Tag Archive for indian food

How to Make Paneer

I love cooking other culture’s food. Truthfully, as Canadians, we don’t really have a distinct food culture. It’s starting to emerge–but it’s a slow process, as we are a young county. In the mean time, I cook other culture’s foods, and because I don’t really identify with any one culture, I claim them all.

One of the things I love the most about Indian cooking is how vegan- and vegetarian-friendly it is. It’s also great for people with food allergies, as it’s easy to get things that are gluten-, egg- and dairy-free. Chickpea flour is used often, for example, and coconut milk in the place of dairy.

how to make paneerIndian cooking tends to also use lots of vegetables, whole grains (rice at most meals), and it’s often made with inexpensive ingredients. Spice, obviously, is a huge part of Indian cooking, and those distinctive flavours of garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and curry, that transform the simplest of ingredients into something really special.

One thing I often order in Indian restaurants is paneer. It’s a kind of freshly-made cheese, that has a tofu-like consistency. It’s a great meat substitute in many vegetarian dishes. My favourite is saag paneer, made with spinach.

I was afraid to attempt it, but I have a new cookbook, Daksha’s Gourmet Kitchen, that walks through the process step-by-step, and it was surprisingly easy how to make paneer from scratch.

daksha's gourmet kitchenPaneer

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (you can also use vinegar)

Method:

  1. In a large pot, bring the milk to a boil. Turn down the heat so that the milk doesn’t boil over. The milk should still be boiling–with bubbles breaking the surface, though.
  2. Add the lemon juice and stir well. You should start to notice the curds seperating from the whey almost right away. If the milk is not separating, add a little more lemon juice. Continue stirring until the milk is completely separated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare to strain. I use a large bowl with a strainer inside, and line the strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or 1 jaycloth.
  5. Pour the milk into the strainer, being careful to make sure to catch all the curds in your cheesecloth. You can keep the whey for stocks if you like, or you can just discard it.
  6. Gather up the curds into the cheesecloth and make a ball out of it. Squeeze it gently to remove more of the whey.
  7. Form the paneer into a circle or a rectangle. I placed mine in the sieve inside the bowl, and then I put a heavy can of tomatoes on top of it to weigh it down and squeeze out the additional water. I left it like this overnight in the fridge.
  8. Unwrap the paneer from the cheesecloth, and discard the cheesecloth. Store finished paneer in a air-tight container in the fridge.

 

 

Sizzling Tandoor

I envy my friends who have a defined cultural background. I have friends who are Italian, Indian, Asian, and Jewish, they have these amazing family gatherings that include recipes and dishes that have been passed down through generations.

My mom came from a German family, and by all accounts, my grandmother was a wonderful cook, but she died when I was 3. My mom left home at the age of 16, and I remember her saying to me that she regretted not learning how to cook from her mother.

My mom was an amazing baker, but we never really had a cultural identity, other than Canadian. We are, like many in this country, a mish-mash of British, Irish, Scottish, and then German and Russian on my mom’s side. But we grew up on meatloaf and mac and cheese.

While it’s always made me a little sad that I don’t have a specific culture’s cuisine to learn from my family, it has also opened me up to exploring other culture’s cuisines. I love learning about cooking traditions, spices and dishes from other countries.

I recently got to have lunch at an Indian restaurant called Sizzling Tandoor in Victoria, and the feeling I left with (other than feeling really full and satisfied) was the wish to be able to learn how to cook like that from the restaurant’s chef, Narpinder Bawa.

Sizzling Tandoor is a family-run restaurant, and you can feel the love. It’s in the service, and it’s most definitely in the food. The restaurant is the “retirement plan” of Napinder and her husband, Gurinder. While Napinder runs the kitchen, Gurinder manages the front of house, and the long hours they put in have paid off. Sizzling Tandoor now has two locations in Victoria, and has been voted “Best Indian Food in Victoria” the last three years running by the Times Colonist.

This is Indian comfort food at its best, lovingly prepared, spicy, and rich.

kabuli naan

Our meal kicked off with a cooking lesson. We got to go back into the kitchen and watch Napinder make Kabuli. It’s a kind of sweet naan bread stuffed with fruit, nuts and coconut, then baked in the Tandoor (which is a very hot clay oven where they bake bread and also do skewers of meat).

sizzling tandoor mango lassi

It was a hot day, and the mango lassis (a yogurt-based drink with fruit) were very cooling.

sizzling tandoor appetizers

One of my favourite bites of the day were these Aloo Tikkis. Potato pancakes, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, topped with cooling raita and the most amazing mint chutney. There were, of course, also samosa, and (not pictured) delicious curried mussels, for an Indian-meets-west-coast kinda dish.

sizzling tandoor curries

Mains included a variety of curries, including lamb (Rogan Josh, with the flavour of mango), vegetarian, paneer (cheese) and, of course, butter chicken. The Tandoori Fish, however, was my favourite. The bright colours of the tandoori spices (from turmeric and paprika) and the extreme tenderness of the fish made it an absolute winner.

 

sizzling tandoor ice creamOur lunch ended with Napinder’s homemade ice cream: mango and coconut and, of course, a cup of chai.

Chai Tea

(recipe from Napinder Bawa)

Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup water
  • one orange pekoe tea bag
  • 2-3 green cardamom pods
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • Pinch of fennel seeds
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • sugar to taste
  • milk
Method:
  1. Bring water to a boil in a small pot on the stove, and add the tea bag.
  2. Add the chai spices, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add half a cup of milk, or as desired, and sweeten to taste. Bring to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat, strain tea to remove tea bag and masala; now enjoy!

If you are in Victoria, and looking for Indian food like your mom used to make, head over to Sizzling Tandoor. They’ll make you feel like one of the family, and feed you like you are one, too.

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