3 Bell Peppers & Indian Cottage Cheese (Paneer) Stir Fry


Some days ago I had a discussion on a food group on FB about the excess of Paneer dishes in the menus of Indian restaurants and wondered if more seasonal veggies can be incorporated for the vegetarian clientele. There was a heated protest in favor of Paneer. Now, I love paneer but don’t really like the rich gravies or masalas in which it is prepared and served in the restaurants. A personal choice.

This is my variation of Kadai paneer though unlike the restaurant style recipe this doesn’t have a semi dry gravy and green capsicum. I love sweet bell peppers but I dislike the green capsicum.  I use a lot of sweet peppers in various dishes, add them to sauces, salads, stir fry and this version of kadai paneer or paneer stir fry is not only delicious but healthy too. Different colored bell peppers taste different and have dofferent nutritional values so using them all makes the dish more healthy. Red bell peppers have the highest amount of Vitamin C and many phytochemicals and twice the amount of beta carotene than the green capsicum. The yellow one is slightly sweet, orange one a bit more and the red one is the sweetest.  I roast, char, grill, saute the bell peppers as per the requirement of the dish or just use them raw. Bell peppers taste wonderful when slightly roasted or warmed. It really brings out their smoky flavor. Look up my recipe of a Warm Salad with Peppers and  roasted potatoes.

I seldom buy Paneer from the market and prefer to make it at home. The whey is used to kneed wheat flour or cook daals etc. Sometimes I just add a little lemon or sugar and drink a cup full. It tastes good and is full of healthy nutrients too.

Fresh paneer is creamy and light and can be incorporated in many dishes even salads.

Here’s how I make the cottage cheese or paneer at home.

Ingredients :

Full fat milk – 1 liter

Juice of a lemon –  2-3 tbsp

This is made from 1/2 L of full fat milk. 1 L will give approximately 200 gm of good quality paneer.

Method :

Heat the whole full fat milk in a pot and just as the top layer begins to wrinkle and the boiling stage starts turn the flame low and slowly add lemon juice little by little. Keep stirring constantly as you add lemon juice till you see the milk curdle and the greenish whey will separate from the cheese curd. If the liquid is still white you need to add a little more lemon juice till all the cheese curd separates from the whey and the whey is clear. Turn off the flame. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

Keep a strainer covered with cheese cloth ready on a pot and transfer the contents slowly so that the whey gets drained and you are left will sticky soft cheese curd or chena. Give it a rinse under filtered tap water to get the lemony taste out.

Press it a little with the back of a ladle to remove excess liquid and then transfer it to a cheese cloth.  Squeeze a little and give it a shape with a flat spatula and then press it with a heavy object. Remove the excess water and once done keep it in the fridge to set for an hour or two. Take it out and remove on a plate from the cheesecloth. Cut into cubes to add to any vegetable, salad or curry.

You can use the crumbled cheese or chena if making a filling or scrambled paneer burji.

You can refrigerate the paneer block in an airtight container or in a bowl of cold water for 2-3 days.

Always use full fat milk for best results. You can use white vinegar or curd as a souring agent. Each agent will constitute its own taste. Rinsing always gets that out of the paneer and it can be used to make even the sweets like sondesh, rasgulla etc. I have the nolen gurer sondesh recipe for you.

Once the paneer is ready use it for this recipe of Kadhai paneer or cottage cheese stir fry.

Ingredients : 

Red, Orange and Yellow Bell Peppers – 1 each (Medium size)

Homemade cottage cheese / paneer –  200 gm (approx)

Red Onion – 2 medium size

Plum tomato – 2 ( I deseed it)

Salt – as required

Ginger julienne – from 1/2 inch fresh ginger

Coriander seeds  – 1 tbsp

Cumin seeds  – 1 tbsp

Whole red chilies – 1-2 broken pieces

Asafoetida powder – a pinch

Kasuri Methi – 1/2 tbsp

Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Freshly crushed black pepper powder – 2-3 pinches (Optional)

Fresh coriander leaves ( chopped fine with tender stems) 1 tbsp

Olive Oil – 2 tbsp or Ghee -2 tbsp ( I love its flavor more)

Method – 

Wash, deseed and dice the bell peppers into cubes. (Cutting them in strips makes them cook faster. If you cut them in strips make sure to do that with all the other veggies and paneer too)

Dice the tomatoes into same size cubes.

