Entrée

Palak Paneer – Cottage cheese and spinach

P1PP

Conducting cooking classes for my friends and colleagues was something I really enjoyed doing. We had so much fun during those classes where we cooked together and then devoured all the fruits of our labour afterwards. Though I didn’t manage to hold many sessions, I will always remember those fun filled classes with a smile. Palak paneer and chicken tikka masala were some of the most popular dishes among my friends so naturally, I received many requests to make these two in the sessions.

Palak paneer is a dish prepared mainly in Punjab, a state in northern India. It makes for an excellent accompaniment to rice or naan, Indian flat bread. The combination of palak and paneer is not only nutritious, but is also a delicious blend of taste, textures and flavours. No wonder so many wanted me to teach how to make it!

P2PP

Palak is a type of spinach with rounded green leaves that don’t have a big network of veins, making it a good candidate for blanching and puréeing. So it’s not surprising that blanching the palak is the first step in the process. Simply put all the spinach into a pan of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes without using a lid to cover the pan. This is important because if a lid is used, the volatile oils in these leaves will not be able to escape with the steam and this will result in bitter leaves.  After the 2 minutes, transfer the palak into a bowl of cold water with some ice cubes to refresh it.

Refreshing the Palak
Refreshing the Palak

Paneer is cottage cheese and can be made at home quite easily. I was bitten by a lazybug a few days before I last made palak paneer so I didn’t bother to make my own and used the store-bought paneer instead. It really is quite simple to do though and I will post a nice and easy guide on how to make your own paneer soon!

P4PP

Normally paneer pieces are just fried or added plain into the prepared curry at the end. I always marinate these cubes of paneer with a little lime juice, salt and half a teaspoon of cumin powder for half an hour to make it more interesting and add more flavour to the dish. I then sauté these cubes in a little oil to make them firm so that they won’t crumble when added to the palak.

P5PP

As palak is not very common in certain parts of the world, I wanted to try making this dish with chard or collard greens. But it just never happened. See, still being lazy…I shall post the result when (or if!) I eventually try it out.

~Min

Palak Paneer - Cottage cheese and spinach.
 
Author: 
Cuisine: Indian
Ingredients
  • Palak (spinach) 300g
  • Paneer 200g
  • Roasted cumin powder ½ teaspoon
  • Lime juice ½ lime
  • Onion (finely chopped) 1 big
  • Cumin seeds 1 ½ teaspoon
  • Ginger (crushed) ½ inch piece
  • Garlic (crushed) 4 cloves
  • Green chillies (finely chopped)1 – optional
  • Tomato ( puréed) 2 medium
  • Coriander powder 1 tablespoon
  • Cumin powder 1 teaspoon
  • Chilli powder ½ teaspoon
  • Salt to taste
  • Cream 4 tablespoons
  • Or Full cream milk ½ cup
  • Sunflower oil (any refined oil) 3 tablespoons
Directions
  1. Cut the paneer into 1 cm cubes, marinate with the juice of half a lime, ½ tsp cumin powder and salt for 10 minutes.
  2. Blanch the spinach, refresh in ice water and grind into a fine paste. Set aside.
  3. Shallow fry the paneer cubes until light brown in a tbsp of oil and drain on a kitchen paper.
  4. Heat the rest of the oil and fry cumin seeds until it changes colour to a darker tone.
  5. Add chopped onions and sauté till transluscent.
  6. Add crushed garlic and ginger, followed by green chilli and fry till the onion becomes slightly brown. Add corriander, chilli and cumin powder and fry for a minute.
  7. Then add the tomato puree and fry for 4-5 mnts stirring often. Add salt to taste.
  8. Once the tomato mixture is fried add the spinach puree and paneer cubes. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Add cream or milk and simmer till a glaze appears on top of the liquid.
  10. Add a squeeze of lime (optional) and serve with a swirl of cream.

