Pineapple Kesari Bhat| Pineapple Rava Kesari

Celebrations are in order!

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop group that I am part of has turned 200! Quite a big achievement this is, #200NotOut, an occasion that warrants a special recipe. So, here’s presenting to you – Pineapple Kesari Bhat aka Pineapple Sheera or Pineapple Rava Kesari.

I’m sure you guys would have noticed me presenting a new recipe every Monday, based on a certain theme. Well, that’s the way the Foodie Monday Blog Hop works. I joined the group when the group had just reached the milestone of 100 weeks, and have absolutely loved journeying with the other fellow foodies in the group, this far.

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop bloggers surely are a talented bunch, and we have creative themes coming up every week. Over the years, we have talked, discussed, shared ideas, suggested tips and tricks, exchanged recipes, critiqued, met and shared food, bonded. And through it all, I have grown.

The group has stretched my horizons, helped me better my cooking from different cuisines around the world. My photography has definitely improved, from where I started out from. I structure my posts better now, and this group has played an important role in that. Learnings – big and small – have been manifold.

For the 200th episode of the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, we members decided to cook from each other’s blogs. I was assigned Renu’s blog, Cook With Renu, which is a beautiful collection of many recipes from around the world. Several interesting bakes feature therein as well. I chose this recipe to recreate from her blog, because all of us at home love Pineapple Kesari Bhat to bits, including the bub.

Pineapple Kesari Bhat is a version of sheera redolent of ghee and fruit that you will come across in several restaurants across Bangalore. I have also encountered it at a few places in Madras, and have been served this sweet treat during meals at weddings and other festive occasions. It surely is a gorgeous thing, something you must definitely try out, especially so if you love pineapple.

Let’s now check out how I made the Pineapple Kesari Bhat, with a few variations to Renu’s recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 3/4 cup fine rava (sooji or semolina)
  2. 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of ghee
  3. 1 tablespoon raisins
  4. 10-12 cashewnuts
  5. 1-1/2 cups water
  6. 3/4 cup sugar
  7. 1 heaped cup chopped pineapple, cores and thorns removed

Method:

1. Grind the pineapple pieces to a coarse puree, in a mixer. Keep aside.

2. Chop up the cashewnuts roughly. Keep aside.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in a pan. Add the rava to the pan. Roast the rava, keeping the flame medium, till it attains a consistency like wet sand and becomes fragrant. This should take 1-2 minutes. Take care to ensure that the rava does not burn.

4. Transfer the roasted rava to a plate. Keep aside.

5. Heat the water in the same pan, on high flame, till it reaches boiling point.

6. Now, turn the heat down to medium and add the roasted rava to the pan, a little at a time. Stir constantly, to avoid lumps forming.

7. Add the sugar to the pan, along with the pineapple puree. Mix well. Let the mixture cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes or till it starts to thicken. Stir intermittently.

8. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in another pan. Add the cashewnuts and raisins to the ghee. Fry on low heat till the raisins plump up and the cashewnuts brown. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Add the ghee along with the fried cashewnuts and raisins to the mixture in the other pan. Mix well.

9. When the mixture has thickened up but is still a bit runny, switch off the gas. The Pineapple Kesari Bhat thickens further on cooling. Serve the kesari hot or at room temperature.

Notes:

1. Use a ripe, juicy, sweet pineapple for best results. However, make sure it is not overly ripe.

2. Make sure all the cores and thorns from the pineapple are removed, before using it in the sheera.

3. Grinding the chopped pineapple coarsely ensures that you get little bits and pieces of the fruit in your mouth while eating. Considering everyone in my family loves that, I keep the puree coarse. However, you may puree it smoothly too if you so prefer.

4. Use fine sooji or rava in this Pineapple Kesari Bhat recipe, for best results.

5. Use good-quality ghee, adjusting the quantity as per personal taste preferences. The above quantity of ghee worked out just perfectly for us.

6. Adjust the quantity of water, depending upon how runny you want the Pineapple Rava Kesari to be. You can also cook the kesari in a mix of milk and water.

7. I have used raisins and cashewnuts in this Pineapple Rava Kesari. You may even add in almonds.

8. Make sure you are stirring constantly while adding the roasted rava to the boiling water in the pan. This is important to ensure that there are no lumps.

9. The Pineapple Rava Kesari thickens on cooling, so make sure you switch off the flame while it is still on the runnier side.

10. Food colour is sometimes added to Pineapple Rava Kesari to give it a pretty golden yellow or orange hue. I haven’t used any here.

11. Jaggery can be used in place of sugar here, but it alters the taste of the dish. I like this version with sugar, as does everyone else in my family, so I prefer this. And it’s a once-in-a-while indulgence anyway.

12. It is not uncommon to add a pinch of salt or a few cloves to kesari, too stop the sweetness from getting too overwhelming. I don’t use these.

I hope you will try out this recipe! Do share your feedback, in your comments.

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Jaisalmeri Kala Chana| Rajasthani Black Chickpeas Curry

Thinking about the state of Rajasthan conjures up mental images of caravans of camels walking through the arid desert, the most gorgeous of old-world havelis, serene lakes, bazaars filled with colourful goodies which would bring joy to any shopper’s heart. I’ve never had a chance to visit, but I’ve dreamt about it oh, so many times. I’ve also had the pleasure of trying out many of the wonderful indigenous dishes Rajasthan boasts of, here in Bangalore, and can’t wait to explore them in their homeland itself. This Jaisalmeri Kala Chana is one such dish exclusive to Rajasthan, which hails from a place called Jaisalmer.

Thanks to the extreme weather conditions in Rajasthan most part of the year, the state’s cuisine comprises of a number of dishes using sun-dried fritters (vadi), gram flour (besan), sour curd, dried pulses and lentils. This Jaisalmeri Kala Chana recipe is also one such – dried black chickpeas are cooked and then simmered in a sour curd gravy, thickened with besan, to make this delicious confection.

I recently prepared Jaisalmeri Kala Chana for lunch, and it went on to be hugely appreciated by the family. It is a very, very simple thing to make, but utterly delish and comforting, a lovely side to rotis and/or steamed rice. Full of the nutrition of black chickpeas too!

