Winter Soup

Winter Soup1

Nothing beats a warm bowl of soup on a chilly night, and we’ve been having a lot of those recently. This recipe is sure to become one of your staples. It calls for vegetable stock – a recipe I shared with you last week.

This is a hearty vegetable soup with earthy garbanzos, potatoes, and kale. I’ve browned  the potatoes lightly to deepen their flavor.

I use only the green part of the kale leaves. An easy way to prepare the kale for this soup is to hold each kale leaf upside down by the stem and pull the leaves off, then stack the large greens one on top of the other, roll them into tight bundles and slice them into thin strips.

Hope you get a chance to relax, sit by the fire, and enjoy this delicious soup this winter.

Winter Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6

2 tablespoons oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 cups 1-inch cubed potatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon chilli flakes, (optional)
salt to taste
3 cups chopped kale leaves, (tough ribs and stems removed)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can garbanzos, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable stock, (check my recipe or use low sodium store-bought vegetable stock)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and potatoes. Cover and cook for four to five minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves, pepper, chili flakes, and kale. Stir and let the kale wilt. Add tomatoes, garbanzo and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Once the soup starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Check for seasoning and add salt if needed.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Stock3

I learned the basics of cooking American food from my mother-in-law. She made everything from scratch because, back then, Indian grocery stores did not carry the kind of vegetables, herbs, pastas, sauces, and ingredients like they do today. She made her own whole wheat bread, peanut butter, mayonnaise, a variety of jams, soups, stews, and even complicated stuff like meatless salami. Her desserts were to die for – lemon pies with mile-high meringue, cakes, puddings, cookies, and brownies. The table was set for every meal. The laughter and stories that we shared around the table are memories that I will always cherish. My mother-in-law is beautiful, wise, strong, and more fun than a mother-in-law should be! Thank you, mom, for being such an incredible teacher.

I wanted to share a winter soup recipe with you today, but realized that one of the ingredients that I asked for was vegetable stock. So, first, let me share with you a simple vegetable stock recipe that I make very often. I think it is much better to make your own stock, because that way you control the amount of salt that you put into it. You could also buy low-sodium vegetable, chicken, fish or beef stock from the grocery store. But once you learn how to make it yourself, and you use it in making your soup – there is no going back to store-bought stock. It is by far one of the easiest things you can make, so let’s begin.

Vegetable Stock
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 4 cups of stock

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion
1 large red potato
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
6 mushrooms
3 garlic cloves
6 sprigs of parsley
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons soy sauce
8 cups water
salt to taste

Wash all the vegetables and give them a rough chop. You don’t even need to peel the onion or the garlic.

You need a large pot that will hold all the vegetables and the water. Heat the pot over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers add onion, potato, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and whole garlic cloves. Cook without stirring for about five minutes. Then stir infrequently, allowing the vegetables to get lightly brown. It will take about 10-15 minutes.

Add parsley, black peppercorns, bay leaf, soy sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow the soup to simmer steadily. Cook for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Strain, taste and add more salt if needed before storing. Use this stock for soups, stews and other recipes that call for vegetable stock.

Chicken Cutlets

Chicken Cutlets1

I remember going to restaurants in India many years ago and ordering chicken or vegetable cutlets and soup instead of the typical masala dosa. It was a great alternative when I didn’t feel like having Indian food. It was often listed on the menu under the Western items section. Well, now we have “Indianized” the cutlet so much that it isn’t considered so much of a Western item on the menu in India any more.

I often use leftovers to make cutlets and my children think I’ve created something new and awesome. When they were young, I would put lots of vegetables into my cutlets and they had no idea! They loved them anyway. What I’m trying to say, is that once you understand the basics of cutlet making, you don’t need a recipe. You can make almost anything into a cutlet. This recipe is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Chicken and Potato Cutlets
Prep time: 35 minutes (includes time to cook chicken)
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Makes: 15

2 large chicken breasts
½ teaspoon whole black pepper
1½ teaspoons salt
2 large potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
2-3 teaspoons red chilli flakes, (depending on heat and your preference)
1 tablespoon kasoori methi, crushed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly crushed black pepper
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
Oil for shallow frying

Cook chicken in three cups of water, whole black pepper, and half a teaspoon of salt. The chicken should be cooked well enough so that it falls off the bone easily. It will take about 25-30 minutes over medium-high heat. Cool, shred the meat and put into a large mixing bowl.

