Sunday, December 23, 2012

Easy Paneer Makhni (Butter Masala)

I am sure everyone is in a holiday  mood and is relaxing with family and friends - I have the week off and have a huge list of things I want to do but with both kids at home, I'm not sure how far on the list I'll get but atleast it will be some much needed downtime. There may also a fair bit of entertaining going on. It's always fun and satisfying to invite people home, cook for them and watch them enjoy the food.

The recipe that I have here today is one that is super easy to whip up and a definite crowd pleaser. It requires no grinding and tastes as decadent and rich as something  you would get from a restaurant. This would be great for a pot luck dish too. You could even add some peas to the dish for a twist.

PANEER MAKAHNI / BUTTER MASALA



Ingredients:

Paneer - 300 to 400 gms
Butter - 1 tbsp

Tomato paste - 6oz (canned)
Evaporated milk - 1 to 1.25 cups OR Heavy Cream (half cup)
Onion - small one, minced super fine (about quarter cup)
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp (optional)
Chilli powder - 1 to 2 tsp (2 for spicy and 1 for mild)
Coriander powder - 1.5 tsp
Cumin powder - half tsp
Garam Masala - 1 tsp
Sugar - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Kasuri Methi - 2 tsp, crushed between fingers
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp chopped

Method:
1) Heat butter and saute onion and ginger garlic paste for a few minutes. (You can omit both onion and ginger garlic and you will still have a tasty curry).
2) Blend together the tomato paste (since it's usuall very thick in consistency) with about 3 cups of water.  Stir in the chilli, coriander, cumin, garam masala powders. Also add sugar and salt.

3)Pour tomato mixture into pan with onions and garlic and allow to come to a boil. Reduce flame to medium low and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.
4) Cube paneer and add to gravy and allow to boil on medium for 5 mins. (I did not fry the paneer and felt that it was softer and creamier this way).
5) Stir in the evaporated milk/heavy cream at this point - will turn to a lovely orange, heat through for a minute or two (allowing it to boil may curdle the evaporated milk). Switch off the stove and sprinkle kasuri methi and coriander leaves.
The paneer makhni is now ready to be served with rotis/pulaos.

Wishing you all a Merry Xmas, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year ahead (in case I don't get to post again this month).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Caramel Candies and Gift Ideas

Making candy at home is always exciting and knowing how it will thrill my kids I was really looking forward to making these Salted Caramels by David Lebovitz... the process sounded relatively simple, I had all the ingredients and a candy thermometer so I just had to find some free time and I was good to go.  I decided to included these caramels in the gift packs I was planning to give my neighbours and my daughter's teacher at school. I got these cute cookie tins at Walgreens (they are seasonal)... and filled them with homemade goodies and a handmade card.

The candies turned out exactly as I had hoped though I did not add any fleur de sel. I had no problems with them sticking to each other and was able to store them in a ziploc bag at room temperature. But I wrapped them individually when gifting.

HARD CARAMEL CANDIES ( makes approx 50 pcs)


Ingredients:
Heavy Cream - 3/4 cup
Salt - half tsp + a pinch more (since I used unsalted butter)
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 cup
Light Corn Syrup - half cup
Butter - 4 tbsp, at room temperature

Method:
1) In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream, 2 tbsp butter, salt and vanilla extract until the mixture begins to boil. Switch off, cover and let it stay warm.

2) Meanwhile in a heavy, deep pan (I used a 3 qt stainless steel one), combine the sugar and corn syrup and heat on medium - stirring a few times initially and later leaving it untouched until it boils and reaches a temperature of 310F  (155C) on the candy thermometer - it took me about 10 minutes and the mixture turned a light golden colour at this point.

3) Turn off the heat and stir in the warm cream mixture. I took a step back when doing this in case there was any splattering but it was quite safe.  Stir this until smooth.

4) Line a loaf pan with some heavy duty aluminium foil and spray some oil on it evenly.

5) Reheat this caramel mixture (again on medium) till it reaches 260F (127C) on the candy thermometer. The mixture will be bubbling throughout this process and this took me about 15-20 minutes to get to this stage.

6) Updated 13/Dec(forgot to add this step) Remove caramel mixture from stove and add cut pieces of the remaining 2 tbsp butter and keep stirring until smooth and shiny.

7) Pour this into the pan when done and allow to cool - about 30 minutes later, turn over the caramel bar from the pan,  peel the foil and cut into pieces.... if you wait until it cools completely it can become too hard to cut, so don't wait until it's completely cooled. I sprayed a bit of oil on the knife to prevent any sticking.

Here's a picture of the goodies that we packed as gifts - it included Pumpkin Rolls (with Cream cheese icing), chewy Oatmeal Raisin cookies and these Caramel candies. My daughter made the Santa cards to go with it.

For more fabulous ideas for food gifts please check out: Nupur's blog and Sala's blog.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thai Drunken Noodles / Pad Kee Mao

This is a dish that I almost always order when we eat at a Thai restaurant... I definitely prefer this to pad-thai and love the spicy kick it has with the fragrance of thai basil permeating the entire dish.  Even though it is pretty spicy, this is something my daughter loves to eat and it's usually accompanied with a whole lot of hissing and several gulps of water but she still finds it irresistible. We had a restaurant near our home where this dish was made really well but unfortunately they closed a while ago. So, here's my recreation of the dish at home but I didn't have the flat noodles they use but had the rice noodles that they use for pad thais so decided to substitute that instead. Please make sure to get Thai basil.. it lends the authentic flavour to this dish.

