Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another B&W Wednesday

Susan of 'The Well Seasoned Cook' has started a culinary photo event called 'Black and White Wednesday'. The event is in its fifth week now, and people have been sending some beautiful clicks in B&W. Here is another random cellphone click from me. The photo was taken one early morning as the tea was brewing.

A Corner in My Kitchen

(Click on the image for larger view)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peach Relish

Two day back, I happened to cut a peach that was under ripe. It was pretty tart and there was no way we could have eaten it by itself. I was thinking of ways to use it up and decided to make a peach relish similar to Methamba.

Methamba is a type of relish that was often made at my house during mango season. It is a relish made of raw mangoes and fenugreek seeds. The word Methamba is a combination of two words - methi (fenugreek seeds), and aamba (mango). It's a sweet and sour concoction mostly served as a condiment with rice, chapatis and the like. I followed mom's recipe of methamba and used peach instead of raw mango.

Peach Relish

To make Peach Relish you would need -

1 cup peaches (medium diced - make sure the peaches are unripe)
1.5 tsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp asafetida powder
A pinch of turmeric
3-4 dried red chillies (broken into pieces)
1 tbsp jaggery
Salt to taste
Water as needed

1. In a saucepan, heat oil and add mustard seeds. As soon as mustard seeds stop popping, add asafetida, fenugreek seeds, turmeric and red chillies (I accidentally added mustard seeds twice...oops! and that's why you see so much mustard seeds in the pic above).

2. Saute red chillies for a while, and then add diced peaches and water. Add just enough water in order for the peaches to remain submerged as they cook. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes or until peaches are tender.

3. Add salt and jaggery, and cook until the concoction cooks down to a medium consistency.

4. Turn the heat off and let relish cool down completely. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

The relish can last for about a week when stored in fridge.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chutney for Idlis, and B&W Wednesday

I love South Indian food since childhood. I grew up eating a lot of idli-dosa-uttappams as Mom would often make them for Sunday breakfasts. I am still big on these dishes and you will often find them on our weekend brunch menu.

Back in the late 90s, when I was still in college, I worked at a firm of Chartered Accountants. I had an awesome time working there as almost everyone who worked there was still in college (most of them pursuing their CA certification), and it was just like any other college group. There were a few south Indian ladies working there who would bring me and my friend G some delicious southern dishes for our love for the cuisine. Once they got us dosas with chutney that I had never eaten before. I loved it so much that I asked them for the recipe. I still make it sometimes to go with idlis.

Coconut Chutney with Peanuts & Onion

To make this chutney you would need -
3/4 C shredded coconut
1. 5 tbsp raw peanuts
1 small onion (roughly chopped)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp tamarind (soaked for 5-10 mins)
5-6 dried red chillies (soaked for 5-10 mins)
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

For tempering-
1 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of asafetida
1 tsp urad dal
3-4 curry leaves
2 dried red chillies

1. Grind together coconut, tamarind, peanuts, garlic, onion and red chillies. Add salt and sugar.

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil and add mustard seeds, asafetida, urad dal, curry leaves, and red chillies to it.

3. Pour this tempering over chutney and mix well.

Serve with idlis, dosas or uttappams.

Idlis in the Making!

A few days back, I came across a blog event by Susan of 'The Well Seasoned Cook'. She's hosting 'Black and White Wednesday'. It's a culinary photo event where people can send any food related photos that are clicked in B&W. I went through the first two roundups and was amazed to see how good those B&W pics looked. I was actually tempted to click a few B&W shots.

(Click on the image for larger view)

I clicked the photo above on Saturday when I was making Idlis for brunch. I was waiting for first batch to come out and quickly took a shot with my cellphone camera. It turned out pretty good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back to Basics: Essential Powders and Pastes

Indian cooking is known for its extensive use of spices. There are certain spices that I use often in my cooking. Of these the most important for me are cumin and coriander powder, which find place in my everyday cooking.

I have been wanting to write this post for the longest time now. At last, I was able to get a picture (without forgetting) when I made a batch of powders and pastes last weekend. So finally the post is here.

Cumin & Coriander Powder

Nothing can be easier than making these powders. All you need to do is roast the seeds and then grind them. You can roast the seeds in a pan or simply microwave them for about 30 seconds. I prefer to roast mine on a medium heat in a pan. Once roasted, let them cool and then simply grind them. The powders are ready to be used. You can also sieve them if you like.

Ginger, Garlic and Green chilli Paste
The other things that I always have on hand are ginger, garlic and green chilli paste. I usually make these at the beginning of every month and they last for the entire month. Just like the most of us, I too initially used to buy bottled ginger-garlic paste. However, I always preferred the fresh pastes over the store bought ones and have been making these for a long time now. Making these pastes hardly takes any time. Here is how I make them.

Ginger Paste:
Rough chop the ginger root and grind to a fine paste. You can leave the skin on or peel it off as per your preference. I always grind it with the skin on as it has the most flavor. A cup of chopped ginger yields about 4oz of paste.

Garlic Paste: Peel the garlic cloves and grind them to a fine paste. A cup yields about 4oz of paste.

Green Chilli Paste: Cut the chillies into 2-3 big pieces and grind them.

