Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 - A Year of Friends and Food!

All photos used with prior permission by photographers.

Initiating this blog almost two years ago, my intention was to create a space to catalog my recipes, without the intention of creating a community as it has, especially over the past year. This year, after thirty-five posts, including posts on cookbook and website reviews and guests posts, this blog has amassed over 20 subscribers. Thank you to my friends, supporters and participants of interviews and guests posts.

This post is a chronicle of guest posts, interviews and a few of my personal favorite recipes of the last year. If you, too want to start making Indian culinary treats in your kitchen, see this post on creating your Indian-inspired kitchen in America, which is a tutorial on different gadgets that can help you create delectable Desi dishes!

Book Reviews
Both Cookbooks reviewed are written by Viji Varadarajan
Want to see Yogurt from a different perspective?
Review of south Indian vegetarian cookery chronicle:
A Healthy Taste of Indian Culture: Cooking with Yoghurt.
Temptations from the Tamil Table: Review of Viji Varadarajan’s Samayal South Indian Cookbook

Guests Posts and Recommended Recipes:
Paneer Makhani - Fried Homemade Cheese Cubes in Flavorful Cream Sauce by Srivalli
Recipe Review November 2009
Featuring culinary recipes and tips from blogs: 4th Sense Samayal, Aayi's Recipes, Hindu Blog, Ruchi, Veggie Platter, Vizmaya.
Recipe Review December 2009
Featuring culinary recipes and tips from blogs: Aayi's Recipes, Edible Garden, Fourth Sense Samayal, The Gori Wife Life, One Hot Stove, Veggie Platter

Inspirations and Recommendations
Aloo Bonda and Bread Pakodas by Oldernwiser0
Video cookery segment showcasing ease of making Indian deep-fried mashed potato balls (aloo-bondas) and deep-fried bread pieces with a flavorful batter covering (bread pakoda).
Indian Cooking Made Easier Series by Oldernwiser0
In this post, I shared one of the videos by Oldernwiser0 on paneer (Indian home-made cheese) making.
Okra Curry- the Martha Stewart Way and the Jennifer Kumar Way
A flavorful side dish made with okra (bindi) and spices.
Sambar Inspired by Viji Varadarajan
In this post, I detail how I create a savory, flavorful vegetarian stew, called Sambar as inspired from Viji Varadarajan's book Samayal: The Pleasures of South Indian Vegetarian Cooking (Winner Gourmand World Cookbook Award)

Recipe Blog Review: Vidhya's Recipes
Home cooked and ethnic dishes, using ingredients such as banana blossoms (right), of the South Indian vegetarian fare, Vidhya has also created quite a nice community of enthusiastic readers and people, like me, who have tried our own hands at some of her recipes in our own kitchens.
Insights and Inspirations by Viji VaradarajanViji Varadarajan
Combining her family's traditions and wisdom, Viji has written a series of TamBram (Tamil Brahmin) recipes, her Samayal series inspires me to learn more about her inspirations to share this wisdom with the world.

This year, my husband also inspired by some of my cooking skills, began taking photos of some of the dishes I have made. Click on the photos to see the posts.

Krishna's photography
Wish You a Happy Vishu
Keera Molagootal

Flavorful Spinach/
Mixed Greens and
Lentil Soup
Chenna Masala

Chickpeas Curry

Coconut Chutney

Dosa and Idli

batter recipe and

My photography
vattral kozhumbu - south indian vegetarian gravy
Vatthal Kozhumbu

Cornbread with Homemade Corn Jalapeno Gravy
Cornbread with Cream
Corn and Red Bean
Curried Gravy
Tomato Chutney
Tomato Chutney
inspired by Nithya

Create your Indian Inspired Kitchen in America!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Coconut Chutney - Dosa- Idli Photologue

article by Jennifer Kumar
photos: Krishna Kumar

...A nice, sour fermenting smell pervaded the entire home as I lifted the cover from the idli-dosa batter! What a nice pre-Christmas gift. This time, I deviated from the regular 3 cups idli rice/1 cup urad dhal with 2 cups long grain rice from the Mexican store and 1 cup idli rice to 1 cup urad dhal, nicely ground with a few fenugreek (methi) seeds and a dash of salt. Though it's freezing out, and the floors and tabletops are colder than in the summertime, I wrapped the batter bowl in a towel and set it on the floor by the furnace heater vent. In about 36 hours, I welcomed this wonderful present! I knew my happiness would bound more once hubby would get to eat some crispy dosa on his first holiday from work for Christmas break.