Cut the medium size onions into four cubes and gentle peal the layers.

Dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and broken whole red chilies till they begin to give out a nice mild aroma. Coarsely grind them with mortar and pestle. Keep aside.

Heat a little Olive oil / Ghee in a thick bottom kadhai or wok and add asafoetida and slit green chili along with the onions. Stir fry the onions on high flame till lightly browned and translucent but crisp then add the bell peppers and give them a nice stir so that they are lightly roasted and warmed but not soft. Add the tomatoes and stir. Don’t over cook them. Add the dry ground masala, turmeric powder, kasuri methi, salt, crushed peppercorns and ginger julienne. Stir properly. We need to keep the crunch in the veggies so do not overcook. Add freshly chopped coriander leaves and stir.

Add the paneer cubes and gently toss so that the paneer retains its shape. Once the paneer is coated with the masala properly, garnish with more freshly chopped coriander leaves.  Turn off the heat and keep it covered so it absorbs the flavors from the peppers and other veggies.

Serve hot with chapatis, lachcha paratha, naan or use it as a topping on toast. I use this as a filling for a roll too.

You will love the delicate sweetness of the bell peppers and the spicy flavors from the fresh masalas. The paneer gives the soft creamy flavor to the dish which is absolutely divine.  I can bet that this will taste much better than the usual kadhai paneer we make. Do try this recipe and let me know how did it come out for you.

 

 

Warm Bell Pepper Salad With Lemon Honey Garlic Vinaigrette


Bell peppers are one of the most beautiful vegetables and my favorite too. I somehow despise the  green capsicum and its excessive use in many dishes but these red, yellow sweet peppers not just add color to the dish but also provide a lot of nutrients. They also pair very well with many things and can be baked, broiled, grilled, roasted or stewed. I add them to sauces for pasta and Shakshuka etc.  These beauties have a good amount of carotenoid content and Vitamin C along with Vitamin B6, folate, Vitamin A and many other good nutrients. I use them for roasted bell pepper raita (dip), salads (both warm and cold), pasta sauces and use them instead of green capsicum.

This is a warm salad with slightly fried potatoes but I do other variations with roasted veggies instead of sauteed. I love the smoky charred flavors of the bell peppers and tomatoes and make the salad with that too. It all depends on the mood.

The vinaigrette dressing is just perfect to give that citrus sweet flavor to the salad. You can use this as a marinade to chicken and fish also. Garlic gives that much needed kick to the vinaigrette making it delicious.  You can make the vinaigrette in a small jar and store it in that only for a day or two.

I am not a good food photographer but the recipe is awesome. Do try.

 

Bell Pepper And Potato Salad With Lemon Honey & Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients :

Bell peppers – 2 (1-red, 1-yellow)

Potato – 1 large (par boiled and cubed or cut into thin wedges)

Red Onion – 1

Garlic – 1 large smashed

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbsp

Plum Tomatoes- 2

Fresh herbs – Coriander/parsley

Salt – Pepper – as required

Honey – 1 tbsp

Lemon Juice – Juice of one medium lemon

Lemon zest – a little

Freshly cracked black peppercorn – 1 little

Apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar ( if desired ) – 2 tbsp

Steps – 

To make the Vinaigrette :

Take a juice of one lemon, add one crushed garlic clove, a little lemon zest add a tbsp of honey, add a little salt, two tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar if using, a little freshly crushed black pepper and fresh chopped herbs. Mix and shake it up in a small jar.

I didn’t use the vinegar in this particular salad. You can adjust the quantity as per the salad quantity or if using as a marinade as per the chicken or fish.

 

For Salad : 

Wash bell peppers and remove the seeds. Cut them into cubes or strips. Cut the onions and tomatoes into cubes or wedges. Peel the bar boiled potatoes and cut in cubes or wedges.

In a pan heat the olive oil and add the potatoes. Fry them till they turn nice n crisp. Remove in a bowl. Add onions and saute till slightly translucent, remove them in the same bowl. Now add bell peppers and toss them till slightly charred and warmed up, take them out in the bowl and then add tomatoes to the pan. We do not need to soften them so toss them till they are slightly roasted and add to the other veggies.

Gently toss the salad and add the Vinaigrette. Serve warm

Serve with any dish of your choice or just eat it straight from the bowl.

