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Monday, February 28, 2011

Potato slices in Spinach Gravy

I try and find ways to feed Spinach to my family because unlike me they are not so much into the color green. The task is not nearly as difficult because everybody in the house loves potatoes, rather can’t do without potatoes, so pair anything with the chubby vegetable and we are good to go.

Now this recipe on the face of it may seem like Aloo-Palak and technically speaking it is Aloo (potato) and Palak (Spinach). The difference lies in the treatment of Potato and the spinach gravy itself is much simpler.

Potatoes peeled and thinly sliced – 2 medium
Fresh Spinach – 3 cups
Chopped Cilantro – half a cup
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Ginger – 1 medium piece
Green chilies – 2 small
Oil – as needed
Salt and pepper
Water – 2 cups

Wash, peel and thinly slice the potatoes. In a pan, heat some oil and shallow fry the potato slices golden brown in batches adding salt and pepper each time. Keep aside once done. In another vessel combine spinach, cilantro, ginger and green chilies and water. Bring to a boil and cook covered for 5 minutes. Cool and puree. Using the same pan in which potato slices were shallow fried, heat half a tsp of oil, add cumin seeds and bring to a crackle. Add the pureed spinach, salt and pepper and cook the gravy  for 10 minutes. Add the potato slices to the gravy just 5 minutes before serving.

Serving suggestions
With Paratha/roti/white rice/brown rice

*frozen spinach can be used in place of fresh.
*Increase or decrease the quantity of water in the recipe depending on how thin
 you want the gravy.

Interesting fact
·         Spinach is extremely rich in antioxidants and multiple vitamins and iron
·         Although fresh spinach is very nutritious, these days it is recommended to eat cooked Spinach because of E. Coli and Salmonella outbreaks in the past
·         Raw Spinach is HIGH in sodium, people who have been advised to watch their sodium should eat spinach in moderation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Almond Ras Malai

Ras Malai is not something I would have tried cooking at home; if not for the Paneer I made at home and didn’t know what to do with. On each occasion I made Paneer at home, it enticed me to combine its self with either Saag (Mustard greens) or Mutter (green peas). This time around, I thought, let’s take Paneer for a sweet ride.

Almond Ras Malai easily falls under the category of “do it yourself dessert” even for chefs like me who suck at cooking dessert. The basic ingredients for this dessert are Milk and Paneer or fresh cheese. All you need to make Paneer at home is bring a huge pot full of milk to boil, add 3 tsps of vinegar or lemon juice and let the milk curdle. Turn the heat off and strain the liquid, what remains is the Paneer.

Paneer – 2 cups
Condensed milk – 1 can
Whole milk – 3 cups
Saffron – 5 strands
Almonds – 6
Cardamom powder – half tsp
Water – 4 cups
Sugar – 1 cup

Knead and make oval shaped balls out of Paneer. In a pan, mix water and sugar, bring to a boil and cook till the sugar dissolves. Add the Paneer balls and cook covered for about 15 minutes in the sugary liquid.

Soak almonds for 2 hours in water, peel off the skin and slice them finely. Mix saffron in 2 tsp of warm milk and set aside.

In another vessel bring the whole milk to a boil and cook for 15 minutes or so constantly stirring so that it reduces a little. Add condensed milk, turn the heat off and stir well. You can go ahead and strain the milk if you want to. Finally in your serving bowl, combine the milk, Paneer balls, almonds, cardamom powder, saffron and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

*Ready made Paneer can be used for this recipe.
*If home-made Paneer turns out too soft, add 1 tsp of all purpose flour and Knead
 a dough and then make oval shaped balls out of it.
*Pistachio nuts can be used in place of or together with almonds.
*Evaporated milk can be used in place of whole milk, in which case you don’t need
 to cook it for 15 minutes, just bring it to a boil.
*Evaporated milk/condensed milk are used in this recipe to shorten the
  cooking  time, you can use plain milk instead, cook till it reduces to half and add
  sugar as desired.

