New Year party preparations are in full swing in our house. There will be plenty of cooking happening over the next couple of days as we say farewell to this year and welcome in 2014.
In the process of making a couple of spectacular dinners, we are happy to cut cost and go the homemade route if it means not compromising on quality or even enjoying better quality.
Tahini is one such example. While we need some for one of our recipes, I didn’t see the point of spending money on a whole jar which is imported and therefore expensive in a silly way. So, I looked up a few recipes on the internet for homemade tahini and this is my result.
easy, wholesome, pocket friendly and tastes as good as ready made
In fact, this is so good that now I wish I had made it sooner!
One tablespoon Laura Santini Taste #5 Umami Paste (optional)*
One tablespoon crumbly, piquant cheese (I used Manchego)
Salt to taste
First, we need to “marinade” the salad base. Add salad dressing to the boiled kidney beans and finely chopped onions. Cover tightly and keep for 4 to 5 hours. Do this in advance so that the flavours develop.
When you are ready to prepare the salad, wash and chop the courgette and yellow pepper in medium sized chunks.
Heat oil, add the courgette and pepper chunks along with a bit of salt, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Throw in the chopped parsley and seasoning of choice. Mix well, cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. By the end of this cooking time, the vegetables should be cooked but still have a bite to them. You don’t want them too soft or mushy.
Leave them covered while you prepare the couscous according to instructions on the packet.
Now add the vegetables, couscous, toasted seeds and crumbly cheese to the onion and kidney bean mixture.
Mix well and serve.
Cook the couscous according to packet instructions. You can add a stock cube to the boiling water for a bit of flavour if you like. I didn’t because I had boiled the kidney beans in chicken stock.
You can use plain olive oil or flavoured oil to cook the vegetables.
The choice of seasoning is entirely yours. I used umami paste since I thought it would go well with the other Mediterranean flavours.
a few drops of hot sauce over the salad takes it to another level
Let me start off this post with a disclaimer: I have nothing against rice. In fact, I like rice in all shapes and form although I rarely eat it. In my quest for a healthy and nutritious diet, I try to replace rice with other grains wherever possible.
today’s recipe is a tale of two idlis which met by chance in one cooking session
Having successfully made rice-free jowar (sorghum) idlis in the past, for this recipe, I thought of experimenting with two other types of millet grains: pearl (bajra) and finger (ragi).
a successful experiment which demonstrates that it is possible to make idlis without rice
Another fortuitous discovery I made while making these is masala idli.
While the first round of idlis were merrily steaming away, I suddenly remembered that I had some shelled peas and mixed sprouts lying around in the refrigerator. I thought of adding these along with some freshly grated turmeric and green chilli-ginger paste to the second round of idlis.
Both types taste equally good. They are soft like conventional idlis although not as fluffy (absence of rice I imagine).
Following the Christmas indulgence, last night I fancied a simple soup dinner.
say hello to another fat free recipe from my kooky imagination
The original plan was to make a soup based solely around red cabbage, a vegetable I want to eat more of. However, I was cooking for two and could only manage to get a small head of the cabbage so decided to add carrots and peas, which are currently in season.
I have read somewhere that in order to retain its original colour, you should add vinegar or lemon juice when cooking red cabbage. I didn’t do this and so it turned blue as you can see in the photo on the right.
Since I wanted to avoid oil or butter, I decided to follow the sweating-the-onions-in-salt method I had adopted in my Fat Free Four ‘C’s Soup. This time round, the only difference was that I let the onions cook for longer till they turned brown.
The onions and peas provide a nice contrasting texture in each spoonful of this creamy soup. Surprisingly, it is very filling.
The following provides two hearty servings.
1 Head small red cabbage
250 Grams Carrots
1 Cup shelled peas
3 – 4 Onions
Vegetable or chicken stock cube
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
First, we need to prepare the onions. Peel, wash and finely slice them, add a teaspoon of salt, cover and set aside for 4-5 hours. By the end of this time, the salt and moisture from onions would have softened them a bit
When you are ready to make the soup, wash and roughly cut the cabbage retaining the core.
Wash and roughly chop the carrots.
Put the cabbage and carrots in a pot along with two cups of water, stock cube and a pinch of salt.
Bring to boil, cover, lower heat and let this simmer for 10 minutes.
Drain the vegetables retaining the liquor.
Once the vegetables cool down, puree them in a blender or a food processor.
Now, place the onions along with any moisture in a soup pot or equivalent.
Cover and place this cookware on a very low heat and let the onions sweat in their own moisture.
Let the onions cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. I used a non-stick soup pot so didn’t have to keep checking. Depending on the sort of base of your pot, you may have to keep stirring in between.
Once the onions have browned a bit, wash and add the shelled peas and one cup of water.
Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Open the lid and add the pureed vegetable and liquor. Check for thickness, add more water if necessary.
Add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.
Stir, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
This is what my onions looked liked once they were cooked without any oil or butter.
No cooking Christmas dinner for me this year as I am spending it with my friend Meher and her family.
As I am not going to be in the kitchen over the next couple of days, I wanted to use up a cauliflower head, some tomatoes, peas and sweetcorn kernels lying around.
Making a soup of them seemed like a good idea given my alternate-day-soup-diet and the imminent indulgences.
So ideally, this soup should be called whatever’s- in-my-refrigerator soup!
Using cauliflower as the base, I think this recipe would work just as well with addition of some chopped carrots, french beans or mushrooms or even cooked chicken, bacon or fish. In other words, anything that needs to be used up can be thrown into the pot.
another creamy soup sans any cream
Paired with some crusty bread, this is a complete meal.
