I have been absent from this blog for a long time. There have been some major changes for me. I have a new job now working Monday to Friday and we have moved into a new house. Working routine hours over set days might have its advantages but after having worked varying shifts for the past 17 years I am still adjusting my life around my new routine. My cooking priorities have changed slightly and I am learning to make the most of my time available. By the time I have some dinner prepared I don’t have much natural light left to take nice pictures too. So blogging took a bit of a back seat but I am determined to get back to it. I was thinking about what recipe to post for a few weeks. The answer came to me as I was looking though some old pictures on my mobile phone.
Couple of years ago around this time, I was in America touring the east coast from Virginia to Boston. Everywhere we visited there seemed to be an abundance of Pumpkins as they were gearing for Halloween. As I was talking to my friends and relatives there, I was surprised to hear that even though they were all familiar with Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Spiced Latte (a popular seasonal export by Starbucks), they were shocked to hear that Pumpkin could create a great soup. I remember that in those 15 days I had to make (at least on two occasions) pumpkin soup. Now in a land of plenty such a hearty soup should be a part and parcel of Autumn life. It’s surprisingly versatile and can absorb a lot of flavour. I have a few versions (ie with Chorizo, with Goats Cheese, with Lentil, with crab meat and so on) but for this recipe I will like to write about Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Coconut. The pumpkin could be easily replaced by Butternut Squash as I often do but at this time of the year stick with pumpkin.
CURRIED PUMPKIN SOUP Ingredients
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion chopped
3 cloves of Garlic
1 small to medium sized pumpkin (peeled cleaned and chopped)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 red chilli chopped
1 star anise (optional, use 1 tsp of all spice powder instead)
1 can of light coconut milk
Juice of half a lime
2 tbsp of Coriander leaves (optional)
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the star anise. Add the chopped garlic and chilli. After about 30 seconds add the chopped onion. Fry till translucent and add the pumpkin pieces, cumin and coriander powder. Stir for a minute or two before adding the coconut milk and some water to an inch over the pumpkins. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Check that the pumpkins are completely soft. Blend the soup using a hand blender. Check for seasoning and add a bit of water if necessary for the desired consistency. Simmer gently for a few minutes. Add a squeeze of lime and the chopped coriander. Serve hot.
With the Easter holidays, I have been slightly busier than usual and have not been able to spend time blogging as much as I would have loved. The weather is nice for a change and we have been busy exploring the outdoors with my daughter. During this time i have prepared many dishes but have not been able to perfect the dishes or take decent pictures to actually do up the blog. For my next post I have chosen to write about this easy fish dish with vegetables that’s steamed in their own juices. I know that a lot of recipe out there claims to be easy but this really is easy. You could rustle up this in no time and also be able to use fish from frozen. As for the vegetables you are welcome to play around too and use up what’s available. Most vegetables work well here. Over my many attempts, I have used peas, carrots, sweet potato, beans, peppers, sweet corn, baby corn, very thin sliced potato, chopped tomatoes, blanched cabbage, mange trout etc. I have also made this dish with just salt and pepper, with Chinese five spices, with Indian Curry spices and with Thai flavours. They have all worked well so you could use different flavours too experimenting till you come to like one or two. Most of the time I have added a spoon of tomato purée diluted with a tiny bit of water and poured over the top of the fish fillets. I have also semi defrosted the fish in a microwave but if you are using thin fillets then I have also cooked from frozen and have had great results.
2 fillets of any white fish (Pollack was used in the last recipe that’s in the picture)
1 medium carrot cut into medium pieces
1 medium onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic chopped
Handful of peas
5 baby corns cut into medium chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tsp of Chinese five spice mix or Indian Curry powder or Thai 7 spice mix.
