I haven't waxed my arms in over 4 months. I usually shave my legs (haven't for weeks now) and I go with whatever is convenient for the underarms. The hair on my head is trimmed when the ends become ratty and for any other hair I might have -- nostrils for instance -- that's none of your bloody business.
Why exactly I'm talking hair, I'll get to in a bit.
They say that if you were force-fed spinach as a child, you probably wouldn't like it as an adult. Despite the force-feeding though, spinach is another vegetable -- like pumpkin -- I've started enjoying and appreciating more as an adult. Palak paneer* is one of my favourite dishes, easy to cook and very easy on the stomach as well. For those who are weight conscious, it couldn't get better than this dish: Lots of green, cheese that doesn't make you feel guilty. For moms who find it hard to feed anything remotely leafy to their kids, this is a good option since they don't see the leaves in this dish and it's very creamy, which I'm told kids like.
(*Palak = spinach; paneer = Indian cottage cheese)
Like most Indian recipes, there are different ways to make palak paneer. Since most of those recipes involve frying the paneer and adding cream, I don't really enjoy them. I've also found that in the popular recipes, the spinach base can turn out to be bitter. Even if this sounds like blowing my own trumpet, I enjoy making and eating my version of palak paneer the best.
I use very little oil (1 TBS), don't fry the paneer and have found that my spinach base is much creamier -- without using any cream -- than the other versions on the net. Try it, you'll like it.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Try this with: Bread or rice
Cottage cheese/ ricotta/tofu 300-500 gms
Spinach leaves 160-200 gms (I use baby/English spinach, works just as fine as the big-leafed variety found in India)
Garlic 4 cloves
Black peppercorns 4 (optional)
Bay leaves 2
Onion 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger 1", grated
Salt to taste
Oil 1 TBS
- Cut the paneer into small cubes, cover with a wet cloth and keep aside.
- Spinach gravy base: Put the washed spinach leaves, garlic, cloves, cardamom and peppercorns in a deep saucepan (with lid). Fill with just enough water to cover the spinach, put the lid on and cook the spinach for 15-20 minutes. Once done, drain the leaves and spices in a colander/sieve, keep the water aside and allow it to cool slightly. Blend the spinach leaves (with garlic and spices) in a blender to form a smooth paste. Your spinach gravy base is ready.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan. Once its hot, add the bay leaves and saute for a minute.
- Add onions and grated ginger and fry till onions are golden. (If you are not using onion, saute the grated ginger for a minute, taking care not to burn it)
- Add 1 TSP (heaped) salt, mix well and add the spinach paste. The paste could be thick, add about 1/2-1 cup of the spinach water that you've kept aside earlier.
- Mix well and cook, on high heat, stirring intermittently, till the gravy boils. (For those who like it spicy, you can add chilli powder.)
- Once spinach paste boils, reduce heat, add the paneer/ricotta/tofu, gently mix it in and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Taste to see if it needs salt and add (or not) accordingly.
It's imperative that you wash spinach and all leafy vegetables very thoroughly. There's often mud and insects hiding between the leaves. A good way to wash leafy greens is to soak them in enough water and let them sit for 10-15 minutes. This way the mud and dirt washes off the leaves and settles at the bottom of your washing bowl/bucket. Gently pull out the leaves, throw the dirty water and rinse the leaves again in running water.
|My favourite person!|
So how was Mother’s Day for all you mums out there? I got a bunch of hand-picked flowers – Mia picked them from Nanna’s garden with Nanna’s help – and I didn’t have to do any housework or cooking (because poor Nan did everything and cooked us some great meals!)
While I’m asking about the mums, hope the dads didn’t have too much of a hard time either. I’m mentioning the dads because sometimes I think we – the world in general and mothers/wives in particular – give the dads a hard time about not pulling their weight when it comes to child rearing. I know I’ve done my fair share of finger pointing, tantrum throwing and complaining about having to do it all alone. (not always true!)
|Tasmania trip in April|
|Stir-fry beef with snow peas|
earlier, when a recipe is from another source, it shall be duly credited. The recipe given below is from one of my favourite cookbooks, Charmaine Solomon’s ‘The Complete Asian Cookbook’. I use the 1978 version, though later republished versions are now available in the market.
