paneer and matter paneer

Paneer and Mattar Paneer | A Brown Table

Someone once asked me what would I want to eat if I were stranded on an island and had one wish. My answer was immediate and without hesitation, it would have to be cheese! Of course, I'd want a little bread and butter to go with it but there's something wonderfully comforting about cheese. Though not created equal, I think all cheeses deserve some special mention and one of my favorite cheeses is an Indian one called paneer. It's unlike any other cheese and though it's sometimes called Indian cottage cheese, I think we should just call it paneer since they are so very different. If you head over to Food52 , I have a recipe for making paneer at home and mattar paneer which is a thick spicy tomato based gravy in which chunks of paneer and bright green peas bathe. Have a lovely weekend!

seared paneer with tea and pineapple dressing

seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table

I've fallen in love with Netflix's new documentary called The Chef's Table. It's one of the most inspiring cooking documentaries, I've seen in a long time. I don't really care for the food competitions shows and rarely watch them but this is one show that has had me glued to the TV. It's easy to get repetitive when it comes to creating food (I find myself falling into this trap often) but after watching this series and listening to the stories and how these world renowned chefs overcame their personal struggles was uplifting, encouraging and exciting. My only complaint, too few episodes but I do hope it comes back for another season. I've been eyeing Marcus Nilsson's Fäviken cookbook for a while now and to see him in the series was exciting. I'm also hoping I get to visit LA to try out Niki Nakayama and her Kaiseki techniques that make her food so beautiful. If you get a chance, do check the documentary out, you won't be disappointed! 

Dairy is pretty popular in India, the fact that I grew up eating plain yogurt at any time of the day, is probably a good testament to this fact. Cheese however as we think of it here in the West, is made in a very different manner in India. Rennet and fermentative bacteria are not the tools of choice when it comes to preparing Indian cheeses but rather acid and heat coagulate the proteins in milk. You still get western style cheeses in India and they are popular but panner is by far the most prominent cheese used in Indian cuisine. 

Paneer is a type of cheese, that doesn't melt when heated and in many ways, it reminds me of tofu. It takes on the flavor of anything it's mixed with and you'll find it used in curries and other savory dishes. If you look into my freezer, you will often see a small pack of paneer stored because the possibilities with this cheese are endless when used correctly. You can find paneer at Indian and South East Asian and/or International food markets and I've also come across low-fat versions of this cheese too. The good thing about this cheese is that it holds it's texture very well when heated as it doesn't melt. However, this also makes it, in my opinion, unsuitable for a grilled cheese sandwich. 

This paneer recipe is very simple to make and is an easy appetizer or side to serve. It's definitely not a traditional way of serving it in India but as I always say, why not!  Just doll the warm slabs of paneer up with a few fresh daikon radish shoots and the tea and pineapple dressing before serving it. 

seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table
seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table
seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table
seared paneer with tea and pineapple dressing | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this paneer dish;

  • Use low-fat or full-fat milk derived paneer. Honestly, the fat-free kind tastes terrible.
  • I was tempted to call the tea and pineapple dressing a vinaigrette but the ratios of the components are a little off from the classical definition so I've labeled it a dressing. 
  • The tea is lightly sweetened with fresh pineapple juice which gives the dressing a little sweetness and tanginess. If you want it a little sweeter add a little more juice after tasting the dressing. 
  • The extra garnish of sea salt flakes at the end when serving is optional but I personally like the touch of saltiness because paneer by itself is generally not salty when made from milk.  
seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table

seared paneer with tea and pineapple dressing 

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

400 grams (14 ounces) low-fat/full-fat paneer, chilled

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + a little extra for searing 

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika powder

a few fresh daikon radish shoots to garnish

a little Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

tea and pineapple dressing

1 black tea bag (I used Darjeeling tea)

100mL boiling water

50mL white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons pineapple juice, fresh

100 mL extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1. Slice the paneer into 9 cm X 3 cm long slabs that are 1.5 cm thick.

