Tuesday, 10 March 2015

THE HOLI PARTY - A SPLASH OF COLOURFUL FLAVOURS


The best way to know what the festival of Holi is all about, it's rituals, how the celebrations unfold is to watch Bollywood movies. Almost every Bollywood movie would surely have a song depicting Holi and there is no better source of information trust me friends to garner knowledge about Holi. The collage below made from Bollywood Holi songs will surely give you an idea about what I mean.


Just like the colours define Holi so also the Dhol/Double Headed Drum, Singing, Dancing, Sweets, Chats and Condiments. The vibrant spirit of Holi engulfs one and all and it is difficult not to be swept away by the fervour and celebrations of Holi.


Picture Courtesy: FREEALLPICTURES.COM

Although Holi is celebrated with equal pomp and show throughout India it is believed that no celebration can match the festivity at Mathura - Vridavan. That is because the tradition of playing  with colours draws its roots from a legend which was born in this very land. According to the legend the Hindu God Krishna as a little boy often complained to his mother Yashoda about his dark complexion and asked her why Radha(his friend) was fair and he dark. One day his mother playfully suggested that he could smear colour on Radha's face and change her complexion to any colour he wanted. In a mischievous mood Lord Krishna applied colour to Radha's face and thus began the tradition of applying colour and till date is being followed religiously. Below is a painting of Radha and Lord Krishna playing Holi.

My earliest memories of Holi would be a swing with the idols of Lord Krishna and Radha placed on it and everyone taking their turns to offer Gulal/coloured powder at their feet. This would be on the night before the actual Holi celebrations. It would be a sight to behold with a full moon making the entire scene so ethereal and the singing of Holi songs with the beating of the Dhol taking the festivities to happy heights.

Another very early memory of Holi was that of a huge tank filled with coloured water in the courtyard of the Haveli /house of my maternal grandparents into which everyone would ultimately be plunged, coming out unrecognisable. I would be really petrified as everyone smeared with the colours of Holi would be practically impossible to recognise and so I would cling to my mother refusing to get down from her lap or let go of her.
But children these days are much smarter. Little D loves to play Holi with her gang and scared she is, no way. If I get concerned that she might be frightened of the Colour smeared faces, and try to comfort her, she just raises her hand and says "It's o.k. Ma. It's only colours. I know it. Don't worry". And I am like, baby you are only 7 years old so I was concerned.


Another very popular custom of Holi is to hold Hasya Kavi Sammelan which is basically the conglomeration of poets where they recite humorous poems. These gatherings are held in many parts of the country especially on Holi. For a laugh riot you should attend the Hasya Kavi Sammelan.

Now the most important part of any festival is food. No celebration is complete without food. Food not only elevates the enthusiasm and fun but gives that much required energy to continue the blast in full swing. And especially during Holi the singing,dancing and running after others to put colours on them leaves you very hungry.


There are a few dishes which are a must make during Holi. They are Thandai, Gujiya, Shakkar & Namak Parey, Dahi Bhalle, Mathri, Kanji Vada etc. Many of you who are not familiar with Indian cuisine will not be knowing about these dishes. But that's alright. They are basically an array of sweets, drinks, savory snacks etc. to add a little more zest to your Holi Celebrations.

For my Holi Party I decided to prepare a few dishes.
PICHKARI THANDAI
BREAD DAHI VADAS
KOLKATA GHUGNI

As Thandai and Holi are synonymous so I decided to serve Thandai with a little Holi twist and called it PICHKARI THANDAI. Thandai is a milk based drink, loaded with nuts and exotic spices. It's super delicious and quite filling as a drink. It is served chilled and is very aromatic too. Thandai takes the colour of saffron normally but since it was Holi my Thandai had to have more colours. A PICHKARI is a spray gun used to spray colours on others. Hence the name Pichkari Thandai.

