Spinach & Cottage Cheese Gravy is often referred to as Palak Paneer in Hindi and is a very popular dish in the Indian cuisine. It is a vegetarian dish consisting of pureed spinach cooked with tempered spices and either cottage cheese cubes or potato cubes (I used both!). Because as both butter and cream are involved in making this dish, it can be rather heart unhealthy and should only be enjoyed occasionally. By the way, I used canola oil instead of butter and a lowfat (31% fat) version of the cooking cream. So we can call this Skinny Palak Paneer.
I had avoided attempting to make this dish as firstly I wasn't getting access to the spinach used in the authentic Palak Paneer and secondly assuming wrongly that it would involve a long cooking process. I realised only yesterday that I could just as easily substitute baby spinach and it actually is an easy quick dish to whip up.
Ingredients (2-3 servings)
100gm baby spinach
2 cups of ice cold water
200gm cottage cheese cubes (paneer cubes) or boiled potato cubes
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1 heaped tsp ginger garlic paste
1 medium tomato, cubed medium
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt per preference
1/3 cup low fat whipping/cooking cream (extra for garnishing)
1) Wash and drain the spinach. Cut the vegetables.
2) Steam the baby spinach in a covered pot instead of blanching them in hot water. This way you would retain the nutrients of the spinach.
3) After 3-5 mins, the spinach would be cooked and wilted. Drain and immediately pour ice cold water over them to retain that gorgeous green hue. Set aside.
4) Take a medium sized pot, heat the 2 tbsp canola oil and fry the cumin seeds, chopped onions, sliced chilli and ginger garlic paste. When the onions are light brown, add in the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft.
5) Blend this tomato onion mixture with the drained cooled spinach till you get a smooth paste.
6) Heat the same pan again, add another 2 tbsp canola oil and fry all the spice powders for 5mins.
7) Pour in the spinach blend and stir to mix well.
8) Add in the salt and cream.
9) Mix well and simmer for 5 mins.
10) Add either potatoes or cubed cottage cheese in and simmer for a further 3 mins.
11) Garnish with a swirl of cream. Serve hot with boiled Basmati Rice or wholewheat flatbreads called chapathis.
My sister's husband Shahid was kind and generous to order for my family a crate of sweet Pakistani Chaunsa mangoes recently. Chaunsa mangoes are exceptionally sweet, succulent, almost fibreless and emit a wonderful sweet fragrance. They are commonly called the 'King of Mangoes'. What better way to use so many of them (there were 8!) then to use them in a refreshing smoothie perfect for hot summer days? Simple and quick and so so refreshing. I didn't add any water as I wanted it to be thick and creamy as a dessert.
Ingredients (yields 3-4 ice cream cups)
400gm Mango pulp (roughly 2 large ripe mangoes)
300gm plain yoghurt
30gm brown sugar
8-12 ice cubes
2 tbsp chopped pistachios for garnish
1) Get all the ingredients ready.
2) Blend all the ingredients (except the chopped pistachios) till they are all well incorporated and till you get a thick creamy smoothie. Chill further, garnish just before serving and enjoy!
Full Disclosure - I had ricotta cheese which were about to turn bad in a day's time and that was the main inspiration for this recipe. This is another one of my favourite recipes as it involves blending, scooping and baking all in line with the quick and easy theme of my blog. This recipe was adapted from Not so Nigella but I tweaked it to make it my own.
Ingredients (12 meatballs)
250 gm ricotta cheese
75 gm baby spinach, washed
1 red onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
75 gm cheddar cheese
30 gm parmesan cheese
100gm plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 cups of ready made marinara sauce
chilli flakes (per your heat preference)
extra parmesan/cheddar cheese for topping
dried parsley for garnish
1) Get all the ingredients ready. You hv to ensure that the ricotta cheese is still relatively firm, otherwise you'll hv a watery batter which will then make you add more flour to firm up the batter whch will in turn make your end meatballs hard (that is a very long sentence!). Preheat the oven to 180deg C or 350 deg F.
2) Fry the chopped onion for a while so that you don't get the raw taste of onion when you bite into your meatballs.