Interesting fact
*Paneer can be used to make Ricotta cheese by leaving it at room temperature
  for 12 to 24 hours and cooking it further.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Carrot Fried Rice & Cauliflower Manchurian

The cooking part in Chinese cuisine takes no time at all; the chopping part however is a different story. And that is the reason why most of the times I crave for home made Chinese food my heart goes: Veg. Manchurian..yess.. and the mind (my hands) go..nah..too much chopping, maybe some other time ! 

But then, in the battle of the heart and mind, the heart always wins. After spending quite some time in the kitchen mulling over the preparations, I have figured out a not so tiring Indian-Chinese menu to cook at home.

Cauliflower Manchurian and Carrot fried rice use all the necessary sauces and only a couple of the veggies, making it a mouth watering yet easy to cook meal. That it happens to be Valentine’s day today and those two are my valentine’s favorite dishes is of course just a coincidence!

Carrot Fried Rice
White rice – 2 cups
Thinly sliced carrots – 3 medium
Finely chopped scallions – 1 small bunch
Finely chopped ginger – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 2 tsp
Green chili sauce – half tsp
Soya sauce – 2 tsp
Oil – 4 tsp
Salt and pepper

Cook rice in 4 cups of water and a little salt and set aside at least three hours before. Heat the oil in a deep vessel and add scallions and ginger. Stir on high flame for 2 minutes. Add carrots and keep cooking for 3 to 4 minutes on high flame. Add the sauces, cooked rice, salt and pepper. Mix well and serve steaming hot with:

Cauliflower Manchurian
Cauliflower florets – 2 cups
Chopped green bell pepper – half a cup
Finely chopped scallions – half a cup
Finely chopped ginger – half tsp
Finely chopped green chilies – 1 tsp
Finely chopped garlic – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 2 tsp
Red chili sauce – 1 tsp
Soya sauce – 4 tsp
Tomato ketchup – 1 tsp
Water – 5 cups
Corn starch – 7 tsp
Oil for frying – as needed
Salt and pepper

Boil 2 cups of water, add salt and cauliflower florets. Cook for 5 minutes, drain and keep aside. In a bowl take 6 tsp of corn starch, a little salt, finely chopped green chilies and ginger and form a thick paste adding some water (less than half a cup will be needed). Heat oil in a frying pan; dip the cauliflower florets in the corn starch paste and deep fry till golden brown.

In yet another pan heat 1 tsp of oil and stir fry scallion, green chilies, garlic and ginger on high flame for 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the sauces and remaining water, bring to a boil. Dissolve 1 tsp corn starch in 3 tsp water and stir in into the gravy to thicken it. Add the cauliflower florets and cook for 2 minutes. Cauliflower Manchurian is ready to be devoured!

Interesting fact
*The Indian-Chinese cuisine was developed over a century ago in Kolkata by
  the Chinese community living there.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Zesty Brown Rice with Cilantro

Sometimes I think the sense of taste is in our mind and not in our tongue why else would it be so hard to replace white rice with brown rice in all our typical rice recipes? To overcome this notion I cooked brown rice as brown rice and not as a substitute of white rice. Instead of pairing it up with Dal or Curry, the brown rice I cooked was served with whole wheat pasta and a side of asparagus. Nobody at the dining table asked what they were supposed to eat the rice with so I guess the experiment was successful.

Brown rice – 2 cups
Water – 5 cups
Thawed Green Peas – half a cup  
Finely chopped cilantro – half a cup
Fresh Lemon juice – 6 tsp
Lemon zest – half tsp
Salt and pepper

Soak the rice for half an hour in water. Add salt, water, lemon zest and 3 tsp lemon juice to the rice and cook for about 40 minutes or so in a deep vessel or until the rice is tender and nearly done. Alternatively transfer the whole thing to a rice cooker and put it on “brown rice” setting if there is one. Just minutes before turning the heat off, add peas, remaining lemon juice, cilantro, pepper and mix well. Cook for a few minutes and turn the heat off. Garnish with more pepper and serve.

*vegetable or chicken broth can be used instead of water to cook the rice.
*fresh green peas can also be used, add them with rice right from the beginning to cook.