Meat-Vegetable Loaf

Today was a lovely day… first time the temperature crossed 70 this season. And I was in the mood for something on the lighter side for dinner. Like a piece of salmon with some lemon-habanero aioli… With that picture in mind, I set out for the grocery store. I was in the meat and fish section when I saw the shop assistant bringing out fresh ground turkey. Ground up is the best way I like to go with turkey, and it was so fresh. And all my plans underwent a sudden change; when I reached home from the grocery store, I had all the fixings for a meatloaf!meatloaf6

This is not truly a meatloaf… more like a meat vegetable loaf. I add a ton of veggies to the mix. Onion, celery, red and green peppers, green peas, brussels sprouts, green beans, broccoli… these can all go into it, in any combination. In fact, any vegetable that is not too watery like will work. You can use equal quantities of meat and vegetables.

meatloaf1

My combination of spices for this meatloaf are rosemary, thyme, dijon mustard, and red chilli powder. If it is summer and my herb garden is growing, I prefer to use the fresh herbs. If not, dried ones will do as well.

meatloaf2

So you chop up all the vegetables. And add them to the ground meat. Along with eggs, breadcrumbs and a bit of sour cream. And of course, salt and pepper for seasoning. The beauty of the whole scheme is that there is no hard and fast rule about what can and cannot go into this meatloaf. By the way, has anyone tried a veggie loaf? Could be an interesting thing to try out. 🙂

meatloaf3

By the time I had prepared the mix, there was more than could be accommodated in the loaf pan. Easy to pop the remaining mix into ramekins and bake into individual helpings. And these freeze beautifully.

meatloaf4

If one doesn’t want to use red meat, a combination of  turkey, chicken and pork will work well. This particular meatloaf I made with just ground turkey.

meatloaf5

Served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, with or without gravy, this meatloaf is absolute yum!

~Ria

Meat-Vegetable Loaf
 
Author: 
Ingredients
  • 2 lb ground meat (mix of turkey, chicken and pork)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 handful of frozen green peas
  • 1 tsp rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • 1 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tomato ketchup for garnishing
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.
  2. Chop all the vegetables fine.
  3. Mince the garlic and herbs.
  4. Thaw the frozen green peas.
  5. In a large pan, mix together all the ingredients, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Be careful not to overmix.
  6. Place the mix into a loaf pan and form the top into a loaf shape.
  7. Garnish with tomato ketchup.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a skewer into the loaf. If it comes out clean, the loaf is done. If required, bake for another 10 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes, before slicing. Any extra will freeze well.

Chicken Cacciatore

The other day, I was watching Lidia Bastianich (of Lidia’s Italy fame), on ‘CreateTV’, making chicken cacciatore. And I realised that I hadn’t made it for a while, though it was one of my quick go-to recipes a while back. To pick out the recipe from the file (I do keep a physical file of my favourite recipes!) and create a shopping list was just a five-minute job!
 
According to Lidia, the dish must have been based originally on some kind of wild game birds, as ‘caccia’ means ‘to hunt’ in Italian. Somewhere along the way, chicken replaced the wild game, and other tweaks happened as well I’m sure, and we have the modern day cacciatore!
 
ready1

Usually, this dish is cooked with a whole chicken cut up into large pieces. But I prefer to make it with bone-in chicken thighs. The uniform sized pieces make it easy to calculate the cooking time.
 
The way I use the garlic and red chillies in the original cacciatore recipe, is the unique twist to this version. And believe me, it makes a big difference. Marinating the chicken in a mix of finely crushed garlic and red chilli powder, instead of the chilli flakes, lets the flavour penetrate into the meat.
 
marinated-chicken

You can marinate the chicken in the refrigerator anywhere from one hour to 24 hours; the closer it is to 24 hours, the softer and more flavourful it is.
 
chicken

And mushrooms… though shitakes are preferred, I use portabellas in a crunch. Lots and lots of them. You can even do away with the stock as the juice of the mushrooms will add sufficient flavour to the dish.
 
onion-peppers

Whenever possible, I like to incorporate some vegetables into any dish I’m cooking. Here I have used red and green peppers. You could also use yellow/ green squash, brussels sprouts, green peas etc.
 
