Paneer Butter Masala is an all time favourite for all kids and adults alike and they never miss an opportunity to order it when they go to an Indian restaurant. Another favourite for my older daughter these days is the creamy Mughlai Malai Koftas! These days we hardly ever go to Indian restaurants here in Dallas, as the dinner portions are really too much for us to handle. I still love the Panner Butter Masala at the Taj Chat House here in Plano. Whenever we feel we want to eat out at indian restaurant, but cant handle the heavy portions and the grease, I always go here . This version is of course my own, but liberally influenced by Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.
Paneer Cubes or Extra Firm Organic Tofu.
1 Large or 3 Small Sized Red Onions.
2 Large Tomatoes.
1 1/2 Tsp Freshly grated ginger garlic zest/ paste.
1 Ripe Avocado.
6-8 Cashew Nuts.
1/3 Cup Milk + 1/3 Cup Milk.
2 Tsp Kasoori Methi.
1 1/2 Tsp Dhania Powder/ Coriander Powder.
1 1/2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.
1/4 Tsp Sugar.
A pinch of turmeric.
Salt to taste.
Chopped Cilantro to garnish.
2 Tsp Butter.
1 Inch Cinnamon.
A pinch of Ground Elaichi.
3-4 Whole Black Pepper.
2 Dried Red Chillies.
- Heat a kadai with a spoon of butter and saute the onions until they turn a dull golden color. Grind the fried onions along with the tomatoes and one avocado to a smooth paste. You need not add water as the tomatoes help in providing the water content. Set aside.
- Soak the cashews in a little warm milk. Add a few saffron strands if necessary and the sugar and grind to a smooth paste.
- In case you are using frozen paneer, thaw and add it to hot water so it gets soft and spongy. If using extra firm tofu, drain from water and allow to dry for a couple minutes. If you have fresh panner, that you have made at home , use as is.
- As I don’t prefer to eat tofu soft, I normally slice them in to loaves, smear lemon juice, red chilli powder and salt, and allow it to roast/ grill on a tava for a couple minutes, until there is a good sear. Remove and slice in to 1 inch pieces. Set aside.
- Once again, heat up the wok, add a little oil/ butter and the whole masalas – cloves, cinnamon,cardamom powder, red chillies and couple whole black peppers. When its slightly roasted, add the ground onion tomato avoacado paste. (You could completely omit the avocados – they dont add any flavour only silly smooth texture and of course good fats! Avocados, due to their mono and polyunsaturated fat content, are a great substitution for foods rich in saturated fat.)
- Add the ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, dhania powder, salt and turmeric and mix in well.
- Allow the ground paste to cook until the raw smell is gone, and a little of the butter leaves the sides. This should take about ten mins or so.
- Add the ground cashew paste and stir in well until the mixture loosens up a little.
- If you need the gravy to be a little more runny, adjust by adding warm milk/ heavy cream/ Half & Half.
- Crush the kasuri methi between your fingers and add it to the gravy.
- Add the chopped panner/ tofu pieces to the gravy and mix it in.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve HOT with Jeera Pulav or Peas Pulav.
These Eggless Princess Cookies with Hearts of Strawberry Jam are really easy and an awesome addition to a valentine party at your kids school or a birthday party! These are easily flexible and can be turned around to create any cookie. WIth a dash of dried cranberries it gets a tart taste and looks so pretty. Add bits of orange zest and essence and some orange vegetable food colour to make a cookie for Halloween! Add bits of chocolate chips, peppermint barks, heath toffee bits and pllay around with it. Today I added rose essence and bits of rose petals for a refreshing change from the regular Eggless Choco Chip that I normally make for the kids. With some leftover dough I baked hearts and dunked half of each cookie in to melted chocolate. One dough – two cookies…Smart arent I??
2 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour.
2 Sticks of Butter at room temperature.
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar.
1/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar or White Sugar.
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder.
1 Tsp Vanilla Essence.
2 Tsp of Strawberry Jam.
1/4 Tsp Rose Essence. (Optional).
