Basmati Rice Spiked with Chickpea Flour Dumplings

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Basmati Rice Spiked with Chickpea Flour Dumplings

As has been the case for many years, when I am looking for inspiration I often turn to 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. All of the essentials of Indian cooking are covered in this book and there are some wonderful fusion-stye dishes included too, as Mr. Iyer grew up in India but has lived in the US for over 20 years — you get the best of both worlds. It truly is a masterpiece and well suited for both those who are new to Indian cuisine and experienced cooks alike. The book is not vegetarian, but there are loads of recipes for vegetarians and vegans.

My latest exploration was this rice dish with chickpea flour dumplings. It's perfectly balanced and you only need to serve up a vegetable dish for a simple meal that is nonetheless packed full of flavor. Only half of the dumplings are needed for the rice, but it's worth making the whole batch because they are relatively easy to make and they freeze well. I found they also made for a nice spicy snack, in addition to adding flair and texture to the rice, so the remainder never did make it into the freezer.

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Baked Falafel with Lemon Tahini Sauce

baked falafel with lemon tahini sauce

Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern street food that has become popular in the West too. They are made with chickpeas, onion, garlic and spices and usually served with sauces such as hot sauce or tahini-based sauces, pickles and vegetables. They are commonly stuffed into or wrapped in pita breads to make a sandwich.

I've long been a fan of falafel and have made them before at home on a few occasions, but not since I started this chronicle of my cooking adventures. In the past, I have deep fried them, but frying is messy and oily. An alternative solution is to bake them, as I have done here. My recipe is also not traditional as usually the chickpeas aren't cooked but instead are soaked for at least 12 hours and then ground up and formed into patties or balls before frying.

I was more than satisfied with the results. While they were not as crispy as the fried version, I dare say they were even better and reminded me very much of one of favorite recipes for Indian baked koftas.

I found the sauce was an essential accompaniment for a more authentic falafel taste experience. That said, to make the meal suitable for vegans, omit the yogurt sauce and serve with other accompaniments and/or come up with your own tahini sauce.

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Mixed Vegetable Rice

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Mixed Vegetable Rice

I've been making an effort to incorporate more vegetables into my meals. An easy solution when you don't have a lot of time is to add them to rice. It's also a good way to use up vegetables before their expiry date. Despite the ease of preparation, this dish is packed full of flavor and certainly elegant. It made for a fine accompaniment to paneer rajma.

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No Croutons Required - Favorite Vegetarian Soups and Salads

Regular contributors to NCR will know that Jacqueline and I have made some changes to this long running event as we roll into 2014. Rather than focusing on a specific theme, we are making things more general so it is easier for cooks to submit their favorite vegetarian soups and salads. We certainly received plenty of tempting recipes. Thanks to everyone who took the time to participate this month.

Now settle in and see what has been going on in kitchens around the world. We certainly received some tempting dishes this month. Let us start with the soups.

spicy cashew soup
Recipe: Winter Warmer Spicy Cashew Soup With Plantain Croutons

Chef: Wonderlusting
Blog: Wonderlusting
Location: UK

This cook is nuts about cashews and this spicy bowl includes raw cashew nuts, roasted cashew nuts and cashew nut butter. They come together with dried red chilies, tomatoes and peppers. No croutons are required, but I'm glad these plantain croutons made their way into the bowl.

Broccoli Soup
Recipe: Broccoli, Courgette and Stilton Soup

Chef: Caroline
Blog: Caroline Makes
Location: London, UK

On a quest to eat more vegetables and also to use up some cheese left over from Christmas, Caroline tricks herself by sneaking broccoli and zucchini into this creamy and cheesy blended soup. A fine way to serve up a healthy dose of veggies.

