Kadai Paneer

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Been a very long time since I added any posts and perhaps it required pursuasion from interested folks for me to move into action! Ad wanted a healthy version of paneer and thought I could simplify it by adding fresh paneer without frying and also leave the option of cream to her. This dish gets its name for two reasons. Being a dish that can be stir fry or semi-gravy, it is cooked in a wok and also the spice used called kadai masala  is used for stir fry dishes in North Indian cuisine.

A typical kadai masala includes many spices (will post soon) but I preferred to make a less spicy one for paneer to retain the flavor and taste of paneer and bell pepper. Often I find posts that suggest coriander powder and chilli powder that I believe are redundant when adding fresh spices!

 

Ingredients  (for 3 servings)

  • Oil  2 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder ¼ tsp
  • Paneer/Cottage Cheese  250 g (cut into cubes)
  • Green pepper (medium sized)  2 or 1 large (julienned into 1″ slices)
  • Onion (big)  1 or 2 two medium-sized ( sliced into 1″ pieces)
  • Chopped garlic 1 tsp (optional)
  • Ginger grated or julienned from 2″ piece
  • Tomato 2  large or 3 medium-sized (cut into 1″ cubes)
  • Kasuri methi  1 tbsp (crushed fine)
  • Salt  1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder 1 tsp
  • Kadai  Masala
  • Coriander seeds 1 tbsp
  • Dried red chilies 5
  • Pepper corn ½ tsp
  • Cumin seeds ½ tsp

Garnishing

  • Fresh coriander leaves  1 tbsp ( finely chopped)
  • Fresh cream 2 tbsp (optional)

Method

  • For the kadai masala dry roast all the spices  in the order chilies, coriander seeds, pepper corns and cumin seeds on   low flame and powder them  finely after cooling them.
  • Heat oil in the wok and add the cumin seeds and as they splutter, add the garlic and saute till the raw smell is gone. Add the sliced onions and saute till it starts turning translucent . At this stage add the grated ginger and  bell pepper juliennes and saute for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the turmeric powder, garam masala, salt and saute for another minute or two.
  • Add the tomato slices, place a lid on the wok and let the mix cook till the tomato softens and oozes out the juice. If need be add half-a cup of water. When nicely cooked, add the kadai masala and paneer cubes and cook for another minute or two.
  • Crush the dried methi leaves between the palms and add the fine powder to the paneer and stir well.
  • Switch off the flame and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and cream

Serve with rotis.

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Chef’s Note

  • I prefer a moist dish and do not add  much water. However, if one prefers a gravy type, add ½ cup water when the tomatoes are getting cooked.
  • Often tomato puree is used as in gravy dishes but in this dish, tomaoto cooked with bell pepper gives a nice texture and flavor.

 

Tomato-Cilantro Thokku

 

 

tomato-coriander-thokkuTalking about pickles how can one miss out on the ubiquitous tomato-coriander that find their way into our dishes?

Last week was satisfying as I got to make more than one pickle in a couple of days’ time.  Soon after preparing lemon pickle I was informed that Ar and As were planning a homecoming for the weekend.  The immediate plan was to make one more pickle to be sent back with them and who else  but tomato and coriander came to my rescue! I decided to make a combo, the thokku way and  was too happy with the outcome.

It took me less than an hour to process and get the pickle ready. I used the pressure cooker to reduce the volume of the puree and it helped in fast reduction and avoided mess while cooking.

Ingredients

Ripe (firm) tomato 1 kg

Cilantro (coriander) leaves 3 cups (loosely packed) or 2 cups (well packed)

Tamarind 100 g (free from fibers)

Sea salt 3 tbsp

Red chili powder 3 tsp (heaped)

