Friday, April 14, 2017

Salsa all the way



Spring is the season for warm sunshine, charming sounds of twittering birds and humming bees, colorful blooms, green leaves and little shoots on the bare branches. It also marks a start to the barbecue season. So while you prep your yard and grill, here are a few recipes to get you started this spring. These salsas will complement any grilled meat, fish and veggies.

Salsa is Spanish for sauce. Chunky or smooth, it is a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meat, wraps and fajitas, and tastes awesome with chips. There are many types of salsas. Tomato based salsas, fruit salsas and vegetable salsas. Make them mild or hot, based on your spice quotient. Here are a few of my faves.

Types of salsa
Salsa Ranchero: Red, tomato-based with taste of cilantro and garlic. Spice can vary from mild to very hot. Usually served warm to provide full flavor.
Salsa verde: Tomatillos give the color and flavor for this salsa. Can be prepared with raw tomatoes or with roasted for an enhanced flavor.
Tomato-based chunky salsas: Most tomato-based salsas are a mixture of tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices. Cilantro and jalapenos are used to spice it up.
Vegetable Salsas: Popular vegetables for salsa include corn, dried beans and peas, sweet peppers, avocados, sweet potatoes and olives. Use them as starters or as a salad, serve over rice or inside a wrap.
Fruit Salsas: The combination of hot and sweet is a fave with our family. You can use just about any fruits for the fruit based salsas but the tropical fruits taste the best (e.g. pineapples, mangoes, citrus fruits and papayas). You can also use fresh berries such as strawberries and raspberries, and other fruits such as pomegranate, watermelon, pears and peaches. I do not recommend using frozen fruits because the texture will be affected and the flavor dilutes as the fruit defrosts. Fruit salsas should be served cold.

Pico de gallo (or salsa fresca)
Ingredients:
1 large diced tomato
1/2 diced medium sized red onion
1/4 bunch of cilantro (use more or less depending on your taste)
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 tsp of salt
1 jalapenos (or more if you prefer it hotter)

Mix up all ingredients and keep at room temperature for half an hour to let flavors blend in.



Spicy fresh pineapple salsa
Ingredients:

1/2 a pineapple cored, chopped to bite sized pieces
1 large red pepper chopped
1/2 red onion chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed and minced
1⁄4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together and chill for 2 hours. Serve at room temperature over the grilled fish.
Mango avocado salsa
Ingredients:
2 ripe mangoes
2 avocados
1 small red onion
Handful fresh cilantro
Few leaves of fresh mint
2-3 jalapeño peppers
Salt to taste
Lime juice
  1. Cut mango and avocado into small bite sized pieces. Thinly slice onion and chop jalapeño, cilantro and mint fine.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Chill for an hour to blend the flavors. Serve cold.
Mango salsa
Ingredients:

3 mangoes cubed into ½ inch pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 Thai chili, finely chopped
Handful fresh coriander , chopped roughly
1 red pepper, chopped into ¼ inch cubes
bunch fresh mint, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything, cover and chill for an 30 minutes before serving



Citrus Salsa
Ingredients:

