Black Bean Tortilla Soup

In my earlier post, I mentioned I made a creamy black bean soup along with those vibrant corn muffins. Here is the recipe. The creamy part is due to corn tortillas that gets cooked right in the soup along with the vegetables. As the soup boils, the tortilla melts into the broth, leaving you with velvety soup. I have used an Ancho chilli (a dried poblano), which is mildly hot. You can also use any other Mexican chilli you have on hand, for a different flavour. If you don’t have any of these chilli peppers, use regular red chilli powder. Since I served ‘em corn muffins, I didn’t add corn kernels. But that would be a nice addition if the soup is served on its own.

Black Bean Tortilla Soup
(serves 2)


Oil – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Onion – ½ cup, diced
Carrot – ½ cup, diced
Celery – 2 ribs, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped fine
Tomato – ½ cup, diced
Corn tortilla – 3 or 4, cut into strips
Ancho chilli – 1
Red chilli powder – ¼ - ½ tsp
Better than boullion – 1 tsp or use 1 cup of vegetable stock
Black bean – 2 cups, cooked until soft
Cilantro – ¼ cup, chopped

Lime wedges – to serve
Tortilla chips – to serve, if desired


Soak ancho chili in hot water for 20 minutes. Once it is soft, puree with the soaking water until smooth. Reserve.

In a soup pot, heat oil, roast cumin seeds. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add chopped tomato, corn tortilla strips, pureed Ancho chili, stock, and salt and bring to a brisk boil. Add the cooked black beans, red chilli powder and 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. If you have a stick blender, partially puree the soup right in the soup pot, so that it remains chunky. Or else, in a blender, puree 1 cup of cooled soup, and add back to the soup pot. This gives the soup its creamy texture. Of course, if you want it chunky all the way, ignore this step. Check for seasoning, and serve hot with lime wedges, tortilla strips and corn muffins.

I hope Vaishali will enjoy this creamy, but vegan delight. Sending this off to her event It’s a Vegan World: Mexican.

Spicy Corn Muffins

Creamy black bean soup was on the menu last night, creamy and very tasty. It was almost dinner time, but, I was in the mood for corn bread. Takes long to cook…hmmm…I will cook them in muffin molds to cut back on the cooking time, I thought to myself. A little bit of this and that, and these muffins were done in no time. I made only 6 (2 for the master, 2 for the dame, 2 for…er… the dame again for snacking), not wanting to have too many leftovers. I made 3 of ‘em with marinated feta, which added a sharp, but subtle punch to the muffins. We loved both versions.

Spicy Corn Muffins
(yields 6 medium ones)


Cornmeal – 1/3 cup
All purpose flour – 1/3 cup
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Salt – a pinch
Egg – 1, small
Vegetable or canola oil – 2 tbsp
Yogurt – 1/3 cup
Sugar – 1½ tbsp
Corn – ¼ cup, fresh or frozen
Scallion/green onion or Cilantro – ¼ cup, chopped
Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp, more if desired
Marinated feta or goat cheese – ¼ cup, crumbled (optional)


Preheat oven to 375F. Line 6 holes in a medium muffin pan with paper liner.

In a larger bowl, mix the first four ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the next four ingredients until mixed well. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Mix gently until just combined. Finally, mix in corn, scallion or cilantro, red pepper flakes and feta (if using), to form a uniform mixture. Take care not to over mix. Pour into the prepared muffin molds, bake for 18-20 minutes until firm. Serve warm or at room temperature with soup or salad.

Karadayan Nonbu Adai

Apart from Deepavali and Pongal, the Tamil lunar calendar is dotted with many small scale festivals. Each one of them, with a mythological story behind, is celebrated with specific rites. More importantly, they have their own menu. Some of these menus are time consuming, that they are seldom done a second time in the same year. As a kid, I associated these festivals only through food. The rituals didn’t seem to be of much importance to me. But, as a teenager, I slowly learnt some of these recipes from my mom. She would take me through every step of the preparation, like explaining the different stages of sugar syrup, making a perfect kozhukattai (rice flour dumplings with coconut filling), or shaping a vada. She would also recite the stories and meanings behind the rituals that we perform, giving insights into the Hindu mythology. Not to mention the gossip and giggles we shared. I was a kid with lots of questions, she used to say. Partly curious and partly sceptic. My silly questions and her thoughtful answers is the reason why I know what I know today. These festivities are some of the best bonding moments we had. Thanks Amma!