3) Blend all the ingredients except the flour, baking powder, marinara sauce and the garnishes.
4) Pour the batter into a mixing bowl and add in the flour and baking powder.
5) Mix in gently but don't overmix. You should get this consistency.
6) Pour the marinara sauce onto a flat rectangular baking dish. It should be a bit high so that the meatballs soak in the sauce while baking.
7) Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop out the spinach ricotta mix and place them into this sauce.
8) Top with more cheddar/parmesan cheese and add a bit of chilli flakes for a little bit of heat in your meatballs.
9) Bake for 45 mins or a little longer till the top is golden brown.
10) Garnish with parsley flakes and enjoy these delicious vegetarian meatballs on its own, with a toast or on your pasta.
Tagine or Tajine is a North African and Middle Eastern dish and is named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. It usually involves meat or fish but a vegetarian version is also very popular among many. Tagine pot was first mentioned in the famous Arabic story collection from the 9th century - One Thousand and One Nights.
A tagine pot consists of 2 parts. A circular base that is flat with low sides and a large cone that sits on this base during cooking. The conical shape of the cover is designed to help to return all the condensation to the bottom. I don't own a Tagine pot and I'm sure many of you won't as well. Don't fret - a heavy based non-stick pot with a tight lid will work just as well.
Ingredients (for 4)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pounded
150gm Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into medium sized chunks
150gm Eggplants, cut into large chunks
1/2 a tin (200gm) diced petit tomatoes (Hunt's)
1/2 red bell pepper
1 tin (400gm) chickpeas, drained
1 cup (200ml) vegetable broth
A small bunch of coriander leaves
A small bunch of mint leaves, extra for garnishing
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional for those who need that extra heat)
1/2 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1) Get all the ingredients ready.
2) Before preparing all the vegetables, rinse and cook the quinoa in a small pot till the water is absorbed. I have used a tri colour quinoa but a white quinoa will do as well. Instead of water, use veg broth for a flavor enhanced quinoa.
3) Take a medium sized heavy based pot and heat the EV Olive Oil. Fry the chopped onion and garlic for a 3-5 mins.
4) Add in the butternut squash chunks. Add a few tbsps of water, stir and cover. This is to ensure the squash chunks don't stick to the base. Let it simmer and cook for 5-7 mins.
5) Next add in the spice powders and salt.
6) This will be followed by the diced tomatoes, eggplants, bell pepper, coriander and mint leaves. Stir and let it cook on medium heat for 5 mins. I am amazed by the vibrantly beautiful red green colour of this dish. And these photos didn't involve any filtering whatsoever.
7) Add in the veg broth and chickpeas. Stir and cover and let the Tagine simmer undisturbed for 10mins on low heat.
8) Serve on a bed of quinoa (or brown rice) garnished with mint leaves. Top it off with more chilli flakes, if required.
A friend of mine from my secondary school, June, gave me a great recipe for a basic choc chip cookie recently. Choc chip cookies are what even an amateur cook will be able to bake. I mean its such a basic recipe. But to some, like me, I like my cookies soft and chewy in the center and crispy on the outside and to get a perfect texture in a cookie like that is not easy. I tried Martha Stewart's recipe but my cookies turned out flat like pancakes! Literally - I'm not exaggerating. So when June had posted in her FB account her recently baked choc chip cookies and they all looked like my preferred version, I immediately requested her recipe. Thanks darling - its a very simple quick recipe even kids can attempt!
I was very surprised that it didn't involve any creaming of butter and sugar or whipping. There was just a lot of mixing which is my fav kind of recipes :) But I did reduce the sugar and the choc chips to suit my family's tastebuds. And because I like texture in my cookies, I added oats and pecans.
Ingredients (around 30 cookies)
1 cup melted butter
1/2 tbsp vanilla essence
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet choc chips
1) Mix all the ingredients A and whisk them well.
2) Then, add in all the dry ingredients B. Mix together.
3) Use a 1 tbsp measuring spoon to scoop out and place the cookie dough in rows of 3 on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
4) Bake in a preheated oven at 180 deg C for 20-25 mins.
5) Enjoy soft chewy healthier choc chip cookies!