Let me now tell you how to go about making this beauty of a thing.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1/2 cup black chickpeas (chana)
  2. About 2 cups thick sour curd
  3. About 2 heaped tablespoons gram flour (besan)
  4. Salt to taste
  5. Red chilli powder to taste
  6. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
  7. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  8. 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

For the tempering:

  1. 1/2 tablespoon ghee
  2. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  4. 4-5 dry red chillies
  5. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida
  6. A pinch of fenugreek seeds
  7. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves (optional)
  8. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder

For the garnishing:

  1. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Soak the black chickpeas in just enough water to cover them, for 8-10 hours or overnight.

2. When the chickpeas are done soaking, discard the water they were soaked in. Transfer them to a wide vessel and add in just enough water to cover them. Place in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for about 4 whistles or till the chickpeas are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. In the meanwhile, take the thick sour curd in a large mixing bowl. Add in the gram flour,salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, roasted cumin powder and garam masala. Whisk well to ensure that all the ingredients are well combined together and that there are no lumps. Keep aside.

4. Take the curd mixture in a large pan and place on medium flame. Add in the cooked black chickpeas too, along with the water they were cooked in. Mix well. Cook this till it comes to a boil, stirring intermittently. This should take 3-4 minutes.

5. Now, turn down the flame further and allow the mixture to simmer for about 2 minutes.

6. In the meanwhile, prepare the tempering. Heat the ghee and oil together in a small pan. Add in the cumin seeds and let them stay in for a couple of seconds. Turn flame down to low. Add the dried red chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds to the pan. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. Switch off gas, and immediately add in the 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder for the tempering. Mix well.

7. Immediately pour this tempering into the curd mixture simmering in the other pan. Mix well. When the curd has simmered for the requisite 2 minutes, switch off gas.

8. Mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander. Your Jaisalmeri Kala Chana is ready. Serve it hot with rotis or plain steamed rice.

Notes:

1. Adjust the quantity of curd you use, depending upon how thick you want the Jaisalmeri Kala Chana to be.

2. Use thick curd that is sour but not overly so. I have used home-made thick curd here.

3. Make sure the black chickpeas are well cooked before adding them to the pan.

4. The curd mixture should be cooked on medium flame to ensure that it doesn’t curdle.

5. I have used a mix of refined oil and ghee for the tempering. You may use only oil or only ghee instead, too.

6. The garam masala is optional. However, adding it to the Jaisalmeri Kala Chana is indeed a nice touch.

7. Do not overcook the Jaisalmeri Kala Chana after it comes to a boil. Just simmer it for a couple of minutes after that, and it’s good to go.

8. Adding the curry leaves in the tempering is optional. I added them because I love them in tempering in a curd-based dish.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

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This post is for the Food Bloggers Recipe Swap group that I am part of. Every month, the food bloggers in this group pair up, and then the pairs cook from each other’s blogs.

My partner for the month is Rafeeda, who writes at The Big Sweet Tooth. Her blog is a huge repository of recipes, including several desserts and baked goodies. I zeroed in on this Jaisalmeri Kala Chana recipe, though, and made it with a few variations of my own.

Check out what the other members of the group have prepared, for this month’s recipe swap.

Pineapple Chutney| Bitter Gourd Roast|Butter Biscuits|Broken Wheat Upma| Lobia Vada|Balti Sauce|Garlic Bread Sticks| Cuca de Banana|Beaten Rice Mix

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #280. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You.

Quick Pickled Onions| Pickled Red Onions

Pickled onions are an important constituent of a meal in a few parts of India, especially so in the north. One cannot imagine a meal of, say, butter naan or roomali roti with palak paneer or paneer butter masala without some pickled onions on the side. These onions, however, are pickled in vinegar to impart a delicious tang to them and to increase their shelf life. Today, I bring to you our family’s simple recipe for Quick Pickled Onions, red onions soaked in lemon juice instead of vinegar, and every bit as delicious.

These natural Quick Pickled Onions or Pickled Red Onions are one of my all-time favourites. Especially during the hot days of summer, I love tucking into a plate of curd rice with this simple pickle. Oh, yes, they do make a wonderful, wonderful pair! My little one loves these onions just as much as I do.

Mom has been making these Quick Pickled Onions for ages now, and I grew up with them. It never occurred to me to put out a recipe for these onions on my blog – wasn’t it something that everyone everywhere already knows about and does? No, as it turns out. Every single guest I have served this pickle to has raved about it, marvelled at its simplicity, but has claimed never to have sampled it before. So, after a long deliberation, here I am with our family ‘recipe’ for Quick Pickled Onions or Pickled Red Onions.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 2 medium-sized red onions
  2. Salt to taste
  3. Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

1. Peel the onions and chop them finely.

2. Take the chopped onion in a bowl. Add salt to taste and the lemon juice. Mix well.

3. Let the pickle rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Notes:

1. I prefer using big red onions in the making of this pickle. However, you can even use the small ones, also called sambar onions.

2. I use rock salt to make this pickle.

3. Make sure all the hard parts of the onion are removed.

4. I prefer chopping the onions finely for this pickle. You can even chop them length-wise if you so prefer.

5. It is important to let the pickle sit for at least 30 minutes, for the onions to soak and absorb the salt and lemon juice.

6. I typically make this pickle in the morning and we finish it over the course of the day. I think it can be stored, refrigerated, for a day more. Any more than that, and the smell begins to get too strong.

7. These Quick Pickled Onions make for a lovely accompaniment to curd rice. They can also make a wonderful side for a full-fledged thali meal or parathas, or be used as a topping on pizza, burgers, rolls and the like.

8. You may add one or more green chillies to the pickle, if you want to. We don’t.

If you have never tried this out before too, please do. I’d love to know how you liked it!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #280. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You.

Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram| Healthy Finger Millet Snack

I’m sure all of us are aware of the many health benefits contained in ragi aka finger millet. I myself have waxed eloquent on this subject several times over, on this blog. Rich in fibre, iron and calcium, among other nutrients, low in calories and easily digestible, ragi is an excellent food for weight-watchers, healthy eaters and diabetics, as well as babies, toddlers and growing children. Today, I present to you the recipe for a delicious, healthy snack made using ragi – Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

Roasted ragi porridge was the very first food we fed the bub, when she was ready to take solids. She still eats the porridge for breakfast every once in a while. I, however, didn’t grow up consuming ragi, and was not very fond of it per se, to be honest. Life in Bangalore and parenting acquainted me with the many delicious things that can be made using ragi, and I am now quite in love with some of the dishes we use it in at home often. This Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram, for instance.

