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Tag Archives: Tomato

Fire roasted Bell Peppers, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

If you follow me on Insta stories, you would have seen my weekly cookbook series. I do not have a huge collection but a handful of old, new and trusted ones that I cook from often. And last week, I had spoken to you about ‘The Food & Wine Lover’s Guide to Melbourne and Surroundings’.

Whenever we take a holiday in and around Melbourne, I always try to incorporate a bit of food wine experience into it. A visit to a farm, local food store, farmer’s market, restaurant or winery….something unique that celebrates the region. And this book has come handy on so many occasions for this purpose.

The book also features a few recipes from Chefs, restaurants and food producers of different regions. This salad really stood out to me because of the combination of flavours. Tomato and mozzarella is a classic combination but the addition of fire roasted bell peppers, watercress and the mustard dressing takes it to a whole new level.

Fire roasted Bell Peppers, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad - thespiceadventuress.com

What I loved most about this dish is that it can be served as a salad or as a side dish to grilled fish, meat or perhaps some grilled paneer/tofu. It’s warm and so full of flavour that makes it a delight even during the colder months. We enjoyed it as a salad with our Indian thali and also as a side with grilled fish, both times equally enjoyable and delicious.

This salad is all about the freshness and quality of ingredients. And using different varieties of tomatoes makes it all the more delicious. If you have a local deli nearby, then that’s probably the best place to get your hands on the buffalo mozzarella. I prefer fire roasting over oven roasting whenever possible; that burnt smoky flavour is hard to replicate completely inside an oven. But you can roast the bell peppers any way you wish to. Roast just enough to char the outsides but the flesh inside still has a bite to it.

Roasting bell pepper - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Enough said! Let’s get on with the recipe….

Ingredients:

  1. 1 heirloom tomato; sliced
  2. 1 ox heart tomato; sliced
  3. 1 medium red bell pepper
  4. 1 medium yellow bell pepper
  5. 1 large mozzarella ball
  6. ½ cup picked watercress
  7. 1 tsp seeded mustard dressing
  8. Olive oil
  9. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  10. Salt, to season
  11. Freshly milled black pepper; to season

Method:

  1. Roast both the bell peppers over an open flame till nicely charred all around. Cover with a cloth for a few minutes before peeling off the skin (this makes the process easier). Deseed the bell peppers and slice into thin strips. Alternatively, oven roast the bell peppers and then do the same.
  2. Cut the mozzarella ball into wedges and keep aside.
  3. In a bowl, add the sliced bell peppers, mustard dressing and watercress.
  4. Heat olive oil in a pan and flash fry the sliced tomatoes for a few seconds, season with salt.
  5. Cool slightly and add the tomatoes to the bell peppers along with the mozzarella wedges.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle balsamic vinegar and toss lightly.
  7. Serve immediately.

Fire roasted Bell Peppers, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

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Chutney Shenanigans with Eat Me Chutneys

When you open a bottle of Eat me Chutneys, you not only open a bottle of deliciousness but also sustainability, fairtrade and social ethics.

Meet the Chopras – the tour de force behind this epic social project.

Jaya Chopra is Mom and the self-professed chutney queen who along with her husband (who is often dubbed the labelling machine but is actually the herb grower for the project and her son Ankit Chopra, the corporate world drop out turned Michelin trained chef.

Most of you who have been following my blog for a while know how much I appreciate and encourage small local businesses like these. So it’s not fair that only I get to enjoy these gorgeous chutneys; let me share their story with you folks too.

Eat Me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

The logic behind Eat me Chutneys is a simple one. Rescue all those bruised, overly ripe or what-we-call-ugly fruits and veggies from local vendors and convert it into lip smacking chutneys and preserves. But in the process, they manage to do a whole lot of other things which is what makes this company rather unique.

Now you guys know that I will not make a recommendation without trying out the product. So I purchase two chutneys from the range – Tomato + Kaffir Lime and ofcourse, Tamarind + Fig Chutney.

