Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup
My first post for 2015! Happy new year everyone! I hope 2015 brings everyone loads of success, happiness and good health.
Last 2 months or so has being difficult for the family with us constantly battling ill health and bouts of recurring flu. This left us making many much required lifestyle changes, less socializing, taking it easy at work for a bit, eating out occasionally and staying put at home reading or watching favorite movies.
I was eating light most days and also did not bake much over the festive season. Soups and toasted bread with garlic butter was dinner most days.
 
My experiments with new recipes for smoothies and soups continued. One recipe which was well received was Minestrone Soup

My earliest memories of having this soup are at my home when mum doused leftover cooked macroni in the mixed vegetable soup she made for us. A successful attempt by her to feed my younger brother some veggies, the macroni got him excited and he found himself busy trying to find the pasta in bowl of vegetables.

 

There is no one fixed recipe when making minestrone soup. I usually make this with the ingredients readily available in my kitchen. Sometimes I add spinach or kale to bring some color to the soup but mostly it is from the vegetables listed in the recipe below:

 
Serves : 4 
Prep Time : 15 Minutes
Cooking Time : 30-35 Minutes
 
Ingredients
1 large white onion finely chopped
2 stalks celery finely chopped
2 carrots diced
4 tomatoes finely chopped
50 ml tomato paste (optional)
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
1/2 cup green beans finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic butter
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cooked pasta
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
3 tsp olive oil
Fine sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
 
In a big pot, heat some oil and add garlic. Cook for a minute or so.
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Add onions, celery, carrots and french beans and cook them until they are soft.
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Add tomatoes to the mix and cook the mixture well.
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Follow this with cooked chickpeas, pasta and tomato paste.
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Add salt, black pepper and dried herbs and blend well. Add vegetable stock and allow the soup to simmer on low heat.
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I usually make vegetable stock at home else use some cubes of organic stock cubes from Waitrose. Meanwhile add fresh basil and garlic butter to the mix.
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Cook until the soup reaches the consistency your are after. This is usually after 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and relish the goodness.
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Serve this with Foccaccia or toasted bread with garlic or herb butter.  The soup is quite comforting and the chunky vegetables and pasta in there make it interesting with the crunchy texture of the bread.
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In the month of January I intend to do a recap of the beautiful 2014 I had. Some events where I got to see my celeb chefs, cooked some new recipes which friends and family loved and also two of my articles got published in an e-magazine by Food Blogger’s Association of India.
I promise to share my food stories with you all shortly, until next time, happy cooking!
I definitely have a lot to do since I’d be hosting an Italian themed dinner party for my very close friend and his pretty wife tonight, wish me luck!

Fusion JLT


The last of Dubai winters have given way to the sunny morning and humid afternoons. I love Dubai the most starting November until April. You can feel a nip in the air and the blue skies are so mesmerizing as well.

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During one such outing to a local book cafe a few months back we discovered Fusion restaurant quite accidentally. We must be near the car park and could smell the fragrant aromas from the kitchen of this brightly lit eatery.

Both me and my husband Sahil exchanged the look which said “Let’s skip Brunch & have a early lunch instead”. But since we had vouchers for Nataly Cafe, which were soon to expire, we went against our senses. You can read the complete review for the book cafe here at Sahil’s blog http://goo.gl/KQOjx

I did not like the breakfast menu much hence no review. Moving on to this restaurant review.

Sometimes you expect a lot more once you visit a restaurant and feel disappointed. However, Fusion surprised us both  with it’s yummy food and awesome service.

I have clubbed together three of our visits to the restaurant. The restaurant is brightly lit with low ceiling lamps hanging around, oil paintings depicting the folk men and nature and the red walls along with the black trimmings on red chairs complimenting each other quite well. There are also two big screen LCDs facing each other to keep company to the lonely souls around.

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First time around we ordered the safe options in Chinese. We opted for Vegetarian Sweet Corn Soup, Manchurian with Gravy and Hakka Noodles.

Sweet Corn Soup

The soup was freshly made and not re-heated like some restaurants serve them. My biggest concern while having Chinese soups is the use of corn starch, usually I find them to be too starchy. But the soup at Fushion had the perfect balance of shredded cabbage, an occasional french bean cut diagonally, carrots and corn.

