Indian Cottage Cheese (Paneer) In Spicy Arrabiata Sauce


Arrabiata Sauce is one of my favorite sauces and I use it for pasta especially Penne  and for many other dishes. It is healthy, full of texture and color and easy to prepare.  The one thing that makes it distinctly different from other tomato based red sauces is the chili factor.  The crushed red chili flakes or the fresh ones that are added whole or chopped give life to the classic marinara sauce that is the base sauce for Arrabiata.

Also a good amount of olive oil works best for the sauce. Cooked or heat processed tomatoes contain more lycopene, because cooking helps to release lycopene from the tomato cells. Lycopene is fat soluble, so it helps to cook it in oil, such as olive oil. Presence of peperoncino (chili flakes) gives it a defining characteristic (and a lively kick). I add basil and coriander to enhance the taste.

The main ingredients for Arrabiata are tomatoes and garlic. Those  who love garlic like I do can use it as a main flavor in this recipe.  I use fresh ripe plum tomatoes to make the Concasse for this sauce. Canned tomatoes aren’t something I use at home.

Arrabiata sauce goes very well with Indian cottage cheese or Paneer and we all love it. I am not a big fan of paneer but I do love a few dishes made with it. This is one of them. I also make the same dish in classic marinara or just the concasse with lots of fresh green chilies added with an Indian twist to the seasoning.

The basic ingredients for the Arrabiata sauce  I make for this particular dish are :

Tomato Concasse – 400 gm approx

Garlic-  medium size 8-10 pods ( peeled and finely chopped)

Red Onions – 2 medium, finely chopped

Fresh coriander greens (with tender stems) –  5 table-spoon ( finely chopped)

Crushed red pepper flakes – 1 teaspoon or fresh red pepper -2-3

Olive oil –  2-3 table-spoon

Black Pepper – freshly crushed 1 tea-spoon

Cumin Seeds – 1 teaspoon

Salt – to taste

Tomato sauce – 6 tablespoons

Dried Bay Leaves – 2

Fresh Basil Leaves – 3-4

Salt – to taste

Indian Cottage Cheese/ Farmer cheese / (Paneer) –  400 gm ( preferably home made but you can use market  bought too.) Chopped in cubes and placed in warm saline water

Method :

Warm the olive oil or any other vegetable oil / butter in a thick bottom pan.

Add the cumin seeds and bay leaves. Once the cumin begins to crackle, add garlic and roast a little till it changes color slightly. Add whole / chopped red pepper or chili flakes to perfume the oil. Keep the flame low so as not to burn anything.

Add the chopped onion and stir. Cook until onion softens.

Add the tomato concasse ( canned tomatoes/ store bought concasse) and give it a nice stir. Let it simmer on low medium heat as you stir occasionally with a wooden spatula or spoon. Let it cook on  low heat for 30 minutes or till it reaches your desired consistency.  I keep it thick gravy like. Add basil leaves and fresh chopped coriander. Give it a stir.

Add salt, tomato sauce and freshly crushed black pepper. ( Be careful of the heat threshold )

Taste the sauce and add anything you feel is lacking.

Once the Arrabiata sauce is ready add the cubes of paneer ( Indian Cottage Cheese) in it and stir gently to cover the cubes uniformly in sauce. Let it cook for ten more minutes. Add warm water if the sauce is too thick. If it looks thin simmer a bit more.

Serve hot with sourdough breads, garlic breads, phulka or paratha. I sometimes just eat a bowlful of it on its own.

(I had posted an earlier version of this dish in 2010 that I have removed)

Dahi Gujiya | Lentil Dumplings In Sweet Spiced Yogurt – A Festive Recipe


I have not been keeping too well and that is affecting  my writing and other projects badly. Made these traditional UP style dahi gujias for Holi but never got a chance to post the recipe. My apologies for this late post.

Dahi gujia can be called sibling of dahi vadey/dahi bhalle. Melt in the mouth, delicate lentil dumplings especially made in the shape of gujia during festive or auspicious occasions like weddings etc. It is also a Holi specialty in parts of Uttar Pradesh. A bit tricky to make,  it takes a bit of patience and practice to make these. The gujias have a little stuffing inside them unlike the usual dahi badey. Served with sweet tamarind sauce or sonth and ground spices this remains one of my favorite dishes in any season.

I remember my mother making them and arranging them gently in a large ceramic pan then pouring the chilled beaten curd over it and let them rest a while to soak up the curd. She would then decorate them with ground spices and sauces. The gujiyas were so tender hat they would break at the slightest touch. The trick to this softness lies n the making of Peethi or ground lentil paste.

One must keep in mind to soak the daal  for minimum 4-5 hours preferably overnight. Grind the daal with minimal water to make a whipped cream like paste. It should be airy and light. Check the lightness of the paste by dropping a little batter in the glass of water. If it floats then it is ready to use. Soaking the fried gujias in hot water for a minimum of 30 minutes is essential too. This will help them to fluff up to double the size and remove excess oil too. They can them be gently squeezed and used. One can refrigerate the fried gujias for at least and use them later too.