With the sour buttermilk, curry leaves and green chillies that go into them, these Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram are supremely delicious. They are quite easy to make too, and make for just the perfect snack when you are looking for something healthy but delish and filling.

This dish can be easily be made gluten-free too, if you only skip the asafoetida used in the tempering.

Check out the recipe for the Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram!

Ingredients (makes about 28 pieces):

  1. 2 cups ragi (finger millet) flour
  2. 4 tablespoons rice flour
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 cup sour curd
  5. 2-4 green chillies
  6. A handful of curry leaves
  7. About 2 teaspoons Eno Fruit Salt
  8. 1 teaspoon oil + more as needed to make the paniyaram
  9. 2 pinches asafoetida
  10. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Method:

1. Take the ragi flour in a large mixing bowl. Add in the rice flour, salt to taste and sour curd.

2. Chop the green chillies into large pieces and add to the mixing bowl.

3. Tear the curry leaves roughly with your hands and add them to the mixing bowl too.

4. Heat the oil in a small pan, and add in the mustard. Let it sputter. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds. Add this tempering to the mixing bowl.

5. Mix the contents of the bowl well to a thick batter, similar to idli batter. You may add a bit of water while mixing. Ensure that there are no lumps in the batter.

6. Heat up a paniyaram pan on high flame, and add some oil in each of the cavities.

7. You will be making the paniyaram in four batches or so. Take the batter for the first batch in a separate bowl, and add in about 1/2 teaspoon Eno. Mix well. Pour the batter into the greased cavities of the paniyaram pan, till about 3/4. Cook covered on medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until they fluff up into balls and are well done on the bottom. Then, use a fork to turn the balls over. Drizzle a little oil around the balls and cook, covered, till they are done on the other side too – about 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked paniyaram to a serving plate.

8. Make paniyaram using the rest of the batter in the same way, in three more batches. Serve hot, with chutney of your choice.

Notes:

1. I have used store-bought ragi flour here.

2. For best results, use curd that is quite sour.

3. Add just enough water to make a thick batter. Too much water will make a runny batter, resulting in imperfect paniyaram.

4. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt in each batch of the batter, just before it goes into the paniyaram pan. This is critical. Adding all the Eno at one go will not yield fluffy paniyaram.

5. Use 2 fresh packets of Eno Fruit Salt, for best results. Do not use old packets.

6. Use regular, unflavoured Eno Fruit Salt.

7. Baking soda can be used in place of the Eno too. I have not tried it out yet, though.

8. Finely chopped onions and other veggies can be added to the paniyaram too. I haven’t.

9. I prefer cooking the paniyaram covered, so they are done evenly and are crisp on the outside.

10. I use ordinary refined oil in these Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

11. I have a small pan that makes 7 paniyaram at a time. So I have divided the batter into four parts, cooking one batch at a time. If you have a larger pan, you can reduce the number of batches you cook the paniyaram in. Adjust the quantity of Eno you use accordingly, in that case.

12. A simple coconut chutney goes beautifully with these Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

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This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop that I am part of. Every Monday, a group of us food bloggers get together to present recipes based on a pre-determined theme.

The theme this week is #RagiTales, suggested by Poonam of Annapurna. Poonam’s blog is something you must check out, for her very well-explained recipes from around the world. For the theme, we are all showcasing dishes made using the very versatile ragi aka finger millet.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #279. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Recipe| How To Make Vegetarian Nasi Lemak

I am here today to share with you how to make vegetarian Nasi Lemak, an utterly delicious Malaysian dish.

I love Asian food. Period. I absolutely adore the way simple, regular ingredients find their way into dishes from Asian countries like, say, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore. I’m in awe of the riot of flavours most Pan-Asian dishes prove to be. While I make Thai food quite often at home, I tried my hands at Malaysian cuisine for the first-ever time, recently, making the famed Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak is believed to have originated in Malaysia, though one will also come across versions of the dish in neighbouring Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. It is, in fact, considered to be the national dish of Malaysia. For the uninitiated, Nasi Lemak refers to rice cooked with coconut milk or cream, with pandan leaves and lemongrass added in for fragrance. In Malay, ‘Nasi Lemak‘ actually translates to ‘creamy rice’, which is served with a spicy, tangy and slightly sweet sauce, called sambal. Chopped carrots and cucumber, fried fish, eggs, pan-fried tofu and/or peanuts are some of the things that accompany Nasi Lemak, which is typically served in a banana leaf. What I present to you today is a vegetarian version of the Malaysian Nasi Lemak recipe.

I have sampled Nasi Lemak at a few Pan-Asian restaurants in Bangalore and loved it. When I saw this vegetarian Malaysian Nasi Lemak recipe on Poonam’s blog, I jumped at the chance to make it at home. Poonam has got an authentic recipe, which she learnt from a Malay friend of hers – how lovely is that?!

I prepared the dish for dinner recently, with only a few minor variations to the original recipe. The result was brilliant – the Nasi Lemak turned out finger-lickingly delish and went on to be a huge hit at the family dining table. It’s not at all tough to make this flavour bomb of a thing, too!

This is an entirely plant-based, vegan dish, when you aren’t using cottage cheese (paneer) or fried eggs as accompaniments. It is completely gluten-free as well.

Here’s how to make vegetarian Nasi Lemak.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

For the rice:

  1. 1 cup jasmine rice
  2. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  3. 1-1/2 cups water
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 2-3 strands of lemongrass
  6. 2 pandan (screwpine) leaves or 1/2 teaspoon pandan essence
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger

For the sambal:

  1. 10 dry red chillies
  2. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  3. 2-3 strands of lemongrass
  4. 1 medium-sized onion
  5. 5-6 shallots or small onions
  6. 2 tablespoons oil
  7. A small piece of tamarind
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  10. Water, as needed

For the accompaniments:

  1. 2 small English cucumbers
  2. 2 small carrots
  3. 4 tablespoons peanuts
  4. 1/2 tablespoon oil

Method:

We will first prepare the ingredients for the sambal.

