – and fry for a few more minutes till everything is thoroughly mixed.

I might try this dish without the tomato – and with peanuts – another time, since I think I remember eating it like that a long time ago.

Tonight, the girls each asked for a second helping of the vangibath with a little ghee, and I tried that too. Yum !

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Sevai Upma

A long time ago, Priti and I shared an apartment in Bhopal for three months, while we worked on a project at the BHEL factory.

One of the many things that made it such a memorable time was the cooking we did together.

It was also where I got my tea habit, but that is another story.

This post is about the delicious sevai (vermicelli) upma that Priti used to make, the taste of which has stayed with me all these years.

So recently I asked her to mail the recipe to me  since I had forgotten both the process and the proportions of the various ingredients.

She sent me a picture too –

Here’s what she told me to do, in her words, with  some variations of my own in parentheses.

1 generous tbsp of oil to roast the vermicelli in
1tsp mustard seeds
2-3 carrots julienned
1 green capsicum  julienned (I used red bell pepper today)
julienned hari mirchi (I had no green chillies so I used half a whole red chilli)
1 sliced onion (optional and so I cooked the upma without)
1 cup measure of  vermicelli (I used a thicker variety since the usual kind was not available the day I went looking for it)
6-7 curry leaves
2 tbsp shelled peanuts (optional and so I cooked the upma without)
lime juice
salt

Steps :
1. Roast the vermicelli in the oil on a thick bottom/non stick pan.  You have to keep stirring the vermicelli otherwise it tends to burn quickly. I like to roast it fairly dark brown but not burnt-it’s a fine line (I agree – I found myself stirring constantly !)
2. Set aside the roasted vermicelli. In the now empty pan, add another 1.5 tsp (I used a little more) of oil , then add mustard seeds and curry leaves. If you are using onion cook them until brown. Then add the vegetables, stir 4-5 times (I covered the pan for a few minutes to cook the vegetables, stirring every once in a while)
3. Add  2 cups of water, salt,the vermicelli and the peanuts .
4. Cook, covered, on low heat. Watch for the water- if it dries out and the vermicelli does not become almost double it’s original size then add some more. Sometimes I just turn off the stove and let it cook in the steam.
5. Add lime juice; the vermicelli tend to unstick once the lime juice is added so you can add the juice, leave the upma covered for a couple of minutes and then transfer to the final serving dish.

Here’s how my version looks, which I have made for lunch today.

Some of the girls’ reactions –

After the first forkful, Indira said “ummm, very nice !”

A few minutes later – “It’s delicious, and I am going to call it pasta upma” (I guess that because the thicker vermicelli I used does it make it look

a bit like spaghetti !)

And Noor says “It’s excellent, this noodles upma“.

Thank you, Priti Aunty, for a very successful lunch.

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Rava Upma

Like poha, the girls have loved to eat upma since they were babies.

For me, it is a convenient option as it is one of those easy to cook and all-in-one meals – carbs plus vegetables plus some protein from the lentils.

This is what we had for lunch today, with yogurt on the side, clementine juice and then fresh pineapple – which Indira prefers to the canned variety – for dessert.

Though coconut chutney and/or sambhar are the ideal accompaniments for upma, I sometimes eat mine with ketchup – a habit acquired in childhood.  Ma has always made the most delicious upma and it was probably sacrilege to smother its’ flavors in ketchup but back then it was the way Bittu b. and I enjoyed eating it most !

Rava Upma

1 cup of suji/rava/semolina

1 medium-sized onion

2 small carrots

1/4-1/2 cup of frozen green peas (less or more, as you like it)

1 small tomato

1 dry red chilli, broken in two

1/2-3/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds

2 tablespoons (or a little less) of yellow split pea lentils (chana daal)

6-8 curry leaves

2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil, 1/2 of ghee

Roast the semolina in a warm pan for a few minutes till the grains start to turn a very light brown – at this stage there is a very distinct aroma.

In the meanwhile, in another large frying pan, heat the oil a little and add the mustard seeds. When these begin to crackle, add the curry leaves, the chana daal and the red chilli halves. Roast the daal till it begins to turn a light brown, then add the onions. Cook these for a little longer than when they turn translucent,

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Filed under Breakfast Ideas, Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Starters and Snacks, Versatile Accompaniments

Pasta Salad with Broccoli,Red Bell Pepper and Feta Cheese

I remember that the Italian husband of one of Shri’s colleagues brought a delicious pasta salad, that had feta cheese in it, to a barbeque last summer.

So when I made pasta salad for lunch today, I made it like that one, which had no sauce. The girls were  therefore not too excited when they saw their plates at lunch especially since I had added broccoli to the salad ; some “Pesto Rosso” (a Barilla sauce they adore) would have helped make that vegetable more appealing, I guess.

But despite the broccoli – which, to be fair, they have been eating more easily recently – they ate without fuss or too much comment and I really appreciated that. And hopefully the Feta cheese made it a little better at least for Indira.

I did think that the dressing of olive oil, lime juice and dried basil flakes left the salad somewhat bland. So I added chilli-infused oil to my portion and that certainly gave it a nice kick and flavor. So I would probably add chilli flakes to the dressing if I make this salad again. I think it would bring alive both the Feta cheese and the broccoli.

150-200 grams of pasta

200 grams of broccoli florets, cut in to smaller portions

1 small can of sweet corn, drained

200 grams of feta cheese, cut in to little squares

olive oil

lime juice

1 red bell pepper, sliced fine

salt, dried basil flakes and chilli flakes to taste

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A Very Simple Masoor Daal

Like varan, this is such a convenient and quick way to cook daal.

I had always made red lentils with onions and tomatoes fried in a tadka of either cumin seeds or paanchphoran.  But ever since I watched Radhesh make this daal a few months ago, when she tempered it very simply with only cumin seeds, curry leaves and whole red chilli, I have made it like that more than once. Cooked this way, it has a simple, delicious and wholesome flavor.

Masoor Daal

1 cup of masoor daal (red lentils), washed and soaked for an hour or two

1 and a1/2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric

7-8 curry leaves

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 (or half of one) whole, dried red chilli broken in two

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or ghee

Pressure cook the daal in 3 cups of water, with the salt added in, till it is quite soft.

When the cooker can be opened, add the turmeric and blend the grains well with a hand-churner.

Heat the oil in a small pan, then add the cumin seeds and the red chilli. When the cumin seeds start to crackle, add the curry leaves. After a few seconds, add this tempering to the daal, mix in some boiled water if the daal seems too thick and simmer everything together for 5-6 minutes.

Again, like varan, this is just wonderful to eat on a cold winter evening like tonight.

