Honeydew melon & cucumber gazpacho

Who goes and puts honeydew melon in a soup, right? Sounds bizarre. If you feel the same way, I wouldn’t blame you. But..I like bizarre. And this gazpacho is kind of just that.

I’ve tried very hard to visually capture the exact texture of this soup, but I’m not sure if I’ve done a good enough job at it. Have you ever tried making honeydew melon, mango or even papaya juice? They blend well and get velvety and smooth, but it’s not the same consistency as you’d find in say, watermelon juice. It’s pulpier. That’s what the consistency of this gazpacho is like. It’s denser than any other soup I’ve made – even withstood the cucumber slices that I used as garnish!

Traditionally, gazpacho was made by hand pounding green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. Stale bread soaked in water is a popular addition, which purists claim to be the ‘superior’ version. This is the kind that you’d most likely encounter in Andalusia (south of Spain), which also happens to be where this dish originates from. But as is the case with the evolution of food habits, people living in other areas came up with their own intra-regional versions of the gazpacho with the ingredients that they had ready access to, and tweaking it to fit their palates. Some would make them without the bread, while white gazpachos have no tomatoes; they have pine nuts or almonds instead. There are now over hundreds, if not thousands of variations for it!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just a glorified smoothie. It does look like it, doesn’t it? Sautéed onions and garlic with a kick of chilli form its base, before the fresh melon and cucumbers are added in. I would strongly recommend a dash of fiery Tabasco over the top for that extra pizazz! Summery, velvety, bizarre..all pulverized together to give you this perfect chilled soup.

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Yogurt syllabub

I know it sounds like I just made this word up! Syllabub is an English dessert that’s made with milk that’s been curdled either with wine or any other form of acid before being flavoured and sweetened. I’ve used yogurt here which we know has already undergone that process, so it’s essentially just a flavoured yogurt, but a far cry from the ones that you might be used to eating. I mean, how many times have you mixed red wine into it?

In England, Syllabub also apparently goes by the names ‘solybubbe’,’sullabub’,’sullibib’,’sullybub’, or ‘sullibub’. I just read that sentence out loud and it seriously sounded like my fish when he asks for food!

Stewing the fruit is a popular idea with syllabub, and that’s exactly what I had intended to do when I started out making this. It’s only when I began slicing into the figs, I realized that they didn’t have to undergo any transformation to make this dessert delicious. If you’d like to stew them instead, just sprinkle some brown sugar on the figs and cook until tender. I’d add a pinch of cinnamon too for good measure if I were you.

This low-fat dessert uses just a handful of ingredients, is healthy, and chock full of nutrients from every component. The fact that it takes no more than 10 minutes to whip up is just another reason why I’m all over it. You could use whatever fruit you have on hand – I always seem to have a few fresh figs lying around, but I have no doubt that it will work exceptionally well with strawberries, oranges, or apples too.

The addition of pomegranate seeds and pistachio slivers give this dessert a bit of a Turkish / Mediterranean feel, and the wine and orange zest take you down the mulled wine route. You could say that it’s a bit of a (con)fusion, but it definitely has its charms.

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Passion fruit cordial

My parents lived in the outskirts of the city in our farmhouse for a few years, while I was studying in boarding school. Even though I never got to be home for long periods of time at a stretch, I clearly remember really looking forward to going back there for the holidays.

Our house had a large plot of land at the back where we had teak plantations, and the front overlooked a lush rose garden, courtesy of my mom’s green thumb. It was everything you’d picture a farm-house to be – a kitchen garden, vast untouched spaces, huge shady trees that were planted during my grandfather’s times, the works. We had turkeys, guinea fowl, and my dad even bought these funny looking chickens from somewhere, that looked like they had furry socks on their feet!

But my favourite part of it all was an old elevated pond nestled under a huge mango tree, which was spruced up and made into a dip pool! Big enough for four people to wade around comfortably in (when my dog decided to give us the space that is!). I’d sit there every evening, until my feet and hands got wrinkly from being completely saturated with water.

Right. I’m going to start talking about what this story has to do with passion fruit cordial (!) in just a second after I slowly ease out of my reverie. Yes. So, we had a long barbed wire fence that ran along the side of the house with a tangled mess of passion fruit vines trailing over them. They were almost always laden with fruit and their beautiful flowers (picture above) that look like something straight out of Avatar! I remember every bit of that excitement as I waited for the fruits to go yellow from green, and it always tasted best when you got to pick them yourself. Sweet nostalgia.

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Aubergine Parmigiana (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)

Remember that time I made this aubergine and broccoli pasta bake? So this is a slight variation from that, with regard to inspiration (and photo clarity. Thank goodness!) I’m slowly trying to get my head around exploring the plethora of options and features on my DSLR, so please bear with me as I share the developments on this forum. Note to self : Automatic with flash is not the ideal setting. Got it.

The Italians really have it down when it comes to food combinations, and their basic approach to food. They know exactly what ingredients work well together, and more importantly, they believe that simple preparations with fresh ingredients always trumps finickity over-the-top excesses. I love the rustic appeal of their traditional dishes with its irregularities and lack of perfection. Like the Japanese concept of something being Wabi-sabi..I’m all over this.

Coming back to what I was saying..this dish is basically a layered bake with griddled aubergines, Parmesan, a quick home-made tomato sauce, finally topped with breadcrumbs and some Mozzarella. It’s quick to make, easy to assemble, and rates very high on the yumminess quotient. Check and check. Continue reading