PICHKARI THANDAI RECIPE:





SERVES - 4
CUISINE - INDIAN
TYPE - BEVERAGES
TIME - 10-15 Minutes PREPARATION+205-30 Minutes COOKING

INGREDIENTS :

1) 1 1/2 Ltr Full Cream Milk
2) 100 Gms of Sugar
3) A few strands of saffron/kesar
4) 8- 10 Green Cardamom
5) 1 Inch Stick Cinnamon
6) 20-25 Dried Rose Petals
7) 8-10 Pepper Corns
8) 15 Almonds blanched and peeled.
9) 40 pistachios blanched and peeled
10) 10 Cashewnuts
11) 3 Tbsp Melon Seeds/Magaz soaked
12) 3 Tbsp of Khas Khas/Poppy Seeds soaked

FOR THE PICHKARI EFFECT :

1) 2 Tbsp any red coloured jam
2) 2 Tbsp of Khus concentrate


LET'S MAKE PICHKARI THANDAI IN EASY STEPS:

STEP 1:
In a thick bottomed pan boil the milk. Add Sugar, the strands of saffron and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Remove from the flame, cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

STEP 2:
In a food processor wizz Green Cardamom, Cinnamom, Dried Rose Petals, Pepper Corns to a very fine powder. Keep aside. Next grind the blanched Almond, Pistachio, Chashewnuts, soaked Poppy Seeds and Melon Seeds to a really smooth paste by adding 250 ml/1 Cup of Chilled milk, which has been chilling in your refrigerator from step 1. Keep aside.

STEP 3:
To the previously chilled remaing milk, add the dry fine powder of Green Cardamom, dried Rose Petals, Pepper Corns. Next add the smooth fine paste of Almond, Pistachio, Cashewnuts, Poppy Seeds and Melon Seeds in Milk to the chilled milk from the refrigerator. Mix well. My family eyes to drink Thandai just like this without straining the milk. If you however want a very smooth drink then now you may pass the the milk mixture through a fine muslin cloth using it as a strainer. Take care to squeeze out all the milk completely along with all the flavours added from the dry and wet mix.

STEP 4:
To serve the PICHKARI THANDAI , make a design in the inside of the serving glass with the red coloured Jam and the Khus syrup. I normally refrigerate the glasses for 15 minutes after making my design in the freezer so that the design in the glass does not mix with the Thandai when poured and
remains distinctly standing out inside the glass.

Serve Chilled

CHECK LIST:
1) Full Cream Milk, 2) Sugar, 3) Saffron, 4) Green Cardamom, 5) Cinnamon, 6) Dried Rose Petals, 7) Pepper Corns, 8) Almonds, 9) Pistachios, 10) Cashewnuts, 11) Poppy Seeds, 12) Melon Seeds
FOR THE PICHKARI EFFECT:
1) Red Jam, 2) Khas Syrup

BREAD DAHI VADAS:

Lip smacking delicious and very very easy to make, there is no better snack to add that extra zing to your Holi parties than these sensational Instant Cocktail sized pretty Dahi Vadas. Dahi Vadas are basically lentil fritters covered with flavoured yogurt. However I did not want to go through the process of soaking the lentils overnight, then grinding them etc. Instead I opted for this Instant Dahi Vada. You can make it in no time and add a delightful snack to your party table and get a lot of happy eaters asking for more.


BREAD DAHI VADAS RECIPE:




YIELDS: 20 SMALL SIZE DAHI VADAS
CUISINE : INDIAN
TYPE: SNACK/CHAAT
TIME: 15 MINUTES PREPARATION+15 MINUTES COOKING



INGREDIENTS :

FOR THE VADAS:

1) 1) 5-6 Slices of White Bread
2) 100gms Paneer
3) 1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
4) 1 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Coriander Leaves
5) 3-4 Tbsp Oil to fry the VADAS in.
Salt

ROASTED SPICES:

1) 4 Tbsp Cumin Seeds
2) 2 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
3) 4-5 Dry Red Chillies

FOR THE POMEGRANATE YOGURT:

1) 250 Gms Yogurt
2) 1/2 Tsp Amchoor/Dry Mango Powder
3) 1 Tsp Chaat Masala
4) 1/2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder
5) 1/4 Tsp of Black Salt /Kala Namak
6) 1 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Coriander leaves
7) 1 Tsp Roasted Spice Mix

FOR THE GARNISH:

1) 2 Tbsp Pomegranate Pearls
2) A few mint leaves
3) 1 Tsp Sweet Chilli Sauce
4) 1 Tsp chopped Fresh Coriander Leaves

