Mar 29, 2010

Basundi with Paneer

Basundi - as per Wiki - "It is a sweetened dense milk made by boiling milk on low heat until the milk is reduced by half."

Yes True. But they left out many more adjectives like "Its a delicious rich Indian dessert. Creamy, Nutty..and full of goodness". "Heavenly, heart warming, food for your soul..."And much more. 

The inspiration behind this post is Madhuram's Easy Basundi. She's got an excellent site with great recipes and this is one of those wonderful things she cooked up for us! Thank You Madhuram for the paneer basundi idea! I changed the recipe a little bit. Used the evaporated milk but left out the condensed milk and used just sugar. It did turn out great. I will be making it again - but will make sure there are no left overs - so I don't sit around and eat it forever - all this richness is good only for the soul, not the body!!

Grate Paneer in a food processor or by hand. Make sure that there are no really long pieces of the paneer. It will also probably help if a little of the paneer is almost powdered finely.

In a wide pan, add 1 cup of regular milk. You could use a non stick if you have one. Helps with the milk not sticking - I have mine but was cooking for a party and something else was basking inside that!

Basundi tastes best with milk that has a high level of milk fat. But, you know how that settles in well..hips and other places! So, I just went with 1% milk. (And made up for it with the evaporated milk! Set your pan in low - medium heat for the entire process.

To the one cup of milk in the pan, add 2 cans of evaporated milk. If you don't get evaporated milk, add another 2-3 cups of regular milk. You'll just cook it for a longer time - but that's what a basundi is all about!

When the milk gets a little hot, add the grated paneer in here. Mix well.

Now, add about 2 1/2 cups of sugar for the whole thing. You could add 2 first and if that is now sweet enough, add a couple of more tbsp's or another 1/2 cup. Upto you and how hungry your sweet tooth is feeling that day!

Cook this for about 45 mins on a low flame. You will see the milk cream forming on top - keep mixing it in and the milk will thicken up well and become very creamy! The paneer adds a ton of texture and flavor to the basundi. When you bite into it, it feels like you're biting into thick cream ..I can't really tell you how that feels - you just have to experience it. So, make it soon.

When the basundi is almost done, add some fresh bits of saffron or a saffron paste like I have. If you're adding fresh bits, make sure your soak them first in a tsp of this warm milk so the color comes out evenly and then mix it with the rest of the basundi.

While that is so happening...roast some chopped nuts in a pan. I caramelize them...I like that word..caramelize..very heartwarming..or exotic.

I added 1 tsp of sugar to the nuts and while they are heating up, the sugar melts and "caramelizes" the nuts. I'm sure my nuts love them too just like me!

My basundi here is almost done. Ready to be moved out of the pan.

Move to a serving dish and cool it well. Once its cooled down a bit and after you've garnished, move this to the refrigerator and chill for a few hours. You can also freeze this and serve like ice cream. No one says basundi icecream is not a good idea. Its actually a great I have to make another batch to freeze. time I have skinny guests I'll do that!

Garnish with the gorgeous nuts. 

All this delicious Basundi. Eat and sign up to run for a marathon.

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Mar 25, 2010

Paneer and Vegetable Puff Pastry

A simple appetizer for a nice dinner party. Puff Pastries are made with a lot of different fillings. This happens to be one of my favorite fillings. This can be made mild or spicy as needed.

I also used ready made pastry sheets for this. One day, when I learn how to make these pastry sheets from scratch - I'll blog about it then. Pinkie Promise. Until then, my freezer will carry these famous pastry sheets. 

This same filling can be used to make samosas or spring rolls - works as a great stuffing for anything - maybe even turkey! LOL - please don't try that. I'm not responsible if you do. Really.

You could add/delete any veggies from here. I used -

Onions - 1 medium
Green bell peppers - 1 medium
Carrots - 2
Green peas - about 1/2 cup
Green beans  - about 1 cup chopped
Potato - 1 medium russet washed, peeled and chopped
Ginger - 1 inch piece chopped finely
Garlic - about 2-3 cloves - peeled and chopped
Green Chilli - 2-3 or more if you want it spicy!

and finally

Paneer - cut into small cubes - about 1 whole cup.

In a pan, add 1 tsp of oil. Add chopped GGG (Ginger, Green chilli and Garlic). Saute for a min and then toss in the cut onions. Fry till they turn pink.

Throw in the chopped green bell pepper.  Saute for a min.

Throw in the rest of the veggies and the cut paneer.

Add spices at this point. Add salt to taste. Add a pinch of turmeric. I added 1 tsp of garam masala and 1 tsp of Pav bhaji masala - you be as creative as you can and spice this thing up the way you love it.

Cook for a few minutes until all the veggies and paneer have absorbed the flavors of the masala and the veggies turn a little soft. How do you know they absorbed the masala - just ask them. Don't you talk to your food?

Oh yeah..I forgot to mention. Thaw the pastry sheets - you can keep them out of the freezer when you start chopping your vegetables. And keep them covered with a kitchen cloth so they don't dry up.

