Tuesday, January 31, 2012

an international comfort food fusion (try saying that three times fast!)

I'm excited to introduce you to another fellow blogger who has graciously offered to share THREE recipes with you!  Ruth is the voice behind Red Recipes, a blog she started to keep in touch with family and friends and organize her favorite recipes.  She's lived all over the world...literally!  She started in Springfield, Missouri, but her list of former homes includes West Virginia, Mexico, Shanghai, and now lives and works in Katmandu as an anthropology teacher at an international school!  

She told me, "I find there is nothing more comforting than to spend the afternoon cooking with a loved one and spend the evening eating and drinking our creations. In addition, because I've lived so many places and visited so many others, I find that there are foods which can be made everywhere or which can be incorporated into any dish. Adding a dash of the "other" or changing an old favourite recipe to fit with my current location has always been a puzzle which excites me and results in lovely creations."  

I'm excited to try out the dishes Ruth showcases below and to learn so much more about a fellow blogger.  Hope you enjoy what she has to offer - be sure to go check out her blog!

My name is Ruth Herrin and I’m a cooking addict.

It all started in high school … while attending the Academy (a boarding school of types), the kitchen was my hideout from the stresses of academic and social life. In the kitchen, my friends and I could experiment with foods, trade recipes and ideas (both philosophical and mundane) and – one way or another – attempt to transcend the boundaries of our dormitory.

As I have grown older, my interest in food has only developed. No matter where I have lived, food is the substance that ties people together, that connects them on both a material and an intellectual level. Everywhere I’ve traveled, there’s food. Everywhere I’ve traveled, people sit down to meals with their loved ones and smile. And everywhere I’ve traveled, I’ve been able to experience (if only for a bit) a community surrounding food.

I live and work with my partner, Shane, in Kathmandu and about once a week we start itching for food that reminds us of home, something hearty and warm (winters are frigid here) but also something that combines elements of the country that we live in with those of our southern American roots. That’s all part of our day-to-day life: how can we integrate aspects of our own backgrounds with those of our current environment? How can we bring out the best of these two cultures? As international school teachers, this is an idea that plagues us in the classroom and as hungry cooks, it is an idea that waddles around our brains come supper time.

 Mom’s Potato Soup with homemade chapati and tumeric saag

I introduce to you this week’s comfort-food fusion: Mom’s Potato Soup with chapati (a Nepali tortilla-like bread) and turmeric saag (spinach). Warming to your insides and good for your waist-line, we gobbled up this well-rounded meal and even had enough for leftovers. I’ll give you each recipe independent of the others so you can make them alone or in conjunction!

I hope you guys enjoy this simple, healthy meal. A big thank you to Kristin for inviting me to guest-blog for her fantastic site! Thanks so much and be sure to come visit me at Red Recipes.

Mom’s Potato Soup

Makes around 4-5 entrée servings
4 TB butter
2 TB flour (I use wheat flour but any kind of white flour will work)
½ C onions, finely diced or substitute for the same amount of minced scallions
2 C milk
4 C potatoes, diced (peel them if you would like – I prefer to leave the skins on because they bring more fibre to the dish and give a neat consistency to the final soup)
3 C vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
½ C cream
a handful of fresh parsley (not pictured above)

1. Make a roux: Melt the butter in a large soup kettle then add in the flour.

2. Once the flour is well-incorporated with the butter and is beginning to brown, go ahead and add in the onions. Sautee them a bit in the roux, about 3-5 minutes, or until they begin to cook and become translucent.

3. Carefully add in the milk, potatoes, stock and salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then let gently simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

4. After the potatoes are cooked through, remove the soup from heat and let cool.


5. By this time, your mixture should look like the picture above and we need to make this a smooth soup, so it’s time to puree! If you’re like me and your food processor doesn’t usually work (or there’s load shedding and you find yourself sans power) you can mash the stew by hand. I prefer just mashing the potatoes because it leaves bits of whole potatoes in the soup! Yummy! If you do end up using the food processor to pulverize the soup, be careful – let the liquid cool down and don’t fill the container to the top … you don’t want to burn yourself.

 I transferred the soup to a plastic container to better smash the ingredients and to save my non-stick pot … when I visit my mother this summer, I’m definitely picking up a potato masher.

6. We’re almost done! Now stir in the cream (or leave it out if you want a less-creamy and healthier version) and parsley, reheat the soup and serve piping hot alone or with the other yummy sides.

Inside a traditional Gurung home – that’s me being handed this delicious saag dish and that’s the woman who taught me how to make it.

Tumeric Saag

I learned how to make this traditional Nepali dish while doing an anthropological site visit at Sikles, Nepal – in the Annapurna Range. My group and I did a homestay with one of the local Gurung women and we became very intimate with their cooking processes. The Sikles community uses wood-fire hearths because propane and other methods are not readily available. I think the most surprising encounter of the whole week was on our second night when our host was making us dinner over the wood-fire and talking on her cell phone to her next door neighbour: globalisation does odd things. :)

Makes enough for 2 servings; can be served either as a side dish or the main attraction
3 TB oil
2 small onions, finely diced
2 tsps tumeric
1 tsp red pepper flakes (add more if you like spiciness, I tossed in enough to add a nice kick in the mouth … about 3 tsp or more)
salt, to taste
4 bunches of fresh spinach, cleaned and de-stemmed/de-ribbed

 Step one!
1. In a small saucepan, add oil and let it heat up over medium heat. Toss in one piece of onion and when it crackles in the oil, add in the rest. Sautee for about 7 minutes or until the onions are well carmelised but before they begin to burn (see image above).

2. Add in tumeric, red pepper and a dash of salt. Mix well with the onions and let fry for about a minute. Don’t let these burn so keep your eye on them.

3. Now add in the spinach. Toss to coat and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let steam for about 1 minute or more, if needed. Uncover, continue to toss the spinach in order to thoroughly coat it in the onion mixture.

4. Once the spinach has cooked down, serve it! Enjoy it hot and steamy with the potato soup recipe above or over a bunch of rice. There are so many ways to enjoy this lovely dish.


Chapati, as mentioned above, is a traditional Nepali bread that is reminiscent of wheat tortillas. I made a huge batch of the dough earlier (before learning that I could guest blog) and so I simply needed to fry them up as the Tumeric Saag was finishing. For an excellent, step-by-step tutorial on how to make chapatti, I suggest you visit my recent blog post, Red Recipes’ Chapati, or’s excellent step-by-step tutorial, How to Make Chapati.

Cheers and enjoy eating!

1 comment:

  1. Yummy, I am craving to have it as it is mouth watering. Seems like my wife have to spend some time in the kitchen. Thank you for sharing it


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