Tag Archives: Bengali

Muttar Paneer and Tony Horton

Muttar Paneer and Tony Horton

I’m well into the second week of P90X.  I am beginning to walk like the hunchback (or is it hump back?  I have a hunched hump) of Notre Dame when nobody is watching, dang that Tony Horton.  I try to straighten up and look buff whenever I think I’ll encounter other people.  I’m still laughing, joking and talking but it covers over some serious muscle pain.  I don’t remember being THIS sore the last cycle of P90X.  My daughter reminded me that was a few months ago and now I am OLDER.  Thanks, Onjoli.  My sister Rita is also doing P90X.  We live hundreds of miles apart but found time to laugh on the phone together over how hard it was to even blow dry our hair after doing a bunch of pull-ups.  I need something to look forward to at mealtimes while I get over the first few weeks of muscle pain (and misery).  I want comfort food (or my mom to cook for me)! Comfort food that won’t destroy all the hard work of working out.   Muttar Paneer  has all the flavors of a richer meat dish, like a Rogan Josh curry (that’s an awesome beef or lamb curry) but is pretty low in  fat while being high in protein.  Since I make my own paneer using 2% milk, it’s a lower fat version than the ones available through my cheese monger or  at the Indian grocer.  The spices used are very similar to what is used in making a lamb curry, making the flavor profile much richer.

I know when you look at the long list of spices, it can seem daunting but there is another piece of good news.  you can make the tomato and cashew based sauce ahead of time or in a bigger batch and freeze them in portioned freezer bags. When you’re ready to cook, you can take out a bag of sauce and add the garam masala and either lamb, beef or in this case the green peas and paneer to complete the rest of the currying process.  I have done that in the past, I just didn’t have any sauce in my freezer this time!

I have used whole spices in my Garam Masala again.  I beg you to use whole spices whenever you can, the taste is so much better, I promise.  I hope you try this out.  You’ll really enjoy the mini explosion of flavors in every bite and keep eating it and eating it….Oh, BTW, it goes great with Chappatis.

Saute cashews first in a little oil

Add onions, turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt and saute for 2-3 minutes

Add tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes

Blend the cooked tomato mixture in a food processor until smooth – you can make a big batch of this and freeze it if you like for future use.

Saute whole garam masala and cumin seeds in 2 tbsp oil until the cumin seeds are popping and everything is fragrant

Add tomato puree to the garam masala and simmer for about 10 minutes

Add green chilis, methi and green peas and cook another 5 minutes over low heat

Add cilantro, paneer and milk (or cream) and cook another 3 minutes before serving

Muttar Paneer with coconut rice

Muttar Paneer

4 tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped

1 cup frozen green peas

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

5-6 raw cashews

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 fresh green chilies

2 tsp Kasuri Methi (dried Fenugreek leaves)

handful of cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup milk with 1/2 tsp flour mixed in or you can use 1/4 cup heavy cream

Whole Garam Masala: 

5 green cardamom pods

1 stick cinnamon

2 bay leaves

5 whole cloves

salt to taste

Heat 2 tbsp oil and saute cashews, add in onion, salt, turmeric ginger and garlic and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes.  Add chopped tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Blend this mixture in a blender or processor until smooth.   (Note: if you wanted to make extra sauce for future use, you could easily make a double or quadruple batch and freeze them in portioned freezer bags).  In the same pan used earlier, add the remaining oil and the whole garam masala spices and cumin seeds and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and simmer covered on low heat for about 8-10 minutes until all the flavors are well blended.  You can adjust with a little water.  Into the sauce add the peas, green chilies and the dried fenugreek leaves (fresh would be great if you can get it, not as pungent) cook for about 2 minutes until peas are tender then add the paneer, milk and flour mixture or cream and cilantro.  Heat all the way through, should take another 2 minutes or so and serve hot with plain brown basmati rice or chappatis.

Coconut Fried Rice – Delicious anytime!

Coconut Fried Rice – Delicious anytime!

