Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mutter Paneer (Peas n Cottage Cheese Curry)

So I've been asked a thousand times for this recipe and yesterday I got asked for the 1000 and 1st time (I keep count of everything, no I don't have OCD...I'm just kidding............ or am I?!) and I thought, yeah, now is the right time to put up this favourite recipe of all on my blog! And here it is the favourite of Punjab, the favourite of India and the favourite of Ki's (my) kitchen......drumroll please.....Mutter Paneer.

Now this is a wonderful medium spicy, Indian curry dish. The consistency of the curry in India is quite varied. I prefer my curries to be a little runny so I can dunk my roti and spoon it on my rice. If you want a thicker curry, you can always add in cashew paste or melon seed paste and make the gravy rich and thick like the restaurants. But since this is a home-style version, I'll stick to how its been cooked since generations. The delicate hint of whole spices with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of love brings this homely version to a transcendental level. Hyperbole?- just a tad bit maybe but believe me not? Try this and you'll know what I'm talking about! Just have your ingredients ready and get started.

Serves: 6

Time taken: 1 1/2 hours

Complexity: ***

You'll need

2 big red onions, sliced
5-6 large garlic cloves
1" piece of ginger, sliced
4 medium tomatoes, quartered
3 green chilies
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp dry roasted and powdered cumin
3 black cardamoms
3 bay leaves
1" stick cinnamon, broken
500 gms of grean peas, approx 2 cups
300 gms of Paneer or cottage cheese, sliced into 1" square-ish slices
1 lts of water
2/3 cup oil
1 tbsp of dry powdered coriander
1 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp of red chili powder (add more if you enjoy the heat)
1 tsp of garam masala powder
Salt to taste 
Coriander to garnish
Love to serve with


First and foremost, have all the ingredients handy. I can not stress how much it helps to have everything in place when you have such a long ingredient list so you don't leave out anything. The french didn't coin the term Mis-en-place for nothing.

Begin with your big pan on medium heat. Add the oil to it and the whole cumin to it. 

When the cumin begins to splutter, add the onions.

Wait till the onions start softening in colour and add the green chilies to it. 

See how I have split the green chilies. This helps on two levels- one the chilies won't explode in your face and also it helps infuse the heat of the green chilies gradually.

Now add in the garlic cloves and sliced ginger, here's your Indian mire-poix or as they say, the base for almost any Indian curry.

Let this saute on medium heat till the onions slowly caramelize to help release their sweetness. Keep stirring occasionally so that the garlic doesn't get burnt on any side. We NEVER want garlic to burn. 

Wait till the onions turn brown and the garlic is evenly golden

Scoop everything out into a blender. Make sure to leave behind as much oil as possible in the pan. I usually turn off the gas at this point so my oil doesn't keep burning. Now to this hot oil, I added the whole spices- bay leaves, black cardamom and cinnamon stick. Just leave them there in the oil. The warm oil actually helps the spices to release their flavours. 

Back to the onions in the blender.

Top off the blender with the quartered tomatoes. If you are using crushed tomatoes or tomato puree instead of the whole ones, feel free to add those to the blender as well.  

Have your blender in place but before you switch it on, you want to cover the lid with a napkin. Since the onions are hot, the lid might come off due to the steam (I've had that happen to me and trust me when I say this that the kitchen walls don't look nice with splattered tomato n onion paste). Hold the lid of the blender and switch it on. On another note, doesn't the blender look prrettttttyyy with the napkin, or is it just me?! 

Blend it all to a smooth paste. Add a couple tsps of water if required to fasten the process. 

Now put the pan back on heat before you transfer the onion tomato paste to the pan. The paste should be a beautiful pale pink salmon colour. Let this cook for about 10 mins or so and keep stirring. 

You'll see how the oil starts making its way to the top. 

Now add the dry spices. Clockwise, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder and salt. 

Mix everything and let this saute on medium heat till the whole paste turns deep red almost brown in colour. At this moment I'm usually sooooo ready to dig in!! Its an olfactory pleasure to experience. This is what 'bhuna' masala is. Slow roasting everything brings out a sweetness and depth of flavours that is enriched with the Indian spices.  

What I like to do next is add in the peas to the reduced paste and roast it for about 5-7 minutes. 

Add the water to the mix, give it a good stir. 

At this point, add in the garam masala powder 

Coriander leaves and cover with a lid. Let the curry simmer for 7-10 mins. 

Meanwhile, take another shallow pan. Drizzle a few drops of oil in it and let the oil heat nicely. Add the sliced paneer pieces to it. This step is optional but I always do it because it helps make the paneer soft and buttery on the inside. 

Let the pieces cook for a minute or so til they turn golden brown on one side before turning them. Don't let them cook for any longer otherwise they will turn rubbery in texture. 

The curry should also be done by now. Carefully transfer the paneer pieces to the pan and take the pan off the heat. 

Did you think I'd forget a generous sprinkling of love?! Make sure you add that before serving. 

I served mine with rice and papadums. Yummmmmmm! Indulge! :) 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Adieu to Summer Pasta

So summer's gone and although its not winter yet but before it was time to get all consumed with hot stews and soups, I thought why not make something that personified summers for me! 

If you have 10 mins on hand, this is the pasta to make. And I have so many variations of this running in my head right now, so you could give it your own twist when you make this. Lets get to the pasta then before I begin romanticizing about summers. 

Serves: 4-5

Time taken: 10 mins

Complexity: **

You'll need

Pasta of your choice. I went with a mix of penne and farfalle (I had half packets of both)
2 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp olive oil
splash of balsamic vinegar(optional)
10-12 cloves of garlic finely sliced
1 cup of sliced black olives
1 tbsp of red chili flakes
2 cups of basil leaves
zest of one lemon
freshly cracked black pepper
salt to taste
Pinch of your love


As always, bring salted water to a rolling boil in a pot. Add the pasta to it and let it cook al dente. 

When the pasta's almost done with a couple of minutes to go, heat butter and olive oil in another saucepan. Let the heat be on medium. Most importantly, add the sliced garlic to the pan as soon as you add the butter. We want to infuse the garlic-y flavour to the butter.

Let the garlic turn opaque and give it a quick stir around. 

When the garlic turns golden (be very careful not to let it go brown because as soon as the garlic goes brown, it will turn bitter and all that deliciousness will be gone) add the basil leaves to the pan. Let them wilt in a couple of seconds or so. 

Next add the olives and the seasoning to it. 

Drain your pasta but save a cup of pasta water aside. 

Add the hot pasta to the saucepan and zest one lemon over it. A quick sprinkling of your love over it all and combine everything. Isn't it a perfect milieu of the summer-y flavours......mmm mmm mmmmmm 

Give it a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some grated Parmesan over it. You could even tear a few fresh basil leaves before serving. Yummy pasta is ready to gorge on! Indulge!