Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fresh Paneer balls with Fresh Peas Kurma - a light but smooth gravy

When life throws sour milk at you what do you do? Make paneer of course. I am glad that I did not know that the milk was sour, if I had the order of events would have been different. I proceeded to heat the milk to make some yogurt and when the timer went off, took a look at the boiling milk only to see that the cheese had separated from the whey. What normally would have happened? the whole thing would have been dumped because I am not that big on being mindful - bad I know. This time my senses were about me and I also had a sieve handy that can easily filter out the separated cheese from the whey and that is what happened. I then I tied the contents in a cheese cloth to remove the excess water. I put it in the fridge and that was a bad thing. It is important to keep the cheese/paneer moist.

If you are not using the paneer right away keep it moist by keeping the paneer tied in a cheese cloth immersed in water. Once the gravy was made DD2 was first to offer compliments. She even said that the fresh paneer was mush tastier than the store bought ones. Of course she was correct. Lighter and much more spongier and tastier than the stuff I buy. It is a really easy proces, I can make my own whenever I want rather than have my store bought paneer almost explode in the fridge.

Prepare the paneer balls and blanch the onions and blend to a paste.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan, season with cumin seeds and add the blended onions and saute till the onions are cooked and is shiny with oil oozing in the sides.
Blanch the tomatoes, puree and add it to the cooked onions and cook till the tomatoes are fully cooked and you see oil on the sides.
Mix in the turmeric and chili powders and the peas and if required 1/4 cup of water and cook the peas.
Brown the paneer balls in some ghee.
Lower the heat all the way and add the nut paste and whisked yogurt and paneer to the cooked tomatoes.

The gravy is light and smooth and goes well with any Indian bread.

Fresh Panner balls with Fresh Peas Kurma
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 1/2 cup of fresh paneer rolled into small 1/2 inch balls
  2. 1 cup of fresh shelled peas
  3. 1 1/2 cup of roughly chopped onions
  4. 3 plump ripe tomatoes (roma tomatoes)
  5. 1/2 cup of thick yogurt whisked
  6. 6-8 cashews or almonds (keep soaked in water)
  7. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  8. 2 tsp of red chili powder + 1/2 tbsp Kashmiri chili powder (see note)
  9. seasonings: cumin seeds
  10. 3 tsp of oil (I use Saffola oil, any vegetable oil works) + 1/2 tsp of ghee
  11. handful of coriander leaves chopped
  12. salt to taste
  1. Blanch the onions, take the chopped onions in a sauce pan with just enough water (about 1/4 cup) to cover the onions and steam for about 4-5 minutes. Drain the water completely, cool and blend to a smooth paste.
  2. In a thick bottomed pan, heat oil and add the cumin seeds. Add the onion paste and saute till the onions start to get browned and starts to change color about 6-8 minutes. (See note:).
  3. While the onion is cooking blanch the tomatoes, heat water and add the tomatoes to the boiling water and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Cool by putting them in cold water. Peel the tomatoes and blend to a smooth puree and set aside. Blend the soaking nuts to a smooth paste.
  4. When the onions lose their raw smell and you see oil on the sides add the tomato puree and let it cook for another 6-8 minutes. You should see oil on the sides by now. Add the turmeric and chili powders. Mix.
  5. While the tomatoes are cooking, heat the ghee in a small sauce pan and saute the paneer balls so the outsides get browned a little bit.
  6. Add the peas and about 1/4 cup of water and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes. The peas should be almost cooked by this time.
  7. Lower the heat to low, add the blended nut paste, mix and also add in the whisked yogurt and keep mixing as you are adding the yogurt.
  8. Drop in the paneer balls and salt and let cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the coriander leaves and mix and turn off the heat.
  9. Note:
  10. All Kashmiri chili powder or just regular cayenne red chili powder can be user or even pepper powder.
  11. Blanching the onions makes it cook faster, rather than just blending the onions and cooking it uses far less oil.
Serve with any bread of choice.
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Uppu Paruppu - Simple Seasoned Dal

When I started writing this blog, it was more as a hobby and also this distant thought that it would one day help the kids to cook foods from their childhood. Little did I realize that the faraway thought will become a reality this quickly. It makes me want to cry but also proud of her attempting to cook instead of taking the easy way out and eating junk food and of the site being useful that way.

Cut the onions , green chilies and coriander leaves. Heat the pan, add oil and saute the onions, chiles and coriander leaves.
Add the cooked dal and salt, turn off the heat and the dal is ready.