This Coconut Rice is super tasty and originates from the Southern part of India.  Most places that grow coconut has some kind of a coconut rice recipe.  Jamaicans have a coconut rice recipe where the coconut milk is used directly with the rice and it’s a rich, sweet rice.  Marshall Islanders make shredded coconut and white rice balls that are very popular and eaten with savory foods even though the rice balls are quite sweet tasting.  The tastes, styles and flavors are as varied as the locales coconuts are grown in.  I really enjoy this South Indian version because it has a wonderful crunch not only from the nuts but from the lentils that are stir fried .  The toasted coconut adds depth, texture and tastes heavenly.  This rice is very versatile.  I’ve paired it with Indonesian style chicken or with Chicken satay or to make my “Caribbean style rice bowl” (recipe to follow soon).  Hope you like it!

Split Black lentils (Urad daal), yellow lentils (Bangla Chana daal)

Saute chilies, lentils, mustard and cumin seeds in hot oil for a few minutes

Add cashews and desiccated coconut and stir fry until coconut is toasted and light brown in color

Add rice toss and serve

Coconut Rice

4 cups cooked rice (I used Basmati rice, any long grain rice will work)

2 cups desiccated unsweetened coconut (finely shredded)

4 dried red chilis

1 tablespoon split Urad daal (black lentils)

1 tablespoon Bangla Chana daal (yellow lentils)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/3 cup raw peanuts or cashews

3 tbs oil

In a wok or large skillet heat the oil and add the lentils, mustard, cumin seeds, salt.  Stir fry for a few minutes until flavors are released.  Add the nuts and stir fry another minute or so then add coconut and cook about 2 minutes.  Coconut will start becoming toasted and start smelling wonderful. Add the  rice and stir fry gently to incorporate.  Serve warm.  Great as a leftover by itself or with other dishes.

10 Minute Tilapia Curry

10 Minute Tilapia Curry

People in Bangladesh eat a LOT of fish.  Especially fresh water fish.  Fish are such a commonly eaten item, we even use it in colloquial language  – for instance if you’re inviting someone over for a casual meal you say, “come on over, we’re just having bhaat maach (fish and rice)” – it’s our equivalent of a backyard BBQ.  Because fish are available all year long, we have a lot of different ways of cooking them. Most of the fish usually enjoyed in Bangladesh are not available here, so I make do with whatever fresh water fish I can find.  Tilapia is just such a fish.  Tilapia is mild (no fishy taste here) and when filleted, it cooks very quickly.  I came up with a “Bosa Maach” recipe for Tilapia or Swai fillets.    “Bosa Maach” literally translated means “Sitting Fish”. All the spices are mixed with the fish in the pan then covered and cooked with no stirring, letting it “sit” in the resulting gravy.  This is especially helpful for Tilapia or Swai fillets since they are so tender, they tend to break easily if overly handled or stirred.  From start to finish, it literally takes 10 minutes to have this dish completed.  I made it last night before leaving the house in a hurry to teach a class.  I even had time to spare.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the Quinoa and Lentil salad.

Place all ingredients in a 10-12″ skillet

Mix everything together, cover and cook over medium heat for 6 minutes

After 6 minutes of cooking, gently flip the fish over and add water. Cover and cook another 3 minutes

Tilapia curry

10 Minute Tilapia Curry

4 Tilapia Fillets, cut in halves

1 small bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

1/2 can diced tomatoes

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp red chili powder

2 tsp garlic and ginger paste (I keep a 1:1 ratio of garlic and ginger blended in the fridge in a mason jar)

1 tbsp mustard oil

3 tbsp canola oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Wash the fish fillets and cut them in half lengthwise.  In a 12″ skillet, place the fish and all the other ingredients and mix together gently with your hands.  Cover and place over medium heat for 6 minutes.  Uncover and gently flip fish over and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water depending on how much gravy you desire.  Cover and cook another 3 minutes.  Serve with curried quinoa and lentil salad or plain white rice.