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Chickpeas Salad aka Chickpeas Sundal

This is one more Indian recipe that is easily passed off as a salad.

I love how the chickpeas work here equally well with a variety of fruits – I sometimes add mango, or peach when it is in season, and tonight I added finely chopped orange segments.

We had this sundal for dinner tonight with tomato-pumpkin-broccoli soup and some nice multi cereal bread from the boulangerie.

Chickpeas Salad or Chickpeas Sundal

1 can of chickpeas, drained well

3-4 tablespoons of freshly grated coconut

1 mandarin orange, peeled and divided in to its’ segments(or 1 peach, peeled and diced fine, or an equivalent amount of diced mango)

1 large sprig of curry leaves

1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

salt to taste

Indira thought tonight, at first glance, that the fruit in the salad was pineapple. Which has given me the idea to try it with that fruit the next time.



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Vegetable Khichdi

This was tonight’s dinner, with yogurt and avocado slices in lieu of salad.

As I said to one of the school mums some time ago, converting the girls’ to avocado – we are not there yet with Shri though- has been one of the big culinary victories of the last year. They love it the way it is enjoyed best IMO –  au nature, or with a dressing of a little lime juice and sometimes dried basil flakes.

So that “salad” helped add interest to the meal tonight because  khichdi is not one of their prefered foods.

Vegetable Khichdi

3/4 cup of rice

2/3 or 3/4 cup of dhuli masoor daal (red lentils)

200 grams of diced pumpkin

5-6 tablespoons of frozen peas

1/2 tespoon of freshly grated ginger

1 medium sized onion, chopped fine

1 medium sized tomato, chopped fine

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon of melted ghee

1/4 teaspoon each of the five paanchphoran spices (a little more of the fennel seeds)

3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a teaspoon of coriander powder (optional)

1 and a half tablespoons of fresh green coriander leaves, chopped

Wash and soak the rice and daal separately for 2-3 hours.

In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and the ghee and then add the paanchphoran spices in the order suggested here.

Add the onion and fry till it starts to turn a golden color. Now add the pumpkin, and fry both together for a few minutes till the onion starts to turn golden brown and the pumpkin starts to soften and break up.  Now add the ginger, fry for half a minute, then add the tomato and fry the mixture till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Now add the dry spices and the peas and fry for a few minutes. Add the rice and daal after draining them of the water in which they were soaked, season with salt, pour in 4 cups of water, mix everything well  and cook for as long as required for most of the water to be absorbed and for the rice and daal to cook well (with my pressure cooker, this requires about 5-6 whistles).

Once the cooker has cooled enough for the lid to be lifted off easily, stir everything together once and garnish with fresh green coriander if possible.

Add more ghee to individual servings if you like.

Though I absolutely love the much simpler moong daal khichdi which is a staple of Gujarati thalis everywhere, I quite like this one too and it is such a convenient and quick one-pot-cooking type recipe.

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Baked Parsnip Chips

The first time I came across this vegetable was at a Christmas PTA lunch two years ago at the home of one of Indira’s classmates. The hostess provided these chips as one of the starters and I really loved their sweetness and almost herby flavor.

But then I overheard some of the French teachers at the lunch say to the lady jokingly that in France this vegetable is considered good only for horses 🙂 Since then, I have also heard people say it is “pig food”  though in England and some other countries it is in fact a common “people food ” as they eat it steamed/boiled/fried/baked or added to soups.

The very distinctive taste of those chips has stayed with me so when I spotted parsnips (panais in French) for the first time in Carrefour recently, I bought some.

This is what we are having  for dinner tonight, with a vegetable soup and garlic bread.

To see what parsnips look like(imagine a large, cream/beige carrot) check here

Baked Parsnip Chips

Two large parsnips (about 500 grams), peeled and cut in to slices, hard core removed

3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Put the parsnip slices in a large mixing bowl, season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil and toss everything together well.

Spread the slices on a baking tray in a single layer and bake until done (at least 25 minutes) at the top of the oven, at 200 degrees C.

As it turned out, Indira did not take to these tonight, just as she did not like the sweet potato chips too much. But the rest of us polished off the lot 🙂

The herb-like taste and aroma that I felt I noticed may be because this vegetable apparently belongs to the Umbelliferae family, whose other members include carrots, coriander, parsley, fennel, cumin, dill etc.

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My Favorite Daal – Chana Daal with Lauki(Bottle Gourd) or Courgette

I tend to eat this daal (yellow split peas) from a bowl like one would eat soup, with a touch of  lime juice though it very nice with phulkas or paranthas too. It has a really  hearty taste and is quite filling.  My Ma usually tempers it with paanchphoran, which somehow suits this daal, IMO.

She often cooks it with bottle gourd (lauki) added to it, which I substitute with courgette since that Indian vegetable is not easy to find here.

And though I made it yesterday with the skin of the courgette peeled off, since the girls eat it more easily that way, it is probably better to retain the skin since that likely has a lot of nutrients.

I also usually make more of this daal than we need for one meal because the leftover portion, mixed with whole wheat flour, makes the dough for really soft and full-of-taste phulkas/paranthas the next day.

Chana Daal with Lauki or Courgette

1 cup of chana daal (yellow split pea lentils)

1 large or two small onions, chopped fine

1 medium sized or two small tomatoes, chopped fine

1/2  a teaspoon of grated ginger or ginger paste

1/2 a teaspoon (and perhaps a pinch more) of turmeric powder

1 courgette (300-400 grams), washed, peeled or preferably with the skin and diced in to chunks (neither too large nor too small)

salt (2 teaspoons or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

Also, ideally, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander leaves

Soak the lentils for a couple of hours, then drain the water in which they were soaked and pressure cook with another three cups of water and salt till quite soft. This will probably need 6 to 8 whistles (if the pressure cooker is the Indian variety).

Remove the cooker off the hob and when all the steam has been released from the cooker, open the lid, stir the daal with a large spoon or ladle to break up the grains, then add the courgette and cook the mixture again -another couple of whistles should do it.

When the cooker is ready to be opened again add the turmeric and stir everything together gently so as not to smash the courgette pieces.

In the meanwhile, in a smaller frying pan, prepare the tadka. Heat the oil, then add paanchphoron.

As all the five spices of  paanchphoron begin to crackle, add the onions and fry till they are golden brown. Add the ginger paste/grated ginger next and fry for another 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and fry till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Now add the chopped coriander and mix everything well before adding this tadka to the daal in the cooker.

If the daal seems too thick then add a little boiled water (and salt, if needed). To finish, simmer the daal for a few minutes so that the tadka blends in well.

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Carrot and Green Bell Pepper Pulao

One day I will cook a “pilaf”, just to be able to post about it so I get to use the word pilaf, which I love  because it has such an exotic ring about it !

