I Curse Over Spoiled Milk.

If you make the Indian food from this post, great.  But the take-home lesson here is to explore the restaurant supply stores and ethnic food shops in your area.  For me, anyway, it’s like going to a toy store and then on a scavenger hunt.  What inspired this post was a visit to Surfas, a restaurant supply store near me in Culver City which offers free cooking demonstrations.  That weekend, Chef Neelam Batra prepared and gave us recipes for some delicious vegetarian dishes, which sent me on a quest to find the spices she used.  In the following recipes, there are only two spice mixes that you might not find in a regular grocery store:  chaat masala and chickpea (or chana) masala.  The ones I found were packaged in small boxes.  I’m going back for all my spices; they’re so much cheaper!

This chickpea salad would make great potluck food if asked to bring a hearty salad.  It was one of those recipes that seems overwhelming if you don’t do prep work. (I actually love chopping and combining things into my mini, glass Target bowls. Then I like to leave the room, come back, and pretend Martha’s kitchen slaves have prepped everything for me!) So I’ll copy out the ingredients you’ll need and provide you with the steps I took to follow the original recipe:

from Chef Neelam Batra as demonstrated at Surfas, Culver City

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large tomato
1 small seedless cucumber
4 scallions, white parts only
1 C cilantro
1 whole serrano pepper
1 t garlic
1 T fresh ginger
3 15 oz cans chickpeas
2 1/2 t chaat masala
2 T ground coriander
1 T chickpea masala
3 T peanut oil
1/2 C water

1. Finely chop: tomato, cucumber, scallions, cilantro, serrano pepper
2. Use a microplane zester to grate: 1 t garlic and 1 T ginger
3. Rinse and drain chickpeas in a colander

Organize into separate bowls
1. tomato, cucumber, scallions, 1/4 C of cilantro, 1 t chaat masala
2. garlic, ginger, serrano pepper
3. coriander, chickpea masala, 1 1/2 t chaat masala

1. Heat 3 T peanut oil in large skillet on medium-high. Add #2 bowl, stir for 1 minute.  Add #3.
2. Add chickpeas and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are tender and the juices evaporate, 5 minutes. Mix in remaining 3/4 C cilantro.
3. Transfer to serving platter. Mix in tomato bowl contents. Serve at room temp or cold.

Next up, homemade paneer cheese.  This was remarkable to watch.  I stood over the stove, patiently stirring for a long time before anything happened.  I wasn’t ready for the milk to boil suddenly, in a billowing, unstoppable dome, threatening to rise up over the pot and spill all over my oven range…and me!

“We’re fucked!  We’re fucked!” I yelled, stabbing ineffectively at the menacing foam.

He walked over, calmly lifted the pot, said, “Now turn off the heat.”

Oh.  Right.

After that non-disaster, I regained the calm to fully enjoy the next part. Before my eyes, the milk separated into curds and whey.

I’d recommend making this recipe just for the wonderment of seeing this process. But, hey, I am science lab deprived, so maybe it won’t impress you as much.

from Chef Neelam Batra as demonstrated at Surfas, Culver City

1/2 gallon milk (I used 2 %)
2 C plain yogurt (I bought mine at the Indian grocery store and looove it; very thick and tangy)
Cheesecloth (Surprisingly, this was readily available at my local grocery store)

-Place the milk in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring gently, over high heat. Just before the milk boils and the bubbles spill over, mix in the yogurt and continue to stir lightly until the milk curdles and separates into curds and whey, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

-Drape the cheesecloth over a large pan and pour the curdled milk over it, draining the whey through the cloth and catching the curds in the cloth. Set pan with whey aside.

-With the curds inside it, pick up the cloth and tie it to the kitchen faucet to drain 3 to 5 minutes.

-Remove from the faucet and gently twist the cloth around the curds, then place the cloth between two large plates and balance the pan with whey on top. (Work close to the sink, or you’ll have a mess to clean up.)

-Remove the pan from the curds (which by now should have compressed into a chunk), cut into cubes.

-To cook paneer to eat by itself or in another recipe, fry in vegetable oil, stirring carefully to keep paneer pieces from breaking.  I made palak paneer from one of my favorite youtube video gems I stumbled upon once in search for naan.  Turns out, Manjula is quite commercial now.  Please check out some of her informative and charming videos.



2 responses to “I Curse Over Spoiled Milk.

  1. Spice mixes are super easy but should you ever not have them on hand there are three Indian spices that I think make just about any Indian dish tasty: garamasala (you can make your own or buy it– I buy it), amchur–or amchoor–powder which is made of dried ground mangoes and gives dishes an appealing tart/sour flavor, and hing–or asafoetida–which smells remarkably similar to dirty socks, but actually makes things taste good.

    I also have an amazing recipe for saag paneer, if you’d like it.

  2. now I get that all your titles have a certain kinda theme going. How do you rock so hard?

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