Gourmet Files Vasundhara Chauhan

Cold comfort

Cucumber soup: a cold soup that is not just assembled after the ingredients have been cut and chopped. Photo:K. Ananthan  

My car is parked in the sun and I could run out and place a couple of slices of bread on the bonnet and, while they get toasted and crisp, I could break an egg on the bonnet to fry it. I can anticipate the sound of sizzling and the browned frilly edges of the white. I just have to remember to carry salt and pepper, and wear a sombrero, but that’s a small price to pay for avoiding my kitchen.

Every year the same annoyance, the same tedium, the same weight of heat on one’s shoulders and trickling down one’s back: what to cook, how to stay cool, how to eat the same old ingredients in an appetisingly fresh way. The main aim is always to minimise time in front of the burners — prep and washing up are unavoidable but less torturous with at least a fan on in the kitchen.

So dishes that demand less cooking and are more than mere salads are the order of the day. The last of the strawberries are around, but peaches and mangoes can substitute in a chilled bubbly drink.

A salad of green beans with yoghurt dressing is cold and crisp and the yoghurt dressing has the redeeming piquancy of mustard and paprika. And a cold soup that is not even cooked; just assembled after the ingredients have been cut and chopped. As a sop to the carnivores, one can make a quiche that can be eaten cold and for which one needs to sweat in front of the stove for less than 10 minutes.

Quiche, from the German Küchen, meaning cake, is basically an open tart filled with a mixture of beaten eggs, cream and bacon. Quiche Lorraine traditionally had a crust of bread dough but now short crust or puff pastry is used. But making short-crust pastry in the heat is a problem because butter melts when being incorporated in the flour and, instead of staying cold and separate, mixes with the flour and renders the crust tough. The solution, then, is to make a quiche without a crust.


Serves 6

500g green beans (French or butter beans)

1 egg yolk (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp paprika

3/4 cup firm yoghurt

1 tbsp lemon juice

Top and tail beans; cut into 2-inch pieces. Blanch for 20 seconds. Refresh in cold running water. Drain and refrigerate until cold. Meanwhile, make dressing in small bowl: with a fork, beat together egg yolk, salt, mustard, and paprika until fluffy. Gradually beat in yoghurt and lemon juice. Refrigerate. To serve, spoon dressing over chilled beans.


Serves 2

1 hard-boiled egg yolk

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 cup chilled sour cream

500 g cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, washed and dried

1/2 cup chilled yoghurt

In a bowl, mash together yolk and vinegar with a fork to form a smooth paste. Stir in sour cream until smooth. In a blender purée cucumber and mint with yoghurt and salt until smooth. Pour purée into sour cream mixture in a steady stream, whisking all the while. Add water if necessary. Chill and serve.


Serves 2

200g strawberries

Sugar syrup

1 tsp lemon juice

500 ml club soda

Wash and hull strawberries. Chop roughly and place in blender. Add sugar syrup and lemon juice and purée until smooth. Pour in club soda and pulse briefly, just to combine. Serve over ice in a tall glass.

The strawberry purée (without the soda) can be frozen in an ice tray. When it freezes, take out ‘ice cubes’ and store in a plastic bag in the freezer for up to a few weeks.


Serves 3-4

11/2 tbsp fine dry plain bread crumbs

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup diced cooked ham

1 tbsp butter

2 cups grated Swiss cheese (or processed Cheddar)

5 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk


Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C) with rack in middle. Butter 10-inch quiche dish or glass pie plate, then sprinkle all over with bread crumbs. Cook onions with ham in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about five minutes. Spread in dish, then evenly sprinkle cheese on top. Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, and pepper and pour over cheese. Bake until top is golden and custard is set in centre, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting into wedges.


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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 4:22:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Vasundhara_Chauhan/vasundhara-chauhan-on-recipies-for-the-summer/article7360729.ece

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