I was walking on the pavement in Bombay in 2008 – a remarkable thing when you’re in the city – past some heritage buildings that the British left us as visible reminders of an imperialist past. It had been a while since I was in that area near the VT train station. Though I lived close by, work was in the opposite direction. This is the part of town where I went to college. It was where we restricted most of our hanging out when we were not in the college canteen. It was here in 2006 when we found out about a series of bombs (seven of them) that went off during rush hour on the Western Railway line. My friend who I was with at the time was setting off to go catch his train home when he got the message to stay where he was. Nothing would be moving that night….
It finally happened. The season changed. There have been zero noise interruptions by the heat kicking on and as I type this, I am sweating. The only sounds I hear are neighbours mowing their lawns. This reminds me that we have a lawn too. I’m looking at it right now but my arms are more interested in getting back the Indian I locked up for the winter. She’s coming alive sons. Just like the pots on the table in front of me getting free solar therapy. Except they call it food. I know.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s spring. In more ways than one. There is never a time – not even the New Year when everybody collectively panics about their “new mes” – where I feel like I have to get my shit together. If Matt is reading this right now he’s probably saying “THIS is the only time you think about that? That’s comforting.” I rarely think about “the direction I want this blog to go in”. The best blogs I have read aren’t .coms. They are more like something.something.com. I don’t have $8 a month to spend on Squarespace. I make nothing from this. No sponsorship, no ads, no freebies. Even if I could follow the herd, I wouldn’t have the $$ for it. Still, a part of me wants to.
I would love to get rid of that bold, gigantic headline font that you see on the top there. I don’t know how and I’m still deciding if throwing money at it will make it go away. I would be the happiest if I knew what I was doing every time I brought the camera to my eye. I do sometimes but is that really even important? Nope. The privilege to purchase ingredients that nurture is. The skill to lay them flat on a table (which my sister informed me has a name: flat lays!) isn’t. Making messes is. Showing you the messes is. Like every creative process, there is so much I’d love to change. Lately it’s been the name of the blog. People never get it and I feel silly explaining it. “It’s my name. It’s me. Why don’t you get it?” This is all I can be right now.
Life isn’t perfect and it would be wrong for me to tell you that every day goes smoothly. The forever me won’t ever lie to you. I’d tell you when I was down right depressed and about all those days I wanted to run back to a life when I was 18. I was living on my own and I had one revelation after another making my own decisions and doing a mostly-okay job of it. The best of them involved McDonald’s fries. The worst of them made an Edlyn I adore. Leaving brought out the child in me. The child that wants weekend sleepovers and nights of heart-swallowing (drunk) happiness to go on forever. That child didn’t believe in phases, yet she was about to enter the biggest one yet.
“You’re always happy where you are,” Matt once said. That time I moved here, he was wrong. That time it almost took our marriage.
Even though I started this blog before I moved to Washington, it was the after that gave birth to space. A lack of friends saw me look forward to the one highlight of my week: A trip to Fred Meyer on Saturday morning. I was depressed. I hung out in the produce section and brought it all home with me. That was all that seemed familiar among the endless aisles and high ceilings. My parents used to tell people that I “loved vegetables”. I could eat green things and that would be my superpower. Unknowingly, that would lead me out of this. This: Crying-out-of-the-blue for a life I had and having conversations with Matt on the floor, laying in the foetal position. I Googled “Why am I depressed after getting married and moving away?” Or something like that. This being together, we fought for this. I’m not quite sure how. I cooked lots of eggs. It’s probably somewhere in the spaces of this blog. Everything is here. This is not just a food blog. This is my soul. This is me re-thinking the details that brought me to this junction. It was hard and shit, I never want to be back in that darkness. I can’t sugarcoat what happens to me. I can’t do it to this blog either.
This is my voice. This is the realisation that I’m doing something good for myself- for us. I’m saving my life. This is real spring. We got flowers and we got fresh peas. These are changes worth waiting for.
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
– excerpt from Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Cauliflower rice with lemongrass pea chutney
This recipe is a “redo” of a cauliflower rice I made for the blog a few years ago. There are no photos in that post because I ran out of space once, panicked and deleted photos from the media folder. I thought once they were on the Internet, they didn’t need to be in a folder taking up space. I am a smarter website-owner these days. As for the recipe – loved it in theory, hated the taste even though I made it with the best intentions. What I did love was the post I wrote accompanying it. It was a “me” making peace with a new part of my life. I love that me.
