Summer is here and the days of soup are almost behind us. But summer also means an urge to eat lighter and spend less time in the kitchen cooking that meal. That is when a soup is just what you need.
My father is a good gardener but he is no cook. He is fastidious when it comes to brewing his cuppa (and he needs many through the day) and always prefers to have it in a clear glass – something he must have picked up either from his Punjabi neighbours when he arrived in Delhi in the 60s, or from the way chai is served at any construction site in India. My Dad has spent a lifetime out in the sun, always preferring his time on a site to the time behind the desk.
He has never had to cook but seems to harbour an impression that he is a good one. His forays into the world of food are primarily limited to growing and consuming it. Lucky for him, his wife is a great cook. As mom has grown older I have noticed that my Dad feels a tad guilty about not helping in the kitchen. Which is why, I think, after his retirement he started to make his tea himself so that he could at least contribute less to the extra work he was creating.
There’s another thing about him. Used to bringing in armloads of harvest from his kitchen garden, he cannot resist fresh produce and will likely buy more than can be consumed by the two of them. We’ve all been there – who can resist luscious tomatoes or verdant greens! One such time, reluctant to have fresh tomatoes languish in the fridge, my dad decided to make soup. That winter I heard about soup once too often from him over the phone and I was curious. Sure enough, on one visit I found him pottering in the kitchen, cooking soup. He had the simplest of recipes (if you can call it one) for it and it sure gave him darned good soup. The pressure cooker was his friend and the ingredients were the fresh produce from the weekly market. He put it all into the cooker, one or two whistles, and it was done. After the pressure had subsided, he transfered the contents to the blender and whirred it to a smooth puree, seasoned it, and it was ready to be served. I was very impressed with my Dad, the cook! He also wields the paring knife like a master and it is a pleasure to watch him slice and serve fruits. Of late, we have been admiring his beautiful flower arrangements, some using just leaves and branches. I wish I had taken a few pictures of his artwork last week to show you!
This is more an idea of a recipe than an exact recipe. My father usually uses tomatoes, an onion or two, a potato or two. I usually add a carrot and then there is no need for sugar. Sweet potatoes are a good addition as well. Last time I had some beets on hand and they gave the soup this beautiful, deep red colour. Sometimes I chop and saute the onion in a little butter before adding the rest of the vegetables, at other times I just put it all in and do it exactly as my father does. I have since bought my dad a hand-held blender which makes this soup a breeze to cook.
2-3 beets, quartered
6-8 tomatoes, halved
1 medium sized potato, peeled and quartered
1 carrot or sweet potato, peeled and halved
a stick or two of celery (mine is homegrown and very thin, but with strong flavour; I used some leaves too)
1 medium onion, halved
a couple of cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves (or tejpatta will do just fine)
lots of crushed pepper
salt to taste
chopped coriander leaves
Put all the prepared vegetables with some water in the pressure cooker and cook for 2 whistles (about 8-10 minutes), or cook covered in a pan till tender. Once the pressure has subsided, open the lid of the pressure cooker. Remove the bay leaves (or tejpatta) and puree the contents using an immersion blender. Season the soup to taste. Thin it with water to desired consistency. Garnish with some of the reserved chopped celery, and coriander leaves. You may add a little bit of butter or a swirl of cream if you like. Serve with crusty, homemade bread or bread sticks.
Check out more quick and easy recipes you can cook in the pressure cooker over at Jaya’s pressure cooking event roundup!