Monday, February 28, 2011

Oven Roasted Chickpeas/How to Soothe A Hungry *.

I'm going to make up for the over-elaborate recipe I posted the last time. It's not an excuse! Sometimes you need life to be simple and devoid of drama, right? So I'm going to post another 6:30 PM recipe. You know, when you're back from the gym/work and every muscle in your body is in pain? Your stomach protests loudly, but the people around you are even more adamant that you take a bath, STAT.

You need a snack that resolves everything. Just so you don't Hyde into Hungry Bitch who snaps at everybody for mundane, trivial reasons. Somewhat like the PMS bitch. Another story, another day.

It's Oven-Roasted Chickpeas.

Yes, I know you can buy a packet-cone full of fire-roasted/fried salted grams for 5 bucks. While I have bought that to kill hunger/boredom during my hour long train journeys, these are just something else. They're nutty and juicy instead of being powdery. And they're spiced with the best of Indian/Italian seasoning and massaged with olive oil. I don't need any more reasons.

Oh. I also get to save these poor chickpeas from meeting their unpalatable end in my mum's "heartfriendly" chana masala. Everybody thanks me at home.

Due to the non-availability of garlic powder, I also toss in a roasted garlic with the chickpeas. You'd prefer fresh roasted garlic: it is divine. Only if you're a huge fan of garlic, though. Who isn't? If you know some weirdo who doesn't, add onion/garlic powder (Please don't, though).

Oven Roasted Chickpeas:


For the roasted garlic:

8 cloves of plump garlic (UNPEELED)
Salt and pepper, to sprinkle.
Olive oil-1 tsp.

For the chickpeas:

400 grams of cooked chickpeas. (1 can of Garbanzo beans)
1 tsp olive oil.
Indian OR Italian spice.

Indian spice:
1/2 tsp red chilli powder.
1/2 tsp roasted zeera powder (cumin)
1/4 tsp salt.
A pinch of chaat masala.

Italian spice:
1 tsp Dried Oregano/Italian seasoning mix.
1/2 tsp paprika/cayenne pepper.
1/4 tsp salt.


Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celcius or 400 degrees Farenheit. The oven setting should be on BAKE.

For the roasted garlic:

Cut a tiny portion of the ends of the cloves of the garlic.

Place the cloves close together on a square sheet of aluminium foil. Without peeling, sprinkle salt and pepper. Drizzle some olive oil. Crumple the garlic together into a foil ball. Keep aside.

Keep the skin on!

Drain the chickpeas well. Preferably use paper towels or tissues to rid the chickpea of any water.

Line a baking tray with Aluminium foil. Spread out the chickpeas on the foil.

The foil ball in the corner = the garlic parcel!

Toss them with the Olive oil and the Indian/Italian spice.

I used a mix of both because hypogylcemia makes me a little mad. Of the crazy variety, this time.

Place the little garlic parcel amongst your chickpeas. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the tray once.
Take the garlic parcel out. Now change the oven settings to either ROAST or BROIL or GRILL.

It depends on what make your oven is. If not continue on BAKE, but I'm not sure if it'll crisp up decently.

Take the tray out in 15 minutes. Take care to ensure it doesn't burn.

Spread this heavenly, buttery spread on toast instead of butter!

Peel the roasted garlic. Mash the softened cloves. Rub into the chickpeas.

Serve. Duh.

Recipe source: For the chickpeas: BeanTown Baker
                       For the roasted garlic: Joy The Baker.

It soothes your anger, kills pre-dinner pangs and you can peck away at it while watching TV or reading the papers. And not have chana masala for dinner; that's my biggest perk. You have to be there to get it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Neopolitan Layer Cake/Cassata cake/Sumi is Seven!

My little sister, Sumi, is turning out to be a handful. For her seventh birthday, she asked if she could choose her own cake. Thinking it'd be a batch of vanilla cupcakes or similar, I gamely agreed. Serves me right. She chose a cassata style cake, with layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry sponge sandwiched with strawberry jam and finished off with peaks of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Even typing it out tires me.

She wouldn't change her mind. She said please countless times. She promised to help. So I agreed. I'm such a softy (Kidding. Only endomorphishly soft, thanks to the cake batter I consumed).

