I’m back! The Muses have been on vacation, and after the festive season (and the the gluttony it inspires), it’s time for the tummy to take a break. Recent research (as of Jan 2012) states there is no benefit in what we call a detox. Oh dear. http://www.newsguardian.co.uk/news/national-news/new_year_liver_detox_is_futile_1_4106066 Oh well – research or not, our bodies and minds tell us there’s pleasure to be had (perhaps of a perverse kind!) in abstinence after sin…So here’s something light and easy – a zucchini soup/stew.
Back home we call it `ghia’, the scourge of many a childhood meal (my Indian readers, NOW might be a good time to exit this post in case it bring on traumatic memories ; )). Traditionally this is considered a light and somewhat boring dish. I don’t really know why. Is it because it’s less spicy than most Indian foods? Is it because it has a soft texture and therefore very little `bite’? Is it because moms cook it too frequently in summers when the variety of vegetables available wilts and dwindles with the heat? The other day I was chatting with mom on the phone and she asked me what’s cooking (ah the joys of cheap telephony from www.rebtel.com that allow for mundane conversations!). When I said `ghia’ she asked me ” Why are you boring the kids?!!”
Hahaha. Something’s strange about me and my kids – we love it. Whatever be the reason for others finding it boring, for me it has been and remains a simple yet satisfying dish, best enjoyed when you want to take it easy – both in the kitchen and in the tummy.
EASY PEASY ZUCCHINI SOUP/GHIA (Serves4-6. Prep time 15 mins. Cooking time 40 mins, of which you have to stand around for 15)
* Ghia/Zucchini lungo (1) or tondo (3). I think the regular zucchini should work as well, but I have never tried it. I suspect one might need to peel it because the skin is thick and might spoil the dish. Chop into medium sized cubes, discarding top and tail.
* Tomatoes – 1 can (400 gms) or tomato puree 400 gms or 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped. Choose your tomatoes depending on what you have and what texture you like. I prefer a chunkier sauce, so I usually use canned tomatoes or a combination of canned and fresh. If using fresh tomatoes, you might need to add a squeeze of tomato paste at the end in case the final dish does not taste `tomatoey’ enough to you
* Tomato paste (optional) – a squeeze
* Fresh ginger – 2 inch piece, peeled and chopped finely
* Fresh chillies (optional) – 1-2, slit. Slitting chillies is better than chopping them – the seeds release their flavor, but you never have nasty hot bits that burn your mouth off. Also, because they are visible, it is easy to remove them from the serving dish if you wish to (or crunch into them, if that’s more to your taste)
* Garam masala (a very typical spice mix available at an Indian store) – 2 tsps.
* Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
* Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
* Bay leaf / laurel/foglia d’alloro – 1-2 (if you don’t have it, it’s ok. It will not significantly alter the taste of your dish but bay leaves do help pull together the various flavors of a dish)
* Cooking oil – 1 tbsp
* Sugar – 1 tsp
* Salt to taste
– Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, ideally one with a well fitting lid. When the oil is hot (not smoking), add the cumin seeds.
– When they pop, add the bay leaf and fry for a few seconds.
– Add the zucchini and salt, reduce to medium heat and fry for 5-7 mins until the zucchini is slightly soft (do not brown it – it will spoil the vibrant color of your final dish).
– Add turmeric and fry another minute – not more, or the turmeric will start to burn.
– Add water, just enough to cover the zucchini. Add a lid on the pan, bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, until the zucchini is tender but still holding its shape.
– Add the tomatoes , the ginger and the sugar and cover and cook for 10 more minutes. I always add a spoon of sugar when cooking with tomatoes – it balances out the tartness and helps bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.
– At this point, add the garam masala and the slit chillies and your soup/stew is ready! Adjust the seasoning and check if you really need that squeeze of tomato paste.
– The longer it `sits’, the better it gets. So this is a great dish to cook ahead or cook and freeze. Serve with rice or crusty bread, and enjoy! Have a healthy and wonderful 2012.