Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jeera Rice

Jeera rice is an Indian dish consisting of rice and cumin seeds. The name comes from Jeera, the Hindi word for cumin seeds. This rice dish is known as Zeera rice in Pakistan. It is a popular dish in North India, an everyday rice dish. It is easy to prepare unlike a biryani. It is such a versatile dish, that it can be eaten with a curry like Paneer Makhani, Dum Aloo, Palak Paneer, Gobi Musallam or a dal like the basic Tadka Dal or Dal Makhani. It can also be had with a yogurt based raita like Boondi raita.



It has been years but I still remember our family trip to Himachal in 2001 where we had the best Punjabi food, especially the Aloo Paratha and yummy Jeera Rice. The flavor that comes from the rice made in a Dhaba cannot be matched at all! But after eating it once, you will also crave for it, just like my family and me! That is when all the experimentation starts. I tried different methods to make this rice, and finally decided that this is the best one! Families make it in different styles, and have their own secret recipes or ingredients. 

Here is what all I tried: First cook rice with salt, add cumin and oil or ghee and mix well. While this technique is good, it is pretty time consuming. Another thing  tried was to add cumin and spices in raw rice and boil them in an open vessel till cooked. Then finally add the ghee and whisk it well. This was easy but the spices and cumin tasted raw. So combining both the methods, I came up with this: heat ghee in a pressure cooker, saute spices and cumin, add raw rice and pressure cook to perfection. This method is not only easy, it is quick and needs no time to cool the rice etc. So here is my perfect recipe for jeera rice, that is quick and fool-proof!



Ingredients

White rice 2 cups
Oil/Ghee 1 tbsp
Green Chili 1-2
Curry Leaves 2-3
Cloves 2-3
Bay Leaf 1
Cinnamon 1 inch piece
Cumin/Jeera 1 tsp
Mustard seeds/Rye 1 tsp
Asafoetida 1/2 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Cilantro 



Method

Wash and soak two cups rice (can be substituted with brown rice) in three cups of water. Let it soak for a few minutes. Heat oil or ghee in a pressure cooker. Add mustard seeds and once they pop, add asafoetida and cumin seeds. Then, add green chili, curry leaves, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon. 

Once the spices get flavorful, remove water from the rice and add the rice. Mix well and add salt. Then add the water (1 1/2 cups) and pressure cook for 2 whistles. Cool the cooker and open. Mix well and add cilantro to garnish. Serve with any Indian curry like Paneer Makhani or Dal Makhani.





Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Perfect Latte


How often do you end up at Starbucks or other cafes just because you think the coffee at home is not as great as the one you get there? We used to do that so often, till we collected a few things to make the perfect coffee at home! The few things you need are: a simple coffee bean grinder, a coffee filter, milk frothing pitcher and a tiny milk frother. Before we get to the method, here is a short introduction to the coffees we all love and enjoy.



Espresso, that dark brewed liquid that we get out of a brewer is common to all the coffees. Have the brew as is without any milk and you are enjoying an Americano. Add steamed milk and milk foam, it becomes a latte. When there is lesser milk and more foam, you can term it a cappuccino. Espresso topped with just foamed milk is a macchiato. So again we see that except Americano, all the coffees need some amount of foamed milk. 




Here are the steps you need to follow to make that perfect coffee at home:

Using a manual coffee grinder and some good quality beans, get the coffee powder ready for the coffee. Once the powder is ready, the next step is filtering. While you can use paper filters, having a permanent steel filter is a good idea. There is a class of filters that can be placed over the mug and filtered coffee goes directly into the cup. No extra devices needed when you use this Willow and Everett coffee dripper. It comes in a size that is perfect for all mugs and glasses. The pores are nice and does not allow any coffee powder to pass through. The filter is made from good quality steel and is pretty sturdy in construction. I totally recommend this product.




The next step is foaming the milk and pouring it over the coffee. The simplest way to make foam at home is by using a hand-held electric foam maker. The operation is straightforward. Heat milk in a microwave or on the gas. Transfer it to a milk frothing pitcher. For this operation, I used this MLVOC frother. The frother needs two AA batteries. Just put the batteries, foam the milk using the foamer and to clean the device, just place the lower end under running water. That is enough to clean the base completely. While this frother is good, it makes a lot of bubbles instead of a smooth froth.




Now the steamed milk has to be added to the brewed coffee in a way that that it does not drip out or cause a mess. If you are looking to do so at home, here is some good news! I tried this milk frothing pitcher from X-Chef, and found it amazing. The steel is strong and thick, the spout is just right to easily separate the milk and the foam. It comes in a 20 ounce capacity, just right for your morning cuppa. I am sure it is going to last in the kitchen forever.  And guess what, they actually provided me a code I could share with all my readers. So rush to Amazon, and order your pitcher from here. Use LPNL8GSH at checkout and you will get 30% off! Cool isn't it? So order yours today, but do read the rest of the post to learn to make your cup of coffee right!