Eat me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

And yes, both of it appealed to the chutney lover in me but I must say I am bit partial towards the tomato one because that’s one of my favourite chutney flavours (can’t help it!). We enjoyed the chutneys in many different ways – with regular Indian meals, as a topping, sandwich spread, on the cheese board etc…

Delicious lamb burger with Tomato Kaffir Lime chutney, veggies and caramelized onions -thespiceadventuress.com

Delicious lamb burger with Tomato Kaffir Lime chutney, veggies and caramelized onions

After school Ham and Cheese Jaffles with Tamarind Fig Chutney - thespiceadventuress.com

After school Ham and Cheese Jaffles with Tamarind Fig Chutney

The story of Eat me Chutneys began when Ankit’s mom decided to kickstart her retirement plan of making and selling her signature Tamarind + Fig chutney. What started as basic research for procuring their raw produce eventually turned into a project for understanding where the ingredients were coming from and who were growing it. And eventually they made the switch to Fairtrade and organic – in fact, their tamarind chutney is Australia and New Zealand’s first and only fairtrade chutney!!

Impressive, isn’t it? Excerpts from my interview with Ankit……

Research for a project like this would have been immense; how did you go about it?

More than research, we’d like to refer to it as following our intuition and exploring things that make sense to us.  Looking for organic alternatives for sugar and spices was not because we wanted to craft organic chutney from the get go.  It was more to do with our belief that organic/biodynamic farming are better alternatives to conventional farming and ultimately better for the planet.  Similarly in other facets of the business, having a core value behind every decision makes us follow through with our research very easily in spite of the time it might take.  Everything just happened organically .

A Michelin-trained chef making chutneys is not the most common sight. Do you think the chef training has helped you in this journey?

The discipline, thought process and techniques that I learnt in the kitchens in Paris especially at the 3 starred Michelin restaurant I trained at is all somehow creeping into the chutney jars.  In addition, the work ethic of the chefs in France is crazy.  Whilst the world around us sees plenty of chefs jump onto book and TV deals some of the chefs I worked for, never left a single service.  Pure poetry!  However, something even more important is the work ethic that mum and dad have instilled in us – that wisdom passed down generations; those old school ways of doing things and the buy once and use it for a long time attitude.  These somehow round up what makes Eat Me Chutneys, the little adventure it is.

‘She is mum and she is the Chutney Queen’ – so how is it working with the queen bee?

In fact, I’ll extend the question to how is it like working with mum and dad, as co-founders of Eat Me Chutneys.  Of course with mum, I’m learning the art of handling spices with restrain.  She’s been passed down our heirloom recipes that I am lucky to learn.  As for Dad, he still grows herbs for our chutneys and so the appreciation for growing our own food comes from him.  These two things easily make it bloody exciting for me and at times downright entertaining.

Are all recipes developed by your mum or do you don the Chef’s hat from time to time?

Most chutney recipes are in development phase for weeks till we settle on something that we all think is epic.  We may start with a French technique for say 30kgs of quinces and end up using one or two spices to go in it.  Or we may start with a style of preservation that mum’s mum taught her and the French training in me will morph it to something quite funky.  It’s all a bit of everything and there is no set process either.  Happy days.

Eat me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

Where do you source the ‘wonky’ yet gorgeous produce from?

We work with numerous farmers that provide all the gorgeous produce for the chutneys – without epic produce there will be no chutneys.  So really the heroes are the farmers.

Fairtrade is a term that we hear quite often these days. But most of us aren’t still aware of what it truly means or its significance in everyday life. Can you elaborate a bit and what makes Eat Me Chutneys a Fairtrade business?

Fairtrade is about stable prices, decent working conditions and the empowerment of farmers and workers in developing nations – it’s about supporting the development of thriving communities and protecting the environment in which they live and work.

Much the same way that we as manufacturers are required by Fairtrade certification system to hold up to complete transparency in our supply chain and annual audits, the Fairtrade farmer co-operatives that supply the ingredients are held to equally high standards of transparency.  This is what makes the Fairtrade movement thrive.

For our Tamarind chutneys since all ingredients were imported we spent nearly a year exploring where the ingredients were actually coming from, how the farmers behind these ingredients were being treated etc.  This research phase allowed us to switch to Fairtrade and organic equivalents and in the process made our Tamarind chutneys Fairtrade certified – only company in Australia/New Zealand with certified Fairtrade chutneys.

What were the challenges that you faced in this journey?