In the meanwhile – this is the recipe for the pulao I wrote about last summer but which I haven’t made since, until this past weekend. I have adapted it from the original recipe which is in Viji Varadrajan’s “Samayal”, a cookbook about the cuisine of the Tanjore and Palghat regions of southern India.

In the summer last year it was Noor who said she loved this pulao. Then on Sunday it was Indira who wanted to know if there’s be enough left over for Monday. I guess that means we can put it in the Favorites Foods column.  Or at least for now, for they may change their minds in some weeks in their sometimes fickle way 🙂

(An update to that from 15 Sep 2010 – Indira said again, when we had this for dinner last night, that she loves this pulav)

The use of the podi is what gives it it’s distinctive, delicious taste.

Carrot and Green Bell Pepper Pulao

Basmati rice – 1 cup

1 large green bell pepper, sliced fine

3 medium sized carrots, peeled and diced in to thin half-moons

1 tablespoon of Pitlai podi

3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder

lime juice, to taste (but at least 1 tablespoon)

3/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds

8-10 curry leaves

salt, to taste (or say about 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons for the rice and 1/2 a teaspoon to be added while cooking the vegetables)
Wash and soak the rice in cold water for 20-30 minutes, then cook it with a little less than twice the amount of water (I use an electric rice cooker and therefore add 2 and a half cups of water) with salt added in.

Let the rice cool before you start to cook the vegetables so that you are able to separate the grains of rice gently, by hand or with a flat spoon, without breaking the grains.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. When these begin to crackle, add the carrots and fry them on a medium high heat till they are soft enough without being mushy (i.e. they should retain a bite).  A few minutes before you think the carrots will be done, add the bell pepper slices and fry everything together till the latter are cooked (I prefer that these should retain a bite too) as well.

Add the salt, the turmeric powder and Pitlai podi and fry everything for another couple of minutes.

Now add the rice, mix it with the vegetables, then put the lime juice and  toss everything together gently but quite well over 4-5 minutes.

This makes a very nice meal with varan and salad, or just a raita in the summer.





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Besan ke Cheele/Poore

I remember this  snack from chilly, rainy evenings in Bokaro – my Ma would give these to us fresh off the tava and I’d polish of mine with her delicious home-made ketchup (I should make that for the girls sometime; they’ll never like the store-bought stuff as much again), or pickle or some mint-coriander chutney if there was some.

I make these for the girls’ gouter now, sometimes. Noor really loves them. She calls them besan dosas 🙂

I do like to see them enjoying good ‘ole desi khana, and not just the croissants from the boulangerie in the neighborhood, excellent as those are.

Besan Cheelas

8 tablespoons of besan (chickpea flour)

1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

salt, coriander powder and red chilli powder to taste

1 onion, chopped fine (optional)

3/4 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger

1 and a 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of fresh green coriander leaves, chopped very fine

sunflower oil to cook the cheelas

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make sure there are no lumps in the flour. Now add water a little bit at a time, blending it in well – a hand-held whisk is good for this – till the batter is thin enough to pour but not too runny (it should be thinner than the batter for dosas).

Heat a crepe pan till it is quite hot but not smoking, then rub a few drops of oil all over it’s surface with a kitchen towel.

Pour 3-4 tablespoons of batter on to the pan and spread it across the pan as evenly as you are able(this can be tricky because of the onions in the batter). Cook the cheela/poora on medium heat till the lower side looks done when you lift it up a little with a spatula, spreading  oil (1/2 to 1 tablespoon) on it’s surface halfway through this time (at which point the surface of the cheela will begin to dry as the lower side cooks). Now flip the cheela over and cook the other side till it’s done.

These just have to be eaten hot off the pan !

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Steamed Salmon

This recipe is the same as for steamed trout, but Indira loves salmon cooked this way so much – and she certainly prefers it to the trout – I thought it deserves its own post.

Though Noor informed me a couple of days ago that she still prefers her trout/salmon to be grilled with pesto, so I must remember to make it like that for her next time, instead of steaming the fish yet again 🙂

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Steamed Salmon

Salmon fillets

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary

sea salt to taste

a few slices of lime

Sprinkle the salt on the salmon, spread the rosemary, then place the slices of lime on top.   Fill some water in the bowl of the steamer and set it to heat. Now place the fillets in the basket of the steamer and cook the fish till it is done.

Eat this hot, squeeze some more lime  if you like after breaking up the pieces of fish a little.

Just delicious.

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Desi scrambled eggs – Egg Bhurji

A desi version of scrambled eggs, this is a really versatile dish.

It makes for an indulgent Sunday breakfast, with toast and butter or even baguette and cheese and I make it for dinner  too sometimes, to go with soup, in the winter.  And the leftover portion is always good for a sandwich filling the next day, with a little ketchup tossed in 🙂  Shri and the girls really enjoy this dish and I am glad about that as it is one of those things that is so easy to make .

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With or without the peas or green bell pepper, this is a delicious way to eat eggs.

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Pretty Pasta Salad !

This is a personal favorite, one that I would love to make more often except I know that the rest of them prefer their pasta with sauce – unless it is au nature, with just some olive oil, which is the way the girls love it.

But they eat this without fuss as well, though with a lot of Parmesan cheese grated on top.

When I made it a few days ago the salad looked so pretty, sitting there so full of color, that I just had to take a picture, much to Indira’s amusement.

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Pasta Salad

There is enough here for 6.

Tricolor pasta, preferably the whole wheat kind – 200 gms (dry weight)

one large orange bell pepper, sliced quite fine

3 tomatoes, diced in to chunks

1 can of sweet corn (drained weight 140 grams)

some salad leaves, any kind (green as well as the ones with some  purple as they add so much color)

salt and dried basil to taste

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice for the dressing

Cook the pasta till it is done. In the meanwhile, assemble all the other ingredients except the salad leaves, season with salt and basil, pour the olive oil and lime juice evenly all over and toss everything well. When the pasta is done, drain and then cool it a little, before mixing it well with the other ingredients. Now add the salad leaves, and toss the salad a couple of times and leave it to rest for a while so that all the flavors mingle.

I love to eat this dish with a little drizzle of chilli-flavored oil and some freshly grated Parmesan.

This salad is a good picnic meal as well, like the wheat berry salad.

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Wheat berry Salad

This salad is excellent picnic food and I make it to take with us sometimes when we go out for the day.  But I do make it quite often otherwise too. Shri likes to take it for lunch so this is what the girls and I had for lunch too, yesterday, with the steamed trout.