STEP 1:
Remove the brown edges from the White bread by chopping them off with a knife. Cut the breads now into little bits or simply tear them with your hands. Place the bits of bread into a large mixing bowl and add a little water about 1 tbsp in order to soften the bread. Next grate the paneer into the bowl using a grater. Now season with Salt, 1//2 tsp Roasted Masala, 1/4 tsp of Black pepper and add the fresh chopped coriander leaves. This is the basic mix for the INSTANT DAHI VADA. Now mix all the contents in bowl with your hands so that everything in the bowl comes together like a semi soft dough.

STEP 2:
Cut out 1 inch pieces from the semi soft dough, Shapen them into round shaped balls and flatten them. I wanted small cocktail sized Dahi Vadas as I didn't want them to be too filling and allow my guests to enjoy the other fare on the table.
Heat enough oil in a pan to be able to shallow fry the Vadas. Once hot pop the VADAS in the oil . Once Golden brown on one side flip them over and brown them on the other side. Just make sure that the VADAS do not stick to your pan. Take them out of the oil into a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

STEP 3:
Heat about 2 Cups of water till Luke warm. We will plop our VADAS into this Luke warm water to make them slightly soft and also to ensure they soak in the yogurt and all its flavours later on. Let the VADAS swim in the water for a couple of minutes till they are slightly soft. I don't want it to soften too much and retain a little bit of the crunch, so two and haf to three minutes in the water in just enough. Then take them out and squeeze the excess water by gently pressing the vadas. Now it is time for the VADAS to get covered by the scrumptious pomegranate yogurt.

STEP 4:
Take yogurt in a bowl. Add Amchoor powder, roasted masala powder about 1 tsp, Chaat Masala powder, Black Salt, Fresh Chopped Coriander Leaves and lightly mix. Wow nice, amazing aromas, nice flavours, great ideas definitely to sparkle up your festive season, isn't it? now is time Great Yogurt done, Vadas done, now its time to cover the Vadas with the yumm yumm yummy yogurt and plate up.
To plate, lay the Vadas in a line or as you wish. And then pour some yogurt over them. Place the pomegranate pearls and mint leaves randomly. Sprinkle the chopped Coriander leaves and add a dash of sweet chilli sauce over them.

PAAN GULKAND GUJIYA RECIPE~

Gujiya is the most popular sweet made during the Holi festivities. Gujiya is a sweet dumpling made with refined flour and stuffed with khoa traditionally.You can get very creative with the Gujiyas. These dumplings can also be made with whole wheat flour or semolina or a mix of these with each other or with refined wheat flour. Similarly there is no end to the kind of innovation you can do with its stuffing. I have stuffed these gujiyas with a mixture of Betel Leaves and Gulkand. Get as imaginative as you can and spray your Holi with a riot of Flavours.




YIELDS : 12
CUISINE : INDIAN
TYPE : SWEETS
TIME : 30 MINUTES PREPARATION + 30 MINUTES COOKING


INGREDIENTS :

FOR THE DOUGH :

1 Cup = 128gms approximately

1) 2 Cups Refined Flour/Maida
2) 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour /Atta
3) 2 - 3 Tbsp Clarified Butter / Ghee
4) Water to knead into a dough

FOR THE FILLING :

1) 200 Gms Khoa/ Thickened Whole Milk which can be grated like cheese. Available in Indian Sweet Shops.
2) 100 Gms Gulkand/ Sweet preserve of Rose Petals. Available in Indian Stores.
3) 5 Paan/Betel Leaves.
4) 2 Tsp nuts crushed. Have nut mix of your choice.

FOR THE SUGAR SYRUP :

1 Cup = 250 ml approx.

1) 1 1/2 Cup Sugar
2) 1 Cup Water

Oil for deep frying the Gujiyas

GET COOKING WITH ME IN EASY STEPS :

STEP 1 :
In a mixing bowl mix well the refined flour, whole wheat flour and clarified butter. Using water knead into a stiff dough. Leave the dough to rest for at least half an hour covered.

STEP 2:
For the filling sauté the Khoa over medium heat till it looks slightly fried. Chop the betel leaves roughly and wizz them in a food processor once to get very fine pieces of Betel leaves. Crush the nut mix. In a large mixing bowl after the Khoa cools mix all the ingredients nicely together. The filling is ready.

STEP 3:
Make a medium log with the dough and cut into equal parts. Roll each part between your palms to shape it like a ball. Place the dough shaped balls in a bowl and keep them covered. You do not need to dust the Rolling board with flour as the clarified butter in your dough helps in the rolling process.  Roll each dough ball with the help of a rolling pin into disc shapes of approximately 4-5 inches in diameter. Place about 1 tbsp - 1 1/2 tbsp of filling on one side of the disc keeping the edges empty. Don't overstuff your Gujiyas as they may break open when frying them. Now slowly and with a lot of  care seal the Gujiya by bringing the edges together. Press the edges well so that the mixture is sealed well inside. Alternately like I did  place the discs into the Gujiya moulds (available in Indian Stores). Next place the filling and then close the mould to get a perfectly filled parcel with sealed edges. Place on a plate and finish making all the remaining Gujiyas.

STEP 4:
Heat sufficient oil in a deep wok/kadai. The temperature of the oil should be right before you put in your Gujiyas. You don't want the oil to be cold or too hot. The best test for this is to put in a tiny pices of dough into the oil. If the dough swims up and starts floating upwards, then your oil is of the desired temperature. If it remains at the bottom, oil is cold. If it swims up very fast then oil is too hot. Gently slide in your Gujiyas with utmost care as you are dealing with hot oil here, 2-3 at a time. Don't overcrowd your Kadai as the Gujiyas may stick to each other. Fry the Gujiyas gently turning them till both the sides turn a lovely golden colour. Drain the Gujiyas into a kitchen paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

STEP 5:
To prepare the sugar syrup, in a heavy bottomed pan add the the sugar and water and boil them. I add a few drops of lemon so that I get a crystal clear syrup. Carefully put a drop of the sugar syrup by cooling the drop a little on your thumb and with your first finger press the sugar syrup drop and then pull your first finger gently up a little. If a single strand is formed between your thumb and first finger, you know your sugar syrup is ready. If it doesn't then keep boiling and do the test again a little later. Once you get the single string consistency of the sugar syrup, remove the pan from the flame. Put in a the Gujiyas into the syrup 39 seconds on each side and thereafter take them out into a plate. If the sugar syrup cools it will solidify. So you can beat your sugar syrup from time to time so that it does not solidify. While the sugar syrup coating on the Gujiyas is still hot, Sprinkle chopped pistachios so that they will stick to your Gujiyas. Once the Gujiyas come to room temperature, keep them in an air tight container away from sunlight in a cool place. Finish the Gujiyas within a couple of days.

PICTORIAL STEP BY STEP PROCEDURE OF PAAN GULKAND GUJIYA ~

STEP 1 :
In a mixing bowl mix well the refined flour, whole wheat flour and clarified butter. Using water knead into a stiff dough. Leave the dough to rest for at least half an hour covered.


STEP 2:

For the filling sauté the Khoa over medium heat till it looks slightly fried. Chop the betel leaves roughly and wizz them in a food processor once to get very fine pieces of Betel leaves. Crush the nut mix. In a large mixing bowl after the Khoa cools mix all the ingredients nicely together. The filling is ready.


STEP 3:
Make a medium log with the dough and cut into equal parts. Roll each part between your palms to shape it like a ball. Place the dough shaped balls in a bowl and keep them covered. You do not need to dust the Rolling board with flour as the clarified butter in your dough helps in the rolling process. Roll each dough ball with the help of a rolling pin into disc shapes of approximately 4-5 inches in diameter. Place about 1 tbsp - 1 1/2 tbsp of filling on one side of the disc keeping the edges empty. Don't overstuff your Gujiyas as they may break open when frying them. Now slowly and with a lot of care seal the Gujiya by bringing the edges together. Press the edges well so that the mixture is sealed well inside. Alternately like I did  place the discs into the Gujiya moulds (available in Indian Stores). Next place the filling and then close the mould to get a perfectly filled parcel with sealed edges. Place on a plate and finish making all the remaining Gujiyas.

