MATTAR PANEER – PEAS & PANEER IN TOMATO SAUCE

Back in the day, I used to make my own paneer (it kind of resembles and tastes like ricotta) and it used to be quite the ritual of weighing the paneer down overnight with a tower of cans. Now like everyone else, I use store bought paneer.

Paneer is versatile because it absorbs the flavours of whatever sauce you are using. Mattar is peas in Hindi so this dish is peas with paneer in a thick tomato sauce. It is really nice with rotis, puris or any flatbread.

Mattar Paneer

INGREDIENTS

300g paneer

450g peas (frozen is fine)

150g onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons ghee

5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

2-3 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

½-1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon cumin seed powder

2 teaspoons coriander powder

60ml cream

Salt to taste

For the sauce

100g onion, chopped

100g carrot, peeled and chopped

300g tinned tomatoes

1 red chilli

1 tablespoon oil

METHOD

To prepare the sauce heat the oil in a small saucepan. Fry the onions and carrots for 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chilli and 200ml water. Let it come up to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Once cool enough blitz in a food processor or a stick blender. Set aside.

Heat the ghee in a kadai or sauté pan. Fry the onions on low heat for 12-15 minutes until they are pale brown.

Pound the ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Toss this paste into the onions and continue frying for 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, and cumin and coriander powders. Keep frying and when it starts sticking to the bottom of pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Fry the spice off for a couple of minutes.

Tip the sauce into the kadai and season with salt. Cover with a lid and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cut the paneer block into 16-20 pieces. Soak in warm water.

Soak frozen peas in water and change the water a couple of times. This way when you add to the sauce, they will retain their bright green colour.

At the end of cooking time, add the peas and paneer. Cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the cream. Continue on the heat for a further minute or so.

Remove from heat and serve immediately. Serves 6.

PISTACHIO CHICKEN KORMA

When I was growing up in India, most of the dried fruit and nuts used to come from Afghanistan or Pakistan. They were mobile vendors on bicycles, who would do door to door selling. They were referred to as Kabuliwala, meaning a person from Kabul.

I am writing about this, because this korma dish uses pistachios. They are referred to as pista for short and generally reserved for ice-creams and halwas but pistachios along with cardamom add an interesting flavour to this chicken dish.

Pistachio Chicken

INGREDIENTS

1 kilo of boneless, skinless chicken thighs

100g shelled pistachio nuts, unsalted

6 green chillies

2 onions (100g each approximately)

3 centimetre piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

6 plump garlic cloves

¾ teaspoon garam masala powder

2 bay leaves

¾ teaspoon ground white pepper

1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds

12 cardamom pods

3 tablespoons chopped coriander stems, leaves and roots

1 teaspoon tamarind puree

200ml chicken stock

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt to taste

METHOD

Cut the chicken thighs into half or a third depending on the size. Set aside.

Place pistachios in a microwave safe bowl that is fairly large. Pour enough water to submerge the nuts from a freshly boiled kettle. Let soak for a couple of minutes and then microwave on high for three minutes. Let cool. Once cool, rub the nuts with your fingers and remove the skin. Set aside.

Quarter one of the onions and finely dice the other onion. Place the onion quarters in a microwave safe bowl and pour enough water to drown the onions from a freshly boiled kettle. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Discard the cooking water by fishing out the onions.

Put the pistachio nuts, the onion quarters, ginger, garlic, 4 of the green chillies, coriander leaves in a food processor along with 50mls water and process to a fine paste.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and fry the onions on medium high for five minutes until lightly coloured. Add the garam masala, white pepper, bay leaves and fennel seeds and fry another minute. Mix in the spice paste and stir continuously for a further two minutes.

Add the chicken and sauté for five minutes. Add the tamarind puree, remaining chillies, chicken stock and salt. Cook for another 15 -20 minutes until done.

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and using a rolling pin or mortar and pestle powder the seeds. Just before serving, sprinkle the freshly ground cardamom powder. Serves 4-6.

CARROT SHORBA

The word “shorba” is of Persian origin and almost a dozen variations of the word exist. It is traditionally prepared by simmering meat or vegetables in boiling water along with salt and flavored with aromatic curry spices and herbs.

Carrot shorba

My recipe is an oldie but a goodie from the Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor who has been the celebrity chef on one of the longest running food shows of its kind Khana Khazana. (In fact the show has been running since 2010 and has over 500 million viewers.) I remember watching this show on my visits to India. I have simplified the recipe so it is easier and you don’t have so many dishes to wash up!

This is a great soup to serve as a starter for a dinner party and I assure you will have your guests wanting more and the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

500g carrots, peeled and cut into 2 centimetre chunks

1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

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MASALA KICHADI & RAITA

Masala Kichadi and Raita

Kichadi is essentially a dish made with rice and lentils. There are so many versions of this dish and it is comfort food in a way – because it is simple, easy to prepare and so creamy. Incidentally kichadi is one of the first solid foods babies eat. My version, of course is a spicy one and makes for a very convenient, one pot dish.

INGREDIENTS

300 grams Basmati rice, rinsed well

100 grams mung dhal, rinsed well

150 grams onions, peeled and finely sliced

300 grams medium potatoes, quartered or into eighths

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MIXED VEG BHAJI

Mixed Veg Bhaji

This is a dish that keeps on giving. I say that because I tend to make a large batch and use it for toasted sandwiches or Indianish quesadillas a few days down the week! To make the dish more balanced and sumptuous, I add a tin of chickpeas. You can use seasonal vegetables of your choice.

