Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paneer Chatpata (Hot and Sour Paneer)

This was one of those moments where my mind and my hands went over the spice rack with total abandon and out came this dish, which I personally prefer to have as an appetizer along with some good single malt. Of course we ate it along with chapatis and dal! But you know what I am talking about :-)

We had a block of paneer (cottage cheese sitting in the refrigerator) and I just picked it up for a Sunday quick lunch fix. I also made another favorite of mine, eggplant masala that I shall post shortly.

Wife loved it, what else do I need? How can I describe the taste? It is spicy, tangy and crispy, more like an Indian and Asian fusion. Hope you enjoy it.

400 gms Nanak Paneer
3 tbsp + 1 tsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp chick pea flour
1/2 tsp Shan Tandoor Chicken powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chili powder 30 gms Chinese Hot Chilis diced into really small pieces
130 gms green bell pepper diced into really small pieces
5 tbsp oil
4 tsp Asian chili sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar

1) Cut the paneer into 1/2 inch size pieces. Clean the hot chilis and the green pepper and dice them into really small pieces. Set all aside. Please have all the ingredients ready since there are a lot of them, and you don't want to miss any of them.

2) In a small mixing bowl, mix the flours, red chili powder and tandoori masala.

3) In a non stick pan, pour 3 tbsp oil. As it gets hot add the hot chilis and green pepper and cook on medium heat for a few minutes till the water from the pepper evaporates. Add the paneer pieces now and mix well.

4) Roast the paneer for a while till the sides starting getting slightly golden. At this point add the flour/chili/tandoori masala mix and salt (please add salt by taste. Although I have measured the salt, remember Shan tandoori masala has some salt in it as well). Mix everything well, making sure you coat the paneer pieces with the flour and tandoori masala mix.

5) Add 2 tbsp oil. Lower the flame to medium low, moving everything around so as to not burn anything. After the flour has cooked well, and the chilis/pepper and paneer are nice roasted with golden sides, drizzle around the Asian chili sauce, soy sauce and vinegar. 

6) Mix everything well for a few minutes till all the water from the sauces just disappears. Turn off the flame and transfer the contents to a serving dish. You are done.

7) Important: Ensure that you stop the cooking process just in time. If you cook it till its very dry, then the moisture from the paneer is lost and it doesn't end up tasting good.

8) Serve with single malt whiskey, or with rice and dal and just top it on a fresh green salad. Yum!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Deviled Eggs (Serves 10-15)

Phew! its been a while, isn't it? Didn't want to become extinct, no that is not in the plan after doing this for two years. There may be gaps like this, but don't ever plan to shut this down.

We had been to a friend’s place for a pool/BBQ party, an annual event which was combined with another friend’s farewell party as he and his family were moving to New Zealand.

Since it was a BBQ party I decided to load it up and made deviled eggs, something I had never tried preparing before. I think if one puts almost anything along with egg yolks and mayonnaise, in the right proportion that is, it’s going to turn out good.

Common ingredients in deviled eggs are mustard, tartar sauce, pickle, olives, etc. But I wanted to refrain from adding anything common, and came up with something of my own. Otherwise there is no fun, right?

This turned out great and got eaten up in a few minutes by the gang. Devils!! Absolutely tasty, wholesome and filled with lots of different flavors.

Here is the recipe. You may notice that I have used yolks from 2 extra eggs and and then some extra mayo. This was done to get the consistency of the filling right.

21 boiled eggs + yolks from 2 extra eggs
5 tbsp red onions minced very fine
6 tsp fresh jalapeno pepper minced very fine, with seeds
3 sprigs fresh oregano leaves
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh coriander leaves
2 tsp marinated small capers from bottle, minced fine
½ tsp cumin seeds
⅜ cup olive oil
⅜ cup + 2 tbsp mayonnaise
Salt to taste
cayenne pepper powder for garnish
Fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Preparation: Ridiculously simple :-)

1) Hard boil 23 eggs. Completely cool down the eggs. Peel the shell off and cut the eggs lengthwise into 2 halves each.

2) Scoop the yolks out from all the halves and set aside in a large bowl.

3) Set 42 egg halves on a large tray. We need only 42 egg halves for this recipe.

4) Mince all the fresh herbs as fine as you can with a knife. This will add to 3 tsp of fresh herbs, packed.

5) Dry roast the cumin seeds in a pan till you smell the aroma, and then grind it coarse.

6) In the large bowl with the egg yolks, first mash the yolks fully. To this add the olive oil, mayonnaise, minced red onions, minced jalapeno, minced fresh herbs, minced capers, ground cumin seeds, and salt to taste. Mix everything really well until it forms a nice smooth texture.

