Friday, September 30, 2016

Matar Paneer

Indian cuisine is well known for offering a wide range of vegetarian dishes for its massive population that relies purely on meat free diet. An array of lentils and beans, an abundance of seasonal vegetables and paneer along with a wide selection of herbs and spices form the backbone of Indian vegetarian cuisine.  
Indian cottage cheese or paneer is fresh cheese that can be easily made at home and requires no aging. It has a mild taste and  and soaks up the flavor of the spices its cooked in. It holds up well to frying and grilling and so is a great choice for curries and BBQ. This versatile ingredients is used to make a wide array of dishes ranging from starters to main dish to dessert. A fave among all you can find it in restaurant meals, home cooked food and street food.
Matar paneer is a tomato based peas and paneer curry from North India. Fried cubes of paneer and peas are simmered in an onion, tomato, ginger and garlic based gravy spiced with cumin, cloves, cinnamon and green chilies. So shallow fry paneer cubes till lightly golden and keep aside. Make the gravy and add frozen peas. Add the fried paneer and simmer for a bit to allow the flavors to blend in. Do not overcook the paneer as it gets rubbery. Serve with cumin rice or roti. 

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)
400 gms paneer
2 cups frozen peas
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches ginger, grated
2-3 green chilies, chopped fine
3 large tomatoes, pureed
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 cloves
Small piece cinnamon 
1/3 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
Deghi mirch (cayanne pepper) to taste
Oil for frying
1/2 tsp Garam masala
Handful fresh coriander for garnish
  1. Remove any excess moisture from the paneer using a paper towel and then cut into bite sized cubes. These need to be fried lightly till the edges turn golden. You can use one of the following two methods for this. The baking method works well when making a large quantity for a crowd.  
  2. Frying method for paneer - Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non stick pan over medium heat. Shallow fry the cubed paneer in batches till lightly golden on all sides. this should only take 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat onto a paper towel to remove excess oil. 
  3. Baking method for paneer - Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with foil sprayed with some oil to prevent the paneer from sticking. Brush the paneer cubes with some oil in all sides and place them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the hot oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, turning once in between. Do keep an eye as paneer can overcook quickly. Remove from oven and place in a bowl of warm water till you make your gravy. Drain and squeeze out excess water before adding it to the gravy. 
  4. Prepare the gravy - Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them roast for 5 seconds. Coarsely pound cloves and cinnamon in mortar and pestle, and add it to the pan. Add chopped onions and fry till they turn pink. Add minced garlic, ginger and green chilies and lower the heat a bit. Continue cooking till onions turns golden brown. 
  5. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, sugar, salt and all the powdered spices to the pan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking the tomatoes and spices till you see some oil leaving the sides of the pan. Add the frozen peas and 3/4 cup of water, bring to a rolling boil. Add the fried paneer cubes and mix to coat all the pieces with the sauce. Simmer covered for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in garam masala and sprinkle fresh minced coriander. serve with roti, paratha or rice.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Grilled sweet potato wedges

Sweet potato is not just a plain old potato with extra flavor. It is one of nature's abundant sources of beta carotene having a superior ability to raise our vitamin A levels. With anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, one large steamed sweet potato is less than 100 calories, very versatile and delicious in all shapes and forms- wedges to discs to cubes.

These grilled wedges make for an excellent side dish alongside grilled salmon or chicken. Sweet and soft on the inside, charred and crunchy on the outside – what’s not to love here?  And I love that all components for dinner can be cooked outside and there is practically no clean-up to do in the kitchen.

Cooking these cannot be more simple. Peel and cut into thin wedges. Coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and dry mint and place on the hot grill. When cooked, sprinkle with lime juice to balance the sweetness with some acidity and paprika if desired. Finger-licking good. We love the combination of mint and lime juice, but you can give this recipe a try using any spice-herb combination you like. Use parsley instead of mint, thyme will be awesome too, and if you would like to enhance the sweetness then ditch the lime and sprinkle some cinnamon for an added hint of sweetness.

4 sweet potatoes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dry mint (palm crushed)
Fresh lime to serve
Paprika to serve (optional)
  1. Peel the potatoes and slice them into thin wedges. Coat generously with olive oil.
  2. Heat the grill to medium high.
  3. Just before putting them on the grill, season liberally with salt and pepper and mint. 
  4. Place them directly over the direct heat and grill till well- marked, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
  5. Now move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking the potatoes through by indirect heat. Cook covered, turning mid-way till soft and tender from the inside. this can take 15-20 minutes (or more) based on the thickness of the wedges.
  6. Remove from grill, sprinkle with lime juice and paprika and serve hot. 
  7. If its too cold to cook outside, use your oven. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake till tender on the inside and crisp golden on the outside, about 30 minutes. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Grilled Potato wedges

Crisp crunchy exterior with soft fluffy insides, flavored with spice mixture of your liking and a little char from the grill. These perfectly seasoned grilled potato fries/wedges are one of my favorite sides to serve with any BBQ dish. They are quick and delish and pair wonderfully with most meats coming off the grill.
Cooking potato wedges can be done in one of two ways:
-- Scrub the skin clean and cut the potatoes into eight wedges. Brush with olive oil, season generously and cook directly over the fire till crisp and golden.
-- Or par cook the potatoes (either boil or microwave) till three quarters done, season and brush with oil, then grill till crisp and golden. Partially cooking the potatoes prior to grilling may seem like extra work but it cuts down the grilling time considerably. The potatoes are almost cooked and only need to be seared on direct heat to create the crisp golden brown crust. Grilled this way they taste almost like french fries, only a lot less calorie dense. I like to do the initial cooking in the microwave as there is less chance of over cooking the potatoes. Make sure to drain them well before coating them in oil and herbs and seasoning. Don't be too stingy with the fat as it helps keep moisture inside the potatoes and prevents the flesh from sticking to the grill. I always keep the skin on, but that is a personal choice and peeling them is always an option. In the recipe below are the herbs and spices I like to use. I have not specified the quantity of each ingredient as it can vary based on personal choice. You can make a spice mix of your liking and flavor the potatoes with that. Just oil, salt and pepper are enough to make them taste great.
Cooked either way these awesome wedges come out lip smacking good.

