Sultana’s Kitchen, Installment 1 – Paneer Tikka

So it’s been about a year and a half since the last time I posted here. Things have been nuts, with exams and life, and getting things back on track. A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I got together for a study group. The study group turned into a cooking party soon enough, and the results were simply fabulous. The meal consisted of paneer tikka, chili gobi (cauliflower for you non-hindi-speakers) and a simple fried rice – the only time I have ever genuinely liked fried rice.

I”ll start with the paneer tikka recipe and we’ll go from there. I never actually knew that paneer tikka could be so easy. It’s one of those things that’s only served in fancy restaurants, so I really didn’t know that making it at home would be such a piece of cake. My chum Sultana is one of those rare specimens that is skilled at everything she does. Her knowledge of culinary arts rivals her knowledge of clinical methods and current affairs, which makes her quite a source of company. This is her recipe for paneer tikka. Hope you all enjoy it as much as we did!

This is going to be a bit vague as far as proportions go, but I think it’s more a matter of preferences than rigid rules.

Ingredients

64 oz. firm or extra firm paneer

Marinade:
Half a tub of yogurt
olive or canola oil

If you have a grinder:
dried red chilis (2-5 depending on how spicy you like your food)
a 3-inch piece of ginger root
6-8 cloves of garlic

If you don’t have a grinder:
chili powder (to taste)
2-3 tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste (available at an Indian store)

a pinch of kasturi methi (available at an Indian store)
a pinch of curry powder (available at an indian store)
a pinch of garam masala (available at an indian store)
Green chilis
chili flakes
Salt to taste (preferably rock salt)
To serve with:
1 big capsicum (bell pepper) or 2 smaller ones
2 beefsteak tomatoes
1 yellow onion

Method:

1. Cut the paneer into thin squares. They should have enough surface area that grilling them will be easy, but they should be thin enough that the marinade will soak in properly.
2. Combine all the ingredients of the marinade together thoroughly, making sure that they are blended properly. If desired they can be whipped together.
3. Lay the paneer slices out in a shallow baking dish, covering completely with the marinade. Alternatively, they can be placed in a big ziploc bag after covering with the marinade.
4. Cover with an airtight seal and place them in the refrigerator overnight.
5. The paneer can be cooked in two ways. It can either be grilled or it can be cooked in a frying pan with a little oil, whichever you are comfortable with.
6. Both sides of each piece should be evenly browned, forming a rich golden crust. Make sure it’s cooked long enough without burning it.
7. Finally, if you’re using a grill, you can grill the vegetables on there as well. Otherwise, cut each into lengthwise pieces and roast for about 7-10 minutes in the oven.
8. Serve the paneer hot with the roasted vegetables as a side dish with roti (Indian flatbread) or rice.
9. Enjoy!

p.s. I would like to see how this would turn out with tofu to replace the paneer for a healthier option. If anyone tries it out, let me know!

Four Cheese and Vegetable Lasagna

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

Okay so this is not an easy recipe, I agree. But it’s a lot of fun and I was very happy with the results. It’s actually been quite a while since I made it so you’ll have to bear with some vagueness. Also, this is NOT for people on diets. It’s creamy, rich, oozy, greasy, and everything else that a real heavy lasagna is supposed to be.

Ingredients:

1 lb Lasagne noodles
1/2 block Jarlsberg cheese
1/2 block Asiago cheese
1/2 block Mozzarella cheese
Ricotta cheese – I used half the tub.
Tomato sauce – I used Prego’s sundried tomato and basil version, but you can use whatever suits your fancy, or make your own!
Fresh basil – 1 bunch
1 bunch spinach
2-3 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 medium-sized zucchini
chili flakes to taste

Method:

1. Boil a pot of water with salt, a splash of olive oil, and a dash of oregano.
2. Once the water is at a rolling boil, cook the noodles, but only until al dente.
3. Lay them on foil so they do not stick.

4. Saute the spinach and zucchini together. Chop the tomatoes but keep them uncooked.
5. Stir the veggies into the tomato sauce, and mix it with a little water, enough to make the consistency less viscous.
6. Mix all the cheeses except the ricotta together. Mix the chili flakes into this mixture.
7. Line a 9×11 pan with the noodles.
8. Pour enough sauce on the noodles to cover them.
9. Add a layer of the cheese mixture.
10. Repeat layers of noodles, sauce, and cheese.

Bake for about 40 minutes covered with foil, and about 20 minutes uncovered,  until the cheese bubbles.

Enjoy, and try not to think about the calories!