Like any other small business, we’ve had our fair share however one that is worth highlighting is when we started out we called our chutneys, rescued chutneys.  This took some dialogue and conversations with our customers to explain what we meant by rescued.  It’s been a glorious journey and more than challenges they’ve all been learning experiences.

While there are several stockists in Sydney, there are only a couple in Melbourne? Any particular reason for this?

Nope, just that we are a small team and it’s easier to reach out to folks in Sydney and go meet them personally.  We love meeting everyone that is ever involved with our jars of goodness.  We visit all farmers and meet all potential stockists to ensure we all care for similar things.  There’s School of Life, Craft and Co and The Epicurean folks that have our chutneys in their shops.  Yay!

Why is it small local businesses find it so hard to retail at mainstream stores or supermarkets?

Ah, this is a fun one.  Perhaps the big stores are not for everyone.  A company’s ethos will dictate where they might want to head and how.  Some companies are perfectly ok to stay niche and never go to the supermarkets.  Other than that, the sheer scale of fulfilling their orders and working on their terms can be daunting I’m sure .

There are so many unique flavours in your range. Which is your best selling one? And which is your family favourite?

Without missing a beat, it will have to be mum’s Tamarind + Fig chutney!

Eat me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

Could you tell us a bit about your cooking classes and what is the best way to get more information about the same? Are these held only in Sydney?

Education plays a huge part in our tiny company.  Mum’s a primary school teacher by day and she also runs volunteer taste sessions at numerous primary schools whilst I run chutney demo classes with councils here in Sydney.  It allows us to show people how chutneys are one way of converting the season’s bounty (no matter how ripe or wonky it might be) into something delish, it lets people ask questions, debate and discuss the food system with us and even suggest a flavour combination or two.  Such fun!

What are the future plans? More products or expansion plans?

It’s all about food waste and how we can use business to tackle this – lots more chutneys and lots more classes and simply lots more fun.

Words of advice to new and upcoming small business entrepreneurs especially those choosing the sustainable route?

Good things take time and awesome even longer – it took us nearly a year of calling folks around the world, trying to translate from say Singhalese to English using Google translator to finally arrive at a point when we got the tamarind chutneys Fairtrade certified.  Nothing amazing is quick and overnight, ever.

Pan Fried Salmon (with Spicy Green Salad and Tomato Butter Sauce)

Yes, I am back with yet another seafood dish. And it’s one that I thoroughly enjoyed cooking and eating. Not that I don’t enjoy the other recipes here, but this one’s special because this is our favourite way to eat salmon.

Pan Fried Salmon (with Spicy Green Salad and Tomato Butter Sauce) - a healthy and delicious weekday dinner - thespiceadventuress.com

The term holidays are still on and we aren’t doing much this time. My little champ was sick for a couple of days and coupled with our house hunting in full spree, there has hardly been time for any activities or fun stuff. Guess we will take a proper vacation once we are settled in the new home.

Coming back to the dish, simplicity is key when cooking with salmon. Do not get tempted to add too many flavours or spices to the fish itself which takes away from its real flavour. Instead, add flavour to the remaining components on the plate like this deliciously spicy green salad and a simple tomato butter sauce. Not much of a sauce actually, it’s more like a quick sauté and butter makes everything delicious right.

The spicy green salad is an awesome way to eat your greens especially if you think green salads are bland and boring. And isn’t it just gorgeous! Love how those purple carrots add that pop of colour to the greens. Use whatever seasonal greens are available in your area; you can even use the dressing for any sort of salad you like to have.

Spicy green salad - a very interesting spicy kick to make your greens interesting - thespiceadventuress.com

Pan Fried Salmon (with Spicy Green Salad and Tomato Butter Sauce) - a healthy and delicious weekday dinner - thespiceadventuress.com

Even with 3 components, this is a dish that comes together in no time at all which makes it perfect for weekday dinners. A light yet healthy and filling meal for the whole family. And if you make it, please tag me on the post #thespiceadventuress so that I could see it too. Enjoy peeps!

Ingredients:

For the salmon:

  1. 3 salmon fillets (with skin)
  2. Salt, to season
  3. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Find the full recipe here.