...The process of making dosa and idli batter has been a difficult one for me. It's taken me more than four years, and three blenders to get the right methods. What was once cumbersome in planning, blending and fermenting- let alone getting the right pressure while ladling and forming dosas on the hot pan, is now almost effortless. For me, it's really a big accomplishment. My main motivation and inspiration to make dosas, and masala dosas come from Maya's Kitchen. Once, when we dropped by, she left a long lasting impression on me. The way she formed each dosa on the pan, spread the dosa podi on the crisp dosa while rolling in the potato curry- as a one woman assembly line feeding over 10 people left me in awe. I thought, "Would I, could I ever be so efficient at making dosa?" This experience came to me at a time where dosa batter once ladled onto the pan would just end up in a sloppy, gooey, mountain mess on the pan- so I stuck to making idlis instead while hubby effortlessly made and attempted to show and teach me the right way to spread dosa batter on the pan. So much to learn- especially in the grace required to press with just such a delicate force to assure the batter is spread in almost a spiral pattern, but that the batter remains on the pan, and we arI survived this...e left with a nice, crispy, almost paper-thin dosa. I started with idli, moved to utthapam (a thicker dosa topped with chopped veggies, pictured, right), and recently as of this year started making the paper-thin variety. I still have a way to go to perfect my talent, but I know I am on the right track!

But, idli and dosa can not be eaten alone. They are always accompanied by something- dosa podi with oil, a variety of chutneys, sambar, [Indian] pickles, and many other sides I have yet to discover. On hot days, somehow I like to eat Tomato Chutneyidli with yogurt as a plain dish- no spices, which is good on the stomach. I prefer to eat other's homemade prepared dosa podi (powders made with roasted spices and lentils), which I mix with sesame oil, and hubby mixes with olive or vegetable oil. For chutneys, I make tomato (photo, right), onion or coconut chutney. If we have left over idlis, later I will take, cut them and make an idli upma (dry fry of idli pieces mixed with tempered curry leaves, mustard seeds, urad dhal, and few other spices, similiar to Quinoa Upma, with idli pieces instead of Quinoa).

For those new to this cuisine, idli are steamed cakes made from the batter that dosa is made from. Some purists may actually make two batters- the idli batter and dosa batter- with a slightly different proportion of rice to urad dhal. I don't do that- too much work right now! idlistandThese cakes are steamed in an idli pan set into a big pressure cooker. I usually steam it for about 20 mintues. However, last night I tried something new- I steamed them in a egg poacher. This cooking gadget is a more western contraption and is more easily available in America than idli pans, and pressure cookers (though pressure cookers are available in American stores, most Americans do not use pressure cookers). I steamed four idlis in the egg poacher last night. The final product, after 20 minutes of steaming is a cake a bit thicker and not as wide as the ones made in an idli pan, so they are actually a bit more filling per idli. However, we realized, it needs to steam a bit longer. Maybe next time I will leave it in there about 25 minutes- the middle section was still a bit uncooked, but edible.


Idli/Dosa Batter
3 cups rice
1 cup urad dhal
1 tsp methi (fenugreek seeds)