2 ruby red grapefruits
2 navel oranges
1 small red onion
Handful fresh mint and coriander
1 jalapeno pepper
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Peel and chop the grapefruit and oranges into small bite sized pieces. Do this in a bowl to catch all the juices that will flow as a result of chopping.
  2. Chop onion, jalapeno, mint and coriander.
  3. Add these to the chopped citrus fruit. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
  4. Taste. If the fruit is sour enough then your salsa is ready. Sometimes the oranges and grapefruit are sweeter than you want. In that case add some lime juice to taste. Cover.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Salsa Ranchero
This earthy salsa is traditionally pounded to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle, but a food processor works just as well.
Ingredients: 
1 lb tomatoes
4 hot chilies (serrano/jalapeños)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt to taste
Handful finely chopped cilantro
1⁄2 onion, chopped fine
1 lemon, juice and zest
  1. Use 4 or less chilies based on your spice quotient.
  2. Place tomatoes, chilies and garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil on high. 
  3. Turn them often. Cook till you see charring (blackened spots) and everything cooks through about 10-15 minutes. 
  4. Chilies and garlic will be done before the tomatoes. Remove as each ingredient is done. Cool.  
  5. Place everything in a food processor and puree until smooth. Small chunks are okay if you like your salsa a bit chunky.
  6. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Serve warm for an enhanced flavor.
For a detailed recipe click here
Salsa verde
This salsa has 2 versions. Raw and roasted. Both taste great. Choose based on prep time available as the roasted one takes some cooking time. I must say the cooked version has an earthy smoky flavor.
Ingredients: 
1 lb tomatillos (husks removed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3-4 hot chili peppers (serrano/jalapeños)or less based on your spice quotient
Handful finely chopped cilantro
1 lime, juice and zest
1⁄2 medium onion, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste

Black bean and corn salsa
For a detailed recipe click here
Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 red pepper
1 large tomato
1/2 large red onion
Few sprigs fresh coriander
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tsp roasted and ground cumin
1 Lime, juice and zest
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil


Tomato olive salsa
This pico de gallo gets a briny boost from olives. Serve it spooned over grilled fish or chicken.
Ingredients:
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped coriander
1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
1 garlic minced
5-6 green pitted olives, chopped
Salt and pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lime

In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients.
Let sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, March 31, 2017

14 Paneer recipes


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.
Here is a collection of paneer recipes ranging from starters to main dish to dessert. Click on the titles to go to their detailed recipes. Happy cooking. 
These mini paneer cutlets are super cute and super yummy. A great appetizer dish that you can make ahead. Make them bigger to use as a burger patty. The main ingredient in here is grated paneer which constitutes almost 70% of the mix. Add a little potato to help bind the mixture. Apart from these you can add any veggie combination you like. Carrots, peas, beans, leeks, etc. Make sure to lightly steam or microwave cook the beans and peas before adding to the mix.


Tandoori paneer tikka
Soft chunks of paneer marinated in hung yogurt based marinade with tandoori masala and grilled to perfection with onions and peppers. Often served as a starter, paneer tikka has the char broiled flavor of the tandoor (clay oven) and is a great vegetarian alternative for BBQ. Marinated cubes of paneer are threaded through the skewers along with red onions, pepper chunks and mushrooms and grilled till they sizzle. Serve them with mint chutney as a starter and with Plain naan as a meal.

Haryali paneer tikka
Hara bhara paneer tikka or haryali paneer tikka is made with an array of herbs and spices and tastes fresh and herbaceous. I use hung yogurt as the base for the marinade. You can also use sour cream if you wish. Grid the green marinade fine using as little water as possible.
Tikkas are served as starters with drinks or as an accompaniment to the meal with raw red onion rings, salad greens, mint chutney, hot dipping sauce and even small bites of naan. Give hot tikkas a drizzle of lime juice and a sprinkle of chaat masala (a mix of spices with mango powder, cumin, black salt) for an exquisite flavor.

                                                                                        Kali mirch paneer tikka
Kali mirch paneer tikka is simple and quick to make. The coarse texture of peppercorns infuse a gentle heat to the succulent paneer pieces and red and green peppers add to the smoky charred flavor. Tikkas are served as starters with drinks or as an accompaniment to the meal with raw red onion rings, salad greens, mint chutney, hot dipping sauce and even small bites of naan. Give hot tikkas a drizzle of lime juice & a sprinkle of chaat masala for an exquisite flavor.

A flavorful dish to serve with naan or roti, karahi paneer has its roots in Mughlai cooking. Succulnt pieces of paneer and smoky peppers are cooked in a tangy tomato sauce with a hint of creaminess. Adjust the consistency as per your taste.








Matar paneer
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.