1 Head of cauliflower
1 Head of garlic
2 Tablespoons peas
2 Tablespoons sweetcorn kernel
1 Beef stock cube*
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
First, we need to prepare the cauliflower base. Roughly chop and wash the cauliflower. Include the stalk, leafy stems and the white woody bits at the base (if tender and fresh).
Now, place the cauliflower in a pot along with 2 cups of water, stock cube and a pinch of salt.
Bring to boil, cover, lower the heat and let it cook for 10 minutes.
When it is cooked, drain the cauliflower and reserve the liquid.
Once cool, puree the cauliflower in a blender or food processor and add it to the reserved liquid.
Wash and chop the onions.
Peel and chop the garlic.
Wash and dice the tomatoes.
Wash the peas and sweetcorn kernels.
Heat oil in a soup pot (or equivalent).
Add the chopped onions and garlic and a pinch of salt and cook for a couple of minutes.
Next, add the tomatoes, peas and sweetcorn kernels, cover and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes.
Add the pureed cauliflower and reserved liquid, stir well, cover and cook for further 10 minutes.
I used beef stock which gave this soup a really nice depth. Beef and cauliflower seem compatible. You can use chicken or vegetable stock cube instead, if you prefer.
This spaghetti almost didn’t get made since it was time for my dad to leave. Luckily, there was a change of plan and his stay got extended. On dad’s suggestion, I decided to replicate my signature spaghetti of olive oil, garlic and basil with currently-very-much-in-season fresh green garlic and coriander.
it is totally heavenly
I love the scent of fresh green garlic. It is more subtle and less pungent compared to the garlic we normally use. At the same time, it makes its presence felt in any dish you add it to.
Green garlic is a bit fiddly to clean and requires a lot of patience! But the end result is worth the effort you put in. If you can get your hands on some of this fresh vegetable, I would strongly urge you to try today’s recipe.
Firstly, clean the garlic. For this, you need to simply remove the hairy bits on the top of its head. Do this one garlic at a time. If the green stalk is fresh, retain it. Discard any yellow stalk.
Next, chop the garlic and stalk, wash and keep aside.
Clean and wash the coriander. If the stalk is tender, keep it.
Wash and finely chop the green chillies.
Place the olive oil, garlic, chillies and salt in a pot. Cover.
Cook the spaghetti according to instructions given on the packet.
When you put the spaghetti in boiling water and are timing it, get started on the sauce.
Place the pot with oil, garlic and chillies, with the lid on, on a very low heat. The idea is to cook the garlic very gently. You don’t want to brown it or burn it. Keep an eye on it, stirring it occasionally.
When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and retain 1/4 cup water.
Add the spaghetti, coriander and water to the oil and garlic.
Mix it well, cover and let it cook for about 5 minutes.
Transfer to spaghetti bowl, sprinkle some Parmesan and serve hot.
I was out of spaghetti so used linguini instead. It worked just as well.
You can use more olive oil and skip the water if you prefer.
If you would like it spicy, add more green chillies.
Don’t compromise on the quality of the olive oil you use in this recipe since it forms the base for the sauce.
This is what green garlic looks like as is and cleaned.
Doesn’t this Spaghetti Aglio e Olio look tempting?!
the humble tomato soup gets a lift thanks to fennel seeds and ginger
As I progress with my alternate day soup regime, I fancied a warming, creamy tomato soup and was wondering what to use as an alternative to cream. That’s when I thought of adding some sweet corn kernels.
Additionally, I had some water chestnut lying around and so decided to make us of them as well.
The end result is a really nice, full-bodied (can a soup be described so?!), creamy tomato soup which is low in calorie and very satisfying. Fennel seeds and ginger provide the heady aromatic touch.
Following on from my success with sweet potato croutons, my quest for healthy and delicious croutons continues.
say hello to turnip croutons
I have some turnips lying around so decided to replicate the experiment with this (in my case at least) under-used vegetable. The end result are some of the most delicious, meaty, discs which can be paired with any type of soup.
If you have some of this root vegetable calling for attention, try this quick recipe which can also be served as a a side dish.
Wash the turnips. Slice off the top and the bottom.
Next, slice the turnips into discs of medium thickness. Depending on its size, you should get 3 to 4 discs out of each turnip.
Pour the oil, salt and seasoning over the discs, cover and keep aside for a couple of hours.
When you are ready to prepare the croutons, heat a wide base non-stick frying pan.
Keeping the burner on high, add the turnip discs along with the marinade. Make sure that you place them in a single layer. If they overlap, they won’t form the necessary crust.
After a couple for minutes, turn down the heat, flip them over and let them cook (uncovered) for about 7 to 8 minutes.
Turn them once again and continue cooking for about 8 more minutes till the discs are cooked and form a crust.
If serving with a soup, place them in a bowl and pour the hot soup over them.
To eat, you can break them off with a spoon and enjoy along with the soup.
I used olive oil. You can use whichever oil you prefer or depending on the type of soup you are having. For instance, for an oriental style soup, you may want to use sesame or peanut oil.
Seasoning is personal preference. I used Schwartz Garlic Italian seasoning. You can use whatever you have on hand or even freshly ground peppercorn would do.
As regular Kooky readers would know by now, I am not a peeler. Vegetable skins have a lot of nutrients and I don’t like to discard them. For today’s recipe, I didn’t see the need to peel the turnips but you can do so if you wish.
Turnip Croutons: Step 1 Marinate the Turnip
Turnip Croutons: Step 2 Sear the marinated Turnip Discs
Turnip Croutons: Step 3 Cook on Both Sides Till Done