August 26, 2012

"Cheese"-y tricks ~ Marinated & grilled Matar Paneer

Ask any staunch vegetarian about their opinion of paneer and chances are that you might witness them profess their undying admiration for the same.Paneer or fresh cow's milk cheese holds a very special place in the appetite of Indian vegetarians. Need I mention that India is the largest producer of milk in the world? Well..that kind of explains the bias. By now you all might be aware that I am by no chance a vegetarian..and couldn't imagine being one either. So my relationship with paneer has always been more of an obligatory one. Those auspicious days when eating non-veg is a taboo..paneer or chenna is the more obvious and sophisticated choice. Its not that I am a staunch non-vegetarian either but one of my major concerns about any paneer preparation (atleast the ones that I have tasted) has always been that the flavor never penetrates well enough for the whole chunk to taste like the curry. It always seems like a blob of cheese floating in a very flavorful broth without any connection whatsoever. I guess many of you who are not blinded by "paneer- love" will agree with me on this.

So inundated with demands for paneer dishes at my place, I gave in to the pleas. Having reluctantly worked with it many a times following age old recipes, I tried my hand at treating it with more care than required. I promised to treat it with as much if not more respect as I would to any meat. Say meat, and marination becomes synonymous. Even though meat of any kind is marinated to tenderize, impart more zing and make easy the cooking process, my whole and sole reason for marinating paneer was to add more flavor to the paneer chunks so that it melds well into the gravy.

Agreeing on how I want to treat my "cheesy" subject, I marinated it with lemon juice, chili powder, little bit of ginger garlic paste and turmeric powder (how can I forget THAT! hehe). Left it to marinate overnight and grilled the chunks on a hot grill pan to achieve smokiness and of course the eye-appealing rustic grill marks. Trust was SO much better. The flavors of the marinade had percolated into the chunks and each bite tasted so much more appealing to my discerning taste buds. I have been using this trick whenever I have time at hand to marinate (which is not an absolutely essential step but nonetheless vital) and must I say ...I have been converted.

This trick I am sure is bound to please the non-paneer lovers and for ardent paneer fans, this is going to top it. Just try and let me know!

Marinated and grilled Matar Paneer

Marinated and grilled paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cubes soak in the flavors of an aromatic, spiced tomato gravy while pairing perfectly with the mild sweetness of the green peas.  A twist to the popular Matar Paneer, it can easily be made royal by adding in a dollop of fresh cream at the end. Serve it with the Pudina aau matar palau for a complete vegetarian fare. 

14 oz paneer/400g - Cut into 1 inch cubes.
For marination:
2-3 T Lemon juice
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ T Ginger Garlic paste

¼ tsp Salt

3 T Oil
1 inch piece of cinnamon
2 cloves
½ Nutmeg
½ C onion paste
2 T ginger garlic paste

½ C Fresh tomato paste

Make a paste of the following powders in 1 C water:
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp kashmiri chili ½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp Salt

1 C Green peas
Chopped cilantro for garnish (Optional)


1. Marinate the block of paneer all the ingredients for the marinade. Cover it and keep it overnight in the refrigerator. 
Note: I usually cut the paneer into cubes (1 inch) and marinate them, it leads to better marination.

2. Pour 1 T of oil on a grill pan over medium high heat and grill the paneer pieces (1 - 2 mins ) and keep aside. The pan should sizzle when the paneer is thrown in, that would ensure nice grill marks.

3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the whole spices. Once fragrant (~ 20 secs) add in the onion paste. Stir for about 1-2 mins till dry and then add in the ginger garlic paste and the tomato paste.

4. Stir the above mixture consistently (8-10 mins) so that it does not stick. Add in the paste made of powdered paste 2 T at a time. Let the mixture dry before adding the next 2 T.Continue till the oil separates.

5. Now add 2 C of water to the mixture and simmer till oil floats (~ 5 mins).

6.Then add in the grilled paneer cubes and then after ~ 5 mins add the in the green peas. Simmer for 15-20 mins over low flame.

Taste for salt and other seasonings and serve hot with Pudina aau matar pulau. Opt out of the matar in the rice if it becomes too much of peas in a meal.

This marinating and grilling technique was quite a revelation for me and I have wondered why it has not been done before. Is it lack of time or may be the fact that paneer is so universally loved in any shape and size that no one really bothered to think about it? Hmm..I might keep guessing till I find the answer but in the meantime if you do know the answer then stop by to let me know. Till then..

I am submitting this recipe to:
-"Desi Vidheshi food fest" hosted by Kalyani
- "Cook with spices- Cinnamon" hosted by Revathi and Anu.
- "Celebrate Navratri and Diwali" hosted by Nayna and Jagruti Dhanecha.
- "Simply Sides" hosted by Sumee.