This recipe that is something that any Indian food lover should have up their sleeve. Very simple and cooked in no time it provides the confidence to move on to other complicated recipes. While a pressure cooker is a god send for this recipe, not having a pressure cooker should not be a detriment. The recipe can be made with any of the Indian lentils/dal like toor dal (pigeon peas), masoor (mysore paruppu) or moong (paasi paruppu). Refer here for a primer on dal.

Without further talk here is the recipe,

Uppu Paruppu - Simple Seasoned Dal
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
  1. 1 cup of toor dal, masoor dal or moong dal
  2. 2 tbsp of finely chopped onions (optional, if not on hand leave it out)
  3. 2 green chilies chopped or 1 tsp pepper powder or 1 tsp red chili powder or 1 tsp sambhar powder
  4. 2 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves (optional, if not on hand leave it out)
  5. seasonings: cumin seeds, curry leaves and mustard seeds
  6. 1 tsp oil (or ghee)
  7. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  8. salt to taste

  1. Cook the dal with enough water, (usually in the ratio 1 cup of dal to 1.5 cups of water) with a few drops of oil and turmeric powder (see note:). If using pressure cooker cook for 2 whistles.
  2. Once the dal is cooked, in a sauce pan or wide mouthed pan or kadai, add the oil or ghee and when hot add the cumin seeds, followed by the mustard seeds and when it pops add the curry leaves.
  3. Add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions turn translucent.
  4. Lower the heat and add in the turmeric powder and spice powders if using instead of the green chilies, saute for 30 seconds. Add the coriander leaves and mix.
  5. Mash the dal with the back of a laddle and pour it into the saute pa n and if required add a 1/2 cup of water along with salt. Let it come to a boil and immediately turn off the heat.
  6. Note: The turmeric powder can be added while cooking the dal but if using pressure cooker if extra water was added it will spray so to avoid turmeric splattered all over leave it out now and add while sauteing.
  7. If onions or green chilies are not used just add the spice powders and turmeric powder to the oil directly.
  8. While I use a different pan to season the dal, you can transfer the cooked dal from the pressure cooker to another container, wash and use the pressure cooker for the seasoning part as well but no need to put the weight on again.
  9. While tastes best with rice can be a side dish for roti or chapathi.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dum Aloo (Small Potatoes in a creamy spicy sauce)

Ok! Let me confess the name Haldiram's usually makes me a little careless. I of course scan the package for artificial coloring, sugar content and the stuff that people usually scan for when buying packaged foods. Haldiram's for me is on the high end of the spectrum in quality with their vacuum sealed packaging and obviously the well known name and I turn a bit indulgent. To be fair, so far I have not found any of the Haldiram's products bought from any of the stores to be of bad quality or old or smelly which a lot of Indian oil based products are. Looks like what we should be afraid of is not what is listed in the packaging but what is not listed and the nose test is not enough :(

A reader (GS) forwarded this article to me Before the Maggi Noodles Scare Look at What the U.S. FDA Found in Indian Snacks was a bit shocking especially when I read about Haldiram's. As I searched for more information I also read this Haldiram Admits Products Contain Pesticides. Seriously the one mindless indulgence we all participate not because they in any way substitute out home made goodies but it gives us a comfort feeling? I am never going to look at Indian snack food the same way again.

I have always wondered how these snacks make it to the shelves in the US because we all know and are intimately familiar with the Indian government's inability to ensure the minimum level of safety in food products. And not for a second should we be complacent that the FDA inspects each and every product that makes it to the grocery shelves here. Read this, less than 1% gets inspected and this.

As for Maggi noodles, a life saver in the form of quick snack or even meals be it a quick dinner or packed lunch was not especially a surprise. That taste maker packet was always a mystery powder. Anyway after a life time of eating Maggi I stopped buying them altogether about a couple of years ago. It seemed to be a nostalgic crutch more for me than the kids though I was buying it for the kids than myself. They did not seem to miss it at all. I was in grade school when Maggi was first marketed in India. We were given free packets of Maggi noodles in schools no less. No wonder for millions of Indians it is more than a comfort food. It is a reminder of our carefree childhood. With all that nostalgia you'd think that I am actually advocating buying Maggi. To confess, my mom even back then did not particularly endorse Maggi but tolerated it because it came with us from school and it was not going to be easy getting rid of.