Samosas – the quick and dirty version

Samosas – the quick and dirty version

Growing up, having Singharas and Samosas as “tea time” snacks were really common.  Because of the British influence, having “tea” at around 6:00 p.m. everyday was the norm and then dinner would follow about 8:30 – 9:00 p.m.  Tea time would usually include all manner of foods, including seasonal fruits, home made snacks, biscuits (cookies), Nimkis (savory home made chips), Singharas or Samosas and tea, of course.  Here’s the main difference between a Singhara and a Samosa.  Singharas are usually eaten in Bangladesh and in the West Bengal area of India. They have a crispy shell and although they are triangular in shape, they can “sit” upright.  Samosas also have a crispy shell but are flat and triangular.  The fillings can be as varied as the region and depends on the cook.  Some samosas sold street side as snacks have vegetarian fillings, some are beef or chicken while others are tiny and filled with caramelized onions.  Most samosas and singharas are served with a chutney or dip of some sort.  Usually a Cilantro Chutney or a Tamarind Chutney.

I used to try to avoid making samosas because they are time-consuming. They sure are delicious though and great to have as a treat.  I figured out a quick and dirty version of making samosas.  Most of the time is taken up in making the dough, rolling it out and shaping them since the filling is pretty fast to cook.  I started using tortillas as the shell and really liked how they turned out but they had a little difficulty staying together.  Then I discovered the uncooked tortillas.  They are sold at any Costco or even in Walmart (and several other grocery stores).  Uncooked tortillas are fantastic to use as the dough for samosas, empanadas and a myriad of other dishes.  By the way, I usually make a large batch and freeze them in ziplock bags.  That way all the up front work is done and when I have guests or need a quick appetizer, I can fry up a batch while they are still frozen and serve fresh and hot with some chutney.  Just add a couple of extra minutes when frying frozen samosas.   Here’s my quick and dirty version.

Saute onions, green chilies, cumin seeds and salt

Add turmeric and coriander powder before adding potatoes and green peas

Cook a few minutes until flavors are blended and peas are tender, add chopped cilantro at the very end

Use uncooked tortillas as the samosa dough

Cut 15 tortillas in half and make a paste out of flour and water

Place the cut tortilla on a cutting board with the round side facing you. Put some filling in the top right hand corner

Fold the right corner over the filling

Put some flour “paste” in a reverse v-shape on the dough

Fold the left side over to form a triangle (pressing down over the flour paste)

Flip the samosa over and push the filling up towards the top and place some more flour paste on the bottom of the triangle

Press the bottom flap into the body of the triangle and press firmly

Completed samosas (they can be frozen at this time or cooked immediately)

Shallow fry in oil and serve hot with Tamarind chutney

Samosas – The quick and dirty version

4 medium-sized potatoes, cooked and cubed

1/2 onion, chopped

2 green chillies, split in half

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup frozen green peas

4 tbsp oil

15 uncooked tortillas

additional oil for frying

To make the paste:

1/2 cup flour

1/4- 1/8 cup water

In a medium skillet or frying pan, heat oil and saute onions, cumin seeds and chilies together until the cumin seeds begin to pop.  Add coriander powder, turmeric and salt and stir fry for a few minutes.  Add the potatoes and the green peas and cook about 4-5 minutes until peas are tender and everything well blended together.  Set aside.

In a small bowl make a paste out of the flour and water.  It should be thick and the consistency of a thick glue.  Cut tortillas in half.  Place the round side of the cut tortillas towards your body and place about 2 tbsp filling on the top right hand corner.  Fold right corner down and place flour paste in an inverted “v” on the dough.  Flip the left side of the dough over to form a triangle and press down over the paste to adhere.  Flip the triangle around and using your thumbs push in the filling towards the top tip of the triangle.  At the bottom of the triangle place some flour paste on the dough and fold it over and press to adhere.  Press your fingers along all the seams to make sure everything held together.  Place on a pan or platter.  When all the Samosas are done they can be frozen in a large zip lock bag for later use or fried immediately.  To fry, place oil in a medium size frying pan and heat to about 350 degrees.  Fry until golden brown and serve hot with Cilantro or Tamarind Chutney.  Makes 30 samosas

