Tag Archives: Indian

Muttar Paneer and Tony Horton

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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.

Chappati – Indian whole wheat flat bread

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Chappati – Indian whole wheat flat bread

Chappatis are a traditional Indian flat bread made out of whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat flour is known as “Atta”.   Atta  is different than whole wheat flour commonly found in U.S. groceries.  The protein content is higher and the grind of the flour is finer in “Atta”.  This makes the chapatis softer, pliable and delicious tasting.  If you get a chance to make chapatis with Atta from the Indian store, you have to try it.  Regular whole wheat flour also works, I usually use whole wheat pastry flour to compensate.  There’s nothing like fresh hot chappatis with a tiny bit of ghee added to it for flavor.  You really don’t even need anything else!

Make a well in the middle of the flour

Add water a little at a time to incorporate into the dough

Add yogurt to the dough and continue to knead

Make dough and let it rest for 15 minutes

Make seven equal portions and roll out in a circular shape

Cook over medium high heat, using a paper towel press down on the chapati so it cooks evenly.

Add a little ghee at the very end to enhance the flavor

Chapatis

Chappati – Indian whole wheat flat bread

2 cups Atta (whole wheat) flour

Approximately 1 – 1 1/4 cup water (depending on humidity)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp greek yogurt

little canola oil

Ghee (optional)

In a large bowl place flour and salt and mix together. Add water a little at a time along with yogurt, mix until a soft dough forms.  Knead for several minutes until smooth but still slightly sticky.  Put a few drops of canola oil and pat the surface of the dough.  Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  Make 7 equal balls and dip in additional flour and roll into 1/8 inch thick circles.  Heat a non stick skillet and cook chappati approximately 1-2 minutes on each side, using a paper towel to press down so it cooks evenly.  Put a 1/4 tsp or less of ghee (clarified butter) on the each side of the chappati and take off the heat, this step is optional but I think the flavor is fantastic.  Serve warm with any daal or curried dish.

Coconut Fried Rice – Delicious anytime!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.