Anyway if you are ready for a tastemaker - less noodles which are very similar to Maggi and cooks just as quick but tastes far better, look no further than the curly Chukka Soba noodles. Here is an equally easy recipe to make - Yakisoba noodles. The reason these noodles appealed to me it had ingredients that I understood - unbleached wheat flour, sea salt and water. Even if these noodles are not available in your neck of the woods, I am sure there are similar dry noodles that can be easily substituted for Maggi noodles.

When we read these things we know that cooking at home is perhaps the best thing to do. But a lot of you will laugh and say "who has the time?". In this day and age when pre-cooked packaged ready to eat Indian meals are also available cooking at home has its own benefits. I don't have to wax eloquent on that.

Now on the recipe. If you happen upon small potatoes and you want something tasty dum aloo is something that should come to mind immediately, it does for me ;). The other recipe are these quick and easy roasted potatoes. Here is the recipe - Spicy Oven roasted fingerling and baby potatoes if you are interested.

I prefer the dum aloo without the nut paste and cream/yogurt sometime added. Also this is spicier than the restaurant versions.

Dum Aloo
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 15-20 baby potatoes
  2. seasonings: cumin seeds and a few cloves
  3. For the masala
  4. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  5. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  6. a few peppercorns, 3 red chilies
  7. a small piece of cinnamon stick and a piece of star anise
  8. 1/2 cup of chopped red onions
  9. 2 tomatoes chopped
  10. 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped
  11. 2-3 garlic cloves chopped
  12. 1/4 cup of grated of fresh or frozen coconut
  13. handful of coriander leaves
  14. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  15. 2-3 tsp of oil
  16. salt to taste

  1. Wash and boil the potatoes till they are soft. You can leave the skin or peel it off. Make a few cuts or pricks on the potatoes and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking get the masala ready.
  2. Prepare the masala paste
  3. In a saute pan, add a few drops of oil, roast the cinnamon, star anise, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, pepper corns and red chilies till they are starting to turn a slight color. Set aside in the blender.
  4. In the same add a tsp of oil, add the onions and saute till it starts to turn brown. Add garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute till it gets nice and soft. Add the coconut and saute for another 3-4 minutes. You can add the coriander leaves to blend or use it for garnish.
  5. Cool, Run the blender with the whole spices for a couple of spins and then added the onion-tomato-coconut mixture and blend to a smooth paste.
  6. Prepare the curry
  7. In a wide mouthed saute pan heat oil and add the cumin seeds followed by the potatoes, saute for a couple of minutes, the potatoes will brown a bit. Don't let them stick to the bottom. Add the turmeric powder, give a good mix.
  8. Add the blended paste and about 1/2 cup of water, salt and let it simmer in for about 8-10 minutes on medium low heat.

Serve with rice or any Indian bread of choice.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Spicy Shrimp Curry in a Clay Pot

Seafood is a favorite around our house. But you see, I read a lot about fishing, over fishing, sustainability, Chinese farmed fish, lead or mercury levels in fish and various other scary things about fish and the end result I hardly if ever not not worry about a fish purchase. That does not necessarily mean we do not eat seafood. I buy a lot of the frozen fish from Costco including the shrimp.

The best place to buy fish is of course the fresh market if you live close to the coast. That is not always a feasible option but occasionally that happens and you realize what a world of difference fresh fish really makes. Whole Foods occasionally has some locally caught fresh fish which is also a huge treat.

Lucky are those who have access to fish mongers who supply fresh catch. Unfortunately we are not that lucky. Let all this talk about sourcing fish make you think we hardly eat seafood. We do and Shrimp makes a regular appearance because the kids love it especially DD2. I always have a pack of raw frozen fish in the refrigerator.

This recipe came about when I was trying to recreate shrimp curry that I had recently tasted in a restaurant but without the floating oil and a lot more spicier. The thing about cooking seafood is, it is fast and requires not more than 30 minutes and most of that time is to cook the curry or gravy and not the actual seafood itself.

The most important thing to remember is that seafood be it fish or shrimp cook in a jiffy, usually in 3-4 minutes. It is important not to overcook else shrimp especially will become rubbery and I will never hear the end of it from DH.

