Paneer Pasanda with Ghee Pulav

Today while we were walking to Hasini’s class in the morning because we were uncharacteristically and shockingly early and the gates were still open, Hasini’s buddy joined us. Hasini’s buddy: “Hasini didn’t finish her oothappams yesterday” Me:  “Yeah, she didn’t. She doesn’t finish her lunch, keeps bringing back leftovers these days. She shouldn’t right?” Hasini’s buddy: “Maybe you should make what she likes” (Palaar – slap sound) Me: “Bae.. Bae – ” (thinking Who have you been talking to? My Maamiyaar?) After this most humbling conversation I felt grateful that I had packed Hasini Vegetable fried rice and Chinese style hot and sweet potatoes today. In my defence, Hasini likes oothappams and I had exactly 27 minutes that morning to pack lunch, make breakfast, bathe the kids and ready them for school. That I got up late is besides the point. I had to somehow make do in 27 minutes. And you wouldn’t believe but every time we go to a Saravana Bhavan or Vasanta Bhavan Hasini orders the seven taste oothappam ever since she tried it during a trip. She wouldn’t trust us that they’re out of oothappams. She likes to confirm with the waiter herself. But yesterday, the little rascal wasn’t in the mood for oothappams it seems. My fundamental principle, the absolute core of my faith is that children need to appreciate all kinds of food. I don’t want them turning up their noses to Upma, away from Adai and kanji or being reluctant to try Lasagna or Risotto. I want them to give everything a try. So In-spite of that most chastening advice from Hasini’s friend (and domestic cold wars nothwithstanding), I’ll still send Hasini the beetroot rice or cabbage stuffed parantha or Thinai Kichadi. I do make it a point to mix it up with some of her favorites. Like this Paneer Pasandha and ghee pulav (She loves paneer). She polished off her lunch that day and had the leftover Paneer Pasandha for dinner too. She licked her fingers clean. If you’ve always been frying paneer cubes and tossing them into gravies, then you’ve got to try this one. You’ll want to make it for guests, for dinner parties. It is lovely. All said and done, Oothappam smeared with milagai podi and gingelly oil is a perfectly acceptable lunch, don’t you think. That’s what I thought for very many years. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time:...

Leftover Dal Tikki

Happy Vinayaka Chaturthi everyone!  Strangely I have the TV and remote all to myself and I am flitting from one cinema climax to the next and I am loving it. Strangely there are so many good movies on today and not “Singam” or “Singaravelan”.  Sorry, that was last week when I sat down to write this. I loved “Yaam Irruke Bayame”. It was hilarious. “Endrendrum Punnagai” was good too. I’ve been sitting on these Leftover Dal Tikkis, an absolutely cracking puff pastry recipe, my first really well decorated red rosette cake and a whole lot of stories but haven’t been able to sit down to it. I don’t want to open the fridge these days. It is scary. Yesterday’s rice, last week’s lemon rice, alpha, beta 1 and beta 2 versions of the same coriander chutney, assorted slices of cakes, extra frosting, light fresh rasam, concentrated rasam, multiple loaves of bread, huge dabbas of dosai maavu (dosai batter), one hardened chappathi dough ball that’ll make exactly one chappathi.... multiple blocks of butter, the half tin of cherries (from the fantastic blackforest cake), multiple bags of lindt chocolates (we hoard lindt chocolates) and Hershey’s kisses stare me in the face (We’re out of eggs though). And I can’t find a place for my little bowl of dal. I told you about Joint families. We’ll have multiple versions of everything but never enough eggs. Some repurposing was in order. I wasn’t going to throw out my favourite dal. I re-arranged, switched smaller dabbas for a few bigger dabbas and managed to squeeze the dal into the fridge. We were going the have leftover dal tikkis the next day (but I made up the recipe as I went along). I first cooked the dal down to a thickish consistency, adding in powdered oats, some fresh green peas and spice powders, drizzling in some oil now and then to help along and reducing it to a dough almost. I then shaped it into tikkis, rolled in bread crumbs and shallow fried in butter and oil. I didn’t have to find a place for the dal tikkis in the fridge that night. The tikkis were gone. Success! Next alpha, beta 1 and beta 2 chutnies.. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 15 minsMakes: 10-12 tikkis Ingredients Any leftover Dal – 1 cupGreen peas – ½ cupOats – 4 tbsp powderedRed chilli powder – ½ tspGaram Masala powder...

