Friday, October 23, 2015

Palak Paneer: Punjabi Dhabha Style

A green recipe for today.

A popular one.

A Punjabi recipe.

No its not saag.

It has paneer.

Oh now I have said it all. Yup it is Palak Paneer. Put three Ps together –Punjab, Palak and Paneer and you know one is talking about Palak Paneer. So palak paneer is northern Indian delicacy made with palak (spinach) and paneer (cottage cheese). Honestly there is no right or wrong way to make this curry. Some like to use boiled and purred palak in the gravy; some use chopped spinach while some put coarsely purred spinach as well. In the restaurants here in the UK I have noticed huge chunks of paneer are used in medium spicy spinach gravy (coarse spinach). Back in India the spinach is grinned into a smooth paste and later mixed with tomato gravy.

Looking for more Paneer Recipes? Check these out:
Paneer Kofta (fried paneer balls in tomato gravy)
Achari Paneer (Paneer curry in spicy pickled spices)
Palak Mutter Paneer (combination of spinach and peas in tomato gravy)
Paneer Corn Bhurji (grated paneer with chunks of corn)
Hydarbadi Paneer (paneer stir fry with bell peppers)
Paneer Butter Masala (paneer in creamy and rich tomato gravy with butter and tomatoes)
Kadai Paneer (paneer cooked in wok with whole spices)
Paneer Tikka Masala (marinated paneer chunks coated with spicy garlic gravy)

What I share today is the authentic dhabha style Palak Paneer. Whats dhabha? Dhabha are typical roadside restaurants (rural) mostly present on the highways in India. If you ever take road trip in India, you will surely find at least one dhabha on the highway. Food served in dhabha is simple and flavorful. Simple in terms of menu, you will find basic menu, no exotic dishes. Flavorful because they don’t compromise on taste-the food is richly spiced with garlic, spices and lot of oil and butter. So if you want dhabha style cooking, don’t shy from adding oil or butter. Some recipes are good with calories-worth it, I promise.

I clearly remember that taste. Papa, mummy, my brother and me- we stopped at a dhabha in Jhalander (city in Punjab) and ordered Palak Paneer , Plain Kulcha and Aloo Subji. It was a cold night. We sat on a khaat (Indian rural style bed) and between was a wooden patta (plank) on which they served food. After placing the order, the waiter came with a steel jug of water and four glasses. Second round, he placed some chopped onions, pickle and spicy garlic chutney.  After 20 minutes of wait, the food arrived. Piping hot kulchas, aloo subji and palak paneer.  Maa, look how much oil they have added in palak paneer, I told my mother. My mom grabbed a spoon and gave palak paneer a quick mix. Now oil is not visible she said. I smiled.

First bite of that curry was burst of amazing flavors in my mouth. Lot of garlic, ginger julienne, spice from whole red chillies, tang from chopped tomatoes and velvety paneer- all mixed and made into scrumptious Indian subji. This is the best thing ever, my brother said as he licked his fingers. Last weekend, when I was on call with mummy, we were recalling that taste. She gave some instructions and tips and then I dared to make that tasty Palak Paneer.

This is my replication of the Dhabha Style Palak Paneer.  Pair it with any Indian roti, paratha or puri. Even good old basic jeera rice taste very nice with this.

2 cups spinach/palak chopped
1 cup paneer chopped in cubes
1 large tomato
1 medium size onion
2 green chillies
10 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger chopped in juleins
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon ghee
2-4 whole red chillies
1 cinnamon stick/dal chinni
1 bay leaf/tej patta
½ teaspoon cumin seeds/jeera
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder/haldi
¼ teaspoon coriander powder/dhaniya
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon garam massala
Salt to taste
Water 4 cups

Put 4 cups of water to boil. In it add chopped spinach. Boil for 2 minutes. Strain the water and keep aside. Puree spinach and green chillies coarsely.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, bay leaf, whole chillies and cinnamon. Let it cook for few seconds.
Add chopped onion. Cook till onions are soft and transparent.
Add chopped tomatoes. Mix in turmeric powder and coriander powder. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes.
Mix paneer in the tomatoes gravy. Cook covered for 2 minutes.
Add in purred gravy, salt, garam massala and lemon juice. Mix and cook for 2 minutes.
In a seprate pan Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, saute chopped garlic and mix in the gravy.
Finally mix in ghee and ginger julienne. Cover and turn off the heat.

I used baby spinach, but you can use spinach bunch as well.
Green chillies and whole red chillies will bring the spice. You can add more red chilli powder if you like it hot curries.
The paneer I used is very soft so I just added in the curry. If you wish you can put paneer in hot water and then use it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Best Eggless Recipe

Cookies I guess are everyone’s favorite. Not guess, I am sure. I haven’t met anyone who does not like cookies. Yeah one may have their own favorite cookie but cookies everyone loves. Probably that is why I have many cookies recipes on my Indian blog. Whole wheat cookies with almonds are typical Indian naankhatai style, also called as bakery biscuits. If you are looking for something fancy see heart shaped vanilla cookies dipped in chocolate. Also some savory or namkeen cookies are on the blog like curry leaves cookies and cheese cookies. If all this doesn’t please you then simple good old butter cookies will.

Among all the cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies are my favorite and I am a bit embarrassed that the recipe is appearing on my blog after 3 years. What can I say? Well these cookies are so good that whenever I bake them it just finishes off in minutes- before I could even click pictures. Yeah so that’s the best excuse I can make. *wink*. Okay, honestly I don’t want to bore my husband and friends with these cookies, so I hardly bake them. You see, good things come after a lot wait, but the wait is always worth.

