Wednesday, April 9, 2014

food from diverse Indian states, all in one place and recipe of Rajasthani mirchi wala paneer

Sometimes I can't decide which part of India I would like to settle down to. Apart from climatic conditions and greenery, local cuisine the other thing that makes the deal for me. Sometimes I feel like Himachal and sometimes Coorg. Tamilnadu and Kerala lure me to no ends, Rajasthan keep inviting in a musical way. Padharo mhare des :-)

Only if wishes had wings. Ohh I might end up being a nomad visiting all the places for ever and enjoying everything to my contentment. That would be bliss.

What if you get great regional foods from all over India under one roof? That too in a bustling mall where you have gone for shopping. There is one place you might like to make plans just for the food. If you are a regional food junkie. From Laal Maas and Lachha Paratha to Lucknow ki Nihari to Mangalorean Mutton Sukka and Akki Rotti. I loved most of the food from all over the country at Veda Cafe, DLF Promenade, Vasant Kunj sometime ago. The cafe opened it's doors to patrons in mid February and I could see bustling crowd on a weekend night. The manager Mr. Sarat introduced the menu to us and helped us choose from the vast array of cuisines and dishes on the menu. The cafe has a liquor licence and serves alcohol, our adjacent table was occupied by a young couple enjoying their beer bucket with carefully chosen food, they were already regulars it felt like.

I liked a virgin Sangria in two variations, was nice. I liked the Kokum Senorita that I ordered later, there are many more virgin cocktails for everyone. Palak Patta Chaat is a Veda specialty and we had liked it at Veda at CP as well. The same chaat has been recreated here at Veda Cafe too.

I loved the menu which is crafted like a table calender, the opposite page bearing beautiful pictures of vegetables, spices and random street objects. The same kind of ethnic themed picture frames are there all over the walls of the cafe. Beautiful things from far ends of the country have been displayed well.


The soups we ordered were a Pineapple soup and a Chicken Shorba. Pineapple soup was completely mind blowing for me, Arvind liked the Chicken shorba better. Food and flavours are received differently by different people. Here is the proof.


The tikkas were good, the sigdi (small barbecue stove or charcoal grill) Chicken Tikka was nice, the charcoal grill Mutton Burra was a bit over spiced for us. Amritsari Fish n Chips platter was good, more suited for Delhi folks as they like Basa fillets better than any other local fish. I like the way just a thin layer of besan coating was there on the fish, just the way I like Amritsari Macchi. I would have liked some real river fish for this though.

Avoid the Mixed Fruit Seekh Kabab, it didn't work for me.


What I loved and would recommend to be tasted at least once, is the Rajasthani Mirchi Paneer served with a herb laced tandoori paratha. Very interesting flavours with notes of whole coriander, mild green chilly and coarsely pounded garam masala. The Laal Maas was nice too, served with lachha paratha, well made. I was tasting a Mangalorean Mutton Sukka and Akki Rotti for the first time and loved it. Try that for sure if you happen to go there. Pesarettu was well made and the chutneys were good too. I might go there just for having a pesarettu sometime.

We were stuffed trying out all these and skipped desserts. Might try something next time I go there. I kept thinking what all I would like to recreate at home from the Veda Cafe menu. Pineapple soup and Rajasthani mirchi paneer were two such dishes that stood out. Sharing the paneer recipe here.

Since I keep cooking paneer curries a lot, more for an easy dinner or lunch box curry or salad for the husband, I planned making this Rajasthani mirchi paneer for a change. Rajasthani chillies are known to be flavourful but mild. The fat green chillies are used to make mirchi pakodas and are used for green chilly pickles, for bharva mirchi (stuffed green chillies with various stuffings) and for curries as well.

Rajasthan curries are mostly jain recipes, cooked without onion and garlic, the thickening agent is mostly yogurt and spicing is robust, with prominent hints of coriander seeds. I made a light version of this mirchi paneer and the recipe takes just 15 minutes to prepare.


ingredients..
3-4 servings, depending on what side dishes are served with it)

paneer cubed 200 gm
large ripe tomatoes cubed 1 cup
minced ginger root 1 tbsp
dry whole red chillies 6
fresh red chillies (mild variety) sliced 2 tbsp
freshly crushed coriander seeds 1 tbsp
everyday curry powder 2tsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
yogurt 1/4 cup
fresh cream 1 tbsp (optional)
salt to taste
ghee 2 tsp
chopped green coriander leaves and stems 1/4 cup

procedure

Heat ghee in a pan (kadhai preferably) and tip in the whole dry red chillies, minced ginger and crushed coriander seeds in that order. Let them sizzle for a few seconds before adding the tomatoes. Add salt and fry till the tomatoes turn pulpy.

