Pumpkin pie smoothie

I’ve never actually tasted pumpkin pie. As a kid, I didn’t like the pumpkin dish our cook so often turned out. Called kaddu in Hindi, my brother and I used to rechristen it paddu, which is similar to the Hindi word that means.. never mind. All I’ll say is that it is a stinky word that ought not to be used for food :-p

But when I tried cooking paddu pumpkin, I liked it. Recently I got one that was too sweet for a savoury dish. Here was my chance to find out what all the fuss around pumpkin pie and pumpkin flavoured things was about. So I roasted it and made it into a smoothie. Now I get what all the fuss is about!

pumpkin pie smoothie

If you have access to pumpkin’s sweeter, less stringy cousins like cushaw, I recommend using them instead.

To roast the pumpkin, quarter it and scoop out the seeds and strings. Roast the quarters in an oven heated to 200 degrees celsius till cooked through (about 40 minutes). When cool, scoop out the pulp.

For the smoothie, you need:

  • Roasted pumpkin pulp – 3/4 cup
  • Non-dairy milk – 3/4 cup (If you don’t have non-dairy milk, just soak 6 to 8 cashews or almonds in hot water for a few minutes. Throw into the blender with all the other ingredients and some water.)
  • Brown sugar – to taste (You can replace this with another sweetener.)
  • Fresh ginger – 1 cm piece
  • Cinnamon powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Nutmeg powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Clove powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Vanilla powder – 1/4 tsp, scant
  • Salt – 1/8 tsp, scant

Blend everything together till very smooth and mmmmm.. sorry what was I saying?

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Stir fry in tangy peanut sauce

Stir fries are one of my favourite things to eat. The abundance of vegetables, the ease of putting them together, and of course, the many many ways to dress them up – what’s not to like?

stir fry with tangy peanut sauce

I came up with this one a few months ago and it’s become my go to stir fry sauce right after the classic soy sauce-salt-pepper combo.

Zucchini, bell peppers, baby corn (pre-steamed) and spring onion (greens included) are my choice of vegetables, seasoned with garlic. I usually make this with red, brown or white rice; I’m sure another medium to large grain would work too. Sometimes, I add cooked chickpeas. Tofu would be fantastic here, methinks.

For the sauce, you need:

  • Peanut butter, creamy – 3 to 4 tsp (I use one with no added oils or preservatives, just organic peanuts and salt.)
  • Lemon juice – 1 to 2 tsp
  • Hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco) – 1/2 tsp
  • Rock salt – to taste (I used pink.)
  • Warm water – as needed

In a small bowl, add the rest of the ingredients to the peanut butter a little at a time and blend well with a spoon. Use warm water to get the consistency you like.

How to put the stir fry together:

stir fry with tangy peanut sauce

Brown zucchini in a hot pan. I use a frying pan made of hard anodized aluminium – with careful heat control, it doesn’t need any oil at all! Depending on what kind of pan you’re using, you might need a bit of oil.

Add bell peppers and finely chopped garlic and toss around for a couple minutes. Add baby corn (pre-steamed) and chickpeas if using. When these get hot, add the spring onions, mix them in real quick and turn off the flame. Add hot cooked rice/ grain of choice. Pour sauce, toss well and eat!

Platter Whimsical

Ah, cravings. One weekend, I wanted those huge, elaborate cold platters they serve at restaurants. The result was this whimsical (and delectable, if I do say so myself) collection of vegetables and dips.

3 dip veggie platter

I made Roasted Eggplant Cilantro Pesto that combines the flavours of fire-roasted eggplant with fresh coriander and garlic, with toasted almonds for smoothness and a little twist of dry mango powder.

A Tamarind Cumin Hummus gave my platter a tangy protein boost. For an onion-y kick, I made Spring Onion Guacamole.

The choice of vegetables included bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots and steamed broccoli. (I had some steamed baby corn in the refrigerator too, but got too hungry to remember them. They would’ve made a good photo.) And I used this Roasted Potato Trick for some, well, roasted potatoes 😀

While some of the veggie-dip pairings were a bigger hit than the others (roasted potatoes with the pesto, bell peppers with the hummus, cucumbers with the guacamole), there really wasn’t a false note in this spread.

3 dip veggie platter

Roasted potato trick

I know, I know, anyone can roast potatoes. Who needs tricks?

Well, this little one makes it quicker – and makes sure your roasted potatoes are never hard!

Steam your potato slices/ wedges/ chunks for between 1 and 4 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the pieces. Then toss them with a few drops of olive oil, black pepper and salt and roast, preferably at a lower temperature. Turn over the pieces once in between.

Spring Onion Guacamole

I didn’t always like avocados. My first few attempts to work with them were disastrous and I stayed away for a while after that.

Then a few weeks ago, some really gorgeous avocados caught my attention at a fruit shop and I decided to give them a spin again. I bought a huge one, and used half of it to make a coriander infused guacamole and the other half to make chocolate mousse. Both turned out great and I decided to get them more often!

This is a quick and green guacamole variation I made the other day.

spring onion guacamole

You need:

  • Avocado pulp – 6 to 8 tbsp
  • Spring onion, chopped with the greens – 1 cup
  • Tomato, chopped – 1 small
  • Lemon juice – 1 tsp
  • Green chilli – to taste
  • Salt – to taste

Blend together till smooth, or keep it chunky like salsa.

Tamarind Cumin Hummus

Tamarind cumin hummus – enough said!

Blend together:

  • Chickpeas, soaked overnight, rinsed and cooked – 1 cup (Keep the cooking liquid.)
  • Cumin seeds, toasted – 1 tsp
  • Sesame seeds, toasted – 3 to 4 tsp
  • Rock salt – to taste (I used pink.)
  • Tamarind pulp – 1 tsp (I covered a half inch piece of tamarind in hot water for 15 minutes, mashed it up and strained the liquid right into the blender.)

Add water to adjust consistency.

tamarind cumin hummus

Like its other hummus brothers and sisters, this one may not look like much, but it tastes really great. Enjoy!

Roasted eggplant cilantro pesto

roasted eggplant cilantro pesto

I love eggplant. I also love coriander (cilantro in American). And I like the idea of pesto.

So.

What goes into this pesto:

  • Eggplant – 1 large
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro) – 2 cups loosely packed
  • Fresh garlic cloves – 1 to 3, to taste
  • Almonds – 6 to 10, to taste
  • Red chilli powder – 1/8 tsp, or more to taste (You can use paprika if you don’t have red chilli powder. I haven’t tried it, though.)
  • Rock salt – 1/4 tsp (I used pink.)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Dry mango powder – a big pinch (If you don’t have this, replace with 1 to 2 tsp lemon juice.)

How it all comes together:

Roast the eggplant over a direct flame till cooked through. You need to turn and/ or move the eggplant every couple minutes. When cool, peel off charred skin, remove stem and mash pulp.

Toast almonds (easy peasy – 90 to 120 seconds on full power in a microwave oven. Or toss around for 3 to 4 minutes in a hot skillet.)

Blend all ingredients together, tasting and seasoning as you go along.

This pesto is delish as a dip or spread – if you can stop yourself from eating it by the spoonful, that is. I couldn’t.

roasted eggplant cilantro pesto