Ingredients :

For Gujia :

Urad daal (Dhuli) | Split skinned black lentil – 250 gm

Oil for Frying

For stuffing :

Ginger grated and julienne – 1 inch piece

Chironji – 1 tsp

Raisins – 10-15

Freshly Crushed black pepper – 2 tsp

You can add crushed cashews too. I do not.

Other ingredients :

Home cultured Yogurt /Curd /Dahi – 500 gm

Sugar – 1 tbsp

Salt – to taste

Sweet Tamarind Chutney  Sonth – as required

Green Coriander \ Mint Chutney – as required

Roasted cumin seed powder – as required

Salt – as per taste

red chili powder – as per taste

Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp

 

I just realized I forgot to add the process pic of frying the gujia. Sorry about that. 

Note to self and Tip – when planning to post on blog save pictures separately from Instagram. lol .. here is the pic from the story I rescued. You know where it should have gone in the collage.

Process : 

Wash and soak the skinned and split black gram daal overnight.  In the morning remove excess water and grind the daal into a fine paste ( it should look like whipped cream.) Add a little water to the daal while grinding if it is too thick but the batter should not become runny.

Take it out in a large bowl and whip it with fingers too to incorporate air into he batter. This will help the gujia to stay light and fluffy.

Now, add oil for frying in a kadhayi / wok and put it on medium high flame. Meanwhile in a shallow large bowl take water(not boiling) and add hing/asafoetida and salt to it. Mix well and keep aside.

Spread it into a round shape of 4-5 inch diameter with your fingers. Add a little of stuffing and gently fold the batter with the help of the sheet to make the crescent shape gujia. Join the edges by gently pressing with fingers.

Lift the gujia with the sheet n your left hand and flip the gujia gently in to your right hand. Gently slide it into the hot oil. Be careful while you do this step.

You can make these gujias on your palms too but that requires skill and practice.

Fry it till its color slight golden brown. Remove excess oil and drop it gently into the bowl of hot water.

Repeat the steps for frying all gujias and place them in salted hing water for 15-20 minutes to absorb the flavor. In another bowl beat the chilled yogurt . I prefer to use home cultured one but you can use the market bought one also.

Once it it nicely whisked, add sugar and mix well. The consistency should be flowing but not really thin and runny.

Take out one gujia at a time and gently press it between palms to squeeze out water. Place the gujias in a shallow dish and pour the beaten yogurt on top soaking them well.

Decorate with tamarind sauce and green chutney. Sprinkle roasted cumin seed powder, red chili powder and black salt over it and chill.

Serve when desired. You can also keep the curd separately and make individual servings by putting a little curd as base in a plate then adding 1-2 gujias and spooning some more curd on top. Garnish with ground spices and chutneys before serving.

I make the usual dahi bada with the same mixture many times in summer. It is a complete lunch for me at times and one of my favorites too.

Do give this a try and let me know your experience.

 

Kinnow And Orange Marmalade Recipe


 

I like bitter marmalade to the moon and back. Thick cut, medium cut or thin cut, I love it both ways but I am a little particular about the sweetness part. I like my marmalade slightly more bitter. Fans of marmalade are very touchy about how the marmalade should look, taste. Some like it a bit soft, runny while others may prefer a perfectly set, some juice the fruit others chop it and use the pulp with rind, some prefer large, juicy chunky pot of gold while some like the slivers of sun in there bottle. Every texture has a taker who loves this deliciousness. There are hundreds of methods and each is right. I am sharing mine with you though each marmalade recipe is sentimentally personal. Always read the full recipe before starting off to make.

I have made this one with Kinnow and oranges. Both are selling in abundance right now and the fruits are packed with pectin so no artificial pectin added to this recipe. The pips, pith and skin rich in natural pectin will do the job.

Kinnow is basically a hybrid variety of two kinds of citrus cultivars – King (Citrus nobilis) and Willow Leaf (Citrus x deliciosa).cultivated throughout Northern India and even in other citrus growing states.This popular and delicious fruit is considered as one of the healthiest because of its health benefits but those you can Google. Kinnow fruit is juicy and has thicker pulp than oranges and even the pith is thicker. I find them perfect for marmalade. Here I used a few oranges too but didn’t use their peel as it was bruised. Also a twist in taste came with a hint of ginger juice. It gives such a kick to the marmalade I can’t tell you.

Preparing marmalade is a labor of love. It is one of those erotic kitchen romances. If you detest long drawn processes of preparations and cooking then this recipe is not for you. There is a certain joy in peeling oranges, making those slivers of the peel, scooping out the pulp or cutting the fruit with juice dripping all over, the slow cooking and then basking in the bitter sweet aroma of the orange nectar that will fill your home.