A pinch of salt.
Rose petals fresh/ dried crushed to little bits. (Optional)
- Cream the sugar and the butter on medium speed on a stand mixer using the whip attachment. Once its incorporated add vanilla essence , rose essence and rose bits. You can add a few drops of Vegetable based food coloring.
- In a dry container add the flour, baking powder and salt and give it a quick mix with your spoon.
- Slowly add the flour in to the mixing bowl and beat it in on low speed. Continue and finish all the flour. Loved the little specks of red in the dough!!
- Remove from the mixing bowl and using your fingers, knead lightly to form a smooth flat disc. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for about 30 mins.
- Now there are loads of arguments on chilling cookie dough and whether it really adds to the flavour, texture and buttery taste. But I rarely plan ahead for a cookie.
- When I decide to make a batch of cookies, I just go ahead and make it. I did have some errands to run before rolling out the dough , so I thought hey why not?
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and If you find that its too hard, allow it to rest for a couple minutes until you get your stuff ready.
- Spread the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and using a rolling pin, roll it in to 1 – 1 1/2 inch thickness.
- Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out perfect heart cookies and place them 1 inch apart on a lined cookie pan.
- Take out remaining dough, shape them in to a ball, flatten them out again and re cut more heart shaped cookies. Continue until you exhaust most of the cookie dough. Feel free to sample the remaining dough!!
- Using the back of a wooden spatula make a small little indentation in the centre of the heart cookie and fill with a small scoop of strawberry jam.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F and place the cookies in the top rack.
- Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until the cookies are cooked . Whats that? How to check if they are done?
- Well, it varies with each type of cookies, but for this one, when you see that the cookie is firm and the ends and the bottom has a beautiful golden colour, its good to go!
CHOCOLATE BETTER HALF COOKIES!!
- I had some of the cookies which I did not fill with Strawberry Jam Heart, so I simply dunked half of the baked cookie into a bowl of melted chocolate and sprinkled them with red coloured sugar sprinkles….Chocolate Better Half Cookies were soft, crumbly, decadent and extremely delicious!!!
Fried Spring Rolls and Vegetable Cutlets were an all time favourite appetiser for all of us growing up. Every time we would go to a restaurant, it would be most definitely Vegetable Cutlets with a side of tomato ketchup. As more and more indo chinese restaurants opened up, Fried Spring Rolls would be the instant choice. More recently it has been steaming hot Vegetable Dumplings with a side of sweet spicy tomato dip. I have never actually tried a Fresh Spring Roll until recently and I must say there is no looking back. My husband`s profession takes him to various cities all over the United States where he gets to sample diverse cuisines and try out different dishes. On one such trip he brought back these from a tiny Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Dang, in Winooski Vermont. The spring rolls had rice sticks (vermicelli) cooked to perfection, on a bed of crisp lettuce, and long marinated and grilled tofu, mango all rolled in to one awesome roll. The dip was a peanut soy based served with a garnish of finely chopped peanuts. YUM! I have been playing it on my mind for quite some time now and after seeing many blog posts, and of course based on my own interpretation of the dish, sampled from the restaurants, I decided to make it at home for dinner and I must say it was very wholesome and delicious.
Ingredients for Tofu Marinade:
1 Pack Extra Firm Organic Tofu.
1/4 Cup Dark Soy Sauce.
1 Tsp Sugar.
1/2 Tsp Sriracha or Red Chilli Powder.
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder.
1/4 Tsp Salt.
Ingredients for Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce:
2 Tbsp Oil.
1 Tsp Minced Garlic.
1/3 – 1/2 Cup Water.
1 – 11/2 Tbsp Heaped Sugar.
4 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce.
4 Tbsp Creamy Peanut Butter.
2 Tsp Sriracha or Chilli Garlic Sauce.
Crushed Peanuts to garnish.
INGREDIENTS FOR FRESH SPRING ROLL:
10 Rice Paper Sheets.
1 Package of Rice Vermicelli.
10 large lettuce leaves.
Fresh Mango sliced in to thin long strips.
