Spice of this week: Paneer
Nutritional Benefit: High in protein
Cooking tip: While a lot of people use lemon juice to make fresh paneer at home, I use Nigari, a natural tofu coagulant. It works wonderfully and yields a much softer paneer than its lemon counterpart. Even though paneer is easily available at speciality supermarkets including Whole Foods, home made paneer is the best.
It’s a been a long break from Spice My Day and I’ve missed writing for it. The last couple of months have been quite crazy (in a good way) as I’ve been working for a special project, the details of which I will reveal next month. It was challenging and had my creative juices flowing but I’m hoping the results will bear fruit.
I’m actually quite excited about this post because it features my first Indian recipe with a western twist. I am always looking for ways to substitute ingredients with healthier options and this recipe has turned out be one of my family’s favorites. The secret to this recipe is making the paneer at home; there is no comparison between the store bought and the home-made version. This recipe by Aarti Sequeira posted on foodnetwork is a simple one to follow. My home-made version is a bit different:
I use Nigari instead of lemon juice. I add salt to the liquid after the cheese had separated instead of straining and sprinkling it afterwards.
I also avoid putting the paneer into the refrigerator if I am using it immediately so that it does not harden.
For this recipe I do not let the water drain from the cheese for more than 5 minutes. This helps the paneer to retain a soft texture.
The quinoa in this recipe delightfully replaces some of the traditional and heavy ingredients that an original kofta recipe calls for. I followed a wonderful recipe by Vegrecipesofindia but instead of adding milk solids (khoya) and more potato and cornflour as the recipe calls for, I replaced them with quinoa. The combination of paneer and quinoa worked like magic to make super soft delicate koftas. You can serve them just by themselves as an appetizer or in the gravy as a vegetable to be eaten with naan, roti, paratha, or rice.
Quinoa Paneer Koftas in a traditional Indian gravy
Ingredients for the Koftas (makes around 18 Kofta balls)
2 Tbsp pure olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ clove garlic, minced
½ tsp grated ginger
½ tsp green chilli, minced
5 oz/144 grams soft paneer, crumbled or grated
1 ½ potatoes, mashed
1 cup cooked quinoa
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
½ cup breadcrumbs
Oil for frying
Ingredients for the tomato gravy
3 tsp ghee
2 green cardamoms
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, blended into a smooth paste
1 clove garlic, minced
½” ginger, minced
1 tsp green chili, finely chopped
¼ tsp turmeric
3 tomatoes, skinned and blended into a smooth paste
1 tsp red chilli powder ( use ½ tsp if you want it less spicy)
½ tsp garam masala
8 cashews soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and then blended into a smooth paste
1 cup warm water (or more) to make the gravy into a medium thick consistency
¼ tsp kasuri methi leaves ( dried fenugreek leaves)
½ tsp sugar
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Procedure for making the quinoa koftas
Heat oil in a vessel and add saute the onions over medium heat. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic, green chillies and ginger and saute for 2-3 minutes.
Add turmeric and red chilli powder and cook for about a minute. Remove from heat
In a separate bowl combine the cooked quinoa, mashed potatoes, crumbled/grated paneer and cilantro leaves
Add the cooked onion mixture into the quinoa bowl, season with salt and mix well
Roll the mixture into small/medium sized balls. My mixture yielded about 18 of them
Now roll the balls into breadcrumbs until it’s evenly covered on all sides
Deep fry the quinoa balls to a nice deep brown/red color
Procedure to make the tomato gravy
Heat the ghee in a vessel and add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaf
Add the cumin seeds and wait till then turn brown, making sure not to burn them
Add the onion paste and cook for 5-7 minutes on a medium flame, frequently stirring between. Partially cover the vessel with a lid to avoid having the paste splatter
Add green chilies, garlic and ginger and saute again for a few minutes
Now add the tomato paste, cashew paste, red chilli powder, garam masala, and salt
Cover again and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently so that the sauce does not stick to the bottom
Once the sauce is thick and the oil has separated, add water to bring it to a medium thick consistency
Add sugar, cream and fenugreek leaves and cook for two minutes
Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary
Once you have the tomato gravy and the fried quinoa balls ready combine them and serve immediately. If you wish to serve later, reserve the balls and add to the hot gravy right before serving to avoid them from breaking apart.