STEP 4:
Heat sufficient oil in a deep wok/kadai. The temperature of the oil should be right before you put in your Gujiyas. You don't want the oil to be cold or too hot. The best test for this is to put in a tiny pices of dough into the oil. If the dough swims up and starts floating upwards, then your oil is of the desired temperature. If it remains at the bottom, oil is cold. If it swims up very fast then oil is too hot. Gently slide in your Gujiyas with utmost care as you are dealing with hot oil here, 2-3 at a time. Don't overcrowd your Kadai as the Gujiyas may stick to each other. Fry the Gujiyas gently turning them till both the sides turn a lovely golden colour. Drain the Gujiyas into a kitchen paper towel to soak up any excess oil.



STEP 5:
To prepare the sugar syrup, in a heavy bottomed pan add the the sugar and water and boil them. I add a few drops of lemon so that I get a crystal clear syrup. Carefully put a drop of the sugar syrup by cooling the drop a little on your thumb and with your first finger press the sugar syrup drop and then pull your first finger gently up a little. If a single strand is formed between your thumb and first finger, you know your sugar syrup is ready. If it doesn't then keep boiling and do the test again a little later. Once you get the single string consistency of the sugar syrup, remove the pan from the flame. Put in a the Gujiyas into the syrup 39 seconds on each side and thereafter take them out into a plate. If the sugar syrup cools it will solidify. So you can beat your sugar syrup from time to time so that it does not solidify. While the sugar syrup coating on the Gujiyas is still hot, Sprinkle chopped pistachios so that they will stick to your Gujiyas. Once the Gujiyas come to room temperature, keep them in an air tight container away from sunlight in a cool place. Finish the Gujiyas within a couple of days.


CHECK LIST:
FOR THE DOUGH:
1) Refined Flour, 2) Whole Wheat Flour, 3) Clarified Butter/Ghee, 4) Ghee
FOR THE FILLING:
1)Khoa, 2) Betel Leaves, 3) Gulkand, 4) Nuts Mix
FOR THE SUGAR SYRUP:
1)Sugar, 2) Water
OIL


**************************************************************************************************************************

KOLKATA GHUGNI:


At any and every street corner of Kolkata you will find these bright yellow peas curry in a huge deep plate, from which the Ghugni seller will scoop out a ladle full of Ghugni into a paper or leaf, shaped like a bowl and then garnish it with a whole lot of condiments and very skinny noodle shaped lentil fritters known as sev. Honestly what he serves is truly truly lip smacking delicious. But you can make Ghugni at home too for your parties. During Holi, just picking up a bowl of Gugni and digging into it gives a whole lot of satisfaction because Ghugni tastes just so delightful that you just cannot stop at one.



SERVES : 4
CUISINE : INDIAN
TYPE : SNACK
TIME : 30 MINUTES PREPARATION+30 MINUTES COOKING

INGREDENTS :

1) 250-300 Gms of dried yellow peas, soaked overnight and cooked till soft
2) 1 Large Red Onion finely chopped
3) 2 Bay leaves
4) 1 inch Cinnamon Stick
5) 4 Cloves
6) 4 Green Cardamoms
7) 1 Tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
8) 1/2 Tsp turmeric powder
9) 1 Tsp Garam Masala Powder
10) 1 Large Potato, Boiled, Skinned and cubbed
11) 1 Tsp Tamarind paste/pulp
12) Salt to taste
13) 1-2 Tbsp Oil


FOR THE DRY ROASTED / BHAJA MASALA

1) 4-5 Dry Red Chillies
2) 4 Tbsp Cumin Seeds
3) 2 Tbsp Coriander Seeds

FOR THE GARNISH

1) 2 Tbsp of Dry Roasted Masala Mix
2) 1 Tbsp of Ginger julienne
3) 2 Tbsp of Chopped Coriander leaves
4) 1-2 Green chillies finely chopped
5) 1 Tsp of Chilli Flakes
6) 1 Medium sized tomato finely Chopped


GET COOKING WITH ME IN EASY STEPS :

STEP 1:
Cook the soaked yellow peas either in a pressure cooker or pot till soft. Chop the Red Onion finely. Chop the fresh coriander. Chop the ginger juliennes,green chilli and the tomato. Boil the Potato, cool and cut into cubes. For the Bhuna/Bhaja/Roasted Spice Mix in a pan dry roast the red chillies, cumin and coriander seeds till fragrant. Cool and grind into powder. I add a small piece of Rocksalt before grinding. It enhances the flavour.

