Apple Soup

applesoup 01

It got nippy and there it stayed, just nippy. Kashmiri people divide winter into three sub-seasons associated with the intensity of the cold. Right now, we are in the middle of the 40-day period of Chillai Kalan, the harshest part of winter that starts on the night of the winter solstice. It is followed by a 20-day long Chillai Khurd, and then it peters out into a brief 10-day Chillai Baccha, before the herald of Spring in March. Many of our festivals and rituals, as seen in our winter celebrations, are closely tied to a shared history with Persian Zoroastrian traditions.

In Punjab Lohri celebrations, with the ceremonial communal bonfire, mark the coldest night of Winter. Lohri, which was two days ago, on the 13th, came and went with nary a shiver. We were still walking around in the lightest of sweaters here in Delhi. It was far from the coldest night of the winter it is expected to be.

But, the morning after, the clouds rolled in. It hasn’t rained but the Western Disturbances, as they are called, have brought in some chill and the resultant cheer, to Delhi-winters. There should be snow in the mountains too!

Chilli

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Quinoa Soup with Spinach and Pumpkin

Snap, snap…blink, blink… Okay, I am really trying hard to snap out of it. The blog-lethargy that I have slumped into. Maybe it really is the cold (it was a freezing 2 degrees Celsius here in Delhi yesterday) and my brain has frozen over, in addition to my hands and feet. I have been sipping endless cups of tea everyday, hugging the cup in my hands to warm them briefly.

And it isn’t just cups of tea that I have been downing. Winter makes it hard to control calories. This is the time when peanuts (and all nuts and fruits that make up dry fruits) are consumed in large quantities in North India. The most popular way to consume peanuts is to throw a lot of woolens on and around yourself, huddle in a familial group, shelling and stuffing yourself while watching TV. They are the preferred snack at most Delhi bus stops where the peanut seller sits with his pile of peanuts-in-their-shells. He picks the nuts from just under the small earthen pot that has a gently smoldering piece of cow-chip in it, to weighs out hot peanuts that give sustenance and warmth, and also pass time while you wait for your ride to arrive.

Soups do that too – warm us up from the inside out. Winter is also particularly bountiful where vegetables are concerned. There is an abundance of greens: spinach, mustard greens, dill, methi, bathua, kohl rabi, and of course, haak and soutchal, two wonderful Kashmiri greens. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beetroot, corn, carrots, and tomatoes, add to this bounty, and make this a great season for soup.

 

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A Hearty Potato Soup

celery

It is no longer hot-soup season in Delhi anymore. A rough draft of this post has been sitting all season. It is easily amongst my favourite soups and I have made it multiple times this past winter as well. There is just one problem – I have found it very hard to photograph.

Good picture or not, I am writing about this hearty winter soup so that those of you still in the cold can make a bowl and think of me. We are talking comfort food here.

If we talk comfort food, can potatoes be far behind? And this potato soup is a must try. It has a link to graduate school for me. There were some of us who would bring brown bags for lunch, usually leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. No better way to unwind from a good day at school than to cook yourself a good meal (after that cup of tea, of course). And if you are, as I was, separated from your family by a couple of continents and an ocean, a good meal is what you need. Not microwavable frozen pizza.

On most days we want to cook simple dishes that are easy to prepare, homely, yet satisfy the need for change. Exotic dishes that require slaving in the kitchen for hours cannot be part of graduate school. And my impatient nature explains my affinity for dishes that look deceptively complicated.

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Thai Chicken Soup

Thai Chicken Soup

It was going to be a very cold New Year’s Eve – and hot soup and home-made bread were going to be the perfect foil.

JFI for this month is featuring the coconut, and I did want to make something specifically for the event. Thai soup with a coconut milk base seemed like the perfect solution. Except that, as mentioned earlier, TH has no taste for fish sauce. So I was going to have to make two versions: one (the real McCoy) with and one without the fish sauce. And since it was going to be so, there was no reason why the first one should not have some chicken as well.

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