 

 

Whole Wheat Spaghetti With Bell Peppers and Red Wine


I love whole wheat pasta and often make it when I crave for a meal in jiffy. It is wholesome complete meal and one can be creative with it by changing the ingredients as per the mood of the day and the season. Packed with nutrition, this pasta, made from durum wheat, is any day better than the refined pasta. It has more dietary fiber too. Spigodoro wholewheat pasta and spaghetti are made from 100% organic whole wheat. The taste is sublime and it can be paired with any kind of sauce.

The market is flooded with juicy vibrant sweet bell peppers these days and I decided to do a variation of spaghetti using garlic cloves, tomatoes, and red and yellow bell peppers. I sometimes add chicken breast/ Italian sausages, even our every desi kebabs to it. The secret ingredient in this dish is the red wine. I had an Argentine Trapiche Reserva Malbec lying at home and used it liberally. It tastes uniquely delicious. The wine has a rich ruby red color and a sweet long lasting aftertaste. It was experimental but exquisite pairing.

To make this delicious spaghetti you will need:

Whole Wheat Spaghetti – 250 gm

Sweet Bell Peppers – 1 Red 1 Yellow (Medium Size)

Tomatoes – 4 Large Plum Tomatoes or 2 Large Tomatoes + Half Cup Fresh Tomato Puree

Garlic Cloves – 4-6 (Large) (Slow Roasted)

Red Onion – 1 Large

Mixed Dried Herbs  – 1 Teaspoon (Optional)

Fresh Cilantro/Coriander Greens –  1/4 Cup (finely chopped)

Fresh Thyme – 1 Teaspoon

Olive Oil – 2 Table Spoon

Salt and freshly crushed Black Pepper – To Taste

Red Wine – Your favorite 🙂 About 100 -150 ml

Cheese – Your Favorite ( I used Britannia Cheese but I normally prefer feta cheese with this)

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Method :

Whole wheat Spaghetti takes a little longer to soften. Boil the spaghetti in a big pot of boiling water with a little salt  and a few drops of olive oil  and cook as instructed on the pack or till al dente. Once done strain the spaghetti and rinse under cold water so they don’t stick together. Keep a bowlful of the starch water from the spaghetti to use later in the sauce.

As the spaghetti cooks, prepare the sauce.

Wash, deseed the bell peppers and dice them in thin slices or small cubes.

Dice onion in thin half moon slices.

Dice 2 large tomatoes in cubes ( discard the seeds if you wish)

Puree rest of the tomatoes.

Slow roast the cloves of garlic. (You can drizzle the garlic cloves with olive oil, cover them in foil and roast in oven for 30 minutes or till the center of the clove becomes soft. It will fill your home with a delicious aroma. Garlic is very healthy so use it generously in your cooking.  This time I just roasted them with skin on slow fire and pounded them in a pestle and mortar along with some black peppercorns. Remember , it is a meal in a jiffy and I was very hungry.)

Now that our ingredients are ready, take a large frying pan and put it on medium heat. Add olive oil, let it heat a little then add some crushed peppercorns and pounded garlic. Let it sweat till it becomes slightly golden.

Now, add the onion and let it sweat along with a little salt. Once the onions become soft and translucent add the bell peppers and stir. We don’t want the bell peppers to become mushy so stir them till they become a little crisp (If you use green pepper too then remember it will take  more time to cook so put it first) .

Once the peppers are cooked a little add the tomato puree, more salt and pepper, coriander greens, thyme and give it a good stir. Add tomato cubes now so that they retain their texture.

Add some of the starch water you saved earlier and let the mixture cook for at least 5-10 min on medium heat.

Once done add the wine. Don’t forget to keep sipping the wine while the meal is cooking. 😀

You can add/reduce the quantity of wine as per your taste. It is also optional. The dish will taste awesome even without it.

Cook for another minute and then add the spaghetti to it and stir so that the sauce covers every inch of the spaghetti or pasta if you using that.

Serve hot with sprinkle of grated cheese or crumble of feta cheese. Don’t over do as it will kill the flavours.

Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint or coriander.

If you are adding veggies to the main dish (mushrooms or spring onions) add them before adding the tomato puree.

Same with sausages or chicken. Prepare them in a different skillet or pan and add them before the tomato puree.

Enjoy this delicious colourful meal any time of the day.

Bon Appetit