Pan Fried Salmon (with Spicy Green Salad and Tomato Butter Sauce) - a healthy and delicious weekday dinner - thespiceadventuress.com

Pan Fried Salmon (with Spicy Green Salad and Tomato Butter Sauce) - a healthy and delicious weekday dinner - thespiceadventuress.com

Recipe developed, styled and shot for Supreme Seafood.

Squid, Prawn and Saffron Stew

Saffron – the posh spice!

Delicate strands of orange red hues that always evoke a sense of decadence and indulgence in my heart. A sense of luxurious mystery that transports me to far off exotic destinations like Persia, Spain and Kashmir.

Saffron - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Yes Kashmir – the Paradise on Earth, so much a part of my native country yet one which feels so distant to me. The wide expanse of breathtaking saffron fields is one I dream of and the desire to experience something like this is right on top of my bucket list.

Saffron or Zaffran (as known traditionally), is no doubt precious but what’s more precious for me is a dear friend who gifts me the best saffron from Kashmir. Supriya (or S, as I sometimes call her on my blog) is a friend who truly understands what food means to me. Beyond all the pictures and recipes, she understands my passion and the meaning that this blog has in my life.

And she is also the person who gets me authentic and traditional Kashmiri recipes like this Roganjosh, which you must try out. Nothing like the ones that you would find in most Indian restaurants and takeaways.

So before heading over to the recipe, taking a moment to say a huge thanks to S, for being a wonderful friend and my foodie partner in town.

Saffron always reminds us of decadent Indian sweets or the elaborate biryani preparations. But it need not be so; the unique flavour of saffron pairs beautifully with seafood too, delicious examples of which we can find in Meditteranean and Italian cuisine.

Today’s dish is a Squid, Prawn and Saffron Stew, inspired by Italian flavours.

Squid, prawn and saffron stew - an indulgent, rich and delicious seafood stew with saffron - thespiceadventuress.com

A rich, hearty and delicious seafood stew with fresh prawns and squid rings; this dish will make you look at saffron in a whole new light. Perfect for the weather, this warm and comforting stew has a rich tomato base, a hint of spices and the all too indulgent flavour of the saffron. And being a seafood stew, this one gets ready pretty fast which is exactly what you need for a midweek treat.

Spoon it over fragrant jasmine rice or mop it up with good quality artisan bread, this is one recipe you will want to make over and over again.

Bread - foodphotography - thespiceadventuress.com

Squid, prawn and saffron stew - an indulgent, rich and delicious seafood stew with saffron - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 300gms medium sized prawns; deshelled and deveined
  2. 300gms squid rings
  3. 4-5 tbsp olive oil

Find the full recipe here.

Squid, prawn and saffron stew - an indulgent, rich and delicious seafood stew with saffron - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – Recipe developed, shot and styled for Supreme Seafood. 

Grilled Fennel, Walnut and Cherry Tomato Salad with Fresh Turmeric Aioli

Spring is finally here and I am so happy to see my toes again after a long, almost endless bleak winter.

The cherry blossoms lining my street, the fresh vibrant produce in the markets, the skirts,singlets and thongs are all making me very happy. And I wanted to try and create something light and vibrant to capture the essence of this beautiful season. But I also wanted it to be more than a regular salad. I wanted it to make a statement when it arrives on the table. A bit of fancy, but oh so simple!

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This is my first time cooking with fennel and I wonder why did I put off using such a beautiful vegetable till now. Fennel has such a delicious crisp and fresh texture; an amazing ingredient that can be used in so many ways in your cooking.

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Today, I am keeping it simple; just grilling the fennel to lend a nice charred flavour yet retaining its crunchy texture. The cherry tomatoes are also lightly blistered on the grill but not taking it too far as I wanted that pop of fresh sweetness in the mouth. Splashes of green from the Lebanese cucumbers and rocket, a nutty edge from the roasted walnuts, shavings of good quality Parmigiano Reggiano and finally finished off with a generous drizzle of fresh turmeric aioli.

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The fresh turmeric aioli was a last minute inspiration. I wanted more than a simple vinaigrette dressing; something creamy yet with refreshing flavours. And then I remembered a conversation that I had with a couple of my social media friends about the use of fresh turmeric. I usually use fresh turmeric grated into my morning smoothie and so when I had posted the same, many of my friends wanted to know how else to incorporate fresh turmeric into everyday cooking as it is a powerful immune booster.