Karadayan nonbu, which was celebrated last Saturday this year, is one such festivity. The story goes like this. Girl falls in love with a guy who is destined to die within a year. She marries him anyway. On the day of his dying, she tricks the Lord of Death by her ingenuity, brings her husband back to life. And they lived happily ever after. It is believed that the girl prepared these adais as an offering to the Gods, before her husband’s death.
(Characters: Girl – Savirtri, Guy – Satyavan, Lord of Death – Yama. Full story here.)

This nonbu (pronounced no-n-bu, Tamil for fasting) is observed during the first hour of the Tamil month Panguni, which occurs mid-March. The prescribed menu – sweet and savoury adai (steamed rice patty), served with a dab of butter. The rice flour is prepared at home, which makes the adai moist enough. You can also make this with store-bought rice flour. Make sure to use less water in that case.

Making rice flour at home

Soak 1¾ cups of rice for an hour. Drain and spread on a clean, cotton kitchen towel, and let it dry under shade. When it is almost dry, grind into a fine powder in batches. I find that Indian mixers do a good job than food processors. A good coffee grinder may do the job too. Roast the flour in a dry skillet, until the flour is heated through. You don’t have to wait for it to change color, but you should be able to smell the aroma of rice. Let cool, sieve and use in the recipe. This flour can be prepared in advance and stored in air-tight container. This will yield 2 cups of rice flour.

Vella Adai – Sweet
(makes 14)


Rice flour, prepared as mentioned above – 1 cup
Jaggery – 1 cup
Water – 2 ½ cups
Black eye peas/Karamani – 2 tbsp, dry roasted and cooked till soft
Coconut – ¼ cup, cut into small pieces (optional)
Ground cardamom – ¼ tsp
Banana leaves or Sesame/gingelly oil – for lining/greasing the plates


Over medium heat, dissolve jaggery in water. When it comes to a boil, add black-eye peas and coconut. Add rice flour slowly, while whisking briskly with the other hand. If there are lumps, keep stirring until they are gone. Cook until the mixture forms into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Let cool just until warm. With moist palm and fingertips, take ¼ cup of this mixture, shape into a patty, about ¼-inch thick. With your index finger, make a hole in the center. Arrange the patties on idly plates (or bamboo steamer) without overlapping. You can line the plates with banana leaves, if available. Otherwise, generously grease the plates with sesame oil. Steam cook for 10 minutes.

Kara Adai – Savoury
(makes 13)


Rice flour, prepared as mentioned above – 1 cup
Water – 2 cups
Black eye peas – 2 tbsp, dry roasted and cooked till soft
Coconut – ¼ cup, cut into small pieces (optional)
Banana leaves or Sesame/gingelly oil – for lining/greasing the plates


Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Ginger – 1 tsp, finely chopped
Fresh green chilli – 1, chopped, seeded if desired
Asafoetida – a pinch
Curry leaves – 5 or 6, torn


Over medium heat, heat oil, and add the ingredients given under seasoning, in the same order. Once they are toasty, add water and let it come to a boil. Add black-eye peas, coconut and salt. Stream in the rice flour while simultaneously whisking with the other hand. Cook until the mixture forms into a ball and pulls away from the sides. Shape and steam as mentioned above.

Enjoy sweet and savoury adai with a dab of butter.

This festivity, celebrated by a small community in one corner of the world, may sound strange to many of you, quite understandably. But, this may help a few of you, if you too practice these rituals. Most importantly, I don’t have to scratch my head next year over the measurements.

Varuthu Araitha Kootu – Vegetable Dal With Freshly Ground Spices

Varuthu – roasted, araitha – ground, kootu – medley. That’s all. Freshly ground spices with cooked dal and vegetables – healthy one pot meal. Poricha kootu and varuthu araitha kootu are stand-ins for the traditional sambar. They are usually made without tamarind. But what the kootu lacks in tang, is made up by the freshly roasted spices. My mom usually made this kootu with odd vegetables lying in the crisper. I used to be puzzled why this kootu was followed by my Appa’s visit to the market :). In the later days, my mom prepared it, even if the fridge was brimming with produce. She used to happily oblige with a tenderly request, knowing how much I loved it.

