Hello fellow wanderers! Greetings to passers by, in the form of this delicious summer afternoon salad! Don’t fret yet, this is not one of those salads that just claim to be tasty, only to shock you when you take the first bite. If eaten chilled, this bowl of yummy good health will leave you asking for more even after you’re full. What’s better yet is that it is so easy to make, there is virtually no cooking involved! Here’s how I make it;
A big bowl of cooked chickpeas (this means you have to soak about 2 hand-fulls in a bowl of water, overnight)
2 medium tomatoes finely chopped (de-seeded)
1 green bell pepper finely chopped (yellow’s good, too)
100 g Apetina Feta Cheese crumbled or finely chopped
Fresh basil leaves finely chopped (dry basil will do just fine, too)
Salt to taste
In a mixing bowl, take the soaked chickpeas after straining any excess water.
Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, basil, feta cheese and salt (careful how much salt you add, because feta is salty in itself).
Mix well, so that the feta is crumbled and distributed well, coating most of the chickpeas.
Refrigerate for at least half an hour, and then dig in, guilt-free (I say guilt free because 100 g feta cheese has only 264 calories, but lots of other nutrients – vitamins A, D, B6 and B12, calcium, protein, magnesium, iron and potassium).
The orange sky is lazily turning grey-black as the sound of traffic steadily increases around me. There’s a park behind me, from where I can hear little children squeal with joy as they jump from rung to rung on the Monkey-Gyms. There’s this gust of wind that’s just blown across my face, foreshadowing the winter that’s about to set in soon. Now the sounds of angry car engines and the horns from the bikes of frustrated office-goers have doubled-within minutes! Yes! Loud horns! Everyone is very horn-happy here, and it’s not considered rude – it’s not considered anything.
As the sun sets in completely, hordes of hawkers come and set up make-shift shops on the footpaths, and there’s a lot of commotion as they arrange pretty red plastic chairs and tables for patrons to sit comfortably whilst enjoying spicy Indian delights. There are no streetlamps in the whole long lane, but it looks brightly lit up from where I sit. It’s these hawkers- I realise! Each little shop has its own lighting! At the foot of each cooking area are three-four car batteries, from which two black and red wires emerge curvaceously and connect themselves to little tube lights, bringing them to life. Ingenious!
Now all the shops have been set up perfectly- the Paratha shops, the South-Indian Dosa stalls, the curry shops, shops that sell highly ‘Indianized’, over-spiced versions of Chinese dishes, the shops that sell, once again, highly Indian unauthentic versions of pizzas- they’re all ready for the night. But the shops that stand out most are the Pao Bhaaji sellers! Even though all the dishes available in this lane are tasty and famous, by the end of the night the Pao Bhaaji stall will have done the best business.
And just as I have written this, as if to prove my point, hordes of customers start parking their vehicles until the lane is chock-a-bloc with traffic. Most of the people step down from their cars and bikes and make it to the Pao Bhaaji stalls.
As the customers at one such stall place their orders, a waiter fills the stainless steel glasses with cold drinking water. It’s not been two minutes and I can already whiff fragrance of onions and garlic turning golden, along with finely chopped green chillies and other Indian spices – a melange of colours in the hardy black pan. Then in go the fresh green bell-peppers, boiled potatoes, green peas, aubergines, cabbage, cauliflower and eventually a few sprigs of coriander. My mouth has started watering.
Just as I’ve suppressed the strong desire to shut my laptop and go grab a bite, the small-town master-chef smacks a large, golden dollop of butter down onto his huge non-stick pan, and as the butter fragrantly simmers, he extracts a fresh bread bun from its packet, cuts it into two, and places both the pieces face down onto the butter… That’s my order!
Words cannot do justice to what happened after the delightful dish took its place on the table. The aromas managed to shut out all the noise of the traffic, and the first bite proved transcendental, a burst of flavours telling me I was meant to be born here, just for this plate of Pao Bhaaji, if nothing else.
This is a perfect recipe for a quick evening snack! The ingredients may not make most people salivate immediately, but once the dish is ready it tastes unexpectedly divine. Let the banjaara within you sink into your favourite couch and bite into these crunchy cheesy patties, after a grueling, long day at work (or of course, on a blissful lazy Sunday).
Ingredients (For Patties):
- 1 Beetroot (grated)
- 2 medium Potatoes (boiled and peeled)
- 1 cup Semolina
- 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese (choose a variety you like)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped green chilli (do feel free to add more if you like your meals spicy)
- Oil to roast patties
- Salt to taste
(For Mint Chutney):
- 150 g coriander leaves
- 50 g mint leaves
- 2 green chilli
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 3 peanuts
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 200 g whisked curd
- Salt to taste
- In a large plate mash the boiled potatoes.
