Tag Archives: paneer

Herby Paneer Parcels – a BBQ idea for Vegetarians

Herby Paneer Parcels

Herby Paneer Parcels

My brother-in-law and I have a tradition of sorts. For the past few years, every Mother’s Day, he and I get together and cook brunch for our better halves. This year, we started out by thinking of doing a grill-based brunch. However, lacking time and ideas, we ended up with just one dish that used the grill. And it was this one.

Surprisingly easy to make, it tastes great. The trick is to really get the paneer (recipe here) to marinate. With summer and Memorial Day approaching, I thought I’d put this out there as an idea to throw in a vegetarian BBQ dish in the mix.

For a change I followed the recipe to a T so here is the link for it.


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Cheese Tomato – a taste of Roorkee

Cheese Tomato

Cheese Tomato

I went for undergrad to an institute in a small town in Northern India – Roorkee. Our idyllic campus was located close to the foothills of the Himalayas (we could see snow-capped mountains on clear days from our campus) and was home to our institute (the oldest engineering college in India, now IIT Roorkee), the Irrigation Research Institute and a large Army cantonment. That’s it. Nothing else. The reason for this town’s existence were these three institutions.

While it made for a near-utopian existence, Roorkee wasn’t exactly an epicurean paradise. There were, however, a few shining points of light. Bhatia’s Bun Omelette – imitated often, never equaled (a version here), and Cheese Tomato were two of them. Cheese Tomato, a variation of Paneer Makhani (a version here), was a staple at pretty much every restaurant in town. Though I have traveled far and eaten plenty since my Roorkee days, the taste of Cheese Tomato has remained with me and one I have never been able to replicate, till now.

Recently an old friend and excellent cook, Hani Gupta, posted a recipe for Roorkee-style Cheese Tomato. As inclined as I am to never following recipes exactly, I decided to follow this one to the letter to see if I could recreate the taste of my youth. I am happy to report the recipe comes pretty darn close to the Cheese Tomato I remember. So without further ado, here it is.

INGREDIENTS (for 8-10 people)

1 lb paneer (cut into triangles about 1.5 inches on 2 sides and 1/2 inch thick)
1 Tbsp grated paneer (for garnishing)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp butter (or ghee)
1 large or 2 medium onions (peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces with layers separated)
1 Tbsp heaped ginger garlic paste
10-13 medium tomatoes – about 2.5 – 3 lbs. Use Heirloom tomatoes if you can for better flavor. Blanched, and chopped into 1 inch chunks.
½ cup low fat milk (heat the milk just before adding)
1 tsp garam masala (or to taste)
2-3 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (for color) – totally optional
Red chilli powder (optional, to taste
1 Tbsp Kasoori Methi (crush Kasoori Methi well, you will need 2-3 Tbsp kasoori methi to get 1 Tbsp powder. Sieve the powder to remove the stalks)
Salt (to taste)
2 Tbsp honey (or to taste. This is the secret ingredient for that restaurant quality flavor)

1. In a thick bottom karahi (wok) or saucepan, add 1 Tbsp oil and heat.

2. Add ginger garlic paste and fry for a few seconds. Don’t let turn pink. This is just to cut the pungency of garlic.

3. Add onions and fry till they sweat to translucence.

4. Add chopped tomatoes, and stir.

5. Add cashews, a little salt and cook covered till the tomatoes and onions are well cooked but not pink. Ensure that there is no raw smell of ginger, garlic, onion or tomato at this point. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see the oil separating out yet.

6. Let the cooked mix cool down and then grind into as fine a paste as possible. Make sure you don’t see any tomato seeds in the paste.

7. Heat another tablespoon of oil and let it warm. Then add butter. This will prevent the butter from turning brown. To this add red Kashmiri chilli powder. This will give a beautiful red color to the oil. NOTE: If your tomatoes are of good quality you don’t need to add color.

8. Add the ground paste and stir well. If you are adding the canned tomato sauce, add it now. Tomato sauce can be a little sweet or tart depending on the brand.

9. Add salt, stir well and cook well covered on medium, making sure the paste does not stick to the bottom. When the gravy is cooked, add the honey and Kasoori Methi and stir again.

