Recipes: Sweet Corn and Capsicum Curry

Over the weekend, I brought some frozen sweet corn without realising that I already had some at home. So earlier this week, I decided to try a dry sweet corn curry. This was really simple and took me less than 15 minutes to make, start to finish.

Sweet Corn and Capsicum Curry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn
  • 1 large green capsicum
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

  • Cook the sweet corn in the microwave until it becomes soft. Then drain the water and keep aside.
  • Chop the capsicum into small pieces and keep aside.
  • Heat oil and when it warms up, add the cumin and fennel seeds one at a time and give it a good stir.
  • Then add the chopped capsicum and stir for a few minutes till it starts to soften.
  • Then add the defrosted corn and stir for a while. Add in the spices – salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder and let the capsicum and corn, cook. When it is almost cooked, add in 1/4 tsp garam masala and let the spices mix well.
  • Crush the fenugreek leaves in the palm of your hand and sprinkle it over the corn and capsicum. Switch off the gas, add a dash of lemon juice and some coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or a flatbread.

Notes:

  • I made this version a no onion, no garlic one since Navratri is almost here.
  • You can make this with onions and ginger and garlic by adding grated or minced ginger and garlic in the initial stage when you add the cumin seeds and onions after that but before the capsicum.
  • You can also use dried mango powder or amchoor powder instead of lemon juice. If using amchoor powder, add it when you add the spices. You can also use a combination of both, but adjust depending on how sour you need the dish to be.

 

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Recipes: Palak Paneer

I had been craving for some Palak Paneer for a few weeks now when I chanced upon this recipe on Facebook from Chef Sanjyot Keer of Your Food Lab. The recipe was intriguing enough to tempt me and when I chanced upon some spinach over the weekend, I knew it was time to try this recipe. This is very different from the usual recipe that I make which is inspired by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe which is very simple. This one is slightly more complicated, but was super delicious and was a hit at home!

Palak Paneer

Ingredients:

  • 2 big bunches spinach or palak, chopped
  • 1 big cup frozen paneer (soaked in hot water for 30 minutes)
  • 1 big pod of garlic, grated or chopped finely
  • 1 large onion, cut in half and then sliced vertically
  • 4-5 green chillies
  • 1 bunch of coriander leaves
  • 1/2 cup beaten yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp black or pink salt
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Method:

  • Take a large pan and boil water in it. When the water is boiling, blanch the spinach in it for 2-3 minutes and remove. Soak it in a large bowl of iced water for a  few minutes before removing and draining the water. This preserves the lovely green colour of the spinach.
  • When the spinach is cool, blend it with the green chillies and coriander leaves into a smooth paste and keep aside.
  • In another pan, heat the ghee and when warm, add the cumin seeds and let it splutter.
  • Then add the chopped or grated garlic and let it saute for a few minutes.
  • Next, add the sliced onions and let the onions slightly brown.
  • When the onions start to brown, add the cumin powder, turmeric powder and red chilli powder and mix well. Then add the black or pink salt and season with salt.
  • Now add the beaten yoghurt and mix well. Let the masala cook well and the ghee start to leave the sides of the pan.
  • Then add the spinach puree and let the palak cook well. When the spinach starts to bubble, add the paneer pieces and let it cook for a few more minutes.
  • Now gently sprinkle the wholewheat flour a bit by bit and let it get absorbed into the gravy. This is to thicken the gravy.
  • Lastly, sprinkle the garam masala and the lemon juice and switch off the gas. Serve hot with Indian flatbreads or jeera rice.
  • You can also add fresh cream as the last step before adding the garam masala and the lemon juice as well as a  garnish. I didn’t have cream at home and omitted this step.

 

Recipes: Pithla

Here’s another recipe from the heartlands of my home state of Maharashtra. This recipe is from the kitchens of the rustic, rural householder and is a staple of practically every Marathi household. I got this recipe from a book I have had for almost twenty years now, called Maharashtrian Cooking authored by Kumud Marathe.

Pithla is something you can make in a hurry and can be increased also just as easily. You can make it as thick or thin as you like

Pithla

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sour yoghurt
  • 2 cups water
  • 3-4 tbsp chickpea flour or besan
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida powder
  • 3-4 tbsp cooking oil
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

  • Beat the yoghurt well and mix it with the besan to make it a nice non-lumpy paste. Add water to increase it to the quantity and thickness you want, add salt and keep aside.
  • In a pan, heat the oil and when the oil is warm, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add in the chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida.
  • Now add the onions and cook till the onions are translucent and cooked.
  • Next, add the buttermilk and chickpea flour paste and let it come to a boil.
  • The more you boil this gravy, the thicker it will become. If you want it slightly thick, let it come to a boil and then switch off the flame after checking for seasoning.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot over plain rice or even Indian flatbreads.

You can call this a Maharashtrian Kadhi. For more Kadhi recipes, see Gujarati Kadhi and South Indian Mor Kozambu

Ghee a Superfood?