1. Soak rice and dhal in separate bowls for about 6 hours. Soak the fenugreek seeds in with the rice.
**If you are curious what rice to use, I usually use 'idli rice' available at the Indian store. If I don't have that on hand, I use 'ponni rice' also available at the Indian store. However, if you have no Indian store nearby, you can use long grain rice, that works well too.
2. Puree the rice separately and dhal separately, with little water. The consistency should be like pudding/thick pancake batter.
Blending the dhal is usually easier than the rice. Dhal will easily and quickly blend and puree. Check with your finger in between, before taking out of the blender. Take a bit of the batter between your thumb and forfinger, rub your fingers together, you should not feel any lumps or grains. It will feel 'like satin', smooth and velvety.
For the rice, it is a bit more tricky. The best batter is made by pureeing the rice separately from the dhal, because to get this velvety feeling from the rice, it takes a bit longer to blend. While urad takes about 3-5 minutes to get velvety smooth, rice may take 5-10 minutes depending on your blender's power. When you check the rice in between for smoothness, the graininess will decrease. Also, as one blends the rice, the batter thickens as the mixture becomes more velvety. Hope that makes sense! (Fenugreek seeds will be pureed along with the rice.)
3. When both urad and rice have been pureed sufficiently, mix these two purees together in a big bowl. Make sure there is room in the bowl above the line of the batter, to give room for batter to rise. Blending will take anywhere between 15-30 minutes.
4. After mixing the two batters, set this bowl aside for one day to two days depending on the climate. Some people suggest having the batter in a metal or glass bowl and keeping in the oven with the light on (no heat) for fermenting. I have not done this. I usually put the mixture in a plastic bowl, twice the size of the batter, assure the lid is on tightly, wrap it in a towel. If it is summer, I put it on the counter top for 1-2 days. In winter, I wrap the bowl in a towel and place it on the floor on a blanket in front of the heater vent for 1-2 days. I check the batter at intervals of about 12 hrs, 20 hrs, 30 hrs, etc or whenever I remember. Batter is ready when the lid is removed and a sour aroma hits you in the face and when the lid is fully taken off, the batter has mushroomed up- it is fermented and risen. Timing for this is between 15-48 hours depending on climate conditions.
5. Batter should be a pouring consistency to make dosa or idli. The consistency should be like a milkshake- thin, consistently smooth and pourable. Sometimes when the batter ferments and rises, it also thickens. It is important to add water little by little to get the batter to the right consistency. Some will take water in a bowl, dip fingers into it, and spray water with fingers little by little into the batter, mixing it with a spatula or fork until the right consistency is attained.

Wondering how many servings this batter makes? I am really not sure! It lasts us about 2-3 days of idli dosa making. I eat between 3-5 idlis, and he eats about 3-5 dosas. Roughly one ladle is one serving (1 ladle batter=1 idli= 1 dosa). If I make an educated guess, I'd say between 12-17 servings of idli/dosa from this batter.

How to fry/make dosa
If making dosa, the pan must be very hot. So hot that steam will be seen rising off the pan, even when frying, as to the right. (Click on all photos for bigger sizes.) Some take the pan off for a f...ew seconds before pouring batter on it. A ladle of batter is put on the pan and in concentric, even circles the batter is made into a thin pancake. Dripping a little oil around the sides of the dosa is important to make it crispy. Keep the heat on high, and watch the dosa. When it is first put on the pan, good batter will bubble and bubbles will burst as it fries. Usually we do not flip for about 5-6 minutes. To know when to flip, it would be possible to see the browness of the bottom coming through to the top, but not blackening or burning. When it is time to flip, taking the spatula around the 'edges' it would come off easily when the bottom has browned slightly. Flip and fry a bit on the other side. Do drip oil around it and move the pan around to get the oil to go under the dosa. This is not deep frying- a lot of oil is not needed- about 2-3 teaspoons per dosa is used. Some people may use more to get it a bit more crispy and brown. It is imperative to use oil to get a true taste out. The few times I tried to make a 'diet dosa' I realized it just wasn't worth it!

From Vegetarian Cuisine
How to make/steam idlis
If you have the Indian utensils, oil the idli pan and put about an inch of water in the bottom of the pressure cooker and heat the pan. Place batter in each oiled idli mold about 1/2-3/4 full. Place the idli stand inside the pot. Put the top on, do not put the weight on the pressure cooker. Once steam comes from the top, time it for about 20 minutes. Take out and enjoy!

How to steam idlis in an egg poacher pan
This method is similar to the above. Take each egg poacher insert, oil it, and fill it about 1/2-3/4 full with the batter. Steam on high heat about 25 minutes.

Close up of Idli
fluffing up in poacher pan.

Pan view.

Making Coconut Chutney Side Dish:

This two step coconut chutney recipe is so easy. It was taught to me by my father-in-law.
Step 1:
1/2 cup grated coconut
2 tbpsn chenna dhal (uncooked)
2 green chilies
dash salt
1/4 cup water

Place all these items in a blender and puree it. It may become thick, add 1/8 cup more water. Some people like the chutney thick, others more watery. The dhal would take some more time to puree. If you want to make it a bit easier to blend, soak the dhal separately in water for about 30 minutes before blending.

Place the pureed coconut mix into a serving bowl.

Step 2
pinch black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
2 green chilies cut lengthwise
2 dried red chilies broken in half
1 tsp urad dhal

Take a small frying pan. Heat it. Put in the oil (about 2 tablespoons). Heat the oil. Put in the mustard seeds. Take care, when they heat they will burst out of the pan. This is important to get the right smell and taste.
When the seeds have burst, slightly move the pan up off the flame/stove and add in the other spices, temper them a few minutes until the urad dhal seems brown, not black. When it's ready (only takes about 2-3 minutes) put this mix on the top of the coconut mixture already in the bowl. Though it looks nice sitting on top of the coconut, as in the photo, do mix the spices into the coconut puree and sit aside for 10-20 minutes to let the flavors mix. It's so tasty!!