Detailed recipe

Palak paneer 
Spinach with cottage cheese is a rustic dish and an old favorite of Punjab (North India). Lightly fried cubes of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and pureed spinach are simmered in an onion tomato gravy till flavors blend in. Palak paneer goes well with roti, paratha, naan and jeera rice with a side of raw onion rings and crisp green chilies. I make palak paneer in two different ways. One the more traditional recipe and the other a stir fried version which is much healthier and less calorie dense. Its not as creamy as the other version but taste awesome for those quick meals. So call it the shortcut method. Make sure to try them both.

Detailed recipe
Chaulia Paneer
This dish is very similar to matar paneer. Just use chaulia (green chickpeas) instead of peas. Fried cubes of paneer and chaulia 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 chaulia. 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.



Detailed recipe

Paneer Stuffed Indian peppers

Stuffed peppers are a fave all over the world. A variety of fillings find their way into these beauties both vegetarian and meat fillings. Flavored with cheese, tomato and spices you can fill them with almost anything - beans, rice, ground chicken, quinoa or a combination of these; they all taste awesome.





Detailed recipe


Shahi paneer
Shahi paneer means a royal paneer curry. This tomato and yogurt based creamy dish with cubed paneer has a definite Mughal influence. It is mildly sweet in taste. Sweet nuttiness comes from the cashew paste, slight sour from the yogurt and rich smoothness from the cream

Detailed recipe









Methi Chaman
Methi chaman is from the Kshmiri kitchen. Fresh methi greens are cooked with fried cubed paneer and buttermilk and flavored with bold spices such as ginger and fennel powder. There are several variations to this dish. You can use half methi and half spinach leaves to reduce bitterness and make it more kid friendly. You can also puree the greens rather than chop them. This makes for a smooth gravy like dish.



Detailed recipe 

Malai kofta (paneer kofta curry)

Malai Kofta is a dish for special occasions and is a vegetarian version of meatballs. Koftas are fried dumplings. More popularly recognized as meatballs, koftas can be made from different ingredients such as lamb, chicken, vegetables, paneer. Fried koftas are immersed in rich silky gravy and accompanied by naan, tandoori roti or cumin rice.

Detailed recipe
Kalakand
Kalakand is a soft,moist delicious dessert very popular all over India specially during festivals and celebrations. Traditionally its made by boiling milk down to half its volume and combining it with paneer or cottage cheese, a tedious and long process. But a much simpler microwave version of the recipe takes about quarter the time and comes out as delicious. I have written down both recipes and have also tried both. The results are almost same. Try this recipe during the festive season this year and enjoy.

Detailed recipe
Coconut Laddo
For a real quick and delicious dessert make these bite sized delights. This is an almost no cook dish which is ready in minutes and tastes very delectable. Serve them at room temperature for a melt in the mouth treat.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cedar planked Tilapia

On the plate
Cedar planked Tilapia
Roasted Mushrooms
Roasted Broccoli
Pineapple


If you have never experienced the delectable flavor of cedar planked fish then this is a must try recipe for you this summer. Fish cooks in its own moist juices, infused with the sweet smokiness of the cedar plank. Cedar plank cooking is not restricted to fish, you can use other types of meat as well. Serve right off the plank and the conversation is sure to revolve around the concept of cooking on planks.
Here I marinated tilapia fillets with olive oil and mustard. To balance the tartness of the mustard I drizzled a little ice wine syrup. The light sweetness of this syrup tastes awesome on this smoked grilled tilapia. Serve over crisp lettuce with grilled broccoli and mushrooms and a side of pineapple wedges. A totally wholesome and delicious lunch Buddha bowl.
Some thoughts on safety. Always exercise caution when using this technique of cooking. Make sure the plank is well soaked before cooking. The plank can catch fire on the edges after being on heat for a while. So have a spray water bottle handy for any flare ups. Also make sure the plank is completely extinguished before discarding it.

