Paneer Makhani Pizza

Paneer pizzas are a huge favorite in our house and this one is no different. From scratch pizza with a pillowy dough, quick makhani sauce made out of fresh tomatoes and topped with juicy paneer tikka. To add some kick, I add pickled jalapeños. This pizza is a riot of flavors in every bite.

Until last year, before lockdown, I considered as pizza one of the most casual food. Pizza nights were either take outs or something put together with off the shelf items from Trader Joe’s. Quick pizzas did the job but I knew in my heart that I was missing out on something.

Last year, when everyone was struggling to find yeast last year, so was I. But I kept looking and looking and nearly after a month I found yeast online. Took over 20 days to deliver and then started my quest for homemade pizza dough. 

Right from how the house smells while pizza bakes to how the dough feels between my fingers, the entire process of making pizza from scratch can be so gratifying.. It swells my heart to see kids enjoying desi pizza- one filled with orange sauce and topped paneer, it’s their huge favorite.

Desi pizzas are a huge hit in our home, here I make a quick makhani sauce and paneer tikka. You can use chicken as well instead of paneer. You can make the dough, the sauce as well as marinate the tikka ahead of time and just assemble and pop into the oven or pizza oven (if you have one) anytime for a quick treat!

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Paneer Makhani Pizza

A fusion indo – italian pizza with homemade pizza dough topped with makhani sauce, juicy paneer tikka and lots of cheese.
Course Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Indian, Italian
Prep Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 Pizza (12 inch)

Equipment

  • mixing bowls

Ingredients

Make the Pizza Dough

  • 2-2.5 cups all purpose flour (250-290gms)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (7gm)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Quick Makhani Sauce (Makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2.5 cups tomato puree (Simply blanch 4-5 large fresh tomatoes and puree them in blender)
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tbsp kasuri methi
  • 1.5 tbsp heavy cream

Paneer Tikka

  • 150 gms paneer cut in cubes
  • 1 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder or to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemom juice
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Pizza Toppings

  • Shredded low moisture mozarella cheese as much or as less you like
  • Sliced Onions as much or as less you like
  • Pickled Jalapenos as much or as less you like

Instructions

Make the pizza dough

  • In a small bowl, empty the yeast packet. Add 3 tbsp luke warm water (of the 3/4 cup), add sugar, give a gentle mix and let the yeast bloom for 5 minutes. You should see bubbles once bloomed else start over.
  • In a large bowl, add the 2 cups flour salt, olive oil and garlic powder. Using your fingers mix everthing well. You can add some dried herbs to the flour as well.
  • Pour the yeast mix over the flour. Add remaining water. Using your hand mixer attached with the dough hook, mix the dough for a minute on medium speed or so till it starts clumping around the hook into a ball.
  • On a floured surface, take out the dough ball and knead for 3-4 minutes until its smooth and springs back when you press it with a finger. Add a little flour if the dough feels wet at any point. Pizza dough should not be sticky but its a pretty soft dough.
  • Place the dough in a large oiled bowl. Rub the surface of the dough ball with some olive oil. Cover with a cloth or cling film and place in warm place to rise for 1-2 hours (depends on the tempetature of where you live). The dough should double in volume after the rise.

Make the Makhani Sauce

  • In a pan, warm up the butter and oil together. Add the whole spices – cloves, cardamom & cinnmaon and saute for 15 seconds. Add the onions to the pan and saute the onions till lightly browned for about 3 minutes.
  • Once the onions are browned, add the ginger garlic paste along with the powdered spices. Saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomato puree next and mix well. Let the tomato puree cook down for about 5 minutes tll you see that the sauce is thick and oil is starting to seperate. Switch off the stove. Dont dry the tomatoes too much, add 1/4 cup water if needed to make a thick slurry like consistency sauce.
  • Strain the makhani sauce into a bowl and immediately mix in the cream, garam masala and kasuri methi. Mix well. Makhani sauce is ready to go.

Make the Paneer Tikka

  • In a bowl, add all the ingredints except paneer. Using a whisk, mix well to make a smooth paste.
  • Add the paneer cubes and mix well to coat using your fingers. Marinate for 15 minutes.
  • Once marinated you can cook the paneer on a heated tawa brushing oil on all sides. Alternatively, you can skewer the paneer, brush oil and broil in oven for 3-4 minutes each side. Dont cook the panner too much since it will cook with the pizza as well.