Pasta alla telefono

The story behind this recipe is quite interesting actually. My friend B had come to visit me and promised to cook me a nice dinner so we went to the store and bought groceries. I had no idea what he was making, but it sure did look and smell good. I watched B run around the kitchen, flitting around and whisking things together, and I waited with bated breath to see what was going to turn up. He declared his creation Pasta alla telefono but I was never able to find that recipe or that name anywhere else. The thing is, it was so good that it didn’t really matter, and after a few tries, I think I got it to taste the way his did. This recipe is one of those where the quality of the ingredients really matters. The taste you get when you put together fresh basil, torn straight from the plant, with vine-ripened tomatoes from the farmer’s market, and the piece de resistance, bufala mozzarella, fresh balls of creamy mozzarella cheese made of water buffalo milk – these are what make this recipe taste out of this world.

Ingredients

One package penne pasta
8-10 vine-ripened cluster tomatoes, blanched and deseeded
2-3 tablespoons of chili flakes (depends on how spicy you like your pasta) 
1 teaspoon oregano
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
lemon zest
a splash of olive oil
veggies for the sauce, like mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, spinach – whatever you like
1 cup of torn or coarsely chopped basil leaves

Method

1. Set the pasta to cook with some olive oil and salt.

2. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces. You can blanch and seed the tomatoes first if you don’t like skin or seeds in your sauce. Toss the tomatoes into a pot and let them simmer for a bit with some salt and whatever spices you like. 

3. Brown the garlic along with onions, if you want to add them, in a separate skillet. If you like garlic pieces in your sauce, cook them in a little oil and dump the whole thing in. If you don’t like getting chunks of garlic in your food, cook it in about a tablespoon or a little more of oil, and drain the pieces out after they’ve cooked. 

4. Add the oil from the garlic and whatever other veggies you want to use into the tomatoes. Let it all simmer together for a while, until everything has cooked thoroughly and the flavor has percolated through.

5. Add the lemon zest, basil and the sugar and stir, and let it simmer for another 2 minutes.

6. Toss the pasta in with everything and keep it on the heat for about 2 minutes longer.

7. Slice the mozzarella and stir it into the pasta just until it gets stringy. If you stir longer, you’ll end up with a creamy sauce rather than stringy cheese (I personally like my mozzarella to make threads in my food – it’s fun!). 

8. Serve with garlic bread, and enjoy!

Another way to do this is to just use store-bought sauce. But make sure that you simmer the sauce with the crushed red peppers, and that you stir in the cheese at the end. That’s what makes this recipe killer. Thanks for this recipe, B, even though you never wanted to share it. If it’s any consolation, I was never able to make it quite like you. But I still think this is pretty amazing. Enjoy, folks! And as always, share any ideas you might have.

 

Spinach and Corn Enchiladas

This is one of my favorite dishes that I always love to make whenever I want good, home-cooked Mexican food. I’m not really sure how authentic it is, but it sure does taste good. It’s also a big hit with my teenaged brothers who could probably eat a whole pan of it in one sitting (I think they actually did that once).

This is obviously a recipe that I can only make when I’m in the states, but it’s superquick and superdelicious. You can try different variations with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and any other veggie that tickles your tastebuds.

Ingredients

12 fajita sized tortillas
Shredded or grated Mexican cheeses – Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby Jack, whatever you like
1 can enchilada sauce (I like mine spicy)
1 package frozen chopped spinach or 1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1 can whole kernel sweet corn, drained
chopped jalapenos to taste
any other veggies you want to throw in
a dollop of butter for the pan

Method

1. Combine the chopped spinach and the drained corn in a large microwaveable bowl and microwave until the spinach is wilted. It takes me about 4 minutes in my microwave. If you prefer, you can do this stovetop as well.

2. Pour half of the can of enchilada sauce into the veggie mixture and mix well.

3. Take as much cheese as you’d like and stir it into the veggie mixture. I’m not giving an amount because how cheesy you like your enchiladas depends on personal preference.

4. Spoon about two tablespoonfuls into each tortilla and roll it into a burrito. (I’ll try to add pictures later.)

5. Place the rolled enchiladas into a 9×11 buttered baking pan, seam side down.

6. Pour the liquid from the veggies as well as the rest of the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas.

7. Top them with the chopped jalapenos and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

8. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese bubbles at 350 degrees.

9. Serve with black beans and rice.

10. Enjoy and try not to eat this for lunch and dinner everyday even though it’s that good.

Note – Credit goes to my cousin Lalitha for this recipe. Thanks!