August 22, 2012

Bursts of "garlic-ness" - Roasted garlic fried rice

When renowned chef and culinary writer, Louis Diat said “There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic”, he echoed my sentiments quite exactly. I couldn’t possibly deny because in my tiny world it does represent the fifth essential life force. I have always been a “add-some-more-garlic please” person (well, who isn’t?). It’s one magical pod of intense flavor that perks many a dull, somber dish. But the hundredth (or maybe thousandth) dimension of this multi-faceted little pod is its very surprising aspect - mild sweetness. Very surprised right?

I couldn’t ever imagine garlic being sweet AT all, before having been to Gilroy of course. In fact, I was quite apprehensive, when I stopped by Gilroy (The garlic capital of the world) to taste some garlic ice-cream. Just out of sheer curiosity, I tasted it. I must agree that I found the concept of garlic ice cream a little too weird but I must mention that the sweetness and intense flavor was something to commend. That kind of convinced me to believe what many say-“Garlic can be sweet and buttery”.

I have always been intrigued by the mild sweetness and the intensification of flavors in the roasted garlic fried rice at one of the popular restaurants. It always made me wonder - How do they manage that? So one fine day while watching my usual line up of cooking shows of Food network, it struck me. That’s how they do it!! Garlic is roasted over medium temperatures over long time till soft, mushy and lightly browned. It does taste amazingly sweet, buttery and yes intensely garlicky! Been quite a revelation. So while deciding the menu for the Indo-Chinese theme party, I had to make the roasted garlic fried rice. It was the obvious choice which went well with the line-up of dishes – Chili chicken and Vegetable Manchurian.

Roasted Garlic Fried Rice

Garlic is roasted slowly over medium low flame till soft, buttery and golden brown to impart this dish with a subtle hint and a boost to the regular Indo-Chinese fried rice. Paired with crunchy veggies and assorted sauces, this simple dish will give enough reason for your guests to ponder about the whereabouts of the mysterious hidden garlicky goodness.


1 whole garlic + 5-6 pods (Depends on the size of the pods)
1 T oil for roasting

2 C Basmati rice or any long grained rice
½  C Chicken stock or water
¼ tsp salt (Optional)

4 T Sesame chili oil (Use regular oil if unavailable)
½ C Cubed carrots
½ C finely diced green beans
½ C Cubed red bell pepper (I used red bell pepper for its sweetness and color, substitute with any other colored bell pepper if you want)
½ C cubed green bell pepper
1 T finely chopped green chilies
1 T White vinegar (Adjust according to taste)
1 T Tomato sauce
1 T Green Chili sauce
½ C Finely chopped green onions


1. Roasting the garlic – Peel all the garlic pods and mix it in with 1 T oil, pinch of salt and pepper and place it in the oven at 375oC for about 15-20mins (depending on your oven). Stir after 10 mins and take them out when soft and golden brown. Let it cool. Keep 3-5 cloves aside and make a fine paste of the rest.
Note: This can also be done over the stove. Make sure the pan is over medium low heat and will require frequent stirring for over all roasting.

2. Soak basmati rice for ~15-20 mins. Bring 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock to boil and add in the soaked basmati rice. Stir in 1/4 tsp of salt. Cook till water evaporates and let it cool.

3. Heat oil in a wok. Add in the roasted garlic paste. Stir for 5 secs and add in the veggies as written in order, letting the first veggie to cook for 1-2 mins before adding the next one.
Tip: To reduce cooking time of the veggies on the stove, place them in the microwave for 1-2 mins to steam them a bit. Then toss in the wok over medium-high flame to roast them.Do not overcook else they will lose their color and crunchiness.

4. Once the veggies are cooked (2-3 mins max.), toss in the rice along with the sauces and mix well.Adjust the sauce accordingly. Garnish with green onions finely sliced roasted garlic and serve piping hot with Chili chicken or Vegetable Manchurian.
Tip: You could also serve this with strips of egg omelete and call it a whole meal by itself. Great for kids!

This recipe finally satisfied my curiosity about the intense garlic fried rice served in restaurants and made me a very happy girl. One important note though, when making it for more people, prepare everything in advance but just toss it all in right before serving. This ensures that the rice remains soft yet separate and has the freshly roasted garlic flavor. Now I am glad to have found another recipe for the Indo-Chinese spread of dishes.

Have a great rest of the week folks!

