Hello, dally.
September 18, 2006 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I need some badass vegetarian Indian cooking tips and recipes.

Specifically, I am looking for the following:
  • Tips for making paneer. I have tried, and I can successfully get the curd, but it always stays too runny and falls apart. I can't seem to get this right.
  • Tips for making/substituting khoya. I have been told that I can used powdered milk, mixed thick into a paste. Does this really work? How thick of a paste?
  • I want to make good malai kofta. I have tried this dish, and it turned out OK, but my kofta stuck to the pan when I baked them. I don't have a deep fryer, so frying them is basically out. I am interested in recipes and tips related to this dish.
  • I want to make karahi paneer. The recipes I have seen online for this didn't seem like the karahi paneer I have eaten before. When I have had it, it has been very spicy, red, and almost oil-based.
  • Paneer tikka masala.
  • Palak paneer
  • Dal. I have tried several recipes for dal. My grandfather was born and raised in Jhansi, India (though ethnically Scottish). He lived there until he was 20, and then returned to live in Pakistan for another 10 or so years later on in life. He could make a *mean* dal curry, but the recipe passed on with him. As I recall, it was spicy, orange, swimming in ghee. Often, in restaurants, the dal I get is brown, soupy, and much less flavorful. I have tried several recipes, but most of them don't even come close. I have tried one that was pretty close, though - masoor dal, cooked with turmeric and chiles, spiced with anis, fenugreek, kalunji, ginger, garlic, mustard seed, cumin seed, and dried red peppers. Close, but just a little off from what I remember. I was wondering if anybody has any good dal tips?
I think that's all I'm specificallylooking for at the moment, but any other Indian cooking tips/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
posted by kaseijin to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Madhur Jaffrey's cook books are great. She tells you exactly what to do and gives tips and suggestions for subsitutions. I recommend this one, but any of hers are likely great resources.

Also you might try looking at this blog. She hasn't posted in a while, but she typically does everyday and also responds to all comments. I love the step by step photos and detailed instructions.

Here's another blog that I've read but haven't tried any recipes from yet. Again, nice pics and instructions.
posted by sulaine at 8:54 AM on September 18, 2006

vegan panir
posted by chrisroberts at 9:15 AM on September 18, 2006

See my comments in this thread to get Professor Jerome Bauer's contact information. He may well be able to help you with these, as he's something of an expert on Indian/Jain cuisine.
posted by limeonaire at 9:27 AM on September 18, 2006

Best answer: Here's how I make Malai Kofta. I put the paneer and the boiled potatoes in a food processor before adding the other ingridients and rolling then into balls. I then brush them with egg whites and gently stack them in a tupperware. I stick that in the fridge for about an hour or two. I have always fried them (even though I don't use a deep fryer). I take a heavy pan (like cast iron), fill it with an inch of oil and let it get real hot. I then place 4/5 balls at a time using tongs and I turn em once each side is done. Its best to to do it in batches so you dont burn any of them. Then drain on a paper towel before serving.
good luck
posted by special-k at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2006

For the paneer, after you get the kurd, run it through a collander lined with several layers of cheesecloth. When it has drained, fold the cloth over top, sit a small plate on top of that, and push down to squeeze out as much liquid as you can, then sit something heavy on top of that (like heavy jars of food or whatever is handy). The longer you leave it like that, the more liquid will come out, and the firmer it will get.
posted by leapingsheep at 10:52 AM on September 18, 2006

Best answer: Ha! Curd of course, not kurd. Please don't squeeze any Kurds through cheesecloth.
posted by leapingsheep at 10:55 AM on September 18, 2006

Best answer: I have no experience with Madhur Jaffrey's books, but I *swear* by Julie Sahni's cookbooks. I have never once had anything turn out badly from them. They are amazing, and I highly highly recommend you purchase them.

For paneer: I use lemon juice to curdle the milk. Then follow leapingsheep's instructions, but I like to shape it into a rough rectangle inside the cheesecloth (basically fold two sides up into a tube-thing, then fold the other two sides on top of that, as tightly as you can. You want the curd to be compressed even before you put weights on it. Try to shape it so it's only about an inch thick while it's being pressed. I like to flatten it under a casserole dish with jars or weights or whatever in it, and also to leave it on a tilted drainboard so that any whey that flows out can go straight into the sink. And then leave it! Two hours at an absolute minimum; four or five is much better.

You are using whole milk, right?
posted by fuzzbean at 11:55 AM on September 18, 2006

Often, in restaurants, the dal I get is brown, soupy, and much less flavorful. I have tried several recipes, but most of them don't even come close.

For the record, the dal they serve as "soup" in indian restaurants, is an american invention. In india dal is NOT a soup! its thicker and its eaten with rice, not as a soup. Its also a very 'everyday' meal for the vast majority of indians. I dont know why, in indian restaurants in the US, they turned it into a "soup". Its ridiculous.
posted by jak68 at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2006

There are a lot of kinds of dal, made out of different legumes, with different spices, and different thicknesses.

If your grandfather grew up in Jhansi, you might want to look for recipes based on the cooking of that area. Unfortunately, Madhya Pradesh isn't one of the regions people typically cook from. Maybe even e-mail the city with your question? I should think they'd find your question charming enough to answer.
posted by QIbHom at 12:09 PM on September 18, 2006

on the kofta, we've used pan frying in ghee and it works great
posted by gage at 2:53 PM on September 18, 2006

Best answer: I love fiery yellow/orange dal swimming in ghee and spices. This is my all time favourite dal recipe. Come to think of it, I think I'll make a batch tonight.

I've had great success with Kurma Dasa's recipe for panir.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:53 PM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for the wonderful suggestions! I have, indeed, been using whole milk in my paneer experiments, but perhaps I have just not been adding enough acid.

Obiwan - it's funny you should post that dal recipe...it's the very same one I was referring to in my post that tasted the most like my grandfather's! His was very similar to that.

I'll take some of these suggestions next time I make malai kofta and fry the kofta rather than baking them. They'll probably hold up much better that way.

Nobody has any recipes for karahi paneer?
posted by kaseijin at 8:10 PM on September 18, 2006

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