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.

Diva Green’s Pumpkin & Coconut Soup

I am having a little affair with vegetarian food. Over the last 6 months, I’ve been losing interest in meat and poultry. Seafood I’m still pretty excited by, but for some reason, when there is meat or chicken on the table, I have scant portions or none at all. I’m much happier when a meal is vegetarian. In the kitchen, I’ve been deviating from the standard dal-roti-sabzi and rice+sambar+thoran routine and making stuff that is out of my comfort zone, keeping vegetables at the center of the plate. And I must credit this flurry of vegetarian cooking to Ritu Dalmia’s cookbook, Diva Green.

I know, I know what you are going to tell me- Ottolenghi’s books are a must-have for anyone who is interested in vegetarian cooking. And I’m going to get one soon, I promise. (Ummm…which one first? Ottolenghi, Jerusalem or Plenty?)

image courtesy | thecityguide.in

image courtesy | thecityguide.in

Anyhow, I came across Diva Green while I was rabbit-holing through cookbooks on Amazon. I enjoy Ritu Dalmia’s TV shows and her cooking style, but I was not sure whether to pick it up. Plus, Amazon didn’t have a preview for the book, so I couldn’t even browse inside. I added the book to my wishlist and let it be. Then I found a copy at Landmark bookstore, and I sat down with it. The book opened onto a recipe for Burmese Tomato Salad as I placed it in my lap- and I was hooked. I just fell in love with the diversity- Italian and Vietnamese; dishes from Kerala and Karnataka;  desserts ranging from baked cheesecake to Bavarian knodel.

I’ve cooked many recipes from this book, and each one of them has been a success. I tweaked a little here and there, substituting some ingredients, but overall, this is  a neat cookbook with a wide range of recipes. Familiar dishes like kadi and desi potato fry get a refined flavour-boost thanks to her techniques, and you may discover some dishes you hadn’t heard of before, like Burmese Tomato Salad and Plecing Kankung (spinach with sambal.)

The one I’m sharing today is a Vietnamese soup, made with pumpkin and coconut milk. It’s rich and creamy without being heavy, and pretty healthy too! I’ve tried my hand at pumpkin soup before, and it came out slightly bland and a little too rich, thanks to cream taking the place of coconut milk. In this soup, the seasoning is uncomplicated- just salt and pepper- but the boiled peanuts add a distinct Southeast Asian flavour, and  make it more fun to eat, too. (Plus: protein!)

Ritu Dalmia's pumpkin and coconut soup

Ritu Dalmia’s pumpkin and coconut soup

This is a simple soup recipe that is low on effort and ingredients required, but high on flavour.

PUMPKIN & COCONUT SOUP (From Diva Green)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kilogram pumpkin, de-seeded, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup shelled peanuts
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper to season

METHOD

  • Parboil the pumpkin in salted water till tender. Drain and set aside. Keep the water to be used later in the soup.
  • In another pot, boil the peanuts in salted water till tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the bay leaf, onions and garlic and sautee for a few minutes.
  • Add the partially cooked pumpkin pieces and cook for a few minutes. Then add half the boiled peanuts.
  • Next, take the bayleaf out of the pan and discard.
  • Puree the pumpkin+onion+garlic+peanut mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour this mixture into a large pot, add the coconut milk, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat. Add as much of the pumpkin water as needed to give it a soupy consistency.
  • Add the remaining boiled peanuts.
  • Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve!

Quick, Light Dinner On A Busy Day: Kidney Bean Soup | Vegan Soup Recipe

For the past 3 weeks my husband and I have been on an experimental regimen. Oatmeal or smoothies for breakfast, regular lunch and lighter dinners, usually salad/soup/stir fry/baked fish and chicken. We decided to keep all the heavy-duty eating for the weekend, and stick to simpler stuff during the week.

Ok I’ll stop trying to fluff it up, basically both of us realized we were spending too much time gorging in front of the TV and now we’re getting our act together, exercising regularly and eating better.

I have been using lentils and beans as a base for salad and soup, and kidney beans are great for soup because of their velvety texture. I am a sucker for rajma-chawal, and sometimes I have rajma from a bowl, just like soup, with some grated cheese on top. But since the purpose was to eat kidney beans in a healthier fashion, I made a soup, pairing the beans with vegetables and less spice.

This is one of those recipes I just made on the fly, combining whatever vegetables I had on hand and using very few spices- just cumin and paprika. Cumin for that nutty flavour and paprika for heat.

If you do some weekend prep and cook your kidney beans ahead, this is a simple meal you can get home and make after work on a weekday. Just throw everything in and let it simmer; by the time you unwind and freshen up it’s done!

A little grated cheese on top = wonderful.
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KIDNEY BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup kidney beans, cooked and drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika powder (optional)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  •  1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 700 ml vegetable stock (if you don’t want to keep it vegan use chicken or beef stock)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

METHOD

  • Heat the oil in a large pot. When oil becomes hot, add the garlic and allow it to soften a little.
  • Next, add the cumin and paprika powder and stir gently till the raw smell of the cumin powder disappears.
  • Now add the diced veggies and sweat them out a little, 2-3 minutes, allowing them to release their aroma and soften.
  • Add the kidney beans and stir fry for a minute or two.
  • Add the stock, season with salt and pepper and turn the heat to medium-low; simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through to your liking.

How do you like preparing kidney beans?