TOMATO-CARROT SOUP…DELICATELY FLAVOURED WITH STAR ANISE

“Men are like soup: you always want to have one on the back burner, just in case.”
Unattributed feminist quote
Tomato-Carrot Soup with Star Anise
Tried my hand at a tomato-carrot soup this morning, flavoured delicately with a spice that has intrigued me endlessly over the past few days. None other than the pretty star anise ! A nice & gentle vegetarian soup, beautifully flavoured & great for the winter chill that has descended upon us. This is an adaptation of a soup my mother makes almost everyday in the winter months.Star Anise…the pretty spice!
Star anise plays a key role in the slow cooked dishes that characterize Eastern Chinese cuisine. Its licorice flavor enhances red cooked dishes. It is also the secret ingredient in many Indian stews and curries. And yes…literally…’No croutons required’!!
Ingredients:
Tomatoes – 8-10 medium / quartered
Carrots – 2 / chopped roughly
Onion – 1 / quartered
Garlic – 2 cloves
Red Lentil (Masoor dal) – 1 tbsp (optional/I add it to increase food value)
Star anise – 2 flowers
Salt to taste
Butter – 1 tbsp
Freshly ground white pepper
Method:
  • Put all the vegetables + lentils + star anise in a cooker or pan with salt & about 2 cups of water.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Remove the star anise (reserve for garnishing if you like) & run the soup in a blender . Strain.
  • Take some butter in a pan & saute the white pepper for a minute. Turn the soup into the pan & simmer till it comes to a boil. Serve with a drizzle of cream & freshly ground pepper.

Warm soup for the soul…pipe a heart on top & you’re all set for V-day!!

No Croutons Required‘ a new monthly food blogging event alternately hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes. Each month the host will invite bloggers around the world to submit a vegetarian soup or salad recipe, sometimes with a theme, sometimes not. The theme for February is simply vegetarian soups…which fits me in quite warmly! My entry’s on its way…

FRIENDSHIP, SPICE & THE CHINESE NEW YEAR!

“Condiments are like old friends — highly thought of, but often taken for granted.” Marilyn Kaytor
STAR ANISE FLAVOURED SWISS ROLL with MARMALADE SAUCE
I took some marmalade that I had made last month & spiced it up with star anise, cinnamon, ginger etc. Let it mature for a day…dreamt of a swiss roll last night & created my own dessert this morning. Very proud of this one because I thought it up in my mind, enjoyed the experience a lot & the roll came out looking quite nice. Tasted great too & is my entry for this month’s THINK SPICE!

MILDLY SPICY MARMALADE SAUCE…Sweet & different!

What would you do if the courier brings you a parcel & you open it amidst great excitement to see some starry creatures staring right back at you. Initial dismay of the star anise type!! Exactly what happened to me a few days ago. Arundati said she was sending me the Arusuvai friendship surprise ingredient looooooong ago…& it finally reached 2 days back (much after curiosity killed the cat in me many times over).

Beautifully packed…with the surprise ingredient, a lovely gift & 2 letters!
(Sorry Arundati, I couldn’t resist the bit about 2 letters!!) Arusuvai Friendship Chain is about sending along a surprise ingredient as a gift to your friends for them to prepare something tasty with it, share the recipe, and pass on other surprise ingredients to more people.

While Arundati was still trying to post her parcel, Sunita thankfully recovered her blog (PHEW) which she deleted in error & posted the spice for Feb…STAR ANISE!! O boy…I thought, maybe I would let this pass. Fate of course had other plans for me when the parcel arrived!! I burnt the midnight oil researching this pretty spice, sniffing it merrily, looking at it in wonder & trying to build the friendship chain!
Star anise, star aniseed, badiane or Chinese star anise, (Chinese: 八角, pinyin: bājiǎo, lit. “eight-horn”) is a spice that closely resembles anise in flavor, obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of Illicium verum, a small native evergreen tree of southwest China. The star shaped fruits are harvested just before ripening. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, in Indian cuisine where it is a major component of garam masala, and in Malay/Indonesian cuisine. Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking.

Gung hay fat choy
(meaning “May you become prosperous)
While on the topic of this really exotic Chinese spice, wonder if you know that the Chinese New Year begins today, on Thursday, February 7, 2008. By the Chinese Calendar 2008 is the Year of the Rat.

HAPPY CNY TO ALL OF YOU!

This post is becoming longer than I would like it to be, but there seems little way out of this saga. Getting back … thank you Arundati (who’s in the line of fire & she knows it!!) for your favourite spice that awakened the creativity in me. I really really liked the pretty stars & wanted to make a sweet spice sauce for dessert. Here’s what I did.
Ingredients:
Marmalade – 1/2 cup
Star Anise – 3-4 flowers
Ginger – 1 inch piece / crushed roughly as it has to be discarded later
Cinnamon – 1 piece
Freshly crushed black pepper – a twist or two of the peppermill
Water – 1/8 cup (approx)
Method:
  • Mix all of the above & simmer on low heat in a pan.
  • Leave to cool overnight for the flavours to mature.
  • Discard the ginger; remove the cinnamon & star anise & reserve for garnishing.
  • This mildly spicy sweet sauce can be also be used as a topping for ice-cream, dessert sauce for a panna cotta etc too. Star anise has a very mild flavour almost like fennel (saunf).

SWISS ROLL
Ingredients:

Eggs – 3
Castor sugar – 1/2 cup
Flour – 1/2 cup
Star anise powder – 1 tsp ( I ground some in the coffee grinder & sieved it)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
  • Line a swiss roll tin with non-stick parchment.
  • Beat the eggs & sugar well for about 10 minutes till they become thick & mousse like.
  • Sift 1/3 of the flour into the beaten mixture & gently fold in. Repeat 2 more times.
  • Gently turn into lined tin & bake for 10-12 minutes till light golden brown.
  • While the roll is baking, sift sugar & a little star anise powder over a piece of parchment, slightly bigger than the roll, & place over a cloth kitchen towel.
  • Remove from oven & turn the roll onto the parchment, & peel off the lining (which should be now on top)
  • Roll the kitchen towel with the second parchment & roll on it firmly & leave to cool.

Filling :

Whipping cream – 200ml
Hung curd – 1/2 cup (optional)
Orange essence – 1 tsp (optional)
Castor sugar 2-3 tbsps

Method:

  • Put everything together in bowl & whip till thick.

Assembling the Swiss Roll:

  • Unroll the swiss roll & spread a layer of the marmalade sauce evenly over it.
  • Next spread the cream filling. Don’t put too thick a layer or it will ooze out while rolling it back. Some cream will get left. Reserve it for the topping.
  • Now gently & firmly roll it back & place in a tray with the overlapping end underneath.
  • Drizzle remaining cream over the roll, sprinkle some star anise powder & some orange zest if you have some. garnish with th reserved star anise flowers & cinnamon stick.
  • ( I cut my roll into slices before drizzling the cream; just a personal choice since the excitement generated by the kids prior to serving makes my slices get cut all wrong!)
  • Chill well, & serve with slices of orange & remaining cream.

    A slice on a roll!!

    P.S. Thank you Srivalli for the great chain! I have sent my surprise ingredient to Miri at Peppermill…thanks for adding a link to the chain!

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