Fresh Cucumber peeled and sliced long.
Long Marinated Tofu slices. (Extra Firm Tofu)
20 – 25 Mint Leaves.
20 Stems of Cilantro.
- First remove the tofu from the cover and drain all the water. Pat dry and allow to rest on a piece of tissue paper.
- When completely dry, cut in to long, 1 inch wide strips.
- Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade until they all come together and transfer to a shallow dish.
- Place the tofu in the marinade and allow to sit for about 40 mins to 1 hour.
- Use a cast iron skillet or a grill or a tava, grease it a little and pan fry the tofu until its evenly cooked on all sides.
- Slice the mango in to long pieces.
- Cook the vermicelli / rice sticks as per instructions. Once done. drain and grease with a little oil. Place on a shallow bowl.
- Keep your assembly line ready – Rice Paper, Vermicelli, Lettuce Leaves, Grilled Tofu, Sliced Mango, Sliced Cucumber, torn mint leaves and roughly chopped cilantro.
- Take a large bowl filled with lukewarm water and keep ready.
- Take a clean dry flat plate. Dip the rice paper in to the water to moisten and place on the plate. It will soften as you assemble the filling.
- Place the lettuce on the rice paper base, add a little vermicelli over the lettuce, and arrange the mango, tofu, cilantro and mint over the vermicelli.
- Moisten your hands, and start rolling tightly, tucking in the sides and rolling up until you get a sealed spring roll.
- Arrange on a clean plate in a way that they don’t stick to each other.
- Serve with Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce.
PEANUT HOISIN DIPPING SAUCE:
- In a wok add about 2 tsp of oil and when its hot, add the grated/ minced garlic. When the garlic is sauteed well, add the water, sugar, hoisin sauce, creamy peanut butter ( I made my own from here), and Sriracha. Give it a couple quick whisks and remove from the stove.
- Add a little more water/ soy sauce to adjust the consistency depending on your preference.
- Garnish with finely chopped peanuts.
- Take care not to serve the fresh spring rolls too close to each other as they may stick to each other and tear.
- Any left over marinade sauce can be added to the dipping sauce for additional flavour.
- It`s best to be assembled right before serving as it retains its freshness and crunch.
- Do not refrigerate as the vermicelli and the rice paper would become chewy.
I have always loved the flavour of Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani which is slow cooked in the dum with the flavours of various layers of rice and marinated vegetables, intermingled with the aroma of cilantro, mint and spices. My neighbour in Bangalore Gayathri always used to make Hyderabadi Vegetable Biriyani and share it with me. On one occasion, when her mom was visiting her, she offered to teach me to make it the elaborate way, with loads of ghee and oil, marinated vegetables etc and the end result was an extremely delicate taste of the biriyani which would explode in to a hundred flavours in the mouth. This is a version made WITHOUT A DROP OF OIL, on requests from many of my readers. Please feel free to add ghee if needed and if you feel that its very dry.
2 Cups Basmati Rice.
4 Cups Water.
1 Onion diced small.
1 Onion diced in to long slices.
2 Medium Carrots diced.
20 Florets of Cauliflower.
1 Cup French Beans diced.
3/4 Cup Green Peas.
6-8 Green Cardamom Pods.
2 Large Black Cardamom.
1 Bay Leaf.
1 1/2 Inch Cinnamon Stick.
1 Tsp Caraway/ Shahi Jeera.
2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger Garlic Paste.
1 Tsp Turmeric Powder.
1 Tbsp Red Chilli Powder.
1 Tbsp Dhania Powder.
1/2 Cup Yoghurt.
1/2 Tsp Rose Water.
1 Cup Tomato Puree.
A few strands of saffron.
1 Tsp Garam Masala.
1/4 Cup Chopped Corriander.
1/4 Cup Chopped Mint.
- Wash the basmati rice a couple times and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Move the rice to a rice cooker and add 3 green cardamom, one black cardamom, 5 cloves and a 1/2 inch of cinnamon. Cook until 3/4`ths done and set aside. Drain excess water and allow to cool for some time.
