Sunday, 31 January 2010

Rasam Robert

Indian restaurants and takeaways don't seem to do soup, in this country, which is a shame because there are some very fine Indian soups. Mulligatawny is well known, of course, but there are many others. This one is my budget-friendly take on a soup I first had at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai, back in the days when I had work. This makes two generous servings.

Spice grinder or mortar and pestle
Kitchen Knife
Garlic Press
Chopping Board
Medium Saucepan
1 Cooker ring
Hand blender
Can opener

400g tin chopped tomatoes
100g coconut block
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 tbs oil or ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cardomom seeds
1 tsp fenugreek
a few clove buds
1 tablespoon crushed, dried chillies (or vary, to taste)
2cm length ginger root, very finely chopped.
1 litre boiling water, plus extra as needed.
salt and pepper to taste.

Grind your spices. Dry fry briefly and then add the oil or ghee. Add the onions and garlic, and let them sweat for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes. Dissolve the coconut in half the water, and then add that, too. Simmer until the tomatoes are cooked, adding more water as you go if required, and then blitz with your hand blender. Add the remaining half litre of boiling water, stir, and you're pretty much done.

Serve garnished with chopped coriander leaves, if you have access to any at a cost effective rate.

I hope you like this as much as I did, the first time I sampled it.

Best wishes, 2ndRateMind.

Cheaper Pizza

Thanks for this recipe must go to the lovely Thelma, at the Wellspring Healthy Living Centre, who has been teaching me to cook proper food.

Anyway, the point about this recipe is that it is incredibly cheap, compared to take-away or home-delivered varieties of pizza. What's more, given this basic recipe, you can experiment to your heart's content with different cheeses, different flours in the base, and, of course, different toppings. Results are limited only by your own creativity!

So, here's the deal, for one adult serving:

Pizza Base

Kitchen scales
Large mixing bowl
Working surface
Rolling Pin

100g Plain Flour, plus extra for dusting
Warm water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp dried yeast


Preheat the oven to 200C

Mix the dry ingredients in your bowl, and add the oil. Then, make a well in the centre and add warm water, trickle by trickle, mixing the ingredients thoroughly with a knife or spatula. The temperature of the water is important - too cold or too hot and the yeast won't happen for you. Once the ingredients are combined, start to work the dough with your fingers, and then knead until all the dough is taken up into a soft, elastic, round ball. At this point, you can relax for a bit, and let the dough rise for 15mins.

The dough should have doubled in size by this time, and the next task is to dust your work surface with the extra flour, and roll out the dough into a flat disc about 1/4 of an inch thick. Prick all over with a fork, so it doesn't puff up in the oven, and then slam it in to pre-bake for 5 mins.

Pizza topping.

Medium Saucepan
1 Cooker ring
Hand blender
Can opener
Garlic Press
Cheese grater

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 finely chopped medium onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp mixed herbs
80g grated cheddar cheese


Fry the onions and garlic gently. When soft, add the tomatoes and herbs. Simmer till reduced. Blitz with a hand blender until you have a texture that pleases you, and simmer some more if it's still too liquid.

Then spoon onto your pizza base, cover with grated cheese, and bake for 20 mins at the top of the oven.

Now, go and spend the money you saved on a bottle of Italian wine, and enjoy...

Best wishes, 2ndRateMind.

The Wellspring:

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Sweet Tomato Ketchup

When shaking up the ketchup bottle
First none'll come, and then the lot'll.

Quite why ketchup is still sold in narrow necked bottles defeats me. Anyway, it's another reason for making your own - you can store it in pleasing, wide-necked jars that allow you to spoon onto your plate to your exact taste. There are other reasons; you get a better result, and you know what went into the mix, but I'm a romantic at heart, and for me it is the aesthetics that win the day.

On with the recipe. There are two phases to ketchup making:

1. Make a puree of your ingredients.
2. Make a ketchup of your puree.

Here is the detail, then.


Sharp kitchen knife
Chopping board
Garlic crusher
Mortar and pestle or Spice grinder
Half gallon saucepan with lid
Wooden spoon
Can opener
Coarse sieve, and second saucepan, or Hand-blender
Preserve funnel
4 x 1lb/450g Jam jars, sterilised.


6 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes.
3 x medium onions, finely chopped
90g soft brown sugar
250ml cider vinegar
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 stick cinnamon, or 1 tsp ground
1 tsp whole or ground allspice
1 tsp whole or ground cloves
1 tsp ground mace
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp black pepper, whole or ground
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 garlic clove


Phase 1.

Grind up your spices, and heat your saucepan. Let the spices dry-fry for a minute or so, to get the flavours fragrant. Add the chopped onions, stir to coat in the spices, and then the crushed garlic. Let them work in the heat for a bit, and then add your tomatoes. Then, just simmer with the occasional stir, on a medium heat, 'til the mixture has reduced by about a third. At this point, blend with your hand-blender, or manually press through a coarse sieve.

Phase 2.

Add the sugar, and vinegar, and simmer gently for about 10 to 15 mins, until it reaches the right consistency.

At the end of this process the texture is liable to be slightly coarser than shop-bought ketchup, but, frankly, I think that adds a character that is perfectly consistent with the objectives of this blog.

So, when you're satisfied, pour into sterile wide-necked jars and seal. Unopened, they should keep in a cool larder for 12 months. Opened, they store in the fridge for up to 14 days.

I find it costs about £4.00 to fill 4-5 450g jam jars, assuming the spices are already in the store cupboard. That's about £1.00p per lb jar, with a whole lot of self-satisfaction thrown in.

Best wishes, 2ndRateMind

Here's where to get jam jars:

Here's a word about sterilising: