Kadai Paneer

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Kadai is a thick bottom circular cooking pan, similar to a wok, but with steeper sides, an essential in every Indian kitchen. This dish is traditionally cooked in one and hence the name Kadai Paneer. The combination of the the tangy tomato gravy balanced with a dash of sweetness from cream followed by a garnish of dried fenugreek leaves makes this dish. It’s rich texture and ease to cook makes it a perfect dish to cook when entertaining. So far I have never had leftovers and always find myself writing this recipe down for people.  img_6488

I am good at figuring things out and really enjoy the process of deconstructing a dish, understanding the various ingredients that went in it and building it all together. This dish is one of them, I had an idea of this dish and I modified it to be my own. Traditionally ginger, garlic and a few more whole spices are added to this dish. I prefer it without those.

I have made this dish for my vegan friends and its easy. For a vegan version, use Tofu instead of Paneer and cashews for the creamy sweet richness. Even my non-vegan friends love that variation.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 25 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz Paneer
  • 1 onion, julienned
  • 1 small green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 dried red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 tbsp fresh cream or heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori Methi)

Process:

  1. In a heavy bottom pan, heat butter over medium heat. Add bay leaf, dried red chilli, cumin and caraway seeds.
  2. When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add onions. Saute for 4-5 mins, till they get a little caramalized.
  3. Add the red and green bell peppers, mix it in, then garam masala,cayenne, coriander powder, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
  4. Add the chopped tomato fold it in. Cover and cook, stirring on regular interval until it gets mushy or 4-5 mins.
  5. Add in tomato puree, cover and cook for another 5 mins, to take away the rawness.
  6. Add Paneer, fold it in and cook for 2-3 mins.
  7. Add cream, mix it in and turn of the flame. Do not cook after adding cream or it will curdle.
  8. Garnish with Kasoori Methi.

Serve with naan or chapatis.

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Chilli Chicken

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Indo-Chineese cuisine, food that has my heart and is the source of some of the fondest memories of family dinning growing up. Story goes that I was a problem child and the one bribe that worked like a charm was a weekend meal of my favorites – Chicken Corn soup, Prawn Pakora followed by Chilli Chicken with oodles of noodles at my favorite restaurant, Alex’s Kitchen. Always a Foodie. According to my mom I also preferred dining out because I loved the ambience of the restaurant. Yes that word became part of my vocabulary very early in life. Food is a sensory experience and the right ambience enhances that experience immensely, just like the mingled fragrance of chilli, garlic, ginger, scallion and soy at the restaurant.

The restaurant had a pretty big menu and the friendly host, Robert was always full of helpful and delicious recommendations. While we tried something new every now and then, Chilli Chicken was always part of our order. And I continue craving it every now and then. This recipe is probably not the real deal, but it is a recreation of the memory I cherish so much. Hopefully it will lead to some of your own.

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 30 mins     Yield: 6 servings     Level: Medium

Ingredients:

  • For the Chicken:
    • 2 lbs Boneless Chicken, cut in 1 inch cubes
    • 3 tbsp corn starch
    • 1 tbsp rice flour
    • 1 inch ginger, grated (or 1.5 tbsp ginger powder)
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 3 tsp black pepper powder
    • 1 tsp white pepper powder
    • 1 tsp red chilli powder
    • 1 tsp tomato sauce
    • 1 egg
  • For the Gravy:
    • 4 tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tsp brown sugar
    • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 onion, cut in squares
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut in squares
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in squares
  • 2-3 thai chilli pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • Oil
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • salt to taste

Process:

  1. Make a paste with the ginger, garlic, white pepper powder, tomato sauce, red chilli powder, rice vinegar, corn starch, rice flour and egg. Marinate the chicken pieces in this paste for 3-4 hours.
  2. Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed vessel.
  3. Carefully fry the marinated chicken. Do not crowd the vessel. Reduce flame and deep fry till cooked and is golden brown. Remove onto absorbent paper and keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a large wok add half of the soy sauce and sugar.
  5. Add the whites of scallions and sauté for a few seconds. Add the chilli pepper and ginger and stir fry on high for a few seconds.
  6. Add the fried chicken pieces, chopped bell peppers and onion and stir fry on high for 2-3 mins, constantly tossing them.
  7. Reduce to medium heat and add rest of the soy sauce, tomato ketchup and vinegar. Mix well and cook for 2-3 mins.
  8. Toss on high flame for 1-2 mins
  9. Mix a tbsp of cornflour in a little water, make a thin paste and keep aside.
  10. Add the chicken stock  and bring to a boil.
  11. Add the cornflour water slowly and keep stirring till it takes a thick gravy like consistency. Cook for 1-2 mts. Turn off heat.
  12.  Garnish with chopped spring onion greens and/or coriander leaves and serve.

Vegetable Manchurian

IMG_4267Indo- Chinese cuisine took birth in the streets of Kolkata by a small group of Chinese immigrants incorporating traditional Chinese cooking techniques and seasoning to create dishes catering to Indian tastes. A big part of it was providing a wide range of vegetarian options. Through years of evolution, this cuisine now bears very little resemblance to traditional Chinese food, except may be the use of soy sauce.

Good Indo-Chinese food is almost impossible to find in US, I have followed every lead I got (which includes my cousin driving an hour for a carry out!!) but the food never met expectations. So this became one of those pet projects of mine and I have finally managed the India wala taste. And the best part, this is MSG FREE!
IMG_4279This dish is one of the most popular street food in India, grated mixed vegetable dumplings are first fried and then sautéed in soy sauce (and more) and served hot as is or as a side dish with Hakka Noodles or Fried Rice. Dry version serves as a good appetizer and the gravy version is perfect with some Fried Rice or Steamed Rice. Restaurants add a whole bunch of MSG (may be thats why its so addictive?), I use a tbsp of butter instead to get similar flavor.

Here I am deep frying the fritters, but in the past I have tried to bake it too. Make the vegetables balls following steps listed below, on a cookie sheet layered with parchment paper place them around 1/2 inch apart from each other,  spray a little oil and baked for 20 mins in oven pre-heated to 400F/205C, then broiled for 5 mins, flipping them halfway. While it definitely is a lot healthier, it doesn’t taste the same.

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 20 mins     Yield: 16     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • Finely chopped vegetables
    • 1/4 cup carrots
    • 1/4 cup green bell pepper
    • 1/4 cup red bell pepper
    • 1/2 cup cauliflower
    • 1/2 cup cabbage
    • 1/2 cup scallions
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp rice flour
  • 2-3 thai chilli pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, grated (or 1.5 tbsp ginger powder)
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce or siracha
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tsp black pepper power
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt to taste

Process:

  1. Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed vessel.
  2. In a bowl, combine all the finely chopped vegetables. Add salt, mix it in and let it sit aside for 10-15 mins. vegetables (especially cauliflower) will release quite a bit of water.
  3. Add all-purpose flour, corn starch, rice flour, half of ginger, garlic and thai chilli pepper, black pepper, 2 tsp soy sauce. Mix them all in. Add water, if needed, little by little and use only as much water as required to form small balls. You should be able to make small balls as shown in the picture above. Be mindful while adding water and add only 1 tbsp at a time.
  4. Carefully place each ball into the hot oil. Do not crowd the vessel. Reduce flame and deep fry the vegetable balls till cooked and is golden brown. Remove onto absorbent paper and keep aside.
  5. Heat oil in a large wok, add the whites of scallions and garlic, sauté for a few seconds. Add the rest of chilli pepper and ginger and stir fry on high for a few seconds.
  6. Add the vegetable balls and stir fry on high for 2 mts, constantly tossing them.
  7. Reduce to medium heat and add the brown sugar, soya sauce, tomato ketchup, chilli sauce and vinegar. Mix well and cook for 2 mts.
  8. Toss on high flame for 1-2 mts. Turn off heat. Garnish with the chopped spring onion greens and/or coriander leaves.

