Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tomato Soup for the Soul

We're off for a short trip to see Dholavira and I was in the process of emptying out the fridge. I had a pile of tomatoes among some other assorted vegetables. I'd just made pull apart bread rolls this morning and I thought soup would be superb with them. Thus tomato soup made its appearance at lunch today.

Sometimes all you need are a few fresh ingredients and a simple recipe to create a soul satisfying meal. This tomato soup definitely qualifies.

Tomato Soup

1 kg ripe tomatoes
2 potatoes
2 carrots
1 large onion
1 tbsp celery, finely chopped

Peel the potatoes and the carrots and cut into chunks. Chop the tomatoes and discard the stem roots. Put the whole lot into your pressure cooker along with a cup of water, the chopped celery , salt and pepper. Once the cooker whistles lower the flame and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Switch off and let the cooker cool down and release pressure on its own.

Mash the boiled vegetables with a wooden spoon. If you have a moulee legume you can run the soup through it. Alternatively just whizz it up in your blender or run it through a sieve. Do be careful if you're doing it in the blender - the hot puree can splash out of the jar and cause bad burns. Don't fill the jar beyond half its capacity.

Finish the soup with a dash of butter and scatter some finely chopped celery. You can also sprinkle some cheese for extra flavour.

We had the soup with the pesto rolls and it was a lovely lunch indeed!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pesto Pull Apart Rolls

I have been looking through the past recipes done by the bread baking group We Knead To Bake to do one for February. I also wanted to make a bread to welcome the hubby home - he'd been away for a few days. It's also a working day today so I wanted something quick and easy. The Herb and Cheese Pull Apart bread that they did in January last year fitted the bill perfectly. This was the first bread the group did together at the start of WKTB in 2013.

I browsed around to see what the other members had done with this recipe and chose to follow Saee's recipe for Pull Apart Pesto Rolls. I had plenty of pesto in my fridge and this would be a great new way to use up some of it.

I'm reproducing Saee's recipe here. I haven't tweaked it at all.

Pesto Pull Apart Rolls 

200 gms Maida or white flour
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp butter
1 tsp salt
extra butter for brushing
3-4 tsp pesto

In a small bowl or glass mix the yeast and sugar and pour the warm water over. In a separate bowl or directly on your work surface measure out the white flour. Make a well and pour in the yeast sugar mixture and start bringing the dough together with your fingers. It will get sticky but will come together very soon. Knead it on the counter top for a bit.

On the side take the 2 tsp of butter and the salt and combine them together making a smearing movement in a tight circle using your fingers parallel to the surface. Once the two are combined and the butter looks light and foamy work it into the dough. Once you add the fat the stickiness of the dough miraculously disappears.

Knead the dough well, stretching it as you go, for a good 10 minutes. Roll into a ball and place it in a bowl to raise. Cover with a damp cloth and leave it somewhere warm. It will double in 20 to 25 minutes max.

Remove the dough back on to a floured work surface. Punch out the air and knead for a minute. Roll it out into a flat oblong not thinner than 1/4 cm. It doesn't matter if the shape is not perfect. Spread the pesto evenly across the flattened dough going out to the edges.

Roll the dough carefully into a log. Cut the log into nine pieces and arrange them in a 9 inch round baking tin. Leave it to rise for another 20 minutes. Remember to leave some space between the rolls so they have room to rise.

Once the rolls have doubled and look squashed up next to each other pop them into your oven and bake for 20 minutes at 200C.

The tops should be a nice light golden colour. Brush the rolls with butter while they are still warm. Cool completely and they will come out of the tin very easily.

The same basic bread recipe can be used with a variety of fillings - Nutella, herbs and cheese, finely diced bacon or ham with cheese... just use your imagination and enjoy yourself!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

We Knead to Bake #2 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gajar ka Halwa - Indian Carrot and Milk Pudding

It started towards the end of October - as the weather cooled in the north I saw picture after picture of the delicious red carrots flooding every food group board on Facebook and more often than not, people were making gajar ka halwa with those carrots. 

I have always disliked Gajar ka Halwa. Once again I have a seemingly stupid reason for my dislike. My dad liked to cook and as most men, especially in those days, he was not into making mundane daal, bhaat, torkari, but liked to cook up the fancy and complicated stuff. The fact that slave labour (me) was available inhouse was an added benefit, I'm sure! And so gajar ka halwa featured often. 

I would be duly sent upstairs to our neighbour's house to get their grater. It was a big red plastic bowl with a white grater that fitted on as a lid. 30 years ago it was unusual and uber cool. Anyway, I hated that grater because I'd be the one stuck grating that mountain of carrots. Okay. Honestly, it was probably just a kilo of carrots but to a 9 year old it was a mountain. I'm not surprised that I remember nothing about the process of making the halwa apart from the grating. I seem to have deleted it all out of my memories! 

Well I am past 40 now and I like to think I have grown up enough to get over the trauma of grating those mountains of carrots. And so I set out to make gajar ka halwa myself. No. I didn't grate any carrots - I got my cook to do that part of the job ;)

Having seen tons of Gajar ka Halwa posts on Chef at Large on Facebook I asked for a recipe. The answers were instantaneous and I had a whole load of fool proof recipes to choose from. Ultimately the Hubby selected one that he felt was the most authentic one and it appealed to me too because it had no short cuts.I like to do a recipe the correct way the first time and only after that pare down the method for an easier version for future use. 

Thank you Harpreet Bedi Chadha for sharing your recipe. 

Gajar ka Halwa (with my own tweaks)

2 kg Red carrots, grated
2 lts full fat buffalo milk
5 green cardamom, seeds removed and reserved. 
Pure ghee, as required
Sugar - roughly 1 cup. Use more or less according to how sweet you want the halwa to be
15 blanched and halved almonds
20 raisins and 10 cashew nuts for garnishing. 

Take a thick bottomed largish vessel to make the halwa. 

Put in the grated carrots and the full fat milk and bring both to a boil. Pound the cardamom seeds gently in a mortar and pestle or under a rolling pin and add them to the boiling carrot and milk. Reduce the flame and let the milk get absorbed into the carrots and reduce. 

Stir every few minutes ensuring that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the vessel. This is going to take a few hours so there is no option but to be patient. Keep stirring every five minutes or so.
In the mean time you can peel the blanched almonds and halve them. Put them aside. Heat a little ghee in a separate pan and fry the almonds very lightly. If you're using raisins or cashews, fry them too. Drain out the excess ghee and leave these aside. 

Eventually the milk in the carrot-milk mix will reduce and you will get to the final stages of the halwa. 

Add the sugar and stir well. The sugar will dissolve and the halwa will get watery again. 

Stir away patiently till the halwa reaches a nice thick halwa-like consistency. If you like you can add a few of the raisins and a few nuts (chopped) to the halwa. Pour in the ghee too. Mix well and your halwa is ready. 

Remove to a pretty bowl and decorate with the remaining nuts and raisins. 

Marathon Bloggers Project 52