And thus, this turmeric aioli happened. This one can be whipped up in no time and keeps well in the fridge for use in sandwiches or tacos. I kept the texture slightly on the runny side (not as thick as mayo) as I was using it for a salad.

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So here’s how you can re-create my grilled fennel, walnut and cherry tomato salad with fresh turmeric aioli. A gorgeous salad with fresh vibrant flavours….

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Ingredients:

1. 1 large fennel
2. 1 punnet cherry tomatoes; halved (keep a few whole for aesthetic purposes)
3. 1 Lebanese cucumber
4. ½ cup walnuts
5. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) block
6. 1 cup rocket leaves
7. Macrobiotic sea salt, to season (use regular salt if this is not available)
8. Freshly milled black pepper
9. 2 tbsp olive oil
10. Fennel fronds, to garnish
11. Fresh turmeric aioli, to dress the salad

To make fresh turmeric aioli:

1. ½ inch fresh turmeric root
2. 1 egg yolk
3. 1 lemon
4. Salt, to season
5. Vegetable oil (at least 2-3 cups)

Method:

To prepare the aioli:

1. In a food processor, add the egg yolk and squeeze in juice from half a lemon. Season with salt.
2. Blitz the mixture and add oil slowly through the top to start the emulsification process.
3. As the mixture starts to emulsify and thicken, add a pinch of grated fresh turmeric. Blitz with more oil till desired consistency is achieved.
4. Taste and adjust; if less tangy add more lemon juice. If you feel that the turmeric flavour is not coming through, then add a pinch more and blitz for a few seconds. Taste and repeat if necessary.
5. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Note – Fresh turmeric has a very strong flavour which is why it must be added in extremely small quantities.

If you would like to see a video of making aioli; then I liked this one.

Aioli can be made without a food processor; just whip the hell out using your whisk or egg beater.

To prepare the salad:

1. Remove the fronds from the fennel and keep aside (used later to garnish the salad). Cut the fennel bulb into medium thick slices.
2. Heat the grill to smoking hot. Brush the fennel slices lightly with olive oil and season with salt. Grill on high heat for a couple of seconds on either side to get a nice char but still retain the crispness of the fennel.
3. On the same grill, grill the tomatoes for a few seconds. We just need a blister on the tomatoes and do not want it to go mushy.
4. Slice the cucumbers using a mandolin or peeler to get thin strips.
5. Roast the walnuts in a pan; take care not to burn.
6. To assemble; place a handful of rocket leaves on a plate and line two slices of grilled fennel on top. Add a couple of cherry tomatoes and walnuts. Roll 1-2 cucumber slices and place it on the plate. Add 2-3 shavings of Parmesan and garnish with fennel fronds; then dress lightly with a few spoonfuls of turmeric aioli. Finally sprinkle the macrobiotic sea salt and black pepper on top.
7. It is not necessary to plate the salad in this manner; use your own creativity and I am sure you will come up with even better results.

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And if you haven’t already read about all the excitement through my social media channels, I recently bought my first DSLR and this post is the first I shot with it. Notice any differences?

Behind the scenes with my new baby.....

Behind the scenes with my new baby…..

Tomato Egg Chutney

Indian cuisine is perhaps, the most diverse in the world. The cuisine, produce, ingredients, techniques do not just differ from state to state but can be unbelievably diverse within the different parts of a state.

Having spent an entire childhood abroad, my vision of Indian cuisine was largely restricted to my home state, Kerala. Apart from the occasional mithais/sweets that our Gujarati neighbour gifted us for Diwali, I thought everyone ate the same kind of food in India.

That perception largely changed when I settled back in India for my college studies and decided to make the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu as my home. The stark difference in the cuisine surprised me and this coupled with my blossoming interest in culture, food and travel soon opened my eyes to the vibrant, layered and deeply rich Indian cuisine.

Again, the cuisine of Tamil Nadu varies from widely from region to region from the rich and vibrant Chettinad cuisine to the vegetarian fare of the Madras Brahmins. As my life unfolded in this state and post marriage into a Tamilian household, I learnt of the influences, styles and techniques that have given rise to the present day cuisine.