10. Add Garam Masala and Red Chilli powder.

11. Now add hot milk and incorporate well into the gravy. Remember not to boil or the milk may curdle.

12. Finally add the Paneer pieces and gently fold in the gravy so as not to break the Paneer pieces.

13. Cover and cook for another 5 mins on sim. Serve garnished with grated paneer (and more melted butter if you want, but I don’t). This is an excellent accompaniment with an Indian bread of your choice or some Basmati rice.

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An attempt an Indian Style Pizza


Paneer Pizza with Green Pepper and Red Onion - Indian Style

Paneer Pizza with Green Pepper and Red Onion – Indian Style

I read somewhere that of all the foods in the world, Pizza is the most universal. Having traveled to a few countries (35 at the last count) I can vouch for the fact that there has been Pizza everywhere I have been to, usually with a local twist in most cases. Nowhere is this more evident than India where even the chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut have Pizzas catering to local tastes (Paneer Vegorama anyone?). Two things are evident very quickly to anyone who has eaten Pizza in India – a) The sauce is spicy, almost curry-like and b) there has got to be Paneer (Indian Cheese) incorporated into the recipe.

Over the years while I have gotten better at making Italian style Pizza, I have not had much success with the Indian style version. My first attempt of using a Korma sauce with Paneer was disastrous, the second attempt was marginally better – I used a spicy tomato sauce and a combination of Paneer and Fresh Mozzarella as the topping, but as they say, third time is a charm, plus this time I had help. My friend Vipin Sachdev who owns Tuscana – a Pizzeria in Chennai, connected me with his Chef, Hari who was very helpful. So using the overall design guidelines of Chef Hari, I made another attempt at an Indian style pizza. It was quite good. The Margherita is still my favorite (see here) but this is a good variation.

Here is what I did. Since I was winging it, the recipe is approximate but you should get an idea of what I did with it. I will post a recipe once I fine-tune it.

For the sauce I sauteed onion/garlic/ginger paste with some Tomatoes and Chilis. I used salt and Garam Masala for seasoning. It was basically a Tomato-based sauce for a North Indian curry. I then pureed it.

For the topping, I used Red Onion and Green Peppers. For the cheese, a combination of crumbled Paneer and Fresh Mozzarella in approximately, and this is important so the Paneer does not dry up too much, a 1:1 ratio of Paneer to Mozzarella.

When it was done, I drizzled it with some thin plain yogurt and cilantro. Not a bad Pizza at all.


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Taste from my childhood – My Mom’s Cabbage Kofta

Cabbage Kofta with Chapattis

This, most definitely, is a landmark post. This is post #100. What better way to celebrate it than to post one of my mom’s recipes.

My parents are visiting me from India right now. My mom is an excellent cook and my first cooking teacher. While growing up, we almost always had home cooked meals and me and my siblings could care less about my mom’s cooking, we wanted to eat out. It’s funny how things change, I can’t get enough of her cooking now. The Cabbage Kofta was a regular item on the dinner menu but one I hadn’t had in years. So when my mom made it the other night, I was reminded of how good it was. Though my mom uses a standard North Indian – Onion-Garlic-Ginger-Tomato gravy, a tomato based gravy like Paneer Makhani gravy (click here) should work too. Instead of Paneer, use Koftas instead.

The Indian culture has a history of absorbing foreign influences and putting an Indian twist on them. Koftas are a case in point. Koftas are a staple of Middle-Eastern cooking. Traditionally, they are spicy meatballs that are deep fried and then served with or without gravy. Kofta dishes in Indian cooking most likely evolved from dishes that would have come with invaders from the Middle East and Afghanistan. They were, over a period of time, adapted for the Indian palate by incorporating them with rich gravies. And given the prevalence of vegetarianism in India, there are any number of vegetarian Kofta dishes even though the origins are definitely meat based.

Anyway, enough commentary, here’s the recipe, enjoy.