STEP 2:
In a pan or wok add oil. When hot add in the bay leaves, Cinamon stick, green cardamom pods, cloves and let them all crackle and become aromatic. Next goes in the chopped onions along with the ginger garlic paste. Also add the turmeric powder now. Sauté till the onions become soft and changes colour. Next add in the boiled yellow peas, tamarind and garam masala. Mix everything well and let it simmer for a couple of minutes before adding in the boiled cubbed potatoes. Mix and add a little water about 1/2 Cup ( 125 ml ) into the contents of the pan. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

STEP 3:
Garnish with the special dry roasted spice mix, fresh chopped coriander leaves, ginger julienne, chopped green chillies, red chilli flakes and chopped tomato.

Serve hot.


CHECK LIST :
1) Dried Yellow peas, 2) Red Onion, 3) Bay leaves, 4) Cinnamon, 5) Cardamom, 6) Ginger Garlic Paste, 7) Turmeric Powder, 8) Garam Masala Powder, 9) Boiled Potato, 10) Tamarind, 11) Salt, 12)  Mustard Oil, 13) Cloves
FOR THE DRY ROASTED SPICE MIX:
1) Dry Red Chillies, 2) Cumin Seeds, 3) Coriander Seeds
FOR GARNISH:
1) Dry Roasted Spice Mix, 2) Ginger Julienne, 3) Fresh Coriander Leaves, 4) Green Chillies, 5) Red Chilli Flakes, 6) Tomato


PANEER MAKHANI BIRYANI

Friends since my Holi party continued long into the day way past lunch time and the bunch came back looking for more even after finishing the beverages and the snacks, I had to add the Paneer Makhani Biryani to the Holi Buffet. Everyone who is familiar with Indian cuisine, must be familiar with Paneer Makhani, which is a dish made with cottage cheese submerged into a creamy gravy with oodles of butter. Since the Gang had been snacking since morning I decided to cook this dish with as little calorie as possible. I ditched the ghee, cream and butter and dished a very yummy Paneer Makhani. I then layered it with rice and garnished it just like a biryani and cooked it on Dum. So my Paneer Makhani Biryani was served as a one Pot dish with raita and my hungry troupers were more than happy to dig into this mouthwatering dish.




SERVES - 4
CUISINE - INDIAN
TYPE - MAIN COURSE/RICE DISH
TIME - 1 HOUR

INGREDIENTS :

1) 250 Gms Paneer Cubes
2) 3 Tbsp Ghee/Clarified Butter (I have used about 1 1/2 Tbsp of Oil with neutral flavour to keep the calorie count low.) 
3) 1 inch Cinnamon
4) 4 -6 Cloves
5) 2-3 Brown Cardamom
6) 3-4 Green Cardamom
7) 2 Bay leaves
8) 1 Star Anise
9) 8-10 Black Pepper Corns
10) 2-3 Strands of Mace
11) A pinch of Nutmeg
12) 1 Large Onion chopped coarsely
13) 2 Cups fresh Tomato Purée
14) 2-3 fresh Green Chillies
15) 1 Tbsp Ginger - Garlic Paste
16) 1Tsp Turmeric Powder
17) 1Tsp Garam Masala Powder
18) 1 Tsp Tandoori Masala Powder
19) 1/4 the Cup Cashew Paste
20) 1/2 Cup Milk or Cream ( I have used low fat toned milk)
21) 6 Cups cooked Basmati Rice
22) 3 Tbsp of butter ( I have not used)

FOR GARNISHING :

1) 1 Cup Fried Onions
2) 1/2 Cup Almond Slivers
3) 1/2 Cup Chopped fresh Mint and coriander leaves



 GET COOKING WITH ME IN EASY STEPS :