Here’s to a spring-cleaning of sorts.
- Us Goans LOVE our green chutney. Even though we make it with coconut, I rarely buy it (since it never tastes the same). This green pea chutney came closest to the taste of that cilantro chutney even without the coconut.
- Fresh lemongrass is a treat to use. If you peel back the thick bruised outer layer of the stalk, you will reach this softer inside that contains the refreshing flavour for just about any dish and drink. In this recipe, I’ve used whole lemongrass and finely grated lemongrass. I will explain the process of using both.
- Using whole lemongrass: Peel back the tough layers (it should be one or 2 layers) of the stalk. Bruise the stalk that’s left with the back of a knife or a meat tenderizer. You will notice the lemongrass smell intensify as soon as you do this.
- Grating lemongrass: Peel back the tough layers of the stalk until you get to the tender part of it. Using a microplane zester, grate the lemongrass and use accordingly. Use only the powerdy part of the grated stalk. The longer lemongrass fibres that stay behind might not grind as finely in a chutney or mash.
- Frozen peas will take less time to cook than fresh peas. The fresh peas should turn tender in about 5 minutes whereas the frozen peas will take a minute or 2. I’ll explain the methods for both in the recipe instructions.
- There are so many uses for the cauliflower rice once it has been combined with the pea mash. I only thought of it all after the fact, and that to me is the beauty of cooking: You can always do more! Some of my suggestions are pot stickers, stuffed flat bread, stuffed vegetables, toast, spread it on a cream cracker…sooooo much!
For the pea chutney
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 inches of fresh lemongrass (bruised, see notes) + 1 tbsp grated lemongrass
- 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1 Thai green chili, finely chopped (remove seeds if you want less spice)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro + more to garnish
- 1 tbsp lime juice + zest of half a lime
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- More salt to taste, if needed
In a small saucepan filled with a 1/4 cup of water, add salt and lemongrass and place over medium heat. If you’re using fresh peas, place the peas in the saucepan and let them cook for about 5 minutes until the peas are tender. If using frozen peas, bring the water to a slow boil and add the frozen peas to it. Bring the water back up to a boil and cover the saucepan. Let them cook for 1 minute or until just tender. Keep a watch over them so they don’t turn mushy. Strain the peas over a bowl and reserve the cooking liquid.
Divide the peas in half and put one half in bowl and the other half in the food processor. Add the ginger, garlic, green chili, cilantro, lime juice+zest and coconut oil to the food processor. Process the ingredients and while the blades are turning, spoon in a tablespoon of the reserved cooking liquid. If you like some “chunkiness” in the chutney, process for about 30 seconds. If you want it smoother, let the machines run for some more time. Add more salt to taste, if you require.
For the cauliflower rice
- A little more than half a head of cauliflower
Separate florets from a head of cauliflower and put in in a food processor. Pulse the florets about 20 times or until it turns into “rice”. Don’t over-process to avoid turning it all into a puree. Set aside in a bowl.
You will need 2 cups of the cauliflower rice for this recipe. If you have extra, you can save it and mix it in with rice or a salad.
For the asparagus
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 kg/1/2 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut into 3 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup shallot, diced fine
- Salt + pepper, to season
- Juice of 1/4 of a lime (optional)
- Dry roasted peanuts, chili flakes, to garnish (optional)
Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the shallots to the pan. Saute until the shallots soften (about a minute). Add the cut asparagus to the pan and saute for about 2 minutes. The stalks should be just tender but still have that *snap* you get when you bite into it (it’s the best!). Take the pan off the heat. Season the stalks with a pinch or two of salt and a crack of fresh pepper. Squeeze lime juice over the asparagus, if using. Give it one big stir and leave it in the frying pan.
To assemble: Scoop the pea mash over the cauliflower and stir well. Add the cauliflower rice mixture to the frying pan with the asparagus and the other half of the whole peas that were cooked divided earlier. Mix until combined. Serve warm.
If you prefer the cauliflower rice to be cooked, a minute after the asparagus has been added to the pan, put the cauliflower and pea mixture to the pan and saute it with the asparagus for a minute more.
“Can I have one?” I asked him
“You’re not going to like it,” he said.
“I just want to try it.”
“They’re alive,” he said, “when they go down.”
“They see all the way down your throat?”
“You still want to try one?”
