Carrot soup for the soul

Two days ago, when I took Re for Janmashtami celebrations to a Krishna temple nearby, I decided to go ethnic and wore a salwar kameez with floral motifs around the neck and draped a dupatta. Re was bemused and pleased. It was different from the minimalist, practical dressing I usually resort to. He felt the fabric, touched the embroidery, traced the outline of the flowers and said, “Mamma, nice! Cauliflower!”
I burst out laughing. He had recently mixed up the cauliflower with just about a flower and perhaps thought that the former was a more superior name by which flowers are called. So currently, every flower is a cauliflower.  It is time to make a cauliflower bake with him, cooking from the whole, so that he gets the perspective. Will do that soon.
In the meantime, I am telling him that a cauliflower is the cousin of the carrot (who he is not confused about), hence something we can cook and eat. I haven’t got into the complexities of cooking banana flower, drumstick flower, and so many other vegetables that are actually flowers and can be cooked.
Otherwise, we have a fun time with peas, beans, carrots and potatoes and tomatoes in the kitchen, and recently put together a spread for a newspaper, with five dishes, all co-created. Okay somewhat.
Here is one recipe that was part of the meal, but I just forgot about it. It’s my favourite carrot and celery soup that is the perfect thing for this weather.
Carrot and celery soup

(Serve with baguettes or soup sticks or even toasted bread)

 You will need:

Four carrots boiled and pureed.

Fresh cream – one tablespoon

One stalk of celery, with the leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

How to make it:

Puree the boiled carrots and add two cups of water and bring to boil in a saucepan.

Add the fresh cream, mixing well to avoid lumps, and add the chopped celery, salt and pepper and some more water if required, stirring constantly.


An ode to tsatsiki

Damn this tsatsiki trail!

Re has a unique relationship with dips. It started quite by accident, when I had once served up a huge bowl of tsatsiki to my guests with some lavash bread and some soup sticks. He was ten months then, and attempting to walk. He sensed the excitement on the platter and began to help himself. At first, he used the soup sticks to dig into the divine dip and then later perhaps thought, “Well, let me waste no time and elegance over this, let me just use my fingers.”

Soon, he was wearing a tsatsiki mask of sorts and everyone was like, “Can he eat dip at this age?”

Yes he can. The best thing going for it is that it is not baby-food. And we all know how babies hate baby-food. It is the biggest insult to them. If I were a baby and you served me up some gooey mush everyday, I’d order in (much as I hate ordering in).

I will be writing a lot about food soon, but here is my favourite dip to start with. You can serve it with toasted/plain multi-grain bread, baguettes, rusks, brun pav (sliced), soup sticks, lavash, carrot and cucumber sticks. Your kids will love it. And they will love you a wee bit more for treating them as adults.


Well, I got the original recipe from my foodie friend Matthew (who incidentally  is a purist and prefers to chop the cucumbers fine, although I grate them–it’s just easier). Then I added a bit of George to it (from Master Chef) and I am pleased as punch with the result. And so is Re. We normally put our feet up in the evenings, and sometimes polish up an entire bowl of tsatsiki, dipping our favourite bread into it, watching our favourite food shows.

You need: 

Two medium sized cucumbers, grated, or finely chopped

One tub of dahi (400 gm)

A small bunch of dill, with stalks removed

One tsp paprika

One tbsp (actually as much as you like) Extra Virgin Olive oil

Juice of one lemon

One tsp of honey (this is George’s tip)

Five cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated

Salt to taste

How to make it: 

1.Hang the curd in a sieve or tie it loosely in a cloth and let it drip till it has lost all its water.

2. Salt the cucumber slightly and let it stand for half hour. This will help exude all the water from the cucumbers, which you can then drain/squeeze out.

3. In  a bowl, mix the hung curd, the cucumbers, the dill and the garlic well. Add the lemon juice, the olive oil,  the paprika and the honey and mix well. If you don’t have paprika, you can use some white pepper powder as well.

4. Dig in.

You don’t have to be chef to make this. It takes no time at all, but the above picture is a great reward. Go try and it and let me know what happened. And yes, if you have a dip recipe to share, please do. Coming up are guacamole and hummus, also Re’s favourites.

Bon Appétit!

Eat, play, love

I just found out that my ex-boss has adopted a baby girl. He was venting about having trouble with baby-food and going slightly nuts trying to please his six month-old’s palate. Now, I found this slightly ironical, because he tells the world what to eat through his blog and is never at a loose end for ideas.

