Category Archives: Soups

Mexican Hot Pot

It’s been one of those crazy weeks where nothing goes to plan. There’s no particular rhyme or reason but I couldn’t stick to a routine most of the days which makes me feel overwhelmed and uninspired. And its work that often gets affected and when I mean work, it’s often food, cooking and the associated bits and bobs.

I am not one of those people who say, ‘the kitchen is my happy place; when I am upset or stressed I go into my kitchen and cook to make me feel good again.’ Nope, that’s not me at all. I simply can’t cook or to be honest, detest getting into the kitchen when I am down. When I am feeling low, I can mess up even the most basic of dishes. Most people don’t believe me when I say it but that’s the real honest truth. I can burn water if I am not in the right frame of mind.

Today’s recipe was actually prepared last week. It was developed for a client but all of us loved it so much that I decided to post it here too. Especially since it fits the bill as a winter warmer dish.

The Mexican hot pot is one of those dishes that require a bit of prep but then the whole dish comes together in no time at all. It’s warm, comforting, hearty, delicious and perfect for sharing. And it makes the perfect weeknight meal or weekend indulgence.

Mexican Hot Pot - thespiceadventuress.com

This hot pot is all about the broth that has been infused with Mexican flavours. I used chicken as the protein, but it can easily be substituted with any other meat, fish or even vegetables of your choice. To maximize the flavour of the broth, the onions, tomatoes and bell peppers were roasted and then blitzed. Roasting helps to intensify and draw out flavours, a step that’s totally worth it.

Rice is optional, but I wanted this Mexican hot pot to be a complete meal so rice was part of the bowl. A totally customizable dish, it is best served as different components like the broth with chicken, rice, coriander, lime, avocado crema, tortilla strips, pickled onions, jalapenos etc…. Allow everyone to assemble their own bowls, building up the flavours to their preference.

And before we get onto the recipe, here are some of our all time Mexican favourites;

  1. Mexican Prawn Tacos with Mango Salsa
  2. Chicken Tinga Tacos with Roasted Poblano Salsa
  3. Byron Bay Guacamole
  4. Fish Tacos with Pickled Slaw

Ingredients:

For the hot pot:

  1. 1 large Spanish onion; diced
  2. 1 large red tomato; diced
  3. 2 fresh jalapeno; sliced
  4. 1 large red bell pepper; diced
  5. 2 garlic cloves; peel on
  6. 2 tbsp olive oil
  7. 400 ml crushed tomatoes
  8. 2 litre chicken stock
  9. Salt, to season
  10. 1 tsp smoked paprika
  11. ½ tsp cumin powder
  12. 1 tsp dried oregano
  13. 4 chicken thighs (boneless); finely sliced

Avocado Crema:

  1. 1 ripe avocado
  2. ½ cup plain yoghurt
  3. 1 small garlic clove; grated
  4. Juice of ½ lemon
  5. Salt, to season

Toppings: (adapt to individual preferences)

  1. Steamed white rice
  2. Pickled red onions
  3. Fresh jalapenos; finely sliced
  4. Fresh coriander leaves
  5. Lime wedges
  6. Lebanese cucumber; cut into long strips
  7. Fried tortilla strips (cut 1-2 tortillas lengthwise using a scissors and fry in oil till crisp)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. In a roasting/baking tray, add the diced onions, bell pepper, tomatoes, jalapeno and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and mix well to coat. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes till the veggies are lightly roasted and soft. Remove and cool lightly.
  3. Remove the peel of the garlic and add all the roasted veggies to a blender. Add the crushed tomatoes and blend well.
  4. In a large stock, add the blended mixture along with chicken stock. Then add the paprika, cumin and oregano. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Bring to boil and then simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and cook on high heat till the chicken is tender and cooked through. This should take only about 5 minutes as the chicken pieces are finely sliced.
  6. Meanwhile prepare all the toppings.
  7. To make the avocado crema, blend the avocado, yoghurt, garlic, salt and lemon juice till you get a smooth consistency. (Makes an excellent dip with nachos or any other crisps).
  8. To serve, lay out the chicken broth, toppings and avocado cream. Let each person assemble their bowl based on preferences.

Mexican Hot Pot - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

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Chicken Wonton Soup

Anthony Bourdain is no more.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think that this is the way I would pay tribute to him on my blog. I have always wanted to write about Bourdain, his books, travels, shows and the stories of food cultures that he bought into our lives. But somehow I never put those thoughts to paper and now this….

It’s been an incredibly hard one to digest.

I have never been so profoundly distressed about someone’s death, especially someone who has not been a part of my personal or real life. He was not family or a friend, just a celebrity I watched on TV, so I couldn’t even fathom why I experienced that numbing ache, that overwhelming sense of sadness that sits heavy in my chest everytime I think of it.

But the truth is that he was one of those rare souls who had touched my life (and I realise so many others too) at a much deeper level.

