One quick recipe of the ever popular Matar Paneer follows: Boil 4 cups milk twice on high heat and add juice of one lemon. The whey will separate from paneer. Drain the whey, tie up paneer in a muslin cloth and hang it up to allow excess water to drain away. Place the muslin with the paneer under a heavy weight to ensure that all the moisture is squeezed out. This will flatten the paneer into a flat round cake when removed from the muslin. Cut the paneer into strips or cubes. Heat sufficient ghee in a kadai and deep-fry till light brown. Drain onto an absorbent paper. Chop 2 large onions and 1 inch ginger finely. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in a pan and add chopped onions and ginger. Sauté till lightly browned. Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, salt and 400 grams peas and cook, adding a little water, till the peas are tender and a little gravy remains. Add the fried paneer, 1 teaspoon garam masala powder and boil for 5 minutes. Serve hot with chappatis.
You can use readymade paneer and have a stock of frozen peas that always comes in handy. Here are some other suggestions that can help you feel in control when guests drop in!
Munchies in a jiffy
· Mix finely chopped potatoes, onions and green chillies. Add gram flour and mix with water to get a batter of dropping consistency. Deep fry as small bhajiyas and serve with ketchup.
· To a cup of finely chopped onions and tomatoes, add two to three finely chopped green chillies. Add a tablespoon or two of cream (malai) and salt to taste. Place between slices of bread and toast in sandwich toaster. Serve hot with ketchup or chutney.
· Deep fry small squares of bread. Top with baked beans, chopped onions and capsicums. One version is Baked Beans on Toast.
· Something like puri and Sukhe Aloo can be prepared within thirty to forty minutes. For an instant dessert, whip cream into some shrikhand and add some chopped fruits. You can even serve Small Rasgulla with Fresh Fruit Rabdi.
· One favourite is chocolate samosa. Samosa patties wrapped up around a piece of chocolate and deep fried to a crisp. Serve decked up on a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s quite different than serving ice cream with hot gulab jamuns that most of us do.
When guests are expected it’s a different story. You have the time to plan the menu or shop for food as you wish or according to the guests’ preferences. But a cook’s creativity and prowess comes to the fore, when a time of testing comes.