FOOD: Fall is a fabulous time to serve up some Indian comfort food

Published: October 18, 2012

Bal Arneson’s Yam Soup. Submitted photo


I love fall. As I see the leaves turning yellow, red and golden brown, I turn to warm comfort food. These recipes are on my menu in the fall because they are quick, flavourful and filled with warm spices.

My daughter Anoop asks me to make recipes that contain yams, her favourite root vegetable. I dedicate today’s Yam Soup recipe to Anoop, who inspires me to push my boundaries and continue creating deliciously healthy family recipes.

Punjabi Chicken

Serves 4

A nice chicken curry is the best way to enjoy the warm comforting flavours of spices during fall. Punjabi chicken was cooked for weddings when I grew up in India. The hired chefs would dig a giant pit in the backyard of the wedding home and put a large copper pot on the wood-burning pit and cook this curry. The streets of the wedding home would get filled with the aromas of the flavourful spices. This is my version of the village recipe.2 tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped garlic

2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped ginger

1 tbsp (15 mL) cumin seeds

1 tbsp (15 mL) coriander seeds

¼ cup (60 mL) dried fenugreek leaves

1 tsp (5 mL) mustard seeds

10 to 15 curry leaves

1 tbsp (15 mL) garam masala

1 green chili finely chopped

1 tsp (5 mL) Spanish paprika

1 tsp (5 mL) turmeric

1 lb (450g) chicken, bone in thighs and legs

2 cups (475 mL) chopped tomatoes

2 cups (475 mL) finely chopped potatoes

¼ cup (60 mL) loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro

3 cups (700 mL) water

Salt to tasteCombine the oil, onion, garlic, and ginger in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander seeds, fenugreek leaves, mustard seeds, curry leaves, garam masala, chili, paprika, turmeric, and salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes, turning the chicken frequently. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, cilantro and water; mix everything well and bring the dish to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, put a lid on the pot and cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice or plain rotis.

Yam Soup

Serves 4

This recipe is so quick to make and the nutty, citrusy flavour of coriander seeds complements the sweet flavour of yams. Sometimes I don’t even add salt to it.1 lb (450 g) yams, peeled and cubed

3 cups (700 mL) water

2 tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil

1 tbsp (15 mL) garlic chopped

1 tbsp (15 mL) ginger chopped

1 tbsp (15 mL) coriander seeds, crushed

Salt to tasteCook the yams in water over medium heat until tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer to a blender and process until creamy.

Place oil, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds and salt in a skillet and cook for 1 minute on a medium high heat.

Serve soup into four small soup bowls. Place the spice mixture in the middle of each soup. Enjoy!

Quick Kidney Bean Stew

Serves 4

I have two versions of this recipe. One version uses dry kidney beans that cook in the crockpot for hours with the spices. However, canned kidney beans make it easier to get this dish on the dinner table in less than 20 minutes. Thanks to the amazing spices, this quicker version of the recipe is just as flavourful as the crockpot version.

3 tbsp (45 mL) grapeseed oil

1 medium onion-chopped

2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped ginger

2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped garlic

1 tbsp (15 mL) garam masala

8 to 10 curry leaves

1 tsp (5 mL) mustard seeds

1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano

1 tsp (5 mL) rosemary, dried or fresh

1 medium tomato, chopped

2 cups (475 mL) cubed potatoes

1 ½ cup (350 mL) water

1 14 oz can kidney beans, drained

1 small can of corn, drained

2 cups (475 mL) cubed oranges

2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped mint

Salt and pepper to tastePlace the oil, onion, ginger and garlic in a pot over medium-high heat and cook for 2 minutes. Add garam masala, curry leaves, mustard seeds, oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, and water; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 7 to 9 minutes. Add the kidney beans, corn and oranges and cook for one minute. Turn the heat off, sprinkle mint and cover with a lid for 10 minutes.

Bal Arneson is a TV host, author and columnist. She can be reached at

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