  1. Soak the dried red chillies in water for at least 15-20 minutes.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and the shallots. Chop them up roughly. Keep ready.
  3. Chop the onion finely. Keep ready.
  4. Chop the lemongrass strands for the sambal, roughly. Keep ready.
  5. Soak the tamarind in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Next, we will prepare the rice for the Nasi Lemak.

  1. Wash the jasmine rice a couple of times under running water, draining out the water each time. Transfer the drained rice to a wide vessel.
  2. Add in the thick coconut milk, water and salt to taste.
  3. Knot the pandan leaves (if using) and the lemongrass strands to form a ball, and add it to the vessel. If using pandan essence, add it to the vessel.
  4. Peel the ginger, and chop it roughly. Add it to the vessel too.
  5. Mix all the ingredients in the vessel gently, and place it in a pressure cooker.
  6. Cook for 4 whistles on high flame or till the rice is well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

Now, we will get the sambal ready.

  1. Drain out the water from the soaked dry red chillies. Add them to a mixer jar.
  2. Add the chopped garlic cloves and shallots to the mixer jar.
  3. Add the chopped lemongrass strands to the mixer jar.
  4. Grind the soaked dried red chillies, garlic, shallots and lemongrass together to a paste, using a little water. Keep aside.
  5. 5. When the tamarind is done soaking, extract a thick juice out of it. Keep aside.
  6. Heat the oil in a pan, and add in the ground paste to it. Cook on medium flame for a minute.
  7. Now, add the tamarind paste to the pan, and a little more water to get the consistency you desire.
  8. Also add salt to taste and jaggery powder, along with the chopped onions. Mix well.
  9. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the onions and tamarind goes away. Switch off gas. The sambal is ready to be used.

We will now get the accompaniments ready.

  1. Heat the 1/2 tablespoon oil in a pan, and add in the peanuts. Fry them on medium flame till they are crisp, ensuring that they do not burn. Keep aside.
  2. Peel the carrots and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Keep aside.
  3. Similarly, peel the cucumbers and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Keep aside.

The Nasi Lemak is now ready to be served.

  1. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, remove the rice from it. Fluff up the rice gently. Pick out the lemongrass and pandan leaves (if using), and the ginger.
  2. Use a small cup to shape the rice and invert it on a large serving plate or banana leaf.
  3. Place some of the sambal on the rice.
  4. Arrange the chopped carrots and cucumber and the fried peanuts around the rice.
  5. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Nasi Lemak isn’t the same without the fragrance of pandan aka screwpine. Since I couldn’t find fresh pandan leaves anywhere here in Bangalore, I used some of the pandan essence I picked up on our holiday in Thailand. You can use either of the two ingredients, depending upon what you can get your hands on.

2. You can use coconut cream to cook the rice, instead of coconut milk. I have used undiluted store-bought coconut milk from Dabur Home-Made.

3. I picked up the jasmine rice on our holiday in Thailand too. It is critical to use jasmine rice in this recipe, but in a pinch you can use basmati rice instead too.

4. I have cooked the rice in a pressure cooker instead of using a pan, as is traditionally done.

5. Adjust the quantity of coconut cream/milk and water, depending upon the texture of rice that you require. Allow the pressure cooker to whistle accordingly too.

6. Adjust the quantity of dried red chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the sambal to be. I used 5 spicy Salem Gundu red chillies and 5 of the less spicy Bydagi red chillies to make the sambal.

7. I served the Nasi Lemak with only chopped cucumber and carrots as well as fried peanuts. In hindsight, I think pan-fried tofu or paneer would have been a beautiful addition.

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This post is for the Recipe Swap Challenge Facebook group that I am part of. Every alternate month, the food bloggers who are members of this group pair up, and the pairs then go on to cook from each other’s blogs.

This month, I was paired with the very talented Poonam, who blogs at Annapurna. Poonam’s blog is a treasure trove of recipes, Indian and international. I chose this Malaysian Nasi Lemak recipe owing to my love for Asian food.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #279. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Pala Kottai Sambar|Tamilnadu Style Jackfruit Seeds Sambar

If you have been reading my Instagram posts, I’m sure you would have read about us getting home this whopper of a jackfruit from a weekend drive to Mysore Road. We had an absolutely delightful experience cutting it open and pigging out on the gorgeous, ripe, beautiful kernels within, an exercise that left us with a whole lot of jackfruit seeds. And, of course, I had to use some of them to make my favourite Pala Kottai Sambar or Tamilnadu Style Jackfruit Seeds Sambar, with some drumsticks added in.

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Pala Kottai Sambar is a heritage Tamilnadu dish, somewhat of a ‘lost recipe’ with not many families preferring to undergo the bit of effort that making it involves. However, it is considered quite the delicacy in the Tamilian households that still continue to make it, especially in the summer, when ripe jackfruits are available aplenty. In my family, we prepare the sambar using home-made powder (sambar podi), without any coconut added to it. The nutty seeds of the jackfruit lend themselves beautifully to the tangy, spicy sambar, a heavenly treat when mixed with some piping hot steamed rice and ghee. So good you don’t even need a curry or any other accompaniment to go with it! Real, proper, soul food this is!

Top: In the mortar are a few ‘stubborn’ seeds, refusing to let go of their white covering; the brown ones on the newspaper have already parted of it; Bottom left: Roughly pounding on the ‘stubborn’ seeds with a pestle makes it easier to peel off the white covering; Bottom right: The seeds, white covering removed, ready to go into the Pala Kottai Sambar

Jackfruit seeds have a white covering on them, when they are fresh out of the fruit. This covering needs to be disposed, and only the inner part of the seed consumed. Keep the seeds spread out on a newspaper in the kitchen for a day or two, sun-drying them for an hour or so, and you will find the white covering drying up, getting plastic-like, and gradually coming off very, very easily. There might be a few seeds where you aren’t able to get off the white covering at all – just pound those seeds roughly in a mortar and pestle, as shown above, and you will find it developing cracks and peeling off easily. You don’t need to scrape off the brown layer on the seeds – after the white part is removed, the seeds are ready to be used as is.

Now that I have told you how to prep the seeds, let me move on to the preparation of the Pala Kottai Sambar or Tamilnadu Style Jackfruit Seeds Sambar.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1/4 cup toor daal
  2. 2 medium-sized drumsticks
  3. 12-15 jackfruit seeds, with the white covering removed
  4. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  5. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  9. A pinch of fenugreek seeds
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
  13. About 1-1/2 tablespoons sambar powder or to taste
  14. 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste (optional)
  15. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Wash the toor daal well under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the water, and transfer it to a wide vessel. Add in enough fresh water to cover the toor daal completely, and place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles or till the daal is well done and soft. Let the pressure release naturally.