1 tbsp of tomato purée
If using Thai flavours add lime leaves or one chopped lemon grass (optional)
Heat a frying pan that has a fitting lid. Add a about a tablespoon of oil. When hot add the garlic and after about 30 seconds add onions. Stir for a minute and add the rest of the vegetables. Stir fry for about 2 minutes. Now place the fish fillets on top and add the salt. Sprinkle the spice and top with the tomato purée diluted in about 5 tablespoons of water. Add black pepper (or chilli powder if more heat is desired) and add lemon grass or lime leaves if using Thai flavours. Now cover with a lid and cook till done. This usually depends on the thickness of the fish and if it was frozen or not. Just check after 10 minutes and then cover and cook more if required. Don’t over cook the fish as it will also continue cooking. drizzle with some fresh lemon juice and serve immediately.
Chutneys are an integral part of Bengali food culture. Traditionally they are made to be of slightly thin consistency compared with the chutneys in the west and are usually consumed on the same day unlike the west where we tend to store them for longer. In summer months a sweet tangy chutney would be prepared usually of raw mango, or tamarind, or pineapple etc and served at the end of lunch meal. Its said to aid digestion and also help in cooling the body. During a multi course feast the chutney would come after the main course and before desserts to act as a sort of palate cleanser similar to what some sorbets supposed to do. In Bengal Chutneys are popularly made from raw mango, tamarind, pineapple, tomato et. They also add dried dates and Aamsotto (mango fruit leather). This tomato chutney takes me back to my childhood days when my grandmother used to make it. I have made it slightly drier so that it will stay in the fridge for about 5 days if necessary. It’s an easy and quick recipe but the Panch Phoran (bengali five spice mix consisting of Black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, kalonji seeds) is a must (you can make your own but it’s far easier to buy ready mixed and then you need only one. It is available in good Asian markets and in an increasing amount of our regular supermarkets too (Waitrose sells them). This is great on its own but you could add some dried fruits to it like apricots, dates or if you can get your hands into it, another Bengali delicacy the aamsotto (fruit leather made from mango) also known as a am papad in other parts of India.
A can of Chopped good quality tomato
2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar according to your taste
2 cloves of garlic
A small cube of ginger
1 tsp of bengali five spice mix (Panch Phoran)
One small dried red Chilli (without seeds if you prefer mild)
Pinch of salt
2 tsp of oil
Optional extra 2 tbsp chopped mango fruit leather or 5/6 apricots or dates chopped.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the spice mixture. As soon as they start to pop, add the ginger and garlic and the chilli. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato. Add the pinch of salt and the sugar. Cook on a medium to low heat for about 20 minutes stirring often. We are looking for a stage where the mixture sort of sticks together and it’s not runny. Now add the dry fruit if using and stir for another 5 to 10 mins. Take off from the cooker and let it cool down completely. Store in a clean jar or a container in the fridge and use as required. Do not forget to lick the spatula and the spoon.
I have often acknowledged my love for roasted Red peppers. I love the smell and the taste of it and often make it at home when I have some spare ones and am using the oven for cooking something else. It’s great as a pepperonata Dip or Sauce (recipe here) and its also a great addition to Hummus. Hummus are very easy to make and are very healthy too. Do not be afraid to experiment with different flavours and trust me the end product will be way better than the supermarket versions that we buy. The following recipe uses Butter beans instead of the traditional chickpeas. The Butter beans produces a creamier end product and so we do not use much oil and do not add any Tahini (sesame seed paste) and thus making it even healthier. Reserve some of the juices that ends up on the roasting pan. Roast the peppers and leave them covered to cool and this helps to peel the skin off easily. make sure that the peppers have cooled down completely before using them. I often roast them after cooking some dinner in the oven and then leave them on the kitchen top covered to cool overnight. This way I also can get fresh Hummus prepared in no time in the morning.
Butter beans – 1 can of about 400 gm
Roasted red pepper – 1 large or 2 small
Roasted garlic clove – 2 medium
Cumin Powder – 2 tsp
Lemon juice – 2 tbsp
Crushed Chilli – 2 tsp (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive oil 4 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Drain the beans and take the skin off (optional) if you like a creamer end product. I take about a half off and leave the other half. Then put all the ingredients except oil in a food processor and process for a minute. If you want to have a less thick end product add some of the juices from the roasting tray. Now with the motor running add the oil slowly. Mix well. Season and serve with nice toasted bread, or vegetable sticks or pitta bread crisps or whatever takes your fancy.