Mar 24, 2011

Kadai Paneer

Hello Everybody!!!

I've been MIA for a few days now. Its just been a very eventful past few days - both good and not so good. One of the best things that happened in the last few days was that Nags from Edible Garden was here visiting me. She is such a delight to spend time with me and we were like two long lost friends chatting away and shopping and eating all the time! I had an absolute wonderful time with her and can't wait for our next meet up! There were a lot of surprised people who learnt that we've never actually met each other before. Nags - you are a goofy fun person and I loved all the fun we had over the weekend. And just so you know, I started my diet after you left - need to make up for all that we ate! 

We did eat out most of the time. But, I prepared a few meals at home as well. Our dinner one night was this Kadai Paneer, Daal and Rotis. Nags absolutely loved the colorful peppers we have in our markets here and so we decided to make some kadai paneer with fresh red, green and yellow peppers. And also super fresh homemade paneer. 

And for the ultimate flavorful kadai vegetables, the secret lies in the masala .The fresher the masala, the tastier the veggies are. And so it starts with this. 

Dry roast these ingredients separately without any oil and when a nice aroma wafts out, move them to a plate. 

I used all these below - 

About 1/4 cup of fresh coriander seeds (Dhaniya)
Half of a 1/4 cup of fresh cumin seeds (Jeera)
Fresh Cinnamon - 2 to 3 small pieces of either the flat or the rolled cinnamon sticks
Fresh Cloves - 4-5 individual pieces
Black Pepper - about 1/2 tsp
Dried Red Chillies - about 2-3
Cardamom seeds - a pinch, either fresh peeled or fresh ground powder 

After dry roasting all the above ingredients individually, grind all together into a coarse powder. This will be the fresh masala for the veggies and the paneer.

And the next step is to make the tomato-onion gravy for the kadai paneer. I like my kadai paneer not floating in gravy but just coated with a little moistness. And this kind of a thick paste like gravy works perfect for this dish.

For the gravy -

Fresh Garlic - 3-4 pieces
Fresh Ginger - chopped - about 1 tsp
Chopped onions - about 1/2 cup
Chopped juicy tomatoes - about 1 cup

Move the onion-tomato mixture to a small blender and blend into a smooth paste. 

And now to make the Paneer.

This is a new recipe that I've been following for the last few times I made Paneer. This recipe was given to me by a friend Kavitha. She mentioned that she makes Paneer like this and its one of the best ways and gives the softest paneer. I agree whole heartedly with her now! Thanks Kavitha for this recipe!!

Heat up a whole gallon of milk and get it to almost a boiling point. Switch it off and immediately pour one 1 quart (32oz) of buttermilk little by little and keep stirring. You'll see the whey separating from the curdled paneer. Strain the paneer and try to take out as much whey as you can by squeezing out the paneer in a muslin cloth or a cotton towel.

Move the strained paneer to a food processor and process it until the consistency turns smooth and soft.

Move the paneer to a flat plate with raised edges preferably and press down even just using a flat spatula or even the palm of your hands. Let this sit for some time. If you can make the paneer earlier, let this sit for about an hour or two. I made it just then and hence did not let it sit much - maybe only about 5-10 mins. Using a knife, cut into small square any other shape you prefer.

Meanwhile, also chop up your favorite bell peppers and some onions into big chunks.

Saute each veggie separately in a tsp of oil. Cook for a couple of mins and then add a pinch of salt to taste and then add about 1 tsp of the fresh masala prepared as above.

Cook the onions first. Add 2-3 bay leaves with the onions for an extra flavor.

Then, cook the bell peppers one color at a time till they are quickly sauteed - they should still hold a little crispness and not be completely soft or mushed up.

Also, cut up a couple of tomatoes into long pieces and saute the same way and add the masala.

Lastly, fry the paneer separately and add all these flavoring below -

Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - a few pinches
Fresh ground masala - 1 1/2 tsps
Kasoori Methi - take about 1 tsp and rub them between your fingers before adding them to the paneer - this releases the flavor much better than just adding directly
Red Chilli powder - about 1 tsp

Fry the paneer pieces for a few mins till you see a few of them crisping up on the bottom and sides. Remove and place on top of the peppers.

Lastly, add the tomato onion paste made before and cook for a couple of mins. Add a pinch of turmeric and a pinch of red chilli powder and a little salt to taste just for this paste.

So, here are the veggies - all the grilled peppers at the bottom and then the sauteed paneer on the top.

Finally add the tomato paste to the veggies and paneer.

And using a fork, gently toss them around so that the veggies, paneer and the sauce all mix up well.

 And there people, is a juicy and tasty Kadai Paneer.

We all absolutely loved the fresh flavors of the Kadai Paneer. Serve hot with rotis or parathas or even as a side with some rice and daal. 

If you have big tortillas, just roll these up and eat as a wrap. Perfect lunch.

Enjoy. Peace Out.

Click here for a Printable Recipe

Mar 13, 2011

Spicy Chettinad Cauliflower Masala for Dosas

So the story goes like this. A few days ago, a few of my friends visited me for a weekend from the bay area. During our 2 months of planning for 2 days of fun, one of the gals asked me if I make chettinad masala for dosas. And my reply was - not really but we sure can try. And that is how this recipe here was born. I quickly googled and the little I saw, all chettinad masala recipes had ginger, garlic and spicy chillies. Ok, that's a good start. 

And at this point, I have to take a detour from this story to another one. One from a few years back..actually many years. Our family friends of decades are Chettiars and we used to visit them at least once or twice a month. They made the best dosas and idlis ever. They had a cook in their house who showed me how she makes those super paper thin dosas. She basically would make the dosa and then scrape off all the excess batter from the top of the dosa. The only thing left on the griddle would be what's sticking to it. And when it just peels off beautifully from the well seasoned 'dosa kallu', it would be a super crisp paper thin dosa. And then that dosa would be served along with a couple of awesome chutneys and a cauliflower based masala. You'll see where this leads to. 