Here’s how you will make that magic happen: (I missed two process pix here. (Deleted them by mistake so sorry about that)

Ingredients:

Kinnow – 3

Oranges – 2 large (Total fruit pulp was about 1/2 kg or 500 gm)

Sugar – 800 gm (adjustable)

Juice of lemon – 2 tablespoon

Ginger juice – 1/2 tbsp (optional)

Water – 1 liter approx

Method : 

Wash, wipe and peel the fruit. Always buy firm, ripe fruit that is not bruised.

With a sharp knife scrap the pith from the peels and keep aside. Do the same with the peeled fruit. Remove all the white pith and pips. Collect it in a muslin cloth and tie in tightly to make a pouch.

Now, shred the peel into the desired length and thickness. I sliced into thin it into thin slivers for this batch. Keep it aside and chop the fleshy fruit fine. Some people juice the fruit and discard the pulp or cut the oranges with the rind into moon like slices but my marmalade is not translucent when made it is voluptuous to say the least with a strong citrus flavor and thick texture. The juicing gives a pale clear jelly like texture which you usually see in marmalade.

Meanwhile place a small steel plate in the freezer for the sheet test.

Once you have the pouch, the slivers of peel, the fleshy pulp all ready take a medium size pan and put the slivers of rind in it. Add enough water to cover the rind and boil for ten minutes. Turn off the flame and discard the water. Do it one more time. This is to ensure the correct bitterness needed for the recipe. Also, the rind will soften a bit. Once the sugar is added the rind doesn’t soften. This is what I learned.

Now, in a large thick bottom pan add, fruit pulp, water, sugar, ginger and the lemon juice.  Place the tightly secured pouch containing pips and pith in the mixture. Lemon is needed as pectin needs acid to set in. The amount of sugar depends how you lie your before adding he r marmalade and how sweet the oranges are. mine were very sweet and I like bitter taste. Warming the sugar cuts down the frothing which you need to skim to avoid clouding the final product.  1:2 fruit sugar ratio works fine. I added a little less as I prefer more bitter taste. You can adjust.

Cook the mixture on medium heat to dissolve the sugar properly then turn up the heat and bring the mixture to rolling boil. Let it cook for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to medium – low to let the mixture simmer. Cook it for 40-50 minutes stirring every 5 minutes so that e mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan or overflows. Keep skimming the froth.

Never ever press the pouch with the ladle. Let it just sit in the boiling mixture for some more time then gently remove it.

Once the liquid reduces pay more attention. You need to stop the cooking process at the right time – too early and you get a runny marmalade, too late and you get a sticky mass that won’t spread.

Do the sheet test for checking. Drop a little marmalade on the chilled plate and see if it flows or shows signs of jellying. I prefer not to wait for that stage. I like when it slowly slides when the plate is tilted. Once cool it will set nicely.

If it is too runny cook a little more if it hardens then your best bet is to boil a little water and add it to marmalade and heat a bit more till you get right texture.

Once done turn off the heat and let it become warm from hot. Stir it to distribute the peels evenly. Ladle it in clean glass or ceramic jars and close the lid tightly. My jar has vacuum tight so perfect for storing it.

So, here we have gorgeous sunny marmalade that has the perfect bitter sweet rich taste. Spread it on your morning toast as a wake up call to a bright sunny happy day.

 

Tip- If you want a clear marmalade you need to squeeze the peeled oranges in a jug and use the discarded pulp in the pectin pouch along with pip and pith. Use this juice with, water and shredded peels to make the marmalade. I will try to make a small batch and put up the method in a few days. 

You can use other citrus fruit too. The ratio of sugar, fruit and water will differ accordingly.

Musk Melon & Lemon Sorbet


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I love melons of all sorts be it honeydew, cantaloupe or musk melons. Summer is bearable because of all the awesome stone fruits and melons and watermelons one gets. I love to binge on them and make slushy, sorbets, smoothies, FroYos, ice creams, Granitas etc. Add a little booze for the adult versions and you just can’t go wrong with them.

Stone fruits are another love. You can do so much with them.  This three ingredient sorbet is a favorite. I make it with the Honeydew melon too. The frozen melons /cantaloupes taste less sweet so if you are looking for an authentic sorbet taste so you need to add the sugar syrup or powdered sugar or honey as per your taste. It also given the sorbet like texture otherwise the blended frozen fruit may seem bland.

This no dairy alternative to ice cream is fabulous so do give it a try.

Ingredients :

Musk Melon /Cantaloupe / honey dew Melons –  1 Cup ( 1 medium fruit cubed)

Pure Honey – As required (2-3 Tbsp approx. )

Fresh Lemon Juice – 1 Tbsp

Lemon zest – 1/4 tsp

2-3 Tbsp water ( as required)

Steps – 

Wash and cut the melon into half. Scoop out the fleshy seeds and then cut it into slices. Chop it further into equal size cubes.

In a tray place parchment paper and arrange the melon pieces on it. Keep enough distance so that it doesn’t become a big frozen blob. Let it freeze for 3-4 hours or till frozen completely.