Saag (Palak) Paneer

Saag (Palak) Paneer

I know, I know…it seems like I’ve been making a lot of Bengali/Indian food lately and LOTS of things with paneer.  What can I say?  I’m going through a phase.  I’m switching to Mediterranean or Caribbean food this weekend.  Most of you will recognize this dish, especially if you’ve ever been through a lunch buffet at any Indian restaurant.  Saag or Palak Paneer (which basically means spinach and fresh cheese) is an extremely popular Indian restaurant staple.  Usually it’s been sitting in a serving pan over a steamer for a few hours getting overcooked.  I’ve never been attracted to the globs of  moss-green colored spinach with a few pieces of paneer peeking out.  Make no mistake.  I love eating Saag Paneer, just not the restaurant version.  If you want to enjoy the dish in its full, delicious glory, you have to make it at home.  It’s sooooo good.  I can eat a whole bowl of this with a little rice.  It’s pretty low in fat, high in nutrients, full of flavor and a vegetarian and gluten-free dish to boot.   Just make a batch of paneer and you’re good to go.  I usually use frozen, chopped spinach because it saves lots of time and there is no taste difference.  Fresh baby spinach can definitely be used for this dish, just needs a few extra minutes of cooking time.  I also use whole Garam Masala.  Garam Masala usually consists of Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.  They are toasted and then ground up to create the powdered version of Garam Masala.  A lot of commercial Garam Masala leave out the Cardamom because it’s an expensive spice.  Anytime spices are ground, they lose a lot of the flavor quickly.  For instance, Coriander seeds are fantastic when toasted and then ground but it tends to turn into a flavorless brown powder after a week.  I picked up an inexpensive coffee grinder and use it exclusively for my spice grinding needs since my husband, who is an ubér coffee snob would freak out if his coffee beans smelled like Garam Masala and I would not enjoy spices that smelled like coffee.  This way we’re both happy.

Just a side note about using whole spices….Bengalis, Indians, Pakistanis.  We eat food with our hands.  Many times food is served with whole chilis, cloves, bay leaves etc. and the diner knows to remove them before eating, mostly because we’re encountering them with our hands before we put it in our mouth. The western style of eating with a fork usually prevents that little step.  A lot of the whole spices have been ground into powder because of this reason.  I just count the number of bay leaves or cloves or pods I put in and do my best to fish it out.  The flavor in cooking with whole spices cannot be beat.  In certain recipes it is essential.  I guess you have two choices…wash your hands and dive in or spend a minute or two and fish out the whole spices after the dish is cooked.  Please do try cooking with whole spices though…you will really enjoy the flavors!

Ingredients at a glance

Whole spices that make up “Garam Masala” – the flavor is more intense when these whole spices are used instead of the ground version

Dried fenugreek leaves (I know it looks like a controlled substance, but it has great flavor!)

Saute the bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and dried whole chilies in oil until it’s fragrant

Add all the other spices (except for the fenugreek leaves) and saute another 2 minutes or so

Add tomatoes to the caramelized onion mixture

Add spinach and water and cook about 6-8 minutes until spinach is tender

Add paneer and methi leaves and mix into the sauce

Add half and half and simmer for 2-3 minutes

Serve hot with plain rice or rice pilaf

Saag (Palak) Paneer

10 oz package of frozen, chopped spinach

3 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

5 cardamom pods

2 bay leaves

1-2 cinnamon sticks

4-5 whole cloves

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp red chili powder

3 dried red chilies

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste (I usually blend the two together in a processor in a 1:1 ratio and keep in the fridge)

1 1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri Methi)

12 ounces (or one batch) paneer cut into cubes

1/4 cup half and half

1 3/4 cups water

In a wok or large skillet, heat oil and saute cumin seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and whole dried red chilies.  When spices are fragrant and cumin seeds are popping add in the onion and salt and continue to cook a couple of minutes until the onions are tender and carmelized.  Add in all remaining spices, except fenugreek leaves and continue to stir fry for about a minute and a half before adding in the tomatoes.  Tomatoes should cook down and begin separating from the oil before spinach is added along with about a cup and a half of water.  Cook uncovered (this keeps the spinach from turning a mossy green color) for about 5-6 minutes until spinach is tender and all the spices are incorporated.  Add in Methi leaves (fenugreek leaves) and the paneer and gently stir in.  Add the half and half and look another couple of minutes.  Turn off heat and serve with some plain white rice or a pilaf.