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The Hakka Noodles were a tad too oily for my liking but it’s me being guilty for not eliminating junk from my diet. They were seasoned nicely and the veggies included shredded carrots, thinly sliced onions, an occasional cabbage, capsicum with a garnish of spring onion.

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I absolutely loved the manchurian they did. The manchurian balls just like the soup did not have the raw flavor of corn starch. We asked for more gravy and were happy with the generous portions. The dish was garnished with coriander for a change instead of the usual spring onion like most of other chinese joints. The manchurian gravy was neither too runny nor too thick, just cooked perfectly. We came back from Fusion as pleased as a Punch.

We visited them again next week, their close approximate to our home worked to our advantage. When we are late from work, we make a quick dash and came back satiated.

This time around we tried their Indian delicacies. We ordered mains of Dal Tadka, Handi Paneer (Creamy Cottage Cheese Gravy and Bhindi Do Pyaza. Now these are my favorite things to order when I eat out, you would see that I always order a Paneer Makhni or it’s clones. Blame it to my Punjabi genes.

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I always try ordering a simple dish as well since I believe that it’s the simple things in life which are difficult to create. These are flavors one grows up with and hence has a sentimental connect to. The Dal was perfectly tempered with cumin seeds, , coriander powder, green chillies and red chilly powder. I loved how the dal came in a copper bucket. Brownies points for this 🙂

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The basmati rice was tempered with cumin seeds and garnished with fresh coriander leaves.

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Bhindi do Pyaaza was a hit with my palette. Frozen okra came in a brown onion gravy seasoned with cumin seeds, coriander powder, green chillies and was garnished with ginger juliennes and coriander leaves.

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Handi Paneer was creamy, the onion tomato gravy not overpowering the softness of paneer. I would have liked the cream to be thinned before the garnish though. It felt too heavy for the otherwise balanced flavors. I just scrapped the cream off the top and had the gravy underneath. It also had diced capscicum.

I like the copper pots and spoons used by Fusion to serve the food, they add to the ambience and give a nice rustic feel to the otherwise loud color scheme of the restaurant.

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They also served us sides of vinegar marinated shallots and store bought mix vegetable pickle.

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We did try a desert this time by staff recommendation, Gajar Halwa (Carrot Dessert). We enquired if the carrots used were red like how you get in Indian subcontinent but were informed that they use Australian carrots. So that explains the orange carrot halwa. It was nice but not great. It was very runny and required more time to get cooked on medium heat.

My grandmother used to say that a sign of halwa well cooked is when the carrot almost feels crumbly borderline roasted but still moist, retaining the richness of the milk it is cooked in. Sadly the gajar halwa did not fare quite well as expected but I was ok with what I ate. It was garnished with slivers of pistachio and almonds. Maybe the texture was not good because no khoya (dried whole milk) was added.

We visited Fushion almost after a month or so again last weekend, we noticed they have started serving roast papad with green chutney.  The papad was not roasted properly. I captured the images as well.

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The chutney was ok, tad too runny and the taste of yoghurt overpowering the coriander.

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We ordered Tomato Soup which was too watery and the ginger flavour was tad too strong for my palette. Again it was garnished with a dollop of cream resting on the soggy bread croutons. The bread croutons were stale and seemed like oily.

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For mains I ordered Paneer Bhurji, it  was an absolute disaster, I knew I would not like the dish just by the way it looked.

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The only flavor I could taste was turmeric, the entire dish felt very bland and raw. It was cooked with finely chopped chillies, onions and tomatoes but the gravy base was not enough. It seemed like paneer was added last minute and it was not blend well with the onion-tomato mixture. There were parts of the dish wherein the paneer was not coated with the spices.

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Sahil ordered Prawn Biryani and found it too dry. Upon complaining the waiter acknowledged that the Prawn gravy may have been a last minute addition to the pre-cooked plain biryani. The gravy like Vegetarian / Mutton/ Chicken / Prawn get added as per the customer’s order. Odd!

Nevertheless Fusion stared off on a promising note but lost us on the flavor aspect in the subsequent visits. I will still visit them since the service is good, here’s hoping to better food on the next visit.

A quick link for their website http://www.fusion.ae/

Disclaimer : All featured dishes and meals were paid for my me and this post is not a sponsored one.