In a food processor or blender jar put these frozen melon pieces and churn till the fruit becomes a crumbly mix. Keep scraping the sides to ensure uniform blending.

Add lemon juice, lemon zest, honey and water to the mix and pulse again. Add a little more water so it gets blended properly but don’t turn it into a slush.

Taste to see the sweetness. Add a little more honey if required then pulse again till you a get a sorbet like texture.

Serve immediately or freeze in a freezer friendly container for an hour or so to get the firm texture.  You may pluck it with fork  or spoon after 30 minutes of so to make sure that there are no icicles. High water content makes it a tad bit difficult to handle but the end result is awesome.

Tip – 

To choose a good melon look for these signs.

There should be no bruises, cracks, soft spots etc. The fruit should feel heavy and the color of the skin should be yellow or golden in case of musk melons. Tap it with your hand, it should sound hollow. The fruit must have that sweet fragrance so go ahead and smell it.

A good fruit will ensure a good sorbet.

Note –

You can add powdered sugar or Boora cheeni to the sorbet instead of honey but I have noticed that adding honey helps in non crystallization of water so no icicles 🙂

To make the slushy you just need to blend the fruit till it becomes a slushy by adding the right amount of water.  Basil and mint go well in these sorbets and slushy.

I have stored this sorbet for two weeks in the freezer and it worked for me.

Add a little gin or vodka for that boozy taste.

Bring the summer in a bowl to your table and let me know if you liked this recipe.

Single Serve 2 Minute Microwave Fruity Bread Puddings


Bread pudding variations are my go to comfort food. I have a few recipes already on the blog and you can check them here – Pudding in a mug , caramelized bread pudding , citrus bread pudding  etc.

Many of my friends asked for the instant Cherry upside down and the banana upside down bread puddings I made in the microwave. These are perfect when you crave for something wholesome and sweet at an unearthly hour. It takes 2-3 minutes to prepare these and trust me they’re addictive.

There is no rocket science in making these puddings and you can do variations as per your liking. You can use fruit of your choice, add seeds, nuts, dates, chocolate or Nutella, whiskey or rum or just have the pudding warm and plain.

Preferably use a thick one day old bread. Challah, French loaf, Brioche are the recommended breads for French toasts and bread puddings but for these the usual white bread too works well. I have made these Puddings with Bishop Nut bread too. I love the chewy texture of baguette too but it needs extra soaking to soften it. Use what’s available. I do not trim the edges. They add to the texture of the pudding.

Use the sign of the pudding crawl out up to  at least 1/2 inch  outside the mug to know the dish is done perfectly.

Never be afraid to fill the mug till top and things settle down a lot once the bread soaks the liquid. I fill the usual coffee mug a little above 3/4.

Do adjust the cooking time according to your microwave type and bread type. Usually for me it takes about 2 -3 minutes.

Use wide mugs if possible bu taller ones also work fine.

You can keep the sugar to the minimum and utilize the sweetness of fruit. Also, one can use organic honey. I try to minimize the sugar usage.

This was a rushed coking spree so please excuse the photograph. Will replace with a good one when I make it next.

Here’s how I made them :

Upside down Warm Cherry Bread Pudding 

Ingredients :

Pitted fresh cherries – 8-10

One day old bread – 2 thick slices

Milk ( preferably full fat with top cream) – 1/4 cup

Bourbon or any Whiskey – 2 tablespoon

Raisins – 8-10

Sugar ( white/brown) – 2 tbsp

Salted Butter – 1 tbsp

Pinch of cinnamon powder

Pinch of nutmeg powder

Pure vanilla extract or vanilla essence –   2-3 drops

Steps – 

Soak the cherries and the raisins in Whiskey and keep aside

Nicely toast two slices of bread . It compensates for the browning you get if oven baked)

Apply butter on one side and then break it into bite size pieces or cut into squares.

In the bowl you will use for making the pudding, arrange the cherries and then place the bread pieces. Add the raisins in between.

In another bowl mix sugar, spices, vanilla and the remaining whiskey and then pour this mixture over the bread pieces.

Press it gently and let it rest for 5 minutes for the bread to soak up the milk.

Place the bowl on the center of microwave plate and let it cook for 2 minutes on high power. Check by pressing the spoon gently. If there is still a lot of liquid then give it another minute or take it out on the counter.

Place a plate on top of the bowl and turn upside down to release the pudding.

Have warm of cold as per your liking.

You can mix everything and make this pudding in a mug too. I made this one in bowl with no added sugar as the black cherries from FarmerUncle were super delicious and sweet as honey. These are chemical residue free cherries. I added Amul Venezuela Ebony Twist chocolate pieces too for added indulgence.

Caramelized Banana Upside down Bread Pudding 

Ingredients : 

Ripe yet firm banana – 1 large

Full fat milk with top cream – 1/3 cup

Dark Rum ( Old Monk) – 2 tbsp

Raisins – 10-15

Sugar ( brown/white) – 2 tbsp

water – 2 tbsp

Bread Slices – 2

Vanilla extract or essence ( optional) – 1-2 drops

Cinnamon _ nutmeg powder – a pinch ( optional)

 Steps- 

In a bowl soak the raisins in rum and keep aside.

