Roasted Tomato & Lentil Soup

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I’ll admit I have a short temper. Sometimes it’s with an applicance that doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s triggered by muddy shoe tracks around the house. Sometimes by my son, who is being his 3-yr-old self but making a mess and racket while doing so. I try to work on it as much as I can- but there are times when I blow my fuse.

Cooking and being in the kitchen, however, makes me forget whatever it was that made me angry. I’m happy to toss a salad. Shake some vinaigrette together. Chop some onions into half-moons, dice tomatoes and slice cucumbers. And if my son has been punished, then a snack is what is produced as a peace offering.

Happy as I am to prep, chop, cook and stir, there are days when I take the lazy route- that is, cooking without having to stand over the stove for too long. For me, lazy cooking is about chopping some vegetables, roasting them in the oven, and tossing them with pasta, creating a salad, or blitzing everything into a soup.

The great thing about roasting veggies in the oven is that the oven does all the work for you…the natural sugars come alive, the juices come out and the vegetables just dress themselves, absorbing all the lovely flavours of the herbs and oil.

 

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If you think garlic sautéing in butter/olive oil is one of the nicest (savoury) aromas, think again. Tomatoes and peppers roasting in the oven with rosemary is an aroma that can make any stomach growl. Ever since I tried Clara’s blistered cherry tomatoes, I’ve had a weakness for roasting tomatoes in the oven- big and small. I agree, cherry tomatoes look prettier when roasted and paired with pasta or a topping for a tartine, but when you are roasting tomatoes for a soup, it doesn’t matter. I also found these red chillies in the market earlier this week, and was a little undecided about what to do with them.

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Anita suggested pickling them, which I intend to do, but I was impatient to get cooking with them, so I slit, de-veined and de-seeded them, tossed them with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, thyme and crushed pepper, and put everything in a 200 degree oven for 40 minutes, with a gentle toss and massage after 20 mins.

Once done, I blitzed everything in a blender with a little water, and added the mix to a pot of simmering lentils- dinner is done.

ROASTED TOMATO & LENTIL SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 2 medium red chilli peppers, halved, deveined and de-seeded
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, fresh or dried
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup red lentils or husked masoor dal
  • Water for boiling

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 200 C.
  • Place the tomatoes, peppers and garlic in a roasting tray/baking dish and toss with the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper till well coated.
  • Place in the oven for 40 minutes, checking on them after 20 mins and giving everything a quick toss.
  • Once cool, place everything in a blender and blend, adding a little water, till smooth.
  • Place lentils in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Simmer on medium-low heat until lentils are tender, skimming off the foam at the top periodically. Once the lentils are tender, add in the tomato-pepper puree and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more. Add more water or vegetable stock if necessary.
  • Season with more salt and pepper if you wish, and drizzle some olive oil over the top before serving.

Lentil, Kale & Egg Bake

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So this dish is a twist on shakshuka, that beautifully spiced North African dish of eggs baked in a spicy, sticky tomato-pepper sauce.

It came about because I had bits of vegetables and odds & ends lying around in my fridge- and I am unapologetic about combining the most random elements to create a dish, if it suits me.

♥ “But can you put lentils in shakshuka?”

   “It’s shakshuka-inspired. It’s a lentil bake.”

 

♥ “Can you actually bake kale?”

   “Sure…just wilt it in and pop it in the oven.”

 

♥ “But isn’t this supposed to be for breakfast?”

   “Naaah…eggs & kale work anytime, anytime.”

 

So I had one carrot. One small bunch of kale. A wrinkly red red pepper. Some tomatoes. Half a dozen eggs. And an almost-empty jar of green mung dal. I decided to toss everything together, crack some eggs on top and put it all in the oven. Minimal effort, fewer dishes to wash, and an all-in-one meal.

I think hotchpotch-meal creation is genetic. It comes from my maternal grandmother. Just nonchalantly tossing things together (which you normally wouldn’t,) and making a meal of it. My grandmom would put things in front of us, combinations which we weren’t used to, and if we questioned the meal, she’d just say “of course you can add ___ to sambhar!” without batting an eyelid. The ___ in question could be something like cauliflower, which really isn’t added to sambhar, but if there was an odd end of it lying around, it would go in.

And for this bake, whatever little I had in my fridge was thrown in. (Ok, gently sautéed and wilted in.) I cooked the green mung dal beforehand of course, (in a pressure cooker,) because they can take a while to get tender.

LENTIL, KALE AND EGG BAKE (With inspiration from NYT Cooking and Serious Eats.)