Cedar planked Tilapia
Ingredients: (serves 4)
4 boneless tilapia fillets
1 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp grainy mustard
cracked black pepper
salt to taste
1 cedar plank
1 tbsp ice wine syrup
  1. Pre heat your BBQ to medium high.
  2. Soak the cedar plank in water for 2 hours and then drain. Very lightly spray with oil.
  3. Rinse the fish fillets under cold water and then pat dry. Generously season the fillets with salt and pepper on both sides.
  4. Mix together olive oil and mustard. Spread this all over the fish.
  5. Place the fish on the prepared cedar plank. Place the plank on the hot grill. Cover the grill and cook till fish cooks through and reaches an internal temperature of 135 F. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Keep a spray water bottle handy for any flare ups.
  6. Transfer the plank carefully on a serving platter and drizzle with ice wine syrup. 
  7. Serve right off the plank.

Grilled Broccoli and Mushrooms
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 lb white button mushrooms
1 whole head broccoli
olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste (optional)
  1. Trim the broccoli into medium sized florets. Clean the mushrooms.
  2. Drizzle olive oil on all of the above. Season with pepper. 
  3. Place on the pre-heated grill. Cook turning occasionally till slightly charred and tender. 
  4. Sprinkle salt just before serving if desired. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sprouted methi seeds


Seeds, grains, beans and nuts are all filled with beneficial nutrients. Soaking and sprouting these seeds and beans replicates the germination process. This helps activate and multiply its micro-nutrients (particularly Vitamins A, B, and C), and makes them more bio-available by promoting the growth of vital digestive enzymes. Sprouting at home is an easy and inexpensive process, and requires minimal equipment. The process to sprout seeds, nuts, grains and beans is the same. Only the time required for germination changes. Here are some of the things you can sprout.
Pulses and beans - Moong beans, green lentils, adzuki beans, black eye beans, whole Bengal gram
Seeds - Alfalfa seeds, mustard seeds, methi seeds, chia, arugula, flaxseeds
Nuts - Almonds, Brazil nuts, Cashews, sunflower seeds

Here is the procedure I use for sprouting methi seeds. A little intro to these tiny golden seeds.
Fenugreek or methi (as its called in India) is the seed of the Trigonella foenum-graecum plant species, commonly used as a dried spice in East Indian cuisine. These golden seeds of the fenugreek plant are known for their fragrant aroma and a slightly bitter taste. Used in small quantity as a spice in stir fries and curries, methi seeds enhance the flavor of the food. In its fresh form methi leaves are consumed as stir fried leafy greens.

Fenugreek seeds
Sprouting Methi Seeds (Fenugreek seeds)
1/2 cup methi seeds
Strainer/Colander with a large diameter
Paper towel
Cheese cloth
  1. Soak methi seeds in water overnight.
  2. Rinse and wash the slime off the seeds. 
  3. Line the colander with some paper towel and spread the seeds on it. Place the colander on a mixing bowl and cover with a breathable mesh or cheese cloth.
  4. This arrangement is necessary so that air can circulate, and the water can drain off. Allow to sit in a well lit warm area.
  5. Repeat the rinsing process and spread fresh paper towel twice a day.
  6. The seeds will sprout and be ready to consume within 2-4 days depending on the temperature. In 5-6 days tiny leave will appear as well. 
  7. At any stage you can rinse well and store in a jar in the refrigerator. Consume within 2-3 days. 
  8. These beautiful sprouts make for a nutrient rich addition to salads, wraps and sandwiches. 
  9. The picture above is methi sprouts, red onion, cucumber and fresh coriander all tossed together with fresh lime juice and a hint of salt and pepper.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Black gram chaat




Kala chana, also known as black Bengal gram is a fave of mine. Apart from being delicious and versatile, it has an impressive nutritional profile. It contains a good amount of iron, sodium and selenium and small doses of manganese, copper and zinc besides being a very good source of fiber and folic acid. It is the richest source of proteins in legumes. Soak them overnight and then pressure cook in salted water. Sprout them to enhance their protein and vitamin content.