When they are thawed and soft and pliable, arrange them on a baking tray. Moisten the edges with water. You could be all fancy and use a silicone pastry brush for that or like me, depend on your forefinger to get the job done. Works better than the fancy silicone pastry brush.

Fill it up good - don't skimp on the filling. Because when the puffs bake, there should be enough stuff inside. Just like your mom taught you - Its not enough if you are beautiful outside, you really should have stuff inside. See what I mean? ( And no, she was not talking about me. It was a general statement)

Seal the edges tight. Move the baking tray to a pre heated oven at 375F. Bake until golden brown.

And its Golden Brown now. I cut each puff into 2 pieces for serving as these do tend to be big. Serve hot with either ketchup, or Hot n sweet, or Green and red chaat chutnies.

Did I tell you they were buttery flaky and delicious? Do you want to come to my party?

 Enjoy! Peace Out!

Send me some sunshine..

I would like to thank Madhuri, Suma and Sathya for passing me on this wonderful award. Thank you for your love and encouragement. These awards are always satisfying. And makes my day!

This one brings a lot of fresh and vibrant Sunshine to me! 

Passing on some sunshine to other wonderful food bloggers - keep serving up wonders!

Mar 22, 2010

Vegetable Soup - Made with 10 kinds of veggies!!

My friend Sandhya had this request on the blog's facebook page - "hey need help... i need to make vegetable soup with no veggies visible. if i grind the veggies it tastes yuck what do i do?"

I promised her I'll make it soon and blog about it. So, here it is Sandy - hope this helps. Do try it and I hope little Sanjay will like his soup!

Before I go on to the recipe, I just wanted to quickly bring up something. I watched this program  - Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on TV last night and I'm totally stumped by what I saw. The program talks about eating habits in America - and the focus is on Huntington, West Virginia. This town is the most unhealthiest town in America - and when you watch it, you know why. Kids in school are fed pizza for breakfast! Yeah..You heard it right. Pizza for breakfast and mashed potatoes made out of completely processed potato pearls! There is no fresh food served at school and they pride themselves in having a system that works and follows regulations!

I think every parent with kids in American schools should watch this program and make sure they talk to their school cafeterias about what is served. I also think that you should watch this with your kids so they understand what's good and what's bad. Kids are our future and we better teach them to respect their own bodies. Please check this link for the video - you might be able to view the video for a week or so. Catch the series on ABC if possible. Go Jamie Oliver for starting this wonderful revolution!

Now, moving on to the recipe. This is a simple and wonderful soup with 10 different kinds of veggies.  You could add more veggies if you like too. The more the better!

Here I have all of my veggies. Clockwise starting from bottom left - Tomato, Green Beans, Fresh Spinach, Carrots, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Green Bell Pepper, Onions and Beetroots and Green Peas in the center.

Chop all the veggies roughly. Cut a couple of small beetroots and wash multiple times in water - this helps dilute some of the color. Do not add too much beetroot or the soup will be purple. If you're in the US, using canned stewed tomatoes will give a wonderful color to the soup - but this is not available everywhere in India. So, I wanted to just go with the fresh tomatoes. But, fresh tomatoes with so many other veggies will not give a good red color - hence the beets to add in some color to the soup. And if the soup is red, its easier to pass it on as tomato soup to the kids! They don't have to know about the other 9 veggies!

In a pressure cooker, add about 1 tbsp of oil. When the oil it hot, add 1 tsp of Jeera and about 10-12 whole black pepper. This adds flavor and some spice to the soup. You can skip this and instead add pepper powder on top while serving if you prefer that.

Next, add some chopped ginger and about 2-3 green chillies. Fry everything for a min. You could also add chopped garlic for added flavor.

Next, add the chopped onions and fry for a min. When they become translucent, add the bell peppers and fry for another min.

Next, add the chopped cabbage and stir well quickly. The cabbage leaves will start losing its moisture and reduce in volume.

When you see the cabbage leaves wilting, throw in the fresh spinach and fry a little bit until that blends in. 

Then, add the rest of the chopped veggies.

Now is the time to add spices. There are only 3 seasoning I added here - Salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. How simple is that? You do not need any extra masala - just keep it simple. The veggies have so much flavor in them, that is more than sufficient. Add the salt and red chilli powder as per your taste. As for the turmeric, add about 1 tsp. This turmeric also helps in the color and mixes in with the purple of the beets and controls the soup from becoming purpilicious! And the wonderful benefits of turmeric are an added bonus!

Mix all the veggies and spices together well. Make sure that all veggies get a good coating of the spices.

Now, add about 4-5 cups of water to this. You could add vegetable broth - but really, you're making it in the process - so water should just be fine.

Make sure that all the veggies are completely covered and you have maybe a half an inch extra water on top.

Pressure cook the veggies for about 4-5 whistles.

Once the steam settles, open the cooker - voila - look at that beautiful color - can you see the red in here now?

When the soup has cooled down a bit, move it to a blender and blend until really smooth.