2. Pound the cleaned jackfruit seeds roughly using a mortar and pestle. You may also cut them up roughly if you so like. Place the jackfruit seeds in a wide vessel, and add in a bit of water. Pressure cook the seeds for 4-5 whistles, or until cooked and soft. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water for at least 10 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, add about 1/4 cup fresh water to it, a little at a time, and extract all the juice from it. Keep aside.

4. Remove the tail ends of the drumstick and chop it into 1-inch pieces. Keep aside.

5. When the pressure has completely gone down from the pressure cooker, get the cooked jackfruit seeds out and keep them ready. Mash the cooked toor daal well and keep it handy.

6. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Now, add the asafoetida, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

7. Add the chopped drumsticks to the pan, along with about 1/2 cup of water. Add in a little salt and the turmeric powder. Cook, covered, on medium flame, till they get cooked through but are not overly mushy.

8. Now, add the tamarind extract to the pan. Mix well. Cook on medium flame, uncovered, for about 2 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.

9. Now, add the cooked and mashed toor daal to the pan, along with sambar powder, more salt to taste, jaggery powder and red chilli powder (if using).

10. Immediately add in the cooked jackfruit seeds, along with the water they were cooked in. You will also need to add in 3/4 cup to 1 cup of water, to adjust the consistency of the sambar. Mix well.

11. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes, or till the raw smell of the sambar powder has lessened and the liquid has thickened a bit. Stir intermittently. Switch off gas.

12. Garnish with finely chopped coriander seeds. Serve the Pala Kottai Sambar with steamed rice and a bit of ghee.

Notes:

1. I have added drumsticks to the sambar too, along with the jackfruit seeds, because my daughter loves them. You can omit the drumsticks too, and make the sambar using only jackfruit seeds.

2. I have used home-made sambar powder here, but you may use a store-bought version too if you so prefer.

3. The sambar powder we make at home is quite mild and not very spicy, so I add a bit of red chilli powder to adjust the taste. You can skip the red chilli powder entirely if your sambar powder is spicy enough.

4. Adjust the quantity of toor daal, jackfruit seeds and drumsticks you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

5. If the tamarind you are using has seeds or impurities, you might want to strain the extract before using it in making the Pala Kottai Sambar. I don’t, since I buy de-seeded tamarind that is free of impurities.

6. Adding the jaggery powder is optional, but I would highly recommend it. It is added in a very small quantity only, and does not make the sambar sweet. In fact, it brings out the other flavours in the sambar beautifully.

7. Make sure the jackfruit seeds are thoroughly clean and free of insects/fungus before using them in making the Pala Kottai Sambar.

8. I do the mustard-fenugreek-asafoetida tempering first, and then go on to make the sambar in the same pan. You can add the tempering at the end as well. A couple of dried red chillies can be added to the tempering, too, if you so prefer.

9. Coconut oil or gingelly (sesame) oil works best in the tempering in this sambar. However, you may use refined oil or ghee instead, too.

10. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon how thick you want the sambar to be. Adjust spices and salt accordingly.

11. This is an entirely plant-based, vegan recipe. It can easily be made gluten-free too, if you skip the asafoetida in the tempering and in the sambar powder.

This Pala Kottai Sambar is definitely something you have to try out, if you haven’t already! Do share your feedback in the comments!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #279. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

Mawa Gulab Jamun Recipe| How To Make Gulab Jamun With Khoya

As much as I love everyday stove-top cooking, the making of Indian sweets is one thing that scares me. My mom is famous in the family circuit for the beautiful 7-Cup Barfis, Badam Barfi, Coconut Barfi and Gajar Halwa that she turns out, among many other delectable desserts, but I have always shied away from these. The making of traditional, Indian sweet dishes is a task that daunts me to no end. On festival days or when we have guests over, I stick to making a simple fusion dessert or taking the safe way out with Sakkarai Pongal or Payasam. This is a barrier I had to break, and I did just that with this Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe, recently.

My little daughter is a big fan of gulab jamun, just as everyone else in my family is. After all, who wouldn’t love these balls of bliss, soaked to perfection in sugar syrup? After beginning to conquer my fears with regards to baking, it made sense to start doing the same with a traditional Indian sweet that the bub loved – Gulab Jamun. So, one fine day last week, Amma and I stood side by side in my kitchen making gulab jamuns from scratch with khoya, she pouring out her years of expertise on the subject, me soaking it all in, taking mental notes and making the dessert under her watchful eye. The results were spectacular, I must say, and the gulab jamun went on to be devoured the very same day. The eating proved that this particular pudding was done just right.

That said, I am amazed at how much of that fear was all in my head. Making gulab jamuns from scratch was not at all the hugely difficult task I had thought it would be. It needs patience, yes, but it is also one of the easiest of Indian sweets to conquer. The tricks here are to be gentle with the mixing and do the frying right, and the rest automatically falls into place. I’m so very glad I did this, and hope my lucky stretch continues with the other, tougher Indian desserts that I plan to try out soon.

There are a few different ways to make gulab jamun, one of them being with khoya or mawa. Khoya refers to the milk solids that are left over after cooking milk on the stovetop for a long, long time. Considering how much of a time-consuming process the making of khoya is, we resorted to a store-bought version. A mix of maida and fine sooji has been used here to bind the jamuns, and you can use either.

Come, let me show you how to make gulab jamun with khoya, a la Amma. Here’s presenting the Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe!

Ingredients (makes about 22 small pieces):

  1. 200 grams khoya aka mawa
  2. 2 tablespoons fine sooji aka semolina or rava
  3. 2 tablespoons maida
  4. 1 tablespoon warm milk or as needed
  5. Oil as needed for deep-frying
  6. 1-1/2 cups sugar
  7. 2 cups water
  8. 1/2 teaspoon rose essence (optional)
  9. 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

Method:

1. Take the khoya in a large mixing bowl. Crumble it gently, using your hands. Alternatively, you may grate it.

2. Add the sooji and the maida to the mixing bowl. Mix together gently.

3. Add just enough warm milk as needed to bring the mixture to a dough-like consistency.

4. Heat oil as needed for deep frying, in a pan. Meanwhile, keep the dough covered.

5. Simultaneously, take the water in another pan, add the sugar to it, and place on high flame. Allow the sugar to get completely dissolved in the water. Cook on medium heat till the sugar syrup attains half-thread consistency or till it thickens a little. Switch off gas. Add the rose essence (if using) and cardamom powder to the syrup. Mix well. The syrup for soaking the gulab jamuns is ready. Keep aside.