This dish here is sooo delicious and basically just a mix of flavors and textures. Just like a salad, throw in any fruit and vegetable you fancy and flavor as per your taste. I have mixed this one like a chaat with sweet, sour, salty and tangy flavors and soft and crunchy textures all in one. Try it. Guaranteed delicious.

Dry Bengal Gram
Ingredients:
1 cup whole black gram (soaked overnight)
2 small potatoes, boiled and peeled
1 large tomato
1 medium red onion
1/2 cucumber
2 large green chilies
1 inch ginger
1 sprig fresh mint leaves (or 1 tsp dry mint)
Handful fresh coriander
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Spices
1 tsp cumin seeds
Black salt to taste
1/2-1 tsp fine sugar
1/2 tsp amchur (dry mango powder)
Red chilli powder (to taste)
To serve
Seviyan and boondi
Raw mango (optional)
Pomegranate (optional)



  1. Place the soaked chana with a little water and a 1/4 tsp salt in a pressure cooker. Cook on high till the first whistle. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. 
  2. While the beans are boiling, chop and dice boiled potatoes, onion, tomato, cucumber, green chilies, coriander, mint and ginger.
  3. If the cooked chana has some water left over, strain it and use the water for curry or soup. 
  4. Placed the boiled chana in a large bowl. Add all the chopped veggies and herbs. Add all the spices to taste. Add lime juice and zest and flavor with the mint and tamarind chutney. As you add all these spices and sauces, taste every so often to check the sweet, salty and sour ratio.
  5. Add chopped sour raw mango and/or pomegranate seeds, if using. Mix well.
  6. Serve cold or at room temperature as a starter. We have even had this for lunch as a salad.
  7. Just before serving sprinkle seviyan and fried boondi on top for the crunch.  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Zucchini Fritters


This recipe here is my take on the zucchini fritters, using ingredients from the Indian pantry and keeping it strictly vegetarian. These quick and easy savory pancakes are perfect for breakfast or snack or as a component of my vegetarian buddha lunch bowl. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream flavored with garlic and herbs. A few handful of ingredients and you get yourself a wholesome platter of goodness. The proportions given in the recipe below are only guidelines. You can certainly add more zucchini. Just remember that grated zucchini has a lot of water content, and the batter should be of a pancake consistency. You can also omit the corm flour and only use chickpea flour instead. I love the flavor of dill in this mix. As a variation, add fresh parsley or mint instead.

Ingredients: (makes a dozen small fritters)
2 large Zucchini
1/2 cup Besan (chickpea flour)
1/2 cup superfine cornmeal (yellow cornflour)
1 tbsp plain yogurt
Salt to taste
Freshly grated pepper
Small handful fresh dill
Oil for frying
  1. Grate zucchini in a large mixing bowl. No need to squeeze out the water as you will need some moisture to get a droppable batter. 
  2. Add the two flours, seasoning, yogurt and dill.
  3. Mix everything, to make a thick batter (pancake consistency). Add water as required to get the correct consistency.
  4. Heat a non stick flat pan on medium heat and grease with  a little oil. Add a ladle full of batter to the pan to make a 3 or 6 inch diameter pancake. The ones in the picture are small 3 inch diameter pancakes. 
  5. Drizzle or spray a little oil on top and flip to cook on both sides. 
  6. Serve hot with a little yogurt dip on the side. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Methi chaman


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.
Methi chaman is from the Kashmiri kitchen. Fresh methi greens are cooked with fried cubed paneer and buttermilk and flavored with bold spices such as ginger and fennel powder. There are several variations to this dish. You can use half methi and half spinach leaves to reduce bitterness and make it more kid friendly. You can also puree the greens rather than chop them. This makes for a smooth gravy like dish. I like the following version with the earthy rustic chopped fresh methi only.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
500 gm paneer
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 bunch of fresh fenugreek (methi) leaves
1 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Oil
  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. 
  4. Soak them in buttermilk to keep soft. 
  5. Wash and drain the methi leaves to remove excess water. Chop them fine. 
  6. Heat oil in a pan and add asafoetida followed by cumin seeds. Let them roast for a few seconds before adding methi leaves. Fry for a minute and add all the spices and seasoning. 
  7. Add paneer cubes and buttermilk and mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered till the gravy thickens. Cook till the desired consistency is reached. I like it dry-ish. Serve hot.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Shahi Paneer