Thai Sweet Potato Kidney Bean soup
Recipe: Thai-Inspired Sweet Potato Kidney Bean Soup

Chef: Lisa
Blog: Lisa's Kitchen
Location: Ontario, Canada

This fragrant and colorful soup is my contribution this month. Sweet potatoes and earthy, robust kidney beans are simmered in a spicy Thai-inspired broth, complete with homemade Thai red curry paste. Just what I needed on a cold winter night.

mushroom soup
Recipe: Vegan Hot and Sour Soup

Chef: Deena
Blog: Oh! You Cook!
Location: US

I never can resist mushrooms and they make an appearance in this brothy soup along with scallions, garlic, ginger, tofu, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Deena tells us it comes together in hardly anytime at all and is very warming.

vegetable and rice soup
Recipe: Holy Moley Veggie and Rice Soup

Chef: Janet
Blog: The Taste Space
Location: US

Inspired by recent trip to Mexico City, Janet cooked up with this mouthwatering mole that surprisingly includes chocolate. The dark chocolate is an intriguing backdrop to the vegetables, chickpeas, rice and seasoning and spices that come together in this hearty soup.

Recipe: Lentil and Vegetable Potage

Chef: Linzi
Blog: Lancashire Food
Location: Lancashire, UK

This lovely and creamy soup combines the goodness of lentils, carrots, onions, garlic and potatoes. The addition of lentils provides "a smooth rib sticking velvety feel" to the potage. Served with some crusty bread, this would certainly be a satisfying winter evening meal.

black bean soup
Recipe: Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Orange and Red Onion Salsa

Chef: Gayathri
Blog: Spices Galore
Location: US

Gayathri didn't want to brave frigid conditions outdoors so she raided her pantry and came up with this beautiful silky and spicy soup. Earthly black beans are complemented by smoky chipotles and aromatics and spices. It's topped off with a delightful fruity salsa with lime for extra sweet and sour flair.

chickpea lentil soup
Recipe: Chili Chickpea Lentil Soup

Chef: Nutritious Deliciousness
Blog: Nutritious Deliciousness
Location: ?

Chickpeas please! Here they come together with lentils, red onion, tomatoes and a bit of spice. The soup is garnished with flax seeds and a good dollop of yogurt. Warming and packed full of protein.

leek and potato soup
Recipe: Quick-a-leekie Easy Leek and Potato Soup

Chef: Sarah
Blog: Dinner with Crayons
Location: UK

Soup is a Saturday ritual at Sarah's house, and she shares this easy blended soup that makes good use of leftover bits from the fridge. Leeks and potatoes are blended with vegetable stock and cream and then garnished with homemade croutons. Yet another warming soup to add to your menus.

Roast cauliflower cheese soup
Recipe: Roast Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Chef: Vanesther
Blog: Bangers and Mash
Location: UK

Those that aren't fussy on cauliflower ought to give this soup a try. In this case, the cauliflower is roasted along with onion and smoked paprika for a deeper flavor and then simmered in vegetable stock. Cheddar and Lancashire cheese are stirred in at the end to complete this flavorful dish.

farmers market soup
Recipe: Farmer's Market Vegetable Soup

Chef: Sally
Blog: My Custard Pie
Location: Middle East

On a mission to clean out her fridge and waste nothing, Sally makes up this delightful vegetable packed soup. Onion, fennel and celery come together with tomatoes, shredded cabbage, a bit of pasta, green beans and fresh herbs. Served with crusty bread, you are in for a treat.

Thai noodle soup
Recipe: Spicy Thai Noodle Soup

Chef: Katie
Blog: Feeding Boys and a Firefighter
Location: UK

There certainly isn't anything boring about Katie's refreshing Thai inspired soup that she served up for lunch. Rice noodles and pak choi are served in a delicious broth of coconut milk, green curry paste, ginger, lime, peanut butter, soy sauce and lime. Garnish with peanuts to fill it out a bit more.

parsnip soup
Recipe: Parsnip, Carrot and Lentil Soup

Chef: Jacqueline
Blog: Tinned Tomatoes
Location: Scotland, UK

My dear friend Jacqueline and co-host of this event came up with soup to use up some parsnips lingering in the fridge. Here they come together with chopped and grated carrots, onion, garlic, a bit of spice and red lentils. Surely a satisfying winter soup with interesting texture.