Yes, Bourdain was all about the food, travel and culture. At least that’s how I identified with his books and shows initially. All the more, because I have always been an advocate for food…without borders, a belief or philosophy on which my blog has been founded too.

But as I got to read and watch him more, I realised that I connect with him so deeply because of our inherent restless, angry souls. His journey has been so different to mine yet somewhere I felt a sense of ‘this guy gets what I feel’ most of the time.

A restlessness to explore the world through food…..he did it through his travels; I do it through this blog. And sometimes that passion can be a burden too, because you are often misunderstood. I remember reading somewhere that most of his friends couldn’t get his relentless need to talk about food and cultures which made conversations difficult at times. And that’s a feeling I totally relate to; people around who simply can’t get my passion or think I am not doing anything worthwhile with my life.

There’s been much discussion about mental health, depression etc…. in the online world after his death but I am not going to talk about it. Not because I don’t think it’s important; because today I want to remember him again only for his love for travel and respect for food and cultures.

And I know these few lines can never completely convey the respect I have for Bourdain’s work….

Let’s get back to today’s recipe.

Dumplings, dimsims, wontons…we are just crazy about these at home. Steamed, pan fried, deep fried, we love it in all forms. But one of my personal favourites especially during winter is the wonton soup.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

I order it a lot while eating out at Asian restaurants but this time, I wanted to make it at home. I am not a pro when it comes to shaping wontons so I just followed this video which was really informative.

Not a complicated recipe at all but a tad bit time consuming making the wontons. But it was totally worth it as I made enough to freeze for another comforting weeknight dinner.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

The broth is light and simple but really flavourful and the only way to get that is to use a really good quality stock, store bought or homemade. I added the long red chillies (less heat), plenty of garlic and ginger along with soy and sesame oil to get a well balanced and moreish broth. I could just drink this broth all day long…..

This chicken wonton soup is like a hug in a bowl. It only takes minutes to prepare the broth and the wontons are boiled in the broth itself. I also added some bok choy at the end to finish off. You can add mushrooms, radish or any vegetables/greens of your choice. I wanted it to be all about the wontons, hence kept it simple.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

Recipe adapted from Fix Feast Flair

Ingredients:

For the wontons:

(Makes 50 wontons; makes extra which is suitable for freezing)

  1. 50 Wonton wrappers
  2. 500 gms chicken mince
  3. 2 spring onions (only bulb); finely chopped
  4. 2 large garlic cloves; grated
  5. 1 ½ tbsp hoisin sauce
  6. ½ tbsp oyster sauce
  7. 1 tbsp sriracha
  8. ½ tsp black pepper powder
  9. Salt, to season

For the broth:

  1. 1 litre chicken stock
  2. 1 large red chilli (less heat variety)
  3. 5 -6 ginger slices
  4. 2 garlic cloves; finely sliced
  5. 2 tbsp soy sauce
  6. ½ tsp sesame oil
  7. ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
  8. 1 bunch bok choy (ends trimmed and leaves separated)

Method:

To make the wontons:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the chicken mince, onions, garlic, hoisin, oyster, sriracha, pepper and salt. Mix well to combine and keep aside for 15 minutes.
  2. For making the wontons, check out this video. I made the tortellini shaped ones since it was the easiest and most preferred one for me. To create this, place about 1 ½ tsp chicken mixture in the centre of a wonton wrapper. Wet the tip of your finger in a small bowl of water and run along the edges of one half of the wrapper. Fold the wet edges over to the dry edges to get a triangle shape and press to seal. Next tuck in the two edges towards each other to get the tortellini shape.
  3. Prepare all the wontons and keep stored in an airtight container. The wontons can dry out fast so place in the container as you make each one.
  4. To make the soup broth, add the stock to a large pan. Next add the chillies, sliced ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Bring to boil and add the required number of wontons. Cook for 4 minutes; then add the bok choy and cook for one more minute.
  5. Serve immediately.

Note – The broth is best made fresh, but if you intend to store it, then remove the ginger slices before doing so or it could turn slightly bitter on sitting.

Chicken Wonton Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Moroccan Carrot Soup

I have always been a huge fan of soups and it’s made round the year in my home. But during winter, the frequency increases manifold. After all, what can be more comforting than a steaming hot bowl of soup on cold, wintry nights!

While I make a lot of soups at home, many of the recipes do not make it to the blog. But with increasing requests from readers, especially during this season, I have decided to update the blog with more recipes, both vegetarian and non vegetarian. Starting with this delicious Moroccan Carrot Soup….

Moroccan Carrot Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

Carrot is a much loved vegetable in our home. It’s one I can get Sam to eat without any fuss and as for Adi, he behaves like Bugs Bunny around it. Even though I have made carrot soup plenty of times, I have never tried the Moroccan style before. But the memory of having it at one of our favourite Middle Eastern restaurants has always stayed in my mind. The spices used to flavour the soup make it a standout and really intensifies the sweetness of the carrots.