**I like to take the green chilies, urad and red chilies and put them in a small bowl so when oil and mustard seeds are ready, I can just drop the whole thing right into the pan!

Related Posts/Sites:
Maya's Kitchen- My local friend's vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies
Pongal Holiday Potluck Menu and Recipes
Quinoa Upma
Raw Onion Chutney
Stovetop, electric and microwave egg poachers.
Tomato Chutney by Nithya

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Temptations from the Tamil Table: Review of Viji Varadarajan’s Samayal South Indian Cookbook

Viji Varadarajan - Gourmand awardsJennifer Kumar
photos submitted by Viji Varadarajan

I would need to live three or more lifetimes just to experience the full range of amazing vegetarian food options in Tamil –South Indian cooking. However, with the aid of Viji Varadarajan’s Cookbook, Samayal: The Pleasures of South Indian Vegetarian Cooking, I can learn at least the Tamil Brahmin, or Tambram, cuisine spiced with few other regional dishes in one lifetime- whew! (In London at the Olypmpia Theatre for the awards, right.)

Having myself lived in Tamil Nadu for two years, and living in the homes of Tamil Brahmins, these cookbooks bring back so many homely memories of my stay there. Though I stayed in the homes of Tamil Brahmins day in and out, shared meals on the floor or at the table, learning to eat with only my right hand, and picking up my drinking glass (steel tumbler) with my left, relishing to the last grain of annam (rice), I regret whole-heartedly not entering kitchens and learning to cook when I was there. This is where Viji’s books fill the gap. I feel as though she is my Tamil Amma, taking me under her wing in her family kitchen and guiding me through generations of her family’s culinary secrets.

Viewing almost 120 recipes in the table of contents*, the main concern I have in opening up the book is in deciding where to start- all items tempt my tastebuds and I become overwhelmed with what to try first. Should I try the recipes I already know, like ven pongal (rice and moong dhal porridge) or one I may not know like keerai sundal (dry fried spinach salad)? When I was in India, I was so busy devouring the dishes that I never bothered asking the names, so this book again fills in the gaps there, too! So many choices and so little time.

A Range of Tastes

Opening up this book, I felt like ‘a kid in a candy store’- so many tempting choices moving me in different directions. There are some areas of the book that may be suitable places to start for the novice, and as luck has it the first chapter featuring over 13 varieties of rice dishes is it!

My favorites are lemon rice, tomato rice and curd or yogurt rice (thayyir saadham ). I have chosen these few recipes because they have the fewest steps and methods of preparation, and after a few successful attempts, I can make these dishes with my eyes closed! These dishes have been presented using fresh rice, but if you have left over rice and don’t know what to do with it- warm it and add the rest of the fresh tempered ingredients for a quick snack.

In Indian and Tamil menu preparation, nothing is served alone. Along with tomato and lemon rice, one could try any of the three varieties of coconut chutney, with my recommendation for beginners on the thengai thovayal because it has fewer ingredients. Some may shy away from this one because of lack of tamarind or asafetida. No worries, if you cannot find this in your local area, omit and make. Yes, the taste will differ, but overall, you will have nice coconut chutney to tempt one’s taste buds. I personally have made this recipe both ways, each equally tasty. If you’d like to try two chutneys with the lemon rice, in addition to coconut, try tomato. The recipe for Thakkaali Vengaaya Thovayal has a few more steps, providing a more layered taste to chutney. As for the curd rice, generally a more spicy or crunchy accompaniment is well-suited; such as an easier-to-prepare urulai kizhangu vadhakal – a crispy potato roast (which if you eat eggs, is a nice replacement for bland breakfast potatoes), or a more advanced preparation of sutta kathirikkai kotsu- a slightly pungent gravy with grilled eggplant. The best way to eat the accompaniments is by taking small amounts along with a larger amount of the main mixed rice dish.

Once you make these accompaniments, other menu items become more tempting. A high protein choice that is good as a snack or breakfast item is pesarat- the moong dhal pancake. I have made this with either split moong (yellow) or whole moong (green) with or without rice. This will go well with any chutney or even dipped in a sambar (thick vegetable lentil stew).