parsnip soup
Recipe: Parsnip, Apple and Leek Soup

Chef: Laura
Blog: Knead Whine
Location: UK

Laura was faced with an abundance of parsnips, so she made them the focal point of a soup. They are joined here by leeks, apples and rosemary. Easy to prepare with earthy flavors, the apples add some nice sweetness. Blended soups are always a comfort.

vegetable soup
Recipe: Vegetable Soup With Pasta and Garbanzo Beans

Chef: Pravina
Blog: Indo Global Food
Location: US

Being an especially cold winter, soups are certainly a must. Pravina decided to make slow-cooked soup that was a breeze to prepare and nice and warm for dinner. Carrots and chickpeas are simmered in a onion tomato gravy. Pasta is added part way through the cooking time along with bell pepper and the hearty soup is then garnished with fresh herbs.

Recipe: Jerusalem Artichoke and Rosemary Soup with Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps

Chef: Shaheen
Blog: Allotment to Kitchen
Location: UK

Shaheen takes advantage of artichokes which she says is an under appreciated winter vegetable. Here they shine with rosemary. The best part is she tops her soup with homemade artichoke crisps that are sprinkled with rosemary salt. Time to seek out some Jerusalem artichokes.

And now for some salads that you might wish to consider serving alongside some soup:

rainbow salad
Recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Grated Rainbow Vegetable Salad with Sesame Feta Fritters

Chef: Corina
Blog: Searching for Spice
Location: UK

Needing a cleanse after the holidays, Corina offers up a satisfying salad consisting of grated carrot, onion and cucumber dressed with olive oil and vinegar. It's served over couscous, and topped with divine sounding sesame feta fritters and homemade pita bread croutons.

orange date salad
Recipe: Spiced Orange, Date, Green Olive & Parsley Salad

Chef: Laura
Blog: How to Cook Good Food
Location: UK

Inspired by the flavors of Morocco, Laura presents this intriguing salad made up of chili spiced oranges, sticky dates, salty tangy olives and refreshing parsley with a splash of extra virgin olive oil. I would be going back for seconds.

winter salad
Recipe: Citrus and Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

Chef: Kellie
Blog: Food to Glow
Location: UK

Kellie takes advantage of winter produce with this cheering and colorful salad. Mingling here are beets, carrots, parsnips, oranges and parsley. Everything is dressed with pomegranate molasses, vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil and cumin. Wonderful blend of flavors here.

butter lettuce salad
Recipe: Butter Lettuce Salad with Persimmon, Avocado and Almonds

Chef: Simona
Blog: Briciole
Location: US

Romaine lettuce gets the royal treatment here. Simona begins with soft and crisp butterhead lettuce and then adds naturally sweet persimmon, lightly toasted almonds and some aromatics. Everything comes together with ripe avocado, lemon juice and sea salt. Simple perfection indeed.

mushroom salad
Recipe: Black Salsify and Wild Mushrooms Warm Salad

Chef: Galina
Blog: Chez Maximka
Location: UK

I've never tried black salsify before, but I would be sure to enjoy it. Galina tells us that it is delicately flavored root vegetable. She makes up a salad that includes wild mushrooms. Add some garlic into the mix, along with olive oil, butter, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and pine nuts and you have one fine winter salad.

beet salad
Recipe: Beetroot and Watercress Salad

Chef: Antonia
Blog: A Little Bit Greedy
Location: UK

Antonia is typically not a big fan of beetroot, but when one arrived in her vegetable box, she decided to try something different. Here orangey beet comes together with watercress, pine nuts, chilies, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Delicious.

caesar salad
Recipe: Vegan Caesar Salad

Chef: Johanna
Blog: Green Gourmet Giraffe
Location: Melbourne, Australia

For the first time, Johanna made and enjoyed a Caesar Salad. This vegan version features lettuce, and also tempeh bacon and homemade sourdough bread croutons. The salad base is served alongside a tofu besan omelet and drizzled with a dressing that features cashew butter, garlic, tamari, olive oil and lemon juice. I'm intrigued!

avocado salad
Recipe: Creamy, Crunchy, Bean and Avocado Salad

Chef: Vohn
Blog: Vohn's Vittles
Location: Scotland, UK

In a quest to eat healthier, Vohn tosses together this luscious salad. Lettuce, cabbage, bell pepper, spring onions, olives and mixed beans are dressed with mashed avocado and lime juice. Love the different flavors and textures at play here.

