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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Shaam Savera - Spinach and Cheese Dumplings in Gravy

Those of you who are readers of the blog, know that I love cooking and entertaining.
All my friends know that I am a foodie. Last month my friend (K.J.) had invited us to a party at her house and naturally my first question to her was "What's on the menu?". She shared the basic outline of what she had planned but didn't want to reveal the big surprise that she had made for the day. I was curious and couldn't wait for the evening. We reached her place and her husband also told me that she had spent hours in the kitchen and that I would be absolutely taken by the dish. Finally, the wait was over and it was time to eat and time for the unveiling. The food spread was elaborate and she had made a lot of dishes and then she presented the surprise dish. What a spectacular sight it was!!! Not only was the dish absolutely delicious, it was beautiful to look at. It was a curry with beautiful koftas nestled in gravy.
After the party I asked her if there was any leftover, since everyone was raving about it. There was just a little left for me to photograph. I asked her if she would be willing to share this wonderful recipe and the process involved in making it. My dear friend graciously accepted to be a guest blogger and share her recipe of this gorgeous gravy with us. Not only did she write up the ingredients and the process, but also following the format of the blog, provided a great introduction and tips. So without much ado, here is the recipe in her own words.

Thanks K.J.!!!




"When Diwali- the Festival of lights is around the corner; I start planning the menu for the upcoming party. Every year I want to try out at least one dish that I have not tried before and which seems a bit challenging for me. That gives me a chance to explore in the culinary world. I’m always on lookout for new recipes; yet I would not consider myself as an expert in cooking at all. I like recipes which are simple to follow yet give an amazing end result. This year I joined ED group on Facebook; where lovely ladies share their recipes, pictures of the amazing food that they prepare and so on. Sometime back I saw one photo shared on ED, of the curry called –“Shaam Savera” and I really liked her presentation. I thought of noting down the recipe but as usual forgot about it. And when it was time for planning for Diwali, I thought making that dish. But alas, I couldn’t find that recipe on ED. And now my mind was set on it. So I started searching online, on YouTube, everywhere. Because to be honest I didn’t even remember that name of the curry; but just that photo and description of that curry in her post was good enough to mesmerize me. I remembered three vibrant colors- green koftas/fritters cut in the middle to reveal the soft inviting white paneer balls just dipped in the red smooth gravy; which was enough to get me into drooling. And as the fate would have it; I found a step by step video of Sanjeev Kapoor explaining this very recipe. I was so ecstatic to find this recipe and I followed most of his recipe; with added twist or rather cheat sheet to make this dish to give my touch to his wonderful recipe. So here it is.


Ingredients
For the koftas

1 lb Spinach,
2 green chilies
2  tbsp garlic, finely chopped 
salt to taste,
1/4 tsp turmeric,
1 tsp cumin
¼ cup of chickpeas flour (besan)/rice flour,
1/2 lb paneer
2 pinches cardamom powder
corn Starch just enough to roll the koftas,
oil to deep/shallow fry the koftas

For the gravy:-
2 cans Tomato Sauce,
¼ cup heavy cream,
¼ cup golden raisins,
2 tbsp of poppy seeds,
cashews (optional, I didn’t use them),
1 pinch cardamom 1 pinch,
1 stick cinnamon 
salt,
honey,
1 tbsp clarified butter/ghee

Procedure
For the koftas
Boil a large potful of water. Once it starts boiling, add the spinach, put the lid on and turn off the heat. Let it get partially cooked in the hot water for about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile prepare another pot with ice cold water, to blanch the spinach without losing its green color. Later drain the spinach from hot water and put in the cold water to stop the cooking process. Let the spinach enjoy that cold bath until you gather rest of the ingredients. Finely chop chilies and garlic. Grate the paneer finely. To that add some salt and cardamom. Now make tennis sized balls with that mixture. Now squeeze out as much water as you can from the spinach. Then finely chop the spinach. Heat some oil and once it is heated add some cumin seeds. Once they start crackling add the finely chopped chilies and garlic. Now add the spinach and keep sautéing it. Add the chickpeas flour and/or rice flour, bit of salt, turmeric and keep sautéing till the whole mixture becomes bit dry. In this process the flour gets cooked and is absorbed in the spinach as well. Let this cool down completely. Once it is cooled down make a flat disk of this spinach mixture on your palm with help of drops of oil. Now place the paneer ball on that spinach disk and roll it into an enclosed ball. So you should not be able to see any white of paneer in it. This way finish rolling all of the koftas. 