In a non stick skillet or sauce pan add sugar, let it simmer over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Cook, gently swirling the pan but not stirring, until amber.  Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in a tsp of butter.

Cut the banana into small rounds and place them neatly in the caramel. Put it back on low heat and let them turn golden from both sides. Take the pan off the heat.

Carefully arrange the banana slices in the bowl in which you will make the pudding.

Toast and butter the bread and then make small pieces of it. layer the raisins and bread pieces over the banana slices.

In a bowl whisk milk, vanilla and spices. Pour the mixture over the bread pieces. adding the leftover caramel and rum in between.

Let it soak for 10 minutes. Gently press with spoon so that the upper layer also gets soaked properly.

Keep the bowl in microwave and cook for 2 minutes as per the make of your microwave. If there is still some milk left you can give a 1 minute run again.

Let it rest for a minute then place a place on top of the bowl to turn the pudding upside down.

These puddings are a little soft and not too dry. Keep that in mind. You can make them with egg too like normal basic bread pudding but I find adding one egg a bit too much for a bowl or mug so avoid.

Serve warm of cold. I prefer to have it warm. The salted butter gives it the taste of salted caramel which is divine.

Here is one in a mug that has layers of banana, raisins, walnuts and bread. I topped it with sticky date syrup so no white sugar in this one.

I hope you will try one of these and let me know if you liked them.


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Bengali Kachcha Aamer Mishti Chutney


The one is the down right corner is without sweet for my mother. If you use sugar instead of jaggery the color will be golden yellow.

It is amazing how certain dishes are prepared and relished all across India with slight variations in the spices. This version of launji is slightly different from the one I make North Indian style.  Here is the recipe for Meethi Khathai as called it since childhood.

In this version of kachcha Aamer mishti chutney I have used panch phoron. I keep the mango stones ( guthli) in the dish as I love to suck on the spicy tangy sweet guthli. I also keep a lot of liquid in this. A mandatory side dish in summer when the markets are flooded with raw and ripe mangoes.

You can have a bowlful on its own or pair it with steamed rice, paratha, roti etc. Some people peel the mangoes in this dish but I keep the peel.

One more thing that I do is marinate the raw mango slices with red chili and salt for 10 minutes so that the fruit releases water and softens a little.

It quickens the cooking process too.

Here’s a simple way to make this wonder dish.

Ingredients –

Raw mangoes – 1/2 kg (4 medium size)

Organic Jaggery (grated/powder) – 1/2 cup / as desired ( I prefer the chutney a little sour) Fresh grated ginger – 1/2 tbsp

Water -3-4 cups 9 depends on how much liquid you need)

Whole dry red chilies – 2-3

Black mustard seeds – 2-3 tsp

Panch Phoran – 1 tsp (roasted and pounded cumin, fenugreek, mustard, nigella and fennel seeds)

Salt – to taste

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Red chilli powder – 1 tsp

Mustard oil – 2 tbsp

Steps – 

Wash and cut mangoes with skin lengthwise. Keep the stone.

In a wide plate keep the mango slices and stones, sprinkle salt and red chilli powder and rub it in till every piece is coated. Let it rest.

After 10 minutes heat mustard oil in a thick bottom pan.

Add the mustard seeds and dry red chilli as a tempering. Once the seeds crackle, add the marinated mango pieces and the mango stones. Give a good stir.

Saute it for 5-10 minutes n low medium heat and then stir in grated ginger and turmeric.

Add water to your liking, increase heat and bring it to boil. This preparation is a bit thin so I keep one and half cup extra jhol over the amount needed to cover the mango pieces.

Once the liquid starts boiling lower the heat and let the mango cook till soft yet firm. Don’t let it disintegrate.

At this point add the jaggery. You can use Sugar too. Mix well. Test for sweetness, salt and spice threshold. Add if required more. If you add the jaggery/sugar before the mangoes won’t soften so make sure the mango pieces have softened to your satisfaction.

Sprinkle the panch phoran and stir. Turn off the gas and let it cool to room temperature.

Spoon the aam er chutney in a glass bowl or Jar. Always use glass containers for sour dishes.

You can keep this in an airtight container for 5-7 days in the fridge.

Use dry, clean spoons to take out the chutney.

Relish this side dish as a post meal dessert or with steamed rice or luchi.

Note – If you do not have panch phoran you can use bhaja masala or roasted cumin and roasted fennel powder too.

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.