INGREDIENTS

½ cauliflower about 400 grams, washed

1 potato (150 grams), peeled and cut into bite sized pieces

1 carrot (100 grams), peeled and cut into 5cms batons

1 cup of cut frozen beans

½ cup frozen peas

1 x 400 grams tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed well

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KADAI CHICKEN

This is home cooking at its best – not very creamy or buttery. The spices, tomato paste and yoghurt add the required richness. There is not too much sauce or “gravy” with the kadai chicken.

Kadai Chicken

INGREDIENTS

800 grams boneless chicken thighs

6-8 green cardamom pods

2.5cms cinnamon quills

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 star anise

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Continue reading “KADAI CHICKEN”

MOOLI MASALA (RADISH MASALA)

Radish

I have adapted this recipe from Atul Kochhar’s “Simple Indian” cookbook. He made this dish with baby turnips but I feel the pink table radish we get here are succulent prepared this way.

400 grams radish, cleaned and trimmed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

1 green chilli, chopped

2 centimetre piece of ginger finely chopped

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 medium tomato, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves

5 grams root ginger julienned

Salt to taste

METHOD

Mooli Masala

Cut the radish into quarters. Heat the oil in a sauté pan, add the nigella seeds, green chilli and ginger, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the seeds crackle.

Add the radish and powdered spices, and sauté over a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and salt. Cover and cook until the radish are soft.

Sprinkle chopped coriander and ginger julienne over the radish and serve hot as an accompaniment.

Serves 4

DHAL FRY

Dhal Fry

This is a very simple and satisfying item you see on the menu in Indian restaurants and households. There are any number of variations – normally this is made with Toor Dhal (obtained from specialist Indian stores and you would cook this in a pressure cooker as stove top method takes too long) but I have done a simple one with all the flavours using red lentils.

Ingredients

1 cup red lentils washed

1 thumb size fresh ginger piece chopped fine

1 large onion finely chopped

1 fresh red chilli finely chopped

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Salt to taste

½ fresh lemon

1 tablespoon coriander leaves finely chopped

Method

Place the lentils in a large saucepan and add two and a half cups water. Add the onion, ginger, chilli and turmeric powder. Stir to combine contents of the pot and bring it to a boil. Once the water is bubbling, reduce heat and let the lentils simmer for 15 minutes stirring a couple of times so the lentils do not stick to the bottom. Once cooked stir in the salt, lemon juice and coriander leaves and set aside. Heat the ghee in a small fry pan. When hot add the cumin seeds, fry until they splutter or the seeds have opened up and the flavour is evident. While hot pour on top and serve immediately with pulao. Serves 4.

PULAO

Dhal fry and pulao

Ingredients

2 cups Basmati rice rinsed in a sieve and drained

1 large carrot cut into a small 1 centimetre dice

1 large onion sliced very thinly

1 cup frozen peas

½ thumb size piece of fresh ginger finely chopped

4 plump garlic cloves finely chopped

1 x 5 cm cinnamon stick cut in half

5 cloves

5 cardamom

4 tablespoons ghee

Salt to taste

Method

Take a wide saucepan with a lid preferably one with a non-stick surface. Heat ghee and add the whole spices. Fry for a minute until all the spices have opened up and the smell is evident. Then fry the onions for three minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and continue to fry for a further minute. Add the rice, carrots and fry for a couple of minutes. Add salt and three and three quarters cups of cold water from the tap. Increase heat and let the contents of the pan come up to the boil. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook for 12 minutes. Stir in the frozen peas and continue cooking for a further 4- 5 minutes. The key to cooking beautiful rice on stove top is to get the best quality Basmati rice you can afford and also do not stir more than once in the middle of cooking. Allow the rice to rest for ten minutes before serving hot with the Dhal or raita.

Radish / Onion Salad

5 small pink table radishes sliced thinly

2 medium red onions sliced thinly

Salt to taste

Pinch of sugar

½ teaspoon Ajwain seeds (Indian store)

Juice of one lemon

Method

Using your hands, mix the radishes, onions, salt, sugar and ajwain seeds. Squeeze in the lemon juice and allow to pickle for at least half an hour. Serve as part of an Indian meal.

ANDHRA STYLE LEMON PICKLE

10 large, juicy lemons (Meyer)

Juice from 4 lemons

10 tablespoons salt

9 tablespoons chilli powder (I use a combination of very hot and mild Kashmiri chilli powder)

1 heaped dessertspoon full of fenugreek seeds (roasted until brown and ground to a fine powder)

10 cloves plump garlic (optional)

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

4 tablespoons vegetable oil like canola

Method

Cut the 10 lemons into eighths or if smallish into quarters. Take a large jar and place lemons in jar. Add all the salt and shake the jar so the salt is mixed in. Set the jar aside for 24 hours. Squeeze out all the pieces (retain the juice that has collected) and you can dry the pieces in the sun or I prefer to dehydrate them in the oven at 50 degrees Celsius for about 16 hours or so.  Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds – fry until the seeds are sputtering. Then add the garlic and fry for about 30 seconds. In another large mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon mix the chilli powder and roasted fenugreek powder and add the oil mixture. Add the dried lemon pieces and also the reserved juice (the one from soaking). Mix well and put all the pickle back into the jar. Allow to rest in a cupboard for a couple of days. Then give it a good mix and squeeze in juice from the four lemons. Will keep for a few months in the back of your cupboard. Serve as accompaniment to an Indian meal.