I also ensured I took a billion photos, so I could remind her in the future. When I needed a favour. You know, like in The Godfather.

OK, I know I'm pushing it. The many, many hours it took to turn out this lopsided cake has obviously fried my brain a little bit. However, it was a labour of love, and Sumi loved it, so it was time well-spent.

This cake has both the devil and the angel in it. The strawberry layer tastes fantastic, the vanilla layer flopped like a terrible movie during the World Cup, and the chocolate was hovering the dangerous line between bittersweet and bitter (if I hadn't use a strong decoction, it'd have been fantastic). The vanilla cake, I tried to halve, but the yield of the batter wasn't enough to make a thin layer of cake. Plus it was crunchy and macaron-like; it added another dimension and sweetness to the cake, though, so don't skip it. Substitute with another sponge cake recipe if you find it too taxing.

Got the sister-in-law to separate the eggs for me!
  All these facts get blown away by the wonderment that is Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I've always been a little wary of it; I can't even separate egg whites and yolk. I don't even like Buttercream; I'm a ganache girl all the way.

But. Try whipping up a batch. It's difficult, what with the long, long duration of beating. It redeems any other disaster you've been responsible for. You can hoodwink people into think you're an awesome baker. And you have an excuse to make ice-cream; you don't want to waste the egg yolks now, do you?

And make sure there's something on TV. It gets boring when you have to wait for each layer to bake. I caught up on Idol.

A 2-hour episode. Fun!

I'll keep my jibber-jabber to a minimum in this post, because the recipe is longer than my notes on the various types of Gastrectomies.

Neopolitan Layer Cake:

For the strawberry Swiss Meringue buttercream:

1½ cups fresh strawberries, chopped.
4 large egg whites, cold.
1¼ cups sugar (granulated white is fine)
1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Pulse/Blitz all the strawberries until completely smooth.

Bring water to a boil in a small vessel. Over that, place a heatproof, larger vessel with the egg whites and sugar. Whisk with the fork until it looks like the sugar granules have melted into the egg whites.

Take the bowl off the double-boiler and beat with a hand-mixer on med-high (speed 4) until you have stiff Swiss Alps-style peaks. About 8-10 minutes, minimum, by which time the bowl would have cooled down.

If you have a stand-mixer/KitchenAid, good for you/I hate you! Don't even try this by hand, it's a lost cause.

Divide the butter into 6 portions and keep adding it to the egg mix, one portion at a time, while beating on medium (speed 3).

When the mix looks like this, stop. Add in the strawberry puree, beat until well-combined.

If your swiss meringue frosting looks like this, DO NOT PANIC.

It isn't curdled/split. The mechanics are weird, but it will come together as you keep beating it for 5 minutes more. I almost abandoned this frosting, but I'm glad I persevered.

Wrap the bowl with cling film and refrigerate until needed.

For the Cakes:

Chocolate cake:


¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar, powdered.
¼ cup vegetable oil.
1 large egg
½ cup black coffee
½ cup thin yogurt
1½ tsp. vanilla extract


Grease and flour a round pan (9"). Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.

In a bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.

In a big bowl, beat the egg, vegetable oil and sugar on medium high for 2 minutes until smooth. Fold in half the dry ingredients. Fold in the coffee, buttermilk and vanilla essence until just smooth. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, and flip out on a tray.

Strawberry Cake/The Ewart School Cake:


1¼ cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (maida)
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
50 g readymade Strawberry Jelly/Jello mix, uncooked.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
1½ tsp. vanilla essence
½ cup chopped strawberries.


Make a puree with the chopped strawberries and a couple of tablespoons of sugar.

Grease and flour a 9" round pan. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.

In a bigger bowl, beat the sugar, strawberry jelly mix and butter on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

I just emptied half the sachet of the Jelly powder into the batter.

All I could think of was my kick-ass school!
 Fold in half the dry ingredients. Fold in the milk and vanilla essence. Add the remaning dry ingredients, until just combined. Mix in the strawberry puree.

Pour the prepared batter and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes, flip out on a tray.

For the white cake:


2 large egg whites
1¾ cup all-purpose flour (maida)
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar, powdered.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla essence.


Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius. Grease and flour a 9" round pan.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside.

In another small bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand-mixer until stiff peaks form; keep aside.

