Highlights

  • Rajma nachos soup makes a protein-rich one-dish meal
  • Original recipe for mushroom soup incorporates parmesan and parsley
  • Beetroot soup is inspired by a beet and feta salad finished with walnuts

From Instagram posts at fancy restaurants with the obligatory quirky food-related hashtags, the last couple of months have seen a shift to food posts tagged with comfort food or home recipes. The lockdown sparked by COVID-19 saw more people post from their kitchens while upping their cooking game. Suddenly, all those restaurant meals have become distant memories, like my last visit to 601, the all-day diner at the Park Chennai. I met Tania Tomar, an enthusiastic chef from Mexico City who is almost at home in India. She was in Chennai for a Mexican food promotion and one of her dishes that I enjoyed the most was a hearty Mexican bean Tortilla soup.

I remember thinking that this would make the perfect one-dish, comfort meal for dinner on a day when I’m stuck at home. I had no idea back then that it would be months together staying indoors. I had planned a rajma chawal meal during the first week, only to discover that I didn’t have enough rajma. That was the spark I needed to use the small quantity of rajma for my own version of the Mexican soup. Over the last two weeks many of us have been in Master Chef mode (with or without our own cameras pointed at us), trying to weave magic (or is the word ‘Jugaad’) with available ingredients. We all had to find substitutes for ingredients that we could source without a fuss from gourmet stores and delivery platforms. It’s also been a time to innovate with whatever ingredients you could find. The Mexican bean soup is one of three such simple vegetarian gourmet soups that I tried to simplify during the lockdown.

Mexican Bean And Tortilla Soup (aka) Rajma Nachos Soup (Serves 4)

This soup makes for a perfect one-dish meal and is rich in proteins.

Ingredients:

Rajma (Kidney beans): 100 gm

Onion (Chopped): 2 medium sized

Tomatoes: 2 – 3 medium sized

Potato: 1

Green chilli: 1

Garlic: 8-10 pods

Cinnamon: small stick

Olive oil: 1 teaspoon

Salt: to taste

Chilli powder: to taste

Cheese: One cube (25 gm)

Tortilla (Nacho) chips: Topping

Jalapenos: Topping

Method:

Soak the rajma for at least 6 hours and then pressure cook for 20 minutes

Pressure cook (for 10 minutes) the onion, tomato, potato and green chilli

Blend 75 gm of the soaked beans and the pressure cooked vegetables to a fine paste in a blender.

Fry chopped pods of garlic and a small stick of cinnamon in olive oil and add the paste. Dilute the paste with water and add salt and chilli powder to taste. Add the remaining kidney beans and bring to boil on a low flame.

Serve with a topping of jalapenos, tortilla chips and grated cheese.

Mushroom Onion Soup (Serves 4)

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The original recipe for this flavourful mushroom soup incorporates parmesan cheese and parsley, I substituted it with cheddar cheese and it worked. I avoided using heavy cream or corn flour by using potato for the creamy texture.

Ingredients:

Mushroom: 200 gm / 1 box (sliced)

Onion: 2 medium-sized (chopped)

Potato: 1 (chopped)

Crushed pepper: 1 – 2 teaspoons

Nutmeg powder: 1/2 teaspoon

Cheddar cheese: 1 cube (25 gm) – grated

Salt: to taste

Butter: 1 tablespoon

Balsamic vinegar: 1 teaspoon

Truffle or Olive oil: 1 teaspoon

Method:

Fry the onions on a medium flame with butter, pepper and nutmeg powder.

Add the potatoes and mushrooms and fry till the onions start to brown

Add 250 ml of water, salt and balsamic vinegar. Let it simmer (leave the lid on) for about 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove about 1/3 of the mushrooms and keep aside. Let the rest of the mixture cool before you blend it thoroughly in a mixer.

Pour this mixture into a pan and bring to a boil. Add the grated cheese and the mushroom as you bring to a boil. Finish it with a teaspoon of extra virgin oil or truffle oil. Leave the lid on and serve after 10 minutes. Add more crushed pepper if required.

Beetroot And Walnut Soup (Serves 4):

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This soup is inspired by a beet and feta salad finished with walnuts. I’d run out of feta cheese, the cheddar cheese almost made up. It’s the roasted walnuts and the assorted vegetables that give this soup a unique flavour profile.

Ingredients:

Beetroot: 2

Onion: 2 medium-sized

Potato: 1

Carrot: 1

Green chili: 1

Crushed pepper: 1 – 2 teaspoons

Garlic: 6-8 small pods

Nutmeg powder: 1/2 teaspoon

Walnuts: a handful

Feta or Cheddar cheese: 25 gm – grated

Salt: to taste

Butter: 1 tablespoon

Balsamic vinegar: 1 teaspoon

Extra virgin olive oil: 1 tablespoon

Method:

Pressure cook the beetroot, onion, potato, carrot, onion and green chilli after adding balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of salt. Wait for it to cool down and blend to a fine paste in a mixer.

Fry the garlic pods and the walnuts on a medium flame with butter, pepper and nutmeg powder.

Add the paste and dilute with the stock water (from the pressure cooker) and the cheese and bring to a boil.

About Ashwin RajagopalanI’ve discovered cultures, destinations and felt at home in some of the world’s most remote corners because of the various meals I’ve tried that have been prepared with passion. Sometimes they are traditional recipes and at most times they’ve been audacious reinterpretations by creative chefs. I might not cook often but when I do, I imagine I’m in a cookery show set – matching measuring bowls, et all!

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