Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie


One fine morning all of us woke up shivering with a bone-piercing chill . My son figured out that the furnace had broken down just when it was most needed - the onset of winter! Since it was week end, servicing could be done only on Monday. My son and daughter-in-law pulled up their socks and started a fire in the fireplace. An  electric heater started working day in and day out on the opposite side. My daughter-in-law started baking morning and evening so that the oven too played an important part in keeping the house warm. She remembered to call the 'paparazzi' ( that is how she playfully calls my husband! ) every time she started baking a delicious meal. Here are the paparazzi's clicks of the Shepherd's pie she baked, followed by a briefing on  how she baked it .We enjoyed every bit of the delicious pie sitting in the warmth of the fireplace which set a perfect holiday mood for the whole family! 

1. Peeled and cubed potatoes were cooked till soft.

2. The cooked potatoes were riced or mashed well.

3. Milk, salt , pepper and butter were mixed with the potato mash.

4. Onion, beans, potatoes and Brussels sprouts were chopped and kept ready. Tofu pieces were slightly roasted in butter and kept aside.

5. Chopped onions, beans, Brussels sprouts and potatoes were added to hot butter in a pan in that order and sauteed well. 

6. Frozen peas and corn were added next.

7. A scoop of vegetable base was stirred into the vegetables  along with the roasted tofu, salt, and pepper. A paste of arrowroot powder and water was added. The vegetable medley was cooked till it thickened. 

8. The oven proof  pan was removed from stove and the potato mash was spread evenly on the prepared vegetables.

9. The pie was baked at 350 degree F in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the crust turned into a golden brown colour.


10. We enjoyed every piece and scoop of the hot and delicious Vegetable Shepherd's Pie with tomato sauce and chips.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Orzo Pilaf / Pulav


My son is the only one in the family who is a very organised cook. The vegetable peels go directly into his bin as and when they are chopped. The knives, peeler and the cutting board are arranged in the dish washer immediately after use. The cooking range is wiped clean and dry. The ingredients needed for cooking are all ready within his hand's reach. And only then he starts cooking. His kitchen is ever ready for a photo session! I was amazed at his orderliness and the ease with which he prepared Orzo Pilaf for us on a lazy Sunday.
Orzo is a form of pasta and it looks like long grain rice. Here is how my son cooked  pilaf / pulav using this pasta.


Orzo- 2 cups
Chopped onion - 1/2 cup
Chopped red bell pepper - 1/2 cup
Slit green chillies - 4
Fresh ginger ( slivered) - 1 tsp
Carrots ( chopped ) - 1 cup
 Frozen peas - 1 cup
Salt - 1 1/2 tsp
Vegetable broth - 2 1/2 cups
Olive oil - 2 tbsps
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Cloves - 6
Cardamom- 3
Star anise - 1
Cinnamon - 1'' piece

1. Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds.
2. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise and fry.

3. Add the onion, bell peppers, ginger and  green chillies and saute till onions turn transparent.

4. Stir in carrot and peas and cook for three minutes.

5. Add orzo and keep stirring till dry.

6. Finally add the vegetable broth and salt.

7. Cook till the orzo absorbs all the broth stirring now and then.

8. Add more broth or water if necessary and cook till the pilaf is done.

Thanks dear sonny, we enjoyed your Orzo Pilaf garnished with so much of your love and care.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

LAN SU And Chinese Vegetable Dumplings


 Drenched in splashes of  yellow, orange, red, brown and  chocolate brown, the trees stand tall against the vast canvas of a clear sparkling blue sky. The sprawling landscape is fresh with the shimmering colours of Autumn leaves still dribbling all over the ground like wet paint. Some trees  seem to have gone into a long penance with their bare branches  upraised like arms, as though pleading to be covered by the emerald foliage once again.The scenic pictures framed in by the windows of our car, flash by  as we zoom past the nature's beautiful art gallery called Portland.
We stop by a busy road in the middle of downtown and walk towards a high compound wall with latticed windows. 

Latticed window
As we enter the four petaled or clover shaped door way, we are overwhelmed by the unexpected expanse of greenery that welcomes us. 

Beautiful blossoms everywhere

The garden consists of hundreds of species of flower bearing and fruit bearing plants and trees, mini rocky mountains, gurgling water falls, bridges and a lily pond were the colourful fish swim peacefully.

Fish Pond
The koi fish is known for its power and energy to swim upstream against the current. Hence it is symbolic of perseverance, courage and good fortune.
We walk on the rough pebbled pathways bordered with shrubs and blossoms, experiencing the acupressure effect on the soles of our feet. More and more door ways of different shapes open up into different breathtaking vistas and pavilions connected by wooden bridges.

Pathway bordered with blossoms

One of the wooden bridges

Another pathway through a floral door.

Pebbled pathway

Moon locking pavilion


Painted boat in misty rain
 Artifacts depicting the Chinese culture and Chinese paintings by renowned artists are displayed in the pavilions.

A Chinese artifact on display

Intricately carved Gingko wood panel 

The architecture, the plants, the elements of nature  are all used to convey a message for a peaceful and harmonious living.
The two Dragonfish on the roof of the Hall Of Brocade Clouds protect the entire garden from evil influence and fire.