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Wheat berry Salad

Wheat berries – 125 gms

Chickpeas – 1 can (drained weight 200 grams)

Sweet corn – 1 can (drained weight 140 grams) or a little more if you like

Frozed or fresh green beans – I do this by approximation; enough for a salad for 6

Tomatoes – 2 large or 3 small, diced (in to chunks not too small)

salt to taste

Pesto – again, approximate as per taste ; use just enough to coat the salad ingredients well, say 4 tablespoons but not too much

(I always leave the pesto out near the cooking surface for a while because most bottled varieties tend to be quite thick to begin with but actually contain a lot of oil, so they become a little more fluid this way, which makes me feel I am able to use less than I would otherwise.  I may be wrong about this but that is what I hope is happening !!)

Snap the frozen beans in to 1 inch or 1 and half inch long pieces and place these in a steaming basket/container. Bring a large quantity of water in a sauce pan to boil, add the wheat berries and cook them till they are soft enough for you. As the wheat berries cook, steam the beans till they are soft (but not so much that they are easily squashed; they will cook well before the wheat berries are done) on top of the same saucepan.

In the meanwhile put all the other ingredients except the salt in a large bowl. When the beans are done, cool them and  add them to the bowl, sprinkle some salt on top and mix everything well.

Drain the wheat berries when they are done, allow them to cool (else I tend to think the heat will soften the tomatoes too much, making the salad kind of mushy) and toss with all the other ingredients.

This is light and delicious, a great salad any time of the year.  Noor and I love it with cherry tomatoes instead of the regular kind. Grated carrots work well too.

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Steamed Trout

Fish is one of those things I strangely cannot remember having watched my mother cook when I lived at home, though we had fish curry quite often  as both she and my father loved this dish and a friend of my father’s would often bring us delicious fresh water fish from his village that was not far from where we lived in Bokaro. And although Boudi, who is an excellent cook, makes the most delicious fish curries including Bengali cuisine classics such as bhapa maach and doi maach, I somehow never paid attention, when she was in the kitchen making one of those dishes, either. So each time I go back now to Mumbai for a holiday I tell myself that I am going to learn from her to cook one of those dishes. I never seem to get around to it though.

So fish has remained something that I don’t really know much to do with, which is the reason I either toss canned tuna or salmon in to pasta sauce or salads, or grill fresh fish as I learned to do a few years ago.  It is only recently that I have finally started to make a basic fish curry once in a while, and the girls do enjoy it.

And then this last Saturday we ate at the home of Doris and Jean-Luc, the parents of Indira’s childhood friend Celine and Doris made some excellent steamed white fish that Indira really loved. Luckily Doris cooked the fish after we arrived, so I was able to watch the process for myself. It is such a simple way to cook fish,  and so healthy too,  it made me regret that I hadn’t tried it all these years , especially when the girls were babies when it would have been so light and nutritious a meal for them.  Anyway…

So today for lunch I steamed trout, which Indira said, in her droll way, was “deliceuse !”

Noor was very satisfied with her lunch too, but then we had the fish with a salade de ble (made with wheat berries) which she loves, so it might have been that which worked for her.

Here’s my variation on the way Doris cooked the fish :

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Steamed Trout

Trout fillets

1 tablespoons of fresh rosemary

salt to taste

lime juice – enough for a liberal sprinkling over the fish, say 2 tablespoons, or a few slices of lime

Sprinkle first the salt, then the lime juice over the fish fillets(or place the slices of lime on top of the fillets).   Fill some water in the bowl of the steamer and set it to heat. Now spread the rosemary on top, place the fillets in the steamer and cook the fish till it is done.

Eat this hot, squeeze some more lime  if you like after breaking up the pieces of fish a little.

This preserves all the natural taste and sweetness of trout and, once again, a process tout simple.

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Potato Salad with Lemon and Chive Vinaigrette

At one point during these summer holidays, I found myself utterly exasperated with cooking the same things again and again. I happened to mentioned this to Jenny and told her that I was in desperate need of recipes that would be quick to cook and suited to the weather in terms of the cooking effort (low) and style (light, non-greasy, not spicy).

At this she was good enough to loan me, among other recipe books, her copy of Delia Smith’s ” Summer Collection”.

That’s where I found the recipe for this salad. When I made it last week  Indira liked enough to say “You should definitely make this again !”

I have made some changes to the original; here is my version.

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Potato Salad

6oo grams of potatoes, cooked in the microwave till they are soft, then peeled and diced (not too small) soon after you take them out

3-4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped small

2 tablespoons of fresh chives, snipped fine with scissors

For the vinaigrette

1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped mint

3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice

grated zest of one small lemon

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon (or a little more if you like more of this flavor) of grain mustard

1 clove of garlic, grated

rock salt, to taste

freshly milled black pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette then pour it on to the potatoes while they are still quite warm (the original recipe therefore requires that baby potatoes be used. Cook these with the skin on and add the dressing as soon as the potatoes are done, after draining the cooking water) and mix well.  Add the spring onions and the chives next, and mix the salad again a couple of times.

This is simple and delicious, with lots of subtle flavor.

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A Simple Summer Lunch -Carrot & Green Bell Pepper Pulao with Cucumber Raita

Once again today Noor melted my heart with her  “you make very nice food , Mama” statement.

I love it when they seem to enjoy their meal.

Indira expresses the same feeling when she comes sniffing around the kitchen; she is one for showing her appreciation with her nose.

But it is Noor who often tells me “I love all the food you make ” and sometimes “you are the best cooker ever”.  So just for her I’ll come back to put down the recipes for today’s lunch – vegetable pulao ( a south Indian sort with a spice mix called pitlai powder) and cucumber raita.

Indira seemed to think , while she watched me make the raita, that it was one she didn’t like ( I haven’t made it  since last summer, probably)  but the heat has been so bad this week I thought it was what we needed to eat today.

So it was good to see her polish off two katoras of it and a little more…

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A Summer Lunch- Couscous Salad with Grilled Trout

One might even call this salad tabbouleh, as many cooks and supermarkets do.

However, I made the mistake a long time ago, of ordering tabbouleh for Indira – when she was very little, about 3, and first started to enjoy store-bought “tabbouleh” – at a Greek/Armenian restaurant called Le Varouj in Grasse.  And found that what we got contained more mint/parsley and lime juice and only a very very little amount of grain. I figured then what the restaurant served us was real tabbouleh, as explained in these two links

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/2/Food/Ashkenazic_Cuisine/Israel/Tabbouleh.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A23428587

while what many of us make, which has a greater proportion of grain such as couscous (some people use bulgur), can be correctly termed only a couscous salad.

Noor, especially, loves it, as do I.

In the summer, it is such a pleasure to make.  Even simpler than pasta to prepare, I love  that there’s no stove-top cooking involved here.

