Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Palak Paneer, Naan, & Chicken Tikka Masala

Here's why you should follow this a week behind me, and not try and do this on the same timeline - I changed the meal plan tonight.

I followed one piece of my own advice (cook to what you have in your kitchen) because I didn't follow all of my other advice, and didn't have all the ingredients on hand I needed :) Oops.

The result of the change was fantastic, though, and we'll do butter chicken another time.

Ok, here's the deal - this entry could take me hours. I mean, hours. But I'm not up for hours of writing, so here's what I'll do - I'm including the 5 recipes you need to make this meal, and a couple pics. If/when I make this again, I'll clean this entry up a bit, and add some more pictures.

These recipes are inspired by Shubhra Ramineni's Entice with Spice . If you're looking to get into Indian cooking - this is the cookbook to start with. My other sister-in-law got this cookbook for me that Christmas I was telling you about...it's a great book.

Do ahead prep specific for this meal
* all your chopping - garlic, onions, ginger. Chop it as much as a day before
* spice measuring - when making Indian food, I often get a little bowl and measure out all the spices needed for each dish. Label them - no, seriously - label them, and then when you're actually combining your ingredients, you can just pick up your bowl of spices and toss them in. This saves an immense amount of time when you're actually cooking, because you aren't messing with bottles and bottles of spice.
* The Naan dough needs 5 hours to sit - you can cook them ahead of time and rewarm them, so if you work/won't be home until just before dinner time, consider making them ahead of time.
* Indian food reheats incredibly well - don't be afraid to make any of these dishes in their entirety 24 hours before you need them. They'll just taste better.

With no further ado - your recipes (in order of most efficient cooking if making them all at once) - 


{I doubled this entire recipe, as the actual rolling/baking part is short, and the other dishes produce leftovers.}

1 1/4 c flour
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp plain yogurt
1 Tbs oil, plus extra for brushing
1/4 c- 1/2 c warm water

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the wet ingredients. Knead thoroughly until all ingredients are mixed well.

Form dough into a ball and put in a greased container. Cover and put in a warm place for 5 hours to allow to rise - dough should almost double in size.

Once the dough has risen, place a baking sheet (preferably a baking stone) on the top shelf of the oven, and preheat oven to 500F. If you are using a baking stone, I recommend covering with foil to help protect your baking stone.

Remove the dough from a bowl and separate into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into an oval shape - approx 8 in by 4 in.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven (if you're using a baking stone - I recommend just pulling the rack part way out of the oven - you don't want to risk dropping a hot baking stone on the floor, or in my case - a 2yr old) and place the rolled out naans on the sheet. The naan will puff up about 2 inches, but won't spread out, so you can put them close together.

Turn the oven from bake to broil and close the oven. Bake for about 3 minutes, though it could be dramatically less depending on the closeness of your top rack to your broiler, heat of your oven, thickness of your naan, etc - watch carefully to avoid burning.

Remove the naan from the oven, spread with oil or butter (and a little garlic if you like), wrap in foil until dinner is ready to serve.

Don't worry if your naan are a bit crunchy when they come out of the oven, they'll soften with the added butter/oil and being wrapped in foil.


Palak Paneer 

This recipe is fantastic, but requires some pre-work - making cheese. It's incredibly easy, here you go (again from Entice with Spice)


4 c whole milk
2 tsp lime or lemon juice
{that's your ingredients list - still intimidated?}

Pour the milk into a large saucepan, making sure pan is not too full as milk will bubble up.

Bring the milk to a boil, watching carefully to make sure milk doesn't boil over out of the saucepan. Once the milk reaches a boil, add the lemon juice, reduce the heat, and stir until the milk separates. 
Remember hearing about 'curds and whey'? Here they are! The curds are the chunky bits, the whey is the watery bit left behind. The lemon/lime juice (vinegar is a good substitute, if necessary) cause the milk to curdle, separating the two - amazing!

**If you have toddlers, this is an excellent process for them to watch!

Once the curds and whey have separated, remove the saucepan from the stove. Line a strainer/colander with cheesecloth or a thin tea towel (flour sack tea towels work beautifully and are an amazing addition to a kitchen in general). Pour all of the contents of the saucepan into the lined colander/strainer - catching the curds as the whey goes through. Let the liquid continue to drain out for about a minute.

Gather the cloth around the cheese, and press against the side of the colander to press out any extra liquid. Unwrap the cheese and shape into a neat block - square or circle, doesn't matter, just tuck in all the loose bits. Rewrap with the cheese cloth and set on a plate, with some weight on top (a heavy bowl, perhaps?) to drain out any extra weigh - leave for 1-2 hours.

Remove cheese from the cloth and put in the fridge in an airtight container until you need it. For the recipe we're making, I recommend cutting the cheese into cubes, and pan-frying it in a skillet until browned.

Sauce for Palak Paneer 

1 large bag baby spinach
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 small sweet onion, diced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cayenne epper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3Tbs butter
1 1/2 tsp grated giner
1/2 c plain yogurt (you can use heavy cream, but yogurt makes this recipe healthier)
1/2 tsp masala (you can omit this, if you like)

In a skillet, saute the spinach, onions, and tomatoes in 1Tbs oil. Stir until the tomatoes have cooked down and are quite soft. Remove from heat and put in a blender (or, if you have an immersion blender, transfer to a stainless steel sauce pan). Add ginger and all other spices. Blend until you have a thick paste/sauce. If needed, transfer to a sauce pan - return saucepan to the stove and place over medium heat. Add 3 Tbs butter and 1/2 c plain yogurt. Stir well in order to blend all the ingredients. Add cheese you made earlier and mix well - taking care not to break up the cheese. Serve immediately or remove from heat and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Yummy!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Alright - this dish is amazing. I mean amazing. Wanna know what's even more amazing? We're using the chicken from earlier this week. That's right, I never told you what to do with the rest of that chicken did I? Well, I'll put in an entry tomorrow on Chicken Stock - but bottom line is this - remove all the meat from your leftover roast chicken and keep it in the fridge, we're using it tonight!

4 Tbs olive oil
2 clove garlic
2 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp salt
4 Tbs plain yogurt
2 cups chicken, cut into bite size

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and let marinate for 2-12 hours (depending on your schedule and availability - yeah for flexibility!). Remove and put on baking sheet lined with foil or baking rack. Heat oven to 400F, pour chicken onto baking sheet and spread out evenly - place in oven and cook for 15minutes, until slightly browned.

Masala Sauce 

3Tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 ripe tomato, chopped

Combine in a small bowl:
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp parika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Remove the sauteed onion, ginger, and tomato from the stove and blend - using a traditional blender or an immersion blender. Return sauce to saucepan, add spices.

Add to above sauce:
3Tbs butter
1/4 c plain yogurt
2 cups chicken mentioned above.

Mix thoroughly. Heat to simmering.

Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to use it. It should keep for 3-5 days.


So - there you go - Indian cooking at its finest. This really is a delicious meal, and makes great leftovers! I also served this with some plain rice, which is a nice addition to any sauce-based meals.

One tip for cooking this meal -
Prep the Palak Paneer and Chicken Tikka Masala as much as possible in advance; the naan take a lot of focus when they actually go in the oven, and frantically running around trying to finish all 4 dishes at once will be pretty stressful. Try and get the first two dishes done, and your rice started, before you start baking the naan. Then - when your naan is done, dinner can just be transferred to the table, hopefully reducing your stress.

I'd love to hear how this goes! Let me know if you give this a shot - I'm sure it'll be fabulous! If you're intimated by attempting the whole meal - find your favorite Indian place, order take-out (minus one of your regular dishes), and make just one of these dishes.

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