Ingredients

Coffee beans 
Milk 2/3 cup
Water 1/3 cup
Sugar 
Chocolate powder to garnish



Method

Crush the coffee beans using a hand-held crusher. Place the coffee filter over the mug or glass. Add one tbsp of coffee powder to the filter. Take 1/3 cup hot water, and pour it on the coffee. Let the coffee concentrate filter and reach the base of the glass. Heat the milk in a microwave or on the stove and add sugar as per taste. Transfer milk to the frothing pitcher and froth it using a hand-held frother. 

Gently tap the frother to separate the milk and the froth. Pour the hot milk over the brewed coffee. Slowly tilt the frothing pitcher to transfer the froth on top of the milk. Most of it will come out on its own, but if some of the froth is left behind, use a spoon to remove it. Add some chocolate powder on top and enjoy hot!










Also try the peppermint hot chocolate here.



P.S.: One or more products in this post have been given to me complimentary for review purposes. However, all the opinions are completely my own.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Eggless Chocolate Mousse

A mousse or French foam is a prepared food that incorporates air bubbles to give it a light and airy texture. It can range from light and fluffy to creamy and thick, depending on preparation techniques. A mousse may be sweet or savory. Dessert mousses are typically made with whipped egg whites or whipped cream, flavored with chocolate, coffee, caramel, puréed fruits or various herbs and spices, such as mint or vanilla. Sweetened mousse is served as a dessert, or used as an airy cake filling. It is sometimes stabilized with gelatin. Savory mousse may be flavored with hard boiled egg, herbs, fish or liver.





What is your favorite dessert? Ask this question to 100 people and at least 80 will say they love something with chocolate. Amongst all the chocolate desserts, mousse is probably the most famous. While a lot of people think this dessert is difficult to make, it is not really true. Can you believe it takes just four ingredients to make this amazing dessert and it can be made in under 10 minutes? 



I have made this mousse so many times, sometimes with chocolate, sometimes with chocolate chips and so often with coffee or fruit puree. Sometimes I serve them in glass cups or bowls or sometimes even in such chocolate cups. These chocolate cups are super tasty and look really chic! Try making this chocolate mousse for your family and you will all enjoy this simple treat! 




Ingredients

Heavy Whipping Cream 1 1/2 cup
Confectioners' Sugar 3/4 cup
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 2 tbsp
Pure Vanilla Extract 1 1/2 tsp



Method

In a mixing bowl add cream. Whip using a hand blender till you get soft peaks. Add in the sugar, Vanilla Extract and unsweetened cocoa powder. Blend again for a minute and you should get stiff peaks. Do not over mix. Transfer to small glasses, mugs or bowls. Refrigerate the mousse for at least 45 minutes to an hour before serving. The dessert tastes best when cold.

To serve, top with your favorite fruits, some unsweetened cocoa powder, whipped vanilla cream or chocolate chips. Enjoy your chocolate mousse any time of the day!







Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lemon Pepper Spaghetti Squash

How often do you crave for pasta, but do not want to pile on the excessive calories that comes with it? It happens so often in our family! Spaghetti is one of the favorites in the house, topped with either marinara sauce or creamy alfredo sauce. But we try to avoid all the calories, and so always looking for healthy alternatives. Either it leads us to whole wheat or quinoa pasta or to substituting the creamy sauces for an avocado sauce. Our latest discovery is to substitute the pasta with this spaghetti squash. Long strands of spaghetti that is vegan and gluten free and totally low on calories. 



When I heard of this amazing squash, I wanted to try it out. There are multiple ways to cook the squash, baking it for 40-50 minutes, or cooking the squash in a microwave for fifteen minutes or boiling the strands after removing them from the squash.





I made spaghetti squash for the first time and the result was awesome. I was super happy with the result. I am surely going to make many other dishes from this squash. Lemon Pepper squash is the first and the simplest of the lot. All you need to do is cook the squash to remove the strands. Then season with olive oils, salt pepper and lime juice. The result is a bowl full of goodness! We cooked one medium squash and each half served as a dinner bowl for the two of us. We simply loved this flour free pasta with a zing of lime. If you like, you can add any traditional sauce like marinara or alfredo on top or even make a mexican bowl in the squash. 



