I’m a big fan of north-Indian food. Give me roti-dal-sabzi (north-Indian bread-lentil-curry combo) and I’ll prefer that to rasam-rice (south-Indian rice and soup combo) any day. There are some dishes that I just drool over – dal makhni, rajma, palak paneer, dal tadka, matar-paneer etc. And then there are some the names of which sound so royal exotic – the dish matches the hype too – vegetable jalfrezi, raj kachori, kadhai paneer, dum biryani.
The jalfrezi is something I’ve loved eating at restaurants but never tried recreating it at home. With certain things, although you love them, you don’t want to get too familiar, for then they’ll lose their charm. Like celebrities you drool over on screen, for instance. When I was a journalist, many a times, it was a let-down to meet high-profile personalities, whether it was industrialists (I was a business journalist) or stars from TV or the movies (I trained at a tabloid before joining the business paper). You read about them and see them dressed to their nines in magazines and on television and suddenly, when you hear them voice their opinions, well, I’ll just leave it at that.
Now, I’m sure I’m taking the humble north-Indian restaurant regular to an altogether exalted state, but that was how the jalfrezi was in my mind. Best eaten where you get it made well! But the other day, I wanted to make something with paneer and capsicum. Usually, one just heats up oil, splutters some cumin and does some on-the-spot-innovation with veggies and spices on hand. But that day, I felt like making something ‘interesting’.
I got down to what I love doing – blog hopping! And before long I landed at a dozen sites with a dozen multiplied by a dozen variations of paneer dishes, and, amongst them, a few dozen paneer jalfrezies. Now how was I to resist the charms of this colourful dish calling out to me with utmost sincerity? And like a cautious journalist, who walks up to her interviewee, hoping to be totally impartial to whatever image she has of the person reaching out his hand to her, I set out to tackle the paneer jalfrezi.
I decided on this recipe from amongst dozens of others, because I liked the idea of adding freshly pounded spices, along with pre-powdered ones. The dish did not disappoint. And though paneer dishes taste best with rotis (Indian breads), I ended up serving this one with toasted bread! I’d spent so much time reading up on and deciding on this recipe, that there was no time to get the rotis ready for dinner! Anyway, here’s the recipe for you to savour, hopefully with rotis!
Paneer – 200 gm
Tomato – 1
Onion – 1
Capsicum – 1 (medium)
Red chilies – 2
Coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp + 1 tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Coriander powder – ½ tsp
Garam masala – ½ tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Oil – 1-2 tbsp
Coriander leaves – 1 tbsp (chopped)
Lemon juice – ½ tsp
Dry roast cumin seeds, red chilies and coriander seeds on medium heat till aromatic (about a min) and pound (grind) coarsely
Chop up tomatoes, capsicum and paneer into long fingers and slice onions finely
Heat oil and splutter cumin seeds
Add ground spices and chopped onions and sauté till translucent
Add turmeric, chili and coriander powder and tomatoes and cook till tomatoes start turning mushy
Add capsicum and sauté for a minute or two (don’ overcook…capsicum must retain its crunch)
Add paneer fingers and salt. Mix well and let cook for a couple of mins
Take off heat and add lemon juice. Mix well
Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and serve
For those interested in my experiments with shooting with No Light, and No Flash at 9.30 at night .
All Fully Manual mode pics. Exposure compensation +0.3. ISO > 6400
1. With the tubelight on. M 1/3, F 5. Camera in hand
2. Tubelight off, TV on. M 13, F 5. Camera atop a kitchen container (i don’t have a mono/tripod)
3. No lights whatsoever. M13, F5. Camera at an angle atop a kitchen container
4. No lights whatsoever. M30, F5. Camera at an angle atop a kitchen container