Month: January 2015

Aloo-Paneer Paratha


paratha

 

 

Paratha has become such a staple for me- not only as a side dish when I’m stuffing myself with Indian take-out, but as a snack as well. You can freeze these and cook them on a pizza stone [at 425F for about 10 minutes] even months after you’ve made them! No defrosting, no potato mashing or paneer-making—- just baking.

paratha

For anyone unfamiliar with Indian cooking, paratha is a wheat flatbread that has been stuffed with various fillings– usually a potato mash or other vegetable medley. I filled mine with a mixture that is similar to the kofta mixture. It contains mashed potatoes, paneer, cilantro, and peppers. I decided to add in some fennel and chili pepper, to make the piratha stuffing a little more savory. Honestly, the filling is a place to really get creative. You can create whatever mixture you like and stuff it in there, and it’s going to be delicious!

paratha

One note before we begin cooking: you really do need a rolling pin for this. I am in love with a French rolling pin that I bought very cheaply off of Amazon. When rolling out this dough it’s important to get a thin, yet solid layer, and that is difficult to do without a rolling pin!

 

Aloo-Paneer Paratha

makes 8-10 flatbreads

 

for the dough
just under 2 1/4 cups chapati flour (I use a mixture of AP and whole wheat)
just under 1 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

for the filling
5 butter ball potatoes (boiled and mashed)
1 cup crumbled paneer (store-bought, or home made)
5 tablespoons minced cilantro (hara dhania)
1 poblano pepper, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin (jeera)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fennel
1/2 teaspoon of ground ancho chili pepper

Before you can really begin the assembly of the stuffed flatbreads, you must make the dough and the filling separately.

 

To make the dough, simply combine 2 1/4 cups chapati flour and the kosher salt in a medium bowl. I can never find chapati flour, and I don’t have any need to go to specialty groceries, so I usually just opt for 1 cup AP flour mixed with 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour. It is an easy solution that uses commoner ingredients, and still produces a delicious result!

parantha

 

The dough will feel fairly dry, and that’s okay! The butter used in cooking it, as well as the moisture in the filing will make up for this!

parantha

 

After you have created your dough, you can let it rest for a few minutes while you mix up the filling.

 

Combined the boiled,mashed potatoes with the paneer, minced cilantro, minced pepper, cumin, pepper, salt, fennel, and chili pepper. You are making a mash similar to the one for the kofta.

parantha

As you are adding your spices and peppers, I would encourage you to taste everything along the way! The flavor of this filling is not going to change much in the cooking process, and there is nothing involved that cannot be eaten uncooked.

parantha

 

Lick the spoon and take little bites here and then, to ensure that you’re getting the flavor profile you want!

 

parantha

 

 

The next step is to assemble the flatbreads. Lay out a piece of parchment paper and flour it generously. With floured hands, separate the large dough mass into little balls- about the size of golf balls.

parantha

 

You want an even number, because you’ll need two dough balls for every flatbread. We got about 16 out of our dough (meaning 8 parathas).

parantha

 

Using a well-floured rolling pin, take two dough balls and roll them each out, one at a time.

 

parantha

 

You should now have two roughly circular layers. At this point, you want to prepare a small dish with water, butter, or olive oil. You will use this to help press the dough pieces together and create a seal around the filling. Many recipes call for ghee, but I find that regular butter works just fine here.

In this instance I used water in the pressing process, and butter in the grilling process. Everything still turned out great!

parantha

 

Now that you have two pieces of dough ready, you can assemble the flatbread! Spoon a generous heaping of filling on top of one piece. When I say generous- I mean about a 1/4 cup! The dough is surprisingly elastic and shouldn’t break easily. However, it might take some trial and error to get the right amount for your parathas.

parantha

 

Next, gently position the second, flattened circle on top of the filling. If you have two, differently-sized circles, I’d recommend putting the bigger one on the bottom. When the bottom circle is bigger, it is easier to pull the edges up and around the top circle, pressing down to create a single, enclosed flatbread! At this point, you can use the water/butter/ghee/olive oil to seal the dough and increase elasticity.

parantha

 

 

The final step before cooking is to flour the rolling pin and roll out the enclosed paratha! This is such a fun process, as it totally transforms the flatbread, and it is so neat to see!

parantha

 

I find that it’s best to flip the paratha a few times during the rolling process and re-flour the surface of the parchment paper. This helps to ensure no sticking or breaking of the bread during the rolling process. A warning- it will stick a bit to the rolling pin, so be careful about how much pressure you use when rolling it out.

Continue this process with the remaining filling and dough balls, and cook them in a butter skillet over medium heat.  Cook in the butter and flip, until both sides are browned.

parantha

 

Even if you are planning to save some for later consumption, you should still cook them all in the skillet with butter before freezing them. The butter adds a great flavor and when you reheat them in the oven they will become extra crispy and delicious!

parantha

 

Serve at once with chutney as a snack, or as a side to your favorite Indian dish! (I often even eat them by themselves, and they’re still incredible!)

parantha

 

Enjoy!

