Ever ready for guests – paneer comes in handy

Guests are of two types, expected and unexpected! If sufficient notice has been given, a lot of ideas can be worked upon and the goodies can be prepared in advance. If someone unexpected drops in then the main task of the host would be to supply eats that are filling and also keep in mind the hospitality factor. We have found that paneer is one ingredient that can make a simple meal look grand!

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.

To my readers, with love!

To begin with, here’s wishing everybody a very Happy Valentine’s Day. Do spread the joy and peace along with the love amongst all!
Now back to my routine, I am shooting at Madh Island today with Ms. Madhuri Dixit Nene for the FOODFOOD channel promo(s). And by the time I wrap up, it will be time for me to catch tonight’s flight to Malaysia for a meeting lined up with the Astro people.
The weekend was fun with a family marriage in New Delhi and back to Mumbai on Sunday for presenting an award at the Times Foodie Awards at the ITC Grand Maratha in Andheri. It is always great to meet up with the industry folks, and Alyona and I, did enjoy every bit of it!
While in the office, the shoots of Sirf Tees Minute are going on in full swing, keeping everybody including the chefs on their toes. The shoots for the channel will now become a regular schedule in which I am equally going to be tied up with.
Let’s celebrate the Valentine fever this week with some of my favourite dishes like

Till I write again.

Sanjeev Kapoor

Christmas cake recipes – Art of baking without sugar

Sugar is the most common sweetening agent in food items. Sadly, it can have many adverse effects on the health which can be both long and short term. Sugar, in extreme quantities can be harmful as it can cause cavities, turn quickly into fat, is dangerous to diabetics and it also adds to the growing problem of obesity. This is the major reason as to why many people today are turning to sugar-free and low-sugar diets for maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
A general notion with people is if baking is done without sugar, it is bound to be tasteless. For instance, a cake is supposed to be sweet, and when one replaces the sugar with a substitute, it will become bland. To be true, sugar free cakes can be as good as the ones with sugar. One just has to keep in mind that while baking a sugar free cake, the ingredients have to be carefully picked up. People might just choose a lot of ingredients which might be loaded with sugar. Even the natural sugars can be as damaging as the artificial ones. Thus, using a sugar substitute is the best choice. Also, using sugar in moderation always does the trick. The basic funda should be to use it wisely.
While baking, one can also use half sugar substitute and half granulated sugar. To bring out the fruitiness in a dish and intensify the flavours of the ingredients used, one can use flavor enhancers such as orange or lemon. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg also help in intensifying flavours even in Christmas cake recipes. Using vanilla, butter flavouring and nut flavourings also produce the aroma of sweetness without the use of butter or excessive use of nuts. Cutting into very small pieces dried fruits such as plums, raisins, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries, and cranberries, which provide tremendous sweetness, helps distribute the flavours and sweetness more evenly. Also, avoid using overripe fruits which are generally very sweet.
Incase one does not want to use a sugar substitute, following tips can be used for making a sugar free or less sugar meal:
To replace the sugar and fat in soft, chewy cookies, one can add dried fruit puree.
Bar cookies can be sliced into bite-sized portions.
Adding natural sweetness of dried chopped fruit to the baked goods is always advantageous instead of the candied variety.
For decorating, drizzling a bit of chocolate icing made from melted bittersweet chocolate and nonfat is always a good option.
Before baking, one can always press the tops of reduced-sugar cookies into fine-grain coloured sugar crystals or crushed sugar-free hard candies.
Baking without sugar is not only healthy, but can be fun and as palatable as baking with it. And for Christmas, when one is sure of having that sweet tooth to celebrate the happiness and joy around, dishes with sugar substitutes, like Prune tart, Chocolate butter cake, Apple pie, Bread and butter pudding, Strawberry cheesecake and the likes just do the trick by fulfilling the desires as well as keeping everyone healthy!