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the olive oil and the rest of the ingredients from the salt to the paprika and mix with a spoon. Brush each of the paneer slabs with this mixture and allow them to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature to absorb the flavors.

3. Heat a little extra oil in a medium-sized skillet on medium - high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke, place two to three slabs of the seasoned paneer. Cook on each side until seared and lightly browned. This should take about 60-90 seconds on each side. Place the seared paneer on a dry paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Cook the rest of the paneer in the same manner and keep aside until ready to use.

4. To prepare the dressing, place the tea bag in a small heat proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over it and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Drain the tea bag to remove any excess liquid (avoid squeezing the bag or the tea liquid will turn murky). Pour the tea into a medium bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Whisk until combined. 

5. To serve place the hot/warm seared paneer slabs in a serving dish. Drizzle the paneer with as much as tea dressing as desired. Garnish with a few fresh daikon shoots and sprinkle with extra sea salt flakes if desired. Serve immediately with extra dressing and daikon radish shoots on the side.

 

chickpea battered green chutney and mozarella sandwiches

chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

Sometimes, it's good to take a break even a short one if you can. I normally work on Saturdays and at the bakery, that's an extra busy day for me! Fortunately, last Saturday I was able to "wrap my pastries up" a little earlier than usual and we decided to be spontaneous and drive out to Monterey Bay. We sat on the sand, soaked in the sun for a little bit and then walked around the pier after grabbing a couple of crab and shrimp sandwiches. We got to watch the seals as they lay out sprawled in the sun on the decks at the pier doing nothing but sleeping and the occasional loud growl. A rather uneventful time at the beach except for the seals but still nonetheless every bit relaxing and fun. I realized that I need to do this more often whenever possible take a break and recharge. 

Our trip to the bay reminded me of lazy Sundays with the occasional breakfast that would satisfy my fried food cravings and this sandwich satisfies that moment. It starts with a golden crispy exterior that encases a tender soft layer of bread that encapsulates a savory spicy herbed chutney and a layer of cheese. That's essentially what this chickpea battered sandwich/bread "pakoda" is all about! 

chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Tablechickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips when preparing this sandwich that you might find useful,

  • Use thick slices of good bread, it doesn't collapse as easily when dipped into the batter. Don't leave the sandwiches in the batter for too long. As soon as you dip and coat them, add them to the hot oil. 
  • I prefer savory fillings to this sandwich like this fresh herb chutney and layer of cheese I use in my recipe. 
  • I recommend using as little water as possible when making this chutney. Start with half the amount of water listed in the recipe and then slowly add more. If it is too watery you will end up with a soggy sandwich. However, if you can't get the purée to form with less water, you can drain the liquid out a little before you spread it over the bread.
  • Remove the seeds from the chili pepper if you want the chutney less hot otherwise leave them in.
  • Eat the sandwiches as soon as they come out of the frying oil as they will get soft and soggy over time. 
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

chickpea battered green chutney and mozarella sandwiches

yields: 4 half sandwiches

ingredients 

2 bunches cilantro leaves, fresh

1 bunch mint leaves, fresh

1 serrano or thai chili pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and chopped

4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3/4 cup water, you may need less than this amount

4 thick slices of plain sandwich bread

2 fresh mozzarella cheese slices

for the batter

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour 

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup water

enough vegetable oil for frying

1. Place the fresh cilantro, mint, chili, ginger, lime juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Then add half of the water and pulse until puréed. Add more water if needed but use water sparingly (see notes on tips). Taste the chutney and adjust salt if necessary. Keep the chutney aside until ready to use.

2. Take one slice of bread and spread a generous tablespoon of the chutney after draining any excess liquid if necessary. Place a slice of the mozzarella cheese and then top with a slice of a bread to form the sandwich. Slice the sandwich in half with a sharp serrated knife.  Prepare the second sandwich in the same manner. 