Then I came upon a carrot soup recipe by Rebecca Katz, which calls for saffron as a special ingredient. Now that was interesting and I really wanted to give it a try to experience what saffron adds in terms of flavour to a soup like this.

And it turned out beautiful. A tiny pinch of saffron is enough for a dish like this or it will overpower the flavours completely and totally ruin it. But in the right amount, it works magic along with the other spices to make this the best carrot soup ever.

Kept the garnish simple and traditional, with sourdough croutons, coriander leaves and a pinch of paprika.

And before we get on to the recipe, here are five of my all time favourite soups….

Potato and Parsnip Soup

Beer and Cheddar Soup

Scandinavian Pumpkin and Potato Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup with Brown Mushrooms

Moroccan Carrot Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 kg carrot; cut into chunks
  2. 1 onion; diced
  3. 1 celery stick; diced
  4. 3 tbsp olive oil
  5. 1 tsp ground cumin
  6. ½ tsp ground coriander
  7. 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  8. 1 dried bay leaf
  9. Salt, to season
  10. A pinch of saffron (soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk)
  11. 1 litre vegetable stock
  12. 1 tsp lemon zest + lemon juice

To garnish:

  1. Sourdough croutons
  2. Sweet paprika
  3. Coriander leaves

Method:

  1. In a large pot, heat oil and add the onions, celery and carrots. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes with regular stirring.
  2. Then add the bay leaf, cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli flakes, saffron with milk and vegetable stock. Season with salt and mix well to combine.
  3. Bring to boil and then simmer gently till the carrots are completely cooked (takes about 20-25 minutes).
  4. Cool slightly and add the lemon zest. Blend into a soup like consistency using a stick blender. If using a mixer, blend in batches.
  5. Return to heat and add half of the lemon juice. Taste and add more if necessary. Also add water to get the desired consistency if the soup feels too thick.
  6. Serve warm garnished with croutons, fresh coriander leaves and a pinch of sweet paprika.

Moroccan Carrot Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Potato and Parsnip Soup (with Bacon and Chilli Oil)

It’s a beautiful, bright and sunny day today!

I smile as I write this because it’s technically autumn but today feels like a perfect spring day. And I know the cold days are just round the corner so I am glad to soak in the sun while it lasts. (A quick look at the forecast tells me not to get excited as it’s all rain and chills the rest of the week).

Weather plays such an important role in my mood, especially after moving here. While in India, there was only the intense heat to battle but here, it’s all the different seasons and with Melbourne being a little crazy on the weather front; it has been a long journey learning how to deal with it from wearing the right clothes, eating the right food and planning our everyday life around it.

But I think I can say that I seem to have adjusted well. While the changing seasons still has an effect on my overall mood, I don’t get too worked up about it instead learning to embrace and enjoy the beauty of each season.

And that brings us to today’s recipe.

Potato and Parsnip Soup (with Bacon and Chilli Oil) - thespiceadventuress.com

Soups are one of my favourite categories of dishes to make during autumn and winter. It’s warm, hearty and comforting with minimal effort. It’s a really easy dinner, makes excellent leftovers and a great way to try out new veggies. Like parsnip, in my case.

I think the only reason why I have never cooked with parsnip before is unfamiliarity. It’s not a common one in South India, so I have never really tasted it before. Hence, it’s not a veggie I reached out for while shopping. In fact, as I pick up the carrots often placed nearby, I make a mental note to check out a recipe and then buy it; but that has never happened too.

This time I was determined to get parsnip and though there were many recipes that I had bookmarked, I wanted something familiar hence opted for this soup. This potato soup is one I make often so adding parsnip too seemed like a good idea, at least the first attempt wouldn’t be disastrous.

But this potato and parsnip soup turned out to be no disaster. Instead it quickly became one of our favourite soups for the season, especially with that really moreish, savoury addition of bacon and chilli oil.

Potato and Parsnip Soup (with Bacon and Chilli Oil) - thespiceadventuress.com

Yes, you heard it right…chilli oil! Not just for dumplings, it’s one of my favourite toppings for soups, stews, just about anything. I love that spice hit, a depth of flavour that cannot be explained in words. Well I don’t make the chilli oil myself; it’s so easy to get at any Asian grocer or supermarket. And the crispy prawn ones are the best!

If you prefer to make a vegetarian version, skip the bacon and chilli oil; instead add bread croutons and a dash of Tabasco or sriracha if you like the spice kick.

I prefer not to use cream, instead always use a dash of milk to lend that sweet creaminess to the soup.

So let’s get cooking Potato and Parsnip Soup with bacon and chilli oil. I am sure you are going to make it plenty during the coming months….