At this stage either you can deep fry the koftas as Sanjeev Kapoor has explained in his recipe; or you can shallow fry or use appe pan like I did. For that heat up the appe pan. Add a teaspoon of oil. Now sprinkle some corn starch in a plate and roll the koftas in it to get it coated uniformly. Now carefully place each kofta in the appe pan. And put a lid on it and let it get cooked on low flame. This process is time consuming. Once it is cooked from one side, flip it and remove the lid. Wait till you get nice browning done on both sides. This way koftas would be crispy form outside and yet soft and gooey from inside. Let all the koftas cool down and get started with gravy.

For the gravy
You can make any tomato based gravy that you are comfortable making it. This is my standard gravy for most of the rich Punjabi dishes I make. It goes well with paneer butter masala, paneer tikka masala and such. Soak the golden raisins and poppy seeds in some milk for at least 2-3 hours before hand. If you want to add cashews then soak those as well. Once it is soaked and become soft; blend all of it together. Now heat up ghee/clarified butter and add the cinnamon stick and a pinch full of cardamom. Once that gives nice aroma add the raisins/poppy seeds paste and sauté it for couple minutes. Now add two cans of tomato sauce. And let the gravy cook for about 5 minutes on very low flame.  At this point add salt to taste, a teaspoonful of honey and crushed kasoori methi. At the very last add the cream, stir it and turn off the heat. You can adjust the salt/honey per your taste.
For assembling this dish, get a flat dish and pour the gravy in it. Now cut each kofta in two equal parts.

And place each of kofta in the gravy. You can get creative by decorating it per your style-like drizzling it with some cream last minute or if you like add finely chopped cilantro.


Tips
Make sure that there are no lumps in paneer. You will need to mash it smooth like dough for rotis. If you can make paneer form scratch then that would be the best option. You can find how to make paneer from scratch; in this blog. And if you are like me; you would buy frozen paneer.
Make sure that paneer is at room temperature; so that it can regain its moisture. In time crunch you can microwave it for 15-20 seconds to get the rock like to soft-mushy transformation.

Another key point to remember is to add salt as the last ingredient in spinach mixture. Adding salt tends to generate moisture and we want to have dry mixture to make koftas.

For gravy you can follow Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe with fresh tomatoes; but this gravy dish is my goto recipe which can be prepared in less than 10 minutes. "

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gulkand Barfi - Rose Fudge

Gulkand are rose petals preserved in sugar. It is made by preserving rose petals with sugar and kept in a glass bottle in the sun till the sugar melts. This preserved mixture is extremely fragrant and delicious and a delicacy. It is meant to give a cooling effect during the summer months.

This sweet recipe came about in an interesting way. My husband had brought Gulkand Barfi from India a few years ago and when we were discussing the menu for Diwali treats this year, he suggested I make it. I had only eaten this sweet that one time. And it had been quite a while since then and I couldn't remember what it was made of.  He told me that it definitely had gulkand and coconut and I would need to figure out the rest.

Well, I started off with sugar and coconut and then added the other ingredients based on the description of the sweet. The end result was extremely delicious and finger licking. I just cannot stop eating it.

Ingredients
3 cups shredded fresh coconut
2.5 cups sugar
1/2 cup gulkand
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz can)
1 packet milk powder (90 gm pack)
2 tsp of milk
2-3 drops red/pink food color (optional)
1-2 tsps of ghee to grease the plate
1-2 drops of rose essence


Method
Take a plate or tray in which you will pour out the barfi and set it and grease it well with ghee.