In a big bowl, beat the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Fold in half the dry ingredients until just combined.

Beat in water and vanilla essence until just smooth.

Fold in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the stiff egg yolks until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes, flip out onto a tray.


Torte or divide the strawberry and chocolate cakes horizontally. This is easy to do when the cakes are completely cool; even easier if they've been refrigerated for a few hours.

Keep the white layer as a single entity.

The following order of layering is perfect if you're into visually appealing cakes.

Spread strawberry jam or a little of the swiss meringue buttercream over each layer and sandwich them all together.

Spread the whole cake with the frosting. Pipe a border or arrange some Maltesers/Strawberry Whoppers over the top.

Recipe Source: Annie's Eats.

That's the cross-section of the cake. The brat massacred it a little bit. Still did a better job at cutting out a wedge than I would have. Happy birthday, baby girl. You can choose your birthday cake next year, too. At French Loaf, maybe?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chicken And Broccoli Stirfry/All in a day's Wok.

If you knew what went into the woks at your favourite Chinese restaurants, you wouldn't ever eat a stirfry again: at least if you were the type to love your clothes/arteries. Appalling amounts of oil maketh a stirfry, I kid you not. Go check one of those How to videos at Videojug or e-How, if you don't believe me. So you resign yourself to ordering clear soup and dimsum (yum) at Mainland China. Maybe steamed rice and Jasmine tea. You're planning to fill your unhealthy quotient with darsaan (fried noodles soaked in honey) or date pancakes. Holy Yum.

Also, there's the minor problem of "Is there Shaoxing wine/sake/mirin in this?" when you're eating Asian food at posh restaurants.

And at the end of the meal, while chewing on your candied ginger, Incomplete!Incomplete!Incomplete! flashes in your head, as opposed to Mmm-mmm-mmm. You really did want a stirfry, oily or not. A good way to circumvent this would be to doctor up the recipe with healthier substitutes. Throw some veg in, some chicken, light soy, and you can have your stirfry and eat it too. I also associate stirfries with quick; no slaving over the stove for hours during a Madras Summer day for me.

I insist you try this recipe out. Don't expect it to taste anything like the Chilli beef from Pupil. But for a weekday dinner, this was pretty impressive. Even picky eaters loved it, and it's way healthier than taking out Chinese food from your nearest fast food restaurant. Orange gravies, egg fried rice and vegetable spring roll? Sounds familiar?

Chicken and Broccoli Stirfry.

Recipe Source: adapted from Betty Crocker, and Videojug for the Indian kitchen.


1/2 kg Chicken, boneless.
1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets.
5 tbsp light soy sauce.
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste.
3 tbsp white vinegar.
2 tsp brown sugar/honey.
1 tsp sesame seed oil.
1 tbsp green chilli sauce.
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips.
200 g button mushrooms, quartered.
2 carrots, sliced.
1 large onion, chopped.
1-1/2 cups chicken broth.
3 tsps cornflour/cornstarch.
1/3 cup roasted cashews.
Vegetable oil, for greasing.
Sesame seeds, for garnish.


1)Steam/boil the broccoli in salted water.

Sorry about the blurred photo! Just so you know
the approximate size of the chunks before steaming.
  2)In a medium sized bowl, mix together the soy sauce, ginger garlic paste, vinegar, honey, green chilli sauce and sesame seed oil.

I used a jar to shake it all up effectively.

Work with what you have. Red chilli sauce can be used if you don't have green chilli. Lesser amounts, if you're using dark soy. If  you have oyster/hoisin sauce, throw a bit of that in. No brown sugar? Honey or regular white sugar to the rescue. And sesame seed oil is just regular old Idhayam Nal Ennai that Jyothika used to endorse; you get it even in 2 rupee packs.

2)Cut the chicken into chunks. Marinate the pieces in the mix you just made. Keep in the refrigerator, covered, for at least four hours/overnight.

3)Take the chicken out. RESERVE THE MARINADE. Place a non-stick wok/vessel on medium-high. Use either a little oil or butter-flavoured cooking spray to grease it. Throw in the chicken, cook for a 3 or 4 minutes. When done, take it out and drain. Do be careful. Overcooking=stringy, rubbery meat. Undercooking=food poisoning.