It was made in just 15-20 minutes after I woke up one morning a few days ago and wondered what to pack for Shri’s lunch.

The girls and I had this for our lunch that day with some grilled trout on the side.

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Couscous Salad

1 cup of  medium grain, whole wheat couscous

3/4 teaspoon of butter

1 orange bell pepper, diced fine

1 small can of  sweet corn, drained thoroughly ( I have been using the no-added-salt, no-added sugar variety for some time now and the corn tastes so much better without the added salt)

1 medium-sized can of chickpeas, drained thoroughly

2 tomatoes, diced

1-2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh basil

1 cup of finely diced cucumber (unpeeled)

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 and 1/4 cups of just-boiled water

Add the butter to the couscous, then cover it with freshly boiled, salted water and leave it (till all the water is soaked) for 5-7 minutes. Fluff it up gently with a fork.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the other ingredients, season lightly with salt and black pepper (optional, I skip this), then toss with the olive oil.

Now add the couscous to this bowl, and stir everything together and leave it to rest for about an hour before eating, to allow the couscous time to absorb the juices and flavors of all the vegetables .

This is very fresh, very cool, very light.

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Grilled Salmon or Trout with Pesto

This is just the nicest way to cook with either of these two varieties of fish.

Grilled Salmon/Trout with Pesto

250 gms of boneless fillet or pave of salmon or trout

some lime juice

salt to taste

approx 1 tablespoon of pesto

Sprinkle salt and squeeze the juice from at least 1/2 a  lime over the fillets. Keep aside for a few minutes while you heat the grill to 200degreesC.

Spread the pesto evenly over the fillets, then grill them at the top of the oven till the fish tests done – the pesto will start to char a little by this point and the fish will flake quite easily.

Serve this hot. Yum !

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Galettes des Sarrasin-or Buckwheat Crepes

I made buckwheat crepes for dinner last night, finally, and though Noor said quite frankly that she did not like them too much( I am hoping that she might take to them gradually, especially as yesterday she was quite full from her gouter and not inclined to enjoy her dinner anyway), Shri really liked them, and Indira said “I completely love them !” . In fact, after she tasted the first one as it came off the crepe pan, she declared it exactly the same in taste as the ones we ate in Valberg recently, bless her heart.

They turned out quite nice, except that the ones I have eaten in restaurants here are sometimes crisper. So I need to figure that one out still.

Once again, a really simple, quick dish to make. We had these with soup and potato-feta cheese pancakes.

These savory crepes are called galettes in France to distinguish them from the sort of crepes that are eaten with sweet fillings. And sarassin, or ble noir, is  buckwheat flour. Buckwheat, as I wrote here is not actually any kind of cereal. It is a broadleaf plant that is a very good source of protein and iron. It is also used to make the variety of noodles called soba in Japan.

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Galettes des Sarrasin, or Buckwheat Crepes

250 gms of buckwheat flour, with 1 tsp of salt mixed in (this quantity should be enough for at least 6 people)

250 ml of milk ( either whole cream or half-fat)

500 ml of water

1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine the water and the milk. In a mixing bowl, stir in half the milk and water, and the egg, in to the flour till the batter is quite smooth. Add the rest of the milk and water, and mix till well combined.

Ideally, leave the batter to rest for 60 minutes.

Heat a medium-sized crepe pan till it is very hot. Put a little knob of butter on the pan, and quickly spread it over the surface of the pan with a kitchen towel. Now lift the pan off the heat, pour about 1/2 a small cup  of batter on to the pan, and quickly bend and turn the pan every which way till the batter covers the entire surface of the pan. Put the pan back on the hob, and cook till the top of the crepe dries and the edges start to go quite brown/crispy and start to lift a little off the pan’s surface. Flip the crepe over with a spatula, and cook the other side for 1/2 a minute or so, lifting every few seconds towards the end to check if it is done.

Repeat the process for the rest of the crepes. Any extra batter will keep in the fridge.

Spread a little beurre de bretagne (or any other salted butter) on the crepe, then fold it over twice to form a triangle. You could also eat these crepes/galettes with any savory filling such as ratatouille, diced/slices of smoked chicken or ham, sliced tomato and cheese (grated emmenthal or slices of mozarella) etc.

Eat them while they are still quite hot, if you can. They taste best that way, IMO.

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First among equals -Potato and Peas Poha

I should probably create a special category for  the recipes of the things that the girls like  most and are happy to eat as often as I’ll make them, such as varan, upma, grilled salmon with pesto, any fish baked with a provencal marinade (made of oil, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs) etc.

And poha surely would be the first among those equals.

This is another dish that I learned to cook from my mother-in-law.

Indira, especially, loves it like she does nothing else. So today, when I wanted to persuade Indira to come home for lunch (Noor was going to eat with me anyway, because she has a bad cold and I wanted her to stay at home after lunch to have a nap) because I was worried she would not eat well in the school cantine due to an aching tooth and a mouth ulcer, I suggested that I could make poha. She was quick to agree after that !

With a very few modifications – such as the addition of ginger – the recipe that follows is faithful to Ma’s.

It is food that soothes the soul 🙂

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Potato and Peas Poha

3 big handfuls of poha, washed under cold running water and left to drain in a colander for about 15-25 minutes

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced very fine (alternatively, you could use potatoes that have been boiled till soft)

2 medium sized onions, chopped very fine

1/2 to 3/4 cup of shelled, frozen peas

a handful of fresh green coriander, chopped fine

1/2 or 1 tsp of grated ginger

salt to taste

3/4 tsp of turmeric powder

1 tsp of mustard seeds

5-6 curry leaves

In a large frying pan, heat 4-5 tablespoons of oil, then add the mustard seeds. When these start to crackle, add the curry leaves and fry these for a few seconds. Now add the potatoes, reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook the potatoes till they are a little more than half done.

Add the onions, and fry with the potatoes till they are very soft and translucent. Now add the grated ginger and peas, and cook for some more time till the peas appear cooked. Add the poha (after sprinkling a little water on it, and salt) and stir everything together. Cover the pan and leave to cook till the poha is quite soft, uncovering the pan periodically (you will need to do this 3-5 times before the poha is soft enough) to sprinkle a little water over the poha and turning it over well so that it cooks evenly.

Stir in the coriander, and eat it while it is still hot.

This is a basic poha, and tastes wonderful with some plain yoghurt and pickle. Different cooks make it and serve it in many other ways, such as adding other vegetables, serving it with a little sev,  lime juice and/or sugar, etc.

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And we are finally making Crepes!

