Recipe – Simple Paneer Makhani With Kasoori Methi


I love Paneer or Indian cottage cheese but somehow don’t like the creamy paneer butter masala sold in the restaurants and the paneer makhani is always too sweet for my taste. This dish however has the perfect Dhaba style taste of Paneer Makhni. I learned it from an elderly sardarji who owned a Dhaba in Rudrapur on way to Ranikhet. The dhaba is closed now and ‘darji is no more but the taste of his food and the memories of his tenderheartedness and love still linger in my thoughts.

So if you are looking for a lighter version of Paneer makhani try this recipe. This may not be the authentic or traditional way to cook it but it certainly is delicious. Always use soft fresh Paneer as that’s the star ingredient here. I use either almonds or cashew nuts or a mix of both in this recipe. Usually canned tomato puree is preferred as it has an intense taste but for everyday consumption I use the described method. I absolutely love how the gravy coats the tender paneer cubes turning it into a spectacular lip smacking dish. Did I say Paneer is the star ingredient? No, it is the fresh kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves that spin the magic in this dish. I like the earthy flavor of Kasoori methi and have been using Just Organik’ Kasoori Methi in almost everything. Trust me it is as good as homemade.

Ingredients :

Fresh Paneer or Indian Cottage Cheese – 250 gm

Medium size Onion ( chopped)- 1

Minced Ginger+Garlic+green chili – 1 tbsp

Red ripe tomatoes ( chopped)- 3

Bay leaf- 1

Black cardamom – 2

Dry red chili -1 small

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

Kasoori Methi – 1 tsp ( lightly roasted, crushed)

Butter + Oil – 1 tbsp each

Garam Masala – 1 tsp

Coriander Powder – 1 tsp

Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp

Turmeric Powder  – 1 tsp

Salt – to taste

sugar – 1/4th tsp

Soaked almonds or cashew nut or a mix – 5-6

Fresh cream (Malai) – 2 tbsp (beaten) (optional)

 

Method :

In a heavy bottom pan add the oil and butter together. Doing this will ensure that the butter doesn’t burn.

Once the oil warms up, add bay leaf,  cardamom ( lightly pounded) and cumin seeds.

Once the cumin seeds start to crackle, add the ginger, garlic, green chili mix and stir. I added little extra pods of garlic ( 3-4) as I love the garlicky taste in this dish.

Add the chopped onion and saute it till translucent then add the almonds and or cashew. Stir and add the chopped tomato. Stir nicely and cook till they soften then turn off the heat.

Let this cool and once at room temperature take this mixture in a blender and pulse it till it is a smooth paste.

Now, in the same pan add a little more butter and add this paste. Give it a good stir and when it starts to bubble add garam masala, chili powder, coriander powder, little sugar and salt to taste. Keep the flame on medium and cook it till the rawness of the masala goes and oil separates. If the masala seems too dry add a little warm warm. it should be a thick gravy. Cook it for 10 minutes stirring continuously. once the gravy is smooth and nice add the toasted crushed Kasoori methi and stir it in. Let the gravy cook for another five minutes.

Now add the paneer cubes and gently stir so that every cube is covered in the masala. Let it simmer for another five minutes then turn off the heat.  Add the freshly beaten malai and it is ready to serve. You may garnish it with fresh coriander leaves and a little more smooth beaten malai.

Serve with kulchas, naans or steamed rice or any other breads of your choice.

If you try this recipe please let me know.

Check out another equally delicious Paneer dish Here 

 

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)

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.

 

 

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.