Healthy Ramadan Meal – Baked Chicken with Vegetables, Couscous and Tatziki

We desi people tend to eat unhealthy especially during the month of Ramadan. We should all be making a great effort to cook healthy meals for our family and take care of our loved ones instead. Inshallah from this Ramadan onwards, I will posting healthy meal ideas for Iftaar and Suhoor. Keep watching this space for more healthy recipes and meal ideas to come.

The following recipe is just something I made on a whim. It is easy, healthy, and makes a perfect meal for ramadan.

Baked Chicken with Vegetables, Couscous and Tatziki

Chicken Legs/thighs pieces – 12-15 pieces
Black Pepper powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Onion – 1, roughly chopped
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Mixed Chopped Vegetables – 4 cups, carrots, grape tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, olives, green beans, broccoli, radish, baby bok choy etc
Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
Olives – pitted, 1/4 cup
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
for Couscous:
Couscous – 1 cup
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Tomato paste/Pasta sauce (store bought) – 1 tbsp
Fresh leaves and Cilantro – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Water/Chicken/Vegetable stock – 2 cups, very hot
Salt – 1 tsp
for Tatziki
Cucumber – 1/2, peeled and grated
Garlic clove – 1, mashed
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Fat-free Yoghurt – 1 cup
Juice of half lemon
Fresh mint – 4-5 leaves, finely chopped

Ingredients:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl bowl, add chicken, black pepper powder, turmeric, salt, ginger garlic paste, onion, garam masala, olives, olive oil and mix well. In a baking dish with high sides, add the vegetables in a layer. Over them add the marinated chicken again a layer. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 35-45 minutes covered, then the next 15-20 minutes uncovered until the chicken is juicy and done.
Add pasta sauce/tomato paste, chopped herbs, olive oil, and water/chicken stock in a kettle and let it come to a boil. Add couscous in a bowl. Once the water/chicken stock is boiling, pour over the couscous in the bowl and cover with a tight lid. Keep adise and let rest for 10 minutes. Then fluff with fork.

Using a box grater, coarsely grate the cucumber. Sprinkle it with a 1/2 tsp of salt. Let rest for 10 minutes. Then squeeze and scrunch with clean hands to get rid of the excess salty water. Add it to a bowl. Also add yogurt, mashed garlic, lemon juice, chopped mint leaves and salt. Tatziki is ready.

In a serving dish, add the couscous in a layer. Top it with baked chicken and vegetables. Serve along with tatziki on the side.

Healthy Desi Meals Ideas for Iftaar/Suhoor:
For Iftaar
~ Chanay ki Dal – Lemony Boiled Split Bengal Gram 
~ Jaam ka Kachalu – Guava Chaat 
~ Fruit Chaat – Fruit Salad
~ Baked Samosas – bake the samosas instead of deep frying
~ Ragda Cutlet – alter the recipe by not adding any oil to cook the onions, just saute them in a pan until they get a nice brown color; bake the potato cutlets instead of shallow frying; also do not sweeten yogurt
~ Pita Pockets made using Sheekh Kebabs 

Luv,
Mona

Paneer Butter Masala

Any Indian restaurants are sure to list Paneer Butter Masala on their menu. One of the favorites of any Indian, this North-Indian curry is rich, creamy and pleasing to the eye with its bright orange-red color.

Paneer Butter Masala

I usually prepare my own home-made Paneer at home. But occasionally I get it from the stores to simplify my work. The usual ready made brands that I trust and buy usually are Nanak and Mother dairy. Recently I had got Paneer manufactured under ‘Nanak’ brand name, and it was a totally bad experience for me. The paneer block had bits of egg-shell like pieces in it (which when I had later contacted their Manager, I was told that the pieces were scales of deposited calcium chloride from the surface of the tubes in which the coagulation of milk takes place, which look like egg shells, he also apologized for it and asked if he could replace the product). It was totally unpleasant, and I hence had to discard the curry I had prepared using it, as I did not like the feeling of a crunchy Paneer.

The following is my sisters recipe, which I thoroughly enjoyed eating along with fresh warm Methi wale Naan.