Turmeric powder 1 tsp

Asafotida ½ tsp

Fenugreek powder ½ tsp

Sugar 1 tsp

Sesame oil 3 tbsp

Method

  • Soak the tamarind in warm water for 15 minutes to soften it. Use just enough water to soak the tamarind.
  • Clean the cilantro leaves and let the water dry out to get moisture-free leaves.
  • Remove the stalk point from the tomatoes and quarter them for easy blending.
  • Transfer the tamarind and half the tomato to the blender and blitz  to get a smooth puree. Transfer to a bowl and now transfer the remaining tomato the blender. Add the cilantro laves also and blitz to get a coarse puree.
  • Heat the oil in the pressure pan on a low flame and when the oil gets hot add fenugreek powder, chili powder, turmeric powder, asafotida and mix well. Transfer the two portions of the puree to the pan and add salt and sugar.
  • Close the pan, add the weight and let the mix cook on high flame for three whistles.  As the mix gets cooked the entire place will get filled the aroma of the pickle.
  • Wait for the pan to cool down and open the lid to see the thickness of the pickle.  If it has reached a gel like consistency wait for the pickle to cool down completely and transfer to airtight bottles for storing.
  • In case the the mix is a bit liquid like in consistency heat on low flame to thicken the mix. Do keep an eye on the mix and keep stirring to avoid burning of the pickle.

 

 

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Chef’s Note

  • Before storing the pickle add a tablespoon of vinegar on the top to store the pickle longer
  • Minimal water to soak the tamarind helps in thicker puree.
  • Coarsely ground cilantro gives a lovely bite to the pickle besides the bursting flavor

Jhatpat Lemon Pickle

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Pickle at anytime is a favorite in every household and to resist a quick-make of the traditional pickle done in bulk in a few minutes using a pressure cooker is hard to resist!  When lemon pickle is needed in a short time skipping the required time of 10 to 15 days for seasoning as in wedding or social events, it is a normal practice to blanch the lemon and pickle it in spices, and in such cases the shelf life of long months is not guaranteed. Cooking the lemon in its juice and spices in pressure cooker with a little vinegar to prolong its shelf life simplifies the effort of pickling. This method is based on the method suggested by a well-known chef (Ramakrishnan) and tried by one of his ardent followers with my tweaks to suit my needs.

Ingredients

Ripe lemons 10 (medium-sized (US) or  big as per Indian standard (app. ½ kg)

Green chill paste 1 tsp (optional)

Grated ginger  2 tsp  (optional)

Turmeric powder 1 tsp

Red chilli powder  2 tsp (heaped)

Salt 2 tbsp

Fenugreek seed powder ½ tsp

Asafotida  ½ tsp

Sugar 1 tbsp

Sesame oil 2 tbsp

White vinegar  3 tbsp

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Method

 

  • Wash, wipe and slice the lemon into 8 or more pieces to get 1″ pieces.
  • In a large bowl add all the spices (saving oil and vinegar) and mix them well using a spatula.
  • Drop the cut lemon pieces into the spice mix and fold in gently.

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  • Place a stainless steel pressure pan on the stove and layer the base with oil.  The next layer will be the spiced lemon pieces.Pile them over oil in such a way that they do not touch the walls of the pan.
  • Close the pan with the lid and place  the weight over the nozzle.
  • Let the pickle cook over medium flame till three whistles are heard. Switch off the flame and wait for the pickle to cool down.

When you open the lid you will find the lemon pieces soaked in its juice with a lovely flavor. Mix well with a spatula and transfer the  contents to a sterile bottle.

  • Rinse the pan with vinegar and pour it over the pickle in the bottle to act as preservative.

Wait for a couple of days for the pickle to marinade well before use

 

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Chef’s Note

  • Please use a stainless steel pan as aluminium is likely to leach in citric acid.
  • Use medium heat and the first whistle is heard in about 5 minutes with successive whistles in intermissions of a minute each.
  • If you like a sweeter flavor you can add a spoon of fennel seed powder,

 

Kothamalli (Coriander) thogaiyal

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Been a very long time since I added any recipe in my blog …. reasons followed by excuses and then finally came a point when I thought I need to be a little more active! I wondered where I should begin and the simplest and evergreen coriander came to my mind. Either a chutney (that goes as a sauce for many evening dishes such as fritters) or thogaiyal (to go with rice or chappati)  seemed  a good choice and it was refreshing to see the green color retained in the dish to give it its fresh look 🙂

