I love trying different cuisines, although I’m not adept at making most of them. At all. This may come as a surprise that as much as I throw myself at the mercy of the most complicated and time-intensive baking recipes, I am timid about cooking beyond my comfort zone of Filipino, Southeast Asian, and North American dishes. I used to shudder at the thought of having to prepare Indian dishes. Luckily, Jens is a fantastic cook and prepares Indian food like a boss. When we started dating, this Indian lentil curry was the first thing he ever cooked for me, with the addition of prawns in it (yum). I remember being led away from the kitchen and asked to just relax on the couch and “eat bonbons” (his words, not mine, and sadly there weren’t really any bonbons, boo) and watch TV. I think I turned on the news, pining for those phantom sweets. Ha.
I could smell the onions being sautéed with cumin and there was much banging of pots, pans and chopping board. At the time I was really glad I wasn’t the one toiling over the stove, smelling of onions, and only had a small chance of partaking in the cleanup afterwards. (Or did I? I can’t remember.) All that was left of the memory of that dinner was how good this was, and how I needed to get the recipe.
It’s the one thing I ask him to make a couple of times a month and with the summer months over, I’ve been craving it even more. I’m not the only one who loves it–anyone who’s tasted it wants the recipe. We recently brought it to a Thanksgiving lunch and as expected several people asked us how to make it. It didn’t help that half the soup was spilled in the car en route to Maple Ridge, so guests only had a little bit of it, left wanting more.
Up until then I’ve never actually cooked it. As a rule, I don’t post recipes I haven’t tried myself. So I made it twice last week: Batch #1 was for dinner for one and a few work lunches between Jens and I, and Batch #2 with fried paneer (i.e. fresh cheese) was our contribution to the family dinner at my parents’ over the weekend. We finished that second pot of soup down to the last spoonful. My poor brother who was hoping for leftovers never stood a chance.
Cooking it was much easier than I thought. I’ve avoided preparing Indian food for the longest time because I thought I’d never get the spices right. This simple curry has changed all that and I’m ready to tackle more Indian dishes. It means I’ll get to use the other third of our spices, which I have been ignoring. Hurray!
The following recipe was based on the the Moong and Masoor Dal recipe in Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisinewith several modifications. Jens has always used green lentils instead of the moong dal (mung or moon bean) in the original dish. We use 2 cups less water with a corresponding 1/4 tablespoon reduction in salt, and half the ghee, a type of clarified butter. I’ve linked uncommon ingredients to helpful pages for reference when you’re shopping for ingredients. Here in Vancouver we are lucky to have numerous Indian stores where we could source our asafoetida and ghee. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Superstore has them.
Did you know that Canada is the top lentil-producing country in the world, ahead of India?
There’s nothing as comforting in winter as a good soup, especially a hearty split pea soup. This one is fully vegetarian, with all the goodness of homemade vegetable stock. The original recipe called for a lot of fresh herbs, which I didn’t have because I ran out and there wasn’t time to go out and buy them. What I had instead were dried rosemary, thyme and bay leaves, and fresh mint leaves. The latter was a very nice addition to the soup and if I had to do it all over again, I’d make this soup with the same ingredients.
A few weeks ago, I asked for vegetarian cookbook recommendations on Twitter. One of the top two mentioned by my Twitter pals is Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone“. I didn’t realize it was like The Vegetarian Cooking Tome–the massive amount of recipes overwhelmed me the minute I held it. I haven’t delved that much into vegetarian cooking (there’s always a slight meat component in most of my vegetable dishes), so I didn’t know where to start. That week, we were having an incredibly cold and rainy week, as is typical for Vancouver winter. It was starting to get really old and the only thing that could really lighten the mood up was a good bowl of soup. When I looked through the cookbook, this one jumped at me. This would be the books “first test”.
Friends, do you do that, too, when you have a new cookbook? Do you test out a few recipes to see if the cookbook will be worth its place as a standby in the kitchen? For me, if one recipe succeeds, it stays near the kitchen and I continue to cook from it. If it fails, I’ll give it 2 more tries before I ditch it. What about you? How many recipes do you test before it gets a Yay or a Nay?
This recipe definitely earned a “Yay!” in my book.
I love when everything goes together and the whole experience of making a dish somehow connects you to the author, through the methods, the flavors, and the culmination in the forms of a really good meal and a silent Thank You to the mind that created something so wonderful. A regular dinner turned into something special. Yes, I romanticize about meals, and if this was a date, I’m picking the phone to ask for a second. ;-)
People close to me know that I laugh and joke a lot. In fact, I incessantly crack myself up for reasons that only I will understand. Take for example, when we were at Whole Foods I prodded Dan to ask where we could find “black eyed peas” because I couldn’t say it without giggling and thinking about the hip hop group. Hehe. Childishness aside, this black-eyed peas dish got the last laugh because…it was so good! It was flavorful with a bit of punch, and it is hearty enough to be eaten as a meal.
I had not cooked beans in a long time and this marked my first time to use [giggle] black-eyed peas [/giggle] in a dish. I haven’t eaten beans cooked this way either, so I didn’t know what to expect.
I just trusted the recipe — this is new territory for me not only for the unfamiliarity of dish but also because I rarely follow the recipe.