 

 

Panasa Katha Tarkari |Oriya Style Raw Jackfruit Curry


Jackfruit is such a versatile vegetable. This fibrous, starchy, fleshy fruit is also referred to as ‘vegetarian meat’. Jackfruit/kathal or Panasa is cooked in a variety of ways. Kathal is one of the many things especially cooked on Holi in Eastern UP household as a replacement to the non veg but today I am sharing the Oriya style curry made with tender, raw jackfruit today. The UP style I will share some other time. 🙂

I also make the Punjabi style vegetable and jackfruit kebabs. There was a time I even pickled it but not anymore.  I absolutely love the ripe jackfruit. Many people do not like its heady intoxicating fragrance but it is one of the things I continue to eat with relish since childhood. Kathal biryani is another favorite and it can beat any mutton biryani if made properly. One can also make jackfruit chips and stew which taste awesome.

Jackfruit is not just an exotic tropical vegetable/fruit but full of good nutrients too. It has ample dietary fibers, anti-oxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, Folic acid, Vitamin C and much more. It is also a good source of potassium, manganese, magnesium and iron.

I had an Oriya neighbor who was an excellent cook. I learned this recipe from her. She told me that there was a slight variation she did from the authentic one. The curry was rich, flavorful and excellent in texture. I made it after many a moons but the verdict of the family was great so here it is for all of you.

Ingredients :

Raw tender jackfruit – 1 small or 1/2 kg peeled and chopped

Potato – 1 large

Onion –  2 + 2 green chilies (1 onion sliced & 1 finely grated or made into paste wit hthe green chili and cumin seeds)

Fresh Ginger and Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp each

Tomato – 1 ( grated or finely chopped)

Panchporan – 1/4 tsp

Cumin seed powder – 1/4 tsp

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Chili powder – to taste

Homemade garam masala powder – 1/4 tsp

Bay leaf – 1-2

Cinnamon stick – 1/2 inch

Black cardamom – 2

Green cardomom – 2-3

Cumin seeds -1/2 tsp

Black peppercorn – 4-5

Sugar – 1/2 tsp

Salt – to taste

Mustard oil – 5-6 tbsp

Fresh coriander leaves – 2 tbsp (chopped fine)

Steps – 

Peel and cut the jackfruit into 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces. Make a cut in the seeds if there are large ones or they will burst while frying or slice them if they are not too stubborn). (Be careful with that) Wash and keep aside.

Do oil your hands and knife before peeling and chopping Jackfruit. It gets very sticky due to the milky gum like substance it secrets.

2. Wash, peel and chop potatoes in 1 inch cubes.

3. Parboil both the vegetables with a little salt and turmeric.  Drain the water and keep aside the boiled veggies.

4. Heat a wok and add the mustard oil to it. Bring it to smoking point and reduce the heat. Fry both potatoes and jackfruit one by one. Remove in a plate covered with kitchen towel.

5. In the same oil add Bayleave, panch poran, cinnamon stick, black peppercorn, black and green cardamom, Give it a stir.

6. Once the seeds begin to splutter add the sliced onions and fry till light golden brown. Add sugar to it and stir. Add the grated onion and ginger – garlic paste. Fry till the rawness of the paste goes away and it is nicely browned.

7. Add chopped or grated tomatoes and fry till oil leaves sides and then add the dry powdered masalas and give a nice stir.

8. Now add the parboiled potatoes and jackfruit pieces. Mix nicely so that the masala gets incorporated properly into the veggies. Cover and cook for a few minutes on low- medium flame.

9. Once the veggies absorb the masala completely, add more warm water for the curry. Give a good stir and bring it to boil.

10. Let it simmer for sometime till a nice gravy is ready. Add chopped coriander leaves and garam masala to it. Also add a tablespoon of pure homemade ghee for flavor.

Turn off the flame and serve hot with roti or rice.

Happy Holi to all my readers and friends. Respect boundaries and have a colorful life ahead. 

Nolen Gurer Sondesh – My Sweet Story


 

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I have some fond memories of going to the Annapurna Bhandar opposite Sheesh Ganj Gurudwara in Chandni Chowk as a little girl. Only a promise of chumchum and nolen gurer sondesh or jalbhara sondesh would make me take the trip with mom. Later as I grew up I would often visit the lanes of old city and feast on the sounds and colors the place offered. Food of course was one of the attractions but whatever I may eat there was always some place for these two favorites.

My next project Nolen gurer jalbhara kara pak sondesh from Annapurna Sweets. Center filled with fresh date palm jaggery. One of the things I can’t stay without. Just the right sweetness, delicate taste, melt in the mouth goodness in every bite. A must have for all the sweet connoisseurs.

 

I would watch my dad in fascination as he made the softest melt in the mouth sondesh once in a while as a treat to me. There aren’t many good memories I associate with my growing up years but this is one of the few that ever were.

I learned to make the plain sondesh but never got the same texture or taste as dad’s or those bought from Annapurna. I seemed to be doing everything right but something was still missing.

Few days ago I decided to make the pressure cooker rosogullas and that is another sweet which has been a bit of a challenge for me. So, I decided to do some research. As usual my first stop for all food related issues is Sangeeta Khanna’s blogs. I found an old post on How to make Rasullas step by step and while I read I realized what exactly was wrong in my approach.