STEP 1:
Wash the tomatoes. Either pressure cook them or boil them in water till nice and soft but should not disintegrate. Scoop the tomatoes carefully out of the boiling water and whizz them into a smooth purée in a food processor. Keep the tomato purée aside. Soak the cashew nuts in hot water for 15 minutes. I have used a mix of almonds and cashew nuts. More almonds and less cashew nuts. Only remember to remove the skin of the almonds which easily come off with a push from your fingers after being soaked in the hot water. Drain the water out and adding about 2 Tbsp of warm milk whizz them into a smooth paste. Keep the cashew paste aside. Cook the rice as per instruction on the packet till 70 percent done, drain out the water and spread the rice on a large plate so that it stops cooking. Chop the Onions, chillies, cut the paneer into cubes. For the final garnish you need fried onions, chopped fresh coriander and mint leaves. So finely slice the onions and shallow or deep fry them till they turn golden. Keep aside.

STEP 2:
All prep work done, switch on the cooking range. In a pan put in the Clarified Butter ( I have used a neutral oil instead to keep the calories at bay. If you want to use oil use one with neutral flavours. The taste is equally gorgeous) and smear the paneer cubes in it. Just as they are changing colours slightly take them out of your pan. We do not want a dark colour on our paneer cubes as that could harden the cottage cheese which we do not want. Then season the cubes with salt to taste and set aside. In the same pan into the remaining clarified butter add the whole spices which are cinnamon, cloves, brown and green cardamom, bay leaves, mace strands, star anise and black whole pepper corns. Just as you hear them Pitter patter and your kitchen starts to fill up with aroma, toss in the chopped onions, green chillies and ginger garlic paste. As always with whole spices, crackle them controlling the heat as if you burn them your entire dish will be ruined. It's not easy if you are doing it for the first time. I learnt by looking carefully at the cloves. They become double their original size and that's when I know its the time to go on to the next step. Fry everything in the pan mixing up all the ingredients with your spatula till the onions become light in colour.

STEP 3:
Add in all the powdered spices which are your turmeric powder, Garam masala powder and tandoori masala powder (which you can buy in most asian or Indian stores). Mix well and then add the fresh tomato purée. Friends I can vouch there is nothing to match the flavour of freshly puréed tomatoes. Trust me the canned and the packaged ones are only when you are in a hurry. O.k next you allow the tomatoes to cook by letting them simmer away for at least 10 good minutes. Gently add the cashew nut paste once the tomatoes have cooked and the raw smell no longer there. Mix and add in the cream. I have used low fat milk in my dish instead of the cream used in the original recipe and it tastes just awesome. Mix well. Check for seasoning and add if required. I allow everything to simmer for another couple of minutes before adding in the paneer cubes. Once the paneer cubes are added to the gravy give everything in the pan a light handed mix and bring to a gentle simmer for 6 to 8 minutes. Now you can switch off the flame and add your dollop of butter. Since I wanted to indulge minus the butter and it tasted very nice even without it I did not add butter.

STEP 4:
Take a baking dish or handi, slightly grease it with oil or clarified butter as you choose and layer the rice and paneer alternatively. Garnish with fried onions, almond slivers, fresh mint and coriander leaves. Put on Dum which means to cook the food in its own steam. So cover either with an aluminium foil or a tight lid and seal every possible outlet for steam. Only a very low flane keep it on Dum for at least 20-25 minutes.

Serve piping hot with RAITA / Yogurt Dip.


     


And as my Holi Celebrations reached a crescendo I quietly thanked Almighty for all the blessings and wished that the Colours of Holi splash the life of all my family,friends and you my dear readers with unending smiles.

This post was part of the Blog Hop I am in and the Girls have some very exciting Holi recipes to make not only your Holi celebrations more flavour loaded but also ensure your food at all your parties is rocking and most talked about. So keep looking at this space for their links which shall be up shortly.

Also friends we have a new member in our Blog Hop family. I am really happy to welcome Padma Veeranki who is a supremely talented Chef and author of the very popular Blog MASALA KORB You will love her Blog because not only does it have a wide range of delectable Indian dishes but a whole lot of information on how to make the various Spice Mixes so integral to Indian cooking right in your kitchen and so much more.