Dragonfish on the roof
The bat shaped drip tiles running along the roof represent the five blessings - long life, fortune, health, a love of virtue, and a painless passing. 

Bat shaped tiles

The plum tree which blooms in winter, the bamboo that bends and does not break in storms and the pine which is ever green - even in winter - are together called as the Three Friends Of Winter.They teach us the art of endurance as they rustle in the cool breeze.

Window flanked by bamboo
Under water rocks that are  naturally eroded and turned into beautiful shapes have been used to create the Rock Mountain And Water Fall effect.

Rock mountain
It is a known fact that, everything in the universe is connected by a cosmic life force. This life force called as Prana , Ki, or Chee in Chinese, is attracted by Mother Nature. The Chi flows unhindered in the garden though it is only a replica of nature aesthetically created by man. We experience its invigorating effect as we walk through the peaceful garden.
We enter THE TOWER OF COSMIC REFLECTIONS to enjoy our tea. The restaurant aptly named as THE TAO OF TEA offers a  wide and varied selection of tea.

The tea menu book

Eight Treasure Tea in a three piece tea pot 

I order for a tea called as The Eight Treasure Tea which is prepared using eight types of flowers, berries, dry fruits and herbs.We sip our tea slowly as we enjoy a window view of the PAINTED BOAT IN MISTY RAIN   - a pavilion in the middle of the lake. The cool breeze sweeps over the lake. Small waves lap up at the base of the pavilion, making it look like a house boat moving gently on the cool waters of the lake.
One of the guardian lions 
We enjoy the Chinese Moon Cake and the Chinese Vegetable Dumplings to the accompaniment of a very pleasant musical recital by a Chinese girl. Waves after waves of pleasant music fills the atmosphere as her graceful and delicate hands gently fly over the Guqin, an ancient Chinese instrument. The musical sounds are similar to that of Jal Tarang and Sitar.
When we finally step out of the tranquil Paradise called LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN we feel as though we are woken up after a deep meditation. We are overwhelmed with a sense of peace, joy and bliss ! 

Here is a  brief recipe for the Chinese Vegetable Dumpling which I tried out at home the next day.


Cabbage ( Finely chopped ) - 1 cup
Carrots ( grated ) - 1 cup
Onion ( finely chopped ) - 1/2 cup
Ginger and garlic ( grated ) - 1 tsp
Sesame seeds - 1 tsp
Sesame oil - 2 tsps
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Pepper ( powdered ) - 1/2 tsp

1. Heat oil, add sesame seeds and allow to splutter.
2. Add ginger, garlic and onion and saute till it emanates a pleasant aroma.
3. Stir in  cabbage and carrots, sprinkle water, cover and cook on low flame.
4. When the vegetables are slightly mushy mix in salt and pepper. 

1.Add a pinch of salt to one cup of plain flour/ maida.
2. Add ice water little by little and knead the flour into a smooth non sticky dough. 
3. Allow it to rest for one hour.

4. Pinch out plum size balls from the dough and roll them into small circles.
5. Place a ball of of filling on one half of each circle.
6. Fold each circle in the middle over the filling, press the edges together using wet fingers and seal the filling tightly inside the dumpling. Mushy filling tightly stuffed will make the dumplings smooth and fat. I ended up with slim dumplings as my vegetables were al dente.

7. Steam the dumplings in a steamer for ten or twelve minutes.

Enjoy the Chinese Vegetable Dumplings while they are still warm.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tepary Bean Green Masala

Since ancient times Tepary Bean- high in protein and fiber -  has been the staple food grown by the native Indians in south western parts of United States and Northern Mexico. The sturdy bean is drought resistant and was cultivated along with corn and squash.
This method of cultivation was known as the Three Sisters agriculture. The three together make a balanced meal of high nutritive value.
I like this bean because it is easily digestible and has a low glycemic index.

Tepary Bean - 1 cup
Onion ( Chopped ) - 1 cup
Green chillies ( chopped ) - 1 tsp
Fresh ginger ( Chopped ) - 1 tsp
Coriander leaves ( chopped ) - 2 cups
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Collard greens ( Chopped ) - 2 cups
Salt - 1 tsp
Sesame or Olive oil - 2 tbsps

1. Soak the bean overnight.
2. Drain and cook the soaked bean in an open vessel with enough water till done. It can also be pressure cooked until it gives out three whistles. The bean should not become mushy.

3. Grind onion, green chillies, ginger,coriander leaves and half of the cumin seeds together into a paste.
4. Heat oil in a pan and add the remaining cumin seeds.
5. When the cumin seeds splutter add the ground masala and fry till it emanates a pleasant aroma and till the oil comes out.

6. Add the chopped Collard greens and salt and saute till the leaves wilt.

7. Stir in the cooked beans, add a cup of water , cover and simmer till the greens are done.
8. Switch off when the masala thickens.

Enjoy the Tepary Bean Green Masala as it is. It tastes good with rotis and steaming hot rice too.