7) With a scoop or a spoon, add this mix into the hollow portion of the egg halves. Garnish on top with cayenne pepper and coriander leaves.

8) Refrigerate it for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spanakopita-Greek Spinach and Feta Pie (Serves 4)

We had been to a general Mediterranean store to pick up some traditional spices and supplies. There I got the idea of making Spanakopita or Greek Spinach Pie.

I have been wanting to make this pie for the longest time. Usually made with spinach, feta, onions and parsley, I played around with the ingredients a bit. In addition to spinach, feta, onions and parsley, I added fresh oregano, fennel seeds and cured olives.

Final result was just a burst of flavors with every bite reminding one of the presence of each ingredient.

We have been enjoying this pie for the last few days now :-).

2 bunches spinach (about 310 gms cooked)
6 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
200 gms finely chopped red onions
200 gms feta cheese crumbled (fresh or store bought)
1 tsp packed freshly chopped oregano leaves
4.5 tsp packed freshly chopped parsley leaves
10 cured mixed Greek olives chopped fine (including Kalamata Olives)
salt and pepper to taste
2 17oz boxes of extra thick Greek FILO (8 sheets)*
* Note, we will be using only 6 sheets out of the 8 sheets

1) Take out the filo sheet boxes and thaw them in natural temperature for a few hours before preparation.

2) Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.

3) Cut the stem off the spinach leaves, clean them thoroughly in water, drain and set aside. Chop the red onions and the olives fine and keep all aside separately.

4) In a large wok or similar dish on medium heat, add 2 tbsp of olive oil. As the oil heats up, add the fennel seeds. When you get the aroma of the fennel seeds from the oil, add the spinach leaves. Cook the spinach leaves for 5-7 minutes or until they become tender. Turn the heat off and let it cool. Take care to squeeze/take out excess water by hand (very important!) and transfer the cooked spinach to a large preparation bowl.

5) Add a little oil to a dry wok, and cook the onions for a few minutes until just done.

6) To the spinach in the preparation bowl, add the onions, finely chopped olives, crumbled feta cheese, freshly chopped parsley and oregano leaves, and salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

7) On a large baking sheet, after carefully removing the wrapper from the filo dough, lay the first filo sheet on the baking sheet. Brush the dough with some olive oil. Repeat until you have layered 4 sheets brushing with olive oil after each layer. Note - depending on your preference, you can layer the top with 4 filo sheets as well if you want a thicker pie.

8) Now pour the spinach mix on the center, level it off into a rectangle shape. Cover on top with 2 more filo dough sheets, brushing with olive oil in between and on the top layer. Fold the edges over since the filo sheets are very big.


9) Bake for 50 minutes or until the filo sheets are baked to a nice golden brown color. During the baking process, after 20 minutes or so, every now and then brush the top with olive oil if it looks too dry. Half way during the baking process, turn around the baking sheet so it cooks evenly all over.

10) Cut into whatever shape or size you would like. Serve hot.

Most important thing in this dish is to make sure that the cooked spinach is as dry as possible. So make sure you squeeze out all the water. Secondly dont over bake the dish

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

The blog is 2 years old today. I am very glad that I have been able to keep the blog going on for this period of time. There have been periods where I thought that I wont be able to continue. But through the regular job commitments, raising a daughter along with my wife, noises and other distractions, I have kept it going, although having stumbled at times. Hope the 3rd year brings a lot of variety in terms of the dishes. Thank you all for the support.
-- Big Sri

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pasta, Asparagus and Tomato Mozzarella Salad (Serves 2-3)

This is was one of our Friday dinner menus, a while ago now. We were in a celebratory mood but wanted to keep things simple at the same time.

As my wife was setting up the candle and the red wine, I quickly went into action and made some pasta, sautéed asparagus and tomato mozzarella salad, and some fresh Italian bread to go with it.

The dinner ended up being fantastic. Sometimes such quick turnaround preparations can turn out to be so delicious. So let’s go straight to the recipe.

For the Pasta:
2 cups uncooked penne pasta
½ tbsp extra virgin oil
1 sprig sweet basil
5 cups water for cooking pasta

For the Asparagus:
1 lb fresh asparagus
4 cloves garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp dry garlic chutney powder (optional)

For the Tomato & Mozzarella Salad:
½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese
2 red & juicy large fresh plum tomatoes
5-6 sweet basil leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparation -

Asparagus -

1. Clean the asparagus, and cut off the hard part, around 1 inch from the end. Cut the remaining asparagus into 1 ½ inch length pieces. Set aside. Cut the garlic horizontally into thin slices.