Misti Kumro Daal ~ Kabocha squash and red lentil daal

Misti Kumro Daal ~ Kabocha squash and red lentil daal

What Bengalis like to call Misti Kumro (translation:  sweet pumpkin) is actually a squash.  Kabocha squash.  If you’ve never tried this variety of squash, its delicious.  I love it because you can eat the WHOLE THING.  The skin, the flesh and even roast the seeds and eat them for a snack.  Talk about a sustainable food.  It’s chock full of nutrients like beta carotene, iron, vitamin C and potassium. Long before this squash was available in the U.S. they were grown in parts of South Asia.  Because it is such a sweet squash you can add more chili in the cooking process and get a wonderful sweet/hot dish.  I enjoy making this daal because when you add the lentils the nutrient content skyrockets even more and you can eat it as a soup or with rice (I’m Asian, I eat most things with rice).

Five seeds in Panch Phoron are: Mustard, Cumin, Fennel, Fenugreek and Kalonji

Kabocha Squash or Misti Kumro

Saute onions and Panch Phoron together until the seeds begin popping

Add all the other spices to the onion and Panch Phoron mixture before adding the Kabocha squash and red lentils

Add 2 cups of water and let it simmer, covered for about 6-8 minutes

Add the light coconut milk at the end and cook an additional 2-3 minutes

Add chopped cilantro at the very end and enjoy the daal

Misti Kumro Daal

4 cups cubed Kabocha squash – leave the skin on

1 cup red lentils, washed thoroughly

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tsp salt (or adjust to taste)

1 1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp Panch Phoron (Bengali Five Spice)

2 bay leaves

1 can lite coconut milk

2 cups water

3 tbsp oil

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

In a large heavy bottom pan saute the onion in oil along with Panch Phoron and salt. After seeds begin to pop, add in bay leaves, chili powder, turmeric and cumin.  Saute for about two minutes so the flavors can marry.  Add the squash and the lentils and stir to coat thoroughly.  Add the water.  Cover and simmer for about 6-8 minutes or until the lentils and the squash are tender.  Add in coconut milk and cook another 2-3 minutes uncovered.  Add chopped cilantro right before taking off the heat.  Serve with rice or eat as a soup.

Potato and Chickpea Curry

Potato and Chickpea Curry

This little vegetarian dish is tasty and filling.  I love it as a main dish to eat with pooris, naans or just plain white rice and a nice crisp salad.  I had a few leftover baked potatoes and it worked great in this dish since you have to pre-cook the potatoes.  The potatoes are the base but you can feel free to add anything else to it.  I added a can of chickpeas and one lonely zucchini I had sitting in my fridge.  You can add green peas, cauliflower, bell peppers, green beans, whatever you happen to have handy in your crisper drawer….

The ingredients at a glance

Mix coriander, ginger, turmeric, paprika and chili with the yogurt

Yogurt and spice mixture

Saute onions, salt and cumin seeds together, after cumin seeds pop then add garlic and stir fry

Add besan (chickpea flour) to the onion mixture before adding the yogurt mixture (keeps yogurt mixture from separating)

Add potatoes, chickpeas and zucchini and mix well

Add water and cilantro, cover and simmer for 6-8 minutes

Serve with flat breads or rice

Here’s the recipe:

Potato and Chickpea Curry

4 potatoes, cooked and cubed into bite sized pieces

14 ounce can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1 small zucchini (or some other veggie)