Indira and Noor have always enjoyed crepes. They like both the sweet sort, filled with Nutella or some confiture, as well as the savory kind (usually made with buckwheat) that we ate last month in Valberg, when we went up to the mountains to do some snow sledding on Noor’s birthday. That day Shri had just the plain – but awesome – buckwheat crepes that come with a generous dollop of beurre de bretagne, and the girls and I had them with a really satisfying topping of ham and some cheese.

Ever since, I have thought that I must try and make crepes at home, since we all enjoy them so much, though so far I have only ever bought the packaged, sweet variety from supermarkets for the girls’ gouter.

First, a little background on crepes. They are very think pancakes, made of a variety of flours, and can be both sweet or savory. Crepes are native to the region of Brittany, in northwestern France, where they are traditionally made with  buckwheat flour and served with cider. The interesting thing about buckwheat is that it is not a variety of wheat; in fact it is not a cereal at all. It is classified as a “pseudocereal” – it is a broadleaf plant and not a grass (true cereals are grasses). Buckwheat – called sarrasin in French – is gluten-free and a rich source of proteins and iron.

And as it has turned out, crepes are just wonderfully easy and quick to make. What’s more, the substitution of whole wheat  for plain flour doesn’t make a discernible difference to the taste. I was quite relieved to see that the girls ate the ones I made today with whole wheat flour with as much enthusiasm as they did the one I made last week with white flour.

Noor and I shared one today with a filling of a little bit of a salmon spread that we both like, instead of Nutella, and that was very nice too. So I am now planning to go the whole hog and make the savory kind one day for dinner, with sarrasin flour.

This recipe, based on the one in Linda Doeser’s “Les 100 Meilleures Recettes – Cuisine Vegetarienne” is, to borrow a phrase from Indira and her friends, easy peasy lemon squeezy 🙂

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Whole wheat Crepes

115-120 gms of whole wheat flour, with 1/4 tsp of salt added in (if you have time, sift these two together)

300 ml of milk ( either whole cream or half-fat)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon of sunflower oil

In a mixing bowl, stir in half the milk and the egg in to the flour till the batter is quite smooth. Add the rest of the milk, and the oil, and mix till well combined.

Ideally, leave the batter to rest for 30-60 minutes.

Heat a medium-sized crepe pan till it is very hot. Put a little knob of butter on the pan, and quickly spread it over the surface of the pan with a kitchen towel. Now lift the pan off the heat, pour 1/3 a small cup of batter on to the pan, and quickly bend and turn the pan every which way till the batter covers the entire surface of the pan. Put the pan back on the hob, turn the heat down just a little, and cook till the top of the crepe appears to be dry. Flip it over with a spatula, and cook the other side for 1/2 a minute or so, lifting every few seconds towards the end to check if it is done.

Repeat the process with the rest of the batter. Try not to keep the crepes one on top of the other as they can get difficult to separate.

(Crepes can be cooked in an oven too; more about that another time)

Keep each prepared crepe on a large surface and when it is a little cool, spread any sweet or savory filling over one half, then fold the crepe over twice to form a triangle.

Et voila ! That is all it takes to create a  great snack, or with some salad on the side, a very nice meal.

Read all about crepes here http://www.epicurean.com/articles/crepes.html and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cr%C3%AApe

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Moong Sprouts Chaat

Our lunch today started as a little holiday experiment.

The girls have done some planting in school on more than one occasion, but it isn’t something I have done with them at home.

But there is this book Indira has which she likes to read with me, called “Flowers and Trees” which discusses things like “Do plants eat?”, “Why do we pull out weeds?” , the basics of pollination and so on. So one night a few days ago while we  were reading that book again I suggested that we could try and sprout mung beans, to see how things grow.

The girls literally jumped at the idea, since this offered an opportunity to get out of bed and delay lights-off time.

So we soaked 1 cup of whole, green moong that night in a lot of water. The next morning I drained the water, put the beans in a large, thin tea towel, tied it up in to a bundle, and put it inside the oven, since the idea, I thought, is to keep the beans in a dark place.

[The process I followed this time is the one I remember my father-in-law used to sprout moong once when I was visiting. But then I came across this site today-http://www.sproutpeople.com/grow/sprouting.html – which recommends that seeds need to be allowed to breathe; so I am going to try making sprouts again by leaving the beans in an open but cool area. Another site I also found today which offers a simple guide to sprouting is http://www.wisebread.com/scrumptious-sprouting-for-your-meals ]

It was Monday night when we soaked the beans. And today, Thursday, is  when we finally had chaat, for lunch, that we made with the sprouted beans, using the recipe I got on the phone this morning from my mother. The girls have quite enjoyed opening the bundle every night these past 3 days, to check if the beans were sprouting as expected, helping me sprinkle water on the cloth and then retying the bundle before putting it back in to the oven.

The chaat itself has been a reasonable success. Noor says she likes it; Indira says she loves it.  But I suspect that might be more because she feels this is their project, so to say. She hung around with me in the kitchen this morning, watching with great interest while I prepared the other ingredients for the chaat, and kept a keen eye on things in general (she pointed out that the beans might start sticking to the bottom of the pan soon, when she saw me forgetting to stir them as they cooked because I was talking to a friend on the phone at the same time).

Either way, I am glad they have taken to something that is so nutritious and low-fat.

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Moong Sprouts Chaat

Sprouted beans (grown with 1 cup of dry mung beans)

2 medium sized potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced in to small pieces

a 3 or 4 inch long chunk of cucumber, peeled and chopped fine

2 firm, small tomatoes, diced in to small pieces

1 large onion or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped fine

salt, chaat masala powder, red chilli powder (I use the Kashmiri kind, in deference to the girls’ taste buds) and lime juice to taste

2 green chillies (optional), chopped fine

2 tbsp of sunflower oil

1 tsp of cumin seeds

1 tsp of grated ginger

some green coriander, chopped fine

In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the jeera seeds for a few seconds till their aroma is released. Add the ginger and saute for a few seconds. Then put the beans in and fry them in the oil for  for a few minutes without covering the pan. Then add some  water (about 1 cup or a little more ), cover the pan and cook the beans on low heat till they are quite soft ( they could be cooked in a pressure-cooker too, using a lot less water).

In a large mixing or salad bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, then add the cooked beans after they have cooled and toss everything together well.

This was a great change from the usual salad/pasta/parantha-subzi kind of lunch. The girls really enjoyed it with plain yoghurt and some buttered toast on the side. I guess one could use the chaat to make a kind of roll or wrap, with phulkas or tortillas, too.

I believe there are endless variations to this basic chaat theme ; one could mix different chutneys, yoghurt, and add other ingredients and spices to the sprouts,  and the sprouts themselves could be of any of a variety of beans.

