Mattar Paneer Pulao

Mattar Paneer Pulao1
When I go to an Indian restaurant for a meal, I often order mattar paneer. Mattar paneer is a North Indian vegetarian dish that consists of green peas (mattar) and cubes of fresh Indian cheese (paneer) in a creamy tomato based sauce. I enjoy eating mattar paneer with naan (Indian bread). That was my inspiration for the mattar paneer pulao recipe that I’m sharing with you today.

Paneer can be made at home by curdling heated milk with lemon juice or vinegar. Sometime soon, I will share the steps on how you can make paneer at home. Until then, you can buy paneer from the Indian grocery store. You will find it in the frozen food section.

Mattar paneer pulao can be made mild or spicy depending on your level of comfort. You can add the same number of spices that I’ve suggested or reduce them by half. You can also add green chillies or leave them out. This pulao pairs well with a simple cucumber raita or tomato chutney.  Try it out, and let me know if you agree.

Mattar Paneer Pulao
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
2½ cups Basmati rice
14 oz (400g) paneer
3-4 teaspoons oil
¼ cup ghee
1 large onion, (sliced)
1 bay leaf, (torn into two bits)
6 cloves
2 star anise
6 green cardamoms
1-inch piece cinnamon
10 whole black pepper corns, (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
3 large Roma tomatoes, (blanched and diced)
4 green chillies, (slit in half, optional)
½  teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
salt
4 cups water
1 cup green peas, (fresh or frozen)

Directions:
Place the rice in a small bowl and add enough water to cover it by two inches. Using your hands, gently swish the rice grains so that it releases starch. Pour the water out, leaving the rice in the bowl. Do this three or four times until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in fresh water for 15-20 minutes. Drain the water before you use the rice in this recipe.

Cut the paneer into bite sized cubes. Heat one teaspoon of oil in a medium non-stick frying pan, over medium heat. Fry a few paneer cubes at a time, until they turn light brown. Remove and put them directly into a bowl of hot tap water. Fry the rest of the paneer cubes in the same manner. Let them soak in the water until they are called for in the recipe.

Melt ghee in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; add the onion and cook until softened, about four minutes. Add the whole spices – bay leaf, cloves, star anise, cardamoms, cinnamon, black pepper, and cumin. When you get the fragrant smell of spices, add the ginger-garlic paste.  Stir and cook until the raw smell of the ginger-garlic paste disappears. Add tomatoes, green chillies, turmeric, chilli powder, and salt. Cook until the oil separates. Add four cups of water. Turn the heat to high, and let the water come to a boil. As soon as the water starts boiling, turn the heat to medium, drain the rice, and add.

Drain water from the paneer and add it to the rice. Add the peas and stir everything gently just one time so the rice, paneer, peas, and spices are well combined. Let the rice cook on medium heat until you see bubbles appearing on top of the rice. Cover the saucepan with a lid. When you see steam escaping through the lid, turn the heat to low, and cook the mattar paneer pulao for 10-15 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Garbanzo Rice Pulao

Garbanzo Pulao1

We cooked with passion, ate with relish, and celebrated the holidays with gusto! Desserts, chocolates, and delicacies from our home countries were exchanged. We ate what we pleased and nothing was off limits. January 6 is here, and it’s time to get back on track with healthy eating. I’d like to start my blogging year on the right foot. So, my first recipe for this year is vegetarian, vegan, and nutritious. At least, I can say, I’ve started the year with good intentions.

Rice is a staple, in most Indian homes, and you’ll find it on the table every day. Adding garbanzo beans to rice is an excellent way to add fiber, protein, and other nutrients to your diet. Adding a vegetable and a salad to this dish is all you need to make it a complete meal. Some of the vegetable dishes, from my blog, that you could use are: Eggplant in Tomato Curry, Green Bean Thoren, and Cauliflower Subzi.

I used canned garbanzo beans in this recipe. You can also use dry garbanzo beans that you will find in your local grocery store. Just remember, soak them overnight, wash them in several changes of water, and cook them before you use them in this recipe. You can use chillies to make the rice spicy or leave them out completely. This dish is unique in that it is mild in flavor but rich in aroma. Many times that’s the kind of rice dish I’m looking for to accompany bold, flavorful curries. Well, this rice recipe is one of my favorites. You can bump up the flavor by switching water with vegetable stock. It’s a nice change to plain rice and I find that children like it.

Garbanzo Rice Pulao
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Serve: 4

Ingredients:
¼ cup ghee
4 black cardamoms
4 green cardamoms
2-inch piece of cinnamon
6 cloves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp cumin seeds
4 dry red chillies, (optional)
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 green chillies, (optional, cut in half)
1 15.5oz can (439g) Goya chickpeas/garbanzo beans, (well drained)
4 cups water
salt
2 cups Basmati rice

Directions:
Wash the rice in three changes of water. Be gently when you wash the rice. Soak in water for 15 minutes.

