Sweetnicks has been helping us to be more aware about our nutrition with her ARF/5-a-day Tuesdays, and just for today, Stephanie is taking over hosting duties.
My contribution today: a pilaf packed with protein in the form of paneer (a simple Indian cheese) and tons of veggies, all spiced with typical Northern Indian flavors. I build each of my meals (which on weeknights invariably are one-pot meals!) around a protein...beans/egg/soy/paneer. This dish is "special" enough to serve to company but as an everyday meal, it makes weeknights seem special. The combination of paneer-tomato-onion-green pepper is a classic one, often used to make a rich curry, served with basmati rice. Here it all comes together in a single pot.
You know how you sometimes try a classic restaurant dish at home and it somehow lacks that "restaurant taste"? That happened to me all the time when it came to North Indian dishes, till my mom spilled her secret. She makes a simple spice mixture: cloves, cinnamon and cardamom all toasted and ground together. This is her "Magic Masala" which completely elevates the taste of many North Indian dishes like kormas and biryanis, instantly giving them that rich "restaurant taste" without the accompanying greasiness. Dried fenugreek is another herb which adds an instant authenticity to paneer dishes.
Don't be daunted by the long ingredient list for this dish...all the ingredients are common pantry staples. I don't endorse frozen vegetables if you have access to fresh ones, but in the middle of winter, frozen peas and beans are great to have on hand. The cashews and raisins make this a truly rich dish!
(Serves 4-5, Prep time: about 15 minutes, Cooking time: about 30 minutes)
2 cups paneer (Indian cheese) cubes
1 cup Basmati rice
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, sliced fine
Veggies and nuts
1 green bell pepper, sliced fine
1/2 cup green beans, cut (frozen ok)
1/2 cup green peas (frozen ok)
1/2 cup chopped carrot
3/4 cup tomato puree
1 tbsp cashew pieces (optional)
1 tbsp golden raisins (optional)
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder/ 1 small cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp clove powder/ 4-6 whole cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom powder/ 3-4 cinnamon pods, crushed
salt to taste
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, minced
1. Heat the oil and saute the cumin seeds, bayleaf and onion till the onion is lightly browned.
2. Add the cashews, raisins, pepper, beans, peas, carrots, and saute for a minute or two.
3. Add all the spices and salt and saute for a few seconds.
4. Add the paneer, rice and tomato puree and saute for a minute.
5. Add 2 and a half cups water, stir to mix, and cook covered till the rice is tender.
6. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro leaves.
1. If you own a pressure cooker, this pilaf can be made very efficiently by sauteeing everything in the body of the cooker itself. Add water, close the cooker and cook for a whistle or two for perfect pilaf every time.
2. Vegan version: Use extra-firm tofu cubes instead of paneer.
3. If you have no access to prepared paneer and would prefer to make it yourself, Indira shares a detailed method.
This pilaf is a meal in itself...and here's to getting our 5 veggies a day! Thanks for hosting, Stephanie!