I wanted to do it because he said I couldn’t. I wanted him to be proud of me. I wanted it to be the two of us standing in the yard, eating oysters in the dusk, always.
He skewered the shell. popped it open with a flip of his wrist. The oyster meat was gray, streaked with silver, a purple trill in the center where my father cut it from the shell.
“Here,” he said, holding the oyster iut to me flat on the blade, as if it were a spoon. “Open your mouth.”
I opened my mouth, sucked the oyster in. It was warm and salty and wet. I imagined it smothering in the pink insides of my mouth, staring at the dark tunnel of my throat in despair. I held it there, considering.
“Don’t spit it out,” my father said, and the burlap sack of oysters at his feet shifted, clinked. “Do not spit it out.”
It was too warm. It was alive.
I consigned the oyster to death and swallowed. My father looked pleased.
“You like it?”
I’d hated it. I shook my head. My father laughed, and his teeth were very white in his face, which became duskier and darker as the sun set. He stuck his knife in the seam of the oyster again, shucked again. He balanced the oyster delicately on the knife, brought the knife to his mouth, and sucked the oyster inside. I switched from foot to foot, scratching the inside of my calf with the thick skin on the bottom of my feet. I wondered how he never cut himself, how he could be so beautiful, so tall, so impressive.
–Excerpt from Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Read diverse books. We need ’em.
Aloo-gobi pot pie
- Ginger-garlic paste is staple in every Indian household. If you want to make the food of my people taste like the food of my people, ginger-garlic is a good place to start. It’s an easy recipe and keeps well in the fridge. The recipe I used makes a little more than I needed but it’s been in my fridge for almost 3 weeks now and it tastes perfect. Don’t tell the health department.
- The ramekins I used for these pot pies measure 4 inches in diameter. This recipe makes 4 pot pies.
- If you don’t have easy access to corn and oat flours, you can substitute regular savoury pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
Recipe for masala corn crust adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
For ginger-garlic paste
- 1 cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and pulse until it turns into a soft and completely smooth paste. If you feel you need more oil to get the ingredients to a pasty consistency, add a little bit more oil (about ½ a tsp). Store in glass jar in the fridge for all future Indian food experiments. You can squeeze a bit of lime over the top to help it keep for longer.
For the masala corn crust
- 100 gms oat flour (1 cups)
- 75 gms corn flour (2 tbsp + 2 tsp)
- 1.5 tsp corn starch
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil, at room temperature (coconut oil stays in the liquid state at room temperature back home in India. So if you live in a warmer climate, make sure the oil is mostly solid but can still be worked into the dry ingredients)
- ½ cup full-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
- 1 large carrot (approximately 75 gms), shredded
- 1 onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
To make the oat flour, grind rolled oats in a food processor until they turn to a fine powder/flour. Combine the oat flour, corn flour, corn starch, garam masala, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the coconut oil to the dry ingredients and using your fingers, press it into the flour until it has a crumbly texture, with pea-size bits of flour in it.
In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, shredded carrot and onion. Add these wet ingredients to the flour mixture and using a spoon, mix well until you are comfortably able to work with the dough i.e roll it out, flatten it etc. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disc. Using your hands, flatten out the dough until it’s about ½ inch thick. Using the ramekin as a cutter, press the rim onto the surface of the dough and cut right through it. You should be able to cut out 4 circles of dough. Set them aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
For the aloo-gobi
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp Thai green chilies or serrano peppers
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tsp ground coriander seed
- ½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped (about a ¼ yellow onion)
- 1 cup tomato, finely chopped (I used a cup of canned petite-diced tomatoes)
- 2 cups cauliflower florets, about ½ inch in size
- 1 cup gold potatoes, medium-dice
- ¾ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- A big pinch of dry mango powder (optional, but sooo good)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp water
- Cilantro, to garnish
Place a saucepan on medium heat and add the vegetable oil to it. Heat the oil for about 2 minutes and add the cumin and mustard seeds to it. Once they start to pop add the green chilies, ginger garlic paste and ground coriander to the saucepan and stir constantly for a minute, until the ginger-garlic paste stops smelling raw (one sneeze later, perhaps? I’m half-joking). Add the onions to the saucepan next and stir until the onions soften. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan. If using fresh tomatoes, stir until they turn soft and meld with the mixture. If you’re using canned tomatoes, this process should be shorter as the tomatoes don’t need to be cooked much. If you feel like it’s getting dry too fast, sprinkle a few drops of water on the top. Stir for about 1.5 minutes. This is your basic spice flavour.