(Beef with snow peas)
Cooked on: Stir-fried on high heat
Accompaniment: Red wine
Try this with: Egg noodles
Rump steak 500 g
Light soy sauce 2 TBS
Salt ½ TSP
Chinese mushrooms 6, dried
Snow peas/ flat matar 250 g
Oil 3 TBS
Spring onions 4, cut into 1” length
Chinese wine or dry sherry 1 TBS
Sugar ½ TSP
Beef stock ½ CUP
Cornflour 3 TSP
Cold water 1 TBS
- Cut the lean meat into fine shreds. Sprinkle with soy and salt, mix and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Trim the stems off the mushrooms and slice the caps into thin strips.
- String snow peas and blanch for 2 minutes in lightly salted boiling water.
- Heat 2 TBS oil in a wok; once the oil is very hot, add beef/meat and stir fry over high heat until the meat changes colour. Remove to a dish and wipe out the wok.
- Heat remaining 1 TBS oil, add mushrooms and spring onions; fry 1 minute.
- Add wine/sherry, sugar and stock. Bring to boil, add cornflour blended smoothly with cold water, stir until it clears and thickens.
- Return beef/meat and snow peas to wok, stir and heat through and serve immediately with rice or noodles.
- For those who do not eat beef, substitute with pork, lamb or chicken. Vegetarians can skip the meat completely and use more mushrooms or tofu. With any meat – particularly beef or lamb – trim off excess fat; the recipe uses lean meat.
- The last time I checked, most Indian stores have dark soy sauce. Since I was also lazy and preliminary searches yielded only dark soy; I used 1 tablespoon diluted with water. Strict chefs will tell you that my Chinese dish therefore, was a fraud. It was still very tasty.
- Most ingredients – Chinese wine, Chinese mushrooms (shiitake mushrooms, pronounced see-ta-kay) – can be found at specialty food stores. I used fresh shitake mushrooms in the grocery store, dried ones work equally well. In case you don’t find shiitake mushrooms, use large sized button mushrooms or canned oyster mushrooms. Be warned though that the texture of all mushrooms are very different and might affect how the dish tastes. The shiitake has a beautiful, spongy texture, while the button mushrooms are more brittle.
- For dry shiitake mushrooms: Soak them in hot water for 30 minutes to soften them.
- Snow peas are your regular peas/matar, except that the pod is still very flat and the seeds (peas) are not mature yet. Since in India, the best, fresh peas are found in winter; you can substitute snow peas with regular snap peas (matar with the pod).
- Substitute chicken stock – Nestle/Maggi cubes work too – instead of beef stock.
- Always dissolve the cornflour – there should be no lumps – in cold water.
- Cooking egg noodles: These days, egg noodles are available at most local green grocers and come in pre-packaged bundles. Till I read Charmaine Solomon’s tip, I always overcooked the noodles. Charmaine suggests soaking the bundles in hot water (10 minutes) to allow the strands to separate and cook evenly. The noodles should be cooked immediately after softening. To avoid the water from boiling over, add a teaspoon of oil. Once the water boils, fine noodles should be cooked for 2-3 minutes, wide noodles 3-4 minutes. She adds, “Once cooked, drain noodles immediately in a large colander/ sieve and cold, then run cold water through the noodles to rinse off excess starch and cool the noodles so they don’t continue to cook in their own heat. Drain thoroughly. To reheat, pour boiling water through noodles in a colander.”
THE COMPLETE ASIAN COOKBOOK
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing (April 15, 2006)
REFERENCES: Light soy sauce: Lighter in color, and also sweeter than dark soy sauce. Snow peas: They are most used in stir fry dishes associated with American Chinese cuisine but less used in China. Ching’s Secret Dark Soy Sauce: This Indian-style soy sauce is made from a mixture of soya beans, chillies, sugar and water, which is then fermented. Shiitake mushrooms
*Pics taken from other websites/blogs are linked to those websites/blogs.