4)Turn up the heat to high. In the same vessel, add your broccoli and carrots. Stirfry for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms, stirfry until cooked, 2 minutes or so. Add the onion and the red pepper strips, stirfry until pink. Add the rest of the marinade to this, and mix well with all the components. I didn't have any red pepper, so I had to do without it.

5)Add the chicken broth to the pan, reserving around 1/2 cup. I used a packet of Broccoli soup. This the reason why you really don't need salt in the recipe. The soy sauce, the broth, the cashews pack in all the sodium you need.

6)Let it cook for 3-4 minutes. Add in the chicken, toss the whole thing about, so the chicken takes up all if it. Cook for a couple of minutes.

7)Whisk the cornflour into the remaining broth. Add the mix to the pan, coating everything about. Cook until the sauce has thickened to your liking.

Taste it now. If you feel it needs salt or heat, feel free to add pepper/chilli sauce/salt.

8)Add the cashews, give it a final toss-about. I didn't have pre-roasted cashews, so I dry-roasted them with a pinch of salt. I also roasted the sesame seeds. Ensure that it doesn't burn! Take it off the heat.

Strew the sesame seeds on top. Serve piping hot with Chinese rice (which in my case was regular rice spiked with a few teaspoons of vinegar, a la sushi rice) or noodles.

Yes. Those are rotis. They are in no way Chinese, I agree. I had to placate Mum; she panicked a bit when she heard that "chicken gravy" and a scoop of rice was dinner. More than a bit. Turns out they're pretty darn good wrapped into a roti or big, crunchy lettuce leaves.

Finally. Fusion that is not "Gopi Manjurian". 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Falooda/Summer's here...

Dessert (noun), a bomb of calorific explosion that has either chocolate, coffee or caramel. Or all of those heavenly things. Preferably all.  Oh. Add peanut butter to the list.

If I'm in charge of dessert duty, I'd make Molten Lava Cakes. With a macerated-strawberry-cream on the side. Not Falooda. Not a glass layered with fruit, jelly, crushed almonds and pistachios, swimming in rose milk, topped with ice cream and some more Rooh Afza (rose syrup).

My parents, however, are the type who order Kesar Pista/Fig and Honey/Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. Over Death by Chocolate or Malted Coffee Caramel ice cream. Needless to say, Falooda is one of their favourite Ramadan foods; right up their with kanji from the masjid, Haleem from Triplicane and samosas from Buhari. So they're somewhat experts at it, and according to them, here's the downlow on the places you should go to and avoid for good falooda.

Top Two:

1)National Durbar, close to Park station-> in addition to their paya, they make a mean falooda, with mango ice cream. Very inexpensive and has no exotic fruit in it. Ergo, very good.

2)Fruit Shop on Greams Road: Not all the Fruit Shops outlets make Falooda. The one on Greams Road makes a fulfilling falooda, with all the components, for Rs. 75. Gets an A from me. It's difficult to finish the whole thing though, so partner up.


1)SeaShell Cafeteria's falooda: It isn't bad. Just that wilted fruit in milk, I don't want to pay 100 bucks for. I saw the name Arabian Falooda, and I immediately ordered it. Guess I set myself for a fall. The neon green jelly (jell-o), the lack of nuts... um. No. Order something else.

2)36 degrees: Again, it isn't authentic enough for me. It's probably because I didn't order the right seasonal falooda. You can give this place a shot, and maybe you'll order something that'll wow you. They do have a long list of other faloodas and it is their speciality, their thing.

And if you'd like to make this at home, good on you. It's pretty easy, doesn't require any heavy machinery and takes care of all the fruit in the crisper! Somebody gave us Motha Falooda Mix from Sri Lanka, so it didn't take much work, but it's easy enough to whip up all the individual components at home. It is now available at most grocers', so invest in it and make your life easier. And for your own sake, avoid the cheaper brands, because it's a waste of your other expensive ingredients. Might as well make a mocktail out of your cough syrup of choice and Milk.

If you want to do it by yourself, the old-fashioned way, make sure you're in an old-fashioned Indian kitchen that has things like Rooh Afza and sago seeds.