3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the chickpea flour, salt, baking soda and water to form a thick slurry. 

4. Heat enough oil in a deep frying pan to around 350F. You can test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a half a teaspoon of the batter, if the oil is hot enough and ready, the batter will immediately bubble and rise up to the surface of the oil. Dip one halved sandwich in the chickpea batter and coat evenly. Immediately and carefully drop the sandwich into the hot oil and use a slotted spoon or spider move the sandwich in the hot oil to fry. Flip the sandwich over after about 1 or 2 minutes or until the surface is golden brown. Cook on both sides, remove and drain any excess oil by placing the fried sandwich on a plate lined with a sheet of absorbent kitchen towel paper or cloth. Serve immediately and hot with a side of the remaining chutney or ketchup.

savory sweet potato quinoa muffins

Savory Sweet Potato Quinoa Muffins | A Brown Table | @abrowntable

With only a few days left to the start of the holiday weekend, I should have the usual dishes that  are the staple of the Thanksgiving dinner but oddly enough, I have breakfast on my mind. But why not, breakfast needs a little love too during this special time and I have it all sorted out for you. 

I'm more of a savory breakfast type of guy and a huge fan of any baked good or pastry that might have some savory component to it. These quinoa flour muffins are easy to make, they're loaded with sweet potatoes and cheese packed with a hint of bright turmeric and seasoned with a little dash of garam masala. Slap a warm muffin with a little salted butter and I'd say you're good to go this week. I was tempted to add a little onion or garlic to these guys but that could be tricky way to start the day with all those potential fiery breath issues! 

Happy weekend!

Savory Sweet Potato Quinoa Muffins | A Brown Table @abrowntable
Savory Sweet Potato Quinoa Muffins | A Brown Table | @abrowntableSavory Sweet Potato Quinoa Muffins | A Brown Table | @abrowntable

 Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find helpful when preparing these muffins,

  • You can make you own muffin cup holders using regular parchment paper. Cut out twelve 6 inch squares of parchment paper (for a standard 12 cup muffin pan) and place each square in the center of the muffin pan. Using your hands, press the paper down in the center of the muffin well to create a cup. When you fill the cups with the batter make sure the paper cup sinks and touches the metal pan
  • You could play around with the type of cheese, parmesan or gruyere might also work here.
  • Once the batter is completely mixed, move quickly and get the muffin pan filled up and in the oven. 
  • You can bump the heat up in these muffins by adding a little more freshly chopped green or red thai chili peppers. 
Savory Sweet Potato Quinoa Muffins | A Brown Table | @abrowntable

Here are some fun links that, I've been thinking about all week. Some Thanksgiving themed and others just simply delicious!

Savory Sweet Potato Quinoa Muffins | A Brown Table | @abrowntable

savory sweet potato quinoa muffins

yields: one dozen standard muffins

ingredients 

3 large eggs

1 packed cup (4 ounces) of shredded sweet potato, raw

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup (4 5/8 ounces) quinoa flour 

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup plain unsweetened greek yogurt, lightly whipped

2 tablespoons melted butter, unsalted

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Line a standard 12 cup muffin pan with parchment paper or muffin cups. 

2. Place the eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk for about 4-5 minutes using an electric mixer on high speed until they have almost doubled in volume. 

3. In a small bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and cheddar together and keep aside.

4. In a medium sized bowl add all the ingredients from the quinoa flour to the baking soda and dry whisk until combined. 

5. Add half of the flour mix to the eggs and whisk by hand, until almost combined. Add the yogurt and the melted butter and whisk by hand for one minute, then add the rest of the flour mix and whisk until completely combined. Fold in the sweet potato and half of the cheddar with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. 

6. Divide the batter equally between the 12 muffin cup holders in the prepared pan. Top each of the muffins with the rest of the cheddar (divide the cheddar up equally between the 12 muffins) Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through during baking. The muffins are cooked when the tops are golden brown and the centers have risen and firm and spongy to touch. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Serve warm with butter.