INGREDIENTS (for 6 adults)

For the Koftas

Half a finely shredded cabbage

4 Tbsp Gram Flour (Besan) *

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

Oil for deep frying

For the Gravy

1 Medium Onion

1 Medium Tomato

1 inch piece ginger

5-6 cloves of Garlic

1 Tbsp Cooking Oil

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1/2 tsp Red Chili powder

1 tsp Coriander powder

1 tsp Garam Masala


1. Make Koftas first. Heat oil in a wok or kadhai or a deep saucepan.

2. Add the gramflour, Garam Masala and salt to the shredded cabbage. Shape the mixture into two inch long croquettes and squeeze hard till the water leaves the mixture. Deep fry them till they are dark brown (see picture below).

*Start with 2 Tbsp of Gram Flour, keep adding more till you can form firm croquettes with the shredded cabbage.

Cabbage Koftas being degreased

3. Set them on a paper towel to drain and soak the oil.

4. Next, make the gravy. Blend the onion, tomato, ginger and garlic in a blender.

5. Heat 1 Tbsp of cooking oil in a saucepan. Add the blended mixture from 4.

6. Add the turmeric, chili powder and coriander powder and cook till the mixture starts to brown.

7. Add some water to make a thick gravy.

8. Add salt to taste and the Garam Masala.

9. Add the premade Koftas, bring to a boil and serve with a bread of your choice or boiled rice.

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Lunch Special – Shibani’s Spinach Corn Sandwich with a Chipotle flavored sauce

Shibani’s Spinach and Corn Sandwich

Every time I visit India now I am blown away by how good the food is. Being a country of foodies, even airline food rocks. The best part is that even on domestic flights, there are meal options (though on discount airlines you have to buy the meals). On my flight from Bangalore to Delhi, I noticed that among the many veggie sandwiches on offer were

  • A Spinach and Corn sandwich
  • A Paneer with Tomato Gravy sandwich
  • Mushrooms, Baby Corn and Olive Sandwich

Though I didn’t try any of them, I was quite intrigued by the combinations. So with some recently acquired local fresh spinach sitting in the fridge, when the picky daughter asked what she will have for lunch the next day, we decided to brainstorm. We started off with the spinach and remembering the spinach/corn combo, decided to throw in the corn as well. I threw in some onion and garlic, and because my kids like the Chipotle Southwestern Dressing at Subway, we threw a variation of that in there as well. All in all, it turned out to be a very satisfying sandwich.

Since I was clearly winging it, there is no recipe. Below is a general guideline of what I came up with.

  1. Heated some oil and fried some finely chopped onion and garlic till the onion turned transparent.
  2. Threw in spinach and corn kernels. Cooked till the spinach had wilted.
  3. Salt and pepper for seasoning.
  4. Mixed it all with some olive oil mayo, honey, chipotle seasoning and shredded cheddar cheese.
  5. Spread it thick on whole wheat bread and we were done.

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Jal Frezi – an Indian Stir Fry

Veggie Jal Frezi

During the Raj, the British did many things to India, some good, some not so good. On the food front though, they definitely popularized the Indian cuisine throughout the rest of the world. What they did with the recipes though is an entirely different matter. While, us purists still cringe every time we hear “curry”, the fact is, thanks to the Brits, just about everybody has a fairly good idea of what North Indian food is about and, I read this recently, Chicken Tikka Masala has become the most popular dish in Britain. That is pretty amazing if you think about it.

So, during the 200 or so years of colonizing India, the colonizers developed a taste for the local cuisine and came up with inventions such as “Mulligatawny Soup” (Mulliga – meaning Pepper, Tanni – meaning water, in Tamil. Literally, Pepper Water.), probably derived from the South Indian Rasam. The famous Worcestershire Sauce, which is believed to have come from a jaggery/tamarind chutney and Jal Frezi.

Lord Marcus Sandys, who was posted in Bengal is often credited with inventing the Worcestershire Sauce and Jal Frezi. The latter was invented as a way to reheat and consume leftovers. It is likely that the name comes from “Jhal”, Bengali for spicy hot and “Parhezi”, Urdu for being careful about what you eat. Anyway, the best description I have found for this dish is that it is “Kind of like a Chinese Stir Fry with Indian spices”. That just about sums it up nicely.