Add the powdered spices, fry well till the mixture looks glossy. Add the yogurt and fry again till it is incorporated well.

Add the paneer cubes and sliced fresh red chillies, mix the fresh cream as well if using and just fold in everything till the paneer gets coated well. Sprinkle chopped coriander greens and serve hot with roti or naan.


You can use any mild hot chilly available in your part of the world or a good mix of all of them. Adding just the regular hot dry red chillies and a mix of bell peppers would work well too. I love the way chillies lend their aromatic flavours to the curry when they are not too hot. The flavours are received better by the palate in the absence of heat actually. There was a time I used to love really hot curries, now I like milder chilly heat. Though I can tolerate quite hot curries.

This one can be made as hot as you wish. Let me know whenever you try this Rajasthani mirchi paneer curry. It is definitely a nice variation of everyday paneer for vegetarians.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

hare chane ki gujhia, chukandar wali gujhia and more colours in my food this holi...



Hare chane ki gujhia is not a new recipe invented by me, I have tasted it in Banaras around holi festivities many a times. Hara chana (tender green garbanzo beans) is a seasonal delight around this time of the year and many enterprising home cooks use it in many different ways. I have had burfis, halwas, gujhia and stuffed parathas made with hara chana apart from the nimona, ghugni and alu chane ki subzi. I have known some really creative home cooks and more importantly, I have remembered all that I have had as good food in the past. I remember how people would be scared to eat any green gujhia on the occasion of holi fearing it might be laced with bhang. Some of those really were. You never knew. You can disguise bhang in hare chane ki gujhia well and no one would get to know.

Incidentally, hara chana is also called 'hora' or 'horha' in the Hindi heartland and the name is linked to 'hori' which is the vernacular name of the festival holi. The whole mature shrubs of chickpeas are fired along with the 'holika dahan' on the eve of holi and the char grilled chickpeas are distributed as prasad. So 'hora' is the much loved produce related closely with 'hori', a gujhia made using this produce is not much of a surprise.


This time when I was feeling lazy about making gujhia and kept procrastinating till the last day, the thought of colourful gujhia made me get going with the ingredients. I made instant khoya from milk powder in microwave, mixed a bit of grated beetroots to the regular nuts, raisins and khoya mixture to make a red gujhia stuffing. And then I made use of the hara chana to make a green stuffing as well. It was fun to make people keep guessing about the stuffing as we had all gathered at my brother's place for holi. My nieces had a good time gobbling up more gujhias that had holi colours in them. Or so they thought.

For the red gujhia, 1/2 cup of grated beetroot was sauteed in a tsp of ghee and then added to 300 gm khoya and more chopped nuts and raisins, grated dry coconut etc to make the regular gujhia stuffing. Rest of the procedure was the same as these gujhia. The only change I did in the beetroot stuffing is, I changed the cardamom flavouring in usual gujhia to a combination of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon flavours. These spices complemented the beets flavours really well.


For the green gujhia I made a coarse paste of 250 gm of hara chana, sauteed it with 1 tbsp ghee till it becomes a little dry and darker green. Doing it on low flame in a thick base kadhai helps in getting the right consistency in about 10 minutes. Then I added 1 cup of fine grated dry coconut (kopra), 3/4 cup of sugar and mixed everything well. Cardamom powder and finely chopped pistachios were added for flavours. The remaining procedure of the pastry dough, rolling and stuffing the gujhia was the same as this recipe.


And I also baked some gujhia this time too, I actually made gujhia 3 times this season, but all of them got over really quickly. My dad loved the baked ones I made without any added sugar. The pastry dough was kneaded using fresh malai and the total fat content was minimal and yet a nice rich taste in the final baked gujhia. Even I liked those as I never enjoy having too much sugar, the natural sweetness of khoya is enough for my taste buds. Try doing that next time you make gujhias and see how you like them.