Assebmle and Bake Pizza

  • Preheat ypur oven to 475 F. I use my seasoned cast iron skillet to bake pizza. You can use your baking sheet lined with parchment paper or pizza steel (if you have one).
  • Punch down the risen dough and on a floured surface, using your hands in a circular motion shape it in a circle.
  • Place the shaped pizza dough into the cast iron griddle/baking sheet/pizza steel.
  • Laddle makhani sauce on top of the dough leaving a little space from the edges. Add the shredded cheese over the sauce.
  • Place the paneer tikka, onions and jalapenos on top of cheese. Drizzle with a little oil.
  • Bake the dough for 8-12 minutes untill the cheese has melted and the edges are golden.
  • Slice & Serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Use chicken in this recipe instead of paneer to make chicken makkahi pizza.
  2. Use any kind of vegetables for topping.
  3. You make make all the elements 1-2 days in advance and assemble and bake the pizza. This dough rests well in the fridge for 2 days after proofing.  

Stuffed Paneer Paratha

Soft and delicious stuffed paratha(flatbread) perfect with a bowl of raita(yogurt) and chutney. These are super easy to make especially is you prep a bit ahead. Fresh homemade crumbled paneer is the best choice here. You can refer to one of my past posts on how to make paneer at home. That is exactly how I make fresh crumbled paneer for parathas. Just follow the steps and skip the block making part.

Over the years, I have changed this recipe a bit from my mom’s. I used to feel that fresh crumbled paneer tasted a bit chalky in a paratha when used as it is. So now I saute the crumbled paneer with spices before mixing it with onions, chllies and cilantro. The result is a very flavorful filling which is fragrant and has a lot of texture.

Keep a few things in mind when you are making these.

  • Make the dough fresh and rest it (super important). The dough should not be too tight or too soft, in either case you won’t be able to roll the parathas. It is also super important to knead the dough for about 5-8 minutes to smoothen it out, it helps develop the gluten which is important for the right texture of the parathas.
  • When you saute the paneer, dont dry it out or brown it, thats not the purpose. We just want to add a lot of flavor with spices crackled in oil and sautéed with paneer.
  • Cook the parathas on a medium hot skillet using enough oil. Flip them carefully because they will be soft. Don’t press too much.
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Stuffed Paneer Paratha

A soft and flavorful indian flatbread (paratha) stuffed with fresh paneer, herb and spices filling.
Course Breakfast, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 6 parathas
Author Tanvi

Equipment

  • Skillet, Rolling board and pin, 2 Bowls, Pan

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 1.5 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • luke warm water, as needed
  • Extra flour for dusting while rolling the parathas

For the Paneer Filling

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
  • Pinch of ajwain (carrom seeds)
  • 1 cup crumbled paneer
  • 3/4 tsp garam masala adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor
  • 1/4 cup onions finely chopped
  • 2-3 thai green chillies (adjust to taste) finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger finely chopped
  • Cooking oil as needed

Instructions

Making the Dough

  • In a large bowl, add the flour, oil and salt.
  • Gently mix with hands to combine everything together.
  • Start adding water slowly and mixing with the flour. Bring the flour together, adding water and squeezing continously with finger to bring it together to form a ball. I used a little over 1/2 cup water. Adjust water quantity depending on quality of the atta you are using.
  • Once the flour has come together, stop adding water and keep kneading for good 5-7 minutes or more to smoothen out into a soft ball, if at any point you feel that the flour is drying out or is too tight, add little water.
  • Once the dough is smooth and kneaded well, cover it with a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes.

Make the Filling

  • While the dough is resting, make the filling. Heat up 1 tbsp oil in a pan on low medium and crackle the cumin and ajwain seeds in there. Take take not to burn the spices. After 10 seconds, add the paneer and sprinkle all the powdered spices. Mix well and on low heat, saute the paneer for about 5 minutes. Dont let brown or dry out.
  • Once done, transfer to a bowl, let cool down a bit and add the chopped onions, ginger chillies and cilantro. Add a pinch of sugar. Mix very well. The filling is ready.

Make the Paratha

  • Place a tawa or cast iron griddle on the stove to heat up. Divide the rested dough into equal portions, you should get about 6 or 7.
  • Dust the dough portions in dry flour and roll into a 4 inch circle using a rolling pin. Place about 2 tbsp of filling in the center and bring around the sides of the dough to make a small round parcel.
  • Dust the rolling surface liberally and roll the stuffed dough parcel into a 7 inch circle. Dont press too much while rolling, ideally place yur rolling pin half on the surface and half on the dough for even rolling thickness. Make them as thick or thin you like.
  • Place the hot tawa. After 15 seconds, or when you see bubbles on top, flip the paratha, brush oil (about 1 tbsp), flip and let cook on oil side, brush oil on the second side, flip and cook till both the sides are golden. Dont press too much when cooking the paratha.
  • Repeat the above steps for the rest of the dough.
  • Serve wam with yogurt, butter, pickles or chutney.

Citrus Yogurt & Olive Oil Cake (Eggless & One Bowl)

A super soft yet a firm cake with a beautiful crumb. It has a rich tang of whole milk yogurt and fruity hints of olive oil in every bite. I have been making this eggless cake for many years and get asked for a recipe every time I share it on my Instagram page. The recipe is ridiculously simple and uses just one bowl (how easy!)

I added blood orange juice (can you see a faint pink hue?) because they are in season but any kind of citrus will work in this recipe- naval orange juice, meyer lemons or regular lemons. Just make sure that you squeeze the citrus juice fresh before using. To cut the sweetness of sugar and the richness of olive oil, you do need lots of acid – that why both yogurt & citrus come helping, dont worry the cake isn’t tangy.

I like to serve it with faintly sweetened whipped cream on the side , however, you can cover it with frosting if you wish so. As for the flavors- cardamom with its balmy lemony notes is my absolute favorite, however use rosewater, saffron, vanilla – whatever you fancy. Use this recipe as a blank canvas for any eggless cake.

Ideally I like using a 8 inch round cake pan, but if you don’t have one, that fine too, just use a 9 inch cake pan and the cake will be slightly flatter but as delicious.

Recipe

Ingredients (Makes one 8 inch Cake, serves 4-6)

  • 125 gms whole milk plain greek yogurt, room temperature & slightly beaten (see note)
  • 210 gms granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 125 ml good quality olive oil (please dont use extra virgin)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground cardamom powder
  • 205 gms all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream, soft whipped with 2 tbsp sugar for serving

Note – Please use thick (ideally greek) yogurt in this recipe. If you reside in a place where you dont have access to greek yogurt, use hung curd if your yogurt tends to be watery.

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray or brush an 8 inch round cake pan with olive oil. Line the base of pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the beaten yogurt, sugar, vinegar, olive oil, orange juice & zest, salt and cardamom. Whisk for good 2-3 minutes until everything is smooth and nicely combined.

Sift the flour and baking powder over the yogurt mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold the flour until all combined. Don’t over mix. Pour the cake batter into the prepped pan, it will be slightly runny.

Bake for 32-38 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Take the cake pan out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cake carefully (its soft and moist) onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.

Slice and serve with whipped cream and fruits.

Enjoy!

Shrimp Toasties

Buttery white bread topped with juicy fiery masala shrimp. A simplistic yet an elegant appetizer. These toasties are so wonderful with some drinks as starters or even as a snack anytime of the day. They are a blast of textures – crisped bread, succulent shrimp and fiery bite of green chillies.

I make the shrimp topping north indian style in a onion tomato ginger garlic masala but take this an as idea and cook your shrimp any way you like. On different occasions, I have tried south indian style with curry leaves and desiccated coconut as well as goan style with little kokum. If you have sea food lovers in the house these flavorful toasties will be a huge hit.

I wanted to use small or medium shrimp but could not find any so I used large sized.If you use a larger size shrimp as well, cut it up in bite size pieces. The recipe is pretty simple and quick. Make sure that the vegetables are finely chopped since the cooking times is not too long. Also if you are using frozen shrimp, thaw them properly and make sure that they are dry before adding to the pan.

Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 12 toasties)

  • 2-3 tbsp oil
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped onion
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies(or to taste)
  • 2 tsp tomato paste (or use 1 tbsp tomato puree)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • pinch of sugar
  • 18-20 large size raw shrimp, deveined and tail removed (cut into bite size pieces or if you can find smaller sized shrimp, use those)
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp toasted bread crumbs
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 white bread slices (sides removed and cut into quarters)
  • 2-3 tbsp melted butter (to brush on bread)

Notes

  1. If you are using frozen shrimp, thaw them properly and make sure to pat them dry before adding to the pan. we dont want any extra liquid while cooking.
  2. Add chilli flakes instead of green chillies if you wish.

Method

In a pan, heat up the oil. Add onions, ginger and garlic to the oil all at once and saute for 2 minutes on medium heat. We dont want to brown these but the raw smell should go away. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and green chilies next along with the spice powders & sugar. On medium heat saute for 4-5 minutes, stir a few times in between to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Let cook till the tomatoes cook down and you see little oil separating on sides of pan.

In the mean time, place the bread quarters on a baking tray and liberally brush with butter. Toast in a preheated 375F oven for 6-8 minutes until the bread is golden.

Once the masala has cooked nicely, lower the heat and add the shrimp and salt. Gently mix so that all the shrimp is coated in masala and let cook for 3-4 minutes till the shrimp are white and cooked through. Dont rush cooking the shrimp else they will turn rubbery. Cook and make sure that ALL the liquid has dried and the shrimp are coated in masala.