Have more left over coconut chutney? Try your hand at the famous rava uppuma- a breakfast or snack item made of rava (cream of wheat) infused with vegetables and spices. This is one of our personal household favorites. One can substitute other ingredients for cream of wheat- making different varieties of uppuma as featured in the book. Last, but never least, is the famous masaal dosai. This ‘Indian Burrito’ is a favorite of Indians and non-Indians alike. This crispy lentil and rice pancake is stuffed with a spicy potato fry similar to the urulai kizhangu vadhakal above. This dish, however simple it looks, has several steps. One should plan to create this dish over a few days time, as the rice and lentils used to make the pancake are first soaked for up to eight hours, ground into a velvety batter, and left to ferment for up to more than a day depending on your climate. The trick to a good tasting dosa is the sourness of the batter. This batter can also be used for making steamed-cakes or idlis, which can also be eaten with any variety of chutney or spice powders mixed with ghee, sesame or vegetable oils. Viji has shared three spice powder recipes suitable for dosa – idli accompaniments- karuveppalai podi, kothamalli podi, and idli-dosai milagai podi; sometimes affectionately known as ‘gunpowder’. The sambhar podi is one of the most versatile in a tambram kitchen. Used in a variety of different dishes - chutneys, stir fried vegetables and in gravies, it gives a distinct flavor to each dish. Amazingly no one dish tastes the same as the vegetables are cooked in its own juices.

If you’re looking for a snack on the run- a popular finger food snack is kothu kadalai sundal. This chick pea fried snack is sold on street sides in Chennai in small funnels. This is a fun snack to take on the run because it’s good even if it’s cold (though always better hot!). A Navarathri favorite among some in Chennai, this is a unique snack that can be a party pleaser because of it’s unique look and taste. Kids seem to love it too!

The author holding her award plaqueNo book on Indian cookery can be complete without a section on sweets. Who can resist a good rice pudding, called paal payasam in Tamil (literally meaning Milk Pudding). This sweet treat is easy to make in a pinch because it only has four ingredients- cream, sugar, rice and ghee (clarified butter) which are readily available almost anywhere! If you can’t find ghee in your area, Viji has offered a method of preparation for this in the book too! Another favorite sweet dish of mine is sakkarai pongal, a sweet version of ven pongal, a rice and moong dhal porridge. (photo: The author holding her award plaque.)

Limiting this review to such few recipes seems a shame. To get your hands on and into these recipes, order Viji’s book today through Amazon. Beside the recipes, you will learn about Indian culture and culinary tips at the end of each recipe. Ingredients that may be unfamiliar are listed in a pictorial in the back of the book. Viji has also created almost 20 menu plans for those wondering how to pair dishes into a complete meal. The book is then topped off with a selection of health drinks one can refresh them with after completing their wonderful, tasty, TamBram meals!

Thank you for sharing your culinary wisdom with us, Viji. I hope you enjoy her cookbook as much as I do!

*See the table of contents at Amazon.

**Special Thanks to Laura Denkatesh, Cookbook Coach for giving tips on writing a good cookbook book review! See Laura’s Website.

Related links/Articles
Viji’s website- Viji Samayal
Join Viji's fan page at Facebook
Insights and Inspirations of Viji Varadarajan (My interview with Viji)
Want to see Yogurt from a different perspective? (My review of Viji’s cookbook, A Healthy Taste of Indian Culture: Cooking with Yoghurt)

Newspaper/Magazine Articles
Brahmin Recipes by Viji Varadarajan on Magic Chef Hat, October 2008
Fusion in the Kitchen – The Hindu, March 2009
The tradition continues – Harmony Magazine, September 2007

tags : "cookbook authors", "south indian food", "tamil brahmin", "tamil food", "vegetarian samayal", traditional cookery "indian cooking" vegetarian "Indian vegetarian cooking" "pure vegetarian cookery" “cookbook reviews”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Paneer Makhani - Fried Homemade Cheese Cubes in Flavorful Cream Sauce by Srivalli

Srivalli from Cooking 4 All Seasons has graciously allowed me to reprint this recipe in it's entirety on my blog.

I am sharing this with you, my readers, to introduce you to Srivalli and her amazing cooking and photography talents- both tempt the tastebuds. Recently, Srivalli has published an e-book with some really unique and simple-to-make Indian recipes. I will share that with you tomorrow!! Srivalli is amazing creative!! Thanks for sharing this, Srivalli.