While the rice is soaking, place a large non-stick pot over medium heat. Add ghee and when it melts, add black and green cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, and cumin seeds. Stir for 30 seconds to allow the spices to permeate the oil. Add the dry red chillies. Cook, while stirring, for another 30 seconds. Next, add the chopped onion. Stir and cook until the onion turns translucent. Add the green chillies and well-drained garbanzo beans. Cook, stirring occasionally, for one minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add water. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat to medium, and add salt. Taste the water, it should taste salty, like the ocean! Drain the rice and add it to the water. Gently stir to combine the rice, water, and spices. Then, allow the rice to cook, undisturbed. The rice will swell and rise to the top. When you see bubbles appearing on the surface of the rice, it is time to cover the dish with a tight-fitting lid. Once you see steam escaping through the edges of the lid, turn the heat to the lowest point, and let the rice cook for eight minutes. Turn off the heat, but don’t open the lid immediately. Allow the dish to rest for five minutes before you serve.

Lemon Rice

Lemon RiceNew3

If you like the tart, citrusy note of lemon, I am sure you will like the lemon rice recipe that I am sharing with you today. It is a simple South Indian rice dish that can be made in a jiffy. I remember my mom making lemon rice whenever we went on our long train journey from Pune to Kerala to visit my grandparents. We could hardly wait for mealtime and lemon rice never tasted better. It keeps well and doesn’t spoil so its great for picnics and packing in your child’s lunchbox.

This recipe is also great when you have leftover rice. I’ve used Basmati rice, but you can use any short-grain or long-grain white rice to make it. Sesame oil, green and red chillies, black gram dal and bengal gram dal add flavor to this dish so make sure that you use them. I had to use six tablespoons of lemon juice because my lemon was not tangy enough. So, taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice that you use. Try this dish and let me know how it turns out.

Lemon Rice
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoons Bengal gram dal, (channa dal)
1 teaspoon black gram dal, (urad dal)
3 tablespoons raw peanuts
3 dry red chillies, (broken into bits)
1 tablespoons finely chopped green chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida
1 sprig curry leaves
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
salt
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups cooked rice, (cool and fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains)

Directions:
Heat a wok (kadai) over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil and when it shimmers add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the peanuts and fry them for two seconds. Next add the Bengal gram dal , black gram dal, red chillies and fry until the dal turns light brown. Add the green chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves, turmeric, salt and fry for one second. Turn off the heat and stir in lemon juice. Finally add the cooked rice. Mix well, cover and keep for 20 minutes so that the rice can absorb the flavor from all the ingredients and the lemon juice. Serve with mango pickle and papadum.

Puttu, Pazham and Pappadam – Steamed Rice Flour Cake with Coconut

Puttu5

Puttu, Pazham and Pappadam – I can almost hear you say, “What an unlikely combination!” But ask any Malayalee and they will tell you that it’s a breakfast made in heaven. I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom and the lovely Kerala specialties she made for us. A nice way for me to pay tribute to my mom and her cooking is to share these recipes with my family and friends. It also brings back beautiful memories of helping my mom in the kitchen.

Puttu is a nutritious, simple breakfast made with steamed rice flour and grated coconut. It is often eaten with a chickpea curry (kadala or black chickpeas), green gram curry (cherupayar), and with small yellow bananas (pazham), and pappadam. I remember my grandma had a puttu-maker (puttu kudam/puttukutti in Malayalam) made of bamboo. The taste of the puttu was permeated with the sweet essence that came from steaming it in the bamboo.

For this recipe I’ve used Chemba rice flour which you can find at your local Indian grocery store. Chemba rice comes already washed, dried, ground, and roasted. The puttu was made in a puttu-maker that was also purchased from a local Indian grocery store. Preparing this dish takes about 15 minutes. I served it with small yellow bananas, pappadam, and sugar. Enjoy!

Puttu
Equipment: Puttu kudam/Puttukutti (puttu-maker)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Serves: 4

2 cups Chemba rice flour
1¼ cups fresh or frozen grated coconut
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water

Add salt to the water and stir until the salt dissolves. Put the rice flour into a large mixing bowl. Add one tablespoon of water, at a time, over the rice flour and mix gently with the tips of your fingers. The flour should be powdery and moist. Break any lumps that form. When you take a fistful of flour and gently squeeze it, it should hold its shape for a second, and then crumble. This test indicates that there is enough moisture in the rice flour and it is ready for steaming. Cover with cling wrap until ready to use.

Fill the puttu kudam with water up to two thirds of the way. Put the lid and let the water come to a boil.

Now fill the cylindrical tube part of the puttukutti. First put the flat disc with the holes in the bottom. This helps to keep the coconut and flour in the tube. Put two tablespoons of grated coconut, two small fistfuls of flour, two tablespoons of coconut, two fistfuls of flour and end with two tablespoons of coconut. Put the lid and place it on the puttu kudam.

Steam for eight minutes. Steam should come out of the small holes in the lid. Remove the tube from the puttu kudam, open the lid and using the handle of a thin, long wooden spoon or dowel, slowly push the puttu on to a plate. Do the same with the rest of the rice flour and coconut. Serve puttu with bananas, pappadam, and a little sugar. It’s that easy.