Switch off the stove, mix in the lemon juice, chopped cilantro and bread crumbs. You can add a pinch of garam masala as well if you wish.

Spoon the shrimp on toasted bread. Add few cilantro, green chillies or scallions and serve warm.

Enjoy!

Skillet Sage Honey Garlic Chicken

Saucy Skillet Sage Honey & Lemon Chicken. This post is sponsored by American Raw Honey. American raw honey is a small business based in Utah and they farm local raw honey. Their honey is sustainably and organically produced and is of superior quality. Do check them out.

I make a lot of chicken dinners though they don’t appear often here. Would you be interested in seeing more of such dinners? 

This is a super hectic week for us (including many of you moms out here) With it being the last week of the school year,my older one has ton of tests and assignment submissions. Evenings are going to be extra busy and the show will be run by easy dinners. 

I marinate chicken(dark bone in portions are my pick) in honey, fresh sage(it’s one of my favorite herb during this season), lemon, garlic, olive oil – few but intense flavors. A major chunk of the meal gets sorted since I have to just make easy sides while the chicken cooks. 

The marinade is so flavorful, it has such bold woody sweet notes. The honey is locally farmed in Utah and it’s such a good quality You can shop their products via their website.

Recipe

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallot
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 cup American raw honey‘s sage honey (
  • Few jalapeño slices(adjust to taste) 
  • Salt to taste 
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 4-6 chicken thighs, bone in 
  • Extra honey, sea salt or lemon wedges – for  serving. 

Method

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust the ingredients as per your liking- if you like tangy, add more lemon, if you like sweetish- add more honey. Using a whisk mix everything together. Keep the marinade on a salty side. 

Add the cleaned dry chicken pieces to a ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it. Close the bag and squish around so that the chicken is well coated in the marinade. Set in the refrigerated to marinate for atleast 12 hours. You can marinate for up to 2 days(it’s just gets better and better) 

Take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before ready to cook. Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade, dry a bit(not completely with a paper towel). Preheat oven to 400F . 

Warm 1-2 tbsp of oil in a cast iron skillet, once nicely warm, add the chicken skin side down in the skillet and let sear for 2-3 minutes. Using tongs, flip and sear on the other side. 

Plane the skillet in the oven and let chicken roast for 30-35mins(adjust depending on how big or small your chicken pieces are). If you using a thermometer, chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Let rest for 8-10mins and serve. 

-Enjoy

Lamb & Potato Stew

Meat and Potatoes. The universal comfort food. A ritual in my kitchen in the midst of cruel winters especially on days when the chilly winds clatter against the window panes, its grey and cloudy outside and inside my kitchen, meat is slow cooked long enough till it almost falls off the bone, the potatoes absorb all the flavor and the aroma of the spices permeates the atmosphere of house. A dish which evokes nostalgia of my mom’s mutton stew and of our first few years in the States.

My first tasting of lamb came in one of the ornate buffets here in Las Vegas in a mellow stew- crimson colored, cooked with carrots, speckled with herbs & tasting strongly of red wine. Since we do not consume a lot of lamb in India (mutton is more popular), we had only been roasting lamb rack ocassionally, completely oblivious of the fact how this meat would behave with spices. The tasting presented an opportunity to try it in my mum’s mutton & new potato slow cooked stouu , one in which the meat is first seared and then cooked for long good hours, often pushing lunch to evening tea time.

There is little match to the slow cooking method, for the meat slowly gives in to heat, the gelatinous flavor of the bone melts in the sauce lending it an unmatched edge over the rushed one.The key is to start ahead, much before meal time so that the stew does not miss a chance to rest for a couple of hours before serving. This stew is comforting, deeply flavorful & delicious with a earthly taste of starchy potatoes. You should give this a try before the winters go away!

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Lamb & Potato Stew

Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven

Ingredients

For the Stew

  • 1 lb stewing lamb
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil , substitute with cooking oil that you like to use
  • 1 whole black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 cup onions thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp hot red chilli powder adjust to tolerance
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2-3 small gold potatoes peeled
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • Salt to taste

Coarsely pound together

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 twig mace
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves

Instructions

  • Add the coarsely pounded spices to a bowl. Add the hot and kashmiri red chilli powder. Pour 1/4 cup of warm water, mix the spices into a paste and set aside.
  • In your dutch oven or any heavy bottom pot with lid, add the oil and let warm up for a few minutes until slightly smoky.
  • Add the black cardamom, cinnamom stick and bayleaf to the oil and saute for 10-15 seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  • Next, add the sliced onions, sprinkle a pinch of sugar and let the onions brown. Keep on cooking them with stirring in between for 7-8 minutes till the onions are dark brown. This is important for color of the stew.
  • Once the onions are browned, add the lamb to the pot. Cook the lamb on medium low heat with onions for 8-9 minutes stirring continously untill you see that the lamb is browned on all sides and the edges are starting to turn dark brown.
  • Add the spice paste next, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and mix well till the lamb pieces are covered in spices. Let the spices cook with lamb and onions for good 5 minutes. Make sure that they are not sticking to bottom. If you feel so, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Slowly you will see that the lamb will release its water and the contents of the pot will be slightly watery. Add 1/4 cup of hot water at this stage and cover the dutch oven.
  • Let the lamb slow cook for a low stove 2-3 hours(time depends on how big or small your pieces are as well as the quality of your meat). You will need to check time to time to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom, if so, add a splash of water.
  • Once the lamb is 90 percent cooked, keeping heat low, add the beaten yogurt and mix well rigrously else the yogurt will curdle. Saute the lamb with yogurt for 5-10 minutes untill you see oil bubbles on the sides of the pot. Check and adjust the salt at this stage. At this stage, lamb will be 95 percent cooked.
  • Add the potatoes to the pot, mix and cover the lid again.Let potatoes cook for 5-8 minutes or untill fork tender.
  • Once the meat and potatoes are done, take off the stove. Add nutmeg and gently mix everything well.
  • Let the stew rest for 2 hours before serving.

Green Masala Trout

Fish or any seafood is my preferred choice of protein any time of the year but particularly more during summer months. I will not bore you with stories of how lean and healthy and good for you it is, rather lets talk about the green masala that I slathered my fresh trout with.I must have laid my hands on this fresh catch after a decade or so.The last time I remember tasting trout was while on a family vacation to northern Himalayas where grilled trout was a local speciality and a lot of restaurants could be spotted showcasing it.

There are a lot of ways in which this green masala is prepared in different parts of india, depending on the region, but the basic herbs remain more or less the same. Most recipes, on the lines of green chutney, use a bunch of grassy cilantro, few mint leaves and (Thai or any hot)green chillies which are ground to a fine paste and then that green paste is your canvas. Add more flavorings to it. Think fresh desiccated coconut, think grainy brown mustard, think nuts, think capers, think soy sauce or maybe cheese.

Often,mom would make this.If you are a regular reader here, you would know that we grew up eating a lot of fish, which is slightly uncommon for north indian families, but we loved our seafood. She desiccated fresh coconut and mixed it with that herby, garlicky paste and then slathered it over rohu(indian green carp) steaks, coated in semolina  and pan-fried. The oily, milky shreds of coconut complemented the fatty fleshy protein even though coconut was not a very popular ingredient in her kitchen but somehow it worked in this recipe.The flavors are simple and fragrant.

In my recipe, I changed up things a bit and tried to make it glutenfree and used oven to cooking. The fish comes out moist and clean on the palate with simple, herby flavors.

Ingredients (Serves 1-2)

  • 1 trout, cleaned and descaled (weight about 1.5 lb)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, to drizzle
  • 3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro (from 18-20 sprigs)
  • 2-3 fresh mint leaves (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 ” shoot of fresh ginger
  • 1-2 Thai green chillies (or any hot chili, adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 2 tablespoon finely desiccated fresh coconut
  • 1-2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Few lemon slices to insert while baking (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoon olive oil (optional, only if needed during blending)
  • Oil for frying
  • salt to taste

Note – Make sure that the herbs etc and olive oil are of good quality in this recipe.The taste and freshness goes a long way in this recipe since they are the main flavors.

Method

Pat the trout dry. Drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle liberally on both sides as well as the slit inside with salt.Set aside for 10 minutes.

In a blender, place all the ingredients listed and pulse to make a fine paste. Do not use water to thin the paste. If needed, use olive or any neutral oil. Brush this paste on both sides of the fish, stuff inside the fish. Layer sliced lemon if using. Let sit for 25-30 minutes, refrigerated.

When ready to cook. Heat up the oven to 400 F. Heat up 2-3 tablespoon oil to smoking high in a cast iron (or any oven safe pan). Put the marinated fish in the pan and let sear for 2-3 minutes. Flip and let sear on the other side. Once the fish has seared, put the pan in the preheated oven and let cook for 8-10 minutes (this time will be more or less depending on the type of fish and the cut & weight, adjust accordingly)

If you do not have an oven, after searing on both sides, put the heat to low, cover the pan and let finish cooking on its juices for 8-10 minutes, flipping once in between for even cooking.

Once the fish has cooked, squirt some fresh lime juice to taste.Serve with some steamed vegetables of steamed rice.

