Paneer Bhurji

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Memorial day weekend began for me on Thursday evening but it has not been a typical one. I am in a New Jersey hotel while it is pouring cats and dogs outside and BBC is attending a 3 day long training in a nearby hotel. So no long weekend trip this time. However I still consider myself to be on a vacation… with no cooking and cleaning, warm breakfast awaiting me just down the corridor for the next three days and I get to laze around and read as much as I can. Yesterday I watched a movie on the, skyped with  my family after a very long time, finished the Nicholas Spark e-book – “At first sight”– that I had borrowed from the library on my kindle sitting in the breakfast lounge while the radio played all the right numbers and had my evening tea sharp at 4pm. Once BBC was back we went out to a nice Afghan Restaurant after which I started with Dan Brown’s Inferno. The first couple of pages look good enough to make me feel this weekend will be worth spending my time with Dan Brown, as is usually the case with his books.Today seems to be a repeat of yesterday while tomorrow evening we plan to catch up with some friends before we head back home on Monday.

Sometimes it is good to break the monotony of your daily life, good to have nothing to do at hand, no responsibilities. Though I am still a full time homemaker and would usually be doing the same things like reading books, watching movies, browsing on the net, yet they are accompanied with self made routines and not to mention the daily chores. I can hardly complain about my life here, but there are times when I long to get back to my own country and to pick up my career where I left it 4 years back. Unquestionably once I return to India I will be missing my life here which has been so good so far, I will miss the ease of living a hassle free life here. But I have this feeling deep down that maybe its time for us to steer our lives in a different direction, at the least explore some different avenues. Currently its all a jumbled up maze of questions in my mind… where we are … where we want to be, what more I want to do… And some even bigger questions – Am I happy? Will I be happy if I can go back to where my family is and start with my  career again? Will I not long for the pace of life I have come to love here? Is it the rat race that I want? and believe me even this one – Will I get time to bake? Am I thinking too much? Only time will put each piece in the right place.

Photo Courtesy - BBC
Photo Courtesy – BBC

Not sure how things will turn out for us and if I am not mistaken it will definitely not be the way we are planning it to be. Lets see what this year holds for us.

For now I am posting something I had made sometime back and was long due.

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  • Paneer or Cottage cheese, crumbled or grated – 200 gms
  • Green peas, cooked or boiled – 1/2 cup
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Onion – 1 small to medium, finely chopped
  • Tomatoes – 1 medium, finely chopped
  • Ginger,  minced – 1 tsp
  • Garlic, minced – 1 tsp
  • Green chillies, finely chopped – 3 to 4 or to taste
  • Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch (optional)
  • Garam masala – 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Amchoor powder – 1/8 tsp (optional)
  • Salt – to taste
  • Cilantro, finely chopped – to garnish

Method:

  1. Grate or mash the paneer or crumble it in a food-processor. If using homemade paneer no need to do this as it is already crumbled.
  2. Heat oil in a pan on medium flame; once hot add cumin seeds, let them splutter.
  3. Add the finely chopped onions, saute for a while till they become soft.
  4. Add green chillies, salt, minced ginger and garlic and saute them for 3-4 mins.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry them till they are cooked.
  6. Add cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and garam masala powder and mix well. Sprinkle a few drops of water if required.
  7. Next add the crumbled paneer and the thawed peas (if using frozen cooked ones); mix very nicely so that all the spices blend it together.
  8. Sprinkle a few drops (maybe 1 tbsp) of water if required and cover and cook for 3-4 mins.
  9. Garnish with a handful of finely chopped coriander and serve it hot with rotis or paratha.

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Hara Bhara Kabab – Green Kabab

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2011 September – Dubai Airport  – I am traveling with my husband to India via Dubai… tired… excited and yearning to see my family, to celebrate the festive season and to be in my city. Another couple of hours for my connecting flight, have already seen enough of the airport (which is very very nice) and so am stretching out on one of the lounge chairs, my husband on my right and an unknown lady to my left. In no time the two of us are engrossed in a conversation with the lady. She is a Dutch, hailing from Holland and is going to visit a couple of friends in Kolkata for the Durga Pujas. We talk a lot about the countries and culture we belong to and I tell her about my city of joy. That amidst all the colors and the beauty of the place she may find it a little noisy and cluttered, and that I find those very traits make the city so much alive, specially at this time of the year. As we talk aimlessly the time for our connecting flight draws near and we bid good byes. The last glimpse I have of her is in Kolkata airport as each of us stand in the immigration line. Two people – from different parts of the world meet for a while and then carry on to their respective destinations.

She is forgotten… I do not recall her name any longer… just one of the many people we met on a long distance journey. The chances of us meeting again is null – zero. Holland is not a place I plan to visit very soon. And I do not expect her to be in Kolkata ever again.. well neither in US. So that is the end of our story.. the chance meeting with an interesting person … good conversation and time well spent.  One of the benefits of staying in different places and traveling is that you get to meet many kinds of people, you get to hear many kinds of stories, different experiences… different lives. And I am always enchanted by good stories. The stories make me think .. make me imagine… make me long.