- In a non stick pan add the remaining green cardamoms, black cardamom, clove, cinnamon, caraway seeds and bay leaf. Saute for a couple of minutes and add the onions, carrots, cauliflower, french beans and green peas.
- Add a little salt and the ginger garlic paste and mix well. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and dhania powder.
- Around the same time, heat a cast iron skillet and spread the long slices of onions on the tava. Keep the flame on medium low and allow to grill/ carmelise.
- Whisk yoghurt with rose water and saffron. If the consistency is too thick feel free to add a little milk to make it creamy. Set aside.
- At this time, pour in the tomato puree in to the pan along with 1/2 tsp Garam Masala and mix well.Simmer for about two minutes.
- Take a large glass bowl or simply use the rice container in the rice cooker.
- Arrange a layer of rice at the bottom. Over that, arrange half of the cooked vegetables followed by another layer of rice. Sprinkle half of the remaining 1/2 Tsp garam masala powder, half the coriander leaves, half the mint leaves and half the yogurt mixture. Sprinkle a little of the carmelized onions.
- Arrange the remaining vegetables followed by the remaining rice.
- Sprinkle remaining yogurt mixture, mint leaves, corriander leaves and the grilled onions. Cover with a silicon lid and cook in the microwave oven for four to five minutes on HIGH (100%). Else finish up the cooking in the rice cooker for about 7 minutes or so. Please keep checking to make sure that the rice is cooked well enough to be served.
- Let it stand for five minutes, garnish with more finely chopped cilantro and then serve.
- Scoop out vertically down so you can get the rice and the vegetables in one scoop.
- Hot Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani without a drop of oil is ready to be served with cold Carrot Raita.
Poli is a traditional Indian sweet made during many festive occasions. There are basically two varieties of Poornam Poli – one thats stuffed with a coconut jaggery filling and the other with a bengal gram and jaggery filling. Both are extremely delicious and every household have their own way of doing these festive treats. Traditionally the outer dough of the Poornam Poli is made with maida and its a slightly laborious process. The maida is mixed with turmeric and a pinch of salt and doused with gingely oil. The traditional poli also requires to be made by flattening the maida on to a greased banana leaf and spreading with the fingers, which are also greased with more gingely oil. Its then “stuffed” with the poornam and spread out again on to the leaf, with more oil. Normally after a session of “poli making” the kitchen are so heavily oiled and get so greasy. It requires a lot of cleaning up after. TOday my version is made more healthier by making the outer dough with Wheat Flour and rolling the stuffing the polis just like you would, a paratha! If you miss the elasticity of the maida, you can try making them with 50% atta and 50% maida.
1 Cup Wheat Flour.
A Pinch of Salt.
A pinch of turmeric.
1/2 Cup Warm Water.
2 Tsp Gingely Oil.
1/2 Cup Jaggery.
1/2 Cup Coconut.
1/8 Cup Water.
1/4 Tsp Cardamom Powder.
- Add a pinch of salt, turmeric and the gingely oil and knead the wheat flour with warm water slowly and firmly until you get a soft pliable dough. This is extremely important for the easy spreading of the polis. It should feel soft, and pliable. If you feel its too hard, add a few drops of water and oil and keep kneading until you get the required texture. Spread a layer of oil on the ball and keep covered with a damp cloth.
- In a flat heavy bottomed vessel, add the jaggery and water and allow it to melt. When it starts boiling, add the measured grated coconut.
- Keep stirring until you get a slightly solid consistency – one where you can make a poornam ball. ( This is almost similar to how we make the poornams for the Sweet Kozhukattais.)
- When its a little cool, make little poornam balls and set aside.
- Take a large lemon sized ball and make a dent with your thumb. Shape in to a form of a diya and drop a poornam ball inside the depsression. Now close the edges and seal it by twisting the top.
- Dust with a little flour and flatten them in to round chappathis, like you would do with an aloo paratha.
- Cook the sweet poornam filled chappathis over a hot tava greasing it with ghee or gingely oil.