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.
Shahi paneer means a royal paneer curry. This tomato and yogurt based creamy dish with cubed paneer has a definite Mughal influence. Fried cubes of paneer are simmered in an onion, tomato, yogurt, ginger and garlic based gravy spiced with cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. These spices add a delicate flavor enhanced by the sweet nuttiness of cashews, a touch of sour from the yogurt and a rich smoothness of the cream.
So shallow fry paneer cubes till lightly golden and keep aside. Make the gravy. 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 naan or cumin rice. 

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)
400 gms paneer
1 medium red onion, pureed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches ginger, grated
2-3 green chilies, chopped fine
10-15 cashews
1 large tomato, pureed
2 tsp tomato paste
1 cup hung yogurt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 cloves
Small piece cinnamon
2 green cardamoms
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 tbsp cream for garnish (optional)
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. Make the cashew paste - Soak the cashews in 1/4 cup warm water for 5 minutes. Add the soaked cashews along with the water in a blender and make a smooth paste.
  5. 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, cinnamon and green cardamom in mortar and pestle, and add it to the pan. Add onions and fry till they turn pink. Add minced garlic, ginger and green chilies and lower the heat a bit. Continue cooking till everything turns light brown. 
  6. 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 for a minute. Now add the plain yogurt and cashew paste and cook on medium heat till you see some oil leaving the sides of the pan. Avoid using very high heat or the yogurt will start to curdle. 
  7. Add 1/2 - 3/4 cup water (based on the desired consistency) and stir well to get a uniform gravy. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-5 minutes. 
  8. Add the fried paneer cubes . Stir gently to coat all the pieces with the sauce and simmer for a minute.  Remove from heat, stir in the cream and sprinkle fresh minced coriander. Serve with roti or naan.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Salsa verde


Salsa verde is a simple fresh tasting salsa made using green tomatoes or tomatillos. This earthy salsa is traditionally pounded to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle, but a food processor works just as well. Once you make this at home you will never want to go back to the store bought salsas. It's perfect for dipping with tortilla chips and can be used in other recipes such as enchiladas, burritos and wraps, etc.
Tomatillo salsa can be made in two ways. Raw or roasted. Both taste great. Choose your option based on prep time available as the roasted one involves some cooking time. I must say the cooked version has an earthy smoky flavor.

Salsa verde - two ways
Ingredients: 
1 lb tomatillos (husks removed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3-4 hot chili peppers (serrano/jalapeños) use more/less based on your spice quotient
Handful finely chopped cilantro
1 lime, juice and zest
1⁄2 medium onion, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste

Make raw salsa (salsa verde cruda)
  1. Roughly chop all the ingredients and place in a food processor. Start with one chili and add more as needed, depending on how spicy you want your salsa. 
  2. Blend until your salsa has reached a smooth consistency. 
  3. If you like it chunky then pulse a few times to obtain that consistency.
  4. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
Make cooked salsa (salsa verde cocida) 
  1. Place tomatoes, chilies and garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil on high. 
  2. Turn them often. Cook till you see charring (blackened spots) and everything cooks through, takes about 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Chilies and garlic will be done before the tomatoes. Remove as each ingredient is done. Cool.  
  4. Place everything in a food processor and puree until smooth. 
  5. Small chunks are okay if you like your salsa a bit chunky. 
  6. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Corn and black bean salsa



This beautiful and delicious salsa is a crowd pleasing dish. Smoky cumin and tangy lime juice adds robust flavor to this simple yet nutritious salad. Filled with the goodness of black beans, corn and veggies it can be served with chips as a starter or as is for a light lunch or serve over rice or inside a tortilla. Be sure to let the salsa sit for 15-20 minutes before serving to let all the flavors blend in.