1/2 onion, chopped

1 green chili, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp corinander powder

1/2 cup yogurt

1 tsp salt (or adjusted to taste)

4 tbsp oil

2 tsp chickpea flour or besan (or all-purpose flour)

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 1/2 cups of water

In a small bowl mix yogurt with turmeric, paprika, coriander, ginger and chili. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan.  Add onion, cumin seeds and salt.  When cumin seeds are crackling add the garlic and stir fry a few seconds.  Add the chick pea flour and stir for a few minutes.  (This will help the yogurt from separating out.  If you don’t have chickpea flour you can use regular flour) Add the yogurt and spice mixture.  Keep stirring until the mixture thickens a little (about 2 minutes).  Add the potatoes, garbanzo beans and zucchini and mix well.  Add one cup of water and the cilantro.  Cover and simmer for about 6-8 minutes. Uncover and check for seasoning, if additional salt or water is needed then add it now and let it simmer another minute or so.  Serve with any flat bread or white rice.

Paneer Kofta Curry

Paneer Kofta Curry

I enjoy kofta curries because I think they are fun. I just made a chicken kofta curry not too long ago and last night decided to throw together a paneer version.  I’m leaving for an out-of-town speaking engagement so I wanted to use up whatever I thought would not last the next four days or so (which included some leftover paneer).  I found one sweet potato in the bottom drawer and some cilantro and chilies that needed to be used up ASAP.  I also didn’t take as many ingredient pictures because I was kind of cooking as I was going along.  I wasn’t sure how the sweet potato would taste in the dish but ended up liking the sweetness balanced with the other spices.  Let me know what you think!

The potato to paneer ratio should be about 1:1, I kind of liked the sweet potato and regular potato mixture, give it a sweet and spicy kick

Add in all the other ingredient

Make into little balls slightly bigger than a quarter (yields about 19-20)

Coat the koftas in a flour batter

Fry until golden brown and place on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil

Saute the onions and tomatoes along with bay leaves, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks together until fragrant

Add in all the other spices

Add tomato paste and then some water

Add in yogurt or coconut milk (whichever you prefer along with additional water) and let sauce simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Add in koftas, cook an additional 2-3 minutes before sprinkling with fresh cilantro

Great served with rice or naan

Paneer Kofta Curry

Kofta balls:

1 sweet potato

1 regular potato

1 cup of paneer

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 inch of ginger, grated

1/2 cumin powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 green chili, chopped

3 green onions (white and green parts together), chopped

Paneer Kofta coating

1/4 cup flour

6 tbsp water

Oil for frying

Curry

3 tbsp oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

2 bay leaf

4-5 whole cloves

4-5 cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 cups water (approximately)

1/2 cup yogurt OR lite coconut milk (whichever you have on hand)

Salt to taste

some fresh chopped cilantro for the end

Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork and microwave for about 5 minutes until they are tender.  Take off the skin and mash together.  I avoid boiling the potatoes since I want a dry mixture and don’t want to introduce any more moisture.  The yielded potatoes should be about 1 cup.  Mix potatoes, paneer and all the other ingredients for the koftas together and form into small balls a little bigger than the size of a quarter.  They will expand a little in the sauce so you don’t want them too big and mushy.  Make a thin batter out of flour and water (about the consistency of crepe batter).  Coat each kofta in the batter and fry them quickly in some oil.  I used a small pan and a higher heat.  I was trying to give the koftas a coating to keep them from falling apart since they don’t have the resiliency of meatballs.  Set the koftas on a paper towel lined pan to absorb excess oil.

In a medium sauce pan heat oil and begin sauteing onion and tomatoes together.  Add in bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon and crushed cardamom pods.  Stir fry until fragrant.  Add in turmeric, cumin, coriander, chili and stir fry for a few minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. Add in 1/2 cup of water and the tomato paste stir until everything is incorporated.  Stir in yogurt  and another cup of water or if you’re using coconut milk instead, add that in.  Let the sauce cook for 3-4 minutes until all the flavors are well incorporated, check for salt and adjust accordingly.  Drop in the kofta balls and gently stir.  Cover and let it cook about 2 minutes. Koftas will grow in size as they soak in some of the sauce.  Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with rice or naan.