Last Sunday I had an itch to bake these chocolate bites (named by Mr. Husband). Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside and so buttery and chocolaty, according to me these are the best chocolate chip cookies-period! And these are eggless too; yeah some of my friends could not believe that cookies without eggs can be sooooo good. So with festive season approaching why not treat your friends and relatives with these homemade goodies, what’s better then a box full of chocolate cookies? This time ditch those mithai dabbas or sweet boxes and gift these cookies- just use a fancy box, tray, basket and wrap or ribbon it up.

Here are some pointers that will help you to make best cookies:
-Use good quality chocolate chips. Yes please. I recommend Hershey's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Chips.
-Make sure the vanilla essence is pure and original. I swear by Nielsen-Massey.
-Make use of unsalted butter, it brings out the best taste. If unsalted butter is not available then you just avoid adding salt.
-Brown sugar helps to give rich color. Where as granulated white sugar crystallizes and gives that sugary crunch. So both the sugars are important.
-I never freeze my chocolate chip cookies  dough, I bake them instantly. When you freeze the dough chocolate chips become hard whereas if you bake instantly some bits of chocolate chips melts while baking, this gives that chewy taste.

Now, Here is the recipe to make the best eggless chocolate chip cookies.

1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup and 2 tablespoons -All purpose flour/maida
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4  cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

  1. Preheat the oven at 180C for 10 minutes.
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment or baking paper.
  3. Sieve all purpose flour, salt and baking soda. Keep aside.
  4. In a bowl cream together butter and sugar.
  5. Add vanilla essence and milk. Mix.
  6. Add in sieved ingredients and form soft dough with your hands.
  7. Add in chocolate chips and mix again.
  8. Make one inch small ball and arrange on the lined baking tray. Flatten the cookies slightly. Make sure the cookies have some gap in between each other because cookies spread while baking.
  9. Bake in the oven at 180C for 10 -12 minutes or till you see the edges of cookies turn golden.
  10. Let it cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes.

You can freeze the dough and use later.
Once cooled, the cookies stay fresh in a air tight container for one week.
Keep an eye on the cookies, it can burn fast. Just wait till you see the edges turning dark brown.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lemon Bundt Cake

Am I still in summer thoughts or what? Well you can say so, I am missing summers and all the fall recipes on internet is making me crave for summer recipes even more. I can’t get over the beautiful sunshine yellow color. I get this rigid summer mood from the tree that I see from my bedroom. It is in adamant mood, when all trees have turned into skeleton this tree stays strong engulfing all its leaves. Nature, I tell you can be so inspiring.

So this lemon cake happened the other day in my kitchen .These days I have many people with whom I share my bakes- my friends in the building where I have shifted and my colleagues in office. Initially I used to bake only on special days as eating sweet bakes everyday made me and my husband gain weight. Now when I have many people to share it with I am sure many baking actions are going to happen. Can’t wait! Happy Dance!

This cake you guys! Lemon Cake. Lemon Bundt Cake. Bundt cake is a cake made in bundt shaped pan which gives it distinct ring shape. Check out One Bowl Chocolate Bundt Cake and also Coffee Whiskey Bundt Cake. This cake has everything that a good cake must have- its light, soft, fluffy, airy and so buttery. Tangy flavored cakes are my favorite, the tang from citrus fruits and sugar balances each other really well. I have made eggless orange cake and orange cupcakes as well. This is a full proof Lemon Cake recipe made with eggs, I have made 1 pound lemon cake recipe made in loaf pan in which I used yogurt (dahi).

Basically I believe that a good lemon cake must have good amount of lemon zest, lemon juice and butter. Always use fresh lemon juice, don’t even think about bottled lemon juice, it’s such a waste. Next, make sure everything is in the room temperature; else the cake will not turn soft. Beat the eggs slowly on low speed; doing so will give you light airy cake. Finally when the cake is hot, pour lemon sugar syrup on it, this is optional but I really recommend it- just for extra zing and flavour. Yeah so that’s about it. Here is the recipe.

For Cake
All Purpose Flour /Maida- 175 grams (1 and 1/3 cup )
Sugar - 175 grams (2/3 cup)
2 large eggs
Butter - 125 grams (2/3 cup)+ 2 tablespoon
Pinch of salt
Baking powder – 1 and 1/2 teaspoon
Milk - 1/4 cup
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
For syrup
Juice of 1 and a half lemons
Icing sugar -100 grams 
2 tablespoons water

  1. Grease the bundt with 2 tespoons butter and keep aside.
  2. Preheat the oven at 180C for 10-12 minutes.
  3. Mix lemon juice and milk and keep aside.
  4. Sieve all purpose flour, salt and baking powder and keep aside.
  5. Beat butter and sugar on low speed till butter becomes light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time and beat slowly on low speed.
  6. Add dry sieve ingredients and lemon zest. Also throw in lemon juice and milk mixture.
  7. Beat slowly on low speed till the batter is mixed properly without lumps.
  8. Pour the batter in the greased pan and bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 180C. Insert the skewer or knife in the centre of the cake, it should come out clean.
  9. Cool on wire rack.
  10. Make the syrup-Mix water everything together and microwave for 10 seconds.
  11. When the cake in hot, prick some holes with skewer on the cake. Pour the syrup.
  12. Turn the cake on serving plate and serve.

Do not grate the white part or lemon skin/peal, else it will get bitter.
You can use the same recipe for loaf pan too.
I love to have this cake plain so I can’t recommend any frosting, but feel free to dust some sugar.