Monday, December 24, 2018

A test of strength and endurance and the Quickest Tomato Soup (inspired by OPOS ) for comfort.

October 2017 was an important month, for us. My son earned his Recommended Black Belt in his Tae Kwon Do training. 

We were that one, very crucial year away from the coveted First Dan Black Belt. We were given a folder with the curriculum and what was required to test. 
It was a lot, I thought. How will my baby do all that?  I watched him during his classes. I saw him do well in his forms and weapons classes. I saw him falter and get nervous during his sparring lessons.

As the weeks went by, his skills got better and I sighed with relief. But, we went to India for the summer and while that was a fantastic trip, it robbed us of 2 months of lessons, It was a lot to cover up. How was my 10 year old going to do this? That was the mom in me. Over protective and anxious. 

As the time for the test came closer, he trained harder than ever. 
And finally, it was time. 
The testing was a 2 day affair. Day 1 where his physical strength and endurance were tested. 
As I sat chewing my nails and worrying, he kept doing all that was demanded. He panted and held his sides after every test, his face and hair slick with sweat. Some of the other aspirants lay down with the exertion, only to stand up in a minute for the next test. Every muscle in his body was sore and screaming for rest. 3 hours and 1 water break later, we trudged  home, exhausted.
At the end of the day, we were happy, exhausted and above all, in need of comforting food. Since we had gone over the estimated time, All I could do was whip up this amazingly quick Tomato Soup and grill some cheese sandwiches on the side. I OPOSed the soup  (recipe below) and it was ready before my sandwiches! 

To continue... Day 2 was an all day test, which ideally would've begun with a 5k run, but weather did not permit it, so that was postponed. The written test, poomsae, weapons, sparring, self-defense and board breaking were the order of the day. 
As a parent, no matter of how much you support your child and push him / her to excel, when you see your child getting kicked and punched in sparring or surrounded by 4 other black belts who kick, punch, pull, push, pile on to him and he defends himself, you want to just get on the mat and wallop the daylights out of them and save your baby! It was the hardest 30 minutes of my life. I wanted to jump in that fray and save my baby, in hind sight, I do realize that any of those black belts would have kicked my a$$. These kids are strong. 
I remember when S was practicing for a tournament (his kicks for the board breaking event) and I held a target for him to kick. He almost broke my wrist with the first kick!  I love my boy, I love how well he can kick, but I refuse, point blank, to hold anything he wants to kick. I refuse to be reduced to a mewling adult writhing on the ground in agony. 

It's been 3 weeks since the test and we finally have the results. 
Li'll S has earned his First Dan Black Belt! 
I am SO very proud of him! 

To come back to the recipe... 

As always, I must first add, if you are interested in learning about this One Pot One Shot method  by Chef Rama Krishnan , begin at the very beginning. 
Do this ( follow the link to learn all about how to standardize your pressure cooker)
Follow the lessons one by one and then, once confident, try other recipes. 

This is the quickest soup you will ever make from scratch. 

You need :
2 Ltr. Pressure Cooker ( make sure that you have standardized it)
5 Tbsp Water
1 small onion chopped
3-4 Tsp Butter
1 clove of Garlic
4-5 Roma Tomatoes ( about 250 gms.)

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and de-seed.
Chop the onion. 
Peel the clove of garlic. 

In the Pressure cooker, Layer as follows:

Add the water at the base.

Top with Butter

Add the Garlic clove

Add the onions 

Layer tomatoes on top.
I had these tiny tomatoes, so I just lobbed them in.

Seal the pressure cooker with the weight / whistle and cook on high for 5 minutes. 

Switch off the heat and release pressure, carefully. Use a spatula to lift the weight slightly to let the steam escape.


At this stage, if you want, carefully lift and discard the tomato skin ( I always do).

Add salt and pepper powder to taste. Add a spoonful of sugar to balance the flavors. I did not add as the little orange tomatoes were sweet and they balanced it out.

Blend the tomatoes. I used my immersion blender. 

Add water/ stock if needed to dilute the soup to suit how thick you want it. 

There you have it! All done. 
Add croutons, a splash of cream if desired. 
Serve hot. 
Check out the other OPOSed recipes here.