Mix together the sugar and coconut and heat this. Once the sugar has melted, add the evaporated milk and the milk powder and cook this on low heat, stirring often.  Keep stirring and cook it down till you can see the base of the pan. Add a couple of teaspoons of warm milk to the gulkand and stir it in. Stir it well so that the gulkand liquefies a little so that it can easily be stirred and incorporated into the mixture that is being cooked.

When the mixture thickens enough that when you stir it, the base of the pan can be easily viewed for a few seconds, then the mixture is ready to be poured into the greased plate. At this point add the gulkand and then increase the heat and stirring continuously again cook it down to the consistency where it is ready to be poured onto a greased plate. Turn off the heat, add  the color and essence is using and mix in it thoroughly. Pour the mixture onto the greased plate and using a bowl or measuring cup spread the mixture out into the plate. Make sure to grease the base of the cup with ghee, so that the mixture doesn't stick. Use it to level the mixture and flatten it. Now, let the mixture cool.  When it has cooled to a luke warm temperature, it will solidify a little. At this stage, you can cut it into squares.


Tips
If you want to speed up the cooking process, you can increase the heat but be sure to stand at the stove and keep stirring so that it doesn't brown or stick to the pan.  An alternate method to check if the mixture is at the right consistency is to take a  drop full of the mixture into a plate and as soon as it is cool enough to touch, try to roll it into a ball. If you are able to roll it, then the mixture is ready to be poured. The gulkand is added at the last step and cooked for a minimal time so that is maintains its fragrance. If you take this off the heat a little early and the barfi ends up being soft after cooling completely, you can reheat the mixture. However, you will end up losing the fragrance from the gulkand. So definitely add the essence before you put it into the greased pan. The taste will be the same.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rose Cashewnut Fig Almond Barfi - Rose Kaju Anjeer Badam barfi

This year I have challenged myself to make some complex sweets which I had usually bought in the past. I have realized that the taste of homemade sweets is so good and I have so much control over the quality of the ingredients that we enjoy it more than the store bought version. This is another decadent sweet. The outer covering is made using cashews and sugar and the process is similar to that of Kaju Katli, which is a Cashew sweet and once you cut into it, you see the inside filling of figs and almonds. This is also a labor and time intensive recipe and you need to keep a close eye on the ingredients but oh so delicious!

Hope you like the recipe and give it a try. If you do, leave me a comment.



Ingredients
1 cup raw cashewnuts
red food coloring
rose essence or rose water
12-14 dried figs
1 tsp ghee
1/4 cup of mava/khoa
1/8 cup of sliced almonds
powdered sugar


Method
Soak the cashews with enough water to cover them completely. Soak the cashews for at least 4-5 hours, overnight would be best. Then drain the water and remove any peels that may have been on the nuts and then rinse them out. Process the cashews to make a fine paste. Add just a little water when you make the paste, just enough to let your grinder function properly. Then, measure an equal quantity of powdered sugar. Mix the cashew paste and sugar and start heating it in a open pan.

Keep stirring the mixture and let it cook. Keep the temperature at a very low level while cooking to avoid any browning. Make sure to keep stirring the two mixtures so that they don't stick to the base of the pan and brown. As the mixture starts thickening, it will get more difficult to stir it around as it gets heavy and sticky. However, it is crucial that at this stage you stir it and do not let it stick to the base and brown. At this stage, test the consistency of the mixture. Take a small drop (it will be hot so be careful) and roll it between your fingers. If you can mould it into a ball (it will be like molten wax) and it retains its shape, then you can take it off the heat. Make sure that the ball is not at all sticky. If it sticks to your fingers even a little, cook it a little longer.

Soak the dry figs for about 15-30 mins and then heat them on the stove top for a few mins till they soften. Then process this through the grinder and make a paste. In a pan, heat the ghee and add the mava. Heat it till it softens and you get the smell of roasting it. Then add the fig paste, sugar and stir well. Cook this mixture till it starts to thicken and then add the sliced almonds. Cook this till it cooks down and becomes pliable like a dough. Remove a small quantity and let it cool down till you can touch it and then try rolling it. If it is not sticky and can be easily rolled into a ball then the mixture is at the right consistency.