Notes:

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To make Vegetable Manchurian with Gravy:

  • Mix a tbsp of cornflour in a little water. Keep aside.
  • After following step 5 above, add 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and add the brown sugar, soya sauce, tomato ketchup, chilli sauce and vinegar.
  • Add the cornflour water slowly and keep stirring till it takes a thick gravy like consistency. Cook for 1-2 mts. Turn off heat.
  • Add the fried vegetable balls to the gravy at the time of serving. Garnish with chopped spring onion greens and/or coriander leaves.

Burrito Bowl

Hari and I love traveling, especially long road trips. There is something very energizing about open roads, music, us singing along, stopping at random places to explore and debate about random topics. Chipotle is our favorite fast food places to go when on these trips, its healthy and wholesome with a delicious vegetarian option which is not just salad. But then there are those days where we crave the goodness of a burrito bowl and live the memories of travel without really leaving the house, this is our fix for those days. Plus this easy to fix meal is actually faster than getting in the car and driving.

I use Cilantro Lime Rice and homemade Salsa (Recipes posted earlier)

This is a vegetarian version, but if you are a meat lover then just top it with cooked meat of your choice in assembly and your all set.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 10 mins     Yield: 4 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cilantro lime rice
  • 1/2-3/4 cup beans and corn salsa
  • Chopped mixed vegetables:
    • 1/2 green pepper, Julienned (cut into thin strips)
    • 1/2 red pepper, Julienned
    • 1/2 yellow pepper, Julienned
    • 1 medium sized red onion, Julienned
    • 1 medium size tomato, Julienned
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing

Process:

  1. Cooking the vegetables:
    • In a heavy bottom pan heat oil over medium high heat, add all the vegetables and sauté for another 2-3 mins.
    • Add the cumin powder, cayenne and salt. Mix and sauté until they are cooked, stirring as needed.
  2. Assembly:
    • In a bowl arrange 1/2 cup of Cilantro Lime Rice, top it with the Beans and Corn Salsa, then the sautéed vegetables.
    • Season with salt and pepper if needed, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

Cilantro Lime Rice

IMG_4123The freshness of the flavors of cilantro and lime makes this a perfect alternative to plain rice. Since burrito chains, like Chipotle made this dish popular we always think of it as a side to a Mexican dish. But this goes really well with traditional Indian side dishes as well. Serve this with basic yellow dal and you can make every day food feel special. I like it best with Mutton Rogonjosh or Bengali Kosha Mangsho.

For rice that is fluffy and each grain of rice is separated or like we call it in bengali ‘Jhojhore’, soak rice for 30 mins, then drain and spread it on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out before cooking. While cooking fry/sauté the rice grains for a 2-3 mins before adding water. While doing so make sure that you don’t stir too vigorously, that will break the rice grain and you will not get those long grains of rice that are visually so apetizing.

Time for Prep:5 mins     Time to Cook:20 mins    Yield:2-4 Servings    Level:Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1.75 cup water or broth
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter or oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (Juice of 1 lime)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped + 1 tbsp for garnish
  • zest of 1 lime for garnish

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan over medium heat add butter/oil. Add garlic, cumin seeds and bay leaf, sauté till you begin getting the spice aroma around 1 min.
  3. Add the drain rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  4. Add water/broth, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 10-12 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  6. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Garnish with the lime zest and cilantro, serve with your favorite side dish.