2. In a wok or a frying pan, add oil and keep the flame on medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic starts to turn golden brown. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper to taste and mix everything together.

3. Asparagus cooks very quickly. Turn off the fire the moment the asparagus is crunchy and juicy, but cooked. Transfer the asparagus to a serving dish. Sprinkle dry garlic chutney powder on top if you like a blast of spice and garlic. You can buy this chutney powder from any Indian store. It is totally optional.

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

1. Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in the shape of a ball. Cut the mozzarella into 1/8 inch thick slices. Do the same with the plum tomatoes.

2. You can mince the garlic. Or, you can grate the garlic. Slice the basil leaves into thin slices lengthwise.

3. Set the mozzarella and tomatoes on a serving plate, one slice on top of another. Grate the garlic on top of the cheese and tomato, and garnish with the basil leaves. Drizzle the olive oil on top of this, and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta -
1. In a large soup bowl or something similar, bring 5 cups of water to boil. When the water is boiling, add the penne pasta to it, and throw in some salt.

2. Boil for around 8-10 minutes, and turn off the flame when the penne is cooked al dente or just ready to eat. It will be a little crunchy, hence if you prefer a well done pasta, boil until it is cooked to the consistency you like.

3. Drain off the water completely, shaking off any excess. Add the cooked pasta to a plate, drizzle ½ tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with basil leaves.

You can serve the penne with the asparagus (tossing them together) of if you prefer to add sauce to it, you can do that as well. Serve with a nice red wine.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Green Pepper Pickle (Serves a number of people)

Sorry to have been out of action for such a long while. Didn’t mean to, just happened. Anyway no excuses, but glad to be back.

I do have a lot of recipes written down based on what I prepared for the last several months. But I wanted to get back in the kitchen and into cooking. Having been in the mood for eating spicy food lately, hence whatever I cooked in the last couple of days have been that.

I would like to start off with what I made yesterday, an Indian style pickle made with green pepper. Green pepper was chosen just because by mistake we ended up picking 7 of them during our regular grocery round, which for 2 people is quite a lot.

I borrowed on the basic pickle recipe that goes really well with mangoes and other vegetables, but just gave a a little variation by using black salt instead of regular white salt. Black salt has its own bursting flavor and unique taste that goes along well with chaat masala, and as part of seasonings. I bought some recently, and its going to feature in quite a lot of the dishes that I will be preparing over the next few months.

3 green peppers diced into small pieces (roughly 400g)
1/16 tsp asafoetida
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 ½ tbsp red chili powder
4 tbsp oil
1 tsp black salt
¾ tsp cumin powder
¾ tsp coriander powde

Dice the green pepper into small pieces, after removing the seeds and stem.

On a non stick pan on medium heat, add the oil. As the oil heats up, add the red chili powder, asafoetida, cumin and coriander powder. Stir everything a bit in the oil as the ingredients get cooked and impart their flavor into the oil.

The moment you get a nice aroma of the spices in the hot oil, immediately add the green pepper to it and stir well. We have to make sure that the powders do not burn in the oil. Hence the timing is important.

Add the turmeric powder and black salt, and mix everything well.

Keep cooking on medium flame until most of the water from the green pepper evaporates, it loses its bitterness, and most importantly you see all the oil start separating from the green peppers. Taste the final product to make sure the peppers are cooked well, and shut the flame off.

Store it, and serve as a accompaniment to rice and dal, or stuff it between buttered bread and have a go at it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vegetable Biryani (Serves 5-6)

Finally! Over time, after a few tries and not being satisfied at all with the results, I very much loved the last modified attempt at this wonderful dish and I would like to present the recipe for the same.

I had found this recipe several years ago from somewhere on the Internet. Unfortunately I don’t have the original link with me to give the person credit.
I followed it to the dot many times, but it ended up not quite right. Hence I never posted it.

My friends came over for dinner last Thursday, and I decided to give this another shot as it is very simple to prepare and goes great with some cucumber and yogurt raita. Although it was on the spicy side, everyone loved it. My wife is finally happy with something that I made :-).

I have done some modifications over time to this dish.  Here is the recipe. Although the ingredient list below looks very long, trust me, it is very easy to make. Just follow me through here.

