Taste & Create beckons once more! This time I am paired with Sweatha of TastyCurryLeaf. I hastened directly to her blog hoping to find something I could cook for dinner that evening and was immediately rewarded.
Her blog is very interesting; it’s clear that her background is Indian (so lots of yummy-looking Indian recipes) but she lives in the US so the Indian food is interspersed with an eclectic mix of American, Italian, and other cuisines — she seems very adventurous in her cooking. In addition, although she doesn’t specifically mention it, she’s clearly vegetarian, so that made it attractive too. Even on a quick glance I could see there were plenty of good candidates. But for that evening I kept it simple: roasted red bell pepper soup, using easily available ingredients. I love the flavour of roasted red peppers so it looked worth a try.
I don’t make soup as often as I should, given how good home-made soup is, and this was a reminder of how quickly you can whip up something good. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly; Sweatha says to thicken it with cornstarch, but I felt this was unnecessary and would affect the fresh flavour, so I left it out. I also didn’t use coriander leaves, because a) I don’t like them, they taste of soap to me and b) they are nearly impossible to find here anyway. I used ground coriander seeds instead. For added spice I used my infamous Scotch Bonnet-infused chilli sherry. This lives in the larder, well away from the drinks cabinet and with a large warning notice affixed to it. A teaspoon is enough to add pizazz to anything. And finally I used crème fraîche instead of ordinary cream, because it tastes nice!
This is not the only recipe I’ll try from her blog, since this T&C runs for two months — I might even try some of her simple Indian dishes. I love good Indian food, and when I was a student in London I often cooked Indian meals — it was easy to get the ingredients there, and it lends itself to cheap but excellent vegetarian feasts. Now I never cook it, because I think you need to do it regularly to get it right, and it is more difficult to find the ingredients you need here. So I just have to wait for visits to the UK to pig out in Indian restaurants!
2 red peppers
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
25 g butter
1/2 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs crème fraîche
250 ml water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
chilli flakes or chilli sherry to taste
any other herbs or spices that take your fancy
croûtons, to serve
The original recipe instructs you to cut the peppers in half before grilling. But I really like the syrupy juices that come out of roast pepper, so I left them whole. Preheat the grill to high and put the peppers on a baking tray as close as they will go to the heat. Grill for 15-20 minutes, turning a couple of times so that all sides are blistered and blackening. Put them into a bowl and cover with a lid or plate to cool (this makes them easier to peel).
While the peppers are cooling, melt the butter in a heavy pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute over a moderate heat to soften and turn transparent. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the burnt skin and cut them in half, catching the juices that run out in the bowl. Remove the seeds and white ribs, and cut the flesh into dice. Then add the chopped pepper, tomato paste, saved pepper juices, and water or stock to the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in spices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a few more minutes. Stir in cream and let it heat through. Cool the soup for a few minutes and then blend in batches using a blender or food processor. Reheat if necessary and serve. I added croûtons made from homemade bread; just toss cubes of day-old bread in olive oil and garlic or other seasoning, spread out on a baking tray, and put in a hot oven for 10 minutes, turning a couple of times till crisp on all sides.