THAI DRUNKEN NOODLES - serves 2 to 3


Ingredients:
Rice noodles (dry) - half lb (Half of a packet)
Firm Tofu - half packet (drained and pressed for a few hours atleast)
Carrots - 2, peeled and sliced into thin circles
Beans - about 10 to 12, cut into 1 inch pieces
Broccoli - 1 cup, small florets
Baby bok choy - 1, leaves coarsely chopped and stem sliced into long, thin pieces
Bell peppers (red/green) - half of a big one, sliced into long, thin pieces
Cherry tomatoes - handful, sliced into halves
Thai Basil - about 1 cup, coarsely torn (this is important to get the authentic flavour)
Onion - half of a big one, sliced into 1 inch pieces
Garlic - 6 to 7 cloves, peeled and minced finely
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp

Sauces:
Sambal Olek (Red chilli paste) - 2 tbsp
Soy Sauce - 1 to 2 tbsp
Sriracha - 1 to 2 tbsp (or more to taste)
Maggi Hot and Sweet Sauce - 1 tbsp - this is not authentic but i thought it would lend a slight sweetness
Black pepper powder - half tsp

1) Pan fry tofu and keep aside. Soak the rice noodles in hot water for about 10 minutes or till softened but still firm

2) Microwave the beans, broccoli and carrot for about 4 to 5 mins (I find that this reduces cooking time significantly). No need to add water, just put them on a microwaveable plate and microwave as is.
3) Heat oil in a wide pan or wok (I used a non-stick skillet), and add the minced garlic, then add the sliced onions and when they soften a bit, add the bell peppers and bok choy stems. Allow this to cook for several minutes.
4) Add the microwaved veggies, tomatoes and the sambal paste and a bit of salt at this stage and saute the whole mixture of a medium high heat for several minutes.
5) Meanwhile toss the softened rice noodles with the soy sauce, sriracha, maggi and black pepper powder until coated evenly.
6) Once the veggies are tender crisp, add the rice noodles and mix thoroughly. Now add the pan fried tofu and thai basil as well and toss them till well coated.
7) Rice noodles are generally more sticky so keep tossing them around constantly. Check for seasonings and adjust accordingly.
8) To get the toasted, crisp edges like you get in restaurants, I then heat a wide non-stick pan and spread a small amount of noodles and let them cook on a medium flame, turning them over (not tossing) about 5-6 minutes later to get them crisped up a bit. Do this in 2 batches.
9) Serve hot with some wedges of lemon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Badam (Almond) Burfi

We've been having some wonderful weather the past two days and I've been making sure I go out for a walk to maximize it..  My dad found this pathway which is surrounded by tall trees and has a small brook flowing alongside it.... it's usually very peaceful and quiet there save for the scurrying of some squirrels, tweeting of birds and the occassional deer or two grazing and running to hide. It's always relaxing to walk there and kind of just be away from the usual things that keep us occupied. I'm so thankful that my dad discovered this place.

Anyway coming back to the recipe today... I usually have a big bag of almonds and I love that this is a sweet that doesn't need too much ghee. But it involves making sugar syrup and usually it's not something that I am very confident about but after seeing this very informative post on Chitra's blog and I pretty much used that and I had no trouble getting the right stage... The good thing about sugar syrups is that there's no active stirring (infact it's not recommended), just let it boil away and thicken while you attend to other things... I kept checking the consistency every 5 mins or so and the syrup was ready in abt 15-20 minutes. I first dip my fingers in a bowl of water before testing the syrup. Once the syrup reaches the right consistency, the sweet comes together in a few more minutes.

This is not very sweet so you could increase the sugar if you want it to be sweeter. It has a soft, fudge like consistency.
BADAM BURFI (makes about 30 to 40 1.5 inch burfis)



Ingredients:
Badams/Almonds - 1.5 cups
Sugar - 1.5 cups
Milk powder - 1/3 cup, optional (I used Nestle Everyday)
Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1 tbsp + enough to grease a medium sized plate/tray
Water - half cup

Method:

1) Soak Almonds overnight covered with water. For a quick method, you could put the bowl of almonds covered with water and microwave for 4 to 5 minutes and then let it soak for about 30 minutes. Peel the badams and dry them completely.

2) Grease a plate or tray with ghee and keep ready

3) Powder the badams in the mixie, in small batches - it will be kind of pasty. If it's really impossible to grind them finely then add a tbsp or two of milk to help with the process - I didn't have to resort to that though my mixie did stop a few times so I had to allow it to take a few breaks.

4) Mix the powdered badams with the milk powder(if using)

5) In a thick bottomed pan, add sugar and water and allow to melt and come to a boil on medium flame. Then reduce the flame a bit and allow to simmer (no stirring) until it reaches the one string consistency. This takes about 15-20 minutes but you dont have to do anything actively to the syrup during this time. After about 10 minutes have passed, I dipped my fingers into a bowl of water and then into the syrup and tested the 1-string consistency using my thumb and forefinger - please refer to this very helpful pictorial.

6) Once the one-string consistency is there, add the almond-milk powder mixture and stir vigorously for about 5-7 minutes more. When it starts to leave the sides of the pan, add a tbsp of ghee and remove from the stove.

7) Pour the mixture into the greased plate or tray and allow to cool a bit before cutting into squares and serving.