Potato and Parsnip Soup (with Bacon and Chilli Oil) - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 2 large potatoes; skin peeled and diced
  2. 2 parsnips; skin peeled and diced
  3. 1 medium onion; chopped
  4. 1 garlic clove; crushed
  5. 2 tbsp butter
  6. 2 tbsp olive oil
  7. 5 thyme sprigs (including garnish)
  8. 1 litre vegetable stock (chicken stock works great too)
  9. 150ml milk
  10. Salt, to season
  11. Black pepper; to season
  12. 150gms bacon; finely chopped
  13. Chilli oil (I used crispy prawn head chilli oil)

Method:

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil and butter. Add the garlic and onions; sauté till the onions are softened.
  2. Then add the potatoes, parsnip and 3 thyme sprigs; mix well to combine and add the stock. Bring to boil, then lower heat and cook covered till the veggies are cooked well and mushy.
  3. Once the veggies are cooked, turn off heat and allow to cool lightly before blending the whole mixture.
  4. Return to heat and add the milk; taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. In another pan, add the chopped bacon and sauté on low heat till crispy. No extra oil is required as the bacon releases enough oil.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with bacon, chilli oil and thyme.
  7. Enjoy to your heart’s content.

Potato and Parsnip Soup (with Bacon and Chilli Oil) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots

Soup weather is officially here!

The days have been cold, wet and grey and since we were relying too much on this cheesy bowl of comfort, I decided to experiment with more soups this season. Like this super creamy and delicious Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup generously garnished with crispy bacon and shallots.

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots - Comfort in a bowl - thespiceadventuress.com

The weather also dictates for a good read and the book I just finished reading is a poignant drama ‘Like I Can Love’ by Australian author, Kim Lock.

My knowledge of Australian authors is slowly but steadily increasing especially when I signed up to do book reviews with Pan Macmillan Australia. I found it a great way to discover new authors and also expand my reading horizon considerably.

Set in South Australia, ‘Like I Can Love’ is a poignant, heartbreaking tale of two friends. The book is also an exploration of different kinds of love, the varying spectrums of this emotion which can be fragile, sacrificing and sometime destructive. It is a tale of how love can make us do the most unthinkable of things leaving a mark on our souls and lives forever.

Beautifully etched by Kim Lock, the book captures the essence of love and friendship amidst the background of South Australia. By the end of it, I felt that the characters are real almost becoming a part of my life, as if I have known them all my life. It is a simple book to read but one that is profound and beautifully written.

Kim Lock resides with her family in the Barossa Valley and hence there is ample evidence of the culture and lifestyle of regional Australia in her book. The book is gripping without being too heavy which makes it ideal if you are a fiction lover.

Like I Can Love by Kim Lock - a book review - thespiceadventuress.com

Let’s also simmer away a pot of this delicious soup before you get too engrossed in the book.

Just as the name suggests, this is a Potato, Cauliflower and Leek soup. I wanted more oomph and comfort which is why the shallots and bacon make an appearance, but if you are a crouton person, here is a delicious one you can try out.

Spices ofcourse are my thing but I am sure you agree that potatoes and cumin is a match made in heaven. So mildly spiced with bay leaf and cumin which adds so much more flavour to the soup. No extra cream in this one as I found that it is quite creamy from the potatoes and cauliflower but if you wish to, you can add a bit as garnish or at the end of the cooking process.

Bay leaf and Cumin - love thy spices - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Crispy Bacon and Shallots - Garnish for the Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

And of course, the crispy bacon and shallots……..yumm yumm yummmm!!

Ingredients:

  1. 100gms bacon; chopped
  2. 50gms fried shallots
  3. 2 large potatoes; diced
  4. 1 small cauliflower head; cut into florets
  5. 1 leek; finely sliced
  6. 3 dried bay leaf
  7. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  8. 2 medium garlic cloves
  9. 2 tbsp butter
  10. Salt, to season
  11. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
  12. 1 litre homemade chicken stock

Method:

  1. In a deep pan, add the bacon pieces and fry on low heat. No extra oil required as the bacon has enough fat which will render down and crisp it up.
  2. Once the bacon pieces have browned and crisped up well, remove and drain on a kitchen towel. Keep aside.
  3. In the same pan, heat butter and add the bay leaf and cumin. Cook on low heat till the spices are fragrant and then add the garlic and leeks. Sauté for about 2 minutes on medium heat but take care not to burn.
  4. Next add the potatoes and cauliflower florets; season with salt (remember the stock has salt) and pepper. Mix well to combine and cook on low heat for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add ¾ ths of the stock, check seasoning and bring to boil. Turn the heat down and cook covered till the vegetables are softened and cooked through.
  6. Cool slightly and blitz till creamy. Add more stock if too thick.
  7. Serve warm with crispy bacon and shallots.
  8. Slurp it up!

Note – I always have a stash of homemade fried shallots in my pantry which I used. You could use the store bought ones too.