I usually make corn and black bean salsa during summer for BBQ parties. You can whip up a big batch in minutes. I use fresh corn on the cob, grill them and then shear off the corn kernels with a sharp knife from the husk. Adds a wonderful smoky flavor.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 red pepper
1 large tomato
1/2 large red onion
Few sprigs fresh coriander
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tsp roasted and ground cumin
1 Lime, juice and zest
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil
  1. Rinse and drain the black beans. Finely dice pepper, tomato, onion, jalapeno and coriander. Mix all in a big bowl. 
  2. Heat a tsp oil in a pan. Saute the frozen corn for a few minutes till slightly charred and heated through.
  3. Add the corn to the bean mix. Season with cumin, salt and lime juice and zest. Add more lime juice as desired.
  4. Let the salsa sit for 20 minutes before serving. 

Serving suggestions
  • Serve with corn chips as a starter
  • Serve wrapped up inside a warm tortilla with cheese as a wrap.
  • Serve over steamed lime cilantro rice with cheese, salsa verde and guacamole as a burrito bowl.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Root vegetable soup with chicken


Chunky root vegetables, slow cooked in flavorful broth and served with grilled chicken chunks on top. This simple cold weather soup is nutritious, filling and packed with flavor. Earthy red potatoes, sweet yams and sweet potatoes, carrots, leeks and parsnips all go in the broth. I also like to add eddos (although they are not technically root veggies). Eddos cook faster than the other vegetables, so add them midway in the cooking process. You can add parsnips, turnips, rutabaga and any other root vegetables you like. The robust flavor comes from garlic, onion, thyme and ginger. Make it vegetarian by omitting chicken. I love to serve this for Sunday brunch.

Root veggie soup (serves 5-6)
Ingredients: 

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 inch ginger grated (optional)
6 cups chicken/vegetable broth
3 red potatoes
3-4 eddos
2 sweet potatoes
2 yams
1 parsnip
2-3 large carrots
1 stalk leek
2 tsp dry thyme
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
Fresh coriander to serve
  1. Peel yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots. 
  2. Dice all the veggies into large chunks. Chop leeks fine. 
  3. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot at medium heat. Add minced garlic, onion and ginger. Saute for a few seconds till onion turns pink. 
  4. Add all other veggies (except eddos if using) and mix well. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. 
  5. Add stock and turn up the heat to high. Bring the soup to a rolling boil. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. 
  6. Stir the contents and add eddos. bring to a boil again and then simmer covered for 10-15 minutes till everything is cooked through. 
  7. Serve hot with/or without grilled chicken garnished with fresh coriander.
Grilled chicken
Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry thyme
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste
Olive oil
  1. Mix garlic, thyme, pepper and salt together and use it to season the chicken. 
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and grill at 350 F for 20 minutes till cooked through. 
  3. Remove from oven and let rest covered for a few minutes before slicing into small chunks. 
  4. Serve over the soup.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Pakode




“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself ……...” – Oscar Wilde

This tempting platter here is an assortment of fried pakodas (chick pea fritters). Small pieces of veggies are encased in a thick coating of chick pea flour batter, then deep fried till crisp. Known by many names pakoda, pakora, pakode this street food is served all across India. The vendors keep them half cooked ready to be crisped in hot oil and serve them in minutes with generous lashings of chutney.

Its one of those guilty pleasures that lifts up your spirit on a dull, cold, foggy or rainy day. As kids this was a fave dinner for us during monsoon season rolled inside slices of bread. Crisp, hot tangy and delish accompanied with a hot cup of tea or coffee (whichever is your forte) is pure pleasure.