Varuthu Araitha Kootu

(Serves 2)

Moong dal – 1/3 cup
Mixed vegetables – 3 cups, cubed
(potato, peas, elephant yam, drumstick, chayote squash, white pumpkin, turnips, cluster beans)
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp, divided

Spice Mixture

Red chillies – 4
Black pepper – 6
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Curry leaves – 7 or 8


Cook moong dal until soft. Cook vegetables in water with salt and turmeric until soft. While the vegetables are cooking, heat a tsp of oil and roast red chillies, black pepper and urad dal until golden. Let cool and grind along with coconut, asafoetida and curry leaves to a smooth paste. When the vegetables are cooked through, add cooked dal, the ground spice mixture and salt and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Finish off by adding spluttered mustard seeds in the remaining oil. Serve hot with rice and gingelly oil or ghee. We enjoyed ours with urad dal appalam(South Indian savoury wafer).

This is my entry to No Croutons Required: Indian Soup or Salad, co-hosted by Lisa and Holler.

Ravishing Radish Sandwich With Poppy Seed Dressing

Easter egg radishes - crunchy, peppery and downright colourful. Who could resist that? I seldom cook these beauties. They end being mushy and smell awful. The only time I would do that is while making sambar. Otherwise, they are good to go with just a squirt of lemon juice and salt. The radish greens, with a mild radish-y flavour, taste equally good too. If you haven’t cooked the greens, you should definitely give a try. In addition to being nutritious and tasty, its economical. I have paid for those organic greens along with the roots. And I am going to use every bit of it.

A good place to start, is to cook them with lentils. Also, Kalyn’s crustless quiche is a very good recipe for radish and beet greens. Otherwise, you can enjoy them in sandwiches like I did. Garlicky radish greens are piled along with sautéed sweet peppers and onions. Complementing the vegetables is the creamy poppy seed spread. Those tiny little seeds add an interesting crunch making this a regular in my kitchen. On the whole, I think this sandwich will also be nice as a warm salad, served with toasts on the side.

Poppy Seed Spread

Tofutti or cream cheese or mayonnaise or thick yogurt – ½ cup
* I used a combination of tofutti and yogurt
Poppy seeds – ½ tbsp
Lemon zest – 1 tsp
Lemon juice – 2 tbsp
Sugar – ½ tsp
Red pepper flakes

Whisk all of the above in a bowl into a smooth mixture.

Ingredients For the Sandwich

Bunch radish – 5 or 6, sliced into thin rounds
Bell peppers of any colour – 2, sliced
Red onion – 1 cup, sliced thin
Radish greens – 2 cups, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped fine
Red pepper flakes – a pinch

Sliced bread – as needed


In a skillet, sauté bell peppers and onions separately with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate. In the same skillet, stir fry radish greens with garlic and red pepper flakes, until wilted but green. Its always a good practice to wait till the last minute, while adding salt to any greens. They cook down so much, and may end up too salty. So, just before removing the radish greens from the skillet, add a pinch of salt, toss and transfer to the plate with peppers.

Toast bread, apply spread on both the slices, pile sautéed greens, peppers, onion and sliced radish, cover with the other slice, slightly press, cut and serve.

Fig - Red Onion Confit

I was in the mood for a three course meal the other day. Cornmeal crusted mini-tarts, store-bought mango sorbet (made with alphonso, I can’t get enough of this stuff. Its always in my freezer) were on the menu. I still wanted something to nibble, for starters. Inspired from a meal at Café Flora, I made this onion confit. What’s better? It can be served at room temperature. That is a rule of thumb I follow for entertaining, even its for just the two of us. One make-ahead course, one course to be enjoyed hot and for the other course , a little help from the store. The order doesn’t really matter, but it takes the pressure out of entertaining.

I have used aged, thick and syrupy balsamic vinegar, which is added toward the end. For the price you pay, it’s a crime to boil aged balsamic vinegar, IMO. But if you have the regular kind, go ahead and use it. But add 5 minutes before finishing the dish, to let it boil and reduce. I have also used fig preserves that I found at my local market. But if you can’t find it, soak dry figs in hot water, grind to a smooth paste along with sugar and use in the recipe.