One of the first recipes and probably the simplest that I learnt from my mother-in-law is this tomato egg chutney which was a breakfast regular especially with piping, hot dosas. I did get a bit of a shocker when she told me about adding the egg to the chutney. I simply couldn’t comprehend the flavours inside my head.

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The important thing with this chutney is the texture. The egg is added at the very end and immediately taken off the heat to ensure it stays creamy and does not go scrambled. Reminded me of the shakshuka but the end result was very different.

So, here is the tomato egg chutney – the perfect accompaniment to dosas (I have it as a spread too, slathered on my favourite toast).

This tomato egg chutney is rich with bold flavours, creamy, colourful and of course finger-lickin good!

To this day, my hubby wants to believe that I cannot make this one ‘like his mom’…though I know I make it quite well indeed!

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Ingredients:

1. 4-5 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2. 1 small red onion, finely chopped
3. 2 sprigs Curry leaves
4. 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
5. ½ tsp Mustard seeds
6. 1/4th tsp turmeric powder
7. ½ tsp Red chilli powder
8. 2 green chilli, slit lengthwise
9. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
10. Salt – to taste
11. A pinch of sugar
12. 1 whole egg

Method:

• Heat oil in a pan and crackle mustard seeds.
• Then add chopped garlic and onion; sauté till light brown.
• Add the curry leaves, green chilli and then add the chopped tomatoes.
• Saute on high heat for about 3-4 minutes and then lower the heat.
• Add the spices along with salt.
• If necessary, add water. (Sometimes, the tomatoes are ripe and juicy in which case extra water may not be required).
• Cover the pan and simmer gently till the chutney consistency is reached.
• Crack in one egg, remove from flame and mix in thoroughly to get a creamy consistency. (If you continue to cook, you end up with scrambled eggs)
• Serve hot with idly, dosa…just about anything.

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PS – This recipe has appeared before on my blog, but I re-shot the pictures and hence the new post.

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!

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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.

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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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Ethiopian Tomato Salad

There’s a new salsa in town!

Yes, I am talking of this humble Ethiopian tomato salad which has become our homestead’s current salsa fixation.

Similar ingredients…yet not similar flavours, the signature flavour that marks this tomato salad different from a traditional salsa is ginger.

Vegetarian meals are quite common in Ethiopia; simple and humble meals yet packed with flavour making the best use of ingredients available locally. Some of the common dishes that make up a traditional Ethiopian vegetarian platter is the yemisir wot – an oily red lentil stew generously spiced, yekik alicha – a yellow split pea stew flavoured with turmeric, tikil gomen – carrots, potatoes and cabbage simmered in a turmeric sauce.

Simple salads are also an integral part of the platter, this Ethiopian tomato salad being an example. And of course, no meal is complete without the breaking of the injera.

Much like the Indian style of eating, Ethiopians believe in a communal meal – friends and family coming together around the food. And fancy cutlery has no place here, pieces of injera are broken and the fingers are deftly used to scoop up the lentils, stews and salads. Eating with your hands might seem like the most natural thing for those who are used to it but for our Western counterparts, this can often be the most challenging part of a meal.

I found some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes at the market and used these for this salad. I used both the green and red varieties but you could use just regular tomatoes. Also, I love chunky pieces of tomatoes in my salsa/salad instead of the saucy types so I went for a rough chop.

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Like I mentioned, the signature or defining flavour of this Ethiopian tomato salad comes from ginger. Grated ginger is added to olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to make a flavourful dressing for the tomatoes. And for that touch of heat, chopped yellow onions and fresh jalapenos!

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This Ethiopian tomato salad recipe comes from here.


Ingredients:

1. 3 large heirloom tomatoes; roughly chopped
2. 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (use white or red if you cannot find yellow)
3. 2 fresh jalapenos, finely chopped (deseed if you wish to)

For the dressing:

4. 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5. 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
6. 1.5 tsp grated fresh ginger
7. Salt, to season
8. Black pepper, to season

Method:

1. Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and keep aside.
2. Mix the chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapenos in a large bowl.
3. Add the dressing and mix well just before serving.

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Enjoy it as a traditional salad or as a chunky salsa….I did both!

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Pan Fried Basa with Fiery Tomato Sauce and Grilled Asparagus

I love to experiment with cuisines, drawing inspiration from different styles of cooking, recipes, cuisines etc… and finally bringing it together as my own. This is one such dish.

