Stay in and cook up a storm this Valentine’s Day!
February and Valentine’s Day have come to be synonymous to each other, don’t you think? And with 14 February just days away, wouldn’t it be a nice idea to plan a surprise indulgent meal for your special someone? Here is a three-course menu idea for you.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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The word Shorba is derived from an Arabic term, “Shurbah”, meaning soup. Traditionally, it is more of a stew consistency and can be served either as a starter or as an accompaniment to the main course. Once you have tried this Indian version, rest assured the love is for life! Not only is this dish simple and loaded with flavours, but it’s also perfect to get that extra boost of Vitamin C. The traditional version uses water, but I often use vegetable broth to make it more nutritious.
4 cups of tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp cornflour, mixed well in half a cup of water
3 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream (optional)
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp salt (or to taste)
1½ tbsp pepper
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
- Wash the tomatoes well and blanch them. Once at room temperature, peel off the skin, chop and blend to make a puree.
- Heat oil in a thick-bottomed pan, once hot, reduce to medium and add the bay leaf and cumin seeds. Stir for a few seconds before adding the garlic and sauté until it starts to turn golden.
- Add the onion and stir on medium to low heat until translucent.
- Add the puréed tomatoes, broth/water, salt and pepper and mix well. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Stir in 2 tbsp of the cornflour-water solution, mix well and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar, butter and cream (if using), freshly-crushed pepper and salt to taste.
- Pour the hot soup into bowls, garnish with freshly-chopped coriander and cream. Add some more butter if you like and serve with a side of breadsticks or croutons.
Methi (fresh fenugreek) is another of my favourite winter vegetables. The health benefits of fenugreek are innumerable, but what is also special is how beautifully it pairs with long-grained basmati rice to create this delectable Pulaao/Pilaf. It’s an absolute must-have for a celebratory winter meal.
1½ cups long-grained Basmati rice
2 cups fresh methi leaves, cleaned and chopped
10 to 12 cloves garlic
3 green chillies (or to taste)
½ cup other vegetables (choose your favourites, I like mushroom, carrot or green peas)
½ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp ghee
6 to 8 cashews, halved
10 to 12 raisins or sultanas
½ tsp cumin seeds
1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
2 cups water
- Wash well and then soak the rice in water for half an hour before cooking. Set aside.
- Blend garlic and chillies to a coarse paste. Set aside.
- In a wide, deep and thick-bottomed wok, add ghee and heat on a high flame. When hot, add cashews and reduce heat to medium. Roast until light golden brown and set aside. Stir continuously to avoid burning.
- In the same wok, add cumin seeds and stir until they start to crackle. Add the garlic and chilli paste. Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously for 2 to 3 minutes until garlic is golden.
- Add turmeric powder and mix well.
- Add chopped methi and cook over medium heat until the leaves are almost cooked. This would take around 5 to 7 minutes. Add other vegetables and sauté for a minute or two.
- Drain the soaked rice and add it to the above mix, giving it a good stir.
- Add water, salt, half a tablespoon of ghee (optional).
- Serve hot with a side of yoghurt or hot chilli garlic oil.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Usually you would add 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, however, this amount will vary depending on the brand and age of Basmati Rice you use. Ideally, the ratio (rice: water) is 1:2½ for plain cooked rice. For pulaao, it is better for slightly stiffer rice with grains which do not stick, so 1:1½ is a good ratio.
If you are unsure of the amount of water while cooking pulaao, add 1:1, to begin with, and stir in additional tablespoons as the rice is cooking. It takes some practice to know which brand of rice uses what amount of water and it is always tricky while making pulaao as you don’t want to drain the water and, with it, the entire flavour.
I recommend testing out your brand of rice a few times beforehand to determine the exact amount of water it takes.
Halwa as a dessert needs no introduction to the Middle East, Central and South Asian diaspora. It is rich, luscious and festive, and definitely not a dessert for the faint-hearted. Pairing it with orange zest infused ricotta, however, works beautifully to balance the rich sweetness of this dessert. And what a pretty way to end a romantic meal too!
4 cups red carrots, coarsely grated (if red ones are not available, you can also use the orange variety)
2 cups regular full-fat milk
½ cup sugar (or to taste depending on how sweet the carrots are)
4 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon dried fruit and nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachios, sultanas/raisins), chopped coarsely
½ tsp cardamom powder
Saffron, a few strands (optional)
4 tablespoons whipping cream/condensed milk (optional; adjust the sugar accordingly if using condensed milk)
1½ cups ricotta
2 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
- In a thick bottomed wok, add two tablespoons ghee and heat on high. Reduce the heat to medium once the ghee is hot and add grated carrots.
- Cook the carrots, stirring continuously for about 5 to 7 minutes until they start to release a sweet fragrance.
- Add 2 cups milk, mix well and cook slowly over low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Stir intermittently.
- Halfway through, add the remaining two tablespoons of ghee, saffron and cardamom powder.
- If you like a rich halwa, add some condensed milk or cream, mix well and continue to slow cook. You can also keep adding a few tablespoons of milk and let it reduce to khoya as it cooks with the carrots.
- Continue to cook over low heat until all the milk has evaporated and the solids start to clump together. It should resemble a fudge-like consistency. Set aside and let it come to room temperature.
- Just before serving, mix the ricotta with orange zest in another bowl and set aside.
- In a trifle bowl or a shot glass spoon in some halwa at room temperature, before topping with a spoonful of ricotta-zest mixture. Finally add some chopped pistachios for crunch. Serve right away!
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Featured image courtesy of Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash, all other images courtesy of One Wholesome Meal.