6 cloves of garlic, cut into chunks
3 inch piece of ginger root, skin peeled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup of yogurt
3 large onions sliced thin
4 large green chilies
4-5 medium potatoes, skinned and cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups carrots, cut into 1 1/2 inch long pieces, 1/4 inch width
1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into 1 1/2 inch long pieces
1 1/2 cups peas
6 large plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup oil
1 very large bunch coriander leaves
4 cups good quality basmati rice
7 cups warm water
roasted nuts (optional)
6 tbsp milk
large pinch of saffron strands
6 bay leaves
15 black pepper kernels
1 tbsp coriander powder
15 cloves
3 inches of cinnamon bark
1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
10 pods of cardamom with skin
3 tbsp cayenne pepper

Heat up the milk in the microwave or a gas stove. Add the saffron strands to the hot milk and keep it aside to let all the flavor and color from the saffron get mixed to the milk. This is one of the main ingredients of biryani that gives a fantastic overall flavor and taste.

In a large soup pot or similar vessel add 7 cups of water, 2 1/2 tsp salt, 7 kernels of black pepper, 7 cloves, 5 pods of cardamom, 3 bay leaves, 1 1/2 inch of cinnamon bark and 4 cups of rinsed basmati rice, and boil for 8-10 minutes. After this, just drain away the water and keep the rice and whole spices aside in the same container.

In a large wok or similar pan, on medium heat, add 1/2 cup oil. When the oil heats up, add the onions. Stir cook the onions until they turn golden brown.

Remove half the onions from the wok and set aside in a container. To the remaining onions in the wok, add the cumin seeds, coriander powder, green chilies, 3 bay leaves, 8 black pepper kernels, 8 cloves, 5 pods of cardamom and 1 1/2 inches of cinnamon bark. Stir everything together well for a few minutes. When the onions are well incorporated with the spices, add the potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, salt to taste and 3 tbsp cayenne pepper. Mix everything well and cook them for a few minutes on medium to high heat.

In the meanwhile, blend the yogurt, garlic, ginger and the onions that were set aside until it is smooth. Add this to the vegetables in the wok along with the diced tomatoes. Cook on medium to high heat until the yogurt is completely cooked and you only see the cooked vegetables and the separated oil. Turn off the heat on the gas stove.

In a 13 1/2" x 9 5/8" x 2 3/4" baking foil tray, add one layer of vegetables in the bottom, sprinkle half the finely chopped coriander leaves, and then add one layer of the rice. Repeat with another layer of vegetables, and then rice on top of that. So you have 4 layers in all.

Sprinkle the remaining coriander leaves on top of the rice. Pour 1/2 cup oil evenly over the top layer of rice. Do the same with the saffron and milk mixture, spooning it evenly over the top layer of rice. Cover the tray with aluminum foil.

Heat the oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the foil tray in the center of the oven and bake for around 40 - 45 minutes. The rice would be done with a texture that is perfect for biryani in this time.

Before serving, plate the biryani individually, mix the rice and vegetables well on the plate to incorporate all the different flavors. Sprinkle some roasted nuts on top (optional) and serve hot with yogurt raita, or salad on the side.

Bon appetit!

Health Rating: Medium

Monday, January 3, 2011

Coconut based Vegetable Stew (Serves 2)

It has been a long while since I have gone near the kitchen area with the intention of cooking for the blog. Hence there haven’t been any posts.

I got the opportunity yesterday to do some cooking while my wife and daughter were busy watching TV and I had the kitchen to myself. Tranquility!

I wanted to make something really quick. A peep into the freezer, and I came out with some frozen coconut pieces and a bag of store-bought stew vegetables. Well, it could have been any vegetables for that matter. This bag contained baby potatoes, pearl onions, celery and carrots. I decided to make a coconut based stew.

I didn’t try anything fancy and just kept to the basics with simple ingredients. 

1 lb stew vegetables
1/3 cup cut green beans
1/3 heaped cup coconut pieces
5 green chilies (3 small, 2 medium)
½ tsp salt
1/16 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp oil
1 cup low fat milk
1 ½ cups water
Small bunch fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Defrost the vegetables to room temperature. If you are using fresh vegetables, boil or steam cook them until they are just done and set aside.

In a deep pan on medium heat, add oil. When the oil is hot, add the vegetables and stir them well. Add ¼ tsp salt and ground black pepper. After a few minutes of cooking, add 1 ½ cups of hot water to the pan. Cook on medium to high heat until the vegetables are well done. With a food crusher, crush the vegetables a bit.

Defrost the coconut pieces. Blend the coconut, with 3 small green chilies, and 1 cup low fat milk.

Pour this blend through a strainer into the pan containing the vegetables. Add ¼ tsp salt and 2 more medium green chilies cut lengthwise to this, and cook on medium to high heat until the stew is boiling for a few minutes.

Turn off the gas, garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with pooris, chapattis or rice.

Health Rating: High