Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Sometimes leftovers can make our lives tough. Sometimes, they are too much..sometimes too little.
But why not try and make them interesting?

Crispy 'Naan-Pizzas' is the way to go for leftovers at our home. We look forward to leftovers and always have a stock of frozen naan bread in our refrigerator.
You can go crazy with this recipe! I have tried this with almost all the North Indian delicacies - Doggy bagged from a restaurant or home made.
I have tried these with Paneer Makhani, Chole, Methi Malai Mutter, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka see where I am going here don't you?

So get your thinking caps on, and let's go crazy!!!

2 Naan bread (I use frozen garlic naan)
Leftovers (I used Mutter Paneer here)
0.25 small onion, thinly sliced
Coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tblsp cheese or as per taste

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Cover a baking sheet with foil.

Step 2 - Place the frozen naan on the baking sheet. Spoon in the leftover gravy onto the naans. Make sure you don't go right upto the rim of the naan bread. Leave some place on the corners, so you can hold onto the naan bread while eating and also the gravy does not ooze out while baking.

Step 3 - Spread some sliced onions and cheese on top.

Step 4 - Bake these in your hot oven for 7 to 8 mins. Just pull your baking sheet out, sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves on top of your naan-pizzas and put it back in the oven for 2 to 3 mins.

Ready to serve!


Mutter Paneer (Peas and Cottage Cheese Curry)

The most popular North Indian dish ordered in an Indian restaurant.
Mutter Paneer is a crowd favorite! Absolutely hard to resist, you will be surprised how simple this recipe can be.

North Indian dishes are generally loaded with butter or ghee or cream. At least the good ones are!
Here I have tried to make this culinary gem into a much heathier version, so you could enjoy it as much and as many times as you would like.

Mutter Paneer is a spicy and creamy peas and cottage cheese curry. This curry is so versatile, that it can be enjoyed with rotis, naans or with plain or spiced rice.

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 people
Adapted from: Vahchef

1 tblsp cashewnuts (broken)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tblsp ginger garlic paste
2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 green chilly, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin powder (heaped tsp)
1 tsp coriander powder (heaped tsp)
1 tsp red chilly powder
0.75 tsp garam masala (I use tandoori chicken masala)
1 tblsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1.25 cups green peas (I used frozen)
14 oz packet paneer
Coriander to decorate
0.5 cups milk/cream (optional) (I use milk)
Salt to taste

Step 1 - Cut the paneer in cubes or in any shape of you like. Saute them in 2 tblsp oil like you would stir fry veggies. Do not over handle them, as the paneer crumbles if you move it too much in the pan. I use tongs to just turn them around. Once fried, plop the paneer in a small pot filled with water. Let them rest for 2 mins in the water. Lightly squeeze out the water and keep aside.

Step 2 - Let us get the peas ready. If you use frozen peas, which I do..microwave them for 2 mins with 1 tblsp of water. If you use fresh raw peas, steam them in your pressure pan or in a steamer for 7 to 8 mins till they are 75% cooked. Do not over cook them. They will boil in a the gravy for 5 to 7 mins in the end. Keep aside.

Now to the main dish,
Step 1 - Take 1.5 tblsp oil in a pot. When the oil is hot, add the cashewnuts. Saute till they turn light brown. Add onions. Again, saute till they turn light brown.

Step 2 - Add turmeric powder and ginger garlic paste. Stir the onion mixture for 2 mins, till you get rid of the raw smell of ginger and garlic. Add tomatoes. Cook till they are completely cooked and mushy. This should take 8 - 10 mins on medium heat. Cool the mixture and blend with little water to form a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Step 3 - In another pan heat 1 tblsp oil. Add the blended paste from Step 2. Add 0.75 cups of water. Add green chilly. Mix well and let the mixture come to a boil.

Step 4 - Turn the heat to medium low and add the cumin powder, coriander powder and red chilly powder. Mix well. At this stage, the consistency of the mixture in your pot should be watery and not pasty. Adjust water to get this consistency. Keep boiling this mixture uncovered for 15 mins, till the mixture thickens up to be a sauce. Keep stirring occassionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan and ends up burnt.

Step 5 - Add peas, salt, dried fenugreek leaves and garam masala. Add the paneer. Mix well and simmer the mixture for 5 to 10 mins. Add milk if you plan to use it. Adjust consistency as per your liking with water. Simmer for 1 - 2 mins. Decorate with coriander leaves.

Serve hot with naan, roti, rice.....

Another interesting and our favorite way of using leftovers is by making "Naan-Pizzas"...
Don't resist the urge! I know you want some!