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12 months later…

2012 (October) – Dubai airport – I am going to India for 4 weddings in the family, one of which is my own brother’s. All geared up for the major preparations… the only not-so-good part is that I am traveling alone. The husband will follow me a month later. I have my books and music to give me company but I was already missing him. I managed to chat with a couple of my co-passengers (all of them going to Kol). I am about to reach the specific Gate allotted for my next connection when something familiar crosses my eyes – or someone. I am not sure if my memory serves me right – but – I know I am right – It is her !

Not able to withstand any longer, I reach up to her… to check if I am correct, to check if she remembers me from a year ago. And voila – she is the very same lady from Holland and she remembers. For a couple of seconds I feel I am in a déjà vu. What was the probability of us meeting again, in the same airport, traveling on the same day and around the same time of the year ( just a 2-3 days left for Dushera as last year). I had thought  none and was gladly  mistaken. We hug each other as if long-lost friends. We click our pics, talk for some time, exchange mail ids. I am happy, so elated. I want to share this with BBC, the strangeness of the whole situation has affected me strongly. And as I hop onto my flight I am smiling.

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Life is, after all, so full of surprises; and the world around us is becoming smaller day by day. I now have a Dutch friend and a reason to plan for a trip to Holland someday. As Oprah says – “… chance encounters aren’t necessarily accidental; in fact, you can make your own luck by opening yourself to the world. ” I want to be receptive to new things in my life… new people, new places, new experiences. And one day I do hope to begin to understand the mysterious ways of this universe.

P.S. – As I posted this to the blog, I updated my Facebook browser and a birthday reminder pops up – its that of my Dutch friend. How strange that today is her birthday and unknowingly I dedicated today’s post to her. (Happy Birthday dear friend!)

Today’s post Hara Bhara Kabab is inspired from Tarla Dalal’s recipe. Hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

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  • Paneer (Indian Cottage cheese) – 1/2 cup
  • Spinach leaves – 1 cup tightly packed
  • Chana Dal – 2-3 tbsp
  • Ginger, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Garlic, finely chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Green Chillies, chopped – 3-4
  • Green Peas, boiled – 1/4 cup
  • Water – 3/4 cup
  • Salt – to taste
  • Chaat Masala – to taste
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp
  • Bread Crumbs – 2 tbsp
  • Oil/Oil Spray – as required

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Method:

  • Grate the paneer or process it in a food processor.
  • Clean, wash and blanch the spinach as mentioned. Blanching Spinach greens: On a high heat bring a large pot with water to boil. Add the spinach leaves to boiling water. Cover and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove the leaves using a slotted spoon or drain using a colander. Wash the wilted leaves with ice cold water. Drain water and squeeze out any excess water from the leaves.
  • Pressure cook chana dal with ginger garlic and green chillies with 3/4 cup of water for 2-3 whistles or until the dal is cooked. Drain the dal and remove excess water.
  • Blend the cooked dal with boiled peas and blanched spinach leaves to a fine paste. If required use only 1-2 tsp of water.
  • Combine this paste with the grated paneer.
  • Add salt, garam masala and chat masala to the mixture.
  • Add bread crumbs and mix well.
  • Take a spoonful of the mixture and shape it into a round ball. Press the balls to get a round flattened shape like that of a cutlet. You can keep the round shape or form cylindrical shapes as well. However I find this shape easy to cook on stove top.
  • This is an optional step. If you want your kababs to be have a crunchy coating you can roll them onto some additional bread crumbs or else you can omit this step and fry the kababs as it is. I tried coating them with bread crumbs but did not appreciate the result. Additionally the bread crumbs were giving it a burnt look. You can try it both ways for the first time.

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Cooking the kababs:

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  1. Stove top: I used this method and it is definitely a healthier option. Heat a skillet on a medium flame and spray some oil. Place the kababs and cook them well turning around for even cooking. If required keep spraying oil or drizzling melted butter on each side as they get cooked.
  2. Deep frying: You can deep fry the kababs till they turn golden brown. You can also make a batter of flour/maida, dip the kababs, roll them on bread crumbs and deep fry them.
  3. In the oven – Preheat oven to 350 F and bake them on both the sides till they are cooked. This should take 15 – 20 mins (10 mins approx. on each side) depending on the oven size. Baste them with oil / melted butter on both the sides when you flip them.

Serve them with any chutney, tomato sauce or dip.

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Shahi Paneer

Shahi Paneer or Indian cottage cheese in a white creamy cashew gravy/sauce is a splendid delicacy of North India. Wikipedia search says ‘Shahi’  is an Indo-Persian term for royal; being true to its name this dish is extremely rich and savory and leaves you wanting for more. Paneer is my favorite and cashews are BBC’s favorite so this dish gets its royal place in our kitchen. I would highly recommend it for household parties as it is a pleasant variation from the usual veg /paneer dishes.