Soak the tamarind. Wash the shrimp, drain as much of the water as possible, add a tsp of the turmeric powder and let it sit.
Dry roast the spices for the spice powder and make a fairly fine powder and set aside.
In a saute pan add oil and saute the onions till they start to turn brown. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a minute and then add the coconut and saute till they start to get nice and toasty and a slight brown tinge.
Reduce the heat and add the powdered spice powder and mix well. Add the turmeric and chili powder and turn off the heat. Let cool.
Add oil to the clay pot and when hot add the seasonings, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds and when the mustard starts to pop add the curry leaves, add the onions and saute till they turn slightly brown. Add the tomatoes and still till they turn mushy.
Add the blended paste with about 1/2 cup of water and the tamarind pulp. Let it come to a boil and reach a consistency slightly thicker than what you want the curry to be. At this stage add the shrimp.
After adding the shrimp cook only for about 3-4 minutes and not more. Add the coriander leaves and turn off the heat.

You could add the coconut milk towards the end if you have thick coconut milk on hand. I usually don't so I roast the coconut till it is nice and toasty and then blend it with the onions. It is very important not to over cook the shrimp so make sure after you add the shrimp to the boiling gravy to turn off it in 3-4 minutes max.

Spicy Shrimp in a Clay Pot
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 15-20 medium sized shrimp
  2. 1/4 cup of shallots or red onions chopped fine
  3. One ripe tomato chopped fine
  4. 1/4 cup tamarind pulp from a small grape tomato sized tamarind (optional)
  5. seasonings: mustard seeds, cumin, a pinch of fennel (sombu) and curry leaves
  6. 3 tsp oil
  7. For the spice paste
  8. 1/2 cup of finely chopped red onions or shallots
  9. 3-4 garlic cloves
  10. 1 inch piece of ginger
  11. 1/4 cup of grated fresh or frozen coconut
  12. 3 tsp turmeric powder
  13. 3/4 - 1 tbsp red chili powder (mine is mild, adjust accordingly)
  14. For the spice powder
  15. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  16. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  17. a few pepper corns
  1. Wash the shrimp, remove as much of the moisture as possible. Add a tsp of turmeric powder and set it aside.
  2. In a small sauce pan dry roast the spices in the 'For the Spice Powder' for about 2 minutes or so till they nice and toasty. Cool and blend to a powder.
  3. In a saute pan or a wide mouthed pan (kadai) heat oil and add the onions and saute till the tips starts to turn brown.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for a minute more.
  5. Add the coconut and on medium low flame saute the coconut till it starts to change color to a browner shade. Add the powdered spice powder. Mix it well. Turn off the heat. Add the turmeric powder and chilli powder. Cool and blend to a smooth paste with addition of maybe quarter cup of water. Set aside.
  6. Heat the clay pot, add the oil and when hot add the cumin seeds,fennel seeds and mustard seeds and when it starts to pop add the curry leaves.
  7. Add the onions and saute till they are slightly browned. Now add the tomatoes and saute till soft.
  8. Add the blended paste with about 1/4 cup of water,salt and the tamarind extract and cook till the gravy reaches desired consistency (about 6-8 minutes).
  9. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2-3 minutes. The shrimp should be cooked by now. Turn off the heat. It is very important not to overcook the shrimp. Remember it will continue to cook while it is in the hot curry.
  10. Sprinkle the coriander leaves.
  11. Serve with rice or any Indian bread.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Orange Milkshake

DD2 likes all things orange. A big bag of oranges will easily vanish within a week. Sometimes there are the last few that sit around waiting to be rescued. That is when decisions like this needs to made. Like making orange milkshake for instance. DH was skeptical adding milk to orange juice. It is a legitimate concern because normally you do not add sour agents to milk. The milk will curdle.

The trick here is to have the milk cold and the orange juice should be equally cold. I know normally we do not add warm milk to milkshake. So mostly you are in the clear. But just bear in mind the milk has to be chilled. In the US this is generally not a problem because we keep milk in jars in the fridge anyways.

As for dealing with the orange, I segmented the oranges removed as much of the skin and all the pith and blended them together first and then added the milk. If you want a smoother milkshake you might want to run the blended oranges through a sieve. This is perfect on a hot summer afternoon.

Orange Milkshake
Preparation Time:15 minutes
  1. 2 large oranges peeled, pitted and segmented without skins
  2. 1 cup of chilled milk
  3. 1/2 cup of ice cold water
  4. 1/2 cup of ice
  5. 1/2 tbsp of sugar or honey (optional)
  6. 2 scoops vanilla ice cream (optional)

  1. Take the cleaned orange segments, sugar if using, ice and the cold water and blended till smooth. The blended mixture will have some pulp. You can run the whole mixture through a sieve and return to the blender. I did not do it.
  2. Now add the milk and ice cream and run the blender once in low speed.
  3. Transfer them to serving containers.

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