COLD CUCUMBER SOUP

Photo courtesy Simply Gluten Free
Photo courtesy Simply Gluten Free

“and the sea cucumber turns to the mollusk and says “with fronds like these, who needs anemones?”” – Finding Nemo
I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of cold soups, they remind me too much of bland vegetable juice and dragon detox diets. But circumstances (primarily that this is to be the hottest summer in the last 33 years) are making it really difficulte to palate anything that isn’t straight out of the freezer. This cucumber soup is perfect summer food – cool, refreshing and easy to put together.

What you’ll need:

2 cups cucumber (chopped)
3 cups buttermilk (about one and a half cups yoghurt and water)
1 ½ tablespoons ginger (chopped)
1-2 green chillies (chopped)
Fistful of mint leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pepper
Salt

How to:

In a mixer, blend together the cucumber, chillies, lemon juice, mint, salt, pepper and ginger. Add buttermilk and blend again.

Foodnote: You will have tiny chunks of mint and ginger in your soup I quite like biting into a little texture but if you want it smooth pour the soup through a sieve.

Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

FRENCH CASSEROLE

Photo courtesy of Taste of Home
Photo courtesy of Taste of Home
People who love food are the best people – Julia ChildThis was a little hard for me because I was cooking blind – I have no idea what this is actually supposed to taste like. The recipe I worked off wasn’t particularly helpful, the picture looked nothing like what I finally ended up with, the quantities of the ingredients were off and basically there were lots of bits in the middle where I was just guessing and hoping for the best. Is this French? You know, I doubt it. The oregano and basil make it taste more Italian to me. The point is that it tastes really good and it is worth it in the end.Recipe adapted from Tarla Dalal

Serves 3-4

What you need:

3 cups steamed rice
3 cups spinach (chopped)
½ cup cheese (grated)
3-4 onions (chopped)
4-5 tablespoons butter
2-4 tablespoons milk
3-5 tablespoons cream
1 green chilli (optional)
2- tablespoons oregano and basil (dry)
4-5 tomatoes (chopped)
Salt to taste
Leftover chicken/ vegetables (if any)

How to:

Foodnote: This casserole is actually in 3 layers so this recipe will tell you how to put together each layer – then you just pile one on top of the other and bake.

Buttered Rice:

Take your steamed rice and fork in a couple of tablespoons of butter. Add 2 tablespoons milk and a teensy bit of salt and stir in. Personally, I’d say you can skip the salt since the butter will add salt and the layers on top trickle down and flavor the rice anyway.

Foodnote: If you have leftover chicken or vegetables I should think chopping them up and adding them to the rice will make the casserole more interesting.

For the Spinach:

1. Take half your chopped onions and plop on to a pan with some butter heating in it. Let them turn translucent and then add your spinach.

2. Cook the spinach for just a couple of minutes – don’t worry they’ll bake more later. Add salt to taste. Drain if there’s any spinach juice in the pan and set aside.

Note: Ideally each layer should be solid-ish so that it doesn’t all melt into each other when baking – it’s nice to have 3 distinct layers of flavor to bite into.

Tomato Sauce

1. Cook the tomatoes and the rest of your onions in water till soft. Drain the water out and dunk into a mixer. Mix to a paste.

2. Add oregano, basil. salt, cream and mix. Throw into a pot and cook for a few minutes. Cook this on an open pan so it has a thick sauce like consistency.

Foodnote: I added some tomato puree at this stage because the wimpy orange tomatoes I had weren’t giving the sauce the nice red colour I wanted.

Bake 
 
1. Layer your rice on the bottom and spread evenly with a spatula.

2. The spinach comes second – spread evenly. Top with the tomato sauce. Pile your grated cheese on all this and thrown into an oven at 230 degrees for about 15- 20 minutes.

3. Pull out and let cool for a bit and serve.

BANANA BREAD

Photo courtesy Wikipedia
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana” – Groucho Marx

Banana bread! I don’t need to convince you do I? Chocolate is a wonderful thing but there are so many beautiful things that come out of fruit being baked! I’m gushing, I know but it’s worth it. Rule of life: banana bread is always worth it.

What you’ll need:
½ cup softened butter
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
2 ½ cup mashed overripe bananas
1 full teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)

How to:

1. Preheat your oven to 175 Celsius and grease your baking dish.

2. Beat together butter and sugar until creamy and the sugar is dissolved. Add one egg at a time and keep whisking. Then add mashed bananas and vanilla. Keep whisking.

3. In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg (if you have some) and whisk well.

4. Add the flour to the egg mixture slowly and blend. Pour batter into your baking dish.

5. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Foodnotes:

Serve warm with honey drizzled on top.

If you have walnuts at hand, chop them up and chuck them into the batter.

LEMON CAKE WITH LEMON CREAM

Lemon Cake
Photo courtesy Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

 

“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.” – Ron White

I’m not always in the mood for chocolate. A strong, fruit flavour is perfect at the end of a summer day.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Serves 6 – 8
What you’ll need:

For the lemon loaf:

1 ½ cups flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
5 eggs
¼ cup lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
4 – 6 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup cream cheese

How to:

Make your loaf:

1. Preheat oven to 190 Celsius. Brush down your cake tin with melted butter.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and set aside.

3. In a bowl, combine sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Blend in eggs one at a time, mixing the entire time. Drizzle butter into the mixture. Then add sour cream and vanilla.

4. Combine the flour mixture in one third at a time. Whisk till smooth. Pour into pan and bake for 20 minutes or till toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool.

Make your icing:

Blend together sugar, lemon juice and cream cheese till smooth.

Top it up – Unmould cake once its cool and pour icing mixture on top. To prettify further decorate with slices of lemon.

Foodnotes:

If you can’t get enough lemon juice or if you want your cake to have less lemon flavor you can use orange juice in part.

 

If you can’t get enough lemon juice or if you want your cake to have less lemon flavor you can use orange juice in part.

 

FRUIT AND CREAM

fruit-cream-mango-and-strawberry
Photo courtesy Soni’s Food

 

“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” – Albert Einstein
It’s always difficult to come up with a dessert that everyone in my family can eat considering everyone’s health issues. It makes me feel really guilty to walk in to the living room with a cake while words like hypertension, cholestrol, pre-diabetic are being thrown around. This has to be the healthiest desserts possible and despite this virtue it really is quite satisfying. Try it when you want to spare yourself some guilt. It doesn’t hurt that it takes just about 10 minutes to put together.
What you’ll need:

3-4 cups of assorted fruit (chopped)
200 ml fresh cream or greek yoghurt
4-5 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

How to:

1. Wash and clean your fruit, chop into even sized portions and fill into 6 – 8 bowls. Pop in the refrigerator.

2. In a blender or with a whisk, mix together the fresh cream, honey and cinnamon till nice and fluffy.

Note: Make sure the cinnamon powder is really fine and that it’s not going to show up as little lumps in your cream.

3. Pour even portions of cream mixture on to your bowls of fruit. Drizzle with more honey on top. Serve.

Footnotes:

The only difficult thing about this recipe is your choice of fruit. Try to pick fruits which are firm and which will hold their own flavor (without releasing juice) and not turn the whole mixture goopy or sticky. I would recommend apples, pears, strawberries, grapes and maybe bananas (if nice and firm). Also consider any other berries, slices of orange but then pop them in whole, cutting them will make them fall apart in the mixture.