Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paneer 65

A hyderabadi starter dish with a mystery! Now why the number 65? Lots of theories to this, some say it was originally cooked with 65 ingredients or spices, some say it was first made in 1965 and some others say it was the 65th item on a mess menu...and so on...I say...I JUST DONT CARE! Whatever was created...was just wonderful!

This dish makes a great starter and jazzes up a party menu. You can keep it all in one dish, or just poke some toothpicks in each piece and decorate it. The spice paste so wonderfully clings onto the paneer, that each bite tastes awesomely full of flavor!

Level: Medium
Serves: 6 people

Paneer marination:
200 gms paneer, cut into medium sized cubes
1 egg
2 tblsp all purpose flour
2 tblsp cornstarch/cornflour
1 tblsp chinese chilly sauce
1 tblsp soya sauce
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp sugar
Water as required

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
20 curry leaves
1 tblsp garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tblsp ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp chilly powder
1/2 cup yogurt, well beaten
1 tsp chinese chilly sauce
1 tsp tomato ketchup
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp cornflour (made into a paste with 2 tblsp water)
Coriander to decorate

Lets start with the paneer - 
Step 1 - In a bowl, add the all purpose flour, cornflour, chilly sauce, soya sauce, salt, pepper, sugar and mix well. Add water gradually till it forms a semi-thick batter. The batter consistency should be such that it should coat the back of your spoon evenly. It should not run off the spoon quickly.

Step 2 - Add the cubed paneer pieces. Mix well and deep fry till it reaches a nice brown color, as seen in the picture. Keep aside.

Lets work on the sauce now - 
Step 1 - Heat a tblsp of oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the curry leaves, ginger and garlic. Stir fry for a min.

Step 2 - Add the red chilly powder and yogurt. Mix vigorously. Immediately add the chilly sauce, tomato ketchup, salt and pepper. Give it a quick mix. Drop in the paneer pieces and mix well so that the sauce coats all the paneer pieces well.

Step 3 - Finally add in the cornflour paste and mix well. This should immediately thicken the sauce and the sauce will cling on well to the paneer.

Serve hot decorated with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

The sauce needs to be made very quickly. So have all the ingredients measured and kept at hand, else you could end up curdling the yogurt!

Do not skip the egg in the paneer marination. It helps in uniform coating over the paneer pieces when they are frying.

I have shared the recipe I learnt in a cooking course I took with my friends in college. But for a healthier version, you could always replace paneer with extra firm tofu or just avoid the frying process. But if you avoid the frying process, make sure your sauce has stronger flavors, cause the paneer is going to be tasteless in this case.

Also, Paneer 65 is supposed to have a bright red color...if you want it that way, go ahead and add some food color in your yogurt!

Happy cooking everyone!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Chicken Chettinad

Now this is a really convenient and healthy chicken dish for all of you. No coconut, not too much oil. Perfect for those health conscious guests. This dish is made from ingredients that are easily available at home. So it can be made even when you have unexpected guests coming over.

This dish is essentially a semi-gravy dish...if thats a word! Do not try and make it into a gravy dish by adding water, as it looses a lot of its taste. Have been told that if you add a can of coconut milk this turns into a nice gravy dish. A great idea, but then, doesnt make sense if you want to keep it healthy. You could try fat free coconut milk....but well, lets keep that for some other time!

Chettinad cuisine is the cuisine of the Chettinad region of theTamil nadu state in South India. It is known to be one of the spiciest and most aromatic cuisine in India. 

Now that you are enlightened enough, lets get to making this dish now...:)

Serves: 4 people
Level: Easy

750 gms boneless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 tsp mustard seeds
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
2 inch cinnamon sticks
4 black peppercorns
3 green cardamoms
4 - 5 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
3 green chillies, finely chopped
15 curry leaves
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp black pepper powder
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 : Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaves and green cardamoms. Immediately add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the cumin seeds and saute for a few seconds till they turn brown.

Step 2 : Add turmeric powder. Stir for a few seconds and add the onion. Do not let the turmeric turn brown. Saute the onions till they turn brown. Add the ginger garlic paste, green chillies and curry leaves. Stir well, till the ginger garlic paste looses its raw smell. Add tomatoes, red chilly powder, coriander powder and cumin powder. Stir well. Cook till the tomatoes are completely broken down and cooked and oil starts to leave the mixture.

Step 3 : Add the cut chicken and mix well for 5 mins. Cover and cook for 8 - 10 mins or till the chicken is cooked. Stir occasionally. Add 3/4 cup of water just in case the dish seems too dry. You do not want to make it runny. Just a thick gravy. Add black pepper powder and mix everything once. Decorate it with coriander leaves.

Serve hot, with any bread or with rice.

This is a fairly spicy dish. If you want to make it less spicy, eliminate the black peppercorns in the oil, reduce the amount of green chillies or just avoid them, as we are adding red chilly powder ahead and reduce the quantity of black pepper powder sprinkling in the end. 

If you think its really very spicy once its done, well add some coconut milk to get milder flavors..:).


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Banana Nut Muffins (perfectly moist)

Banana nut muffins have always been my favorite. Actually anything with bananas will do. Unfortunately most of the banana recipes call for over-ripe bananas. Well, bananas dont stay that long at my place. So this time when I purchased a couple, I wrapped them in plastic and stuffed them in the refrigerator way beyond my reach and the plan worked. Had over ripe bananas ready for these gorgeous muffins.

Walnuts taste the best in these muffins. But I was out of walnuts. Had only cashews and almonds at home. My husband is in love with cashews and I cant eat more than a couple! So I did not add any nuts in the batter, just poked a few in individual muffin cups. Customized banana nut muffins you could say!

Would like to mention one important tip here. To make sure these muffins are really perfectly moist, you cannot overwork the batter. Thats the key. Excessive beating will lead to dry muffins and thats not what we aim to do. So do follow the instructions below. They are quite fail-proof if you stick by them.

Lets get to making some muffins now...

Level: Medium
Serves: Makes 12 muffins

150 gms all purpose flour
1 tsp soda-bi-carbonate
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2.5 tblsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Step 1 - Sift the flour, soda-bi-carbonate, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Keep it aside. Grease your muffin or cake tin with butter spray or butter lightly. Keep aside.

Step 2 - In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar till it gets a pale yellow color. Would recommend using an electric whisk here.

Step 3 - Add the beaten eggs, little at a time and beat continuously till they are incorporated well.

Step 4 - Add the vanilla, milk and mashed bananas. You will need to do a taste test here. At this point, you need the batter to be sweeter than what you generally prefer. This is because you will be adding a lot of flour next, which would anyway reduce the sweetness. If the bananas dint turn out to be sweet, you might have to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar. I had to do that. 

Step 5 - Add the sifted flour. Mix it well with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Do not use the electric whisk here. Lightly mix it till you can no longer see any lose flour in your mixing bowl. Thats it. Do not over mix here.

Step 6 - Spoon or pipe the batter into muffin tins, until they are 3/4th full. Bake in a preheated 350 Deg F. oven for 30 mins or till the tops are golden brown.

Serve these at breakfast, with some honey or maple syrup along with some hot fresh coffee 
or you could warm these up in a microwave and serve it with some cold ice cream for desserts!..Absolutely Delicious!

You could use salted butter if you have it at home, to replace the unsalted butter. Just make sure you reduce the proportion of salt you add to half.

Do not panic if the muffins look like they would spill over in the oven. They dont, if you dont fill them more than 3/4th of the way. They will settle down once they are out of the oven cooling.