- Sweet Wheat Poli with Coconut Jaggery Poornam is ready for Neivedhyam.
- It has a lot less oil and fat, and subsitution of wheat flour for all purpose flour makes it all the more healthier.
- Half the carbs – double the fun!!
- Sweet Wheat Polis are traditionally made in our household during Pongal.
This Karivepilai Kuzhambu is a great option on a day when you dont feel like going for simple home cooked satvik food. Many times I take this option on a sunday afternoon for lunch as its filled with pepper and curry leaves, both of which act as a cleanser for the stomach. Teamed with Milagu Jeeraga Rasam and Simple Beans Poriyal, its an awesome sunday lunch option.
1 1/2 Tsp Urad Dhal
2 Red Chillies.
1 Tsp Black Pepper.
1/2 Cup Curry leaves packed.
2 Cups Tamarind Water.
1 Tsp Bengal Gram.
A few Curry Leaves.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
- Wash the curry leave, pat them dry with a kitchen towel and allow to air dry for a few minutes.
- Roast the first three ingredients in about a spoon of gingely oil- Red Chillies, Pepper and Urad Dhal on a medium flame until you see them turn light brown and there is a gentle aroma.
- Add the washed and dried curry leaves and quickly turn down the flame.
- Pulse the roasted ingredients in the mixer until you get a coarse powder. Set asided.
- In a kadai, add about 2-3 tbsp of gingely oil and season with bengal gram and curry leaves. Add the tamarind water and the required amount of asfoetida, salt and turmeric powder.
- Add the pulsed powder and allow to simmer on a medium flame until the raw smell goes and some of the water evaporates and the kuzhambu thickens.
- When its cooked, dilute about 1/4 cup of water with a spoon of rice flour and mix it well. Add this to the kuzhambu for the thickening of it.
Eggless Low Fat Fudgy Avocado Chocolate Brownies.
“Forget Love, I`d rather fall in chocolate!!!”
Brownies have always been a favourite anytime snack at home. The little one had never been a great fan of anything sweet, but give her a chocolate brownie, and she loves to have a couple at least. I have tried all kinds of brownies, The best brownies ever, with a dollop of cream cheese I tried the Scream Cheese Swirl Brownies, and when I had to use up the Ghirardhelli Cocoa Powder, I made the Eggless Ghirardhelli Chocolate Brownie Bites!!! I was on a hunt for a brownie recipe that was eggless and moist yet fudgy. I love my brownies fudgy and moist and chewy on the inside and slightly crusty on the outside. Just Perfect! Pavithra`s version did inspire me a lot here and I came up with this version. Please try them in a small quantity , in your oven with the ingredients that you carry before you try them out for a get together or a party.
1 Large Avocado or 2 small mashed to a smooth puree.
1 cup All Purpose Flour.
1 1/2 Cup Milk Chocolate Baking Melts.
1/3 Cup Hot Water.
3 Tbsp Butter.
1 Cup Sugar.
1 Tsp Baking Powder.
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda.
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract.
- Mash the avocado to a smooth paste and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350F and prep the brownie pan with grease and parchment paper.
- Sieve the all purpose flour, baking soda and baking powder and mix them all together.
- Melt the chocolate chips and butter over low flame in a double boiler.
- Add the hot water to the avocados and mix them in. Follow up with the melted chocolate, sugar, and vanilla essence.
- Using a whisk, incorporate them all together and then slowly add in the dry ingredients – all purpose flour, baking soda and baking powder.
- Take care not to over mix the batter. Pour in to the prepared pan, smooth the surface and bake for about 25 – 30 minutes.
- When a toothpick inserted in to the brownie comes out clean, then its time to take it out and allow it to cool for about an hour.
- This is actually the time when the brownies set and come together.
- When its well cooled, use a bread knife and cut in to clean squares. If you DO NOT allow them to cool, they dont get sliced in to clean squares.
- Serve warm brownies with cold vanilla ice cream and a dollop of chocolate sauce.