Interesting fact
*One cup of cooked long grain brown rice contains 84 mg of magnesium while one
  cup of white rice contains 19 mg.
*Brown rice has THREE times more fiber than white rice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Simply Asparagus

Spices and sauces add life to a dish but there are a few ingredients which taste the best if left by themselves. Asparagus has been called “the vegetable with a delicate flavor” and now I know what exactly it means. This particular vegetable has a flavor subtle enough to hold out on its own and yet a couple of additional ingredients or extra cooking time can ruin the balance.

Fresh asparagus – one bunch
Garlic sliced thinly – 4 cloves
Butter – 2 tsp
Water – 4 cups
Salt and pepper

Trim the asparagus and cut into long pieces. Bring the water to boil in a vessel, add salt and asparagus. Cook for 2 minutes and transfer the asparagus into a bowl filled with ice water. Take it out in 2 minutes, the asparagus is now blanched and ready to use.

Heat butter in a skillet and sauté garlic for about a minute. Add the asparagus, some more salt and pepper. Cook on high flame for 3 to 5 minutes. And that’s all it takes for the asparagus to turn into a delicious side dish from a plain green bunch lying in your fridge.

Since I did save on a lot of cooking time on this one, I compensated by adding on whole wheat pasta with fresh tomato and zesty brown rice with cilantro to the menu (recipes to follow soon). Now does this scream “HEALTHY” or what??

Interesting fact
*Asparagus aids the human body in ‘cleansing and healing’.
*It is a low-calorie source of folate and potassium and high in antioxidants.
*Asparagus can be pickled and stored for several years.

Monday, February 7, 2011

An eggless Omelet?

With vegan diets in vogue these days, this age old recipe is back in fashion! Since Omelet itself has been defined as a dish made with beaten eggs, I don’t know if it would be technically correct to call an Omelet eggless, but to its credit, the dish does look a lot like its name-sake.

There are numerous versions (the most popular being tomato omelet) of this one pan dish so rest assured I am definitely not the inventor. My version has more of cabbage and less of tomato and it can be eaten for breakfast or dinner, depending on how much cooking time you have at hand!

Gram flour/chickpea flour – 2 cups
Water – as needed
Oil – as preferred
Finely chopped cabbage – half a cup
Diced tomato – 1 small
Diced Green chili – 2 medium
Red chili powder – half tsp
Turmeric powder – a pinch
Asafetida  – a pinch

Add water to the flour slowly stirring side by side to form a pancake like batter. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Take one big serving spoonfuls of the batter and spread it in a circle evenly on the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or so till that side is done, then flip, add a little oil along the edges of the circle and let the other side cook. Press the omelet lightly with a flat spatula to avoid soft spots and to get an evenly cooked end product. Fold it once done and serve hot with ketchup, chutney, yogurt, toast or tea.

*Onion, green bell pepper, cilantro go well in this recipe too.
*Some wheat flour and/or rava (suji) can also be added to form the batter.

Interesting fact
Gram flour contains a high proportion of carbohydrates but no gluten. Despite this, in comparison to other flours, it has a relatively high proportion of protein.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bell pepper and cheese make a yummy sandwich

People don’t kill me for posting yet another recipe with cheese in it, OK, make it loads of cheese!

So this sandwich is a quick fix, goes well with any kind of soup, salad or ketchup and is a good way to use the otherwise fastidious bell pepper.

Wheat bread – 4 slices
Butter – as preferred
Diced green bell pepper – half a cup
Grated cheddar cheese – half a cup
Potato boiled and mashed – one
Oregano – 1 tsp (optional)
Salt and pepper

Bring together the diced bell pepper, mashed potato, half of the grated cheese, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Toast 2 slices of bread with butter on a griddle.
Apply two spoonfuls of the bell pepper and cheese mixture evenly on one of the slices. Sprinkle some cheese on top. Close it with the other slice of bread and toast some more on both sides. Cut in half and serve.

I really wish I could make this recipe look more interesting by writing some more  but the delicious truth of the matter is, this is how it is. It’s a quick, it’s simple and it’s tasty. Those looking for a matchless culinary execution are going to be disappointed; those looking for a tasty bite are not. Till then, food and more food….