Ingredients
Spaghetti squash 1
Olive oil 3 tbsp
Salt, black pepper powder
Sea Salt 1 tsp
Lemon wedge 1
Cilantro



Method

Cooking the Squash 

First wash and place the squash in a oven proof deep plate. Poke a few holes using a fork and transfer the tray to the microwave. Cook for 5 minutes on high and then remove the squash.This helps to soften the squash and makes it easy to cut it. Now cut the squash into two parts lengthwise and remove all the slimy material and seeds. The seeds can be roasted and used separately. 

Now sprinkle salt, pepper and olive oil on the inside of the squash. Turn them over and place them face down in the baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup water on the sides.  

Now the squash can either be baked for 30-40 minutes in an oven or microwave for 10-12 minutes. While the flavor is more intense when baked, microwave works when pressed for time. Cook the pieces either way and using a fork, remove all the noodle strands. The flesh can be used till you reach the thick skin.






To make the lemon pepper squash

Now, sprinkle some sea salt and crushed black pepper. Add some more olive oil and mix everything well. Sprinkle cilantro and add a dash of lime juice. Serve with a side of your favorite dip or sauce. The squash tastes great even without any side. 







Thursday, January 14, 2016

Paneer Pizza


When it is a weekend and I am thinking what to make for lunch or dinner, my family has just one answer, PIZZA. Pizza baked from scratch is probably one of the most common weekend foods we enjoy. It is thus that we have been experimenting with different kinds of pizzas at home. The first one was the Veggie pizza, followed by the spinach artichoke pizza and a fusion of Indian and Italian in the form of pav bhaji pizza.




Following these pizzas, and given our love for home-made punjabi food, paneer pizza was an obvious choice to bake this weekend. I had a big block of paneer sitting in the fridge and all purpose flour and yeast are generally always present in bulk. Combining all these, I decided to make a BIG paneer pizza. Three cups of all purpose flour is enough to make a thick crust 14" pizza from scratch. The flavors were so perfect and the XL size was more than enough for two of us!




Apart from the flavors, what was new in this time's lunch was our brand new pizza cutter! I have been using a roller style cutter since forever. Last week I was sent a 14" pizza cutter from #TipnToss. On opening the packet, I saw how well it was built. The top is made from rubberwood and is of the perfect width to fit in your hand. The length of the sharp blade is such that it cuts a 14" pizza into pieces in under a minute. When I compare the pizza slices to the ones I have made earlier, I can see the perfect edges that this cutter gives. Whether it is the dough or the paneer pieces or the vegetables, this cutter slices right through the middle of it all and gives perfectly straight slices. And all this in no time and with minimum effort. I am truly impressed by the quality and the ease of operation of this cutter!




Going back to the pizza, I made the base from scratch, just like my other pizzas. The recipe of the dough remains same as here. However, to enhance the flavor, I added garam masala to the dough. This gives the base the same Indian flavors like the toppings. The topping is simple, paneer simmered in tomato gravy; onions, peppers and a generous topping of processed cheese. The Indian flavors on top of a pizza tasted so yummy and was a complete meal by itself. Now this pizza will make its appearance in my kitchen soon :) When are you making yours? 




Ingredients

Paneer 1 block of 200 grams
Onion 1 medium
Pepper/Capsicum 1 medium
Tomatoes 1 1/2 medium
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Ginger 1 inch piece
Vegetable oil 1 tsp
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Salt, Red Chili powder, Turmeric powder, sugar
Garam Masala 1 tbsp
Cilantro 
Hot and sweet ketchup
Processed Cheese or Mozzarella Cheese 




Method

Make the pizza dough as per the instructions in this recipe. Add 3/4 tbsp garam masala in the dough to enhance the flavor. While the dough rises, make the paneer. Dice paneer into 1/2 inch cubes and dice the onion and pepper to 1/2 inch pieces too. Blend the tomatoes to a puree with no extra water.

To make the paneer makhni, heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and let them pop. Next add minced garlic, finely grated ginger and let the raw flavor vanish. Next, add the tomato puree and let it cook till it is bright red in color. Now add the paneer cubes, salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp red chili powder, garam masala and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder. Let the gravy and paneer cook for 5-6 minutes till it is dry. Turn down the flame and let the paneer cool.




By the time the paneer is made, the pizza would have risen. Now punch it down and knead well for another 5 minutes. Lay it out on a pizza pan. Press down the dough to make a 14 inch round. Let it rise for another 30-45 minutes. Once risen, spread the ketchup and then add the paneer coated in tomato gravy. Spread the cut onions and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes at 400 F/ 210 C till the base is crisp and the cheese melts thoroughly. 

Remove and devour it immediately. I used my brand new 14" pizza cutter from #TipnToss to cut perfect slices of this pizza. You could order yours here.










P.S.: One or more products in this post have been given to me complimentary for review purposes. However, all the opinions are completely my own.