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Accidental Cheese and Divine Curry

It seemed like a good idea at the time. My boss, Raphael, asked if I’d be open to cooking a special dinner for the staff. He’d pay for whatever I wanted to do and I could rope in willing helpers. Would I be open? Of course!! 🙂

I settled on Indian food and plotted my menu, tracked down recipes, and filled my shopping cart with cilantro, limes, and all manner of amazing spices. The morning of the dinner I decided to get up bright and early so I could get a head start.

What a gong show. 🙂

I wasn’t able to find paneer (Indian cheese) so I had to resort to making it. From scratch. I followed the directions carefully, heating the whole milk, adding lemon juice, stirring faithfully, but the recipe neglected to give timing and that’s where I got befuddled. Nearly a gallon of milk made only 1/2 cup of cheese! Ack!

I glanced at the clock, took a deep breath and thought, “No worries, I can just pick up more milk and do it again this afternoon.” Onward!

I didn’t want to waste all that milk, so I decided to use it for the Vermicelli Pudding I had planned for dessert. I toasted the vermicelli until it browned beautifully.

I stirred the vermicelli into the milk and started to cook it and then, oh THEN it turned into cheese!!! Tons and tons of it! Only now it was sweet and filled with toasted vermicelli and looked like a science experiment gone horribly wrong. So, I was late to work and had nothing to show for my efforts except a measly 1/2 cup of paneer cheese, a whole pot of cheese/pudding glop, and a mountain of dirty dishes. Sigh. 🙂

I confess I got a bit teary in frustration, but then bucked up, had a chuckle and made a new plan. There was still hope. 🙂 My ghastly efforts at paneer-making ended up teaching me exactly how to make it properly, and after Mums stopped laughing at my adventure, she volunteered to make it for me. (Thanks, Mums!!!) She also helped with a new dessert and even made the table “fancy” for me. 🙂 You can bet I hugged her soundly!

Thankfully the rest of my Indian cooking venture went much better! 🙂 My office manager, boss’s wife and Mums pitched in throughout the evening as the best sous chefs ever! 🙂

We made Spicy Potato Pea Samosas

Lovely mild and cheesy Spinach Paneer

My favoritest curry in the whole wide world concocted by my brother Ryan and I: Chicken Curry with Cilantro and Lime, creamy with coconut milk and ricotta, oh so savory after marinading the chicken in soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic.

We washed it all down with Indian Lemonade, a refreshing blend of lemon, muddled mint, sugar and black salt. The traditional recipe also called for cumin, but I thought my guests were having enough unusual dishes for one night so I omitted it. The black salt was a marvelous addition, softening the water and heightening the other flavors. 

Our dinner ended with one of my favorite desserts: Almond Jello with Fresh Mango. A delicate, cool and utterly delicious dish, the perfect light finale to a meal of richness and spice.

It turned out to be a good idea after all. 🙂

Samosa (Potato Stuffed Pastry)
(From Food-India)

Ingredients:

For Pastry:
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon oil
6 tablespoon water

For Potato Stuffing:
5 medium potatoes
4 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup green peas
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 hot green chili (finely chopped)
3 tablespoon green coriander (cilantro), chopped
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
Oil for deep frying
   
Directions:

Dough for Samosa Pastry:

  1. Mix flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons oil and rub until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add about 6 tablespoons water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth.
  3. Rub dough with oil. Cover it and set aside for 30 minutes or longer.
  4. Potato stuffing for Samosa
  5. Boil, cool and peel the potatoes. Dice it into 1/4 inch size.
  6. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in karahi or wok in medium flame.
  7. Lower the heat and carefully put the onion. Stir fry until golden brown in medium heat.
  8. Add peas, ginger, green chili, and fresh coriander (cilantro). Add diced potatoes, salt and all spices.
  9. Mix and cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Do not forget to stir while cooking.

Making Samosa

  1. Knead the dough again. Divide it into about 10 balls.
  2. Roll it into flat round shape with about 5 inch diameter.
  3. Cut it into half. Make the half into a cone by sticking seam together with a little water.
  4. Fill the cone with about 2.5 tablespoons of the potato mixture.
  5. Stick the top of the cone together with a little water. The seam should be about 1/4 inch (5 mm) wide.
  6. Repeat this again.

Cooking Samosa

  1. Heat about 2 inches of oil for deep frying over a medium-low flame. (You may use a wok, Indian karhai or any other utensil you seem fit)
  2. When the oil is hot, carefully put in as many samosas as it fits. Fry slowly, turning the samosas until they are golden brown and crisp.
  3. Drain excess oil and serve hot. 

Palak Paneer
(From Food-India)

Ingredients:

1 lb paneer pieces (½ inch cubed)
2 lb spinach
3 tablespoon onion (chopped)
2 tablespoon tomato (chopped)
½ cup half and half
2 teaspoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoon ghee or oil
Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat ghee in low-medium flame. Add cubed Paneer and heat until light golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  2. Heat ghee or oil. Sauté onion until light golden brown. Add spinach and cook until it turns into a paste.
  3. Add spices and tomatoes. Simmer for few minutes.
  4. Add half and half and Paneer to spinach curry. Cook for about 10 minutes in medium heat.
  5. Serve hot with rice or indian bread.
  6. Number of Servings: 6 to 8

Chicken Curry

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

Marinade:
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 sesame seed oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

Toss chicken in marinade to coat. Let sit for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.

1 Tbsp dry, unsweetened, shredded coconut (desiccated)
1/4 cup almonds, ground
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chili, crushed
2/3 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp salt
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3-4 limes, juiced

Directions:

  1. Stir ground almonds and coconut in wok over medium heat until they are lightly toasted. Transfer to large bowl.
  2. Add coconut milk, ricotta cheese, ground coriander, chili powder, garlic, ginger and salt. Mix together well. 
  3. Heat vegetable oil in wok and add drained chicken, cardamom pods and bay leaf. Stir fry 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked. 
  4. Pour in coconut milk mixture and stir well. Lower heat. Add chili and half of cilantro and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep contents from sticking to pan. 
  5. Just before serving, stir in fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice. 
  6. Serve over basmati rice.

Jal Jeera (Indian Cumin Lemonade)
(From Food-India)

Ingredients:

3 cups of ice water
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mint leave paste
2 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon Black salt (Kala Namak)
pinch of sugar
Mint leaves for garnish

Optional Spices:
½ teaspoon cilantro (coriander) paste
½ teaspoon amchur (dry mango powder)

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together and served chilled with ice and mint garnish.
  2. Number of Servings: 3

Almond Jello with Fresh Mangoes

(From Lynn Siy)

Ingredients:

2 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. almond extract
2-3 ripe mangoes, cubed

  1. Sprinkle gelatin on cold water in a pot. Put on medium heat.
  2. Stir constantly until dissolved.
  3. Add 1 cup sugar, stir to dissolve. Remove from heat.
  4. Add almond flavoring to the milk and pour into the gelatin mix. Stir to blend. 
  5. Pour into 9″ square glass pan and put in fridge to set.
  6. When cut in 1/2 -1-inch squares. 
  7. Place a cup full into each bowl. Top with cubed mango or fruit cocktail or any desired seasonal fruit and serve.
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