Ingredients

Cleaned  and thoroughly rinsed leaves of coriander  3 cups

Dried red chilies  4 or 5 (depends on how spicy  you like it)

Peppercorns   ½ tsp

Tamarind scales  1 ball (Size of a gooseberry) soak in just enough hot water

Chana dal   2 tbsp

Urad dal 2 tbsp

Salt 1 tsp

Jaggery ¼ tsp

Oil  1 tbsp

Mustard seeds 1 tspIMG_2309 - Copy

Method

  • Heat oil in a pan and temper the mustard seeds . As they splutter transfer to a bowl and keep the pan over low lame,
  • Add the dals and stir for a minute. As the dals gets crisp add the peppercorns and chilies and roast till the chili becomes smooth and wrinkles are gone. Transfer to the blender to cool.
  • In the same pan saute the coriander leaves (if needed in batches) till it gives out moisture and shrinks. Make sure you do this on low flame and just enough to reduce the bulk.
  • Add the tamarind, jaggery piece,  and salt to the spices in the blender and blend to get a coarse texture. Add the coriander leaves and blend the mixture to get a nice paste.
  • Add a little water if need be to get a smooth texture. Transfer the thogaiyal containing the tempered seeds and mix well.

Enjoy with rice or chappatis

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Note

This thogaiyal stays good in the refrigerator for at least a week. Howvwer, if you want to preserve it like a thokku, add a little oil to the on and saute the thogaiyal for 5 minutes on low flame  so that all the moisture is gone. It is likely to lose the fresh green color and turn darker in the process

Karachi Halwa

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Karachi Halwa as the name implies comes from the Sindh region. Much as it was popular in the Northern part of the country as Bombay Halwa, it is now popular across the globe. As a child I remember gawking at the nut-filled bars of the sweet wrapped in cellophane sheets and displayed in the mithai shops and used to wonder how such differently colored bars in green, yellow, red, and orange  could  be made in plenty. The first time I tasted was again an experience of its kind – the gummy-chewy bar with filled with crunchy nuts.
Took sometime to figure out that it is not too much of a task to make this and now microwavable versions are also available.

For all the chewy texture it takes up less ghee as  to other bars such as mysorepak.

Ingredients

Corn flour 1 cup

Sugar 2 cups (and a half if you like it very sweet)

Water ½ + 1½ cups

Crushed cashew  ¼ cup (you can add crushed pistachios and almonds too)

Cardamom powder  ¼ tsp

Clarified butter (ghee) 2 tbsp

Orange color   a few drops or a pinch of powder

Method

  • Add half a cup of water to cornflour in a bowl and whisk it into a smooth paste. Add the color to the paste and mix well.
  • In a thick-bottomed wok make a syrup with sugar and 1½ cups water. As the syrup starts boiling simmer the flame and let the syrup get thicker but it is not necessary to get a string consistency.
  • When the syrup gets sticky add the flour mix to the syrup and keep stirring continuously. As the mix starts thickening it gets translucent and glossy. Ensure there is NO lump formed.

kakarachi halwa thickeningins

  • As  the mix thickens add ghee and stir longer till the jelly-like mix starts leaving the sides of the wok.
  •  Add the crushed nuts and cardamom powder and blend them by stirring a little longerIMG_2157
  • Transfer the mix quickly to a well greased plate and tap the plate a little to get an even spread.

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Let the plate cool enough (up to an hour) for the jelly to set before cutting them into desired shape and size.

Store the pieces in an airtight container up to a week or longer in the refrigerator.

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Chef’s Note

  • If you want the jelly to set faster leave the plate in the refrigerator for an hour.
  • Depending the color you like you can vary the color to green or yellow
  • I tried adding turmeric powder as a natural color and found that those  pieces had a turmeric flavor and thus it was not a great idea 😦

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Idli Uppuma

Idli uppuma

Idli … a popular and one of the healthiest dishes ever is a common household name in South India and now a very popular and much sought after cuisine globally and is enjoyed most with sambhar, coconut chutney and milagai podi. Often there are leftover idlis and the same made as uppuma makes another healthy breakfast. Anyday a favorite with all idli lovers!