Chicken Kofta Curry

Chicken Kofta Curry

I love using ground chicken or ground turkey in a lot of different dishes.  They are low in fat, versatile and taste great.  Traditional koftas are actually meat ground in a big mortar and pestle called a Shil Pata.  The resulting texture is a very smooth meat mixture.  I think ground chicken or turkey naturally lends itself to a smoother kofta like texture without using a giant mortar and pestle (or a food processor).  I know that I say in most of my posts that the recipe was “quick”, “fast” or “easy”.  A friend recently told me that she doesn’t have hardly any spices in her pantry so when she thinks of cooking something that has more than 3 spices listed she feels overwhelmed and it doesn’t seem “fast” or “easy” to her.  She is also bored out of her mind with what she fixes for her family.  Hmmmm.  There are two options, keep eating boring food or invest in some spices. I know that many who are not used to cooking South Asian or African dishes think we use too many spices.  Since we were the hub of the spice trail its kind of hard not to use what was so readily available.  It does make things taste wonderful.  I think that having a variety of spices in your pantry is an investment.  You can’t experiment if you don’t have it handy.  Some of my best dishes were accidental discoveries.  When spices are in your pantry it is  “easy” and “fast”.  I took her shopping recently after work.  Utilizing the bulk section of a local grocery store, we stocked up on 15 different spices and her total cost was less than $20.  My post today is to challenge my friend to use her new spices.  She has every one listed (I know that for a fact!).   You go girl!

Mix up the meatballs and set aside

Carmelize onions and add bay leaves, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and cumin seeds.

Add other spices and tomato paste to make sauce. Place meat balls in the sauce and simmer for a few minutes

Add watered down yogurt to cooked meatballs and cook another couple of minutes before serving

Top Chicken Kofta Curry with chopped cilantro

Chicken Kofta Curry

Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Kofta Curry

Meatballs:

1 pound ground chicken

handful chopped cilantro

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 seeded green chili, chopped

1 tsp cumin powder

Curry:

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (Jeera)

4 whole cloves

4-5 cardamom pods, crushed

2 bay leaves

2 sticks cinnamon sticks (Dalchinne)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

3-4 tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup greek yogurt mixed with a little water

1/2-1 cup water

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Mix together the meatball ingredients and form into golf ball sized meat balls.  Set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil add onions, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and cardamom pods.  Stir fry until onions are tender and the spices are fragrant.  Add in chili powder, turmeric and garlic.  Stir fry a minute or two before adding the tomato paste.  Stir to incorporate.  Add about a cup of water and meatballs to the sauce, turn heat to low and cover.  Let meatballs simmer covered for about 15-18 minutes, stirring often and adding water as needed until meatballs are cooked through. Add yogurt last and stir through and cook an additional minute to incorporate everything.  Top with chopped cilantro. Remember to fish out the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves before serving.   Serve with rice or with a naan.

Aloo Naan (spicy potato stuffed naan bread)

Aloo Naan (spicy potato stuffed naan bread)

There’s nothing like fresh hot naan.  I love all kinds of naan.  Peshwari Naan, Garlic Naan, Plain Naan, or in this case a stuffed Naan.  You  might be thinking to yourself (or not) why stuff potatoes inside a bread?  Well, why not?  Actually since this serves as the main carb for a meal, it’s perfect.  It’s great served with daal, channa dishes or one of my go to dishes Sabzi Paneer Masala.  Since I don’t own a Tandoor oven, the best way I know how to mimic one is by using a pizza stone.  A Tandoor oven heats up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit.  The highest my gas oven will go is 550 degrees Fahrenheit.  In order to compensate for this temperature difference  I usually place  the pizza stone in a rack closest to the upper element.  I usually preheat the oven to the highest it will go (500 for electric or 550 for gas) with the pizza stone in it.  Then right before baking the naans, I turn the oven to the broil function.  This helps even out the heat from the top and the bottom and usually the naans turn out fantastic.  Try this one.  You’ll be the talk of the town.

