Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Watercress Soup for Vegetarians

I'm a big fan of watercress because it makes for a delightfully delicious soup. Watercress is big on nutrients too but usually I make the carnivore version - watercress soup with chicken or with pork.

This time though I tried a vegetarian version of watercress soup. I was inspired to cook this soup as I've been visiting Than Hsiang Temple almost weekly now for my vegetarian lunch (one of my resolutions this year is to eat less meat and more veg - not that I am a big meat-eater. I just want to do my part for the environment). I salute those who are vegetarian because it's not easy, well for me at least. I still love fish too much!

So yeah, I made a pot of watercress soup today. And it's suitable for vegetarians.

You need only 3 ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh watercress
(pluck leaves and wash. Do not throw away the hard stems. This will go into the soup too. It'll be too wasteful to throw out the stems when they can add flavour to the soup.You don't have to eat the stems though.)

8-10 dried red dates, de-seeded

Buy unseeded dates and de-seed them yourself. I used to be lazy and thought that buying de-seeded dates would save me time but my mom-in-law said that de-seeded dates were de-seeded in unhygienic ways so it's back to regular dates for me.

1 whole carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

Bring a pot of water (approximately 1.5 litres) to boil.
Add in red dates, carrot and watercress stems.
Boil for 10 minutes on high fire, uncovered.
Lower fire to a simmer and cover pot with lid.
Simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the watercress leaves.
Simmer covered again for another 30 minutes.
Finally, add salt to taste.
Turn off fire and the soup 'rest' for another 10 minutes.(I found that this makes the soup a lot tastier. I wonder why.)
Dish into bowls and serve warm, with rice or on its own.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

3 Minute Soup

This is my lifesaver soup! Doesn't need any boiling and doesn't need anything except some fresh kelp.

I believe that soup should nourish the soul and tummy but like all busy bees these days, I sometimes don't have time to simmer soup for 2 hours. I need to zip in and out and watching the stove can be tedious.

But never fear. If I can make this 3-minute soup, so can you.

It's called Miso. ;-)

My favourite instant soup. It is also great if you are feeling blue and not up for cooking but just want something to keep one's tummy warm.

You can buy miso paste in single-serve packs or you can buy one whole carton of it (around 400 gm). Miso paste is basically fermented soya bean paste ("tau cheong") which we Chinese use often in cooking. I buy my miso paste at Jusco supermarket, RM4.50 for 10 packets of single-serve miso.

Some miso paste have shreds of seaweed or kelp. Some come with bits of mussels. Of course since I don't read Japanese, I look at the graphic on the packaging.

You don't boil miso paste because that would get rid of its good bacteria (it's fermented bean paste, remember? There's live organisms in the paste which is soothing for the stomach and intestines.) In fact, there's a host of vitamins and minerals within miso.

Imagine, miso can help:
* detoxify radioactive substances
* help with anti-ageing
* aid digestion
* detoxification
* control blood pressure
* negate smoking effects and lots more.

Here's how miso is made.

Anyway, here's how you can make miso soup at home.

Bring water to boil. Portion out 1 bowl per person. When water has boiled, take it off the stove. Place 1 tablespoon of miso paste into bowl (1 tablespoon of miso for 1 person). Pour boiling water into the bowl. Mix thoroughly so that the miso paste is well mixed. Add cubed soft tofu and fresh kelp* if you like.

Serve hot. Great on its own or with rice. Oh ya, don't add salt as miso is naturally salty. Remember do not boil miso if you don't want to ruin its taste and destroy its nutrients.

* I was introduced to fresh kelp at the Lip Sin market. It's far pricier than dried kelp (dried kelp is RM1.90 but fresh kelp retails at RM5.50 for a small packet). Fresh kelp must be kept in the chiller or freezer. You can eat it raw or lightly boiled. Before you add into your miso soup, remember to rinse it under running water and slice into bite-size pieces.

I call this my 3-minute soup. Itadake mase!