all-in-the-pan

Chicken cacciatore is very versatile in that it can be served with pasta, rice, or any other starch. I prefer mashed potatoes with a slice of crusty bread on the side to mop up the gravy. And a green salad on the side…
 
ready3
 

~Ria

 
Recipe for easy printing

Chicken Cacciatore
Ingredients
  • 2 to 3 lbs chicken, skinless thigh pieces
  • 6 large cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup each red and green pepper pieces, cut lengthwise
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms, shitake or portobello
  • 2 cups tomato pieces, seeds and pulp removed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A few springs of fresh thyme
  • Fresh basil leaves
Directions
  1. Crush the garlic finely and mix with the chilli powder and enough salt and sprinkle all over the chicken pieces and rub in well to coat. Keep aside for at least an hour (up to 24 hours) in the refrigerator.
  2. Season the flour with salt and pepper, and dredge the chicken pieces in the flour.
  3. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a wide pan. Add the flour dredged chicken pieces to the oil and fry till browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Note: If there is more chicken than can be accommodated without crowding in the pan, fry them in batches.
  4. Drain the chicken pieces on a plate. Into the same pan, add the chopped onions and stir fry till they start to wilt.
  5. Add the mixed vegetables and cook for two minutes.
  6. Add the mushrooms and let it cook for five minutes.
  7. Now add the wine, bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.
  8. Add the stock, tomatoes, and thyme.
  9. Place the chicken pieces back into the pan. Add enough salt and mix everything together. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  10. At the end of 20 minutes, the chicken pieces should be done, with enough liquid to coat the pieces. If there is more liquid, cook uncovered to let the extra liquid evaporate. If there is not enough liquid, add enough stock or water and allow it to boil for 2 minutes.
  11. Add the fresh basil and stir. Serve with pasta, brown rice, or mashed potatoes.

 

A pie for Pi Day!

March 14th, as you know, is Pi Day worldwide, a day on which math enthusiasts celebrate the constant 3.14, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. One way to celebrate the day is to have pie parties, or at least make and eat pies! And to join in with the spirit of celebrations, that is what I decided to do too... make a pie!   pot-pie-slice Having been gorging on all kinds of sweet stuff during my recent vacation, my choice for this occasion was a pot pie... a vegetarian pot pie! A lot of veggies can go into this pie...   pot-pie-veg The key ingredient that gives this pot pie a unique kick up is ginger root! And instead of using a roux to thicken the filling, I like to use coconut milk which is healthier and adds to the flavour and creaminess of the filling.   And you can prepare the dough ahead of making the pie, and keep it chilled in the refrigerator up to 24 hours.   pot-pie-dough This pie makes a very good winter meal. And the leftovers will freeze very well too.   finished-pie

~Ria

Recipe for easy printing 
A pie for Pi Day!
 
Author: 
Ingredients
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 large onion, cut into small wedges
  • 4 ribs of celery, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cups mixed vegetables (red and green peppers, carrots, brussels sprouts) all cut into bite-size pieces. Peas too, but don’t cut them!
  • 2” piece ginger root, cut into thin juliennes
  • 1 can Coconut milk (available in Asian/ Mexican markets)
  • Salt & black pepper
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, chilled in the refrigerator
  • Ice cold water
Directions
  1. To make the pie crust, mix together the flour and salt. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and add to the flour, shaking to coat each piece. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour till the butter is reduced to pea sized bits. Sprinkle ice cold water on the flour and mix till you can just about form a loose dough. Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover with cling film and chill in the refrigerator.
  2. To make the filling, in a heavy bottomed pan, cook the potato, onion, celery and ginger with a half cup of water. When the potato is half done, add the rest of the vegetables, coconut milk, and enough salt. Cover and cook till everything is done.
  3. While the pan is still on the stove, mash a few of the potato pieces using the back of a wooden spoon to thicken the liquid in the filling. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Allow the filling to cool.
  4. When cool, transfer the filling into a 9” pie pan.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree fahrenheit.
  6. Roll out the dough into a thick circle slightly larger than the pie pan. Gently lift the rolled out dough on the rolling pin and lay it over the pie pan with the filling. Fold under any extra dough and crimp with the edges. Make a few cuts in the dough to allow steam to escape.
  7. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 40 minutes. When the top starts to get slightly brown, take the pie out of the oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting the pie.