Next add the cut potatoes to the saucepan and give it one or 2 big stirs until it’s all mixed in. Cover the saucepan for about 3 minutes to let the potatoes cook. They should only be partially cooked i.e they should taste cooked but still have that bite to them. Add the cauliflower florets next and mix well to combine with the rest of the ingredients in the saucepan. Add the turmeric, salt and 2 tbsp of water, give it all a big stir and cover the saucepan for about 4-5 minutes. Once most of the water has evaporated or been absorbed and the cauliflower is mostly cooked, take the saucepan off the heat.
To assemble and cook the pot pies: Heat the oven to 450 degrees F
Spoon the filling into the ramekin until it’s about 3/4 full. Place the oat-corn flour circles cut out earlier on top of the ramekin. It should fit in snugly into the ramekin, topping the aloo-gobi filling.
Brush the top of the pot pie with melted ghee or coconut oil. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is crusty and biscuit-like and the inside is cooked but still slightly tender.
Top with cilantro and serve warm.
Who taught you to cook?
I remember being yelled at…yelled out of the kitchen by my father who always had the best intentions and not much patience. Any time I thought I wanted to help – rarest of occasions – I wasn’t going to do anything correctly so I stuck with making packet Knorr soup and pretended I was so smart. Some applauded but others were just glad for that light snack before we ate the actual food, the food I had little to do with.
But I watched anyway. I might have thought of myself as hopeless when faced with a ladle and a handi but I stood around in the kitchen, going back and forth curious to know when we could eat. I peeked and saw the mustard pop in hot oil before the next thing went in. I’d ask some questions and my mother explained but I never tried any of it myself. What seemed uninteresting at the time was going to come back to future me and set me straight. “You should have looked at how much coconut went in. You should have counted the minutes to perfect rice so you wouldn’t have to get it wrong all those times.” Future me is really pushy. I now know how to make perfect rice from guess where? Those summer vacation mornings before mama went to work and made rice at the very last minute. “I’m going for a bath, turn it to low when it boils. Add more water…” OKAY. Geez.
My parents never taught us to cook but they fed us everyday of our lives. There wasn’t any of the ordering food from this restaurant or buying us a bag of chips to snack on. Everything was made fresh and we ate it, not knowing how – from start to finish – how much went into each meal. Something special went on in the kitchen. Something I had no idea how to approach without dreading the pile of dirty dishes at the end. That’s not all I thought about. I also thought about the different ways I could slice my fingers open after hearing that story about a koito and a coconut. I’m still terrified of knives by the way but I carry on and carry band-aids. It works.
I am thankful. For all those times I never learnt to cook their way. I could have been excellent at it right now but what’s the fun in that? I get to take my own steps into nourishing myself. It isn’t so much about how skilled I am but about how much care I take with each meal…the same and the most important lesson my parents taught me, unknowingly. Which is why I’ve felt so close to those mid-week vegetable buying walks or the hour long treks to the farmer’s markets on Sunday. I can eat all of that and feel like the world’s best cook. It all comes from love.
I think this is the first thing I learnt to make without actually making it. I know it makes no sense but I can explain. My sister Jane was taught this when we were still school-going fools. I have no recollection of the details but I remember seeing her class making it and her coming home with a recipe. So I must have made it in my dreams because it feels as clear as day. This is not my first potato bhaji experiment by the way. I just thought you’d like to know.
Different parts of India have their own version of this dish. Some make it with cauliflower, some use tomato or even peas. This is the Goan version 1.0. It’s sometimes served with the local bread called pao or with puri, a deep-fried Indian bread made with whole wheat or atta (durum wheat) flour.
- 340 gms potatoes (yellow flesh)
- 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp green chillies, chopped fine
- 1 cup onions + extra for garnish/serving, choped fine
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Salt to taste
- Fresh limes, quartered, to squeeze over the final dish
- Chopped cilantro, to garnish
Boil the potatoes in salted water with the skin on until you can pierce it easily with a fork or a butter knife. Once ready, set them aside to cool before peeling them and cutting them into cubes.
