Butternut Squash Soup (with cashew cream)


A butternut squash in its wholesome is very intimidating(to me). Had never bought one, always chose the frozen cut squash to make our traditional koottu. If somebody cleans, peels, cuts and puts in a bag, why bother ? 🙂 So imagine my shock surprise, when my neighbor walked in with this “humongous” squash…a fruit of her labor in her garden. I just left it on my kitchen counter , not wanting to deal with it amidst the Halloween/Diwali chaos.

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A week after Diwali, suqash was still there, and I was just pretending not to look at it, if I don’t see it, its not there.. kind of logic 🙂 . But then came the day when my mind went blank at the thought of dinner. Having read some amazing squash soup posts by fellow bloggers, I declared it was squash soup for dinner. Though I didn’t have  many ingredients that I normally add in a soup, I decided to make do with what I have (hence, the cashew cream instead of heavy cream 🙂 ) and it turned out to be a very successful dinner (with kids polishing their bowls 🙂 ).

If this is your first time handling a whole squash, please check out Anjana’s (At the corner of happy and harried) tips on how to cut a squash. I found them very helpful, I strongly recommend it if your are a first timer, because no soup is worth losing a finger 🙂

And here is my squash soup recipe:

  • Cut squash into cubes.

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  •  Cut some carrots and red onions. I also used few mint leaves. You can add celery, tomatoes and definitely more carrots (it was a “fridge almost empty, so make-do” day for me ). However, I did have some vegetable broth which made up for the lack of other vegetables.

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  • Here is my favorite spice blend for the soup.
  1. Cinnamon – 1 stick
  2. Cardamom – 2
  3. Cloves – 5 or 6
  4. Bay leaves – 2
  5. Black pepper – 1.5 tsp
  6. Cumin – 1 tsp
  7. Fennel – 1.5 tsp

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  • Coarsely crush the spices just enough to release flavor.

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  • Tie the crushed spices in a bundle, either using a clean cloth or a bounty paper towel. This is a convenient way of seasoning the soup, just drop the bundle in the soup and remove it once the soup is cooked.

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  • I used my pressure cooker, as I didn’t have a lot of time to slow cook the soup and develop flavors. Pressure cooker delivers the same results in a quicker fashion…(what will I do without them ???? ). Heat a spoon of oil and saute the red onions and when the onions brown, add a tsp of ginger garlic paste and then saute the carrots and mint.

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  • Add the squash cubes and sprinkle some salt to sweat the veggies and saute until the squash softens a little.

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  • Add 5 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken). If you are using a lot of vegetables , just water will suffice. Drop the spice bundle in the broth.

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  • I pressure cooked for 5 whistles. Squash was so tender that it  almost dissolved in the soup. Fish the spice bundle out as its job is done :).

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  • I allowed my soup to completely cool down before pureeing and meanwhile made the cashew cream. You can use dairy cream instead. To make cashew cream, grind 2 tbsp of cashew nuts with water or milk to make a smooth cream.

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  • I reserved 1 tbsp of cream for final garnish and mixed the rest in the soup.

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  • Puree the cooled down soup in a blender and add the cashew cream to it. Add salt and pepper as you need, and heat the soup (do not bring to boil).

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It is a yummy comfy soup, we had it with some roasted corn quesadillas and it was a finger-licking, bowl-polishing meal 🙂 Hope you try it too !

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Rasam (Clear Lentil Soup)


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Whether we had been eating out for three days in a row or had been feasting on festival foods or had been down with cold and stuffy nose, the next morning I wake up with only one thought “Make Rasam”.  Rasam (pronounced russ-um) is a clear soup and is commonly present in a south Indian lunch menu. Usually eaten with rice, rasam is also served as soup or used as a base for other recipes like “rasa vadai”.  If you didn’t already know, you may be surprised to  that rasam is the original “muligtwany soup“. “Muligtwany” comes from two tamil words “Molagu (black pepper) Thanni (water)”.  🙂

There are many versions of rasam. This recipe is of “Paruppu Rasam”, rasam made with ‘paruppu’ or ‘dhal’ or lentils. Having been a meat eater once has its advantage, I can pin point what is missing in the vegetarian version of a recipe. Soups are definitely not the same when you replace chicken stock with vegetable stock. But you can get the warm taste in vegetable soups by adding dhal water. I guess its the protein :).

Though rasam is a very common food, a well made rasam is not that common 🙂  Even experienced cooks make very simple mistakes, I still remember my bad rasam days. But over time, I have found my fool proof rasam recipe that is also quite easy to make. And here it is for you.

  • I use Thur Dal for rasam. (Thur dal is the dried and split pigeon peas). Take about 1/4 cup of Thur dal.

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  • You’ll also need :
  1. Plum tomatoes – 3
  2. Curry leaves – handful
  3. Cilantro – a good bunch
  4. Lime – 1/4 (You will need more or less according to the acidity in tomatoes)
  5. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  6. Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp (Common mistake 1 : heavy hand with asafoetida, results in a bitter rasam. A pinch is plenty.)
  7. Vellam / brown sugar – 2 tsp
  8. salt to taste

(Usually tamarind water is used in rasam. But I am replacing it with tomatoes and lime)

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  • For the spice blend :
  1. Black pepper – 2 tsp
  2. Cumin – 2 tsp
  3. coriander seeds – 1 tsp
  4. Garlic cloves – 2 (crushed with the peel)

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  • Crush black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds and garlic coarsely. Crush them enough to break to release flavor. Do not make it into a fine paste /powder.

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Common mistake 2 : Using store bought rasam powder. I am not against pre-made powders. I have devoted a section of my pantry for pre-made masala powders. But for rasam, strictly no pre-made stuff. And it is so easy to make the spice blend instantly.

