Mexican Paneer

and so morning broke with a work call awaiting to be logged into… and it was time for the rescuer black tea with a dash of honey in it! (i have discovered i just cannot start my morning without them! and having a coffee maker that doubles up as the perfect way to steal the flavor from these gorgeous leaves makes me much happy!)

warm cup of tea snuggled in hands and i was somewhat willing to face this world! this was followed by a late breakfast of some gorgeously fresh brown bread from daily breads and this amazing apple cinnamon semi honeyed jam i had managed to lay my hands on in pondicherry a while back duly accompanied with cold chocolate!

happy and comforted i prodded away patiently at the several work fires i knew i had to douse today! and then the stomach rumbled as inspiration was found in some paneer fast approaching slow death in the fridge! so that was turned into this beautiful chillied mix of mexican paneer!

Now this one’s easy!! All i did was delve into my dabbas of pre cut and pre sautéed veggies…

heated some oil.. doused in it some finely cut garlic pods and some even more finely cut green chillies! This is a smell I have come to love in my kitchen.. perfectly smoky and you know it’s the right amount of chilli if it just about opens your nose to the world without watering up your eyes! Mix in a dash of oregano and a tiny dash of chilli flakes and it all looks like colors in bubbly motion!

Lo and behold you’re ready to add in the pre cut onions.. a couple of tsps does it… and then you OD on the tomatoes! I like the mexcheese nice and tangy for the love of tomatoes and usually hurl in double of the onions! Here is when I like to add in the salt, a lil turmeric, some coriander powder and tons of fresh coriander! I normally use the fresh coriander as a topping but in this one I like the deep yet fresh flavor it brings to the well cooked gravy! Then it’s time for the lil cubes of paneer to be tossed in!

Add some water to just cover what you have in the pan (or the old faithful aluminium kadhai in this case!) and add a tbsp of regular tomato sauce. I prefer tomato chilli – but remember you already added a generous helping of green chillies and you have chilli flakes to boot! This is where you can happily add in some finely chopped capsicum if you have it around! Put it on a happy medium flame and let it boil as it gradually reduces… Reduce to desired consistency, add some garam masala and voila! And now as another wonderful chef recently reminded me… garam masala you must only steam and not cook!

So there lay a wonderful Mexican Paneer steaming under some lovely homemade garam masala! This is where getting the spiced yoghurt (you need something to cool off after all that chilli) and steamed rice come in! I like to do both of these just as the paneer is getting done to allow time for the steaming and for each succulent cube of paneer to have absorbed the wonderful flavors!

The yoghurt (or raita so to speak) was easy with pre cut onions and fresh mint leaves being mixed into nice thick curd with salt and spices to taste! I strangely like black pepper in mine!

And this is what we looked like… and boy did we taste good! 🙂

I was secretly thankful for this lovely home c(r)ooked meal when we ended up at a dinner with friend’s at La Casa! Now I have previously adored their non vegetarian fare but tonight I was the veggie crook! All I will say is that beyond the chilli cheese toast (which indeed was cold) and the cheese naan this world is in dire need of better veggie crooks! This is a call to arms!!

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Risotto a la colors!

It starts with opening the fridge to find inspiration..! And this fridge had just been stocked up yesterday so carrots, capsicum, parsley, garlic pods, tomatoes, mustard sauce, some milk and some cheese were all easy to find! Bored of masala khichdi it was time for a veggie delite risotto!

On came the flame under a tiny good for one person aluminium ka pateela and in went a dash of olive oil… now with olive oil less is always more! And as it expanded in went a few fresh peppercorns and a one super tiny star anise (you don’t want a large one.. it’ll over flavor!) As the pepper begins to pop about insanely add in the finely chopped two pods of garlic… and stir.. stir furiously till the garlic is glazed! It shouldn’t burn.. it shouldn’t turn brown! The minute you see the lazy glaze coming over throw in the chopped tomato (yes just one does quite fine and is essential to counter the sweetness of the carrots you will throw in in just a while!)

Let the tomatoes lose a little of their juice and then topple in the carrots and the capsicum! Enjoy the fragrances of fresh spices and vegetables play havoc with the stress of a bad day as it all spirals out! Add in as much oregano as you like, a lil salt, some chilli flakes and a dash of mustard sauce (yes mustard sauce!) Now… stir in the rice.. i typically never have the so called arborio rice that is supposed to be oh so perfect for risottos so i make do with regular or basmati or whatever i can lay my hands on!

Add one and a half times the water than that of the veggies and rice and about 3 tablespoons of milk and cook on medium flame… it’ll all turn into this happy pool of bubbly mush in sometime… add in the fresh parsley (it’s an acquired taste.. so if you’re better off without it just let it go!) and roll in a lil less than one tbsp of cheese!

Feel the magic! Forget about the food on the flame and go outside to take a peek at the clouds moving away to reveal a beautiful moonshine… breathe in some fresh air… lay your table and then shut off the flame! Cover and let steam till you listen to your favorite song and then settle down to a plateful of comfort!!

Bon Apetit!