Anyway, having dinner guests recently, we decided to cook this dish for them. I had a vague notion of what it is about but then Internet came to the rescue and I looked at Jamie Oliver’s version (click here) and Vah-re-vah version (click here) for inspiration. In the end, I came up with my own take on it which was probably more closely aligned with Vah-re-vah.

What we had for dinner recently

NOTE: As I had mentioned in the previous post, I am trying to source and use local, seasonal ingredients. It has been really difficult to find them though. A visit to the Dallas Farmer’s Market was disappointing. I could only find produce from California, Florida, Chile and Mexico, severely marked up. A visit to Sprouts and Whole Foods did not help either. The produce again, was sourced from all over. So for this recipe I ended up with produce from Sprouts (better prices) but my quest continues and hopefully sooner or later I will find my local suppliers.

INGREDIENTS (for 8 adults)

1 whole cauliflower – florets cut into bite sized pieces

A couple of fists of green beans – ends chopped off and cut into 3/4 inch pieces

1 carrot – peeled and diced into bite sized pieces

1 Tbsp cooking oil

1/2 large onion – chopped

1 inch piece of ginger – peeled and chopped

1-2 green chilies NOTE: Depending on your tolerance for heat, adjust the amount chilies you put in.

2  medium tomatoes – chopped into small pieces

8 oz of Paneer cut into 1/2 inch cubes NOTE: I used home-made cumin-flavored Paneer. Recipe here.

1 green bell pepper – deseeded and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 red pepper – deseeded and cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp red chili powder

Salt to taste

1 tsp lemon juice


1.Steam the caulifower, green beans and carrots for 7-8 minutes. Dunk them in ice water to stop them from cooking.

2. Make a paste of ginger and green chilies.

3. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and fry the onion till they are starting to brown. Then add the ginger/chili paste.

4. Now add tomatoes and cook till they are pulpy.

5. Add the steamed veggies and cook them till they are heated through.

6. Add the paneer and bell peppers.

7. Add the spices and lemon juice.

8. Cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes.

9. Serve hot with a bread of your choice.

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A bit of fusion: East meets, well, East

Saag Tofu with Paratha


A long time back, a girl I knew, mentioned that she sometimes uses Tofu instead of Paneerin her Indian dishes. I took that information, filed it away and forgot about it. Fast forward to 2012 and I was at the grocery store and picked up some fresh spinach, since it looked good and the wife has made it very clear that she expects to see more variety of food in our diet – veggies, protein, carbs etc.

It just so happened that there was some Tofu in the fridge when I got home. Even though I am over 40 and my brain is full, somewhere in the dark recesses of my frontal lobe the nugget of information gathered many years back still resided. And so a voice inside me said – “When life gives you spinach, peas and tofu, make saag tofu.” And I did. It was good. And there was much dancing and rejoicing by the fireside that night.

I was actually very surprised at how well Tofu went with Indian flavors. Since it has Tofu in what is very much a North Indian dish, I wonder if this qualifies as Indian-Chinese food.

INGREDIENTS (very very approximate, I was winging it)

1 tsp cooking oil

1/2 diced onion

2 medium tomatoes – diced

1 tsp minced garlic

1 inch piece of ginger – peeled and finely chopped

1/2 tsp red chili powder

Salt to taste

2 bunches of fresh spinach leaves – washed with the stems broken off

12 oz hard Tofu cut into small cubes (TIP: Buy Tofu, if possible, from a Chinese grocery store. It is better and significantly cheaper than a regular grocery store)

4 oz frozen peas

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chana masala (I added it just for the heck of it)


1. Heat oil on medium heat and fry onions till they starting to brown.

2. Add tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Cook till pulpy.

3. Add salt and red chili powder and stir.

4. Add the washed spinach leaves and cover the saucepan.

5. The leaves should wilt quickly. Add some water and let the concoction boil for 10 minutes or so.

6. Using a wand or a hand mixer, puree the concoction.

7. Add more water if you need to. This gravy/soup should be thick and runny, like a nice thick stew.

8. Add the tofu and the peas. Turn the heat to low, cover the saucepan and cook for 10 minutes.

9. Add garam masala and chana masala. Adjust seasoning and you are done.

10. Serve with boiled rice or an Indian bread of your choice.


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