A savoury, simple chicken soup, with one-minute dumplings.
A bit dramatic, my doctor.
Anyway. I've been quite clear on the point that I cannot give up rice and potatoes entirely. It's impossible to live in an average middle-class Bengali household -- especially in these white-hot produce-price times -- and forswear our favourite carbs. There's a reason one seldom sees a fed-and-clothed Bengali -- especially one brought up in the old homelands -- without a slight paunch. We're a curvy, soft-bodied people. Mostly. The subtraction of rice from our diets is absolutely brutal. And not just any rice. The absence of my beloved 'sheddho chaal' and gobindobhog/kaljeera rice plunged my first few months abroad into a deep funk. For proof that hunger is at least as much psychological as it is physiological, look no further.
Or perhaps I just love my food too much.
Which brings us back to tragedy that is my current cuisine-controlled life. I've decided to concede to the worry-lines on my family's brow, and go every now and then without rice and potatoes. And too much oil in my food. And sugar. And cream. And butter. And so on. And so forth. Hence, and as a tip of the hat to the monsoons, which have just floated in, I present: A deliciously savoury chicken dumpling soup! With Indian spices! Yum yum yum!
NOTE: The cooking was done in the middle of the afternoon, when the sun came out in all its blazing glory for half an hour. Please excuse the ridiculous colours.
Chicken-on-bone, breasts and legs. Rubbed with turmeric, salt, a little red chilli powder, and the juice of two lemons.
Mix them all up, especially the lemon juice. Make sure it goes everywhere. Leave the lot for twenty minutes (longer, if you can. About an hour).
For a crispy effect, sprinkle flour/constarch over the chicken (I use atta) and rub in over the surface of the chicken. If the juices that will have collected around the chicken made it lumpy, sprinkle some more atta. Undaunted!
Fry it. Deep fry, I'd say. Wait till the oil bubbles, drop it in, flip a couple of times, lift it out. It soaks a lot less oil that way. See how little oil has accumulated on the dish from deep-frying three chicken pieces.
Now you're back in word-land.
If you have veggies at hand, dice them, saute lightly in the same oil you fried the chicken in, and drain them. Now, add half a tablespoon of the same oil -- if you have any left over -- to a pot, preferably a pressure cooker. If you haven't any leftover oil, fresh is fine too.
Add minced garlic and ginger. When they're all nice and fried and aromatic, add chopped onions (and green chilies, if you like 'em). Saute away. When the onions turn translucent, add half a tomato, diced. The tomato should add to the flavour of the soup, but you shouldn't be able to taste it independently. When the tomatoes are well-mixed and completely disintegrated, add a level teaspoon of cumin and coriander powder. Fold in. Let it cook on a low flame, with occasional stirs, till the scant oil you used bubbles to the surface.
Add the fried chicken (and the vegetables). Stir for a minute, coat well with the spices, then pour either chicken stock, or water. Now cover, and let cook. When the meat and vegetables are tender, you can either leave the meat on the bone, or pick the meat apart, add them back to the pot, and chuck the bones.
While the soup's still cooking, make your dumpling batter: take semolina (shooji) and whole wheat flour (atta) in 2:1 ratio. Now, here's the flavour trick. Instead of adding water, add enough soup from the pot -- plus a little salt -- to make it into a thick, semi-solid paste. This batter goes into the happily bubbling soup, about half a teaspoon at a time, and you will see a purrrfect dumpling blossoming from the lumpy dough, right in front of your own eyes.
When all your dumplings are gently bobbing in the soup, simmer. Let the soup just gently cook for a few minutes, letting the dumplings soak up the flavour, and give your soup body. Then, dish them into individual bowls, squeeze the juice of a quarter lemon into each, and serve piping hot! You don't even need bread with this. It. is. perfect!
For all rain-drenched souls. Happy, happy eating.