Butter Paneer Masala – Paneer in rich buttery tomato-cream sauce

Home-made Paneer block – 400 gms
Tomatoes – 4, medium sized, chopped
Long green chillies – 2, chopped
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tsp
Onion – 1, large, finely sliced
Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Kasuri methi – 1 tsp
Tomato Ketchup – 1 tbsp (I used Heinz)
Canned Tomato puree – 2 1/2 tsp
Half and half cream – 1 cup
Salt – to taste
Cashew nuts – handful, whole
Unsalted Butter

Fried Paneer cubes (Paneer is Indian Cheese)

Method:

1. Cut the paneer block into rectangular bite size pieces. Heat Canola oil in a pan, and shallow fry the paneer pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Remove using a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined platter. Keep aside. Also, fry the sliced onions and cashew nuts individually in the same oil until golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon onto a platter and keep aside.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies into a blender and blend into a smooth puree.
3. Heat 2 tbsp butter in a medium sized saucepan at medium heat and as soon as it warms up, add the ginger garlic paste. Fry for a minute. Add the fried onion and mix well. Pour in the pureed tomato+chilli paste. Add coriander powder, garam masala, red chilli powder, kasuri methi, tomato ketchup and tomato puree. Let cook for 5 minutes covered on simmer.
4. Pour in half and half cream and salt. Mix well. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the fried paneer pieces and let it cook for a further 3-5 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and fried cashew nuts and serve.

Luv,
Mona

Bitter, but better

Karela~Bittergourd, a not very favorite vegetable of kids as well as most adults, is full of medicinal properties. People, who have a liking and an acquired taste for bittergourd are doing themselves a great favor. Its peel, seeds and flesh, every part of this vegetable is laden with health benefits. This vegetable has remedial properties for illnesses such as Diabetes, Asthama, Hypertension, GI disorders, Urinary disorders, HIV/AIDS, and many other ailments by lowering blood sugar levels, helping the liver function better, and has a wonderful healing effect on blood. The smaller the size of the vegatable, the more nutritous it is.

Bittergourd ~ Karela

Fortunately, my family enjoys bittergourd, and I am always delighted to get this humble vegetable home whenever they appear in the market here. Today I prepared these two dishes for our meal and we all enjoyed it.

Usually, I shallow fry bittergourd chips, but today I tried them in a healthier way, Indira inspired, and they were perfectly good.

Bitter-Gourd/Karela Chips

Ingredients:

Bitter gourd/Karela – 2, medium sized, yound and tender
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp

Bittergourd cut into thin chips

Bittergourd chips

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°C.
2.Wash the bittergourd well in several changes of water. Pat dry with paper towel.
3. Using a mandoline or hand slicer, slice the bittergourd into thin chips. There is no need to peel the skin.
4. In a mixing bowl, add the bittergourd and the rest of the ingredients. Gently toss the bowl to mix well.
5. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil. Place the raw bittrgourd chips in a single layer on the baking sheet and place it in the middle rack in the preheated oven for 10 mins at 350°C. Later, turn the setting on broil for 3-5 minutes. Keep a close eye, and remove the baking sheet as soon as the chips are done. Serve immediately.

Suggested Accompaniments: Bittergourd chips can be enjoyed on the side along with any of your meals.

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I love to cook Bittergourd along with Qimah. Bittergourd when cooked with minced meat brings out the flavor of the meat and and in turn its bitterness is amazingly neutralized by it.

Qimah bhare Karelay – Bitter-Gourd stuffed with Minced meat

Ingredients:

Bitter gourd – 4, medium sized, young and tender
Canola oil – 2 tbsp
Yellow Onion – 1, medium sized
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Minced lamb/Sheep/Veal meat~Qaaeema – 1 pound
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Roasted Cumin seed powder – 1/2 tsp
Roasted Coriander seed powder – 1 tsp
Coconut cream – 1 tbsp
Canned Tomato paste – 3 tbsp
Tamarind concentrate – 1 tbsp
Chopped cilantro and mint – to garnish

Bittergourd, lightly scraped, stuffed and tied close with twine

Method:

1. Wash and pat dry the bittergourd. Lightly scrape the skin using a knife (I scraped it for even searing). Cut off just the tips of the bittergourd with your kitchen shears.
2. With the tip of a knife, carefully open the bitter gourd to form into a boat shape, and remove the seeds from inside without tearing/damaging the bittergourd. Chop the bittergourd seeds roughly and keep the seeds and bittergourd aside in individual bowls.
3. In a pan at medium high heat, pour 1 tbsp oil and as soon as it warms up, add sliced onions and stir fry until golden brown. Add the ginger garlic paste and stir fry for a few seconds. Add the washed minced meat. Mix well and add the red chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Let cook uncovered until the meat is browned and the moisture has dried up. Keep stirring the meat every once in a while. Remove from heat once done.
4. Stuff the bittergourd with the prepared Qimaha and tie to close the bittergourds using a kitchen twine.
5. In a pan at medum high heat, pour remaining oil and as soon as it warms up, add the stuffed tied bittergourd. Stir fry them until lightly seared on all sides. Remove the bittergourds into a platter using a strainer and keep aside.
6. Add the left over prepared qimah into the same pan, and add the chopped bittergourd seeds, cumin and coriander powders, tomato paste, coconut cream and tamarind concentrate. Mix well and pour in 1 1/2 cup water. Close the lid and let it come to a boil. Lower the meat to medium and add the stuffed bittergourd. Close the lid and let cook for 10 minutes. Later, gently give a good stir and again close the lid and let cook for 10 minutes, until the qimah is fairly dry and the bittergourd is well cooked.
7. To serve, discard the kitchen twine and cut each bittergourd into two using a knife. Garnish with chopped cilantro and mint and serve immediately.

Qimah bhare Karelay – Bitter-Gourd stuffed with Minced meat

Suggested Accompaniments: Enjoy Qimah bhare Karelay along with Khatti dal and a dry vegetable curry on the side for a delicious meal.

Luv,
Mona

Comfort food

I am immensely happy to update all my readers that my blog has been mentioned in The Telegraph article. This is the first time my blog has been mentioned in any newspaper. However, there is a spelling mistake regarding the title of my blog in that article. When contacted the author said she will not be able to rectify it now.. Regardless, I am immensely elated and joyous. I thank everyone for your support and appreciation.

Yesterday, we witnessed the first glimpse of flurries for this season of winter. I love winter, the use of layers of warm clothes, oceans of lotions, the lovely snowfall, the sparkly sunshine when the rays fall on the snow spead everywhere.. but there are also things that I dont like about winter, like the really short days with the dark setting in by as early as four in the evening, or the immense difficulty in leaving the warm and cozy blanket to get up and get ready in the morning, watery eyes, runny noses, boring darkness, dangerously slippery side walks and the wearisome task of scraping ice after every snowfall.. Nevertheless Canadian winter is a beauty in itself for the tourists (..and just for the first few weeks for the residents here after which we all get irked, fed up..)

After a day of work in these long, chilly and wintry days, one craves for comfort Indian food prepared fresh and ready to enjoy along with a few warm rotis. One such dish that I love is this preperation of Tuvar dal which I had learnt from my aunt.

Tuvar ki dal served along with warm rotis and Sukhi Arvi

Dals are an essential part of an Indian diet. They are prepared in various ways, dry, thin or saucy in consistency, and relished as either a side dish or used to wet rice. They serve as excellent protein sources. Tuvar dal is a little sweeter in comparision to other dals and mostly widely used. It is my favorite dal.

The following Tuvar dal preperation is a regular item in my house. It tastes absolutely yummy along with a vegetable side dish and rotis as a comforting meal for the soul.

Tuvar ki Dal – Yellow Lentils currry

Ingredients:

  • Tuvar dal – 1 cup
  • Water – to soak and cook
  • Canola oil – 2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – about 10
  • Cumin seeds/Zeera – 1/2 tsp
  • Canned tomato paste – 3 tbsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – to taste

Method:

  • Soak the dal in surplus water for about 6 hours. Later drain the dal and wash it well prior to cooking.
  • Put the washed dal in a tall saucepan along with about 2 cups water and salt and let it cook on medium until the dal is soft but retains its shape. You can add a little water if needed for the dal to cook.
  • Meanwhile, in a frying pan, pour oil and as soon as it warms up, add the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Add tomato paste, red chilli powder and let it cook for 2-4 minutes on medium heat. Dump it all into the saucepan with the cooked tuvar dal. Add a little more water for all the ingredients to get properly mixed together. Let cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm.