Preparation Time : 10 mins
Cooking Time : 20 - 30 mins
Serves - 4-5

Ingredients Needed:

Paneer - 250 gms
Onions paste - 1 cup
Tomato Puree - 2 cups
Ginger Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Red Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
Cashew nut paste - 3 tbsp
Cream - 1 cup
Bay Leaf - 1 (opt)
Salt to taste
Butter - 3 tsp
Saffron - 5-6 strands
Milk - 50 ml.

Method to prepare:

You can use Home made Paneer or can use store bought. Cut into cubes and fry them in butter till golden colour. Remove and keep aside.

Warm milk and soak saffron in it.

Make Onion puree and Tomato puree separately. Keep aside.

In a pan, heat butter. You can use the same pan that you used for frying Paneer. Add the bay leaf, then fry Onion paste till its pink. add the ginger garlic paste. Fry both till the onion paste turns till brown.

Then add cashew paste along with all the spice powders. Simmer and allow it to cook well. Then add the tomato puree.

Add about 1/2 cup water and bring to boil. Then simmer and cook till it thickens. When the gravy is thick enough, add the cream and simmer for another 10 mins. Finally add the milk that has the saffron. Optionally, you can add orange food colour if you want richer colour.

When the gravy is ready, finally add the fried paneer and cook for 5 mins.

This tastes great with Ghee Rice, Jeera Rice or Naans.

Original Post on Srivalli's Blog.

Browse Current recipies posted on Srivalli's Cooking 4 All Seasons Blog.

Support Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons- She's published a great new e-book with 15 unique Indian Recipes.

Flavours of South Indian Kitchen

Buy Now for only $5! My review soon to come!

Thank you for spending time on my website!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Recipe Review December 2009

Aayi's Recipes
Dried Gooseberry Gravy(Sukkil AvaLe Kadi/Tambli)
Shilpa shares a 'bitter' taste of India in this unique recipe.

Edible Garden
Gobi Manchurian
This unique Indian dish is a favorite and a special dish among some of my friends. This dish is a cauliflower (gobi) speciality with a nice gravy that, I think is Chinese influenced. But, until I read the recipe on this site, I never realized the gobi is covered in a batter and deep fried! Sounds yummy! I have yet to try it.

Fourth Sense Samayal
Spicy Rajma Gravy
Shilpa shares through captivating photo and poetry the beauty of thick, flavorful Indian kidney bean stew.

The Gori Wife Life
An American married to a Pakistani, living in Pakistan shares some lessons on traditional cooking mixed with modern touches in food storage and preparation.

One Hot Stove

Cashews are the new Cream
Nupur shares a tempting Vegan Dum Aloo recipe. Dum Aloo basically means 'strong potato.' Usually Dum Aloo dishes have whole, small potatoes in them.

Veggie Platter
Aloo Matar
Suma at Veggie Platter, shares a mouthwatering Potato (aloo) and pea (matar) dish ripe with the flavors of India!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Indian Inspired Vegetable Soup/Stew


2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ajwain seeds

15 baby carrots finely sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced thinly
2 cups diced green, red and/or orange peppers

Salt/pepper to taste

2 bay leaves

1 tbspn Cumin powder

2 tbspn Corriander powder

1/8 tsp turmeric powder

½ tbspn red chili powder

1 cup orzo pasta (or rice that doesn’t fluff up in soup)

6 cups vegetable broth

1 15-16 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 tsp dried basil

1 ½ cup small beans or lentils (not black beans)


Step 1:

Heat olive oil, add ajwain seeds, onions and garlic on high heat for 3-5 minutes (don’t burn).

Step 2:

Turn heat to medium, add carrots, celery, and peppers. Stir it up. Fry for 10 minutes stirring every two minutes.

Step 3:

Add all the spices. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes more on low heat. During this 5 minutes heat the water and start to make the pasta.

Step 4:

Add the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, parsley (if using dried, use 1 tbspn) and basil into the soup. Stir it up on high heat. When it boils, turn heat to medium, cover it up.

Step 5:

After 10 minutes add in the beans/lentils. Cover it again and let boil.

Step 6:

Heat for another 10-20 minutes to get firmness/softness of carrots and other veggies you prefer.

Step 7:

When veggies are almost the right firmness, add cooked orzo or rice. Turn off heat, let sit about 10 minutes and serve.

Will serve 4-6. Adapted from

Originally posted on my other blog in 2007.

More Mouthwatering Menus.

Thank you for reading and spending your time here! Bon App├ętit!