Keeping the dread at bay with Carrot Soup.

Finally, the dreaded february is gone. I was hoping against hope that it would take the dreaded cold and the dreaded parasites with it. It dreadfully didn’t, leaving the whole family to deal with the dreaded flu season for the adults and dreadful strep throats and ear infections for the kids.
With two clingy kids, a loss of apetite – the kind I have never experienced before and looming deadlines in front of us, me and the hubby were dreadfully tried like we have never been tried before. Oh, yes! It has been a dreadful kind of month for us.

Which means, it’s been a soup kind of month for us. Anything and everything got pulped, pureed, pulversied and slow-cooked into a heavenly flavored liquid which can cure all that ails the human body. And, boy it did. Thick, hot, filling broth that took out the parasites one healing spoonful at a time, giving us much needed nutrition during a period of acute appetite loss, comforting us with its soothing vapors and enveloping us in its warmth much like our mom’s pallu. The pallu we wanted to burrow into and the kids were trying hard to find in me (Sorry Dears, the apron will have to do). 🙂

Only two good things came out of this. One, the disappearance of the permanently-3-months-pregnant look I sported and second the recipe of the day, Carrot Soup.

The Carrot Soup became one of our mainstays during this period. And not just because s o m e o n e decided to buy carrots at Costco.

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Recipe

Melt

1 tablespoons unsalted butter

in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add

1 bay leaf,
1/2 medium onion, chopped

and fry till soft. Add in

5 medium carrots chopped into bite size pieces
1 tbsp ginger, chopped finely

cook for 2 minutes, till coated with the butter. Add

3 cups water,
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

Bring to a boil over high heat. Put on the Pressure cooker lid and let it whistle 3 times. Take off the heat and let it cool. When cooled, open the pressure cooker, puree the mixture in a blender till smooth. If you have one of those stick blenders, more power to you. Pour the soup back into the cooker and stir in

1/4 cup milk,
1 tbsp sugar,
Salt to taste

Reheat over medium heat until piping hot. Serve immediately.

Armed with a bowl of piping hot goodness, I go on to play this meme that I was tagged with eons ago, but couldn’t get to. So here goes, the 5 things you don’t know about me and for all I know, you don’t want to know about me. You are going to, anyway.

1. I hate Dill . There are no two-ways about it, no grey areas. Nope, just do not like it. Whether it is the smell or the taste or the way it looks. Hey, look someone decided to chop up some of their hair for dinner today.Thin little strands going through my food completely grosses me out.

2. I grew up, a very picky eater. Made my mom’s life hell with all the likes and dislikes. { I am so sorry. mom. But don’t you worry, Aayush is making sure I pay for it.}. A trip to the west with half of the things, I did like growing up, not available, I have out grown that.

3. I love the Austin Power movies. Don’t you hate me for this. But, I just love the idiotic behaviour and a little bit of psycho-analysis on myself tells me I am probably an idiot , too.

4. I am a voracious reader. I have 400 blogs on my google reader list and at any moment of time, at least 4 books just for myself from the library. I can read anything. Give me a printed(typed) word and I will read it.

5. I am the typical libra woman. Read Linda Goodman and you would know more about me than you want to know 🙂

That’s it. With all my secrets poured out, a bowl of soup poured in, I leave you with this Tamatar Story. Bhagwaan ji, aapki creativity ki to daat deni padegi. The various ways you make sure we remember you. Kabhi doodh pi kar, kabhi tamatar ka roop dharan karke!! Jai ho, Jai ho!!

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To Roast a Chicken…

I discovered the joys of roasting a whole chicken as recently as three months ago and I have been doing it left and right since then. You would understand the significance of the statement appropos coming from me, if you knew me better. Meet me. A firm believer in the fact that if it used to move on its own, it needs a lot of help (read, heat and spice) to be made edible. Me, for whom seafood or chicken (the extent of my non-vegetarian existence) equals hot and spicy food. The neurotic eater, who would never touch a dish that does not have at least 50 spices in it. Ok, so maybe that is exaggerating a bit. 49 would do as well. But, you get the point. I did not try alfredo for quite a while after I came west just because it was…ahem… not colorful enough. That’s me.

The only reason I ever tried my hand at it was because it satisfied some primeval urge in me. There is something primal about cooking a whole bird. No use of those fancy knives (until after you have cooked them, that is), no chopping, no bhuno-ing. Just some TLC is all it needs and a hot oven…well, medium hot oven…you know what I mean. But, that urge to go primitive stops at the swanky grocery store. Nope, not gonna see me wring a chicken’s neck and pluck its feathers, no siree. I have to hop in my heated seats, power doors, gas-guzzling much-bigger-than-I-actually-need sports utility vehicle, pick me up some nice, already dead, de-necked, de-feathered and definitely ‘de-cavity’-ed chicken before I can go ‘primitive’. Again, that’s me.