It was the technique of making Chenna /chana/ that was causing the issue. I always feel that cooking is a science and once you master that you can be as creative as you want.

I made chena/ Indian cottage cheese as per Sangeeta’s instructions and nailed it this time. The chenna was perfect, the rasgullas soft and spongy as they should be ( will post recipe soon) and then I couldn’t stop myself to make the fabled Nolen gurer sondesh.

A friend had given me some date palm jaggery and I had a little left of it.  Though sondesh is best made with cow’s milk I opted for full cream toned Mother Dairy milk.

Here is the link to Sangeeta’s recipe but I will post the steps anyway.

I prefer fresh Nolen gur, ‘Notun Gur’ or ‘Khejur Gur’  or date palm jaggery over the sugarcane one for its unique flavor, fragrance and texture. It is available only in winter and has many health benefits. It helped in raising my HB during the treatment of anemia. It is rich in magnesium as well. Google more. 😀

 

How to Nolen Gurer Sondesh 

Here is how I made the perfect cottage cheese / chenna/ chana at home. The important thing to keep in mind while making Bengali mithai is – Fresh homemade cottage cheese or chenna otherwise the sweets won’t come out well.

 

To make perfect chenna :

Ingredients : 

Full fat milk / Cow’s milk – 4 Cups

Juice of lemon – 1 lemon  or 1/4 cup curd (home cultured preferably or 1/4 cup white vinegar

Steps – 

  1. Heat a pan of water and keep aside. Keep a sieve over a large pan ready.
  2. Slightly wet a thick bottom pot, add milk and heat till the first boil comes. (slight variation from Sangeeta). Turn off the heat.
  3.  Start adding the lemon juice mixed with 1-2 tablespoons of water. Do it slowly and keep stirring. The milk needs to curdle slowly after each addition. I added in four steps till the greenish, transparent whey separated from the cheese.  If it doesn’t then reheat the milk and it will in a few minutes. Don’t stir too much or the chnna will become hard.
  4. Once the whey is separated nicely strain the whey through the steel sieve. Here I learned that the good cheese or chenna will stick to the spoon which is indicative that it will be a cohesive mass ideal for the sweet making.
  5. Toss the chenna/cottage cheese into the center.
  6. immediately dunk it in the hot water ( this is where I went wrong earlier. I was using the cold water method.)
  7. Rinse the cheese properly by pressing it to the side of the bowl a few times. The water may turn milky which is good.
  8. Now, put it back in the sieve and remove the excess water by lightly pressing. No need to press hard. A little moisture will give you a better sondesh or it will turn dry and crumbly.
  9. Once all the water is drained, take in out in a large plate and rub and knead with the heals of your palm till you get a smooth, lump free dough. When you feel the fat from the cheese on your hand its done. Do not overdo it. Make a smooth ball of it and cover with a damp cloth.
  10. Now your chenna is ready for making sondesh or rasgullas. Use as you desire.

 

To make Nolen Gurer Sondesh 

Ingredients :

Chenna we just prepared

Date palm jaggery – 1 cup grated and softened ( I did it in microwave)

Green cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp ( optional)

A few raisins – Optional

Warm ghee ( I used homemade) – 1 tsp

Steps :  

  1. Once you have the smooth chenna dough add softened jaggery to it. Rub again with the heals of your palm till you get a homogenous mixture and the jaggery is well absorbed.
  2. Heat a non stick pan on low flame and  add the mixture to it. Cook it for 4-5 minutes not more.
  3. Take it out in a large plate and let it cool completely. You can cover it with damp cloth and keep in fridge for half and hour or so.
  4. Once cooled break it with fingers, add atsp of warm ghee and knead it again with heals of your palm to bring it all together nicely. Add cardamom powder if using and mix.
  5. Now make small balls of the chenna and decorate with a raisin. If you have molds then use them to shape the sondesh.
  6. You can make them when the chenna is slightly warm too. It will take some time for them to hold the shape.
  7. I love the slightly grainy texture of the sondesh but you can make them smooth too. It depends on your taste and the quality of your cottage cheese.
  8. Serve them at room temperature.

 

Note –

Mine were norom pak sondesh which are melt in the mouth. The other ones are kora pak sondesh which are a bit harder.

You can use sugarcane jaggery too instead of the date palm jaggery.

If you do not heat the mixture and make the sondesh directly they will be known as Kancha Golla. They too taste delicious but I prefer the cooked version.

 

Do try and let me know the results. Making any dish is a labor of love so do not rush through the steps. Getting the perfect chenna is the tough step then it is a cakewalk.

 

Kada Prasad – Recipe And A Food Story


The melodious strains of Gurbani, prabhat pheris, prakash utsav, lagars ( free community meals)  and the unforgettable kada prasad were my initiation to something that would become a very important part of my life.

I was a young girl searching for solace. Drawn to the local Gurudwara by the strains of music I would go inside and get transported to a totally different world. Neither a Sikh nor a religeous person this experience was purely spiritual.

