Kadai Paneer – Indian cottage cheese in tangy, spicy tomato gravy

My oldest tyke turned 15. A year shy of the quintessential mark of a rebel.. But hey I don’t think a particular year turns the page.

I sometimes think this boy was born as an old soul in a young body. Sigh !

Or maybe just maybe the single liners or the dry remarks are just a genetic influence that has been passed on … Ahem Ahem !

 But this child still has the glint in his eyes when looks forward to certain favorites. This being one of those on his list.. Happy Birthday A1 and may you be blessed with the best of health and happiness always ..

An awesome spicy and tangy gravy of Paneer and bell peppers and onions served with flat bread  ( rotis or Naans) or fried puffed breads ( Pooris) and piping hot Jeera rice.

Kadai Paneer - Indian cottage cheese in tangy, spicy tomato gravy

Cooking time : 30-40 min  Serves : 6

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz paneer : Cut in 1.5 inches lengthwise
  • Bell peppers  ( green , colored mix) : 3-4 cut in thick strips
  • Red onion : 1 big, cut in big fat strips
  • Ginger garlic paste : 1 tsp.
  • Roma tomatoes : 8-9 , pureed
  • Cumin (Jeera seeds) : 1 tsp.
  • Garam Masala : 1 tsp.
  • Kasuri methi leaves (dry) : 1 tsp, crushed
  • Melted butter : 3 Tbsp.
  • 2 to 3 tbsp oil or ghee or butter
  • Fresh Coriander leaves : chopped fine , 1/4 cup
  • Salt : 1 tsp + to taste

 Kadai masala: Dry roast, cool and fine grind

  • Coriander seeds : 1/4 cup
  • Dry red Kashmiri chilies ( low – medium heat) : 6

Optional :

  • Kashmiri chili powder : 1 tsp.

Method:

  • In a big wok or Kadai and add 3 Tbsp. of butter or ghee ( clarified butter ) if using and heat it.
  • Add in the Cumin seeds and let it sputter.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste , fry it for a minute or two.
  • Now add in the cut onions and sauté till translucent.
  • Add the Garam masala, fine ground Kadai masala and Kashmiri chili powder ( if using) and stir for a min or two. Essentially cooking the masala combination.
  • Now add in the pureed tomatoes , stir well , cover and let it boil for about 7-10 min. By now the gravy will acquire  deep red hue from the combination of Kashmiri chilies and the chili powder if using and the tomato puree. That is the color you would typically look out for.
  • The butter would separate and you would see it glistening on the sides, plus there would be a reduction in the gravy volume as well.
  • Add in 1 tsp. or so of salt and about half a cup of water only if you think the gravy is too thick.
  • Add in the chopped bell peppers  and simmer in this for another 5 minutes or so.
  • Add in the crushed Kasuri Methi leaves and the Paneer strips and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

 Notes :

  • Adding the red Kashmiri Chili powder is not necessary but it gives the beautiful hue to the gravy.
  • Don’t feel like making the Kadhai masala fresh?  Go ahead and  substitute with just Kashmiri Chili powder  and 3 -4 tsp of dry dhania powder and adjust the masala to taste. It should be close enough, but if you could take an extra 5 to make the masala fresh.
  • The bell peppers need to retain the part crunch , hence they are added a bit later in the prep.
  • This recipe uses a lot of tomatoes. Don’t have any on hand? Just substitute with canned as per the directions on it.

Kadai Paneer - Indian cottage cheese in tangy, spicy tomato gravy

 This was a part of the lovely birthday dinner served along with pooris , Peas and Carrot simple Pulav , Mixed  Masala Dal and Baingan Bartha.

Enjoy!

And dessert of course was the super delish Guava Ice cream!

Collard Greens,Peppers and Cottage Cheese Stir Fry ( collard collage)

And I am back with a Bang ! Sigh! After watching one of those fantastically IQ challenged movies churned out by the Bollywood  ( Chennai Express anyone??) I felt the need to seriously fuel or rather revive my brain cells. In fact dissection of the movie and its contents created a bad hangover the following day ( Btw, is there  such a thing as a good hangover?). Good or bad, I really did need to get rid of it!