What surprises you is how juicy, the chicken that results, is. I am a firm believer that any kind of meat, poultry or seafood tastes better on the bone. Not that, that stops me from appreciating the quick cooking nature of the boneless ones or using it to the optimium. But, the biggest difference here is the use of the skin,which has all the fat. The fat that keeps the meat moist during the lengthy cooking process. It is the kind of thing that makes you appreciate the meat for its own flavor and taste rather than its blandness that takes well to being smothered in a spicy gravy. Which is why, even someone like me, who can’t imagine a meal without rice or roti or any meat without gravy, can make a whole meal with this. With a little rice on the side, of course. You know by now, that’s just me.

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I am not going to go into the details of How to roast a chicken. You can just google it and find hundreds of sites that will tell you how to do it. I am just going to give you some tips to twist it to the Indian palate without turning it into Murgh Musallam

1. First of all, I do not eat the skin of the chicken. There are hardly any Indian dishes that cook chicken with its skin on. Even the famous Tandoori Chicken is not cooked with its skin on. While this may largely be due to the fact that we most often than not broil or stew our chicken which does not bode well for the skin, it also means that much less fat that we are consuming (which we make up for in all that ghee we use for the gravy, but hey, the chicken is healthy). So, I concentrate all my seasonings under the skin.

2. Seasoning, Seasoning, Seasoning. Most sites you see will tell you the season the bird well. But, how well? And how well is seasoned well? How do you know? Well, the measure I use is this. Consider, chopping up the whole bird to make a Chicken curry. Consider how much salt you will put into the curry, in that case. That’s the amount of salt you require to cover every portion of the bird. Season the outer skin, under the skin and inside the cavity, too. Be equally liberal with the Black pepper, too. Try using rock salt as opposed to regular salt. Much more flavor.

3.Consider the flavorings you are going to put. Resist the temptation to put in all your regular spice powders. Concentrate on one or two and use that to the optimum. Consider mixing in the spices with room temperature butter and then slathering the bird with it rather than just sprinkling on the top. Since, I prefer to put my flavorings under the skin, I always mix them with unsalted butter. Separate the skin from the meat using a thin paring knife.Now, this requires a lot of practice and a stomach of steel. But, the end product, my friend, is worth it. I mostly go with some Chilli powder, Cumin and some garam masala. I also like using some dried herbs, thyme, being the all time favorite with chicken. It also goes well with the spices. Massage the flavored butter into the bird all over. If you decide to mix in the salt and pepper with the butter, remember to sprinkle some more salt on the skin and the cavity.

4. Consider using a spice bouquet. I fill the cavity with a whole garlic bulb slit across, an onion-halved,two cinnamon sticks, a bay leaf, two Black cardamoms and some cloves. Sometimes, a lemon halved.

5.Place the chicken on a bed of veggies, especially some root veggies like Potatoes and carrots. The veggies absorb all the flavor from the chicken juices making them delicious. Remember to coat the veggies with a thin layer of oil and salt.

6.I do not bother tieing (trussing) the chicken legs. I have never ended up with burn’t chicken tips, so I haven’t felt the need to.

7. Even though, We don’t eat the skin, I like to bring a golden brown bird to the table. Pre heat the Oven to 450 degrees F. Cook the chicken for 15 mins before lowering the heat to 350 and cooking for another 35 to 40 minutes depending upon the chicken and the oven. I always use a 5-pound chicken and these instructions work perfectly with them.

8.Most sites will tell you to cut into the thigh of the chicken and check the juices that run out. If they are clear, you have a cooked bird. That’s very sound advice. I know the chicken is cooked, when the leg moves freely when wiggled. That is the test that works for me. When in doubt, use a thermometer

9. Let it rest. For at least 15 minutes before you start carving it. Results in a juicier chicken.

10.You can try carving it in a fancy way. I just like doing it in a very basic way. Use a very Sharp Knife. Hold the tip of the chicken leg and let your knife in to the joint between the leg and breast and slice right through. If you are at the correct place, the knife will cut through like butter. If not, wiggle the tip of the knife gently, till you hit the spot. Apply the same logic to the joint between the thigh and the leg. For the breast, I just like to let the knife follow the breast bone and get the whole breast out in one go. Remember to slit through the bone between the two breast first, though. That’s it.

Now, at this point, most cooks will ask you to save the carcass to make chicken stock. I haven’t reached that culinary peak yet nor has my stomach. Which is why I don’t save the carcass. I do save the bits of meat on the back of the chicken and the juices that accumalate in the roasting pan and make my stock using them. Any guesses on what my next post would be??

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Helpful Links :

Find a Step-by-step How-to here
Some great basic tips here
How to Carve a chicken