Let the mixtures cool to a temperature where you can handle it. Add a couple of drops of red food coloring to the cashew mixture and a couple of drops of rose essence. Knead this into the cashew dough till it is evenly mixed and you have a nice pink color and the dough is a smooth ball.

Then take a fistfull of fig mixture and roll it into a ball. Make a bigger ball of the cashew mixture and then using your fingers make a depression in it and then roll this cashew ball around the fig ball. Cover the fig ball completely with the cashew and then roll this to get a smooth finish. Then flatten it into a thick disk. Slice this into sectors by cutting the disc into eighths along the diameter of the disc. You can make about 4-12 slices based on how big you make the disc.

Garnish with silver foil if available. You can do this before cutting the disc.

You can store it in an airtight container for a couple of weeks. It lasts in the refrigerator for upto a month.

Tips
If you add a lot of water when you grind the paste, then the sugar proportion will be off. Also, since you need to cook it down to a dough consistency, it will take much longer to cook it. The nut paste must be very fine and there shouldn't be any grainy texture. If you are in doubt, use 1 cup of powdered sugar for 1 cup of nuts and if it is granulated, use 3/4 cup of sugar. Granulated sugar will take much longer to melt, and if you process it in the grinder, you can turn it into powdered sugar and use that.

Use a large pan so that the evaporation rate is faster and that will make the cooking process faster. Use a non stick pan so that the mixture will not stick while cooking. The color should not change. Also, as the sugar melts, the mixture will start getting sticky and as the the cooking process comes closer to completion, it will get more difficult to stir it around. If you are cooking a large quantity, then it is advisable to take turns with someone else to stir it. Grease your hands with some ghee/clarified butter before you knead the cashew mixture and also when handling the fig mixture to keep it from sticking to your hands.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cashew Pistachio Rolls - Kaju Pista Barfi

This is a decadent sweet. Made from just two ingredients, nuts and sugar, it highlights the rich taste of the cashews and pistachios. I had always bought it till now, however since I had made Kaju Katli in the past, which is a Cashew sweet, I thought I would try my hand at this decadent dessert. Now, to be honest, it did take quite a lot of time and a lot of elbow grease but the end result was so good, that I don't think I can go back to eating the store bought version anymore. I also bought some edible silver leaf (warak in Hindi) and was able to give a very professional look to the sweet. Even my parents thought that it was store bought when I shared the photo with them.

With the festive season starting soon, give this sweet a try and let me know how it turns out.



Ingredients
1 cup raw cashewnuts
1 cup raw, unsalted pistachios
powdered sugar

Method
Soak the cashews and pistachios in separate containers with enough water to cover them completely. Soak these for atleast 4-5 hours, overnight would be best. Then drain the water and remove any peels that may have been on the nuts and then rinse them out. Process the cashews to make a fine paste. Add just a little water when you make the paste, just enough to let your grinder function properly. Then, measure an equal quantity of powdered sugar. Carry out the same process with the pistachios and grind to make a fine paste.  Measure the cashew paste and pistachio paste separately. Then, measure an equal quantity of powdered sugar for each nut. If you get one cup of cashew paste then add 1 cup of powdered sugar to it. Do the same for the pistachio paste. In this example we will end up using a total of 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Mix the cashew paste and sugar and start heating it in a open pan. Then mix the pistachio paste and sugar and start heating it in a separate pan.

Keep stirring these mixtures and let them cook. Keep the temperature at a very low level while cooking to avoid any browning. Make sure to keep stirring the two mixtures so that they don't stick to the base of the pan and brown. As the mixture starts thickening, it will get more difficult to stir it around as it gets heavy and sticky. However, it is crucial that at this stage you stir it and do not let it stick to the base and brown. At this stage, test the consistency of the mixture. Take a small drop (it will be hot so be careful) and roll it between your fingers. If you can mould it into a ball (it will be like molten wax) and it retains its shape, then you can take it off the heat. Make sure that the ball is not at all sticky. If it sticks to your fingers even a little, cook it a little longer.