 

 

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Vegetarian Malai Kofta

malai kofta

 

Malai Kofta is pretty much my personal favorite of all Indian dishes. It really has everything you need to create deliciousness (in my opinion). I mean- fried potatoes and cheese with a savory cream sauce… what could be better??

But I won’t lie. This isn’t the easiest dish to make. It took the two of us the better part of an afternoon and evening to make it. The result is worth the time commitment, but it isn’t a dish you can just whip up when you get home from work.

First, you have to make the kofta- boiling potatoes, making paneer (though you can just buy it, if you prefer), and combining the two with spices. You then have to fry the kofta, though we just lightly sautéed them in some safflower oil.

malai kofta

 

Next, you need to make the cream sauce. This isn’t too difficult, but it takes time- first to cut and prep all the veggies and then to combine and simmer everything.

malai kofta

 

Something I love about many Indian dishes is that there is liberal usage of cilantro (or hara dhania) in every part of the dish. I am one of those people that cannot get enough cilantro! I put it on everything. It is so fresh tasting to me, and brightens a dish right up (especially a creamy one like this). However, if you’re not the biggest fan, I’d encourage you to decrease the measurements for cilantro in this dish. Use your best judgment and don’t go overboard if you know you don’t love the flavor it brings. Same goes for spiciness- though this dish isn’t really all that spicy. Be careful, and taste everything along the way to make sure it is to your liking!

This recipe is loosely adapted from a recipe found on Pinterest, with the idea that it is hopefully a little healthier without the deep frying! Also, if you are using my recipe for paneer (which you can find here), you’ll have some extra left over. We ended up having just enough to make some paneer/aloo paratha (which is a paneer-potato stuffed flatbread). I will post the recipe for the paratha later (it is SO much fun to make)!

Malai Kofta is traditionally served either over rice or with naan (but I love to have both).

malai kofta

 

Vegetarian Malai Kofta

(makes about 8 servings, which can be easily frozen for later consumption)

 

Ingredients

for the kofta
5 butter ball potatoes
2 cups crumbled paneer
5 tablespoons minced cilantro (hara dhania)
1 yellow chile
1 anaheim pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin (jeera)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

for the kofta batter
8 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons tipo 00 flour (AP works fine as well)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
safflower oil for sautéing

malai kofta

 

for the sauce
4 tomatoes (medium-sized)
2 tablespoons ginger
1 poblano pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 pinches asafetida (you can find this at Whole Foods)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons coriander powder (I accidentally put in whole coriander seeds- do not make this mistake)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoons AP flour
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
5 tablespoons minced cilantro

malai kofta

 

First, make the kofta. Dice the potatoes and boil them in salted water until a fork slides easily straight through them.

malai kofta

 

Mash the potatoes in a large bowl, and add the crumbled paneer.

malai kofta

 

Mince the cilantro and finely chop both peppers.
malai koftamalai kofta

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the peppers, cilantro, cumin, and salt to the potato paneer mixture.
malai kofta

 

Mix everything together thoroughly until it forms a kind of mash.

malai kofta

 

Now, take the mixture (about two tablespoons at a time) and roll it into balls.

malai kofta

 

You should make about 16 in all, but it isn’t a big deal if you have more or less.
malai kofta

 

Next, prepare the batter. Whisk together the water, flour, black pepper, and salt. Pour the oil into a skillet until it is about an inch and heat it on medium-high. Taking your time, dip each ball in the batter and fry them in the pan on both sides- just lightly. They should be a golden brown and look very crisp and delicious! [Note: if you are planning to freeze some of these, you should not fry or batter them. Instead, freeze them without the batter and make more batter for the next time you cook the dish. The sauce can be frozen separately and then combined with the koftas upon reheating.]

malai kofta

 

Now, set the koftas aside to drain on a paper towel and get to work on the sauce!

Dice the tomatoes, and shred the ginger.

malai kofta

 

Mince the poblano pepper. Combine the tomatoes, the ginger, and the pepper in a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture has a soupy or salsa-y consistency. Set this aside.

Heat up the olive oil in a skillet, and add the asafetida and cumin. To this, add the tomato puree and coriander powder, mixing everything together.