Little did I know that a couple of weeks later, I’d find myself strictly adhering to the bread recipe to get it right. This is how progress starts for someone who has aversion to rigidity and structure.
See? I promptly followed the instruction to cook the shrimp and then add wine.
And mix the bean mixture again.
My self-control on changing the recipe paid off:
It looks like it has curry, but it doesn’t. It just has the perfect touch of spiciness from the red pepper flakes, garlic and black pepper. It will warm and fill you up on a cold night. You can enjoy it warm on its own or with rice, or store in the freezer or refrigerator for later consumption. We noticed that it tasted even better the next day.
It’s no secret that I’m impressionable when it comes to food. I’m the poster child for culinary autosuggestion. Mention some kind of food, save for monkey brain, and chances are I just might develop a hankering for it in a few minutes. It has been a lifelong crux, there’s nothing a voracious eater can do.
Early last week I saw Martha make Minestra Maritata with Chef Nate Appleman (whose A16: Food + Wine book was given to me last Christmas) and at that instant I wanted to make some meatball soup. That’s the power of Martha. Or it could just because her show is right before lunch.
We bought a family pack of ground beef from Whole Foods last Sunday and you bet I was going to make full use of it. This is the first of many dishes I’ve made from it. It might be fitting to call it Recession Meat because if I was to track our consumption of it, it it might actually suffice for a week’s worth of dinners (and my lunches). Perhaps we should start a Recession/Depression series as Denise and Lenny have on their site, seeing that we both go to WF for our groceries. Yes, you could still save and survive during these times while eating and shopping organic, you just need to be more aware of what you buy and planning your meals.
Having said that, planning a whole week’s menu is unheard of in my family. The only ones I remember doing that was our household help, and then I end up ruining them sometimes because of my last-minute food cravings (haha). I’m trying to start a semi-planning kind of thing last week. Kind of. I find cooking inspiration and suggestion from cooking books or magazines, Twitter friends, Food Network or Martha and tweak recipes to accommodate the ingredients that we have.
I made this dish the night that Obama had his 8pm ET speech last week, so I forgot to turn the meatballs halfway through the baking process. They still turned out perfect, thank goodness. I was able to make 49 meatballs out of a 750 grams of meat mixture using a tablespoon to measure each, so they would look fairly uniform. I only used 30 meatballs for the soup and froze the rest for some spaghetti and meatballs.
These meatballs made our kitchen smell like a weekend breakfast of Italian sausages. Yummy. You can eat them with gravy or ketchup, too.
The soup base is a combination of parmesan cheese broth (from boiled parmesan rinds) and beef broth. You can save your rinds from cheese blocks or you can find them at the supermarket (we found ours at Whole Foods).
I added a celery slices and stalk of rosemary in the soup while it was cooking. And then wilted some spinach leaves before serving.
This turned out so delicious. It was just what we needed that chilly evening.
It shifts from cold to hot here in Vancouver. “Would you like the cold for breakfast? Sweltering heat for lunch? No problem!” That kind of thing.
I made this a couple of months ago when Dan and I found some super sweet corn from Whole Foods. I think I even cooked this on a hot day in Arizona. Whether it’s a hot day, or cold day…this is good. I love corn soup! It’s basically just chopped onions sauteed with chicken, fresh crushed pepper and salt. Then fresh sweet corn and spinach leaves added right after you turn off the heat. Easy-peasy!
In Manila, our helpers used to cook this at my request. Instead of chicken chicken bits, they actually shred the chicken. They didn’t use spinach leaves, but some slightly bitter leaves (I think they were chili plant leaves). And it was a nice contrast to the sweet corn. It was delicious. I could eat it for days!
I have a bag of leeks and potatoes here waiting to be made into potato leek soup tonight. That’s another easy and tasty soup to make.
Now that it’s starting to cool up, I’m ready to make more soup! Do you have any (easy) soup recipes? Let me know!
Boiled Beef Soup, is locally known and called as Nilagang Baka [pronounced Ni-LAH-gang BAH-ka] in the Philippines. It’s another one of my favorite Filipino dishes that I used to request for dinner all the time.
When my grandmother cooks this dish, she uses a pressure cooker to soften the meat and make the stock out of beef soup bones. I used that as well to cut down on the cooking time to make the brisket really tender. Traditionally, the vegetables added are cabbages, potatoes, bok choy, and sometimes, plantains. I used cabbage and spinach and they still went well with the soup.
It’s pretty straightforward to cook Boiled Beef Soup. You basically boil the beef then add the vegetables. For a healthier option, you can make the stock and cook the meat a day ahead. Separate the meat and bones from the soup when you store it in the fridge. You can scoop out the fat from the top of the soup after it has cooled then heat with the meat and add the vegetables when ready to be served.
Cold, cold go away. Come again another day. We just want to enjoy our Christmas Day.
I’ve been able to avert the cold so far (thanks to Cold FX) but Dan has been battling the darn virus since Thursday. I made this chicken soup for us last Thursday night. It’s easy to make and quite yummy, according to my now-recovering half. There’s no need to slave over making chicken stock–who can do that if you’re already sick?
So for all those who are not feeling well, we’re thinking of you today. Feel better. Have some soup! And enjoy the holidays!