So, this dish below here may not even be authentic Chettinad cuisine. But, excuse my enthusiasm to call it just that. But, whatever the name might be, this is a keeper recipe for me. Jumping back to the original story, I made this the weekend my friends were here and it was a runaway hit. I've made it a couple of times again since then and the most toughest part is to keep my hands off it. Literally, I find myself picking it with my finger and licking it while I'm making dosas for the family. Its like a 'can't resist' thing going on here. 

Start off with getting  your basic ingredients in place.

1 cup of chopped onions
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
About 8-10 single pieces of garlic peeled but not chopped
1-2 tsp of chopped fresh ginger
1-2 chopped green chillies
A few curry leaves

Chop up some cauliflower into tiny pieces. Just cut them into thin slices and turn the slices around and chop further into little bits. 

In a pan, add 2 tsp of cooking oil. When hot, add 1 tsp of mustard seeds and let it splutter. Then add 1 tsp of cumin seeds. And then add about 3-4 pieces of dried red chillies. 

Now, add all the good stuff in - curry leaves, green chillies, ginger and garlic. Saute for a couple of mins until the garlic starts to brown up.

Then, add the onions and cook for a few mins until they turn translucent. 

Then. add the chopped tomatoes. 

Then, add the chopped cauliflower bits in here and mix well. 

Time for some seasonings. Add all of these below - 

1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (heaped if you like it spicy!)
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp rasam powder (heaped..and this time its a must)
About 1/2 tsp sambar powder

Mix all the flavors well and let this cook for a few mins. When the masala starts to turn soft, pick up a masher and start showing your strength.

Once you mash it up nicely, add a couple of tsps of oil again and let it cook for about 5 mins.

Let it cook until you don't see individual pieces of anything in there. No separate tomatoes or cauliflowers. They will all be kind of mashed up together now. And you're done! You can add some chopped cilantro at the end. I wanted to but did not have fresh leaves at home, so just skipped that.

Now, how about some spicy masala - all kicked up and ready to go.

Spread them on your dosa while on the tawa. Fold and serve hot dosas with Spicy chettinad cauliflower masala.

Give me this every day of the year and I can eat it without complaining.

Thank you GG for asking me about this. I now have a new favorite masala!

Just for my sake, please make this in your kitchen today or sometime soon. And I too can then just imagine you standing there and finger-licking this! 

Enjoy. Peace out.

Mar 7, 2011

Eggless Wholewheat Cookies - Baking for A Sweet Punch

Baking again for A Sweet Punch event. These cookies come from Manjula's Kitchen and is indeed a really easy and relatively healthy option to bake. And no questions about how tasty these turned out and even eating a few is hard. You've got to eat too many!

Let's talk hypothetical here. The best time to bake this will be when you and your friends are sitting around chatting. And you get up to make some tea or coffee because you are all really tired from the non stop banter. But then you look for a snack to serve along with tea and realize that yesterday when you went grocery shopping, you were almost buying some snacks but a really pretty red shoe on the next store window called you and you forgot all about the snack. And then it also happened that they had just one pair of the red shoes and it wasn't your size. Dejected, you just came back home. And now you're stuck with no snack. Light bulb. Eggless wholewheat cookies. Wait, you'll need stuff to make them. Checking on the recipe. Whole wheat, check. Sugar, check. Butter, always check. Almonds, thank God check. Cardamom, yes! check. Salt and milk, of course check. And it takes just the amount of time you spend to make a few cups of tea. Really. And at the end of it, you and your friends have a plate full of delicious cookies to snack on with tea. And you can follow that with the story of the red shoe and your dejection. That's totally up to you. 

And all of that was hypothetical. I made these after dinner at home just for us. And it was a perfect little dessert. 

The link above has the detailed recipe. You can mix up the almonds in here with other nuts or even add some dried fruits like apricots or raisins to the batter.

Start with 1 cup of whole wheat flour. 

Add 1/2 cup of granulated white sugar to the flour.

Throw in 1/4 tsp of salt in there.

And then add 1/4 cup of sliced almonds.

And for a tremendous flavor, add 1/2 tsp of fresh cardamom powder. The flavor that this brings is just unbelievable. I recently was also talking to a friend of mine who's American and she was going gaga over how she found Cardamom and loved the smell and flavor of it. I'm sure she would love these cookies!

Add 1/2 cup - 1 stick of unsalted butter. But this butter needs to be softened. The best way to do it is just keep the butter out a few hours before you start baking.

Using fingertips, just blend the butter and the flour mix till you start getting a crumbly texture.

Once all the flour and butter are mixed together well, start kneading a little bit until the dough start forming a ball.

Like this.

Take small portions, make small balls and flatten them and arrange on a baking tray. And yes, please pre heat that oven to 360F

Top the little dough balls with some sliced almonds if you'd prefer.

Bake in the pre heated oven for about 15-18 mins. I took out the tray at about 15 mins when they seemed done.

Lookin good. Can't wait to eat yet. I actually expected them to flatten out a little bit - but they just held on to the shape. I'm not complaining though. Once you take a bite, how does shape matter!

And yes, by the time I came to this picture - I've already eaten a couple! And they taste great!

Serve em up warm or store to eat later. Either way, they won't last long - they'll all be eaten before you know it.

I can't stop taking pictures. 

This one is for the sweet punch team! Thanks gals for a nice recipe!

This one is for all you girl pals out there. Grab some please. 

And now about those red shoes..

Enjoy. Peace out!