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots - Deliciousness in a bowl - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots - comfort in a bowl - thespiceadventuress.com

Pssst….I am having this soup second day in a row with a  few drops of Tabasco hot sauce in it. Try it guys if you can take some heat!

 

Disclaimer – Not a sponsored post but the book was sent to me by Pan Macmillan Australia.

 

 

 

Beer and Cheddar Soup

Beer, cheese (loads of it), bacon, jalapeno, cream….no, this soup is not for the faint hearted or the calorie conscious!!

The idea of making a beer and cheddar soup originated on a Facebook group discussion. I had posted a dish with red wine and thus began the conversation of cooking with alcohol. While I may have a bit of experience cooking with wine, I am practically a newborn when it comes to cooking with other forms of alcohol. But the beer soup came highly recommended from a bunch of food buddies who seem to understand my sense of flavours. And so of course, I had to give it a go!

Now, I am not really fond of alcohol especially beer. I have an intense dislike for its bitter flavours. Beer aficionados are not going to take this line easily! But I have never been able to stomach its taste; so how do I cook with it?

I remembered the time when I used beer to make the batter for fish and chips; that was a delicious experience. Though this was nothing remotely similar, I still decided to give this soup a try….after all, there’s plenty of cheese and bacon in it right!

And my…what a delicious experience was it! All my skepticism vanished with the first taste of the soup. My 6 year old absolutely loved it; he called it the best soup ever. Don’t worry about giving it to your children; most of the alcohol is cooked off so you are not feeling boozy or tipsy drinking this one.

Beer and Cheddar Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

This beer and cheddar soup is autumn in a bowl. Flavours that are strong yet comforting……

Good quality cheddar can make a huge difference to the flavours of this soup. I used a mixture of vintage cheddar and flavoured cheddar (onion and chive). But it is not necessary to stick to these flavours; the only important thing is to use one or two types of real good cheddar with at least one being vintage or aged cheddar for that sharp punch.

Beer and Cheddar Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

This beer and cheddar soup is not just about flavour, it’s also about texture. Every spoonful gives you the soft onions and celery along with the salty, delicious bits of browned bacon. And just when you are lulled into a safe sense of flavour, the fresh jalapenos pop up for that vibrant heat which explodes on your taste buds.

Like you figured, I can rave about this soup but you know what….let’s just get cooking.

Recipe adapted from this site.

Ingredients:

1. 150gm bacon, chopped
2. 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3. 1 onion, finely chopped
4. 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
5. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6. 2 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
7. 1 bottle pilsner (300 ml)
8. 2 ½ cups chicken stock
9. 4 tbsp unsalted butter
10. ¼ cup plain flour
11. 250 ml cream
12. 100 gm flavoured cheddar (onion and chive), grated
13. 150 gm vintage/aged cheddar, grated
14. Salt, to season
15. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

To serve:

16. Garlic toasts
17. 1 jalapeno, finely sliced into discs
18. Browned bacon

Note – I used pilsner, but you can use ale also.

Method:

1. In a large pot, cook the bacon pieces till browned. There is no need to add any extra oil as the fat of the bacon will render and crisp up the pieces. Remove and keep aside leaving the remaining oil in the pot.
2. To the same pot, add the chopped onions, celery, jalapenos and thyme. Cook till softened which should take around 8 – 10 minutes.
3. Once the veggies have softened, add the beer and cook till the liquid has been reduced by half; this will take you around 5-7 minutes.
4. Then add the chicken stock and continue to simmer on low heat.
5. In another pan, make the roux by melting the butter and whisking the flour into it. Whisk till the mixture has lightly browned and then add this to the stock and mix well to combine.
6. Continue to cook till the stock has thickened and then add the grated cheese and cream.
7. Cook for another 5 minutes and then add the bacon (reserve 2 tbsp for garnish); taste and season with salt and pepper.
8. Serve warm with garlic toasts

Do you cook with alcohol? I would like to learn more about your experience……

Beer and Cheddar Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

Creamy Tomato Soup with Brown Butter Garlic Croutons

Some days my photography really suffers and today is one such. No matter how much I tried, the photographs refused to come to life. Frustration soon reared its ugly head and I quit trying.

Frustration – the enemy that silently creeps in when we are trying so hard at something. He comes in and soon takes over us, whispering words of despair and that we are anyway bound to fail, so why try?

And we all struggle with him, reasoning out that we ought to work harder, try harder and then success would come. And he would hush it all up, waging war with commonsense in our heads and he wins, most often……

Frustration blocks our ability to push ourselves, to step over that boundary that seems so near at hand. We know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, we have come so far and there’s only a bit more to go. But frustration tells us that it is not meant to be. Give up…..it’s so easy, he says.

And give up I did.

These photographs are going to remain here as a memory of the time I let frustration control me. Instead of trying harder a couple more times, I kept the camera down and quit.