Fig-Red Onion Confit
(makes about 1½ cups)


Red onion – about 3 cups, thinly sliced
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Salt – as needed
Pepper – few cracks
Fig preserves – 3 tbsp
Thick, aged balsamic vinegar – 3 tbsp
Oil – a splash


In a skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onions, sugar, salt and pepper and cook the onions for about 15 minutes, stirring in between. If they get stuck to the bottom of the pan, sprinkle a tbsp or two of water, vigorously shake and deglaze the pan and continue cooking. Once the onions turn soft and brown, add fig preserves and balsamic vinegar. Remove from heat, mix thoroughly, let cool in the pan and serve cold or at room temperature.

I served the confit in a platter along with olives, capers, toasts and tofutti. Tofutti is cholesterol-free and is as good as its dairy counterpart. It’s a standard spread for my sandwiches. We also enjoyed it cold, on plain toast with coffee, the next day. This is my entry to Heart of the Matter – Finger Foods. HOTM celebrates its second anniversary.

Marinated Feta

What a way to infuse flavor into spoilt milk.. ahem.. cheese? It quickly caught my attention when the uber-talented and famous David Lebovitz posted it. The idea was as delightful as his blog. As simple as it may sound, the tangy feta mellows down after soaking in the fruity olive oil. The herbs add a nice touch and so do the chillies. I too refrained from using garlic due to ill effects as mentioned in his post.

Here's the method. Feel free to be creative.

  • Feta cheese cut into cubes
  • Any fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, basil, etc
  • Whole or crushed black peppercorns, and/or slit red chillies, and/or red pepper flakes
  • Good quality olive oil

In a clean, non-reactive bowl/jar, stack the feta cubes. Throw in herbs and pepper in between the cheese layers. Fill with olive oil, cover the jar and leave it in the fridge for a few days , to let the flavours develop.

Marinated feta on toasted focaccia

It is plainly divine as such, slathered on a crostini(fancy talk for a thin toast), or as a spread for your favourite sandwich (like I did with this omelet sandwich for lunch today). Kevin adds roasted red peppers and olives to his mixture. Sounds delicious. I will definitely do that next time.

Quick Paneer-Mint-Vegetable Sauté

Its already March? When did that happen? Time sure does fly. But I have something to look forward to this month. Its Zlamushka’s Tried and Tested. Yes, its back. Its one of my favourite blog events and better yet, its my blog that is in spotlight this month. Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf has generously accepted to host an edition featuring "Tasty Palettes". I am little nervous knowing that my recipes would be tried and tested by fellow bloggers. The recipes that are featured were tested in my kitchen first. I hope you will like 'em too. So, with fingers crossed, I await your judgment. My sincere thanks to Zlamushka and Sweatha.

Now, coming to the recipe, if there is one, is a medley of vegetables, paneer and tons of herbs. My MIL once made this curry for a quick dinner. I loved the simplicity of the dish, and set to make it on my own. I stuck to the original preparation in using sambar powder, but added a few touches of my own (when do I cook without that). Just like I took liberty in adding local vegetables, you can add whatever you have on hand. Just make sure all the vegetables would marry well. But mint is a vital ingredient in this recipe. It made a huge difference that pushed me to blog about this simple sauté.

Quick Paneer-Mint-Vegetable Sauté
(serves 2)


Onion - 1
Garlic -1 clove, minced
Carrot – 1
Parsnip - 1
Potato – 1
Red and/or Green bell pepper – 1
Paneer – 200g/7 oz
Mint and Coriander – packed ½ cup, finely chopped
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Cardamom – 1, crushed
Clove - 1
Oil – a splash

Spice Mixture

Home made or store bought sambar powder – 1 tbsp
Your favourite spice mixture like garam masala or kitchen king masala – ½ tbsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp and Red chilli powder – 1 tsp


Cut all the vegetables into ¼” thick and 2” long strips. Cut paneer similarly.

In a wide pan, heat oil over medium heat, and gently roast crushed cardamom and clove. When they start to sizzle, add onion and garlic and sauté for a minute. Add all the vegetables, turmeric powder, your choice of spice mixture and salt; mix well. Cover and cook the vegetables, sprinkling water intermittently. Keep gently stirring, so that the vegetables don’t stick to the pan. When the vegetables are cooked, add paneer and chopped herbs. Mix well and let the cheese heat though. Serve warm with roti or any flatbread.