6. When the oil is nice and hot, reduce flame to medium. Greasing your palms with a little oil, make small balls out of the dough we prepared earlier. Deep fry these balls in the hot oil till brown on the outside, about four at a time, taking care not to burn them.

7. As soon as one batch of the balls are fried and ready, drop them into the sugar syrup. Let them sit undisturbed and soak in the syrup. Continue till all the balls are soaked in syrup.

8. Serve the gulab jamun hot or after allowing them to soak for a few hours. Store the unused ones at room temperature, in a clean, dry, air-tight box.

Notes:

1. Make sure the khoya is at room temperature when you begin to make the gulab jamun.

2. Use great-quality khoya from a known source, for best results. I used Milky Mist khoya, which is entirely made using milk solids, with no added flavouring agents or preservatives.

3. Make sure you prepare the ‘dough’ for the gulab jamun using very gentle hands. Gather the ingredients together, using gentle, light movements, rather than kneading them together. This is imperative for getting soft, melt-in-the-mouth gulab jamuns.

4. I have used a mix of fine sooji (aka semolina or rava) and maida in this Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe. You can skip either of these ingredients – just increase the quantity of the other ingredient you are using, in that case.

5. Make sure you fry the gulab jamuns at medium heat. This will help them get evenly cooked, on the inside and the outside. Cooking them on high heat will turn them brown on the outside, but keep them raw inside.

6. You can fry the gulab jamuns in ghee instead of oil. I have used ordinary refined oil here.

7. Do not crowd the pan, while frying the gulab jamun. Fry them in batches, a few at a time. Drop them in the sugar syrup immediately.

8. Make sure the gulab jamuns are not crowded while they are soaking in the syrup. Use a large pan to soak them.

9. Do not overcook the sugar syrup. Stop cooking when the syrup is slightly thick or has attained half-thread consistency.

10. You can skip using the rose essence in the syrup. Real rose petals can be added instead – make sure you use clean, organic, sweet-smelling flowers in that case.

11. Use warm – not hot – milk to bind the ingredients for the gulab jamun. Make sure you use just as much as needed. The dough should be just right to roll into balls and not too sticky or watery.

12. In case the dough gets a bit sticky, you can use a little more fine sooji or maida to adjust it.

13. Use only fine sooji in the Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe, if you are using it at all. Do not use the larger, grainier variety.

14. I have kept the gulab jamun small here, but you could make them bigger as well. Remember that they increase in size further on soaking.

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Foodie Monday Blog HopI’m sharing this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. Every Monday, a group of us food bloggers get together and share recipes based on a pre-determined theme. The theme this Monday is #EidWithFoodies, wherein we are all presenting dishes for the festival of Eid that is just around the corner. I thought this Mawa Gulab Jamun recipe was just perfect for the season.

I’m also sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #278.

Amba Khatta| Raw Mango Relish From Orissa

The recipe I present to you today, Amba Khatta, comes from Orissa, the land of Lord Jagannath. It is a beautiful sweet-and-sour relish made with raw mango, mildly spiced and flavoured with panch phoron.

This month, the members of the Shhhh Cooking Secretly group are presenting dishes from Orissa, and I chose to make Amba Khatta. I lucked out with the theme this month – I have an Odia help at my place, who was more than happy to tell me in detail about the cuisine of the place and share with me the way they made Amba Khatta at home. Yay to that!

The food of Orissa, I understand, is simple, but full of flavours. It bears a lot of similarities to food from the neighbouring state of Bengal – the plentiful usage of rice and mustard oil, the fondness for sweets, the use of panch phoron to spice food, the many relishes made from seasonal fruit (called ‘khatta‘). This Amba Khatta is a popular dish in Odia households, especially during the hot months of summer.

Amba Khatta is the Odia version of the South Indian Maangaai Pachadi, if I may put it that way, quite similar to the Aam Ki Launji from Rajasthan too. A super simple dish to prepare, it is packed with flavour and a delight to gorge on. This completely plant-based, vegan dish makes for a great accompaniment to rotis and/or steamed rice and can also be served as part of a thali or a big meal, including papad, salad and curries. If you simply omit the asafoetida used in this recipe, it becomes a completely gluten-free dish as well.

Now, let’s get to the recipe for the Amba Khatta, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1 medium-sized raw mango
  2. About 3/4 cup water
  3. 1 tablespoon oil
  4. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  5. 1 teaspoon panch phoron
  6. 2-3 dry red chillies
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. Red chilli powder to taste
  11. 4-5 tablespoons powdered jaggery or to taste
  12. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

Method:

  1. Remove the stem from the raw mango, if any. Cut it up into large pieces, discarding the seed. Keep the raw mango pieces aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the panch phoron, and allow it to stay in for a couple of seconds.
  3. Turn the flame to medium. Add in the dry red chillies (each broken into two), asafoetida and curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, taking care to ensure that they do not burn.
  4. Now, add the raw mango pieces to the pan, along with salt and red chilli powder as well as turmeric powder. Saute on medium flame for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Now add water to the pan, along with the jaggery powder. Cover and cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes. The mango should get cooked through, but not get overly mushy. Switch off gas at this stage.
  6. Mix in the roasted cumin powder.
  7. Serve the Amba Khatta hot or at room temperature with rice or as an accompaniment to a thali. If you don’t plan on serving the Amba Khatta immediately, allow it to cool completely, then store in a clean, dry, air-tight container.

