Saturday, 4 December 2010

Beautiful Soups!

I like to give suggestions a lot of the time, rather than prescriptive recipes because I think a really important part of cooking is the creativity. Most of my favourite things to cook (and eat) have evolved this way, from adapting a recipe or dreaming up a list of ingredients I know will go really well together and then working out how to combine them into the required form.
In winter there is nothing nicer than a steaming hot bowl of home-made soup, and although there certainly is a place for the generic "vegetable soup" made with whatever you have to hand plus a can of tomatoes, it is so good to make soup with a particular identity too. The secret is often in the seasoning: certain herbs and spices go particularly well with certain vegetables, such as tomato and bay or basil, carrot and coriander, etc. Choose flavours which enhance rather than drown out the flavour of your chosen vegetable(s).  Here are a couple of  sweet and creamy suggestions that go down really well with my teenaged kids in the school holidays as a nourishing lunch. They usually have them with some kind of bread or roti (flatbread) and melted cheese, peanut butter or tahini with a salad garnish. They are then less likely to spend their hard-earned pocket money on crisps and chocolate from the local shop!
  • Alternative to onions: Dishes containing onions cannot be offered to Krishna, so if all your favourite recipes for soup begin with frying onions, try this instead:  finely chop some white cabbage, and fry gently in a good-quality oil (I prefer organic sunflower oil) with the addition of  plenty of hing to add to the pungency, some soy sauce and dark brown sugar or gour (Indian raw cane or palm sugar). Then continue your recipe as normal.
  • Green Pea Soup: Cook up some dried marrowfat peas, "alternative onions", and stir in a little yeast extract, coarse ground black pepper, salt and herbes de Provence/ thyme and oregano/ fresh or dried mint. Then add frozen green peas. Blend. You can then add a little single cream/ soya milk if you want. (My husband recommends home-made cashew cream as a delicious vegan alternative to single cream.) The resulting soup is a beautiful green colour (from the frozen peas: the less of those you add, the duller the green) and should have a delicate flavour. A healthy and colourful garnish for this (which was shown me by a Krishna devotee many years ago) is to grate some fresh, raw beetroot and sprinkle it in the centre of each bowl of soup.
  • Sweetcorn Chowder : Make "alternative onions", add water and frozen sweetcorn. Throw in some chopped red bell pepper at this stage if you like. Season with salt and black pepper, a little paprika, hing, thyme and oregano. Add soy sauce/ Liquid Aminos if desired. Bring to the boil and then blend. Return to the pan and stir in vegan cream or ground sunflower seeds, reheating gently.

    Pumpkin curd or chutney

     If you have ever grown a pumpkin so enormous you don't know what to do with all that succulent orange flesh, then here is an idea: this recipe was inspired by one in Lawrence Hill's excellent book "Organic Gardening", but omits the egg. The quantities are relative, so you can adapt this to the amount of pumpkin you have.

    Ingredients: pumpkin, fresh lemons, butter, brown sugar
    • Dice, cook and puree you pumpkin flesh
    • Add 6 sliced lemons for every 4lb of pumpkins
    • Add 4oz of butter for every 4lbs of pumpkins
    • Add half the cooked weight of the pumpkin in brown sugar.
    • Cook over a low-med heat until all ingredients are blended nicely and the sugar dissolved
    • Bottle in sterilised jars and keep in the fridge once opened.
    You can stir in some chopped, dried or powdered chilli and salt (to taste) to make a chutney that's really good with cheese dishes.

    Tuesday, 30 November 2010

    Check this out!

    Check out my other blog at: for more info on bhakti yoga philosophy, links to some really nice websites etc.

    Monday, 29 November 2010

    Five things I could not do without in my kitchen

    I like to live simply, but there are a few things that are essential for the kind of cooking we do. These are all definitely tools and not gadgets, and useful for many recipes:

    1: Grinder (ground nuts, seeds and dried fruit with water = instant healthy sweets)
    2: Blender (hand mashed hummus just isn't the same...)
    3: Hand blender (saves messy soup transfers)
    4: Peeler (the Y-shaped kind: I do peel non organic root veg because of pesticide residues, and I even use this to de-string celery!)
    5: Pressure cooker (makes short work of dried beans and virtually instant vegetable stews)

    What are your must-have kitchen tools?