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

Idli 8 numbers(leave overnight in refrigerator)

Onion  2 medium-sized diced fine

Green bell pepper  1 medium-sized, diced

Carrot 1 big (peeled and grated)

Green chili 1 (slit)

Milagai podi 1 tsp

Salt ½  tsp

Curry leaves from 2 sprigs

Oil 1 tbsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp

Urad dal 1 tsp

 

Method

  • Refrigerate the leftover idlis or the freshly made ones for a few hours so it is easy to crumble the idlis to a coarse texture. Crumble the refrigerated idlis between the fingers to get a coarse powder.
  • Heat oil in a wok and let the mustard seeds splutter, Add the slit chili, urad dal, curry leaves and when the dal is golden brown add onion and saute till translucent. Add the diced bell pepper and saute for two minutes or so on a low flame. Add the grated carrot, milagai podi, and salt and stir fry for another two minutes.  Sprinkle a few drops of water to keep it just moist,  cover the wok .
  • Transfer the crumbled idli to the wok and mix well but not too vigorously. Switch off the flame and serve hot. Garnish with coriander leaves if you feel like.

Chef’s Note

  • Fresh idlis are soft and get gooey if you try to crumble. Ensure you refrigerate for a few hours to get a firm texture.
  • You can substitute milagai podi with half the quantity of sambhar powder but if using sambhar powder ensure it is well roasted in oil to overcome the raw feel.
  • More vegetables such as fresh peas or beans can also be added but they have to be precooked

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Murungai (Drumstick) Rasam

 

 

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Drumstick in any form as the pod, leaves or even the flowers is used in South Indian cuisine or even among the Bengalis very frequently. The flavor and its loaded mineral content makes it a much sought after vegetable. Very often the fruit finds its place in sambars, vatha kuzhambu or avial. The leaves are sauteed and cooked as a  stir fry in an onion-tomato base  or they are used as a topping in adai.   The tender drumsticks are a hot favorite with Bengalis who cook it with fish or potatoes.

Murungakai rasam is also quite popular as it is a very aromatic rasam. I used the pulp from the fruit and also the leaves to make the rasam and it was a good decision.

Ingredients

Drumstick      10 to 12 pieces (3″ long)

Tomato            1 big or 2 medium-sized

Tamarind       1   gooseberry-sized ball or 1 tbsp pulp

Rasam powder    2 tsp

Salt              1 tsp

Arahar dal  2 tbsp

Turmeric powder ¼  tsp

Moringa leaves   1 tsp (separated and cleaned)

Ghee 1 tsp

Mustard seeds   1 tsp

Pepper powder ½  tsp  (optional)

Asafotida  ¼ tsp

Water 4 cups

 

Method

  • Add water and turmeric powder to arahar dal and pressure cook the dal along with tomato for 4 whistles to get a soft texture.  Cook the moringa pieces in the cooker in a bowl while cooking the  dal.  Scrape out the flesh from the skin and add to dal-tomato mixture. Keep the seeds separately. Mash the dal, moringa flesh and tomato to a pulpy consistency and keep it ready.
  • Add salt and rasam powder to tamarind extract/pulp and add a cup of water and boil on medium flame till the raw rasam powder smell is gone (about 5 to 7 minutes). Make the volume to 1 liter.
  • Add the dal-moringa pulp to the rasam when it starts boiling  and simmer it till the rasam starts frothing. Add asafotida powder, cooked moringa seeds and switch off the flame.

In a thick-bottomed ladle/wok heat the ghee and add mustard seeds. When the mustard starts spluttering add pepper powder (if used) ans switch off the flame. Add the moringa leaves to the seasoning while hot and let the leaves get crisp. Transfer the seasoning to the rasam and enjoy one of the most flavorsome rasams.

Murungaka rasam

Chef’s Note

  • Freshly roasted rasam powder  can be used in place of ready powder.
  • Some like to drop drumstick pieces in the rasam instead of pulping it like I did.

No garnishing with curry leaves or cilantro is done in this rasam as the flavor of moringa can get masked. Moringa leaves are used for garnishing and to add to the flavor.

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