Storing the pastes: Since I use these pastes for over a month, I freeze them. However, freezing the pastes leads to formation of ice crystals. To avoid this, I add a lot of salt before freezing them. For a cup (of chopped ginger/garlic/green chillies), I add about 1-1.5 tbsp of salt. I know that's a lot of salt for so little quantity. However, salt prevents formation of ice crystals and you can directly use the pastes right from the freezer without thawing. Just remember that the pastes already have salt in them, so keep that in mind when you add salt to the dish you are cooking.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Panko Crusted Paneer Tikki

I have always loved watching food shows and still continue to watch a lot of them. I did notice that a lot of chefs use panko bread crumbs. Since I first heard about panko bread crumbs a few years ago, I have been wanting to try those. It was some time in last December that I bought panko for the first time. I love the foods that are coated with bread crumbs and fried in some way. I had only heard that panko bread crumbs are crispier than the regular bread crumbs and they sure are.

I had a few paneer cubes leftover from earlier batch that were sitting in my freezer for about two weeks (yes I have made paneer quite a few times in the last month since I posted the recipe). I wanted to use paneer in something other than a curry. So I thought let's make some paneer tikkis for snacking. I already had panko on hand so I decided to use them as well. I used a simple yogurt based marinade for paneer and then rolled paneer cubes in panko.

Paneer Tikki
(serves 2)
8-10 paneer cubes
Oil for shallow frying

For Marinade:

1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

1. In a bowl, mix together all ingredients for marinade.

2. Prick paneer cubes with a fork and coat all sides with marinade. Cover and let them sit in the fridge for 4-6 hours. Make sure to use firm paneer; this will prevent paneer from crumbling when you prick it.

3. Heat a pan and coat the bottom with oil. Coat paneer with panko bread crumbs from all sides.

Shallow fry all sides. Frying takes a little bit of patience as tikkis must be fried on a low to medium heat. Bread crumbs quickly turn brown if you use high heat and tikki will not cook all the way through.

5. Serve hot. Since tikki is marinated in the spice mix, it is tasty by itself. Of course you can serve it with tomato ketchup or any condiment of your choice.

I am sending this recipe to Nivedita of Nivedita's Kitchen for "Only Original Recipes" event. The "Only" event was originally started by Pari of Foodelicious. To find out more about the event, click here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homemade Paneer and Paneer Butter Masala

It feels like it's been so long since I last wrote. There is really no reason why I wasn't writing. In fact I had cooked a lot during the last couple months of 2010 and tried quite a few dishes that I had been wanting to make for a long time.

There are certain things such as ghee, yogurt, paneer that I would always prefer homemade. There is definitely a great difference in taste as compared to store bought items. Plus you have total control over the quality of ingredients that go in making of these foods and of course freshness of final product. I have been making ghee since a few years now, and have been making yogurt at home since about a year. Paneer is one thing that I have been wanting to make for a really long time. Since A doesn't like paneer, I didn't pursue making it at home. Since about a week or so, thoughts of trying out paneer started creeping in and I knew that I would be making paneer very soon.

Making Paneer At Home:
Recipe for paneer is pretty straightforward. All you need is some milk and vinegar or lemon juice. Hundreds of bloggers have posted this recipe in the past. Add to it another few hundred websites that prescribe this method. So I guess this is the best way of making paneer. Detailed posts about paneer making can be found here and here. This is how I made my very first paneer -

1. In a heavy bottom pot, bring 4 cups milk to a boil (I used whole milk) and add 2 tbsp vinegar to it. You can add a little more if required.

2. As soon as the vinegar hits the milk, milk will start to curdle. Let it boil for another minute and then turn the heat off.

Strain the contents of pot. Make sure you collect whey as it is nutritious.

I did not use a muslin cloth as I don't have one. I simply strained the paneer, kept a dish on top of strained paneer and put a weight on it in order to remove excess water. I also used my food processor to smooth out paneer a bit (I wasn't sure if I should do it, but thankfully it turned out great). I then firmly pressed it in a plastic box and let it sit in the freezer for about an hour before cutting it into cubes.

Excluding the time in the freezer, all the time it took me to make paneer was about 30 minutes. The paneer turned out extremely soft. I am sure that I am going to make it often.

As it happens to me most of the times, I forgot to take a picture of paneer before I used it in the curry. May be I will add one next time I make it.

(Serves 2)


12-15 paneer cubes
1 medium onion - diced
2 Roma tomatoes
1/2" fresh ginger
2 big cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (more or less as per your heat preference)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp kasuri methi
2 tbsp alomnd meal (optional)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp oil
3 tbsp butter (1 tbsp for frying paneer and 2 tbsp for gravy)
1 tbsp heavy cream or half and half (optional)
Salt to taste

1. Before you start with gravy, fry paneer cubes in butter and set aside. If you prefer, you can use paneer without frying as well.

2. Halve the tomatoes, put them skin side down in a bowl in little bit of water and microwave for about 2 minutes. Remove the skin and set aside.

3. In a pan take a teaspoon of oil and add onions, ginger and garlic to it. Saute until onions are tender.

4. Grind onions, ginger and garlic with tomatoes to a smooth paste. I happened to have some almond meal on hand and also added it while grinding for a rich and creamy texture. Alternatively, you can use some cashew paste.

5. In a pan melt 2 tbsp of butter and add tomato-onion paste. Add salt, red chilli powder, cumin-coriander powder, garam masala and sugar, and saute for 2 minutes. If the gravy is too thick, you can add some water to loosen it.

6. Add kasuri methi and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add fried paneer and continue to simmer for another minute. Turn the heat off and add a touch of heavy cream if you like.

Top it off with some shredded paneer and chopped cilantro (I usually reserve a piece of paneer before frying and grate it directly over the curry). Serve with naan, paratha or steamed rice.