Lauki-Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils With Summer Squash)

Each summer, last few days of school before the break started were hectic. Even after the vacations started, I remember going to school for extra classes during the high school year. By the time I returned home around noon, I was welcomed in the verandah of our house filled with the intoxicating aroma that emanated from the khus ki chik, a rustic kind of air conditioner made from reeds and laid in the form of window blinds, using the loo (indian summer winds) as a natural fan to cool the space inside. Clasping the finger numbing cold tumbler of rose sherbet that mom kept ready in the refrigerator, I stationed myself in the lobby to observed ladies of the house sitting on the jute chatai (mat) on the floor. There were all sorts of labelled containers of what is inside what around them and stained brass paraat (wide, shallow plates) infront. Sitting with legs neatly folded on top of each other, very immaculately, they picked the lentils, sometimes arguing teasingly or plainly gossiping about relatives and neighbors,their deft fingers, picking the little stones or unhusked bits all the time.They scanned through minute grains scattered in the shallow dish, separating one from the other, unmistakably picking out the hard inedible parts and segregating the cleaned portion towards the other side of the paraat. 

I guess ‘picking’ the lentils is a ritual followed in many indian homes, even though most of the lentils available in the markets these days are clean and processed. It’s a kitchen habit that is passed from a generation to other, more as a traditional than need. If it’s not an arduous number of hours to be spent, a vigilant scan of the beans and lentils is what I go through each time I am about to wash or soak. 

In those years, it was dal – chawal for lunch or dinner  everyday. The variety of lentil changed and so did its preparation and tempering but the menu, though a bit monotonous remained comforting. On bright, sunny summer evenings, chunks of fleshy lauki (indian summer gourd) were added to chana daal, slow cooked till the squash softened and then the turmeric hued boiled lentils were topped with a tadka (tempering) of slow caramelized onions & browned garlic, filling the kitchen with aroma of ghee & smoky cumin & green chillies. Fresh dhaniya (coriander leaves), exuberantly priced during summer months was especially purchased from our daily vegetable vendor, to be finely chopped and scattered while the daal was still hot. It did make a lot of difference.

If you know even a little about indian food, you would know that lentils are an everyday part of our meals, be it any time of the year. There are numerous ways of preparing and tempering them, native to each region of the country. The flavorings can vary from coconut, sugar, garlic to tomato based to curried to what not. This daal is my summer favorite. I guess every family has its own twist on it. Some temper it with just cumin, leaving out the garlic or onions, while some prepare it with coconut and mustard seeds. I had the opportunity to taste a variation tempered with curry leaves at one of my friend’s place. There is no right or wrong, just a choice. This is the beauty of indian food, it has no set rules. The same basic ingredients convert to a delicious outcome depending on who is handling them.Here, in my recipe, you could or could not add the squash even though it makes it hearty. Paired with rotis or steamed rice, salad and a dollop of chili achaar, it is such a satisfying complete meal for hot evenings.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 3/4 cup chana daal (bengal gram lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped (yield about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped (optional, adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 2-3.5 cups of water (adjust depending on the desired consistency)
  • 1 small bottle gourd (peeled and cut into 2″ batons)
  • Lime juice to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

For the Tadka (Tempering to be added after the lentils have cooked)

  • 3-4 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small clove
  • generous pinch of hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2-3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 dried whole kashmiri chillies
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)

Notes

  • Replace lauki (bottle gourd) with your choice of summer squash (yellow squash is a good choice over green ones). You can skip the squash all together too.
  • The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time would be more.
  • Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form.A little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to daal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
  • If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but any neutral oil or olive oil is fine.

Method

Thoroughly wash the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes,  ginger (if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 3-4 whistles (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30-40 minutes or till 95% cooked.

Once you open the lid, with the help of a whisk or a spoon, mash the lentils a bit so that they are chunky-smooth consistency. I like my lentils to have some texture, however you can mash them to consistency desired.

Add the chunks of lauki and return the pressure cooker to the stove. Cover with a plate or a lid and let simmer (not pressure cook) on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the gourd is completely soft.  If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Ideally, for this kind of daal, once it’s cooked, the grain should be intact in its shape but completely soft or cracked to look at.

While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds & clove, let crackle, about 15-20 seconds. Add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the onions and garlic and let cook till they are golden brown, taking care not to burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and cover so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Scatter with chopped cilantro and serve warm.

Stay Spicy.