Let the mixture cool to a temperature where you can handle it. At this stage, knead the two mixtures separately into two balls like you would knead dough till they are smooth. If you want, then you can deepen the green color of the pistachio by adding a couple of drops of green food coloring.

Then roll out the pistachio dough into long cylindrical rolls about 2 cms in diameter. Then roll out the cashew dough into a sheet which is about  half a centimeter in thickness. Then, place the pistachio roll on top of this cashew sheet and roll the cashew sheet around it, such that you get a circular cylinder covering the entire pistachio roll. Cut off the excess dough.  Then, using a serrated knife cut these long cylindrical rolls into small rolls. I cut some in two inch long pieces and some much small.

Garnish with silver foil if available.

You can store it in an airtight container for a couple of weeks. It lasts in the refrigerator for upto a month.


Tips
If you add a lot of water when you grind the paste, then the sugar proportion will be off. Also, since you need to cook it down to a dough consistency, it will take much longer to cook it. The nut paste must be very fine and there shouldn't be any grainy texture. If you are in doubt, use 1 cup of powdered sugar for 1 cup of nuts and if it is granulated, use 3/4 cup of sugar. Granulated sugar will take much longer to melt, and if you process it in the grinder, you can turn it into powdered sugar and use that.

Use a large pan so that the evaporation rate is faster and that will make the cooking process faster. Use a non stick pan so that the mixture will not stick while cooking. The color should not change. Also, as the sugar melts, the mixture will start getting sticky and as the the cooking process comes closer to completion, it will get more difficult to stir it around. If you are cooking a large quantity, then it is advisable to take turns with someone else to stir it. Grease your hands with some ghee/clarified butter before you knead the cashew mixture to keep it from sticking to your hands.

Instead of a roll, you can also roll both out into sheets and then place on top of each other and cut into diamonds or squares as a variation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Coconut Beetroot Barfi (Coconut Beetroot Fudge)

My Mom and I were discussing various recipes that are made during the festive season and one of my favorites is coconut burfi or naral barfi. I told her I was planning to make that sometime soon and she suggested that I try adding some beetroot to make it colorful. I loved the idea and I decided to try it with golden beetroots. The end result was beautiful. The barfi turned out to absolutely golden and it tastes great. And I feel less guilty eating it because I know I am also eating a vegetable. This is a beautiful, delicious and healthier variation to the coconut barfi.

The recipe for the coconut barfi can be found here.



Ingredients
2 cups fresh coconut - grated/scraped (if using frozen, thaw it)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup beetroot - cooked and grated (see details in method)
1/8 tsp cardamom powder


Method

Cook the beetroot and then grate it. I usually do it in a pressure cooker

Heat the beetroot, coconut and sugar in a pan. Stir it and then add the milk. The sugar will melt and turn into syrup. As the mixture starts to thicken, add the cardamom powder. Stir frequently so that the mixture doesn't burn. Heat this mixture, till it is thick enough, so that when you move a spoon through it, you can see the base of the pan and till the mixture comes together. In the meanwhile, grease a tin or dish with some ghee or butter. Then pour the mixture in a greased pan. Use a spatula to spread this or you can use the base of a small bowl. Grease the base of the bowl with some ghee, so that the coconut mixture doesn't stick to the base. Once it has cooled down a little and is warm to touch, cut it into small squares.  Once it has completely cooled down, you can separate the squares. Store it in the fridge.


Tips
You can scrape/grate a coconut and freeze this in an airtight bag/box for about 6-8 weeks. After you scrape the coconut, heat it for a minute in the microwave or on the stove till you can smell the coconut aroma. Then cool it and freeze it. This helps preserve the coconut for a longer period.
When you cook the beetroot in the pressure cooker, just wash it and place it in the cooker. Remove the top and the root end and peel it after it is cooked.
If you use red beetroot (which I plan to use the next time), you will get a beautiful pink color.

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