Look at that color now - pour the blended soup back to the pan and set the stove to simmer. Let this boil for a few mins. Check the salt and add more if needed. Also, check the consistency - if its too thick, add some water to thin it down. If its too thin - well..just drink it like that!

Add 1 tbsp of butter to the soup to add a little bit of richness and a whole lot of flavor to the soup. This will also help cut down the spice of the black peppers - especially for kids.

Be proud of yourselves for making such a healthy and wonderful soup for your family. Now, I like chunky vegetable soup - so I just poured myself a bowl before blending the soup. I love the bite I get in every spoonful of soup. So, if you like chunky soup too - forget the whole blending workout and just soup it up like that!

And for all those people in your house who don't want spinach getting in between their teeth or having to bite down a piece of black pepper - serve them this wonderful smooth 10 vegetable soup!

And what's a great soup like this worth without a great side kick! Just like every successful man had a successful side kick with him (think Goundamani and Sendhil) this soup has my wonderful panini sandwich to go to town with!

To make the panini sandwich, I just used whole wheat bread. Cut off the sides. Add a few leaves of fresh spinach on either side. Add a couple of slices of tomatoes and then a few small pieces of onions. Top off with just a little bit of shredded mozzarella cheese (Ricotta works great too).

Fold the slices together and grill in a panini maker or a sandwich maker.

Serve hot soup with a side of grilled paninis!

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Mar 16, 2010

Pita Falafel Sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I love falafels - probably the only Mediterranean dish that I eat apart from fried Cauliflower!  And Baklava. That's a different story though.

I usually make this at home with a store bought falafel mix. Easiest way to have my craving of falafels satisfied. But, as usual something got into my head and I decided to make it from scratch. Fresh is good, very good but it was too much work and I felt that now that I've conquered my battle with the falafels, I will stick to using store bought ones next time.

I also always have a fascination for roasted red bell pepper hummus and love that flavor over the plain hummus - so as I was already feeling very generous..I decided to also make that. I loved every part of that hummus - there's still some left in my fridge and I find myself eating that with almost everything!

So, enough of my love story with food - let's get started with the recipe.

Soak about 2 cups of garbanzo overnight and pressure cook for a couple of whistles until its soft. I used 3 cups actually and it was a lot - got about 30 falafels. So, if you're cooking for many, use 3 cups.

Chop up some onions, garlic and cilantro. Also keep about 2 tsp of cumin seeds ready.

Move the cooked and completely drained garbanzo to a food processor - make sure there is no water in here. The drier, the better to make balls and fry.

Pulse a few times and grind this to a coarse consistency.

Now add all the chopped up onions, garlic, cilantro and jeera. Add salt to taste. Add 1 tsp of baking powder in here.

Add 1 heaped tsp of coriander powder to the mix.

Add some red chilli flakes to the mix.

Give everything a good whirr - until all combined well. Make sure that no big pieces are left out - scrape down the sides while processing.

There's the mix ready.

Make small balls out of the mix. Flatten them and then fry in hot oil until golden to dark brown. Try one or two first - make sure that they don't dissolve in oil. If it does, then the paste it too thin. Add some flour to the mix, and try again.

 All fried and golden falafels!

Now, make a quick salad with your favortie veggies. I added fresh lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumbers, chopped tomatoes, olives and a little bit of red onions to my salad. Some falafels are traditionally served with round cut veggies like cucumbers and beetroots. You can choose any way you like it. I love my salad this way. If you have left over falafels in the end, you can chop them into small pieces, add to this salad and that is a perfect greek falafel salad by itself.

The next step is to make the hummus. Hummus basically is a paste again of garbanzo beans with some tahini (ground sesame seed paste), a little olive oil and lemon juice.

This roasted red bell pepper hummus is also the same but just with the addition of roasted red bell peppers - but the flavor just increases tri fold! Try it sometime and you'll never go back to plain old hummus!

Chop one red bell pepper into long stings. Roast them on top of a griddle. Sprinkle some olive oil on top to help roast the peppers. Roast till you see some sides getting black and charred.

Move the peppers to a food processor. Add some soaked and cooked garbanzo beans to this. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add salt to taste. Add about 2 tsbp of tahini. I did not have plain tahini but had a store bought hummus tahini mixture - so added a little bit of that. Add 1 tsp of chopped garlic to this. Finally add about 1/4 cup of lemon juice for a kick!

Give it all a good whirrr.

And's the super tasting red bell pepper hummus.

While I was frying the falafels, I roughly cut a couple of pita breads and fried them in hot oil - and made pita chips! Try some pita chips with this hummus. You will want to kiss the people around you - there is so much love!

To assemble the falafels, I used pocket pita bread. You could also use a flat bread and make it like a taco with the fillings. But, I do like the pocket bread.

Apply some of the hummus on the insides of the pocket pita.

Arrange a couple of falafels or three if you like.

Fill all empty spaces in the pocket with the gorgeous salad. You could also actually add salad at the bottom and then top off with the falafels. Its your sandwich - make it any way you like!

Enjoy your pita falafel sandwiches! Now, if only I could watch some belly dancing for entertainment!

Enjoy! Peace out!