Shred the turmeric on a cheese grater (be careful with this stuff- it can stain hands, counters, and cutting boards!).

malai kofta

Add the turmeric, and red chili powder to the pan. Let everything simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

malai kofta

 

While the tomato mixture simmers, combine the flour and heavy whipping cream in a bowl. After the tomatoes start reducing, add the cream to the mixture along with the salt, and one cup of water. Let this cook down, partially covered, for about 10 minutes.

malai kofta

Finally, add in the garam masala. Chop the cilantro and add in 4 tablespoons of it (leaving some for a garnish).

malai kofta

 

Let everything simmer together for a few minutes before adding in the koftas.

malai kofta

 

The koftas can cook in the gravy for a few minutes, but they are very soft and will break down after soaking up the sauce, so it’s best to serve the dish soon after placing them into the pan.

malai kofta

 

Serve sauce and koftas over rice or with naan and enjoy!

malai kofta

 

 

Paneer (Farmer’s Cheese)

 

paneer

I have grown to love all types of Indian food. For better or worse, the creamy sauces, heavy-handed seasonings, and wealth of vegetarian options have made their mark on my taste buds! I will unabashedly admit to consuming some type of Indian dish three or four times a week. Really- this should be no big deal. I know plenty of people who live solely off of regionally-based diets. However, it matters because I have yet to actually learn how to cook any of it. This means that I eat out a whole lot and spend tons of money on delicious food, instead of taking my own culinary ventures in this direction.

 

To be fair, this entire world of spices and cooking techniques is 100% unfamiliar territory. I am very comfortable cooking cajun, Italian, French, and southern cuisines. My pantry is stocked and prepared for any of those dishes. When I look at a recipe for lasagna or collards, I am comfortable enough with those staples that I feel I can mess around with the ratios a bit and tailor it to my tastes. When it comes to Indian food, however, I sometimes can’t even pronounce all of the ingredients! Honestly, I have been quite afraid to branch out into Indian food for this very reason. To me, the upfront cost of attempting even a single recipe has always seemed quite high, and honestly- it is (but it’s so worth it)!

 

I decided to start of with one of my favorite vegetarian dishes, malai kofta. To make malai kofta, potato-paneer dumplings are simmered in a creamy tomato sauce. I will address the actual preparation of the kofta in a later post (boy was that an adventure!). For now, I’m just going to focus on the paneer part of this dish!

Homemade paneer is a really great place to start for anyone who is interested in Indian cuisine. It requires no special ingredients, and it is pretty simple. Also, even though it’s a staple in Indian cooking specifically, it can function much like tofu in any dish! On its own, paneer is not very flavorful (it’s an un-aged and unsalted cheese). Typically, it is served in some sort of sauce or curry, functioning as the main protein in a vegetarian dish. So, for a beginner, paneer can be a nice and slow start. You can simply make the cheese, and then use it in any of your favorite dishes to replace a protein. As an added bonus, the process of cooking paneer is so so cool! For anyone who loves the chemistry behind cooking, or just the feeling of being more connected to foods through their ingredients and the natural processes used in their creation- this is a fun thing to make!

 

paneer

 

Paneer

(makes 3-4 cups)

Ingredients

1 gallon whole milk
2 lemons
2 yards cheese cloth

 

paneer

 

First- squeeze out all the juice of both lemons, strain it, and set it aside in a cup. You want roughly 1/2 cup of juice or more.

paneer

 

Pour the milk into a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Now, you’re going to have to stand here and continually scrape the bottom of the pan (with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon) until it boils. I know what y’all are thinking a watched pot never boils…and I promise you it will feel like this milk is never, ever going to boil. Just stick with it. Pretend you’re going to get a nice, foamy cappuccino out of it! You really need to keep scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure that none of the milk burns. This is super annoying, but- I promise-  the fun part is coming up!

 

Wait until the milk gets very very foamy and does actually start to bubble a bit (milk will not boil as violently and obviously as water, so keep a good eye out for a rolling boil). Once this has happened, turn the heat down (to keep it from foaming over the lip of the pot), and set a timer for 5 minutes.

paneer

 

You might need to continue moving the foam around to prevent the milk from “boiling” over.

 

After the five minutes is up, it’s time for the fun part! Pour in your lemon juice and stir everything together. Watch the magnificent separation of the curds (the milk solids) from the whey (the liquids).

paneer

 

Now that you’re seeing this separation (and understanding the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffett much better), it is time to begin the actual formation of your paneer!

paneer

 

Cut the cheese cloth in half and fold each sheet into a square. Place them inside of two colanders (if you have one, giant colander, you can just make one, giant slab of paneer).  Drain out the whey from the curds, so that the curds remain resting on the cheese cloth inside each colander.

paneer

 

For each bundle, you’ll need enough excess cheese cloth to tie a knot and create a little curd satchel.

paneer

 

Gather up the excess cloth around the curds and bundle them together. Then, tie the satchels to the sink so that the whey can continue to drain.

paneer

 

You will need to let them hang there for about 20 minutes, as the curds drain and slowly solidify. Afterwards, place a cutting board in the sink and (keeping the curds inclosed in the cheese cloths) slowly press them into a disc. At this point, in your sink,  you should have the cutting board and two discs of curds wrapped in cheese cloth. On top of each disc, you will need to place a pot filled with water (or any heavy weight). This needs to sit on the curds for at least two hours to ensure proper reduction and solidification. In the end, you’re still going to have a fairly soft cheese, but the longer you let the curds drain this way, the less crumbly the paneer will be.

 

After the cheese has drained with the weight on it, it is ready to be unwrapped and used in whatever way you like! Voilà!

 

paneer