The only saving grace is this tomato soup!

2

No, it’s not a rustic, humble tomato soup; this one’s creamy and luscious with havarti and mascarpone and crunchily garnished with brown butter garlic croutons.

For those who haven’t experimented much with cheese, here are two varieties to try – havarti and mascarpone. Why haven’t I dared to try havarti before? It’s creamy yet firm, delicious – I can’t even begin to describe it. Now a participant on my cheese board, always.

4

This tomato soup is happiness in a bowl…..and you can join in the happiness too. Here’s how…..

Ingredients:

For the soup:

1. 2 tbsp olive oil
2. 2 tbsp unsalted butter
3. 1 yellow onion, chopped finely
4. salt, to season
5. freshly milled black pepper, to season
6. 1/4th tsp dried basil
7. 1/4th tsp dried oregano
8. 1/4th tsp dried thyme
9. 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
10. 3 garlic cloves, minced
11. 3 tbsp tomato paste
12. 5 large ripe, red tomatoes (use canned ones if you would like to)
13. 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
14. 1/3 cup freshly grated havarti cheese

For the brown butter:

1. 3 tbsp unsalted butter


For the croutons:

1. 2 cups white bread, cubed
2. Brown butter
3. 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Method:

To prepare brown butter:

• Place a saucepan on low heat, and add the butter. Allow it to melt slowly on low heat stirring continuously. As soon as you notice brown flecks beginning to appear at the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and continue to stir. The butter continues to brown due to residual heat. (Make sure to remove the pan from heat at the right time or you could end up burning it).


To prepare the croutons:

• Preheat the oven to 180°C.
• Add the minced garlic to the brown butter, mix and allow to sit for a minute.
• Place the cubed bread pieces in a large flat bowl, pour the butter/garlic mixture over top, lightly toss through and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or till the bread pieces get golden.
• Make sure to check in between and toss through to ensure even cooking.
• Keep aside to cool.

Note – These can be prepared ahead and stored in an airtight container. If you do not have an oven, dry toast the bread pieces in a pan on the stove top for 3 minutes and then pour the butter/garlic mixture on top. Continue to toast till the golden colour is achieved.

To prepare the soup:

• In a large pot, heat oil and butter. Saute the onions with the herbs, paprika and season with salt and pepper.
• When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook for another 6-8 minutes.
• Add the chopped tomatoes and bring to boil.
• Then lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, occasional stirring to break any lumps.
• Turn off the heat and cool lightly.
• Puree the soup in a blender (remember it’s still hot!) or use a stick blender.
• Return the soup to heat and add the mascarpone and havarti, stirring continuously till the cheese has completely melted.
• Check seasonings and adjust.
• Serve hot with a dollop of mascarpone and brown butter garlic croutons.

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The recipe for this bowl of goodness comes from here.

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Scandinavian Pumpkin and Potato Soup

Today, I am going to talk about a topic that is increasingly becoming important to me – buying locally.

When I started off my life in Australia as a new migrant, my shopping habits were similar to scores of others – buy decently good products at the lowest price possible without a care where or how the product is sourced. But as my life evolved here, especially as my blogging journey took off, I started to become more aware of where my products came from, especially the produce and food I eat.

The benefits of buying local produce are immense. To start with, it is an immense boost to the local economy. It is giving back to the community, to the farmers, who toil so hard and relentlessly to bring us the best food possible.

It is about eating healthy; local and seasonal produce are much fresher and likely to have lesser chemicals than the ones bought in from other countries.

It is about supporting local and small business owners who are being forced to shut up shop due to the pressure of competing with foreign businesses and not finding enough customers for their produce.

I know that locally sourced produce can sometimes be slightly more expensive and there is no dearth for cheap imports too. And I also know money is important to all of us. But if you are willing to look around, attend local farmer’s market than big chain supermarkets or food stores, you will find plenty of produce for reasonable prices that fit right into your budget.

And sometimes, it is ok to spend a few extra cents or dollars; look at the long term and not the short term benefits. So which ever part of the world you live in, take a little effort to find out where your food comes from and do your bit to support local farmers and businesses.

So, that’s what I did for this recipe; visited the nearby farmer’s market and bought a couple of locally grown small pumpkins and potatoes.

Today’s recipe is a rich, creamy, luscious, Scandinavian pumpkin and potato soup flavoured with coconut milk, toasted sesame seeds and red chillies.

Scandinavian Pumpkin and Potato Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

A simple and easy to make soup with robust flavours; you could call it a winter soup as it is a hearty and warming dish. But for me, it works in all seasons; I could enjoy a bowl of soup at any time of the day in any season.

For me, the highlight of this soup is the toasted sesame seeds, chillies and coriander leaf garnish. Silky smooth, creamy, sweet pumpkin and potato soup, flavoured with nutty sesame seeds, fiery chillies and the freshness of coriander leaves.