Suggested Accompaniments: Warm rotis and a vegetarian or non-vegetarian side dish.

Takecare and Keep warm!

Luv,
Mona

Basic How To’s: Series II~ Paneer and Matar Paneer

Basic How To: Paneer

Paneer is fresh Indian cheese, easy to prepare but the only drawback is that it takes a lot of milk to prepare a little paneer. It perhaps the only kind of cheese most commonly eaten in India with a sweet smell, kind of rubbery with a mild flavor and the best form of protein source for vegetarians in their diet next to Soya protein(TSP_TVP). It is a block of condensed milk solids made my curdling milk (low fat or high fat) with acid, then strained with a muslim cloth and left to set under a weight until it is set into a block of white smooth textured cheese.

The first time I tasted Paneer was when I was in my teens during my school days. At the lunch break, I and my class mates would sit under the trees for shade in fresh air in the school playground with napkins spread on our laps and share our tiffin boxes passing about a spoonful of what each one of us had brought that day until we all had a sample of everyone else’s to taste. Soft, spongy and meaty. I immediately fell in love with it. There are always memories associated with food. Since then, I love to add paneer in my food.

Vacuum-packed paneer is available ready made, either frozen or fresh, at most of the Indian stores. I love to prepare my own Paneer whenever possible as I find it more soft, fresh and delectable. The procedure is effortless. You can later cut it into cubes and store them either frozen if you plan to use it after a while or refrigerate it in a plastic wrap to use it the next day.

Basic How To’s: Series II ~ Homemade Paneer – Indian (Unaged) Cheese

Ingredients:

Milk (low fat or full fat) – 2 litres
Buttermilk – 4 cups

Homemade block of Paneer – Indian (Unaged) Cheese

Method:

1. Line a sieve with a moistened muslin cloth and put it over a large pot.
2. Bring milk in a saucepan to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
3. Add the buttermilk, and lower the heat. Keep stirring the milk for a few minutes until you see the milk has curdled completely.
4. Carefully strain the curdled milk through the sieve lined with the muslin cloth. Let the whey collect in the bottom saucepan. The whey is highly nutritious. Store it to use later on in other curries instead of water (at this stage if you wish, you can experiment and add a few flavors that you like to the curds in the muslin cloth, like dried herbs, etc. Mix the dried herbs well with the curds and continue). Later, lift the edges of the cloth and tie the corners of the cloth into a bag completely enclosing the curds.
5. Remove the sieve from saucepan and place it in the sink. Place the bag of curds back in the sieve. Set aside under a heavy weight for about 3-4 hours to press to a flat shape about 2 cm thick. Later, transfer the Paneer block to a zip-lock packet and store refrigerated. Use within a week.

Tip: Paneer can also be made from failed yogurt.

This post is my contribution to the event Back to Basics originally stated by Jaya, and currently being hosted by Aqua at Served with Love.

The following is a curry I prepare quite often using paneer and frozen peas. The rich and subtle spicing in this curry is worth trying out. You will all love this gluttingly delicious side dish.

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Matar Paneer – Indian Cheese and Peas curry

Ingredients:

Home-Made Soft Paneer/Cottage Cheese – 200 gms, cut into bite sized cubes
Fresh or Frozen Peas/Matar – 2 cups
Dry Roasted Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Dry Roasted Cumin seed powder – 1 tbsp
Onion – 1, large, finely chopped
Tomato paste – 6 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Red Chilli powder – 2 tsp
Canola Oil – 2 tbsp

Matar Paneer – Indian Cheese and Peas curry

Method:

1. Pour oil into a large frying fan with lid on medium heat, and as soon as it warms up add the chopped onion. Stir fry it till lightly browned, then add the tomato paste, coriander and cumin seed powder and mix well. Let cook for 5-8 minutes.
2. Add the cubed paneer, red chilli powder, salt, half cup water and gently mix. Close the lid and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Add peas and gently fold them in. Cover the lid and let cook for a minute more. Serve warm.

Suggested Accompaniments: Serve it warm along with freshly prepared Rotis.

Luv,
Mona