And that concludes the roundup for this month. Jacqueline will be hosting the February edition of NCR. Be sure to visit her blog at the beginning of the month for the announcement.

Black-Eyed Peas Simmered in a Spicy Tomato Sauce with Corn

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
curried black-eyed peas with corn

Black-eyed peas are often the legume I go to when I want an easy weeknight meal solution employing staples that I am likely to have on hand. This was another winning dish that went well with a bed of steaming hot buttered basmati rice. The sweet corn adds a nice textural and flavor contrast to the earthy black-eyed peas. The curried tomato base brings the whole dish together in one great big group hug.

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Kidney Bean Casserole with Mushrooms and Spicy Tempeh Strips

baked beans with mushrooms and tempeh

Hearty and simple fare, baked beans have kept Canadian families going through harsh winters for generations. Originally little more than large pots of navy beans cooked for hours with nothing but salt, pork and molasses, the modern vegetarian or vegan has plenty of ingredients at her disposal to remove the meat and add flavor while keeping all of its robust and filling nourishment.

Baked in a rich spiced tamari, tomato and mushroom sauce with strips of marinated and fried tempeh, this delicious and flavorful red kidney bean casserole is definitely robust and meaty enough to fill the bellies of anyone, and it is entirely vegan too. Serve with rice or bread and vegetables, and no one will be leaving the table hungry.

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Barley Muffins with Apple and Cashew Pieces

barley muffins

Muffins are one of my favorite quick breads to make because they are easy to put together and there are endless possibilities to keep your taste buds interested. There is nothing like a nice basketful of muffins to provide nourishment throughout the day. Not only do they make for a quick breakfast, they are a wonderful portable snack to take to work for break time, and when I am hungry in the evening but fussy about what I might want, muffins will usually do the trick.

barley muffins

In this case, I wanted something a little different and incorporated some barley and cashews, along with apples that make up the fruit component, for an especially nourishing and healthy alternative to store-bought sugar-filled cakes masquerading as muffins as I know them. Not there is anything wrong with indulging your sweet tooth from time to time, but if you want to eat cake, well eat cake and you can still have your muffin and eat it too.

Probably some of the most unique muffins I have made in a long time, I was especially delighted with the layers of texture from the grain, seeds, nuts and fruit — chewy, crunchy and soft sensations in the mouth with each bite. Little sweetener is needed here to make these a treat and you might not be able to stop at one, especially if you are lucky to enjoy one fresh out of the oven.

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Aloo Mattar (Potato and Pea Curry)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Aloo Mattar

Aloo mattar is a classic Punjabi dish consisting of potatoes and green peas simmered in a spicy tomato gravy. Those are the central components of the dish, although spicing and preparation varies from cook to cook. This is my latest version of this dish that usually appears on most of the menus at the Indian restaurants I have dined at. I don't order it as much as I would like, as I am usually torn between it and mattar paneer. Although you can never get enough peas in my opinion, I usually end up just ordering one or the other and then choose other options from the menu.

The fun part is both of those dishes are easy to prepare at home, so you don't have to wait until you dine out to enjoy them. In fact, with some basic knowledge of Indian cuisine and some staples on hand, you'll be cooking up even finer curries than those found at your local Indian restaurants. To complete the experience, consider serving the curry with homemade savory Indian flat breads, and a steaming hot bed of fresh cooked white rice.

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Tomato, Olive and Avocado Rice

Tomato olive avocado rice

Some of my favorite flavors mingle together in this colorful and satisfying dressed up rice dish. Robust Kalamata olives are somewhat tempered by and certainly complemented by the creamy avocado and tomato. The rice is the canvas and provides the most delightful backdrop for the combined components. It a textural taste experience. Once you are done with the pitting, peeling and chopping, it's a fast and easy dish to put together. Consider serving it with soup or chili.