Recipe Source: BV(the sister-in-law)


1 litre whole milk.
4 tbsps Rooh Hafza syrup.
1/4 cup vermicelli, roasted.
1/4 cup sago.
3 tbsps basil seeds (sabja seeds)
1/4 cup crushed almonds.
1/4 cup crushed, unsalted pistachios.
3 cups chopped fruit.
500 ml ice cream (either strawberry, vanilla, mango or butterscotch)
Strawberry Jell-O/Jelly->1 standard pack.


1)Soak the basil seeds in water, and keep aside. The water should flood the seeds, and be one inch above the seed level.

This is really easy to get. Zamza vera in tamil, tukmaria, sabja seeds in Hindi. It'll soak up any amount of water and look like tiny passion fruit bits.

Boil sago with enough water (again 1 inch above the sago level). Keep aside.

Roast the vermicelli in a dry pan for a couple of minutes. Pour in water. Boil until it's cooked enough to squish with a fork. Drain the excess water.

You know how boiled vermicelli and sago would look, so I'm skipping
the photos!

2)Mix the milk with spoonfuls of Rooh Hafza until it reaches this colour. Or taste it, and see if it's sweet enough for you.

I can tell you how much, but my judgement after hours of fasting will obviously be skewed. And one man's sweet is another man's bland.

3)Add into the milk, the sago seeds, vermicelli and the basil seeds (which should now be all fluffy.)

4)Chop the fruit into tiny dice. Use a mix of crunchy, acidic and soft fruit. I use apples, bananas, strawberries, pineapples and grapes. Avoid fruit like chikoo/sapota, which tend to give off water and turn bitter/grainy.

How I wish I had mangoes to throw into the mix. Two more months. Just two more months.

5)Layer the glass with enough fruit. Pour in the milk mix, until it covers all of the fruit, and then a couple of inches more.

6)Prepare the Jelly/Jell-O according to packet instructions. Chop it up, and add a layer of it.

7)Scoop out the ice cream and top all the glasses with it.

If you can get your hands on Natural ice cream, yay! If not, Kwality Walls is doing a buy-one-get-one-free thing currently.  Butterscotch also has little praline bits in it, so there'll be some crunch to the falooda. Do not buy commercial mango ice cream; again, it tastes more like a pharmaceutical product.

8)Top with nuts, and a drizzling of Rooh Afza.

And the proper way to eat it would be to get a bit of everything.

And you could probably make a moderately healthy version of this (and I'm sure it'll be passable). Or scroll back to the beginning of the post and refer to the meaning of Dessert.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Minestrone/An Italian Wedding Soup for the Confused Kitchen.

Remember when I was rambling about hummus? How it's nearly impossible to buy some honest-to-God hummus, and you couldn't really make the real thing at home, due to lack of ingredients and food mills? I have the same problem with a good Minestrone soup. The restaurants that fall into my budget make disappointing, watery minestrone. And it's difficult to make at home, due to non-availability of good quality Parmesan, canned tomatoes/cannelloni beans.

And just like with the hummus, I worked on making a passably decent minestrone with locally procured produce and some imported ingredients. I have to tell you, I'm feeling pretty pleased with the results.

To make the perfect minestrone, you need to go to the market. So what if you can't locate canned green beans or frozen peas? We've got fresh ones all year round. Don't let this deter you from cooking up a foreign storm.

The little beige square is the rind of the parmesan cheese! And yes, I
used way more veg than there is in the photo!

I bought some zucchini (actual, misshapen zucchini, which didn't look like plastic toys), button mushrooms, celery (again, it didn't have nice ribs/stalks like their foreign counterparts, but made up for it by giving out the most divine smell) and a host of indigenous veggies. Next, I scoured the Internet for recipes (mostly from Allrecipes and The Pioneer Woman.) Turned to Nita Mehta's Italian Cooking for the Indian Kitchen. Searched for substitutes for a can of cannelloni beans and a can of stewed tomatoes. Dug through the deep freezer to check if we had Parmesan or at least the rind.

Time to get the soup pot out!

This recipe feeds at least six hungry people. It isn't a set recipe (like with baking), because all our palates are so subjective, so keep spoons ready to taste as you go along. And do your family a massive favour and don't double-dip! Don't listen to your mum if she says things like she gave birth to you, and so it makes it OK. It doesn't.