  • Wash thur dhal, add a cup of water, add turmeric and asafoetida to the water and also add the tomatoes. Cook until dal is soft. I use a pressure cooker as it cooks dal fast and retains nutrients.

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  • Once the dal is soft , mash the tomatoes and dal with the back of a spoon or ladle. If your dal doesn’t mash easily, you need to cook a little longer.

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  • Add 4 – 5 cups of water to the mashed dal and tomatoes. Add salt to taste. Also add half of the curry leaves and cilantro.

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  •  Add 2 tsp of vellam/brown sugar and bring to one good boil. (If you choose to add tamarind water instead of lemon, you should add it now.If you added tamarind water, boil enough until the raw smell of the tamarind goes away).

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  • After one good boil, reduce heat and stir in the spice blend.

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  • After you’ve added the spices, the rasam should not be brought to a boil at all. Simmer until foams appear on the surface and turn off the heat.  Allow it to rest for 5 minutes and squeeze in the juice of quarter lemon. Adjust the quantity of lime juice according to how sour the tomatoes are. Also add the remaining curry leaves and coriander leaves. Cover with lid and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Common mistake 3: Over boiling the rasam. After adding the spices , when you let rasam boil , the flavors become pungent and gives a bitter after taste.

  • Did you notice zero oil was used in this recipe ? Isn’t that awesome ? However, usually rasam is tempered with mustard seeds and dried red chillies for additional flavor. But it is optional. If you choose to temper, heat 1/2 tsp of ghee in a pan, fry 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds and 1 dried red chilli (cut in small pieces) and pour in the rasam.

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Comon mistake 4 : Using too much oil to temper rasam. It is so unapetizing to see rasam with oil floating on its surface. It kills the lightness of it.

It is very important to cover the pot with lid and let the rasam sit for at least ten minutes before serving. After ten minutes when you open the lid, you will have your zen moment, thanks to the aroma from curry leaves, cilantro and the spice blend, all married into one aromatic rasam.

Eat with rice or drink it as soup, or eat it as rice soup 🙂 It will never let you down.

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Broccoli-Cheddar soup


I am having one of those “My computer won’t recognize my camera”  kind of days 😦 – probably time for a new cable. Its a little frustrating as I had a new recipe to post.  I recently read Celeste’s post on tips for bloggers  and one of them was to be regular with the posts. So I decided to post a recipe that I already had posted on my facebook page months back. Seasonally, it could be a little early for thick and rich soup as the evenings are not that cold yet, at least in my part of the world, but hey…we are almost there. So, here it is :

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(Originally posted on my facebook page on January 17, 2013)

I fell in love with this soup, the first time I tried it in Panera Bread. Such a warm, comfy soup – perfect for the cold evenings. This is quite a rich soup, I made it for dinner this evening, and thats all we had. It is so filling. Now the kids want every wednesday to be “Just soup for dinner” day. 🙂

  • Veggies you’ll need : Broccoli, yellow/white onions and carrots.

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  • For the soup :
  1. sharp cheddar
  2. Half & Half milk – 2 cups
  3. butter – 1/2 stick
  4. all purpose flour (maida)- 1/4cup
  5. chicken broth or vegetable broth – 4 cups

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  • Spices:
  1. Salt & Pepper
  2. garlic paste or ginger garlic paste or garlic powder
  3. nutmeg or  a pinch of garam masala or pumpkin pie spice mix

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  • Heat a tbsp. of butter in a skillet and sauté the veggies with a tsp of garlic or ginger garlic paste or garlic powder. Add a pinch of nutmeg or garam masala or pumpkin pie spice mix. Add a pinch of salt too.

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  • Cook until the veggies turn soft, remove from heat and set aside.

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  • Melt 4tbsp of butter in a soup pot ( I am using a shallow pan for easy pictures)

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  • sprinkle the flour and whisk to make a smooth paste..

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  • Dilute the paste by adding half and half milk , little at a time and stirring to keep the mix smooth and lump free.

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  • Add in the chicken or vegetable stock. Add black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg or garam masala or all spice or pumpkin pie spice . ( I used pumpkin pie spice). I wouldn’t add more salt now, as I already salted the veggies, and the stock has salt in it too.

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  • Simmer for 20 minutes.

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  • Stir in the sautéed veggies to the soup and simmer for another 20 minutes.

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  • Grate the cheddar.

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  • Mix in the cheddar and simmer for 10 minutes.

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  • The soup should not be brought to a boil at anytime. Simmer all the way from start to finish.

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Treat yourself to this heart-warming soup 🙂 

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Chicken Noodle Soup


Traditional chicken noodle soup with Indian flavors.
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Carrots, corn, celery, onions , tomatoes, chopped cilantro and a spoon of ginger garlic paste.
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4 cups of chicken broth and chicken breast cut in cubes.
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I am using campanalle pasta for the noodle part. You can use any pasta or noodles. Cook the noodle/pasta as per box instructions.
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bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, cumin, black pepper and cardamom
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Give a quick crush to the spices to release the flavors.
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Tie the crushed spices into a bundle, I have used a bounty paper towel. A clean cloth can also be used.
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In the pot, add a spoon of oil, and sauté the onions, ginger garlic paste, carrots and celery.Add the chicken, tomatoes and cilantro. Sprinkle some salt to sweat the veggies and sauté until chicken changes color.
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Add 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water.
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Place the spice bundle in the soup. Cover and cook in low heat for at least an hour.
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After an hour, remove the spice bundle.
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Add the cooked noodles/pasta. Season the soup with salt and pepper.
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To make the vegetarian version, replace chicken with chick peas or black beans and chicken broth with vegetable broth.
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