I've posted this recipe before, but it's worth reposting and I've updated the photos.

Tomato, Olive and Avocado Rice

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Thai-Inspired Sweet Potato Kidney Bean Soup

sweet potato Thai soup

Canadian winters are difficult to endure, especially ones like the current harsh winter. Heavy snow fall, ice storms and long periods of extremely cold temperatures have persisted into January throughout North America. Already I am tired of it and long for sunshine and sandals. I warm up and take comfort with a bowl of soup. This hearty soup, or stew if you please, combines the goodness of sweet potatoes and earthy, robust kidney beans, all simmered in a Thai-inspired broth.

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Curried Cauliflower and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Curried Cauliflower and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Serving black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. Because they swell with cooking, the peas are considered to represent growing prosperity in the New Year and are sometimes believed to represent coins as well. Frequently the peas are served with cooked greens, particularly collard greens, which symbolize money, and cornbread — representing gold. Whether these delightful legumes bring good luck or not, the meal was certainly an enjoyable one. I never need a particular reason to cook with black-eyed peas, but here's hoping for peace and inspiration for 2014.

Combining vegetables and legumes in a warming soup is a simple solution to providing a nourishing meal in the cold weather months and a cold and harsh winter it has been thus far. The curry spices not only add an extra layer of warmth to the soup experience, they lend an attractive coloring as well. Savour a bowl of this soup and focus on the warmth, rather than the frigid snowscape just outside your window.

Cauliflower goes especially well with north Indian curry spices; the taste and texture of this gently cooked vegetable absorbs the spices and provides a wonderful contrast with the sweet, earthly and slightly nutty flavor of the black-eyed peas. Simple, fragrant and bursting with goodness.

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Lemony Basil Hummus

basil hummus

Hummus is a classic Middle Eastern spread or dip, traditionally made up of mashed chickpeas, olive oil, tahini and garlic. Such a combination presents unlimited possibilities to be explored by eager and inventive cooks. Keep it simple and classic or come up with your own fusion style version to serve up as an appetizer, for lunch, or dinner with vegetables and flat breads, or simply as a nourishing snack whenever the need to energize strikes.

This is pretty much a classic version of hummus with the addition of fresh basil and lemon juice to add extra fresh flavor. Think of it as a pesto hummus, with basil lurking in each bite in a subdued way. I like my hummus fairly thick in texture but this is a forgiving recipe, so of course feel free to adjust the measurements here according to your preferences for a thinner version.

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No Croutons Required - The Winner for December and the Theme for January

no croutons required

A new year begins and as No Croutons Required enters its 7th year, it is time to announce some changes to this long running event. It is hard to believe Jacqueline and I have been hosting this event for so many years. A huge thanks to everyone who has contributed their inspired dishes over the years to help us make NCR a success. As far as I am concerned, you can never have enough recipe ideas for soups and salads. They are a staple on most tables and it has been a pleasure to share fellow bloggers' creations with our readers.

As regular contributors will know, the focus has always been vegetarian soups and salads, and up until now, each month there was a different theme. After some discussion, Jac and I decided we are going to make the event more general for 2014. Instead of specific themes, we are going to open it up to any soup or salad that is suitable for vegetarians so that it is easier for cooks to participate each month. There is no restriction on the ingredients used in your dish and any type of cuisine is welcomed.

To participate:

Make a soup or salad that is suitable for vegetarians and showcase it on your blog.

Link back to this announcement and my blog as I am the host this month.

Add your post using the linky tool at the end of this post by the 20th of this month. Only one entry per blogger please.

The roundup will be posted at the end of the month.

And now for the winner of last month's festive photo challenge. There were three winners, but first place goes to Camilla of Fab Food 4 All. She submitted this creative and certainly delicious Festive Chocolate and Pistachio Wreath. Congrats Camilla.

christmas wreath