Sunday, June 19, 2011

Indian Love, Part One

I love Indian food. LOVE it. It's the spices; so aromatic, so flavoursome. The Portuguese girl in me grew up eating a variety of spices, & the Indians really did introduce these to the world. Vindaloo, known as an Indian dish, is actually Portuguese in origin (1, 2), having traded with Portugal since the 15th century.

So, in discovering that H had never had Indian food before, I was determined to bring him into a whole new world of culinary delights. But I knew I had to gradually ease him in. I grew up eating chilli & spicy foods, so the aforementioned vindaloo dish would not be an entry point. Not if I wanted to send him away crying, anyway. So I figured I would ease him in; something slightly spicy, but none-the-less tasty.

Palak Paneer & Chicken Rogan Josh. The recipe for the latter will follow.

During my last stint as a vegetarian, I'd discovered the wonder that is paneer. This one ingredient made vegetarian so much exciting. It has a more solid texture than tofu, & if dairy isn't an issue (paneer, for me, thankfully isn't), there's also no need to worry about the possible health implications of consuming soy (for me, personally, I really didn't enjoy tofu if it wasn't very very firm. None of that soft tofu for me. I could never stand the texture. About as pleasing to me as eating pumpkin).

I'd been reading about how easy it was to make paneer. All I needed was a cheesecloth, something I had searched for in Australia, but with no success. Here in Sweden, while wandering through a homewares store, I came across one. Yes! I knew exactly what I would do once I got home.

I cannot find unpasteurised milk here in Sweden; apparently it is against the law to sell it, unless you buy it directly from a farmer. Alas, I know no farmers, but we can buy unhomogenised milk. So I grabbed a litre of that & got to work. Here's how you too can make paneer at home (so easy!)

(recipe references: 1 & 2)
1 liter unhomogenised milk (or raw milk, if you can get some)
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
cheesecloth (or tea-towel)

1. Place the milk in a saucepan & bring to the boil.
2. Reduce heat to low & add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. The milk will begin to curdle. Take saucepan off heat & let it sit for another 5 minutes.
3. Place the cheesecloth over a medium-sized bowl, & pour the curdled milk through the strainer. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth & squeeze the cheese a few times, getting rid of as liquid as possible.
4. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together, & hand this over the sink or bowl for 30 minutes. Give the cheese another squeeze & hang for another 15-30 minutes.
5. Your paneer is ready! Feel free to use it now, or refrigerate to use soon.

Prepared paneer ready for frying

I'm not sure how long it would last in the fridge, but I would recommend using it within 3 days.

One of the dishes that introduced me to paneer was a dish called Paneer Palak. I made this for H, along with Rogan Josh. The recipe for Rogan Josh will follow this, with directions on how to make the paste from scratch.

Palak Paneer
Serves 2

Prepared paneer, cubed
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1-2 tablespoons butter or ghee
2 tablespoons water
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 teaspoons ground garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chilli
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Sautee the onion, garlic & spices in the water for a few minutes. Transfer to a mortar & pestle or a small food processor (a coffee grinder would work well, I used my blender) & grind to a paste.
2. Place the butter or ghee in a fry pan & fry paneer until golden. Add the paste & sautee for a couple of minutes.
3. Add spinach & lemon juice & cook for a few more minutes
4. Serve

Traditionally this is served on a bed of rice, but I grate raw cauliflower, then heat that in the microwave for a minute. Or you could grate the cauliflower, place it in a sieve & steam it over a saucepan of boiling water until hot. Either way, it's delicious!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Paleo Bacalhau

Being half-Portuguese, Bacalhau is a dish I grew up with. Served at every family gathering, whether it was Christmas, Easter, a birthday, a wedding, whatever season, it was there. It's been a staple for my father's family, & something that is very Portuguese in my eyes.

Since having to cut potatoes out of my diet, it's one dish I haven't had in a long time. There have been moments at family gathering where I would poke around the potato, scooping out what fish, eggs & olives I could find. Alas, I would end up with a rather small serving, or sometimes none at all, as the digging around could get quite tedious.

This past Easter was my first without my family & my first in Sweden. I felt myself missing this dish, & since H had never had Portuguese food before, I ventured to make one that would be 'Nat-friendly', while making a traditional version for H himself.

First, I decided to substitute the potatoes with zucchini. Bacalhau is a dish that has countless variations, but the one that is familiar to me is sliced potato, with sauteed onion, boiled eggs & black lives. So, with this in mind, I decided sliced zucchini would be a worthy replacement, keeping to the layout of the dish.

This serving below is for one. I used unsalted cod in this dish, though traditionally salted cod would be used. This would be soaked initially, then drained, then cooked. I simply added salt to replace the missing saltiness of this dish. I'm also not fond of overly salty foods, so this was fine for me. Those who want more of the real thing would do well to search out salted cod.

Paleo Bacalhau
Serves 1

1 medium zucchini, sliced
200g cod
2 yellow onions, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
olive oil
1 egg, boiled
4-5 black or green olives
salt & pepper, to taste
paprika (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 180 deg.
2. Place cod in a saucepan filled with water. Add salt (up to 1 tablespoon or more, depending on how salty you want your fish) & simmer gently until cooked. Strain & set aside.
3. Sautee onion & garlic in a frypan with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin is best), until transparent. Remove from heat.
4. In a baking dish, place first layer of zucchini, to cover the bottom layer. You can add another layer, if you like. Ad a light drizzle of olive oil & sprinkle with salt
5. Add a layer of cod, followed by a layer onion. Drizzle this layer with olive oil & salt.
6. Repeat the previous two steps, then finish with a layer of zuchinni. Drizzle with more oil & a sprinkle of salt. Also sprinkle some paprika & pepper, if desired.
7. Slice the boiled egg into halves or quarters. Place over the top of the dish.
8. Place olives on dish. Sprinkle the top with more olive oil, salt & pepper if desired.
9. Place in oven & bake for 20-25 minutes.

Completed Bacalhau pre-baking

It was a pleasure to recreate this dish for myself & to introduce H to food from my life. I may not see my family much right now, but it's nice to revisit them with the food that I associate with them, in ways that I can enjoy as well. I hope you do too.