4 large russet potatoes
Olive oil for brushing
Salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper
Garlic powder (omit this if making for Vrat)
Roasted cumin powder
  1. Scrub the potatoes using a brush to remove any dirt from the skin. Cut each potato into 8-10 wedges. 
  2. Method 1- Brush them with oil and season with all the herbs and spices. Place them over the hot grill till brown and crisp on all sides. This might take 2-3 minutes per side. Then move them away to the cool part of the grill so that they can cook all the way through on the inside. Cover and cook till done, about 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.
  3. Method 2- Place the wedges in a microwave safe flat container in a single layer, filled with a quarter inch of water. Microwave on high till they are tender but not fully cooked. This might take about 7-10 minutes depending on the power of your microwave. Drain well. Toss in oil and spice mixture. Place the potatoes on medium hot grill and cook till crisp and golden. Serve hot. 
  4. If its too cold to cook outside, use your oven. Preheat oven to 375°F. Drizzle wedges with olive oil and season with all the herbs and spices. Place them on a prepared baking sheet in a single layer with skin-sides-down. Bake for 25-35 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender on the inside and golden on the inside. 
  5. Enjoy all this goodness alongside a burger, a nice steak, BBQ chicken or just as is.
  6. As a flavor variation use a different spice herb blend. Here are a few examples. Garlic powder, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese. Black pepper, oregano and lemon juice. Lime juice, thyme and cayenne pepper.   

Friday, September 9, 2016

Salmon Pâté

Its a breeze to whip up this creamy mix. Most likely you will have all these ingredients in your pantry. Salmon pate can be made with fresh poached salmon, canned salmon or even smoked salmon. Each tastes a bit different from the other. Garnish with your choice of topping and serve with crackers. I love adding chopped pistachios for their crunch. I also love the capers and parsley and onion combo - gives a crunchy garlicky taste.

  • Great served as a dip or a starter. 
  • Spread it on toast with some alfalfa sprouts and rings of red onion for an awesome sandwich.
  • Perfect for those summer picnics.

1 cup cooked salmon, flaked
4 tbsp cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1-2 tsp lime juice
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
Salt to taste
Crackers, for serving
To garnish (choose one or more)
Pistachios/sunflower seeds
Red onion
  1. If you are using fresh salmon then make sure its boneless and skinless. You can bake or poach the fish till cooked through. Cool and flake with fork. 
  2. If using canned salmon then drain out and squeeze all the liquid, remove all the small bones. Then flake with fork. 
  3. In a large bowl, add all the ingredients. Mix to combine well. 
  4. Line a small serving bowl or dish with plastic wrap and spoon in the pate, pressing down firmly and smoothing the top. Cover and chill until somewhat firm, about an hour.
  5. To serve, unmold salmon onto a platter so that rounded side faces up; remove and discard plastic wrap. Garnish with your choice of topping and serve with crackers. I love the nuts as they add texture. I also love the capers and parsley and onion combo - gives a crunchy garlicky taste. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Bacon maple burger

We have been indulging in a series of delicious burgers inspired by the flavors of different cuisines. The lamb burgers inspired by Greek flavors, Thai chicken burger, meatball sub with Italian roots, Harissa chicken burgers (Moroccan condiments), Mexican burger complete with all the fix ins and many more. Last week my daughter asked me, why haven't we had a Canadian burger yet? as in you live in Canada so ??? Hmmm...So here is an ode to a few ingredients that are unique to Canada, in a burger.
This unique and awesome burger recipe is easy and eh! so Canadian - a subtle hint of maple in the chicken patty, crisp Canadian back bacon, few shavings of Quebec's treasured Oka cheese and a drizzle of super delish maple Dijon sauce.

Maple bacon chicken burger
To serve:
4 burger buns
4 Chicken patties (recipe below)
4 Canadian back bacon slices
Few shavings of Oka
Maple Dijon sauce (recipe below)
Tomato slices and onion rings
Lettuce leaves
Pickled jalapeno rings(optional)
Fries on the side
  1. Chicken patty-Mix all the following ingredients together and shape into 4 patties.1 lb mince chicken, 2-3 cloves garlic finely minced, 1 bunch green onion finely chopped , 1 tsp real maple syrup, 1/4 tsp dry rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 15 minutes and then grill till cooked through.
  2. Cook bacon till crisp. I have used regular bacon instead of back bacon as I had this one at hand. But I highly recommend using the Canadian back bacon if you can find it in your grocery store. 
  3. Maple-Dijon Sauce-Whisk together 1 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp mustard (old fashioned grainy), 1 tbsp real maple syrup, 1 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco, Sriracha). Keep aside (refrigerate) till ready to serve.
  4. Place the grilled chicken patty on the bun and top with lettuce, tomato and onion rings.
  5. Place a crisply cooked strip of bacon and top it with shavings of Oka cheese.
  6. Drizzle maple Dijon sauce on top and close the burger with the top bun. 
  7. Serve with hot crisp fries and your favorite Canadian beer (Labatt blue, Molson Canadian, Alexander Keith's, Budweiser to name a few).