Hot & Sour Chicken (Indo Chinese)

If you asked me about what eating out during childhood years meant, I would have nothing vivid to recollect about fine dining and celebratory dinners. Except for may be the street foods which we gorged on every other evening at Arun Chaat Bhandar, a tiny one room eatery which had been around ever since I have known,the restaurant trips were rare. More so because my grandmother and mother had this undying wish to recreate all kinds of food in their kitchen and less because eating out was not as big part of the indian culture during the 1980s as it is now-a-days. You can gauge that from the fact that whenever I tell my mother about anything non indian food that my daughter likes her play school, she asks me to look up the recipe on internet and cook it for her. ‘Ghar par hi bana do, accha rahega“, cook at home, it will be far better in taste, she tells me. Well, we will keep it for another day as to how I go about her suggestions (wink!) but coming back to my chidlhood days, other than the chaat corner, the other place that me and my siblings looked forward to was indo chinese food at ‘Sabus‘, a neon red-painted food van permanently situated at the front of the back wall of an old housing complex, itched with graffiti of an indian comic character, Sabu, a monstrous alien from planet Jupiter, huge & strong, bald and muscular,always wearing gumboots. It would be slightly untrue to state that we loved eating at that van just because of the noodles, there was more fun in the form of free stickers, liquid filled transparent chopsticks and cheap stamps if you placed a large order. Unlike the food trucks in the States, that red van without tyres was a lot dilapidated, with a much tamed down kitchen as far as cooking facilities & techniques available, but the food from there made sure that the street infront always smelled of soy & spices. You know that burnt, fermented savory ‘stink’?, when the soy bubbles & splutters when as soon as it hits the hot as volcano wok, that! As I write this, I can still remember the taste of food there from some 20 years ago, of the greasy chowmein and the scarlet colored chilli chicken. “It’s all in the wok”, the little Nepalese guy with golden hair and wrinkly forehead replied whenever questioned about his recipes or where he got his condiments.

My mom has been making this hot and sour chicken for so many years, the only difference being that she serves it with a runny sauce than what we ate at Sabus. I follow her recipe mostly except that I do not deep fry the chicken, rather lightly sear it before proceeding to make the sauce.This recipe is more of for an appetizer or starter course than the mains, however the husband insists on combining it some steamed jasmine rice each time. Any which way, the way that garlic & hot chili laced sauce with hints of tomato, soy and fresh cracked black pepper combines with vinegar soaked succulent morsels of chicken is just too delicious. Try it!

A tangy fusion dish of vinegar soaked chicken stirred with garlic – chili paste, soy and spices. 

  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs,skinless
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce ((I use Ching’s brand)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, fresh cracked
  • 1.5 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoon of oil (for skillet frying)

Notes:

  1. Use tofu, paneer and assorted vegetables for a vegetarian version of this recipe.
  2. If you would like to deep fry the chicken before adding to the sauce, mix 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon corn starch when you marinate.

For the Sauce

  • 6 fresh garlic pods
  • 2 whole fresh Fresno chillies (or any hot chili pepper, adjust to tolerance, de seed if you like )
  • 2 teaspoon dark soya sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
  • 2 tablespoon chilli tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet, substitute with Sriracha & 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or use 1.5 – 2 tablespoons Sambal oelek )
  • 1.5 tsp honey (or brown sugar, adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pure, untoasted sesame oil (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water
  • 3-4 tbsp oil (I used sunflower, use any neutral oil)
  • 5 scallion stalks, white & green cut separately
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 – 2 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste, or use a few dashes of balsamic vinegar)
  • For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts)

Method

Preparation

Clean the chicken, pat it dry. Cut the cleaned chicken into bite size pieces. Rub it with garlic, chili, soy sauce, salt & pepper, vinegar and let sit for about 25-30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, using your mortar and pestle or mini processor, crush the garlic and Fresno chillies to tiny bits.You could use some water if required for blending.

In a small bowl, mix up the soy sauce, chili tomato sauce, honey and sesame oil(if using). In another bowl, mix the cornstarch with the stock and set aside.

Cooking

In a wide skillet (I used my 12″), heat up 2-3 tbsp of oil on high. Pick up the marinated chicken pieces, shake to release vinegar and layer on the skillet and let sear on both sides, flipping in between. Make sure that the chicken pieces cook all the way through. This may take about 7-8 minutes or more depending on the size of pieces.

Once done, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and reserve the drippings in the skillet itself.

Add the 3 tbsp oil into the same skillet and heat it up on medium. Add the crushed garlic chili paste  and fry up these for 20-30 second or so till you smell the aroma. Be careful that the garlic does not burn (else it will be bitter). Next add the chopped onions and scallions (white parts) and cook on medium high for 3-4 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the tomatoes next and let cook till they begin to soften. Next, add the ginger along with the soy sauce mix made earlier, let cook for 3-4 minutes till everything starts looking glossy or till you see bubbles on the sides. Next, add the cornstarch mix to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-3 minutes till the sauce thickens slightly.

Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the red chili flakes & vinegar to the skillet and stir everything well. Add the chicken & toss so that the pieces are evenly coated.

Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.

Matar Paneer

I always feel that I end up cooking many dishes just to re-create a special memory, securely nestled in my heart from the years gone by or from days of growing up. Sometimes the sight of the familiar ingredients at the store brings in with itself such a gush of thoughts that I won’t have anyother way except cheering myself up in the kitchen with them,cooking up a storm to recreate those flavors. Fresh peas during spring time, is one of such thing. For less than a second,the sight of exuberantly prized organic sweet peas at the grocer last week made little sense coupled with the effort required to prepare them. But then, I could not walk away without securing a pound in my cart to make some this luscious matar paneer – fresh shelled peas and soft unaged cheese in a spicy sauce redolent of sweet-smelling cardamom and sharp hints of cinnamon and cloves in contrast to the sweetness of the vegetable.

I don’t remember a single time during childhood when we ate frozen peas.Fresh peas were a winter treat and the only way. My grandmother and other women of the family, after serving lunch, geared up for dinner,pulling chairs around the takht (a very old wide wooden bench still going strong in verandah of my badi mummy’s house), settling down with cups of cardamom chai and spent few good hours to shell three or four kilos of grassy, plum pods, gossiping about the neighbors or the relatives, working with remarkable patience, a virtue that comes hard to me when I know there is a ready to use pouch inside the freezer.

When I am engrossed in such strong weaved memories, at times, it becomes difficult to tear away and lend to the present. The joy continues, the nostalgia gets compelling. When I spent about half hour over the weekend in the company of these fresh peas I got, I felt like a child again, badi mummy teasing me to lend help and just not nibble on the seeds.It was raining outside and I felt like a child again,some eighteen or twenty years back, me wearing hand knitted, red colored socks,running away with fistfuls of matar dana. All laughs, so much fun.

Then suddenly, I feel the warmth of my daughter from behind, trying to lift her body on heels to reach for the bowl of seeds that I just shelled.Her smile breaks the array of thoughts. She is like mommy.

Matar paneer is a classic north indian dish. I have always liked it on the spicy side with the creaminess limited to that from the paneer (fresh indian cheese). Each home in india has its own version of it, there is nothing wrong or right become curry are so versatile that way.The curry is naturally gluten free since paneer is a gluten free cheese. You can very easily make this recipe vegan friendly using tofu, or any other vegan substitute. I am sharing my mom’s recipe with a little bit of extra spices added in.

Printable Recipe

Matar Paneer – Fresh Peas & Indian Fresh Cheese in a aromatic and spicy tomato – onion sauce

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 medium tomatoes (yield about 3/4 cup fresh tomato puree)
  • 1 fat garlic
  • 6 oz paneer (about 200 grams, homemade or store-bought, cubed, use extra firm tofu for vegan)
  • 1/4 cup mustard oil (or use olive/vegetable oil)
  • 1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1 clove
  • 1/4 inch piece of dalchini (cassia bark, substitute with 1/2 inch piece of regular cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste, substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (this lends the color not the heat, substitute with paprika)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup -1 cup water (depending on the desired consistency of sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi, crushed between palms
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoon of heavy cream (optional, I did not use, skip for vegan )
  • Fresh cilantro & ginger juliennes to garnish and serve

Method

If you are using fresh peas, shell the pods. If using frozen, thaw the peas.

Blend the tomatoes along with garlic to a fine puree. Set aside.

Soak the paneer cubes in warm water. Set aside. If using tofu, dry it using paper towels, cube it and let sit.

Heat up the mustard oil in a large pot, wait till you see little ripples on the surface, add the onions along with cardamom, clove, dalchini & cumin seeds.Saute for 5-6 minutes till the onion start to turn light brown.

Add the coriander, turmeric, red chili, kashmiri chilli powder next and sauté for less than a minute. Add the blended tomatoes and reduce heat to low.Let cook slowly till you see little bubbles of oil separating on sides of the pot and the spice paste glistening. At this point, add the peas along with chopped ginger,add salt, stir to combine together with spice paste and on low heat, saute for 3-4 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup water, mix well and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for about 15-20 minutes till the peas are soft (but not mushy).Uncover and add the kasuri methi and garam masala along with paneer cubes. Stir, and again cover and on low heat, let simmer for another 10-12 minutes.

Add the heavy cream (if using) next and simmer (not boil) on very low heat for another 2-3 minutes.Once the sauce has simmered, let sit for at least 45mins -1hour or till ready to serve.

Once ready to serve, warm up the sauce and serve immediately. You can garnish with cilantro, extra cream and ginger juliennes.

Serve with rice or flatbreads.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stay Spicy!