I remembered a Sikh friend’s granny giving me an extremely delicious halwa as prasad. I asked what it was made of and couldn’t believe when she said wheat flour. Now, we too made aate ka halwa but it never tasted like the one from the Gurudwara or from her kitchen. I insisted on other helping which she lovingly gave and told me that prasad is to be eaten like prasad not like mithai.

Whenever I found an opportunity I would visit the nearby Gurudwara for the shabad and for the prasad. The serenity of the place always calmed me down. I learned to prepare this divine prasad from beeji as she was called by my friend. I had just passed out from school and I think that was the last time we met before going our ways. We used to lead the school choir that participated in shabad & Kirtan competitions and still have my winning certificates of merit from Mata Sundari College.

Later, Gurudwara became a spiritual sanctuary for me, a place where I would go and spend hours sitting in complete silence, soaking in the healing viberations. Letting go of all the sorrow that filled my heart. Sometimes the tears would flow but no one paid attention or judged. I was at home inside that place of bliss. It is still a place where I become a witness to myself. Sometimes I would quietly sit by the sarovar and read Sukhmani sahib or Dukh bhanjini sahib. The words cleansed me from inside out. For me it was not just a journey with but a source of strength to cope with what lay ahead.

I still go to Bangla Sahib whenever possible though lately my visits have become irregular. You must do the seva in some Gurudwara at least once in a lifetime. I can not explain the feeling one experiences.

Today, I am sharing that recipe with you. Though I can never replicate the original. It does, however, bring back the same taste from my youth.

These silver katoris are from my childhood. Perhaps presented or bought at birth so about fifty year old. 🙂

This simple recipe for Kada Prasad doesn’t need any dry fruits or other add-ons. The flavor comes from the roasting of wheat flour in pure desi ghee or clarified butter. Roasting is also the most important aspect of making the halwa. It has to be even and just the right rich brown color or it won’t give you the authentic taste of the prasad. Also, the wheat flour needs to be coarse (Dardara) to get the right texture. You can use the usual wheat flour too but the texture won’t be like the one made in Gurudwaras. Two things that are a MUST in this recipe – Ghee and right proportion of the ingredients. You can not replace Ghee with anything else. Also, the halwa made from prasad is NEVER heated again. Something I learned from beeji.

One of the simplest of recipes and yet the richest. Today being Gurubpurab I decided to make the halwa and distribute to neighbors and family members.

Here is my recipe :

Whole wheat flour ( coarsly ground) – 1 Cup

Sugar -1 Cup

Pure Ghee (Clarified Butter ) –  1 Cup ( Yes, the halwa is laden with ghee and that is why it should be eaten less)

Water – 3 Cups

The proportion is always – 1-1-1-3 You can always double triple or half, quarter the proportion as per need.

 

Steps : 

In a kadhayi heat the water and add sugar to it. Stir to dissolve and keep aside. You can add the sugar directly also. If doing that just heat the water and keep aside for later use. Heating the water ensures that there is no change of temperature when it is added to hot roasted flour. It also ensures even cooking.

In another kadhayi heat the ghee till nicely warm. Add the wheat flour / atta and stir. Keep the flame on slow – medium as the flour tends to rapidly change from light brown – dark brown  and burnt stage.

This is an important process so do it it with patience and love.

You will see the color change, keep stirring till you get to the stage where the color is rich brown and the mixture has a sand like grainy texture. The butty aroma is another sign of an evenly roasted aata. You will also notice the ghee leaving the sides now.

At this point, add the hot sugar water to the wheat ghee mixture. Be careful not to scald yourself. Stir vigorously so that no lumps are formed. Shift to medium heat to ensure the right consistency. Now turn the flame to low and keep stirring till all the water absorbs and the halwa reaches the right consistency. The ghee will starts leaving the sides again once that happens.

Turn off the gas and remove the prasad in a clean bowl. Usually the halwa is covered with a cloth and cut into five portions for each of the Sikh Gurus and then distributed after the prayer and offering.

You can garnish with almonds if not making as prasad.

An interesting fact from my marital village in Himachal –

The village of Mairi has Dera Baba Vadbhag Singh Ji Gurudwara. After the Holi / Baisakhi Mela finishes the devotees or Sangat are offered karah prasad that is kept covered in a large kadhayi locked inside the basement in the gurudwara. After the ardas when the door is opened the prasad has a large hand imprint on it. It is believed that Baba ji comes to bless the prasad. It is then called panje ka prasad. No one knows how that miracle happens but faith keeps the prasad good for years. My MIL says that the prasad never gets spoiled. I will some day write about my experience of the village life etc.

For now, Keep your heart light burning bright. Stay blessed and once again a very blessed gurupurab to all of you. Remember the teachings of Baba Nanak who left us a beautiful treasure of how the life should be.

 

Awwal Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday

Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe

God created light of which all the beings were born

And from this light, the universe; so who is good and who is bad