Recipe Courtesy – Le Creuset, The Scandinavian Way to Cook

Here’s how you prepare Scandinavian pumpkin and potato soup;

Ingredients:

1. 500gm small pumpkin, diced
2. 3 large potatoes, diced
3. 4 garlic cloves, peeled
4. 2 medium red onions, diced
5. 2 tbsp olive oil
6. 2 tsp thyme
7. 1 green chilli, finely chopped
8. 2 cups fresh coconut milk
9. 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
10. 2 tbsp lemon juice
11. 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
12. 2 sprigs fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
13. Salt, to taste
14. Freshly milled black pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the diced pumpkin, potato, garlic and onions. Add thyme and chopped green chilli. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add coconut milk and enough water to just cover the vegetables and slow cook for 40-50 minutes till the vegetables are tender and soft.
3. Toast the sesame seeds and keep aside.
4. Cool and blend the soup. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. (Make sure to taste the soup before seasoning and add accordingly.)
5. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, red chilli and coriander leaves.
6. Serve hot with bread of choice.

Scandinavian Pumpkin and Potato Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

Why I write ….. And a recipe for Bengali Sweet and Sour Dal

‘Why I write’ is a blog hop event that was created to build blogger camaraderie and also enable you to bring out your creative best. I was invited to this event by the very enterprising Nova Morgan of Locavore Intentions. Now if you are intrigued by the term ‘locavore’, do stop by at her page; I am leaving it to the expert!

Why do I write?

I write, because it is the best way to express myself. I might seem to be socially outgoing but I am quite a ‘private person’ with my thoughts. Writing helps me to bring out the deepest thoughts instead of letting it build up inside. It makes me a happier and more positive person because I know how unsaid thoughts often take a negative tangent and before long, it gets out of control leading to depression, anxiety and a host of other problems.

I write, because I am a creative person. I am creative in all aspects of my life, be it writing, food, home décor or even raising my child. A dash of colour, a pinch of spice, a splattering of words….it keeps me happy and content.

What am I working on?

I am working on drawing inspiration from all things around me and then reflect it on my cooking. I want to better myself at photography, learn new cooking techniques, come up with new spice blends and cook with new ingredients.

How does my writing differ from others?

I believe my biggest quality to be ‘honesty and genuineness’ and for this very reason, my writing would be different from others. I believe that I am unique and a part of God’s plan just like every other soul on earth and no two people can write the same.

How does my writing process work?

I do not have a set process in place. I write at all times of the day, anywhere and everywhere. When the mood is right, I am either in front of the comp or with a pen and paper in hand jotting down my thoughts.

Blog Hopping….

And now it’s time to pass on the baton and I have two very capable hands;

The Adam and Eve of cooking aka Jofy and Satish Abraham of Foodie Adam and Cookie Eve.

This beautiful couple celebrates food, writing and photography and hence the perfect duo to pass on this baton.

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A mum, freelance writer and blogger, Amrita Mukherjee of Amrita Speaks was a journalist and has a rich writing experience. She is just the perfect person for this blog hop event.

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Today’s dish: Bengali Sweet and Sour Dal (Sweet and Sour Bengal Gram/Lentil Stew)

And after that long read, we are finally here for today’s dish.

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This dal preparation is adapted from the famous vegetarian cookbook, India-the Vegetarian Table by Yamuna Devi. Split Bengal gram is the lentil used for this preparation which is sweet, sour and mildly spiced.

The aroma that wafts from the spices and aromatics is heavenly; a dash of brown sugar sweetens the lentils and the addition of yoghurt makes it sour and tangy. And the addition of coconut lifts the flavours of this lentil stew making it a rich, hearty and comforting dish.

Have it as a soup or with a bowl of steamed white rice (and now a beautiful Bengali babe tells me that they usually have this with puri or laccha parathas), this dal preparation is one to be enjoyed and cherished.

 

Ingredients:

1. Split chana dal/Bengal gram – 2 cups
2. Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
3. Ground ginger – ¼ tsp
4. Red chilli powder – ½ tsp
5. Ghee – 2 tbsp
6. Brown mustard seeds – ½ tbsp
7. Cumin seeds/jeera – 1 tsp
8. Hing/asafoetida – ¼ tsp
9. Brown sugar – 3 tbsp
10. Fresh grated coconut – 3 tbsp
11. Zest and juice of 1 medium-sized lemon
12. Salt, to season
13. ¼ cup yoghurt
14. Fresh coriander/cilantro leaves – ½ cup, finely chopped

Method:

1. Wash and soak the lentils for at least 2 hours. Cook with turmeric powder, ground ginger, red chilli powder, 1 tsp ghee and salt till soft and mushy.
2. Heat ghee in a small pan and add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. As it beings to splutter, reduce heat and add sugar and asafoetida. Stir for 15 seconds and add to the mashed dal.
3. Place the dal on medium heat and add coconut, zest and juice of 1 lemon and season with salt if necessary. Bring to boil and then simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Taste to see if you have got the right balance of spice, sweet and sour or adjust seasonings accordingly.
4. Remove from heat and garnish with yoghurt and coriander leaves.
5. Serve hot with steamed rice.