Curd Rice (Yoghurt Rice)

Curd rice7This is my version of the popular South Indian curd rice. It is called dahi bhath, thayir sadam, masar anna, and perugu annam depending on which part of the country you come from. I’ve used Basmati rice, plain whole milk yoghurt, and heavy cream in my recipe. I bought the yoghurt that I used for this recipe from the Indian grocery store, but you can also use whole milk yoghurt from the regular grocery store. Just make sure that the yoghurt is not flavored. In my version, I did not mash the rice as I like to keep the grains whole. To some of my readers, this may not sound like the traditional curd rice recipes from South India, but I like the creamy, comforting, distinct flavor of this rice dish, and I hope you will too.

A South Indian meal often ends with curd rice. It has a calming effect on your digestive system after a spicy meal. You can also use leftover rice to make this dish. Serve it with pickle, chutney, or a simple vegetable dish.

Curd Rice

2 cups Basmati rice
4 cups water
4 teaspoons salt
2 cups plain whole milk yoghurt (unflavored)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon split bengal gram dal (chana dal)
1 teaspoon black gram dal (urad dal)
1 stalk curry leaves
1 finely chopped green chilli (optional)
a pinch of asafoetida

Put the rice in a medium bowl and add enough water to cover it. With your hands gently swish the rice so as to release the excess starch. Pour off the water and repeat four or five times until the water runs almost clear. Drain in a colander.

Put the rice in a small saucepan along with the water and salt. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork and let it cool to room temperature. Beat the yoghurt with a fork until creamy and then stir in the heavy cream. Once the rice has cooled completely, add the yoghurt-cream mixture. Mix well and set aside while you prepare the seasoning.

To season the rice, heat oil in a small frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add mustard seeds, and when they pop add the split bengal gram dal. When it turns light brown add the black gram dal and fry until it also turns light brown. Add the curry leaves, green chilli, and asfoetida. Fry for 30 seconds. Turn off the stove and pour the seasoning over the rice. Mix gently so the rice is well flavored with the seasoning.

Vegetable Biriyani

This is a simple, flavorful rice dish that I learned to make when I lived with my family in Manipal, India. I tasted it for the first time in Dr. Meera Baliga’s home. She shared her recipe with me, and I started making it for my family for weekend lunches. It pairs well with raita – a salad made with yogurt, tomato, cucumber, and onion.

Many times when I cooked this dish in Manipal, students from the nearby university would drop by and linger way past lunch time, until we were all so hungry, that I would have to invite them to join us for lunch! I soon learned that I would need to make a huge batch, because every time I cooked it, the heavenly smell wafted all the way down the street and into the dorms! So, this recipe is for those young, talented students that made me feel like I was the best cook on earth! See, what you turned me into – a blogger and foodie for life! I love each one of you and think of you often.

For the masala mix

2 teaspoons coconut oil
5 cardamoms
5 cloves
2 1-inch piece of cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup grated coconut
½ cup chopped cilantro

Heat coconut oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Fry for a minute, remove from heat, and cool. Add the fried ingredients, onion, coconut and cilantro to a blender, and purée.

For the rice

½ cup coconut oil
½ cup cubed potatoes
½ cup cubed carrots
6 French beans, cut into diagonal pieces
½ cup fresh green peas
½ cup chopped tomatoes
3 finely chopped green chillies
½ cup grated coconut
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups Basmathi rice, washed and drained
4 cups water
Salt to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Add the masala mix and fry for five minutes. Add the vegetables, tomatoes, chillies, grated coconut, turmeric, rice, and salt, and fry for another five minutes. Add water, and bring to boil. Once it boils, turn heat as low as possible. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff up rice, and vegetables gently with a fork, and serve piping hot.

Coconut Rice

Coconut rice is a dish that’s very easy to make these days. This is a recipe I’ve shared with a number of my friends who wanted an easy but exotic rice recipe from Indian. My colleague and friend, Elizabeth Oloo, likes this recipe and makes better coconut rice than I do!

Many years ago, when I made coconut rice in India, just extracting the coconut milk was a cumbersome task. I had to first get a fresh coconut, grate it, extract the milk, strain it, and then start the process of making coconut rice. I only made it on special occasions – when I had plenty of time to spend in the kitchen. Now-a-days you can get coconut milk in a can. Oh, the joy of modern cooking!

Coconut Rice

2 cups Basmati rice
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 1-inch piece of cinnamon
2 green cardamoms, bruised
¼ cup diced onions
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1 can coconut milk
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons fried cashew nuts

In a heavy bottomed pan add ghee. When it shimmers add the cinnamon, cardamoms, and diced onions. Sauté for a minute and when onions are transparent add the washed and drained basmati rice, turmeric and salt. Fry for two minutes. Add the coconut milk and two cups of water.

Bring the rice to a boil then turn heat to low, cover the dish and let it cook for 15 minutes. Do not open the dish or stir during the 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the rice covered until you are ready to serve. Fluff rice gently with a fork. Garnish with fried cashew nuts and serve.