I channeled Popeye the sailor man! Extoling the virtues of spinach to  any and all including unleashing the lecture to a resisting, unsuspecting family member, yours truly decided  to rescue a particularly sad looking bunch of collard leaves from the refrigerator. A trip to the farmers market had yielded this bounty! And looking at that bunch, the one belonging to the Acephala family  (“without a head” in Greek) ) the irony struck me particularly funny . Watching the movie Chennai Express could particularly create the effect of transgressing several species at the genetic level! No offense to the Acephala group!

This particular recipe, is heavily inspired by a friend’s creation. ( Dearest Vidya, thanks  for inspiring an awesome organic chemical experiment .Maybe you will now give in to writing a piece for me 🙂 )

The wonderful organic experiment !

 Ingredients:

  1. A bunch of collard greens – ( mine were not particularly in the freshest of their spirits.  A week’s time in the refrigerator I suppose dampened their green spirits, albeit only mildly! )
  2. Red onion – I had a particularly large one at hand. And since I was feeling slightly edgy ( Readers to kindly note the root cause of the aforementioned edginess from the first paragraph ) decided to use the entire one. Yep, one large red onion!
  3. Red bell pepper – 1 large one. I had a big fresh one at hand and I try and incorporate it as much as I can in my cooking.
  4. Green bell pepper – 2 medium sized ones. I had these two at hand. I suppose if I had an extra one, I would have added it as well.
  5. Yellow bell pepper -1 large one. Figured more the merrier 🙂
  6. Roma tomatoes – 2 large ones. Ripe and firm. Not squishy at all !
  7. Pressed, cottage cheese : About 8 oz

Iron chef skill aka knife wielding skills !

  • Chop everything finely length wise ( Yes,even the Collard greens . And no, it did not take much time. About 10-15 min to chop a fairly large bunch) . Chop it to about an inch to inch and a half in length. Slivers any one?
  • The panner aka Indian cottage cheese need to be cut as much aligned to the shape of all the greens. 1.5 inches lengthwise.

 The Indian touch! – Dry Spices, Masalas 

  1. Jeera or Cumin seeds : ¼ tsp
  2. Turmeric powder : ½ tsp
  3. Fresh ground Dhania ( dry coriander seeds ) powder : ¼ tsp
  4. Paprika or Chiili powder : ½ tsp for the heat ( use it sparingly if you need to lower the heat level)
  5. Garam masala or Sabji masala : ½ tsp
  6. The necessary evil : fat of your choice : 2 tsp ( I used Olive oil,  the EVOO kind.)
  7. Salt : to taste . About ½ tsp

Fresh seasonings ( if you have it at hand)

  1. Freshly grated ginger : ¼ tsp
  2. Freshly grated garlic : ¼ tsp
  3. Fresh sprigs of coriander leaves, finely chopped . About a handful.

Sizzling in the wok :

  • Add in the olive oil, 2 tsp and when it heats up add in the Jeera seeds and let it sputter.
  • Then add in the fresh grated ginger and garlic (if using them).
  • Add in the size-zero onions  and let is sauté well in the wok.
  • Then add in the turmeric powder aka haldi and add in the  peppers. ( I dumped the whole lot in them )
  • After about 5-8 min, when they are in the almost cooked stage but not mushy, add in the tomatos and let the mixture stew in for a few more min.
  • Add in the collards the very last. They do cook fast when slim-line cut and you really do not want limpy looking greens.
  • Add in the salt and the Garam masala.
  • Now if using cottage cheese, add in the pieces. I usually sauté / toast the chunky pieces on the stove stop on a pan  but this one time I did not mind adding it in directly.This particular cheese was fresh , firm but with enough sponginess in it to give the soft texture like silken smooth soft tofu. Oxymoronic description I suppose, but it saved me from sautéing them separately on the stove.
  • Add in the rest of the spices and garnish with freshly cut sprigs of coriander!

 

Verdict : delectable and completely licked clean off the bowls by the kids..

Served with : Fresh rotis ( flat indian bread )

FIne print :

  • You can add in any combination of vegetables for this one. Potatoes and carrots are awesome additions.
  • You can definitely experiment with the heat level by incorporating more peppers of the spicier kind. Jalapeños anyone?
  • Fresh Indian cottage cheese aka Paneer is commercially store bought by me. I used the low fat variety.
  • Going Vegan? Use tofu instead of Cheese.
  • Try adding in sliced slivers of peeled almonds . I am sure it would be wonderful.

Twist in the take .. Bring it on!

Use it as a pizza topping, fillers in  grilled sandwiches.. Brain cells revived yay!

Cooking time : About 20-25 min

Serves : 4-6