After I got married and moved to Delhi NCR, I realized l had landed in the land of paneer, naan and chana masala and in a few days of eating out, we were swimming neck deep in butter. Nilesh called it ‘enough’ and hauled me in the kitchen, to cook a decent Maharashtrian meal of varan-bhaat-bhaaji-poli. But I had developed this fixation with daal makhani I 0rdered in each restaurant and could not get the earthy aroma out of my head. I shot a mail with a subject line – ‘daal – makhani this time!’ to dear friend Shweta and pat came this recipe. I gathered the ingredients and courage and tried it. Eureka! The outcome was as delicious as right out of a restaurant kitchen.
Here is the recipe, pretty much a copy paste from Shweta’s email dated 23rd August 2006. It is a regular in my kitchen till date – I skip the red chili powder and dried red chili and load it up with cinnamon and black pepper which gives it a nice aroma, without making to too spicy for Aditi.
Urad daal (black whole urad, not the split one) – 1 cup
Rajma – One-Fourth cup
Chana Daal – One-fourth cup
Ginger – lots (a 2.5 inch piece)
Garlic – 2 small pods (optional)
Tomatoes – 2 ripe ones, chopped fine.
Ghee/ Butter – 1 tbsp
Salt – as per taste
Heeng – 1 tsp
Red Chili powder – 1 tsp (optional)
Whole Red Chili – 1 (broken into two halves/ optional)
Jeera – 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder – half tbsp
Ground black pepper – half tbsp
- Wash the three daals well, mix them and soak overnight (about 8 hrs) in lots of water.
- Add salt to taste and pressure cook the soaked daals. What I do is put the cooker on high flame and after first whistle and lower the flame to medium. Let it cook for about 7-8 whistles. There should be enough water or the daal will burn due to the long cooking time.
- Once the cooker cools down, mix the daals well with a ladle, chana daal should almost dissolve, rajma will be as it is. This is how you get the soupy consistency, long cooking time is the key.
- Then add ginger juliennes (more the better, but depends on your love for ginger).
- Now in a wok, heat ghee (or butter), add heeng, jeera, dry red chillies, chopped garlic (optional). Fry a little and then add finely chopped tomatoes.
- Once tomatoes are soft, add some red chili powder and then add the daal. Let it simmer for a while.
- Add in the black pepper powder and cinnamon powder.
- If you want you can add more butter/cream at the end.
Since the time the doctor suggested Aditi needs more iron, I spent two days on the net reading up all I could about sources of iron. Though it was convincing to know that most of the plant sources do contain iron – the sad part is that it is all ‘non heme’ iron, which means that the body does not absorb it easily. One good way of having iron absorbed better is to combine your food with vitamin C sources like lemon, orange juice.
Now, we have always been green lovers, but this call for iron brought into my fridge bags of spinach, methi, mint, kale and collard. The leaves have started to appear in everywhere – daal, paratha, sabji, cheela and most recently – the humble chole. I had been making palak chole often, but addition of kale was Nilesh’s idea and the result was different and interesting. While pakal loses all its form (and water) when cooked, kale gave body and bite to the dish. I wish kale was available in India too – till that time, try adding any greens you can find to chole and you will be delighted with the result.
Chole/ chickpeas/ chane – 1.5 cups (source of iron)
Spinach and/or Kale leaves – 2 to 3 cups, cleaned chopped roughly (source of iron)
Tomatoes – 2, chopped small or pureed (source of iron)
Onions – 2 small or 1 large – chopped small
Ginger – half inch piece, grated
Garlic – 2 cloves (optional), grated
Kasoori methi – 1.5 tsp
Salt – as per taste
Turmeric- 1 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Chana masala/ garam masala – 2 tsp
Jeera – half tsp, Rai – half tsp
Oil – 3 tsp
1. Soak the chole overnight or 6 to 8 hours with lots of water. Wash them and boil in a cooker with a pinch of salt. I dont like them too mushy, so 3 to 4 whistles on a medium flame are good.
2. Heat oil in a non stick kadhai.
3. When oil is hot, add jeera and rai. When they pop and sizzle, add ginger and garlic and let them leave their raw small.
4. Add the onion pieces and keep stirring. The onions should get pale and soft and start browning.
5. Add the tomatoes, chana masala, turmeric, red chili powder, salt and let the tomatoes cook till they get all mushed up and the masala starts to give a good aroma.
4. Now add the kasoori methi, and chopped greens. Cook them for just a minute and add the boiled chole. We want the chole to cook in the juices of kale and spinach – this brings out the flavor and blends everything well.
5. Cook covered for 5 minutes. No need to add water as greens release lots.Taste and adjust the salt etc.
6. Eat with roti/ paratha.
‘Chaman’ is a term we used in my hometown Indore to refer to a weirdo! It always brings a smile on my face when I hear someone being called a chaman! However – while eating out in the north, I realized chaman does not refer to someone, but to something – something that has methi in it. Though I am very conservative at what I eat at restaurants, usually I don’t go out of my comfort zone, but I do make sure I read the entire vegetarian menu – they have the name of the dish and a little description that follows. Something like – ‘Paneer Methi Chaman – A mildly spicy gravy full of soft paneer flavored with methi.’ I am not sure if they hire people specifically for writing these, because if they do, I am a candidate. I say this more as I can also boast of being a compulsive flyer/ pamphlet reader – the ones that come with my daily newspaper – ‘free home delivery’ outlets – most of them have at least two chaman dishes on them.
My curiosity made me order it in my last dinner out and it turned out pretty good – the methi took the regular paneer dish to a new level, though all attempts were made to sideline it with addition of cream and even khoya/ mawa. Maybe they want only the color of the methi, and not the taste. I tried to recreate it at home, minus the cream/khoya/mawa and let methi prevail. It was awesome! Confirmed that ‘chaman’ is meant to bring a smile to the face – be it a person or a dish!
Paneer Methi Chaman – Restaurant Style
Fresh, green methi/ fenugreek leaves – cleaned, washed and chopped fine – 1 cup
Ginger – 1 inch piece, cleaned and chopped.
Onions – 2 large – cut into chunks
Tomatoes – 2 medium – cut to chunks
Paneer cubes – 1.5 cup or a 200 gm block cut into pieces
Kaju/ Cashews – 3 , broken to pieces
Salt – as per taste
Haldi/ Turmeric- 1 tsp
Jeera/ Cumin – half tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala/ Kitchen king masala – 1 tsp
Oil – 3 tsp
1. Heat oil in a kadhai/ wok.
2. When oil is hot, add jeera, let it crackle. Add onion pieces. The onions should get pale and soft and start browning at the sides. At this point, go to step 3.
3. Add ginger, tomatoes and cashews. Also add haldi and salt. Sauté till tomatoes are soft and pulpy. This takes around 10 -12 minutes.
4. While the tomatoes are cooking, blanch the chopped methi leaves – put them in a cup of water and let it boil on a sim flame for 10 minutes. Cover with a lid once done.
5. Once the onion and tomatoes are cooked, switch off the gas and let it cool.
6. Once cool, put the stuff in a blender. Add a little water (I used the water I boiled the methi in) and blend to a smooth paste. The cashews will give the paste a rich and smooth texture.
7. Put the blended paste in the same wok and put it on flame again. Keep sautéing – add rest of the spices – red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder too. Keep doing this for 5 to 7 minutes, till the deal is bright and oozing oil.
8. Add the paneer cubes. Strain out the boiled methi leaves from the water and add them here. Also add some water (the same water in which you boiled the methi).
9. Mix all of it and let it come to a boil – 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the spices, salt.
10. Serve hot with rotis.