Notes:

  1. I have used a semi-raw totapuri mango (as shown in the picture above) to make this Amba Khatta. Totapuri mangoes aren’t very sour, so I didn’t have to use much jaggery. If you are using another, more sour version of raw mango, you might have to increase the quantity of jaggery you use.
  2. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon how thick you want the Amba Khatta to be.
  3. I make the roasted cumin powder at home, though you can use a store-bought version. To make it, just dry roast some cumin in a pan till fragrant, taking care not to burn it, then allow it to cool down and powder coarsely. Store this in a clean, dry, air-tight container, and use as needed.
  4. Panch phoron is the Bengali five-spice mix that includes mustard, fenugreek, kalonji or onion seeds, cumin and fennel seeds. I use a store-bought version, but you can also make your own at home.
  5. Add the roasted cumin powder at the very end, after the dish has finished cooking and the gas has been switched off. This will help retain the fragrance of the cumin powder in the dish.
  6. Traditionally, mustard oil is used in this dish, which gives it a unique flavour and fragrance. However, since I did not have any mustard oil, I have used ordinary refined oil to make the Amba Khatta.
  7. I have not peeled the raw mango here – I just chopped it into large-ish pieces and used them to make the Amba Khatta. You may peel the mango if you so prefer.
  8. Stored in a clean, dry, air-tight container and refrigerated, the Amba Khatta stays well for up to a week.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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This recipe is for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge that I am part of. Every month, the members of this group get together to cook dishes from a particular region of India. This month, the place in question is Orissa.

I was paired with Renu of Cook With Renu for the challenge, who assigned me two secret ingredients – panch phoron and raw mango. Check out Renu’s space for many interesting traditional Indian dishes and some world cuisine recipes, as well as some lovely bakes. For this month’s Odia cooking challenge, I gave Renu the two secret ingredients of fenugreek and jaggery, and you have to see the gorgeous confection she has come up with using them!

I used the two assigned ingredients to prepare the Amba Khatta as above, with inputs from my house help.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #278.

Godhumai Rava Upma Kozhukattai| Wheat Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai

Pidi Kozhukattai or Upma Kozhukattai is an all-time favourite breakfast or snack option at our place, with everyone in the family loving it. It is the dish I often resort to making when I have members from the extended family over. This Tamil Nadu special is quite simple to make, after all, and a steamed snack that needs very minimal oil. Traditionally made using rice and a lentil (either chana daal, moong daal or toor daal), Pidi Kozhukattai makes for a healthy, wholesome and hearty snack. Today, I present to you the recipe for Wheat Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai, a healthier version of the traditional dish made using broken wheat.

For years, I made Pidi Kozhukattai the traditional way, using rice. It is only in recent times that I started making them with alternative grains like corn dalia and broken wheat. I am pretty pleased with the outcome, I must say. The use of alternative grains has rendered the dish all the more healthier, yet delicious and wholesome as always. This Wheat Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai is now a much-loved dish in my household – in fact, this version is made quite often at my place, and we hardly miss the one with rice!

Wheat dalia – also called broken wheat, Godhumai Rava in Tamil – has long been recommended by nutritionists and dieticians as a healthier alternative to rice, especially for diabetics. These Wheat Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai are, therefore, great for those afflicted with diabetes and, in general, for those who want to eat healthier. They are entirely plant-based, suitable for vegans. If you simply omit the asafoetida used in this recipe, it becomes a gluten-free dish as well.

Do try these lovelies out and let me know how you liked them!

Here’s how I make the Wheat Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai or Godhumai Rava Upma Kozhukattai.

Ingredients (makes about 12 pieces):

  1. 1 cup broken wheat
  2. 1/4 cup chana daal
  3. 2 dry red chillies
  4. 1 tablespoon oil
  5. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  6. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  7. 1 sprig curry leaves
  8. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  9. 2 green chillies
  10. 2-1/2 cups water
  11. Salt to taste
  12. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut

Method:

1. Grind the broken wheat, dry red chillies and chana daal together, coarsely. Keep aside.

2. Peel the ginger and chop finely. Chop the green chillies into large pieces. Keep aside.

3. Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Now add the chopped ginger and green chillies to the pan, along with the asafoetida. Roughly tear the curry leaves with your hands and add them to the pan. Mix all the ingredients and let them stay in for 3-4 seconds. Make sure the ingredients do not burn.

4. Add the 2-1/2 cups of water to the pan, along with salt to taste. Mix well.

5. Keep the flame high, and let the water come to a boil. Now, reduce the heat to medium and add in the fresh grated coconut and the broken wheat mix we ground earlier. Stir constantly to ensure that no lumps are formed.

6. Stirring constantly, cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes or till all the ingredients begin to come together, the water starts to dry out and the mixture begins to resemble upma. Switch off gas.

7. Allow the mixture to cool down a bit, covered so it doesn’t dry out too much.

8. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, grease a colander with a little oil, for steaming. Form about 12 oblong dumplings out of the mixture, using your greased hands. Place the dumplings in the greased colander.

9. Take about 1 cup of water in a pressure cooker bottom. Place a high stand over it, then place the colander with the dumplings on top of this. Make sure water will not touch the dumplings.

10. Close the pressure cooker. Do not put the whistle on. Cook the dumplings on high heat for 10-12 minutes.

11. Let the dumplings cool down slightly before handling them. Serve them hot or at room temperature, with chutney of your choice.

Notes:

1. The broken wheat I used was quite big in size, so I ground it up coarsely along with the chana daal and dry red chillies. I just barely crushed it, and did not make a fine powder. If you are using fine broken wheat, there is no need to grind it.

2. I have not washed the broken wheat or chana daal. I just coarsely ground them, dry. Alternatively, you could soak the chana daal and dry red chillies for 15-20 minutes in a little water, then grind them and then use the paste.

3. Do not overcook the broken wheat mixture, otherwise the kozhukattai might turn out hard. Cook it just until the water begins to dry up and it attains a consistency similar to upma. It hardens a bit more on cooling.

4. Adjust the quantity of coconut, green chillies and dry red chillies as per personal taste preferences.

5. Steam the kozhukattai for not more than 10-12 minutes, otherwise they might turn hard.

6. Wait for the steamed kozhukattai to cool down a little before you handle them, or they might break.

7. Simple coconut chutney is the best accompaniment to these broken wheat kozhukattai.

8. Traditionally, pidi kozhukattai are given an oblong shape, like I have here, or a round, ball-like shape. You can go with any shape you prefer.

9. You can even dry roast the broken wheat till fragrant, before you start making the upma kozhukattai. I haven’t.

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This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. Every Monday, a group of us food bloggers share recipes based on a pre-determined theme.

