I've been trying to eat better lately. Mostly because I want to lose weight, but also because moving to Toronto has meant the supply of plentiful, cheap, delicious, vegetarian Indian takeout, and the quickest way, in my mind, to get fat is to stop cooking and eat out.
In keeping with the desire to eat better, the other day I made an Indian-style, Curried, Ginger-Carrot Soup. Here's how:
1. Chop up some carrots.
2. Steam carrots (I added some salt to the water) for 5-10 minutes, until cooked but not mushy.
3. In the meanwhile, chop 1-2 onions, and grate 1-2 tbsp of ginger. (I like ginger.)
4. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan. Add 1 heaped tsp of cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp asafoetida, and a good handful of curry leaves. Fry till cumin seeds turn a golden brown, which is less than a minute, if your oil is hot.
Curry leaves and asafoetida powder are Indian ingredients, which will probably involve a trip to your local Indian grocery store. (If you live in a city of any size whatsover, you have an Indian grocery store. Trust me on this one. We Indian people are helpless without our spices.)
Here's my jar of asafoetida powder.
Piece of trivia - I think Afghanistan is the world's biggest producer of asafoetida. My mom, who is a dancer, visited there once, and brought some back. Strange kind of souvenir, then again, this is Afghanistan, it was in the middle of the war with Russia, pre-Taliban, and I'm sure the Afghani people had better things to worry about than their souvenirs. (Tourists are not exactly plentiful there, in any case.)
5. Add onions and ginger to the pan, and cook till onions are golden-brown (3-4 minutes, I think.)
6. Now, add 2 cups of milk/soymilk/coconut milk to the pan. Add carrots, and spices - 1 tsp of garam masala (try the Indian store, or use curry powder in its place), 1 tsp (or to taste) of red chili powder and salt to taste. Cook till flavors are well blended - 5 minutes or so.
7. Finally, blend everything together, and return to pan. Careful - wait till the soup cools slightly and don't overfill the blender. You'll do this in a few batches.
The soup was good but not brilliant. I attribute it to the fact that I used soymilk, and I do think coconut milk, though higher in fat, is probably best in this recipe. I'm going to keep tweaking this one till I get it right. You want a relatively watery
soup, with the fragrance of ginger and curry leaves.
If you do want to cook Indian food, my top two all-time, favorite cookbooks are - Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India and Madhur Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking
I'm South Indian, and Dakshin is, hands-down, the best South-Indian cookbook there is out there. My cousins and me, all who did not learn how to cook until we came to America to go to graduate school, we all swear by this book. We would have been lost without it.
Madhur Jaffrey has written a ton of books. I bought this one after eating at a cousin's, who had made a meal following her recipes. There's recipes in it that aren't Indian. However, every Indian dish I've made from this book is easy and authentic. And I'm particular about my Indian food.