I am submitting this recipe to:
- "Show me your hits:Rice" hosted by Sangee and Vardhini.
- Jashn-E-Azaadi hosted by Preeti's Kitchen.
- "30 minute meals" hosted by Srivalli  
"Desi Vidheshi food fest" hosted by Kalyani
- "Bon Vivant-Rice recipes" hosted by Sumee

August 12, 2012

Some sheer creamy happiness - Kesar Badam Kulfi/ Saffron Almond Kulfi

This unforgiving sun, soaring temperature along with the sweltering heat make me reach out to one age old cooling recipe that has always been close to heart. Way before all the plethora of ice cream choices in our refrigerator, I guess everyone would remember looking forward to the kulfiwallah shout out on the scorching summer streets. During summer holidays, when all us cousins would gather at my grandma's was all that would ensue. In between the giddying rounds of hop scotch, hide n seek & lock n key, the shouts of the kulfiwallah on the streets would make us run to our parents begging for some (any!) money. After incessant begging, the kulfiwallah would be brought into our aangan and we would gorge our hearts out. Its memories that in fact ties everything together..So even till this date I could gladly give up all rights to any ice cream just to have all exclusivity to kulfi alone ;) Such is my dedication.

For the uninitiated - kulfi stands apart from its numerous counterparts for its absolute creaminess and richness. I would inch towards saying that its more like a gelato than an ice cream just for its sheer creaminess and softness. I had tried my hand at making kulfi previously too but I have always wondered about the chewy texture of the store bought ones. Mine never quite turned out as the one from the matki UNTIL I got this teeny weeny secret.

The last time I had tried my hand at it , it was a quick simple recipe too but only with the slight glitch of being icy at the same time. Kulfi originally is supposed to feel very creamy as it melts in your mouth. So ice is definitely NOT welcome. So in my desire to get the perfect consistency, I thought of adding something into the milk to make it thicker. So right came the idea of adding some rice flour- a little bit and try. When I finalized the recipe to be a saffron and almond kulfi,. I decided why not add in almond powder too to intensify the flavor along with thickening the mixture. Finally I got it..and of course I couldn't be any happier to find my own kulfi recipe for keeps ;)

Here's the no fuss-creamy-perfectly chewy and yes a winner of a recipe for my beloved kulfi. No need to watch over the milk or fret over the consistency. Get it, mix it, cool it and let the magic begin.

Kesar Badam Kulfi (Saffron Almond Kulfi)

Creamy and perfectly chewy with melt-in-the-mouth texture, this typical Indian summer dessert is heightened with the richness of saffron, crunchiness of almonds and the earthiness of cardamom powder. A quick, easy and sure-fire way to earn brownie points from loved ones. Most importantly, no more icy crystals and all creaminess always.

Ingredients (Makes 8-10 servings)

12 fl oz (1 can) evaporated milk
2 cup Heavy whipping cream  
1 C condensed milk (You can alter this quantity for sweeter kulfi)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder (Optional)
1/2 C slivered almonds
1/4 C warm milk + 1/4 C room temp. milk
1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 T ground basmati rice / rice flour
2 T almond powder
Sliced almonds and saffron strands as garnish


1. Soak the saffron strands in 1/4 C warm milk and keep aside.

2. Heat the evaporated milk in a pan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat until it comes to a soft boil and add the cream, condensed milk, saffron soaked in milk and cardamom powder.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk in ground rice and almond powder with 1/4 C room temperature milk to make a smooth paste and add it to the heated milk mixture.

4. Whisk the milk mixture properly to ensure its smooth in consistency. Heat it over medium-low flame for 7-8 minutes until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.At this point, taste the mixture and adjust sweetness. If you like the consistency, then take it out from the stove and let it cool.

5. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds/ containers and put it in the freezer till frozen.


- Usual route: If you plan to go the usual route, instead of heavy cream and evaporated milk, use 4 cups of whole milk and reduce it to 2 cups over low flame and consistent stirring. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe as stated.

- For almond and rice powder, mix in 2 T each of slivered almonds and basmati rice into a spice grinder to get a fine powder. If using whole almonds, soak the almonds to remove skin and make a paste.

- I used 1 C of condensed milk since I prefer my kulfi just perfectly sweet. 1C seemed just right and anything more I felt would take away from the richness. So if you like your kulfi sweeter, don't shy away from adding in more condensed milk.

- Ice prevention tip - Wrap the edges of the kulfi mold tightly with plastic wrap to seal it completely. This prevents any ice formation during freezing.

- Substitute almonds with any other nut that you desire and there you have a completely different flavor.

- Finally, I wish I had earthern pots for kulfi. They just add a different level of earthiness to this delicacy which is beyond compare.

Well equipped with this comforting recipe, I now have the confidence and the desire to take on this scorching heat with much more patience than anyone would give me any due credit for.Here's to sincerely hoping the sun to be a little more gentle with us and yes...make sure to avoid any distraction while enjoying your slice of kulfi..;)

Have a great rest of the summer! :)
I am submitting this recipe to :
- "Desi Vidheshi food fest" hosted by Kalyani
- "Walk through memory lane" hosted by Archana and Gayatri
- "Fun and fair food event"
- "Diwali Bash" by Vardhini
- "Bon Vivant #10: Festive feast" hosted by Sumee.