Hero the Veg: Basic Single Vegetable Soups (Broccoli and Mushroom soups)

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At a very recent dinner at a friends house on a cold winter day, I was served soup as appetiser and it was simple and delicious. Off late most of my soups are the broths I make for dunking noodles into to make some sort of Ramen out of them. But just the joy of a plain mushroom soup reminded me how delicious and easy it is to make soup out of literally every vegetable and how it is also very easy to pack a punch of flavour into it.

So the next whole week I ate at least one vegetable soup every meal and may be for two meals to finally understand and write about how to make soups out of single vegetables. Just one vegetable as hero. And what little things can be added to each of them to really up the flavour and deliciousness of the soups.

We are talking 2 basic soups here: Broccoli and Mushroom (button)
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Broccoli Soup –
Ingredients: Makes 2 bowls

2 medium broccoli
1 tbsp ghee
1 sprig dill
750 ml water (and more if needed)
2-3 pinches pink salt
pepper to taste

1. Clean and chop the broccoli, stalks and stems and florets. if the broccoli is tender then chop them in the same size. Else chop the florets into larger pieces than the stalks. the stalks need to be pealed as the outer skin is tough and fibrous.
2. Add the ghee to the pan and add the broccoli. Stir and cook till tender.
3. Add the water and cook. Do not cover as that way you will loose the beautiful green colour.
4. Cook till the broccoli is almost mushy.
5. Use a hand blender to blend in the broccoli. Add a sprig of dil tied to a string and simmer till you achieve desired consistency. Once cooked remove the dill and add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls. When serving garnish with some fresh chopped dill. Serve with warm crusty bread with garlic and dill on top
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Tips and tricks
1. Broccoli cooks very quickly, so a little patience, cook on low flame and the colour is retained
2. Use a densely flavoured oil to first stir fry the broccoli before you add the water. Try a cold pressed sesame, coconut, extra virgin olive or mustard oil. Ghee it was for me.
3. Use smaller and more delicate broccoli’s, they are sweeter
4. Use the stem It adds body and depth of flavour. Just peal them.
5. Use a green herb to garnish. I used dill. They go well together.
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Mushroom Soup
Ingredients: Makes 2 bowls
400 gms button mushrooms
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 inch cube. butter
1 pinch. nutmeg
1/2 cup milk/ almond milk/ coconut milk
1-2 cloves garlic
500 ml mushroom stock/ vegetable stock/ water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the mushrooms into 1 inch pieces. clean them thoroughly after chopping just to ensure absolutely no grit is left on them.
2. Add the oil in a pan. Choose a big pan because mushrooms don’t cook too well if crowded in a pan. They tend to sweat too much too soon.
3. Once the oil is heated, add the butter and diced/chopped/ minced garlic and bay leaves. Stir on low flame and do not let the garlic brown. After a minute or so add the chopped mushrooms and stir.
4. Slowly the mushrooms will sweat a bit and cook through. Once cooked let it cool for some time.
5. Remove the bay leaves and add the nutmeg. Blend it in a liquidiser jar with water till smooth.
6. To get the most creamy texture, run the blended mushroom puree through a fine sieve.
7. Bring the mixture back to a boil after adding the milk and water. Season to taste. serve with a wedge of lime.

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Tips and tricks
1. Cook the mushrooms till they are perfectly tender.
2. Use a liquidiser for this soup. A hand held blender will not be the best
3. Garlic, bay leaf and nutmeg/ cinnamon and you are sorted. No need to scamper about for some thyme for this.
4. Just a dash of milk, no cream at all.
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Charnamrita inspired breakfast bowl

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I vividly remember two occasions when I have had a Panchamrita/ Charnamrita. One was when my aunt had taken us two sisters for attending some Puja in an old haveli in Lucknow. I remember asking for a second helping of the 1-2 tablespoon serving that we were given. And the other time when a dear friend’s mother had summoned me to help mash bananas in a big pot of cold milk and yogurt mixture. I was then made aware that this has to be done by hand only.

Panchamrita/ Charnamrita is the offering to the Divine and then consumed also by those making the offering. Yogurt, milk, ghee, honey, sugar, Indian Basil. Dry fruits, and bananas are added by others.

Because it is so tasty I thought about using the same ingredients with the addition of roasted Amarnath and Foxnut, which is very popular food during this fasting time and making a breakfast bowl.
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Ingredients:
1 cup Yogurt
2 cup Milk/ Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Honey (you could use a combination of sugar and honey)
1/4 cup Ghee
2 Bananas
1/2 cup Dry Fruits of your choice
1 cup Roasted Foxnut
1 cup Roasted Amarnath seeds
2-3 sprigs Indian Basil

1. Soak the torn Indian Basil leaves in the milk for a few hours.
2. Peel and mash the bananas in the yogurt. I did it by hand, just for the memory. It is fun. You can try it.
3. Mix the milk, ghee and honey into the banana yogurt mixture. Once every thing is assimilated add the dry fruits, roasted foxnut and roasted amarnath seeds.
4. Divide into bowls and serve.
5. Its another great bowl of food post a morning yoga flow.
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A mouthful of coconut (energy balls to the world, laddoos to Indians)

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Rituals in India include coconut in many ways. It is considered auspicious and is a staple across the vast coastline of India. It is now that the world has woken up to the possibilities of coconut and its dense nutritional value is fast gaining dominance in cooking, the world over.

During any festivities, yogic or ritualistic fasts, coconut and preparation from coconut is very common. So are coconut laddoos. Traditionally the coconut is cooked in milk, which I have replaced with coconut milk to become a completely plant based dessert.

The other thing done is that if coconut sugar is used the flavour is stronger and makes the laddoos more vegan friendly.

These are great post work out treats for me.
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Ingredients:
100 gms Desiccated coconut, plus some extra for rolling the laddoos in
50 gms Raw/ unrefined/ coconut sugar
1 tbsp Coconut oil
200 ml Coconut milk

1. Heat a heavy bottomed wok or pan. Ensure it remains on low heat all the time. The temptation to turn up the heat and expedite the process of cooking is very high. We are conscious cooking these days, so just enjoy the fragrance wafting in the house while preparing this. Also this will ensure that these coconut laddoos remain as white even when cooked
2. Add the coconut oil to the pan and the desiccated coconut and gently stir. Continue stirring till the decimated coconut is still white, but slightly toasted through and before it changes colour. Add the coconut milk and the sugar and continue stirring. Stir over low flame for about 8-10 minutes
3. Once the mixture is no longer loose and starts to leave the sides and comes together, turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. I like my laddoos to be very soft and hence I almost have a wobbly structure to my laddoos. But if you like a little more bite, cook the mixture a little more, till it is as dense as you like.
4. Once cooled, add some oil to your palms and form balls laddoos. Roll the balls/ laddoos in desiccated coconut and allow to cool. You can store it in the fridge as well, but they will fast disappear where ever you try to hide them.
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