By far my favorite is the mirchi pakoda and usually 1-2 are enough to satisfy my taste buds. You can use almost anything you fancy to make pakodas - eggplant slices, cauliflower florets, slice of potato and onion, cubed paneer, chopped spinach or even a combination all of these chopped fine. Bread pakoda is another variation where you can dip small triangles of bread in besan and make pakodas. An elaborate variation of this is the stuffed bread pakoda. Encase spiced and cooked mashed potatoes between two slices of bread and then dip in batter to make pakoda.

Whatever variation of pakodas you choose it is sure to delight your taste buds. Serve these as starters for your next party with one or more of mint chutney, mango mint chutney, garlic chili chutey and tamarind chutney.

Basic procedure for all types of pakodas
Ingredients
Veggies of your choice
Oil for deep frying
For the batter
1 cup gram flour/ chickpea flour/ besan
½ tsp turmeric powder
1/4  tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
½ tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (optional)
Salt to taste
3-4 cloves of garlic, grated fine
1 inch ginger, grated fine

  1. In a mixing bowl add the gram flour along with all other ingredients. Add water and whisk to make a smooth batter. You’re aiming for a thick batter, pancake batter sort of consistency to coat the veggies well.
  2. Heat oil in a wok or a deep pan for frying to medium high. Dip the sliced or diced veggies in the gram flour batter to coat and deep fry until golden brown and crisp all over. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve hot with a chutney of your choice.

Here are some of the common vegetables used for making pakodas. You can choose others according to your taste. Some other ideas are paneer, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, etc. 

Green chili (Mirchi) pakoda 
Long green chilies
Besan batter same as above

Procedure is the same as above. Just make sure to use green chilies that you can bite into comfortably. If the chilies are very hot then give it a slit and remove all the seeds. Sometimes I use small hot green chilies and usually one is enough to get the waterworks going. Use large green chilies, stuff them with mashed potato and then coat them with a thick batter and deep fry. Tastes awesome.



Eggplant (Baigan) pakoda
1 large eggplant cut in slices
Besan batter same as above

Baigan pakoda is one of the faves. The meaty texture of eggplant gives this one a wonderful bite. Use big eggplants for this and cut into even slices, about a quarter of an inch thick. Do not peel. Procedure same as above.





Onion (Pyaaz) pakoda
2-3 potatoes
Besan batter same as above

Peel and slice onion into thin slices. Dip them in the batter and coat then well with the thick batter. Drop into hot oil and fry till crisp and golden. The steam build inside will lightly cook the onion.

Spinach (Palak) pakoda
1 bunch fresh spinach chopped fine
1 small green chili chopped fine
Besan batter same as above

Proceed with the basic recipe for making the batter. Add chopped fresh spinach and green chili to the besan batter. Drop small spoonfuls into hot oil and fry till crisp and golden.
As a variation you can add finely chopped onions, methi (fenugreek) and potato along with spinach and make mixed veg pakodas.


Cauliflower (Gobi) pakoda
1/2 head cauliflower
Besan batter same as above

Cut cauliflower into bite sized florets. Dip them in the batter and coat then well with the thick batter. Drop into oil at medium high heat and fry till crisp and golden. The steam build inside will cook the cauliflower florets tender crisp.





Potato (Aloo) pakoda
2-3 potatoes
Besan batter same as above

Peel and slice potato into thin slices. Dip them in the batter and coat then well with the thick batter. Drop into hot oil and fry till crisp and golden. The steam build inside will cook the potato. Thinner the slices, faster they will be cooked through.




Bread pakoda
Boiled potatoes
Bread slices
Besan batter same as above

Mash boiled potatoes and stir fry them in a little oil with cumin seeds, turmeric, salt, chili powder and dry mango powder. Place the sliced bread on a plate and spread the spiced potato mix on it. Top with another slice to make a sandwich. Cut the sandwich diagonally criss cross to get 4 small trianles. Follow the basic procedure as mentioned above. Dip these triangles in batter and fry till golden and crisp.