Another Monday and it’s Lemon rice and potato kari

Another Monday and I had to drag a whining Yuvi out of bed and into the shower, threaten him, cajole him and persuade him to wear his shorts and put on his shoes and go to school. He went from “sound asleep” to “distraught outburst” in seconds when he heard the word “School”. He couldn’t believe it was Monday already and he just couldn’t bear the thought of going to school and spending 3 hours among his bawling friends and harried teachers. He’s not yet accustomed to Mondays. I am not, after 30 odd years. I hate Mondays too as I do all working days, only more because it’s the start of many more working days to come. Hasini is more resigned to the inevitable and goes about getting ready looking dull and downcast. Hasini takes lunch to school these days. So lunch has to be readied before 8:30 am. Have you noticed that you oversleep when it’s raining or when it’s Monday? You don’t? Then it’s probably just me. I generally over-sleep and I was trying to find some pattern. But whatever it is, Monday lunch has to be quick and simple. You don’t want to fiddle around with koftas or vazhaipoo vadai on a Monday. Nothing like Lemon rice for a hustled, rushed Monday morning. As much as I deride Lemon rice, Lemon rice is what I turn to it when I am in trouble. Plus it is perfect for packed lunches. You know the cardinal rule of variety rices. If you don’t remember please go back and read it here. Variety rices must be accompanied by a heavy duty side dish or potato chips. So I made Potato kari to go with the lemon rice. This potato kari also features on my TamilNadu meals I made a couple of months back. Now I call this dry potato fry a “potato kari” for a reason. Did you notice that it is “kari” and not “curry”? This is an Iyer style potato fry, the way Tamil Iyers (Brahmins) make it using a kari powder (Recipe given below) and that’s how they call it. They (clue: I am not TamBrahm but I love their food) call vegetables “karikai” and their vegetable preparations as “potato kari”, “kathirikkai kari” and so on. There is no garlic, ginger or onion in this fry but it tastes fantastic with lemon rice or just plain...

Badeel – Fried Lentil bars from Uttarakhand

The Badeel from Uttarakhand must be the North-Indian cousin to South-India’s Poricha Paruppu Urundai (which I wanted to make as part of the TamilNadu meal last weekend but couldn’t). For Badeel, we grind soaked masoor dal and cook it with onions, chillies and spice powders until a little dry, turn on to a plate, cut into diamond shapes and then fry to crispy, tasty perfection. Sounds like a lot of work, but isn’t really. I really liked Badeel. It’s a nice side with rice. It also makes for a filling nutritious snack that can be packed into kids’ tiffen boxes. Uttarakhand is mostly covered by the Himalayas and has many ancient temples and pilgrimage centres – Badhrinath and Kedarnath among the most auspicious Hindu pilgrimage centres.  Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh and Himalayan areas in 2000. The famous Him Corbett National park is in Uttarakhand. I remember reading Jim Corbett’s “Man eating tigers of Kumaon” as a kid. It made for a fascinating read. Garhwali and Kumaoni are the two major communities in Uttarakhand. Their food comprises a lot of lentils, rice and vegetables. I’ve never tasted Badeel before. So I hope I’ve made as close a replica of the Badeel as they make in Uttarakhand. Close or not, it was tasty.   Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 25 minsServes: 6 Ingredients Masoor dal – 1 cupGinger garlic paste – 1 tspGreen chillies – 3 chopped fineOnion – 1 large chopped fineTurmeric powder – ¼ tspGaram Masala – ½ tspRed chilli powder – 1 tspCoriander powder – ½ tspSalt to tasteOil – for shallow frying Method 1.      Rinse and soak masoor dal for 2 hours or overnight if that’s convenient. Drain the water and grind the dal to a coarse, chunky paste without adding water or very very little if necessary. 2.      Heat a pan, add 2 tbsp oil and when hot throw in the chopped onions and green chillies and sauté till the onions turn translucent. Then add the ginger garlic paste, ground dal, spice powders and salt. Mix well and fry till the dal mixture turns a little dry and leaves the sides of the pan (it shouldn’t get crumbly though). Turn the dal mixture on to an oiled plate, spread it with a flat spatula to a ½ inch thick layer and level it. Let cool. 3.      Cut the cooled dal mixture into diamond shapes....