- Collect and squeeze the grated beetroot in a separate bowl, so that it retains as little moisture as possible (the beetroot needs to be dry so that it’s easy to bind into patties).
- Mix the grated beetroot with the mashed potatoes and knead together.
- Divide into 6 equal parts and shape into patties. Press a deep dent in each patty and fill with some grated cheese and green chilli.
- Shape back into patties, carefully concealing the cheese and green chilli within the beetroot.
- Coat each patty with semolina, and roast on a pan till the patties turn a light golden in colour.
For the Mint Chutney:
- In an electric mixer, mix together the cumin seeds, lemon juice, coriander leaves, mint leaves, and green chilli, with a little water, just enough to give the chutney a gravy like consistency.
- Add some salt to taste, and mix 200 g whisked curd to the chutney. The curd transforms the taste of the chutney, so it’s best not to miss this step.
- Plate the Cheesy Beetroot Patties and serve with a bowl of the delicious Mint Chutney.
Since the banjaara decided to have a healthy meal, indulge her body with some real nutrition, this evening’s supper is full of healthy veggies and lots of beautiful colours.
So after some trial and error, this banjaara has narrowed in on a flavourful, aromatic, healthy stir-fry that actually leaves you asking for more. It’s not the more commonly seen Chinese Stir-fry, so you don’t end up consuming sodium from all the soy sauce. But it’s equally delicious.
It’s a fairly simple recipe. Here’s how to make it yourself.
Banjaara’s Vegetable Stir-fry (Serves 1 for supper/ 2 for snack-time)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4th medium zucchini sliced thin
- 1 small onion sliced thin
- 5-6 medium cloves of garlic
- A handful of chopped broccoli (you can use the stems, too, they taste just as good)
- 1 small green bell pepper
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 1 small yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 cup skimmed milk
- 1 tbsp red chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- salt to taste
- In a large wok, heat the oil on a high flame (I use a beautiful blue wok, inherited from my grandmother, who used to be an excellent cook herself).
- Once hot, add the brocolli and zucchini, and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the bell peppers, garlic, and onions, and allow to cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the red chilli flakes and dried rosemary. Stir in, and add the skimmed milk. (The milk absorbs the flavours of the spices, and prevents them from burning)
- Allow to cook till the milk is not visible anymore. Season with salt.
- Serve with buttered slices of toast, or eat as is.
Note: Make sure that the oil is really hot before you start adding the vegetables. This ensures that your veggies remain crunchy.
Having searched high and low for a good Tandoori Paneer Tikka recipe, (and having come across mediocre or just above average ones far too many times), the banjaara finally chanced upon a classic version by Tarla Dalal and set to work. The banjaara of course made a few changes to it, to increase the “spicy quotient” and to make it more of a lip-smacking delight than it already was, keeping in mind the typical spice connoisseur’s palette.
Here’s the pagal banjaara’s version of Tandoori Paneer Tikka for passersby to try.
Tandoori Paneer Tikka (Serves 2 hungry / 3 not so hungry)
- 2 packets Paneer Cheese (1 packet Amul if you’re in India, 2 packets Savera in the UK, it’s fairly easy to find elsewhere, too)
- 1 cup hung curd (not hung is just fine but hung is better)
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 3 tbsp red chilli powder
- 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (these are fragrant and lack the pungency of fresh fenugreek)
- 1/2 tsp garam masala (this is a melange of different Indian spices, and most Indian homes have their own version of garam masala. It can be replaced with Everest Pav Bhaji Masala)
- 1/2 tbsp chaat masala (I prefer to use Catch Chaat Masala, but any other would do the trick, too)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder (for that rich Indian colour)
- 1 tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- 2 small onions
- 1 green bell pepper
- Preheat oven to 250 °c.
- Cut the paneer slab into half horizontally to reduce its thickness. Then chop each half into 1 inch squares.
- Peel and cut each onion into four pieces and separate the layers.
- Chop the green bell pepper into 1 inch squares.
- Take the hung curd in a big bowl, add to it in the following order, the oil, chilli powder, dried fenugreek leaves, garam masala, chaat masala, ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric powder and salt. This is the marinade.
- Mix the marinade well and add the onions, bell peppers and paneer cubes.
- Mix again gently, to coat all the paneer cubes and vegetables with marinade. Cover and leave aside for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, on a baking tray, spray a thin layer of olive oil.
- Empty the contents of the marinade bowl (paneer, onions, bell peppers + all the marinade), and spread evenly.
- Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove carefully and enjoy your snack. Some of the paneer will have become quite smoked (and the fragrance from inside the oven will have made you hungry enough to act quite selfish)
Note: You could also make your paneer at home from skimmed milk, which would be much healthier than store bought paneer. Just make sure its consistency is solid before cutting it, else it might crumble.