Tuesday 29 September 2009

Risotto Verde

I love books, reading and also collecting them. While Fiction in general & espionage/detective in specific are my favourites, I like all types of books. Autobiographies, plays, Factual, Science and so on, with the only exception of the self help kind of books, but again I have read quite a few of them as well.

A recent addition to the above categories is Cookery. I can easily say that my exploration of cook books started because of this blog. Reading others’ posts describing a recipe from a particular cook book, reading reviews of cook books etc made me aware of them and I also realised that this, apart from the vast internet of course, is a good source of new recipes that I might like to try.

And so it began, I started to look out for cook books apart from the usual Jeffrey Archer, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Agatha Christie, Frederick Forsyth, Tom Clancy… (the list is endless), resulting in me spending even more time in front of the window of a book shop! But did I actually buy a cook book? Sadly, No. The main reason being that most of them contained dishes which included meat & sea food and being a vegetarian these were not an option at all. So buying the book for a handful of vegetarian recipes did not seem right to me.

The next best thing to do was browse the cookery section in the local Library. I did get some good books but somehow never got to making them and the recipes have been carefully noted down in my diary for future reference. But this time I chanced upon this one – Delia’s Vegetarian Collection. Needless to say the ‘vegetarian’ caught my eye & the knowledge that Delia Smith is supposed to be one of the leading chefs in UK also helped. I flicked the pages to see the actual content. The photographs held my attention & before I knew it I was back home with book.

This book has almost everything a vegetarian would want in a cook book. Soups, Salads, Rice, Cheese, Main course, Desserts – all simple and tryable recipes, some classic, some fusion and some new ones.

I started with this simple Risotto recipe which looked completely authentic except for one thing. The recipe in the book asks for the risotto to be cooked in the oven, while I have always seen on cookery shows & read on websites that it is to be made on the stove top and that the way the stock is added (see recipe below), is very important. So I took the recipe & ingredients from the book but cooked it on the stove top as described below and also adapted the recipe to suit the ingredients I had in hand.

Risotto Verde

Risotto Verde means ‘Green Risotto’ where Risotto itself means a dish of rice cooked in a broth.

Picture 200

Serves 2


  • 1 cup Risotto Rice (Arborio)
  • 1 tblsp Butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3-4 tblsp white wine
  • about 200 ml Vegetable stock (I used readymade stock cubes to make this)
  • 1-2 tsp chopped fresh Sage
  • 3 tblsp chopped spring onions
  • 1/2 cup Asparagus, cut into small rounds
  • 2 tblsp chopped chives
  • 2-3 tblsp Parmesan
  • Salt & Pepper


Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion. Fry this for about 5-7 minutes until the onion is cooked & just starts to brown.

Add the rice and mix to coat the rice with the butter and onion.

Add the wine and mix. Let the wine reduce completely.

Add a ladle full of the stock, stir and cook on medium-low flame. Wait for the stock to reduce and then add the sage, salt and pepper.

Add another ladle of stock and continue to cook on medium-low flame till it reduces.

Picture 199

Keep adding the stock, one ladle at a time, and cook on medium low flame. Check if the rice is cooked after about 15-20 min.

Once the rice is almost cooked, add the asparagus, spring onion and Parmesan along with a ladle of stock. Cook till the stock reduces completely.

Switch off the flame and add the chopped chives. Serve hot topped with some more parmesan and chives.

Picture 202

My Notes: This was the first time I had attempted to make a risotto at home & I was really pleased with the result.

Since the recipe in the book was for 6 people, I had to reduce the quantities and so the quantity of stock mentioned above is an approximation, please make adjustments as necessary. I had to use plain water in the end since I had run out of stock!

The recipe also had Broad Beans, but I did not have any with me so I haven't used them. If you are using them, add them along with the Asparagus and spring onions.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Spicy Tomato & Red Kidney Bean Soup

On my quest to find out as many healthy & low carb recipes as possible I had stumbled upon this one on the Tarla Dalal website. Since this was not just a tomato soup & the fact that ‘spicy’ was the key word in the name of the soup, I immediately bookmarked it but had never got along to make it. But the recent enthusiasm in eating healthy & ‘trying’ to lose weight led me to dig it out of the folder and try it out for dinner on …

Those days also saw me glued to the TV whenever there was something involving a weight loss issue. Believe it or not, I stayed up late at night to see a documentary on how Claire Richards (former ‘Steps’ group member) lost an enormous amount of weight to look good for her wedding. Now that was desperation (on my part, I don't know about her!), I admit, but around the same time I also happened to catch another documentary on BBC, which listed out 10 major ‘facts’ about losing weight. There were some that I always had an idea about such as keeping track of what you eat in terms of calories, getting that regular work out done etc, but there were others that were completely new to me e.g. the connection between weight loss & our Calcium intake. The documentary also enlightened me on the real reason behind the working of low carb diets and that they are not always suitable for everyone.

The key scientific principle which forms the basis for these diets is the relationship between consumption of carbohydrates and the subsequent effect on blood sugar (i.e. blood glucose) and on production of some hormones. Blood sugar levels in the human body must be maintained in a fairly narrow range to maintain health. The two primary hormones related to regulating blood sugar levels, produced in the pancreas, are insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels (among many other effects, most of considerable significance metabolically), and glucagon, which raises blood sugar levels.……..

…..Another aspect of insulin secretion is control of ketosis; in the non-ketotic state, the human body stores dietary fat in fat cells (i.e., adipose tissue) an preferentially uses glucose as cellular fuel. By contrast, low-carbohydrate diets, or more properly, diets that are very low in nutritive carbohydrates, evoke less insulin (to cover the ingested glucose in the blood stream), leading to longer and more frequent episodes of ketosis. Some researchers suggest that this causes body fat to be eliminated from the body although this theory remains, at best, controversial, if it refers to excretion of lipids (i.e., fat and oil) and not to fat metabolism during ketosis.(Source:Wikipedia)

Another point made by the documentary was that soups are always better if you want to control your hunger & eventually the intake of food. They performed this experiment on 2 groups of people working in the same unit, putting in equal hours & doing the same job. One group was given normal lunch along with a glass of water to be had after their meal, while for the other group they simply blitzed the same lunch with that glass of water to make it into a ‘soup’. Each of these groups were observed after an interval of 1-2 hours and asked how they felt & the group that had the ‘soup’ felt fuller for a longer time.

That was enough motivation for me to try soups, otherwise for me it always meant the odd Tomato or Sweet corn soup in an Indian Restaurant or more recently Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup. So this one was a prefect transitional soup, having tomatoes but being a little different from the soups that I am used to. Whats more, its very simple to make as well.

Spicy Tomato & Beans Soup

Picture 287


  • 3-4 cups chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked Red Kidney Beans
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tblspn Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Red Chilli powder (Adjust according to taste or spice level)
  • 1 tblsp chopped basil (I used dried)
  • 1./2 tsp Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • salt & Pepper


Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions & garlic till the onions turn translucent.

Add the tomatoes & the chilli powder and cook till the tomatoes are mushy.

Add 3 cups of water, bring to a boil and then simmer till the tomatoes are completely cooked.

Blend this mixture either in a food processor or use an immersion blender and then return this to heat.

Add the red kidney beans, oregano, basil, sugar, salt & pepper and continue to heat for about 5-7 min.

Serve hot.

Picture 297

My Notes: We found that this soup was quite filling because of the Red Kidney beans and we didn't need anything else to go with it.