I wish I could tell you a joke right now. I feel this is getting too serious. It’s just a potato, people.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the cumin and mustard seeds to it. The seeds will start popping once they get to a certain temperature which is your cue to add the chopped chillies and onion. Stir frequently until the onion soften. This will take about 4 minutes. Next add the cubed potatoes and mix well with the ingredients in the pan. Add the turmeric powder and salt and cook for 5 more minutes. If you feel your dish requires more heat, throw in a little chilli/cayenne powder at the end
Serve hot with a sprinkle of onions, cilantro and squeeze of lime
Is there a mental condition where you do exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do, completely ignoring the order of importance and the bearing it could have on your one, precious life? No?
Just checking. Sitting here with the laptop plonked on the ironing board, I’m doing exactly what I’m not supposed to do. Sure, I made myself a temporary home office, right outside the walk-in closet but that’s as productive as I get. For right on the other side of the irony board (I’m calling it that), is the bed and right under those covers is where I kind of want to be.
I don’t know if you remember but I’ve been testing my brain for a job. Right now, writing this is the opposite of what I need to do. Dudeboy says, “Do it on your break!”. Break=something you take when you’ve been working. In this case, I’m living it up. If this is the wrong thing to do then why o why is my brain just letting me go on? Last time I checked, I was 25 and a responsible human being.
Haha. It’s a little true.
Motivation is always difficult to find. I’m hardly a last-minute kind of person for a lot of stuff but when it comes to work, oh gosh. My eyelids are dropping just thinking about the bed I want to sleep in. I am trying to envision a paycheck but my fingers snap and 10 seconds later I’m so over it. It’s slightly nonsensical to say but I’m going to say it anyway: Why don’t they give us better incentives (not just money) to want to work? Let’s face it: A majority of the world is not working that dream job. There are a few here and there whose souls we’d like to steal and whose brains we’d like to drink from with a straw. All metaphors all day. While I’m working (or not) on a very realistic test, all I can think about is: “Why can’t it be easier?” We all do this, right?
Please say yes.
I hate being the odd one out.
Not to mistake this for discontent because I am happy. I got that dumb cold but I can walk myself to get a tissue and then turn my head and see sunlight streaming through the windows with the faint hum of traffic in my ears. I can also type this sentence and sip from a glass of clean water, in which a teabag found its way. There is some balance in my universe, I tell myself and my procrastination is normal.
Now… I mean tomorrow, I will work on my test. Today is for me and you and the pulao that I promised you last, last week.
Sharing this recipe has me feeling very vulnerable. I feel like I have to live up to some strange expectations that I set for myself while I was asleep 10 minutes ago. Here’s to not caring because it tasted good and that’s all that matters.
- 1/2 cup basmati rice (cooked in 1 cup of water or vegetable stock)
- 1/3 cup peas
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
- Whole cloves (about 13), cardamom (6 of them) and a cinnamon stick
- 1/2 large red onion, chopped fine
- 1/3 cup chopped carrot
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- Turmeric powder for colour
- Oil (I used peanut oil)
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro leaves to garnish
Wash and rinse the basmati rice in plain water. This will make it less sticky while cooking because it gets rid of some of the starch. Put the rice on the stove in 1 cup of water or stock on medium heat. If you’re using stock check the saltiness and then accordingly choose to add more salt or leave it out completely. As soon as the rice starts to simmer, cover the pot with a lid and turn down the heat slightly. Once all or most of the water is evaporated, use a fork and taste a bit of the rice. It shouldn’t have a grainy texture. If it does, add a little bit more water and watch it till it’s done. The rice should be ready in about 10-15 minutes. If there is still water in the rice after it’s cooked, don’t fret. Just use a colander and drain out all the excess water. Leave it in the colander and go on to the next steps.
Step two is boiling the peas. Bring water to boil in a pot and add the fresh peas to it. Cook for 2 minutes and drain out the water. You can add the drained peas to the rice in the colander or leave them aside to add to the vegetable mix we’ll be making next.
Now for the final masterpiece! In a medium-sized pot (or the same one in which you cooked the rice), heat about a tbsp of oil. To the hot oil, add the garlic and the spices (cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon stick). Stir for about 30 seconds and to that add the onions and fry them till they change colour and become translucent. This should take 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. The carrots should still have some bite to them. If you’ve not mixed the peas in with the rice already, add it to this pot right now. Add the cumin powder and turmeric and stir to coat the rest of the ingredients. Your vegetable mix is now ready. You will now add the rice to this pot and mix it thoroughly. You can do this on or off the burner. The rice will take on the yellow colour of the turmeric and look like it does in that weirddd picture I took.
Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot with yogurt or some other spiced vegetable. If I have to recommend something, it would be this. I haven’t tried it myself but few things look more perfect in my Indian food-deprived head right now.
PS: You can pick out the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick from the rice before eating it. In my world, there are few things that suck more than biting into a cardamom pod. However, my grandma used to pop those like chocolate. One man’s food…
PPS: You are my sunshine.
There were always these mini wars at home any time my father made palak paneer. No daggers were drawn and unkind words never uttered. This was a silent war. A war where you ensured you were the first person to serve yourself food so you could quietly spoon the most skewed palak paneer ratio into your plate. Nobody noticed this masti was going on until all the paneer was gone and my father decided to be vocal about it.
I think it was Gayle.
Paneer is one of the biggest reasons why I’ve become such a spinach fiend. It’s not the other way around. I just realised how true this is after I typed it. Unlike other Indian households that know the exact doodhwala (dairy, but literally translated to milkman) that makes the softest, pillow-like paneer or provides the milk that can aid you in the process, my family rarely did any of this. Paneer was a once in a while, Sunday sort of thing and that made it even more tantalising. Every time it was stir-fried or dropped in a pot of pureed spinach, Gayle was always the first in line stealing all the paneer.
She’ll say no but don’t believe her.
Which brings me to my new kitchen. There’s an “Indian store” some kilometers away that sells paneer like any good Latin-American run Indian store should. If ever I sum up the courage to walk there, I never forget the cottage cheese. I’m a good Indian girl that way.
Last week I wanted to be the best Indian alive. I wanted to make my own paneer, which if any seasoned Indian cook reads, they’re probably going to laugh in my face. I knew when I saw a bottle of milk from the local dairy, all swirling with the fattiest of fat milk I’ve seen in the West, I had to have it. HAD TO. If you’re ever thinking of attempting this recipe, buying the best milk is a good place to start. It’s so simple, and with a little patience, you can be like your friend’s mother who takes restaurant-like orders for food every morning and when you come home after FROLICKING in the 1000 degree Agra summer there’s a freakin mango milkshake and 10 course meal with paneer you press with your index finger because it’s clearly sent from heaven.
If you have no intention of attempting this recipe, that’s okay too. Just leave a comment in the end that says: “You’re the best Indian alive.” “You’re” meaning me.
I think I’ve earned it.
- 1 litre of whole aka fatty fat milk (4 cups)
- 1- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
You will also need
Pour the milk into the pot and keep it on medium heat. You will now be waiting for it to come to a slow/gentle boil. As it sits there, keep stirring from time to time with a spoon.
Keep a watchful eye on the pot. It should take about 30 minutes to reach a gentle boil. If you’ve ever seen milk reach its boiling point, it doesn’t just do the sissy bubbling that water does. It will rise right out of the pot and on to the burners. Total anarchy will ensue. When all you were hoping for was a cup of tea, you will have a stove that doesn’t light and a whole mess to clean. If you’re going for gentle boil, you do not want this.
While the milk is going along, keep the cheesecloth ready. It should be big enough to bundle and hang. Place the cheesecloth in a strainer or colander.
As soon as you see tiny bubbles come up to the surface of the milk, add the lemon juice a little bit at a time (a teaspoon would be a good start). You’ll start to see slight curdling of the milk. While doing this, keep stirring slowly. You want the milk to separate. Once it does this, it changes colour. I want to call this change a greenish colour but you might have a different opinion. That’s the milk turning into curd and whey. I have a picture to show you what you’re looking for.
You might require more or less lemon juice than stated in the ingredients as every lemon has a different acid content.
Once it completely separates, stir for 15 seconds more and then strain the curd-whey through the cheesecloth. Rinse the curd under cold water to remove any lemon taste and also to cool it so you can squeeze out the whey before you hang the cheesecloth.
You can add some dried herbs like thyme or oregano before you tie and hang the curd if you want to flavour it. I didn’t do that this time but I will try it the next time.
Tie the cheesecloth (with the curd inside) tight with baker’s twine or some other string and let it hang out for 30 minutes. I tied it from the handle to our microwave. Weirdo. Thirty minutes later, put some weight on the cheesecloth bundle to get rid of any extra whey that’s still in the curds. You don’t want too much weight or your paneer will become too dry. Leave it under the weight for 2 hours.
Untie it and voila, guess what we’ve just created? Perfect palak paneer material, that’s what.
Apart from the spinach, of course.