Chicken Tikka Masala – Punjab special

I love the Punjabi food ideology – whole milk, full fat, heavy cream. These guys really know how to eat. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, chicken tikka, kebabs, shahi paneer, Rabri, Batoora, Kulfi – Cream, butter, Ghee, paneer their food is rich and lip-smacking. This is not to say they don’t make healthy everyday stuff which they do, but those don’t interest me as much as these cream and butter loaded goodies do. Most Tandoori dishes originated from the former undivided Punjab. Most restaurants carry many of these Punjabi dishes, proof of their universal appeal. The chicken tikka masala and butter chicken masala are legends. The tandoori roti deserves a life-time achievement award.Among the most successful of all my state-wise recipe experiments and the most enjoyed one was this Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken tikka masala has perfectly spiced chicken that is grilled and folded into a creamy, delicious onion-tomato based curry, laced with cream and butter.  Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular british curries and I forget the number but several tonnes of it are sold every week. CTM as it is fondly called, although a recent adaptation, it is very much a Punjabi dish. I adapted Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken Tikka masala recipe from her book “Curry Nation” using her marinade as is but changing the curry slightly. It is a winner, no doubt. You can safely try this for the first time for a party without worrying about how it’ll turn out. It is perfect. But be mindful while grilling the chicken as it is very easy to overcook them. Vegetarians, just switch paneer for the chicken and you have the wonderful paneer tikka masala. Just as delicious. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 40 minsServes: 4 Ingredients – Marinade Chicken – ½ kilo boneless pieces cut into small chunksGinger-Garlic paste – 2 tbspFresh cream – 4 tbspLemon juice – 1 tspKashmiri red chilli powder – 2 tspCumin powder – 1 tspGaram Masala – 1 tspGhee/Melted butter – 2 tspSalt as necessary Ingredients – Curry paste Onions – 2 medium chopped roughlyTomatoes – 2 medium chopped roughlyGreen chillies – 2 roughly choppedGinger – 1 inch pieceGarlic – 4 clovesCinnamon stick – 1 inch piece Ingredients – Curry Yogurt – ¼ cupKashmiri red chilli powder – 1 tspGaram Masala – 1 tspCumin powder – 1 tspSalt as necessaryButter – 2 tbspOil – 1 tbspSugar – ½ tspFresh cream –...

Bhindi Sambhariya – Gujarati syle stuffed Okra

Gujarat looks quite inviting in the tourism ads starring Amitabh – very much the Indian tourist story – colourful choli clad women shyly peeping out from behind their veils, big moustached men, skinny children running amok, all amidst serene natural beauty and huge temples. It’s at the western tip of India, above Maharashtra. I’ve never been there. I’d like to but mainly for their food and their craft. Two things I never tire of. Gujarati food I read is predominantly vegetarian. I love the elaborate gujarati thalis that they serve in some restaurants here and they’re pretty neat but I am sure the real thing is even better. I made Bhindi sambhariya today for Gujarat. Stuffed Bhindi is a thing of beauty. I love okra in all its avatars the simple unassuming vendakkai poriyal, vendakkai thokku, creamy ladies finger curries and now the stuffed bhindis. There are several versions of the stuffing and this gujarati sambhariya is one of them. These stuffed okra are super tasty with steamed rice and dal. But stuffing the okra is a time consuming task. Stuffing anything (except oneself) is time consuming. So be patient and gentle with them okra or you’ll break them. Try it when you have an extra half hour. Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time: 20-30 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Okra/Ladies finger/Vendakkai – 1/2 kg Grated coconut – 3 tbsp Dhania/Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp Ginger – 1 inch piece Green chillies – 2 chopped roughly Turmeric – ¼ tsp White sesame seeds – ½ tsp Cumin seeds – ½ tsp Garam masala – 1 tsp Lemon juice – 1 tsp Salt to taste Oil – 3 tbsp Method 1.      Wash okra well. Pat dry and chop off the tops and tails of the okra. Make a vertical slit through all the okra and set aside. 2.      Grind together all ingredients other than okra and oil and make a thickish paste. 3.      Stuff the paste into the vertical slits in the okra. 4.      Heat a shallow pan. Add oil and when hot, place the stuffed okras in a single layer in the pan. If there is any stuffing left over, sprinkle it over the layered okra. Cover with a lid and cook on low till the okra are tender. In between, flip over the okra to evenly brown them on all sides. This may take 20-30 minutes on low heat. Once...