So if you have not already tried this one out, go ahead and enjoy this lip-smacking preparation of the Indian cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • Paneer – 250 gms
  • Onions, choppped – 1 large or 2 medium
  • Ginger grated or chopped – 1 tsp
  • Garlic grated or chopped- 1 tsp
  • Tomato, chopped – 1 medium
  • Red chilli powder / Green chilli paste – to taste
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Sugar (optional) – to taste
  • Cashews – 15-20 whole pieces
  • Milk – 1-2 tbsp
  • Cream / Half and Half / Milk – 2 tbsp or to taste

Method:

  • Cube the paneer into desired size (1 inch by 1/2 inch) and boil it in water for 2 minutes. This is mainly done if the paneer has been refrigerated so that it becomes a little soft. If the paneer is already soft omit boiling it in water.
  • Soak the cashews in milk and keep aside for sometime. You can do this prior to preparing for this dish as the cashews need to soften up for grinding.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add the chopped onions and saute till it changes color.
  • Add ginger and garlic paste and mix well.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and cook covered till the tomatoes become mushy. Keep stirring in between.
  • Add green chilli paste/red chilli powder, coriander masala, garam masala powder and salt and mix till the spices are well mixed.
  • Put off the flame, take out the mixture onto a dry plate and let it cool. Once cooled grind the fried mixture into a smooth paste, adding water as required.
  • Meanwhile heat the same pan, add oil if required and lightly fry the paneer for 1-2 minutes till it gets a lightly brown color. Do not over fry the paneer.
  • Add the paste of fried mixture done earlier to the fried paneer and mix gradually taking care not to break the paneer cubes.
  • Grind the soaked cashews into a fine paste. (There is no harm if some broken pieces of cashews remain in the paste).
  • Add the cashew paste to the paneer mixture and mix well.
  • Add little water as per the desired consistency and cover and cook.
  • Add Cream / Half and Half / Milk and mix well.
  • Adjust salt and let the gravy simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • Garnish with a dash of cream if desired.
  • Serve warm with roti or naan. If reheating, add some butter or Cream / Half and Half / Milk for for replenishing the flavors.

Saag Paneer/Palak Paneer/Cottage cheese in spinach gravy

Paneer, also known as cottage cheese, is probably one of the most popular veg items in Indian cuisine. Though I have come across people who do not like it, the number has been very few. Personally it is one of my favorites! I can give up chicken for the sake of paneer. I give the entire credit to my friend Appy (Arpita) for this recipe and all the other paneer recipes that she shared with me. It has made mine and BBC’s life more palatable than what it was!

There are various rich and simple recipes for paneer or cottage cheese, but this one is an exclusive of the North Indian cuisine. It is cooked in a creamy saag/palak gravy and can be enjoyed with mainly roti, paratha or naan etc.

Note: I had special instructions from my friend to cook the spices and spinach for definite period of time (as mentioned below) and I religiously followed it every time I prepared this dish. It has never betrayed me and I hope it will not do so to you as well!

Ingredients:

  • Paneer – 250 gms
  • Palak/Spinach -400 gms
  • Onions, finely chopped – 2 medium
  • Ginger, grated or chopped – 1 tsp
  • Garlic, grated or chopped – 2 tsp
  • Tomato, finely chopped or pureed – 1 large or 2 medium
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Chilli powder – to taste
  • Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Garam Masala powder – 1 tsp
  • Kasoori methi – 2 tsp (heaped)
  • Whipping Cream – 5 tbsp or to taste
  • Butter/Ghee – 1 tbsp or to taste (optional)
  • Oil – 2-3 tbsp

Method:

  • De-stem the spinach leaves, wash thoroughly and drain.
  • In a pot of boiling water add the drained leaves and let it boil for 2 mins and cover it with a lid. Put it off the flame and let it simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  • Drain the leaves, wash them with cool water. Squeeze out excess water and let it cool.
  • Once cooled, blend the leaves into a fine paste and keep aside.
  • Cube the paneer into desired size (1 inch by 1/2 inch) and boil it in water for 2 minutes. This is mainly done if the paneer has been refrigerated so that it becomes a little soft. If the paneer is already soft omit boiling it in water.
  • In a pan, add 1 tbsp oil and lightly fry the paneer pieces for a minute or two till they get a golden tinge. Do not fry for too long. Soak the fried pieces in water at room temperature and keep aside.
  • In the pan, add more oil, fry the chopped onions. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add  ginger and garlic. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and mix well. Let it cook for 15 minutes stirring in between. Sprinkle some water if the mixture starts drying up.
  • Add turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala powder and mix well. cover and cook for another 15 minutes stirring in between. Sprinkle some water if the mixture starts drying up.
  • Add the spinach paste, mix well. Add little water if required. Cover and cook again for 20 minutes so that the spinach is well mixed with the spices.
  • Take out the paneer pieces from water and add to the mixture in the pan. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add Kasoori methi and cream and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add butter or ghee if desired and let it simmer.
  • Serve it hot!