Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweet potato soup

I have been on a rampage to try out new soup recipes. This one was concocted while reading through the The Africa Cookbook. by Jessica Harris. I picked it because unlike so many other cookbooks on Africa, this really does cover the whole continent, not just the northern coast and South Africa. Also it does not consider Egyptian food as a limb of Arabic food. The book was picked up on my trip to Berkeley last year. I got a whole lot of cookbooks along with this from a splendid called Moe's. I wish I could have bought more books; but bearing in mind the narrow ledge of top-heavy luggages versus what a fellow must bring back after a five month sojourn, I desisted. This recipe is evocative of extensive use of sweet potatoes in African cuisine and is simplicity itself. It also uses a widely used Egyptian spice mix, the dukkah. I made a jar of it, and much like the sakura denbu-like fluffed fish from Taiwan, I have been sprinkling it on everything!

For Dukkah (Adapted from The Africa Cookbook)
1 cup almonds, toasted (any other nut would do)
1/2 cup coriander seeds
6 Tablespoons sesame seeds
4 Tablespoons cumin seeds
2 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh mint leaves, roasted

For soup
300 gms sweet potato, peeled and sliced
50-70 gms mooli/white radish, peeled and sliced
6 spring onions, white part only, sliced
1 clove garlic
3 cups vegetable broth
Salt to taste
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon dukkah

For the dukkah, roast all ingredients except the mint. Let cool and then grind to a coarse powder. It must remain as granules. Transfer to a glass jar. Roast the mint leaves in a oven overnight, beforehand (dried will do too). Sprinkle a little on top and seal it. Just transfer a few tablespoons out when you want to use it.
Heat olive oil in a vessel. Saute the spring onions and whole garlic for two minutes. Slice half radish and saute it. Put the chopped sweet potato and stir for another 5 minutes. Add the broth and salt and cook covered for 10 minutes. Uncover, cool and puree to a smooth, runny soup. Taste and season. Transfer to individual bowls and sprinkle dukkah over it just before serving.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roasted Tomato soup

This is a lazy person's tomato soup. A handful of ingredients. An oven for roasting the vegetables. A blender to puree it into a smooth concoction. The ingredient which added a new dimension is a few spoonfuls of what I believe is sakura denbu. In Taiwan from where it was bought, they called it "Yo som". We bought it from a sea food market. The market was divided into three sections. Fresh seafood to be made on the spot according to customer's instructions. You practically ate off the lurid, red plastic covered table covers. The other section had fresh sea creatures to be taken home. The third part had all sorts of processed items from the harvest of the sea. Fish sticks, fish pastes, dried prawns, fish and all sorts of seaweeds. The fluffed fish or sakura denbu as I will refer to it as, came in two flavours. We took the one which was the milder. I have been adding it to roasted or boiled vegetables and making a complete meal of my lunches. It can be stirred into any soup. Adds a mild fishy note, a lot of umami and animal protein to boot!

6 large tomatoes, halved
1/2 mooli/white radish, peeled
4 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon sakura denbu
2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups vegetable broth

Switch on oven to 180 degrees celsius. Oil a roasting tin or baking sheet. Arrange the halved tomatoes. Slice the mooli and arrange it in between. Strew them with salt and pop them into the oven. Wrap the garlic in a foil and put into the oven along with the rest of the vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes. Tip the vegetables into a large vessel. Squeeze the garlic into the vessel. Add the stock and cook for about 5-7 minutes at low heat. Add salt to taste and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Switch off the burner and let cool. Puree it until smooth. Note that addition of the sakura denbu will add a saltier note. Season according to taste. Just before serving add the sakura denbu. Stir it in Have it warm.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Red bean soup

Last month, I dined on soups for a fortnight. Only soup. These were not clear, unctuous and classic consomme naturally. I wanted to make a meal of them. They were all full-bodied, hearty and yes, very healthy. The soup featured in this recipe is a common enough item on our daily menu along with other dishes. I used fresh beans for this recipe, but soaked dried beans will do as well. I buy the fresh beans from a vegetable and fruit soup which peels them ready for the customer. I can never resist buying the little half-moons; green fava, creamy butter beans, red beans and pink and white speckled lima beans. They cook in 5 minutes in the pressure cooker. I used red beans for this recipe. And added half a cup of black coffee which would have otherwise been put down the drain. I was tempted to put it in since cardamom flavoured coffee (or tea) are a favourite of mine. Apart from giving the soup a more intense colour it didn't make any difference.

100 gm red beans
1 small tomato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 inch galangal, grated
1 clove, crushed
1 cardamom, crushed
1/2 cup black coffee
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 spicy sausage, chopped (optional)

Soak the beans in clean water. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker. Saute the onion and galangal until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the clove and cardamom and saute for another minute. Add the tomato and salt. Cook until the tomato is incorporated as a mush, about 5-7 minutes. Add the drained beans, water and coffee. Pressure cook for 5-7 minutes. When cool, season according to taste with salt and pepper. Heat it through to incorporate the extra salt. Take a ladleful of the soup and crush the beans in it. Put it back into the main bowl and stir it in. This makes the soup a little thicker, which is how I like it. It can be skipped if you want yours thin. Chop and add the sausage. Serve warm. Needless to say it can be had with rice, flatbreads and pastas equally well.