Lightly roast cumin and coriander seeds and crush them to a coarse powder.

Add mashed potatoes, the lightly roasted and crushed cumin and coriander powder, chilli flakes, kasoori methi, onions, and cilantro into the large mixing bowl along with the shredded chicken. Add salt and pepper. Mix well. Taste to make sure there is enough salt. Shape into cutlets – either round or oval. Line them on a baking tray.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil for shallow frying. There should be enough oil in the pan so that when you put the cutlets in, the oil should come at least half way up the sides of the cutlets.

Beat eggs in a small bowl, and spread the panko crumbs on a plate. Dip each cutlet into the egg and then coat them in breadcrumbs. Add them to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.


Kadai Paneer – Paneer, Bell Pepper, and Onion cooked in a Kadai

Kadai Paneer2

A kadai, sometimes spelled karahi, is a must in every Indian kitchen. In fact, most homes have several. One to cook vegetables in, one to cook sweets in, and one for deep frying. A kadai is a thick, circular, deep cooking vessel, traditionally made from cast iron or copper. It is used in kitchens in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. It looks like a wok but it has steeper sides with two handles. Dishes typically made in a kadai have Afghan and Persian origins.

Don’t worry if you don’t own a kadai, you can still make this dish in a regular non-stick pot or wok. The paneer I buy is not as fresh and soft as the paneer we get in India. Hence, the extra step of soaking the pieces of paneer in hot water. If you get fresh paneer or if you make your own, you can skip this step. Kasoori methi is dry fenugreek leaves, which you can buy at an Indian grocery store. North Indians like the slight crunch of the kadai spice mix, but if you are not used to that, you can grind the spices to a powder. What makes my Kadai Paneer distinct is the kadai spice mix. Try it out once, and I think you’ll be hooked.

Kadai Paneer – Paneer, Bell Pepper, and Onion cooked in a Kadai
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

4 whole dry Kashmiri red chillies
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
14 ounces paneer, (400 grams)
3 cups water
3 tablespoons oil
1-inch piece ginger, grated
6 cloves of garlic, grated
8 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small onion, cut into wedges and petals separated
1 green bell pepper, cut into large cubes
1 teaspoon kasoori methi, (dry fenugreek leaves)
1 teaspoon garam masala, (preferably my garam masala)
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 green chillie, finely sliced, (optional)
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

To make the special kadai spice mix, roast dry Kashmiri red chillies, fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and whole black pepper in a small non-stick frying pan over low heat, until they smell fragrant. Cool and grind to a coarse powder. I use a coffee grinder to do this. You could also use a mortar and pestle.

Cut paneer into pieces. For this recipe, I cut my paneer into small rectangular pieces. Heat three cups of water in a saucepan.  When the water boils, off the heat, and put panner pieces into the hot water. Allow it to soften while you continue with the next step. If you are using fresh or home-made paneer you can skip this step.

Heat oil in a kadai or wok over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add one teaspoon of cumin seeds and wait until they splutter. Next add the grated ginger and garlic. Sauté for five seconds and then add tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt. Let the tomatoes cook for six to seven minutes or until the oil separates. Drain the paneer pieces and then add them to the dish. Reserve the water. Add one tablespoon of the ground kadai spice mix, capsicum, and onion. Mix well, add quarter cup of the reserved water, and let the vegetables cook for two minutes. You want the bell pepper and onion to have a crunch to them. Add crushed kasoori methi, the rest of the ground kadai spice mix, garam masala, and cream. Stir gently so paneer and vegetables are well coated with the creamy-tangy sauce. Garnish with sliced green chillies and chopped cilantro. Kadai paneer goes well with naan, roti or rice.