Labra | Assamese vegetable curry

I have come to love panch phoran which seems so ubiquitous in the north eastern dishes of India. Now I want panch phoran in all my vegetable curries. I am especially in love with nigella (the seed mind you). Its heady, the aroma of nigella. To those who don’t know, panch phoran (five spices) is a combination of five spices (methi seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds and nigella seeds) that are tempered in oil and used in dals and currys and probably lots of other dishes that I don’t know about. There’s panch phoran in this Labra too. Labra is a lovely assamese vegetable curry. Labra is a medley of vegetables cooked in an onion-ginger-garlic-red chilli paste and tempered with panch phoran. Labra is beautiful eaten with steamed rice and dal. I used the Labra recipe from Sunita’s site. To someone whose only knowledge of Assam food was Assam tea, Sunita’s site was invaluable. Her site has lots of Assamese recipes, many of them with fish and all of them with mustard oil. I picked Labra because it was closer to home and I knew my family’d like it. The original recipe used potato, pumpkin, radish and eggplant but I settled for just potatoes and eggplants. I’d been planning to do Labra for weeks but I never had pumpkin at home and last week when a nice large home grown pumpkin sat on our dining table I chose to do the Labra without pumpkin. I am officially crazy and by birth lazy. So I just used potatoes and brinjals in the labra. I enjoyed labra with dal poori (Jharkand special coming up soon) although it is pictured here with rice. It was warm, just so rightly spiced and yummy. But the next time I make it I’ll eat it along with rice and dal. It just seems like the right thing to do. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 25 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Potatoes – 2 medium peeled and cubed Eggplants/Brinjals – 6 small purple ones cubed Turmeric powder – ½ tsp Garam masala – ½ tsp Oil – 3 tbsp Mustard seeds/Kadugu – 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds/Jeera – ½ tsp Fennel seeds/Sombu – ½ tsp Nigella seeds – ¼ tsp Methi seeds – 1/8 tsp Salt to taste Water as necessary Ingredients – spice paste Whole dry red chillies – 5 Onion – 1 small chopped...

Yam Erissery | Karunai Kizhangu Erissery

I’ve been really lazy with the blog the past couple of weeks. I’ve been struggling to make even one post a week. Of late it’s been like a government office with my cooking. Everything’s postponed, delayed or forgotten. I keep noting down recipes, planning things, making mental notes but never get around to trying them. My to-try recipe list is getting longer and longer and includes the likes of Thukpa and Vindaloo but what did I make for breakfast this morning – Idli and yesterday’s dinner – why dosai of course! Who said bloggers make fancy dishes every meal every day? At-least I don’t, lazy bum that I am. So finally here’s Yam Erissery that I made a week back, a kerala dish that I’ve ever so slightly adapted to my taste.  Erissery is sort of a kootu that is made with vegetables, lentils and spiced coconut paste. It makes a hearty, tasty side with steamed rice and pappadam. For my Erissery I used yam (Karunai Kizhangu) and Karamani (black eyed peas/cow peas). My Erissery is a little on the drier side because Jagan doesn’t like Kootu style sides but Erissery I believe is more like a very thick gravy or kootu. Erissery ought to be that way. If you’ve always made Yam poriyal or deep fried yam, this is a refreshingly new way to cook yam and I am sure you’ll like it. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 40 minsServes: 4-5   Ingredients Yam/Karunai Kizhangu – ¼ kilo peeled and cubedKaramani/Black eyed peas – 1 cup soaked overnightTurmeric powder – ½ tspMustard seeds – ½ tspCurry leaves – 1 stemOil – 2 tbsp + 2 tbspSalt to tasteWater as necessary Masala paste Fresh Grated coconut – 4 tbspWhole Black peppercorns – 1-1/2 tspSombu/Fennel seeds/Saunf – ½ tspCinnamon – 1 inch piece Method 1.      Rinse karamani/black eyed peas in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak overnight in sufficient water. Pressure cook the soaked karamani till soft. Drain and set aside the boiled dal. 2.      Wash the yam well, peel and cube them. 3.      Grind together the ingredients under masala paste adding a little water. Set aside. 4.      In a kadai/skillet, add in the cubed yam and half a cup of water, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well, simmer and cook till the yam is soft but not mushy – about 10-12 minutes. Transfer the cooked yam to...

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