And I seem to remember a delicious  dahi-puri I have eaten in restaurants in Mumbai which involves filling a mung sprouts-based mix in to golgappas.

I am looking forward to trying my hand at that one in particular !

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Tomato,Mozzarella(or avocado), and Pesto Sandwich

There is a wonderful Mediterranean salad, which brings together tomatoes, mozzarella, and either fresh basil or pesto. The result is an incredibly fresh and flavorful dish.

Sandwiches and paninis that combine these ingredients are common in boulangeries here, and I often make variations of that theme.

This is the sandwich that Shri feels he could eat every day for lunch.  Noor loves it too, and I make a much smaller version of it for her sometimes.

Indira doesn’t like the taste of mozzarella – unless it comes to her all melted on top of a pizza or inside the Aubergine Parmigianna in which case she loves it – so she likes me to skip that bit when I make this sandwich for her, though she loves avocado in it.  But I think the combination of mozzarella and pesto is what makes it so special for the rest of us.

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Tomato,Mozzarella, and Pesto Sandwich

Half of a multi-grain baguette , or olive bread

1/2 of a medium sized tomato, cut in to thin slices

1/4 or 1/8 of an avocado (optional), thinly sliced

50 gms of mozzarella(drained weight), cut in to thin slices

some salad leaves

2 tsp of pesto

Slit the baguette along the length on one side, without cutting through the other side.  Sprinkle a tiny amount of olive oil on both surfaces.

Layer the leaves over the lower half, then follow that with the tomato slices, the cheese slices and the avocado slices. Spread the pesto next, then close the sandwich and wrap tightly in cling film.

Ideally, make this an hour before eating, and all the flavors will come together beautifully.

One could season the filling with some salt, but I tend to think that there are so many lovely flavors here, one would surely not miss the salt; so I skip it.

This sandwich is especially nice if made with olive bread.

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Mung Crepes aka Moong Dosas aka Pesarattu

I make these sometimes when I have a friend over for breakfast – a great way to start the day once the kids are in school ! –  and this is how I explain the dosa – as an Indian crepe.  And I do in fact use a crepe pan to make the dosas, so this is just one of those recipes that very easily straddles both  worlds !

In southern India, I believe these dosas are called pesarattu.

Mung Crepes aka Moong Dosas

1 cup of whole or split moong daal/ mung beans (whole or split green gram lentils), plus 7-8 fenugreek seeds, soaked overnight in lots of water

1/2 a cup of basmati rice (this is optional but makes the dosas crisper, IMO)

1 and 1/2 tsp of grated ginger

salt to taste

1/2 a tbsp or so of sunflower oil per crepe/dosa, to fry

Drain the beans, then grind them in a food processor adding a few tablespoons of water at a time. Grind the rice too, separately, and mix with the beans batter.

The batter should be neither too thick and pasty, nor too runny.

Add the salt and the ginger and mix in well.

Heat the crepe pan till it is quite hot. Now turn the heat down to a medium hot setting, then pour 2-3 tablespoons worth of batter on to the pan with a large serving spoon and spread quickly and evenly with the back of the spoon.

Turn the heat up a little bit (though not to a full setting), and cover the pan with the lid of any cooking pot till the top portion of the crepe begins to look dry rather than wet (this will take less than a minute).

Spread 1/2 a tbsp of oil evenly over the surface of the crepe, cover again and cook for another 1/2 a minute or so. Then, using a spatula with a very thin edge which can be slid under the crepe, turn it over (if the crepe is well made, it will have a lovely crispy, brown look by now) and cook it for say 1/2 a minute. Turn it over again, fold it in half, and remove it on to the serving plate.

Turn the heat down again before pouring and spreading the batter for the next crepe, then turn it up again to cook.

In between every two or three crepes that one makes, it helps to clean the surface of the pan with the exposed portion of an onion cut in half  (I enjoy staying with this traditional method though one could use kitchen towels instead)

With a potato filling that is spiced with mustard seeds and curry leaves, and coconut chutney, this makes for a great breakfast.

The girls absolutely love these dosas – or pesarattu, and I plan to make them for breakfast or lunch one day during the school holidays that will begin this weekend, so I will take the pictures for this post then.

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Dhokla – A very quick recipe

I have never been able to make good idlis, and so  had never tried to make dhokla either, since typically that would use the same technique of steaming, which I never had much success with.

Until, that is, my friend Pooja gave me this recipe a couple of weeks ago for making dhokla in the microwave. The preparation time is only about 5 minutes, and the cooking time is only about that as well.

The results were good enough that I have made dhokla more than once since and the girls have really taken to it which is great.

Dhokla

Besan (chickpea flour) 1 cup ( or a mixture of besan and suji i.e. semolina in equal or varying proportions)

125 ml of whisked yogurt

some (about 1/4 cup) water

3/4 tsp of grated ginger

1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

2  tbsp of sunflower oil

lemon juice – 1 tbsp

Eno fruit salt – 1 tsp

salt to taste

1/2 tsp of mustard seeds and 4-5 curry leaves (chopped) for tempering

1  tbsp grated (fresh or desiccated) coconut and 2 tsp of chopped green coriander for garnish

Mix the yogurt, the water, the salt, the ginger , the oil and the turmeric powder in to the besan till the batter has a smooth consistency that is easy to pour(but not too runny). Stir in the fruit salt at the end, and pour the mixture immediately in to a microwave bowl after oiling its sides lightly.

Cover the bowl with an airtight lid and cook the mixture for about 4-5 minutes (at about an 800 W setting).  Check, by inserting a knife in the middle if the dhokla is done else cook for another minute. Leave the bowl in the microwave for half a minute before taking it out.

In a small pan, heat a tbsp of oil, then add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves and fry till the mustard seeds crackle. Pour this mixture over the dhokla, spread the coconut and coriander evenly,  then cut the dhokla after a few minutes in to pieces as big or small as you like.

With some coriander chutney, this is just a delicious treat.

Thank you, Pooja !!


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A quick lunch for two – Salmon Salad

It was just Noor and me at home yesterday for lunch. She loves baguette and we had picked up one from the boulangerie when we walked back home from school just before noon.

So I decided that I’d make some salad for lunch, to eat with the baguette, with fruit yoghurt to serve as dessert.

Luckily I had cherry tomatoes in the fridge, and canned salmon and sweetcorn in the kitchen cupboard. Noor LOVES each of those things, so I knew she’d approve of the salad, even though I was planning to sneak in some green beans. This is how I made it.

