We need not cook fancy to make food look good. As simple as a basic dish, cooked with the most humble, fresh ingredients can stir up a great masterpiece that curbs our cravings and hunger. And more often these flavorful, uncomplicated, easy foods is all that our hearts, minds, souls and bodies need.
Then, it’s always the best idea to let the main ingredients like vegetables release and diffuse their natural flavors into the dish. Use spices sparingly. Let them assist but not overpower the principle flavors.
Here I was sitting the other day, head in between my hands, totally exhausted. My body was ready to give up any moment……give up against the endless grinding days since the past two weeks. I was clearly and totally overworked. The last leg preparations for A’s 1st birthday, tidying the house for my parent’s visit (they were going to come over and stay with us, for a week), packing J’s bags with essential stuffs since she’d leave in another 7 days with her grandparents for a month-long vacation in India and of course there were tons of the other usual household chores to attend to! It was like doing a relay triathlon alone, and I was more than maxed out.
Owing to the pile of work, I tended to mostly depend on the quick-on-call, home-delivered restaurant foods as well as the packed casual foods from the regular fast food joints in my neighborhood. But I was getting tired of my to-do’s, and the dead sandwiches, soda and the monotonous Chinese menu I was thriving on for almost a week.
I now craved for a food for my soul…food that could charge up my body’s batteries and keep me going. How difficult and time consuming could it be if I wanted to quickly cook a little something comforting to eat? Why didn’t I think of this before? I had some fresh and green fenugreek leaves in the refrigerator. And perhaps some button mushrooms and leftover uncooked Paneer too!
Okay, I butchered them all up in a haste. Then the Indian in me pushed me for some onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic. Roasted and ground coriander seeds? Not a bad idea. And that’s it. I got what I wanted. A “balm” for my stomach, mind and heart. I ate a lot of it and quickly got back to doing what I had to. A hard work should be rewarded by good food after all!
- 5 cups fresh Methi leaves (Fenugreek leaves) — picked, rinsed, cleaned and shredded
- 400 gms fresh Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) — sliced to medium size rectangular or square pieces.
- 230 gms white button mushrooms — sliced
- 1″ Dalchini or Cinnamon — broken into 2 halves
- 1 medium Onion — peeled, washed and sliced lengthwise
- 2 large Tomatoes — washed and chopped
- 5 large cloves of garlic — peeled and grated or pounded
- 1″ fresh and juicy Ginger root — peeled and grated or pounded
- 1 tsp Jeera or cumin seeds
- 5 dried red chilies (use more or less to taste)
- 1/4 tsp Hing or grounded asafoetida
- 1.5 heaped tbsp Dhania or Coriander seeds (you may also use dhania powder instead to save time/efforts, however they aren’t as aromatic)
- 1 tsp Haldi or turmeric powder
- 4 tbsp light olive oil
- Salt to taste
- A couple pinches of Garam Masala (grounded Indian mixed spices) to finish — **Optional
- A dollop of butter or ghee for some added awesomeness — **Optional
- Dry roast the coriander seeds in a clean pan and grind to a fine powder. (If you love the taste of the seeds, leave them coarsely grounded.)
- Heat oil in a cooking pot over medium heat and add hing, jeera, dalchini and red chilies.
- As soon as the spices begin to splutter, put in the sliced onions and saute until semitransparent and done.
- Throw in the chopped tomatoes, ginger, garlic, haldi, ground dhania, mushrooms and Methi leaves. Stir fry them all together for a few minutes. Adjust salt.
- Tomatoes and mushrooms would release quite some juices. Keep cooking over medium heat and stirring occasionally to do the veggies as well as to evaporate the excess water. (If required, turn stove-heat to high momentarily and stir cook for a little bit, to quickly dry up all the juices if there is more. Take care though, to stir and turn the veggies enough to not let them burn in the heat.) This is a dry dish and it ideally shouldn’t have gravy.
- Once the veggies are soft, tender and done, switch stove to medium-low and add the paneer pieces. Cover cook for 1-2 minutes til the paneer is tender.
- Take the pot off from stove. Sprinkle in some garam masala and add a little butter or ghee to finish. The dish naturally tastes great — so don’t worry if you don’t add on the butter. You wouldn’t be dissapointed either ways! Serve hot with any Indian bread or rice.