INGREDIENTS

  • Cooked lentils, 1 cup (I used green mung, but red lentils, puy lentils or beluga lentils would work just as well. Just remember cooking times for each vary.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne/chilli flakes
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup kale, shredded
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • Feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  • In a largish skillet or pot, heat the olive oil on medium-to low. Add the garlic, lightly sautee, then add the tomatoes and allow them to soften. Add the spices and sautee till the raw smell of the spices disappears- the oil will start to separate a little at this point. Add the carrots and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook for 10 minutes until the mixture begins to break down and soften. Add the lentils and wilt in the kale, cover and simmer till the mixture thickens.
  • Next, take the mixture off the heat and transfer to an oven-proof baking dish, or you could use the same skillet if it’s oven proof. Make gentle wells in the mixture with the back of a spoon and crack the eggs in. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Crumble some goat’s cheese or feta over the top, and bake at 180 C for 15 minutes or until eggs are cooked and the yolks are set to your liking. I don’t like runny yolks, so I kept my dish in the oven for a while longer.

Brown Rice Noodles With Ginger Scallion Broth

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I love reading about food trends, and if there’s one that is definitely going to be big in 2015, it’s broth. Everyone from Joy The Baker to The New York Times to The Guardian have called it, and broth is becoming a trendy alternative pick-me-up to coffee.

I began to read voraciously about broth after reading about Hemsley +Hemsley in Goop and The Coveteur. I’ve been following the Hemsley sisters’ work obsessively online for the past month or so, and since broth forms the basis of many of their recipes, I figured I’d give it a try.

I’ll admit, I’m the queen of the stock cube. Whether it’s soup or pasta sauce, I reach for stock cubes and throw them in- they are convenient and give a quick taste-boost. It’s not that I haven’t made my own stock before- I have, but stock cubes are just more convenient. And who’s going to save fish, chicken and mutton bones anyway?

When I buy fish, I almost always get it filleted so that I can use it for curries, pan-frying or preparing en papillote. Chicken is either boneless, drumsticks or a curry-cut; I rarely roast one whole. Boneless strips are stir-fried. Drumsticks are turned into a Kerala-style chicken fry; and a curry-cut becomes an easy one-pot chicken curry to go with rice or rotis. So chicken bones are just discarded. Mutton too, is made into a curry and we end up chucking the bones after we finish our meal.

Anyhow. After reading so much about home-made stock or broth, I had to give it a try. I made a bean-and-kale soup the other day, and instead of using a stock cube, I made my own stock with some aromats (onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, garlic, ginger,) and a handful of bony mutton pieces. Not bones, but small bony pieces. I put everything into a ceramic dutch oven, poured some cold water over it and allowed it to simmer for 2 hours. I then strained the liquid and went on preparing the rest of the soup, adding tomato puree, beans, vegetables, herbs and kale.

A stock cube is definitely easier, and the flavour is stronger- and saltier. The homemade stock, however, had a much more well-rounded flavour, though subtler.

For broth as a meal, I thought I’d take small steps, and zeroed in on a simple recipe from It’s All Good. Ginger-scallion broth with soba noodles.

Broth experiments. #Ginger #scallion broth from @turshen and gwyneth platrow's #itsallgood.

A photo posted by Meenakshi S Nair (@meenaxis) on

I replaced the soba noodles with some quick-cooking brown rice noodles, and I prepared it without the seaweed. Still really, really good. The slow simmer really brings out the flavour and kick of the ginger, and it makes for a light, soothing and flavourful meal-in-a-bowl. I topped the noodle broth with stir fried vegetables, but chicken, seafood, meat or tofu would work just as well.

New favourite recipe #itsallgood #goop #broth #foodtrends2015 #ginger

A photo posted by Meenakshi S Nair (@meenaxis) on

BROWN RICE NOODLES WITH GINGER SCALLION BROTH (Adapted from It’s All Good)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, crushed
  • 8-10 green peppercorns (optional)
  • 8 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 2 more scallions, sliced thinly, to serve
  • A handful of mint and coriander leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 250 grams brown rice vermicelli (You could also use regular white vermicelli. Use Thai vermicelli, not the semia that is used for kheer and sweets- that gets too sticky.)

METHOD

  • Combine the ginger, scallions and soy sauce with 3 cups of cold water and bring to a boil. Once the liquid boils, lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add some mint leaves and cilantro, cover with a lid and allow the broth to rest for 5-7 minutes. Strain the liquid and set aside, covered.
  • Meanwhile, cook the brown rice vermicelli according to package instructions, drain and set aside. Divide the noodles evenly between 4 bowls, ladle the broth over it, and top with the thinly sliced scallions.  Add some stir-fried veggies/chicken/meat/tofu to make it a full meal!