Naan ingredients

Aloo filling ingredients

Proof yeast in water and sugar

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add liquid ingredients.

Make the dough and let it rest for 4-8 hours.

Cook the potatoes in the microwave, mash them and add all the spices. Make into 6 equal balls

The potato ball should be a little smaller than the naan dough ball

Roll dough into a 3" circle and place the potato ball in the middle

Pull the edges of the dough together and make a nice smooth ball

Let the dough balls with the filling inside rest for about 3-4 minutes before rolling out

Heat oven to 500 (or as high as it will go) with a pizza stone in it

Place rolled out dough onto hot pizza stone (I can usually fit up to 3 on the stone)

Cook for 2-3 minutes. Naan will usually puff up

Brush hot naan with ghee (clarified butter) or just plain butter

Enjoy your Aloo Naan!

The Aloo filling is delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

Aloo Naan

Makes 6 Naans

Plain Naan dough:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil

2 tbsp plain yogurt (I like Greek)

3/4 cup warm water

Aloo Filling (potato filling):

2 medium russet potatoes

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (Jeera)

1/2 tsp dry mango powder (Amchur)

1 Serrano chili, partially seeded and chopped

2 tbsp chopped Cilantro (coriander leaves or Dhania)

1/2 tsp garam masala

additional items:

2 tbsp oil (to coat hands, for the dough etc)

2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) – to brush the naans with

1/8 – 1/4 cup flour to dust rolling surface

Making the Naan:

I make the dough for this naan in the morning before going to work, it only takes a couple of minutes and it’s perfect for when I get home.  The dough works really well 6-8 hours later.  Needs at least a minimum of 4 hours, so plan accordingly.  

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let it proof for a few minutes until it bubbles up.  In a larger bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.  Make a well in the center of the flour and add in the yogurt and oil.  Mix together until you get a coarse crumbly texture.  Slowly add in the proofed yeast mixture and knead the dough.  Don’t worry if the dough is slightly sticky.  Put a few drops of oil on the dough and smooth it all over the dough ball.  Cover the bowl with the dough in it with some plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 4 hours.  I prefer about 6-8.  It doesn’t really over-rise so even if it is longer than 8 hours, it’s okay.

Aloo filling:

Wash the two potatoes and pierce the skin with a fork a few times.  Microwave about 4-5 minutes (depending on microwave) until potatoes are tender.  Don’t skin and boil these potatoes since we’re trying to reduce moisture content.  Once cooked and slightly cooled, peel the potatoes and smash them with a fork or a potato masher.  Add all the spices to the mashed potatoes and mix well.  Divide and roll into six equal balls.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 500 or 550 (as high as it will go) with the pizza stone in it.  Pre-heat for about 20 minutes because you want the stone nice and hot.

Coat hands with a little vegetable oil and knead the naan dough a few times and divide the dough into six equal parts.  Sprinkle a little flour on the rolling surface and roll out dough into 3″ circles.  Place a potato ball in the middle and wrap dough around it like a little dumpling.  Make sure to pull the edges together well.  Make all six balls the same way and let it rest for about 5 minutes (this rest period helps a lot when rolling it out).  In the meantime, turn the oven on to broil and make sure the rack with the stone is closest to the top element (be sure to wear oven mitts or you’ll get a nasty burn like me).

Roll out naans into an oval shape.  Before placing them on the stone, coat the palms of your hands with a little oil and flip each naan back and forth to lightly coat each side.  Place 3 naans on the stone (or however many will fit on your stone).  Cook for about 2 minutes, maybe 3 depending on your oven.  It should get a nice golden brown color on top and will puff up.  Take out the naan and brush with ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter.

Make sure to wait 2-3 minutes between baking batches of naan to give your oven time to get back to the maximum temperature.  Serve Naan with Sabzi Paneer Masala.