When I got thinking, I was reminded of frequent queries posted on a mom-baby network that I am a part of on, “What to feed the child?” and I wondered how this whole baby-food lacuna came about.

The answer stared at me in the face as I saw Re reaching out for the red pepper in yoghurt dip on my plate in preference to his mashed potatoes with carrots at Gaia on our recent Goa jaunt.  He also looked slightly disdainful that I was spooning it with a baguette. He went for it neat, licking his fingers clean. He is all of 17 months.

Babies want the good stuff, dammit. The term baby-food is condescending. I think at some level, they know that we are eating all the good (and good-looking ) stuff  and they are getting all the guck and mush.

Now I’m not asking you to shove a steak or biryani or tandoori chicken or chhole bhature down your child’s throat. All I am saying is, show a little respect for the child. Why shouldn’t its food be good-looking? Would you eat what you are expecting it (I will be saying ‘it’ instead of he/she, no offence) to eat?  Food is all about seduction, and maybe I am watching too much of Master Chef Australia, but what looks good is usually more inviting to eat, so why shouldn’t it be so for a baby?

Yes, I know there is the whole pureed foods phase upon transition from ‘fully breast’ to solids the minute the clock strikes ‘six months’ or the child looks wistfully at your plate, whichever is earlier. And I do know that it would be deemed ‘cruelty to children’ giving them stuff to chew when they have no teeth. But  the minute they have a few to reckon with, go for it. They are ready for the real thing. Your culinary adventures can begin.

Around eight to nine months is when you can start having fun. There are two simple rules really. Colour and texture.  So mashed potatoes or carrots can get a bit of art direction with some green thingees in them, ala peas or beans.  Even a khichdi need not look its traditional bilious yellow and have some shredded carrots, peas, beetroot and bits of palak in it.  Or you can mix different coloured boiled veggies and sautee a bit with caramelised onions instead of feeding a monochromatic mush of kaddu or beetroot or whatever. Idlis can look less boring with speckles of carrot of red pumpkin in them. They could even be green or pink if you blanch and puree some spinach or beetroot into them.  So also with chilas and spring onions. Or you can serve up a bed of baby potatoes (boiled, of course) sautéed in butter and herbs and watch their faces light up. And imagine how empowering it must be to bite into a monster sweet potato?

Dosas are my favourite, because you can almost add anything to the batter, right from carrots to beans to tomatoes to pumpkin to capsicum to cabbage to paneer to cheese. Chapattis can be micro sized, to let the little ones know that you have concern for the size of their plates. And it’s never too early for a simple aloo paratha with just a tinge of spice. Only, don’t ever pre-break their food. Let them tear the stuff apart, it’s part of the adventure.

I am not one for snacking, so it’s mostly fruit in between meals. Or perhaps a bread stick or raisins or dates or dried figs or a once-in-a-while cookie (the less sweet, the better. You don’t want an orthodontist to add to your list of things to do in the next two years, right?). I recently made a kurmura chivda that Re loves to eat and play with. Sometimes a toast with peanut or cashew butter (you can make this at home, will share recipes) or even a nice-looking sabzi could work as a snack.

When it comes to fruit, all that juicing and diluting or pureeing is a whole lot of baloney. Thrust a slice of a bright orange papaya or a luscious musk melon or a slutty watermelon or even a happy yellow mango  in front of them and see how much fun they have. For me, “when in doubt, fruit” has always worked.  As much as they can have, as often as they want to. The earlier you start, the better. Some mothers hold off on giving fruit for really long and then whine about how the child never wants to eat anything healthy. Yes, it’s messy, and yes you have to clean up, and yes, there are flies, but it’s so worth it.

So whenever the question of, ‘What to feed the baby?’ pops up, think of what you want to eat, and work around that so the baby can eat it too.  So if it’s an upma, go easy on the chillies, oil, etc, add vegetables for color, texture, substitute rava for dalia once in a while, and there you are. Your upma is his upma. Ditto for everything else. I hate writing recipes, but hit me for ideas any time. You might find some here too.

The boy was last seen packing a ladle into his ‘going out’ bag. I am secretly excited. I can’t wait to start cooking and baking with him.

Spaghetti with ratatouille at Ku, Morjim made by the effervescent Maria. Re loved it!

Re attacks his aloo paratha with gusto

The quintessential bread stick is an appetiser that also doubles up as a prop

Re’s beetroot adventures, same time last year