I am often bombarded with the same question by people known to me.
"How on earth did you get a passion to cook? We have never seen you enter your amma's kitchen". If D (my sistah and also a hotel management graduate) will be around when someone makes this statement, she would chuckle and add "Huh, she will not even help with vegetable chopping".
I would give a smile as an answer. But wait a minute. That is no proper way to reply, right? Today I have decided to get to the rock bottom of this issue. Lets find out who inspired me to cook.
I have made tea, coffee and lemonades for most guests who have visited us. Isn't that called cooking? Okay, if I think about the time frame I started to cook a decent meal, it would be around March 2006. That's when I came back home after my final year project in Hyderabad. Oolan with dossaikai (yellow cucumbers), potato curry with rice was first meal I created. Empty plates suggested that my first attempt with cooking was successful. Appa, amma and D - Do you remember that day?
I have always loved eating good food and my love for cooking existed since childhood. Sitting next to the stove, I enjoyed watching the mustards growl, cumins dance and curry leaves crack in the hot oil. There were days I have remained glued to television watching Khanna Ghazana, Tarla Dalal, Kylie Kwong and Nigella Lawson's shows but have never ever raised my butt from the couch to make something for my lovely parents. Last time when my dad was here in US, he teased that you have not cooked anything useful for us. What! Did he say USEFUL! Yes he did. He meant the traditional foods of Tamilnadu like vathakozhambu, poriyal, kottu, idly, dosa, sambhar and so on. My mom would keep warning me no groom will marry you if you fix toast, cornflakes and desserts everyday. Not that I was scared with my mom's constant comments, but for some reason (don't know which one), I started to take cooking seriously. Then I was off to UK for my higher studies and as a student only home cooked meals were affordable. I developed a liking for different cuisines, started experimenting them and the whole process was therapeutic to me.
Many readers would have noticed about my love for achi's and amma's cooking, even though I have eaten their food lifelong, I didn't take notice of the ingredients they used, the nuances of their cooking, simple tips and tricks they followed until I saw food through this women's eyes. Truly, there is one person in my life who convinced me that cooking is simple science, she taught me how to play with spices, how to create variety of food from few ingredients, how to do baking in a microwave and she is the one who taught me how to use kasuri meethi. She is someone who had seen me grow from a toddler to a teen to a lady. I watched her cook few times in her tiny apartment during my stay in Hyderabad. R akka, I am talking about you and apart from my achi, mom and now my mother-in-law, if there is another person outside my family who has inspired me in and out about cooking would be you. Today I am sharing your Kadai Paneer recipe with my readers.Thanks for all the love!
1, 15oz packet paneer - cubed
1/4 and less cup olive oil to saute the paneer
For the base curry:
1 large onion -quartered
2 carrots - quatered
2 red or green capsicum - quartered
4-5 small red potatoes, skin om - quartered
2-3 garlic cloves - minced
1 inch ginger - minced
3-4 dry red chili - whole
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon of garam masala
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup water
Salt to taste
Cilantro to garnish
1. Clean and wash the paneer. Cube them and fry them in a non-stick pan in batches with 1 teaspoon oil each time. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, until they get the beautiful golden color on top. Drain them in a paper towel and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large saucepan with a lid. Once the oil ripples, add the cumin seeds and saute for 30 seconds. Then tear the chili into half and add to the tempered oil. Cook for another 30-40 seconds.
3. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and little salt. Cook until the onions lightly brown, approximately 8-10 minutes on medium low flame. Sprinkle the turmeric, chili and coriander powder and cook till the raw smell disappears, about 1 minute. At this point, if the spices have burnt, sprinkle little water to cool them.
4. Throw in the carrots, potatoes and bell peppers. Stir to combine. Sprinkle water over the vegetable and cook covered for 20-25 minutes. Don't over fill with water. Kadai paneer needs to be al dente, with perfect crunch and crispness.
5. Garnish with chopped cilantro and garam masala and mix well. Top the dry curry with paneer before serving. It tastes great with roti/naan/chapati/rice.