I first came across this fiery tomato sauce in a South African cookbook. Known as Babette’s fiery sauce, it was listed as one of the basic sauces used in the cuisine. I just knew that I had to try it out as the flavours were incredible. It is a basic tomato sauce, easy to prepare and can even be made in bulk and stored. And being a basic sauce, it can be combined with different ingredients creating whole new dishes each time.

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I decided to go the seafood route with this sauce when I found some fresh basa fillets at the local farmer’s market. And when you have fresh produce, there is not much that you need to do; just a dash of seasoning is enough to draw out the flavour. I used salt, pepper and cumin to season the fish with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

The grilled asparagus was a last minute addition, again a find at the local farmer’s market. You can use any kind of grilled vegetable that you want based on what’s in season.

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Pan fried Basa with fiery tomato sauce and grilled asparagus – a perfect spring recipe; succulent pieces of basa spiced with cumin and pan fried, served on a bed of hot herby, garlicky tomato sauce and some grilled asparagus on the side for an extra bit of crunch and flavour.

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Ingredients:

For the fish:

1. 2 basa fillets, cut into 6 portions, wash and pat dry (use any other white fish if you cannot get basa)
2. Salt, to season
3. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
4. ½ tsp roasted cumin powder
5. Vegetable/olive oil – to pan fry the fish

Babette’s fiery sauce:

6. 3 ripe red tomatoes, diced
7. 2 cloves garlic
8. 2 sprigs parsley
9. 1 scotch bonnet chili
10. 6 tbsp sunflower oil
11. Salt, to season
12. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
13. Lemon juice
14. A pinch of sugar

For the asparagus:

15. Asparagus stalks, trimmed and cleaned
16. Salt, to season
17. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

Method:

1. Marinate the fish pieces with salt, pepper, cumin and lemon juice; keep aside for 30 minutes.
2. To prepare the sauce, blend tomatoes, garlic, parsley, chilli and oil in a blender till smooth. Add water if too thick.
3. Heat a pan and add the sauce; reduce on low heat till a thicker consistency is obtained. Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. (Make sure to taste and adjust seasonings accordingly).
4. Pan fry the fish pieces, drain on a towel and keep aside.
5. Season the asparagus with salt and pepper; grill till done.
6. To assemble, spoon the sauce on a plate, place the fish on top and add the grilled asparagus.
7. Garnish with chopped parsley leaves.
8. Enjoy while warm!

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Cherry Tomato Salad

This is the perfect summer salad for me! Simple, delicious and pretty…

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I love cherry tomatoes; the burst of slightly tangy, slightly sweet freshness when you bite into these red beauties. The wonders of nature so delicately captured!

This cherry tomato salad is perfect with your summer barbecues, a much needed freshness to grilled meats or seafood. It makes the perfect antipasto too or sitting enticingly on your cheese platter. So if you are entertaining this festive season, then this one is a must-try.

Simple ingredients yet when bought together produce magic on a plate, but then the best food is always the simplest…..

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The only indulgence to this already perfect recipe was that I used Macrobiotic sea salt, a sample of which was given to me by ‘The Spice People’. This is a natural and extremely healthy sea salt that has been hand harvested from the Great Barrier Reef. But you could use any salt that you want to, even the humble table salt is good enough for this amazing cherry tomato salad.

Shallots, red wine vinegar, pepper, salt and chives….a delicious summery vinaigrette encompasses these perfect cherry red tomatoes adding a flavour dimension that explodes in your mouth, every single bite.

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This recipe is from Bon Appetit, a great online source for food enthusiasts.

Ingredients:

1. 500 gms cherry tomatoes; get the freshest you can find
2. 4 tbsp olive oil
3. 1-2 shallots, finely chopped
4. 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
5. 2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
6. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
7. Macrobiotic sea salt, to season

Method:

1. Leave half of the cherry tomatoes whole and cut the rest into halves.
2. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the shallots; sauté lightly till soft.
3. Then add the tomatoes and cook on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes; just get the tomatoes slightly soft but not really to turn it mushy.
4. Add 1 tbsp vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
5. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish.
6. Add the remaining olive oil and garnish with the chopped chives.
7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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