Salsa

IMG_4111Superbowl is round the corner and it calls for some easy crowd pleasing finger food that are guaranteed to score! This is one of my favorite game day recipe, a base that gives me flexibility to serve with some chips or a plate of Veggie Nachos or Veggie Quesadillas or as one of the toppings for a burrito bowl. Over the years this has become our favorite game day food for any big sports event… Cricket, Boxing, Tennis.. and MMA, provided the fight goes on for more than a few seconds. Essentially I always have a jar of Salsa in my refrigerator and it has always been a big score for me.IMG_4112I first had Salsa at a mexican restaurant in Mystic CT, the food in Margaritas is average but the salsa is a town favorite. Thats the taste that inspired this recipe and to me it feels like perfection, every bite brings back memories of Sangrias with girlfriends. Play around with the ingredients and find that perfect taste for you. This is also one of those recipes that I am asked about a lot! So here goes. 526102_373643059347155_950859651_nCouple things to keep in mind: First, I use plum tomatoes for this because they have low moisture content, robust flavor and mild acidity making it a perfect choice, but any other type of tomatoes works just as good. Secondly I don’t use a food processor to chop the vegetables because they loose their crunchiness, which I really like. But if thats something your not particular about then just throw all ingredients (except corn and beans) in a food processor and pulse away. Third, allow it to rest for a day before digging in. This helps with all the flavors to really blend in.IMG_4117The picture above shows how I chop the vegetables, they are almost finely chopped.

Time for Prep: 20 mins      Time to Cook: 5 mins     Yield: 16oz (2 cups)      Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cubanelles, chopped
  • 2-4 jalepenos, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 english cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp chili paste or Tubasco sauce (optional)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 cup sweet yellow corn, cooked (Optional)
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked (Optional)

Process:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix in the chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, cubanelles, jalepenos, onion, cilantro and cucumber.
  2. Add tomato and chili paste, mix it in.
  3. Add yellow corn and black beans, mix in.
  4. Add salt, cumin, cayenne and red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning based on preference. If you want a runnier Salsa, add more tomato paste and/or red wine vinegar.
  5. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Stays good for around 14-15 days.

Roasted Cauliflower and Harissa Soup

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A few days back, during the holidays in December, I found myself in Asheville, NC. After hours of walking around from gallery to gallery taking in the local art scene and a tour of the famous Biltmore Estate in slight drizzle I found myself craving for some warm soup. So we walked into this lively restaurant. Everything in the menu sounded delicious, but I didn’t bother looking through the menu as soon as I read ‘Roasted Cauliflower and Harissa Soup’. I love cauliflowers and Harissa is by far my favorite condiment. As luck would have it, they had ran out of just that item from their menu and since then I have been craving for it. I did eat a delicious spread of southern delicacies.. Brisket with a side of collard greens and a glass of Bourbon.

So here’s my version of the soup, hope you enjoy it as much as H and I did.

Its healthy, flavorful, vegetarian and something that will warm you up.

For a recipe for homemade Harissa click here.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 45 mins     Yield: 4 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into smaller florets
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp for garnish
  • salt to taste
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp sherry or sauterne (optional)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp potato flour (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Harissa + 2 tsp for garnishing.

Process:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F (230C) or if you have a toaster oven, use that.
  2. Place cauliflower in a roasting pan/baking tray, drizzle olive oil and add salt, pepper and Harissa. Toss and coat.
  3. Roast cauliflower until golden brown and tender, around 30-40 mins.
  4. In the meantime, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 mins. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté for 2-3 mins and lower heat. Add the wine (if using) and caramelize the onions in low heat, 12-15 mins, stirring occasionally.
  5. Sprinkle the potato flour over the onions and stir to coat.
  6. Slowly pour in the broth, whisk until all of the flour is dissolved.
  7. Add the roasted cauliflower and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
  8. Puree soup.
  9. Return to the sauce pan and heat over medium flame, until its heated through.
  10. Serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and Harissa.

Notes:

  • I like to caramelize onions in low heat, it does take longer but it brings out the sweet flavor of onions. If your in a rush, you can sauté onions in medium high heat and hasten the process.
  • Addition of Sherry/Sauterne is optional, I like adding them because I like the contrast of the sweetness of the onions combined with the wine in contrast to the lingering spice of the Harissa.
  • I used Potato Flour to just make the soup thicker, its optional. You can do without it or use corn starch or cream instead.