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For centuries, Ghee has been an integral part of the Indian household. In ancient times, all food was cooked in ghee and no religious ceremony is complete without the addition of ghee to the sacred flames.

In most tambram households, no meal was complete without ghee. After the rice and dal were put on the plate, a dollop of ghee was put, after which you started eating. I also remember children getting extra ghee in their palms just because it is so tasty. However, a few years back, with the saturated fats controversy, a lot of people stopped eating ghee and switched to more healthier (or so they were told) alternatives.

Today, Ghee or clarified butter has gotten the status of a superfood! Shocked right? I was too and so decided to find out more and also check if the ancient Indians were correct in the usage of ghee.

So what exactly is ghee? Ghee is clarified butter where the milk solids in butter or cream which float to the top or sink to the bottom have been skimmed off and what remains is a clear golden product with a high smoking point and a delicate, nutty flavour. Ghee is liquid when you first make it and then solidifies to a whitish opaque creamy consistency. It hardens when you chill it, but regains its creaminess when it stays outside for some time.

235px-butterschmalz-3Because it has no milk or water solids, people with lactose intolerance can use this as a very good substitute for butter in cooking. It’s been part of the ancient medical system of Ayurveda for thousands of years, stretching back to at least 800 BC; Ayurvedic medicine claims that ghee is good for everything from sleep quality to semen health, joint suppleness, intelligence, memory and wrinkles.

Ghee is casein and lactose-free and so a great addition for those with dairy sensitivities. In addition, ghee is gluten-free and high in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid used in the body as an energy source and anti-inflammatory. Ghee is also rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamins A, D and E.

Ghee contains medium-chain fatty acids which the liver can absorb directly and burn immediately, making it a healthier source of energy than most of the carbs we eat today. Ghee is packed with butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that has several benefits, one of which is better digestion. Our bodies actually convert fibre into butyric acid, so eating it makes the body’s job easier. Butyric acid heals the digestive tract and keeps it healthy. The butyric acid in ghee also promotes immunity, by increasing the production of killer T cells in the gut.

Indian food contains several herbs and spices, each of which is loaded with numerous nutrients. Ghee absorbs these nutrients and helps them reach the correct part of the body, where they are most required. Also because of its high smoking point, ghee does not break down into free radicals while cooking, which other oils with a lower smoking point do.

800px-desi_gheeA 2010 review of ghee science in the International Quarterly Journal of Research In Ayurveda by scientists from Ohio State noted that animal studies of ghee have found a series of possible benefits, including decreases in cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides (which are associated with cardiovascular disease), and a potential link between ghee and lower coronary heart disease risk. One study in 2016 found that ghee was better for cooking than sunflower oil when looking at antioxidants and liver protection, while another in 2013 found that it helped to protect against the development of fatty deposits in arteries. Multiple studies in 2015 found that ghee, particularly low-cholesterol ghee, seemed to improve general cholesterol levels. It’s worth noting that virtually all of these studies were done on rats, not humans. But the qualities of ghee have attracted medical attention for other reasons; it was suggested in early 2017 that ghee might be a good way to administer chemotherapy, as it may help the chemo get into the body more efficiently.

Ghee is super easy to make at home. I started making ghee at home around two years ago and don’t look at store-bought ghee anymore. Buy unsalted butter and heat it in a heavy bottomed pan. Make sure your pan is deep as it will bubble a lot during the process. Boil it in a low to medium heat until the milk solids separate and sink to the bottom of the pan. The ghee will become a lovely golden colour and will have a lovely aroma. When the milk solids start to brown, stop the flame and let it cool. Strain the ghee and let it cool. Once it starts to solidify, you can start using it. It stores very well outside, it need not be refrigerated, but in the fridge, it can keep for years without spoiling.

Are you convinced about the health benefits of ghee yet? Go on and buy a container of it and start cooking with it, you will never look back and wonder why it took you so long to convert.

 

 

Recipe: Pasta Salad

This recipe for Pasta Salad has been with us for a while now. I think I may have made it after seeing something similar some years back or even discovered it accidentally. Anyways, this is a go-to recipe for me when we are bored of Indian food and this makes a great lunch box idea for children and even adults when you want a no-mess lunch which you can eat on the go or at your desk.

Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet raw pasta
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen paneer
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

  • Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the pack. Let the pasta be al dente and not overcooked. Drain and keep aside to cool.
  • Heat up the frozen corn and when thawed, drained and keep aside.
  • Soak the paneer in hot water for 10 minutes, drain and chop into small pieces.
  • When cool, mix together the pasta, onions, bell peppers, olives, paneer and corn and mix well.
  • In a smaller dish, mix the spices, olive oil and lemon juice into a marinade.
  • Pour the marinade into the pasta salad and mix well. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves. Check for seasoning.
  • Cover and keep in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve cool.