The paneer that you get in India is really soft and fresh. If you can get some of that, you can just fry it a little and add to the gravy. The paneer I get in the USA, gets tough and chewy when stir fried. To get it soft, I use the dunk in water technique. This makes it perfectly soft for the gravy. It also makes the paneer healthier. Added bonus maybe?

Whenever I make this for a huge party or am in a hurry, I make this dish, along with the paneer, peas and gravy preparations upto Step 2 the day before. Then you just have to put everything together on your busy day.

As far as the milk is concerned, I add some only if I have kids coming over as it makes all the flavors a little mild.

Everyone has their family favorite garam masalas at home. In my case, I have malwani garam masala and a regular maharashtrian garam masala. But whenever I make North Indian dishes, I use Tandoori chicken masala or Kitchen King masala. This gives the dishes, a specific North Indian flavor. If you can get hold of Punjabi garam masala, please feel free to use it.

For that extra kick, sprinkle a pinch of garam masala on the curry just before serving. This step is optional of course.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Loni aka Makkhan in 10 minutes!

Let us start by understanding, how one makes Loni (makkhan or white butter) in India..

You start with whole milk (buffalo milk). As we tend to buy milk fresh or in packets in India, we have to first start by boiling it. Once the milk is boiled, we allow it to cool down and then we place it in the fridge to be used as and when required. Once the milk cools down, the cream gets collected right on the top. You skim this cream out and place it in a covered clean container. You repeat these steps every time you get milk home, till a good quantity of cream is collected. 
Then starts the butter making process. You take out the thick collected cream and start whisking or churning it. In India, traditionally, we do it with a ladle called "Ravi" in Marathi which has a flower like end that assists in churning. We keep churning this cream till all the butter separates from the buttermilk. Almost 25 to 30 mins worth of churning. Phew! Then we wash this butter with a little water, so it does not have a milky smell to it. And....we are done!

Getting back to wherever I am from, collecting cream off fresh buffalo milk...A STRETCH!
But not having 'loni' with my bhakris and thalipeeth, saddened me !
That got me thinking, even if I can't collect cream, we do get cream in tetra packs in the stores! I started my blog surfing to check if anyone has had this amazing idea! and I realized.... many of them had!
So what if I wasn't the only one with brilliant ideas, better late than never.
So I decided to go on a really short and quick journey of 'Loni' making. 
It is so ridiculously simple and you can make it whenever and as much as you desire!

Now there are certain things you should know before we get started on this 10 minute journey.
I have found from messy personal experiences that food processor is the best gadget to make 'Loni'. 
That does not in any way mean, you can't make it any other way. 
The worrisome part is at the end, when the buttermilk starts separating from the butter. There is a lot of splashing here. So if you don't have a food processor, get a tall bowl and then whip the cream, so in the end you can catch most of the buttermilk splashing all around. Though this step sounds messy, it takes place only for 2 minutes in the end. 
Also, when you use the food processor, it is ideal to use churning blades. I don't have a high-tech processor. So I used the only blade (chopping) I had and there was no problem. So don't go hunting for fancy accessories.

Level: Easy
Serves: Makes 1.25 cups

1 medium pack of heavy whipping cream
3 tblsp ice cold water

Step 1 - Put the ingredients in a food processor or in a large tall bowl in which you plan to whisk the cream. Start whisking the cream.

What happens next: The cream will start getting thicker and thicker...

and then: It will be thick enough to resemble whipped cream. 

and then: It will be really thick and you may start finding it weird to keep whipping the cream as nothing seems to be moving around. But do continue.

and then: then slowly in about 5 - 7 mins, you will see the butter clumping together into thick white butter and the buttermilk will start separating and splashing around. Now go ahead and dunk in your finger. Get all excited about you need to whisk just for 1 more minute.

Step 2 : Pour the ice cold water and whisk the butter again for 15 - 20 seconds to just wash the milky smell off the butter. Drain out the water and place the fresh butter in a plate.

Step 3: Start pressing the butter with a fork. This will make it release some more butter milk. Tilt the plate and  drain out the excess water. This process will make the butter harder. So do not over do this step, if you want your butter soft. 

We are done!

Ever wondered how butter making was invented?? Why would our ancestors suddenly decide they want to churn cream and see what happens?

Something I read on the internet, sounds like a feasible explanation.
Butter was probably first created accidentally when whole milk carried in skin bags was carried by horseback and naturally 'churned' while travelling over rough terrain.

The first documented mention of butter making was in the sacred songs of the dwellers of Asiatic India, dating back to 1,500 - 2,000 BC. There is a historical mention of ancient tribes creating primitive churns by horizontally agitating the cow, yak and horse milk. Butter back then was not only eaten, but used as in illumination oil, for medical purposes and also as skin coating to insulate the tribe members from the harsh winter cold.