The theme this week is #GetInShape, suggested by Kalyani of Sizzling Tastebuds. For this hugely interesting theme, all of us are sharing how to make foods that have a geometric shape. After quite a bit of deliberation, I decided to go ahead with this Broken Wheat Upma Kozhukattai recipe.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #277. The co-hosts this week are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Easy Paneer Butter Masala Recipe

Paneer Butter Masala is, perhaps, one of the best known dishes from the Indian cuisine. Justly so, too, considering how scrumptious the dish is when made right. Melt-in-the-mouth cottage cheese cubes in a decadent, creamy gravy that is a little sour, a little sweet, a little spicy – what’s to not love? It is a dish we most often order while eating out with the extended family.

That said, it is quite simple to make creamy, delicious, restaurant-style Paneer Butter Masala at home. Today, I share with you my Easy Paneer Butter Masala Recipe, one that I have been using for years now, arrived at after several trials and tribulations. I make the curry without any heavy cream in it, trying to keep it as healthy as I can, and it still turns out absolutely fantastic. If you have the paneer ready, it will not take you more than 20 minutes to put it all together. Serve it with naan, parathas, rotis or any flatbread of your choice – or even some jeera rice – and you will have a winner of a meal on the table!

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Paneer Butter Masala is made in different ways by different families, different restaurants. This is the way I make it, and it might not be the most authentic of recipes, but I can assure you that it yields a finger-licking-good outcome! All of us at my place surely do love it.

One of the most important things in the making of perfect Paneer Butter Masala is in cooking the gravy well. I do not blanch the tomatoes or saute the onions beforehand, but smoothly puree them raw along with a few other ingredients, then cook the paste till the raw smell is completely gone. Another thing to remember is to use good-quality paneer that is soft and well-made. It is also important to ensure that you do not go overboard on the spices, and use them sparingly. Also, do not cook the curry too much after adding in the paneer – it needs to simmer for just a minute or so after.

If you are entertaining, the gravy for this Easy Paneer Butter Masala can be made a day in advance, with the paneer and other final touches being added to the dish just before your guests arrive. This is a gluten-free dish that can easily be made vegan too.

Let us now check out my Easy Paneer Butter Masala recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 2-3) :

To grind :

  1. 4 medium-sized tomatoes
  2. 1 small onion
  3. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. 4-5 whole almonds
  6. 4-5 whole cashewnuts

Other ingredients :

  1. 200 grams paneer
  2. 1 tablespoon butter
  3. 1 bay leaf
  4. 2 green cardamom
  5. 4 cloves
  6. A small piece of cinnamon
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. Red chilli powder to taste
  11. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  12. 1/2 cup milk
  13. 1/2 cup water
  14. 1/2 tablespoon chana masala or to taste
  15. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  16. 1/2 tablespoon kasoori methi

Method:

1. We will first grind the paste for the Paneer Butter Masala and keep it ready. For this, peel the ginger, onion and garlic cloves and chop roughly. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Halve the cashewnuts and almonds. Grind all of these ingredients together to a smooth paste without adding any water. Keep aside.

2. Cut the paneer into cubes. Keep aside.

3. Now, we will begin preparing the Paneer Butter Masala. Heat the butter in a pan, and add in the cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, asafoetida and cinnamon. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

4. Add the paste we ground earlier to the pan. Lower the flame to medium and cook the paste till the raw smell of the ingredients goes away and it thickens. This should take 4-5 minutes.

5. Now, add the milk and the water to the pan, along with salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, jaggery powder and chana masala. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 1-2 minutes.

6. Add the paneer cubes to the pan. Mix well, gently. Cook on medium heat for a minute more. Switch off gas.

7. Garnish with kasoori methi and finely chopped fresh coriander. Serve with rotis, naan or flatbread of your choice.

Notes:

1. I prefer using the flavourful, tart ‘country’ (nati) tomatoes in the paste, as opposed to the ‘farm’ variety.

2. I use a small-sized red onion in the paste. It adds a bit of sweetness to the curry, and helps even out the tartness of the tomatoes.

3. I use a mix of almonds and cashewnuts to thicken the gravy. You can use only almonds or only cashewnuts to do so, too.

4. Make sure you grind the paste smooth, without any lumps in it. This is imperative for a delicious, great-quality Paneer Butter Masala. You can even pass the paste through a sieve, if you want to – I don’t.

5. Instead of sugar, I have used jaggery powder to sweeten the gravy. It balances out the tartness of the tomatoes, and I would not recommend leaving it out.

6. I have used boiled and cooled full-fat milk in the curry. It adds a whole lot of flavour and richness to the gravy.

7. It is important to cook the paste first, till the raw smell of the ingredients goes away. The milk and spice powders must be added only after this.

8. I like using Ciba Taaza brand of chana masala or rajma masala in this gravy, rather than garam masala. You may use garam masala instead, too. Adjust the quantity as per personal taste preferences.

9. You can gently fry the paneer cubes before adding them to the gravy too. I haven’t, so as to reduce the use of oil. Frying the paneer does take the taste of the curry up by several notches, but it tastes great even without doing so.

10. I have used store-bought ID brand paneer here. You can use home-made paneer instead, too.

11. Do not overcook the curry after adding in the paneer. This tends to make the paneer hard. Just simmer the gravy for about a minute after adding the paneer.

12. Add the coriander and kasoori methi to the curry at the very end, after switching off the gas.

13. Keep the gravy a little runny and not too thick. It thickens further on cooling.

14. Adjust the quantity of water depending on how thick the gravy is. Adjust seasonings accordingly.

15. The gravy can be made beforehand and refrigerated for up to a day. Make sure you add in the paneer just before serving and cook it all together for about a minute, on medium heat.

16. The almonds, cashewnuts and milk are enough to make the gravy rich and flavourful. There is no real need to add any cream.

17. Ideally, good-quality butter must be used to make this curry. However, you can also use a mix of oil and butter or only oil. I have used Amul butter here.

18. You can make the gravy without onion and garlic, if you so prefer. In that case, you can add in a little more milk and a couple more cashewnuts and almonds, or heavy cream to keep the sweetness and thickness intact.

19. This curry can easily be made vegan too – Just skip the butter, paneer and milk completely, in that case. In their place, you may use vegan butter, tofu and vegan milk respectively. If you want to use cream, you can use a vegan version.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #277. The co-hosts this week are Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.