Salmon Salad

(serves 3-4)

1 150g can of salmon, packed in water

1 150g can of sweetcorn

100-150 g of fresh/frozen green beans, cut/snapped into1 inch pieces

150-200g cherry tomatoes

1 or 1 and a 1/2 tsp dried basil

2-3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp of lime juice (add more, or less, if you like)

Cut the tomatoes in to halves and put in a salad bowl. Sprinkle the basil on top and add the olive oil.

Mix these 3 ingredients together gently and leave for some time, say 30 minutes (this is the key to making a really tasty salad if you are using tomatoes and olive oil. The flavors of these two things mingle to produce the most divine taste there is, and you really have to give it time for it to develop).

In the meanwhile, steam the green beans and allow them to cool. Drain the salmon and break up the meat with a fork. Now add the beans, the corn, and the salmon to the tomatoes, season with sea salt, add the lime juice, and toss everything together.

Serve roasted potatoes on the side, for a more filling meal.

Bon appetit !

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Pasta Salad with Pesto-Easy Dinner for a Summer Evening

It has been so hot this year – or may be I forget from one July to the next how bad it can get – that my usual enthusiasm/willingness to cook has deserted me more often these past few weeks than I can remember it happening before.

But the family has to be fed; so I decided one evening recently to combine everyone favorite ingredients – that’s cherry tomatoes for Noor and me, corn for Indira and Noor and Shri, pasta and pesto for everyone(most of all Indira) -plus some beans and grated carrots for the nutrition quotient, to make this pasta salad. Now that sure was a very quick and easy dinner ! Here’s what I did :

Pasta with Vegetables and Pesto

Pasta (any short shape) – 150 grams

Carrots – 3 medium sized

Frozen beans – 3/4 cup

Sweet Corn – a 125 gram tin

Cherry tomatoes – 150 – 200 grams

3 tablespoons of readymade pesto sauce

(look for brands that make the pesto with pine nuts, and not cashewnuts, which is the more commonly used ingredient in most commercially available pesto)

Snap the frozen beans in to 1 inch pieces and steam them till they are cooked.

(One way to do this is to place the steamer, with the beans in it,over the pan in which you will boil the pasta, so that both get done at the same time)

Boil 1-1.5 litres of water in a kettle, then transfer to a large pan. Add 1/2 tsp salt and a few drops of any cooking oil, and bring it to a boil again. Add the pasta and leave it to cook, stirring it occasionally.

In the meanwhile chop the cherry tomatoes in to halves and put these in a large salad bowl.

Add the corn to the tomatoes, after draining all the liquid in which it was packed.

Peel,wash, and grate the carrots in a food processor, then add these as well to the corn and the tomatoes.

Once the beans are steamed, leave them to cool for a bit, then mix with the other vegetables along with a sprinkling of salt and the pesto.

Once the pasta is cooked, allow it to cool for a few minutes (pasta that is too hot would make the tomatoes go a little soft) then toss it will the other ingredients in the bowl.

This salad works equally well with a different dressing. Combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1/2 a teaspoon of dried basil. Mix this dressing in to the vegetables instead of the pesto.

It is a good idea to make this salad at least an hour before you are ready to eat, since this allows the pasta to soak in all the flavors.

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A Taste of Provence- Vegetable Soup with Pistou

This morning, I was standing in front of the refrigerator, wondering which vegetable to “sort” for the day.

(Note – “Sort” does not mean “to sort out”. It means “to take out”. This is how living in France for 9 years has ruined my English, without making my French fluent. For some years now, I have found myself often thinking in a  melange of the two languages. Oh well…)

I wanted to cook dinner during the morning, since later this afternoon I had to go first to Noor’s playschool for the end of year “spectacle” (I can no longer instantly recall the equivalent word in English ), then to Indira’s to help at one of the games’ booths, part of their end of the year show. And I knew that there would be almost instant demands for dinner on getting back home at around 7pm.

I also wanted to achieve two other objectives – cook something simple, since I wanted to spend some part of the morning cooking ahead for a dinner at our place tomorrow evening, to which we have invited 3 families.

And I wanted to make sure the girls got a good portion of vegetables tonight, since I know from past experience that at these school fetes (hey !! that’s the word, isn’t it !) what they typically enjoy eating is barbecued/grilled sausages,cake, and les frites(french fries).

Luckily I saw that I had everything I needed for my variation of  a very flavorful provencal vegetable soup called soupe au pistou, so this is what I made today.

The pistou (available bottled though the fresh paste – made by crushing fresh basil,olive oil, and garlic- is better) is optional, though of course this paste is what the soup derives its name from. My daughters certainly prefer it with a little pistou or pesto -the Italian version of pistou, this paste has pine nuts and parmesan cheese added to the other ingredients – stirred in.

But either way it is full of flavor, light, and wholesome.

Vegetable Soup with Pistou

(Enough for 6-8 adults)

Two leeks, tough portions chopped off

I medium sized courgette(you can substitute green beans,chopped in to half inch pieces, for courgette)

2 small turnips

4-5 tbsp of olive oil

4 carrots

4 tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic

100 gms of vermicelli or any other small wholewheat pasta shape(optional)

1. Remove the tough outer layers of the leeks, and then chop them fine.

2. Peel and chop the carrots in to thin half moons

3. Peel and dice the turnip.

4. Was the courgette thoroughly and dice it without peeling it. This adds to the color of the soup plus I tend to think this keeps more of the nutrition in.

5. Chop the tomotoes into chunks that are neither too large nor too small.

6. Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, then sweat the leeks and the garlic on a low heat, taking care not to let either brown at all. After 5 minutes, add the carrots and the turnip, and cook together with the leeks and garlic mixture for about 15 minutes (keep the pan covered so that the vegetables soften in the steam) making sure to stir regularly so that the vegetables don’t burn. If you are using beans instead of curgette, you should add those with the carrots and turnips.

Next,add the courgette and cook everything together again for 5-10 minutes, till the courgette starts to soften. In the meanwhile, boil  approx 1 litre of water in the kettle.

Now add the tomatoes, cook everything in the pan together for 5 minutes, season with salt and black pepper, add the boiled water, put the lid on again, and leave the whole mixture to cook till the vegetables are as soft as you’d like them – 30 minutes to 1 hour. if you want to add pasta to this soup,  add it 10-15 minutes before you are ready to take the soup off the heat, so that it is cooked by the time the soup is done.

This soup develops more flavor if it’s left to sit, after it’s been cooked. That’s another reason I like to cook it ahead.

When everyone is ready to eat, serve some pistou or pesto on the side. Just 1/2 a teaspoon-add more if you like – really adds to this soup’s appeal for a lot of people – and indeed this is the classical way it is eaten in Provence. But I personally enjoy this soup without either paste added to it, since the soup already has a wonderful, delicate taste of it’s own, due to all the vegetables.

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