Take a look at the photos before you get a start on this soup; this is so you know the size/cut of the veg and pasta. Try playing with the  ingredients as you deem fit (potatoes in place of the zucchini, cabbages for a crunch, broccoli and cauliflower, more mushrooms and such similar substitutes). Cut the vegetables into equal-sized bits, so they cook evenly.

Roasted Vegetables Minestrone Soup:


2 zucchini, cut into cubes.
250 g button mushrooms, quartered.
1 tbsp olive oil.
1 tsp butter.
2 long carrots, peeled and sliced.
1 whole red onion, diced.
5 cloves of garlic, diced.
3 stalks celery, diced.
2 bay leaves (ramba/biryani leaf)
1 litre chicken/vegetable broth (I dissolved 2 Maggi soup cubes in a litre of water.)
300 g cooked chickpeans (or open a can of canellini/garbanzo/red kidney beans)
1/2 cup of fresh green beans, cut into 3 cm segments.
1/2 cup of uncooked, shelled peas.
3/4 cup uncooked small pasta (I used elbow macaroni).
300 g fresh tomatoes.
4 tbsp tomato paste/ketchup.
2 tsp dried thyme/basil.
Salt and pepper, to taste (Sea salt/Freshly cracked pepper, if you have it).
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling.


1)Preheat oven to 250 degrees Celsius.

Spread aluminium foil over a baking tray. Toss the zucchini and mushroom with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Arrange it on the tray, and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, until slightly charred.

2) In a big soup pot, melt the butter, with a few drops of olive oil over medium heat.

 I know that looks like a lot of butter. But it's just one teaspoon, honest. You can omit it altogether, and use just olive oil.

3)Throw in the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and keep swishing them about for roughly 3 minutes.

4)Add the chicken broth to the pan. Set the heat on high and bring to a furious boil.


If you can make fresh vegetable broth or stew chicken in water with carrots and onions for hours together, good for you. However, to make life a whole lot easier, buy concentrated liquid stock or chicken bouillon cubes. 2 cubes from Maggi (Indian) costs 17 bucks, and is halal, so whew. However, you can also buy Cream of Mushroom/Cream of Broccoli/Cream of Chicken and the like and make it according to packet instructions and use that!

Double, double, Toil and trouble.

5)Reduce the heat to SIM, and let it SIMmer for ten minutes or so. At this point, if you have the ends of the Parmesan cheese (the rind, some people call it), throw it into the pot. You can remove this and the bay leaves at the end of it all.

6)Add the chickpeas/cannelloni beans, peas and the green beans. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.

7)Throw in the pasta and let it cook for 5 minutes.
Yes, I stole Zaad's bowl. He steals mine all the time. Evidence at the end
of the post.

You can salvage all your expensive, imported fusillis and fettuccine. Bambino macaroni is posh enough for this rustic soup.

8)As the pasta cooks, prep your tomatoes. Make X's (criss-cross/cruciate incisions) at the bottom of the tomatoes. Put them all in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on low for 3-4 minutes. Mash it into a pulp.

Choose acidic, ripe tomatoes!

11)Add the prepared tomatoes. If you have tomato paste-not puree-paste (or ready made pasta sauce), use that. If not, Maggi's Rich Tomato Ketchup will have to do. Cook on low for 5 minutes, at the end of which, you should taste the soup; add in the salt, pepper and herbs.

Since stocks have a lot of salt in them already, pay heed to your taste buds. Listen to them (in a totally non-schizophrenic way).

10)Add the roasted zucchini and mushroom and let it simmer for a last few minutes. If it's too thick, add some more stock/broth. Discard the bay leaves and Parmesan rind.

9)Serve hot-hot-hot with a few shavings of Parmesan. You can use cheddar if you like. Or skip the cheese in the soup, and serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Gather the taste-testers and ask them for their opinion. My one-and-a-half year old nephew (whose fastidiousness they attribute to me), finished his(my) glass bowl full of soup. Told you he was picky.

I drank/ate my soup with a slice of crusty bread (which would be awesome, toasted with garlic-infused olive oil.)

The mug is a just a teaser cup (even coffee in the cup is pointless). I had a little more than that. Relatively little, considering the sheer proportions of the soup, at least.