Wish all those celebrating, a VERY HAPPY AND MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

HAPPY NEW YEAR WISHES, IN ADVANCE! 


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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Beans Kootu (a South Indian stew made with french beans)

My father had a very good friend, Oak Kaka. My dad and he would address each other as 'Maharaj'.  He was a very jovial person and had the merriest, twinkly grey eyes. He liked cricket as much as my father does and would often join  my father to watch a match.
I absolutely dislike cricket. Never understood the charm of grown up men chasing an itty-bitty ball like madmen.
But the men-folk loved it.
What I liked was, the colorful language that flowed freely. Oak kaka was outspoken in his criticism of any foul by any Indian cricket team member. His voice carried in to the other rooms  and I picked up the new vocabulary, eagerly, like any kid!

When the riots erupted in Mumbai in the '80's,  we all heard horror stories where people were stopped in the middle of the street and asked what religion they belonged to. What would you reply when you are faced with some fanatic, holding a weapon in your face? If you said one religion and he was the other, he'd slice you up, without a moments thought!
Oak kaka was stopped on a street when he was hurrying home, to safety. I only heard bits and pieces, but the gist was, he was yanked out of his cab, a sword was held to his chest and he was asked what religion he followed. Nothing but sheer presence of mind saved him, that day. He stammered out, "Parsi" and was let go. I thought that was brilliant! 

Oak kaka like french beans, They were his favorite veggie. He called it 'furshi'.
When I made this kootu (koot), I thought of him and felt that he would have enjoyed it as much as the simple stir-fry

A couple of months ago, I made a new acquaintance. R, had moved in to our apartment community in the summer and we met through common friends, when out for a morning walk. 
That's one of the things I enjoy on my walks, the crisp cool breeze, the absolutely beautiful mountains on all sides, the clouds hanging low and chatting with friends as we walk.
One day, R called some of us to her home for a small religious function and served us lunch. She made this kootu, which was delicious. I had to get the recipe.
The following week, R showed me how to.

Since then, this is one of our favorite ways of eating french beans. Ladled over piping hot, white rice, it is absolutely lip-smackingly delicious.

You need:

2 cups Beans, chopped
1 Tomato, chopped
1 cup, Toor and Moong Daal, cooked together and mashed
A key lime sized ball of tamarind soaked in 1/4 cup warm water and extract the pulp (discard the solids)
1tbsp Sambar Powder
1 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped ( tender stems ok)

To grind :
1 tbsp Chana daal
1.5 tbsp Coriander seeds
1-3 Dry red chillies ( adjust to suit your tolerance for heat)
1 tbsp Coconut ( fresh, grated) (you can add more, but I don't like it too 'coconutty')
Salt to taste

To Temper
2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
Pinch Asafetida
Curry leaves


Wash the toor and moong daal in 3-4 changes of water and pressure cook the daals (add twice the amount of water )till soft and mushy.

Wash, de-vein the beans and chop.
Chop the tomato in cubes
In a small pressure cooker, add 2-3 tbsp water at the bottom and then add the beans and tomato.
Pressure cook on high for 2 whistles. Immediately release the pressure.

Till the time the beans cook, start the next prep.

Make the spice paste. In a pan, heat just a couple of drops of oil. Add the chana daal, the coriander seeds and the dry red chilies. Toast till the daal turns light golden , the coriander seeds are aromatic and the chilies turn bright red.
Cool and then grind with the fresh shredded coconut adding a little water to get a smooth paste.



In a deep sauce pan, heat oil for the tempering, Add the chana daal, mustard seeds.

Heat 1 tbsp oil. Add mustard seed, chana daal and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds pop, the daal bronws (not too dark, please!), add the cooked beans and tomato.


Add Tamarind water and let it come to a boil.


As it comes to a boil, add the sambar podi and mix well to ensure there are no lumps.

Add the cooked and mashed daal. and mix well. 

 Now add it the masala paste (the one that has coconut in it) and cilantro.


One rolling boil and its ready to serve.



 This kootu tastes best with plain white rice. A bit of pickle and papad only make it taste better ( and you over eat!, but in a good way).

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