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If you are a few extra seconds to spare, do hop over to my Facebook page and show a bit of ‘like’ love.

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Shorbat Adas – Arabian Lentil Soup

The past week was a busy, hectic and demanding one with the new blog and other writing commitments. I also went into a ‘cooking overdrive’ trying out and experimenting with different types of dishes and cuisines. And the result - thoroughly burned out by Friday, desperately needing a weekend break from the kitchen.

All I wanted to do was put my feet up with my favourite book and a glass of wine. Cooking was the last thing on my mind and I could see the ‘poor us’ look on my son’s and hubby’s face. With winter attacking us in full force (Melbourne witnessed one of the harshest winter with temperatures dropping sub-zero last week), going out to dinner was not the best idea either. Only the ‘takeaway God’ could help us!

We live in a highly multicultural suburb and there are plenty of eateries and restaurants specializing in all kinds of cuisines. But it is a pity that most of these do not offer home delivery and if they do, the minimum price is set so high which makes the whole process way too expensive. Fast food seems to be the only affordable choice here and honestly, I am tired of the burgers, pizzas and pastas.

Well, the takeaway turned out to be pizzas as always but to lift my spirits; I decided to have a long chat with one of my girlfriends who reside in Mumbai (India). My bestie is a chronic takeaway eater; she spends half of her life inside the Mumbai local travelling to and fro from work and cooking is the last thing on her mind when she reaches home. As I started to complain to her, she asked me if there aren’t any online food delivery systems like Foodpanda out here.

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Naturally, this piqued my interest and after some Google hopping, I realized that this online food delivery system operates in more than 40 countries with a large presence in India as well. Pity, they haven’t entered the Australian market or I am sure, I will be one of their first customers. My friend said she loved the fact that the site also offers a ‘cash on delivery’ option as she is not too keen about online payments. And of course, the discounts and offers only add more appeal making takeaways an affordable option. Foodpanda operates in many Indian cities including Mumbai, so do visit the site to find out if your city is covered. And if you are using a smartphone, you can even download an app for the same.

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Is this post going on and on? Guess so….ok, let’s jump over quickly to today’s dish.

Shorbat Adas or Arabian lentil soup is a dish very close to my heart because it is from my childhood. While living in Dubai, one of our favourite takeaway joint (see, I go off to takeaways again!) was Al Usman restaurant; they sold the most ah’mazing tikkas and kebabs. But my favourite was this sweet and sour simple lentil soup.

I have searched this recipe for years; I had no clue of its name or ingredients except for the taste of this soup which I had cherished forever in my taste buds’ memory. And now, I have found it.

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Shorbat adas is very famous across Middle East and is often served free of cost. There are several different variations; some add pieces of leftover lamb or use meat stock for added flavour. In Morocco, you can find a thicker version using only red lentils and lamb. Here, I have used homemade chicken stock to add that extra body of flavour but you can keep it vegetarian by using vegetable stock or just water.

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The sour tanginess of the citrus paves way for the sweet smokiness of the caramelized onions ending with the robust simplicity of cumin spiced lentils. In culinary heaven!

Recipe Courtesy - Traditional Arabic Cooking by Miriam Al Hashimi

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Ingredients:

1. 250gm lentils (soup mix), you can use just one type of lentils also
2. 2 red onion, sliced finely
3. ½ tsp roasted ground cumin
4. 2 tbsp lemon juice (variable)
5. vegetable oil, to fry the onions
6. salt, to season
7. freshly milled black pepper, to season
8. 1 cup homemade chicken stock
9. water

Method:

1. Soak the lentils for at least an hour (it really helps to cook the lentils faster) and cook till mushy.
2. Meanwhile, sauté and caramelize half the onions and keep aside. Fry the remaining half onions till crispy brown but not burnt.
3. Once the lentils get cooked, mash well and add the caramelized onions, ground cumin, chicken stock and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. The consistency of this soup is quite runny but you can add less stock/water and thicken it up.
4. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Add one tsp, taste and keep adding till the right balance of sour, salty and sweet has been achieved. I like the tang and used about 2 tbsp but it might vary according to your taste preferences.
5. Garnish with crispy fried onions.
6. Serve hot with bread.

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I served this simple yet flavourful soup in my new Akasuzki bowls which I won in a giveaway hosted by Nami of justonecookbook (the blog to be if you are interested in Japanese cuisine). Yes, it is a Japanese brand and sells beautiful Japanese products but I have used it for my Arabian lentil soup. It’s a small world, isn’t it!

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