This post has been a while coming, and I have been thinking about if I should post it or not. I finally decided to do it, after reading Melissa's post here, and Mardi's post here, and nodding along with them all the time. I apologise for the long meander, but I just want to make a few things clear to myself. I want to recapture the reasons for the existence of this blog, and make sure I don't promise more than I can deliver.
You're probably wondering what's with the soul searching. Its just a reaction to a few things that have come up in the last month or so. First off, the fact that blogging has been taking up more time than the actual cooking. And that won't do for me, as cooking is my first love. I love sharing recipes, and pictures of how the finished dish will look, but I just don't have the time, energy or patience to set, design and style my food, then take pictures with a professional camera, then take the time to post process, then write, then make sure the recipes are all printable and so on.
I don't consider myself a professional blogger. I love food, and I like to think about how I am going to photograph it, and I like taking nice pictures, but I don't cook or photograph so I can be a professional. Its not me. My blog is a hobby for me. I take it seriously, and I love it, but its just a that, a hobby. Not a career, or a profession. Its about what I cook at home, and what we eat, and what manages to get photographed before the hungry husband and kid are let loose on it. Ocasionally I will push myself out of my comfort zone, and try out dishes from blogger challenges. Some work for me, some don't. But at least I tried.
I like the fact that I have pretty decent pictures on the blog, but I don't feel the need to have spectacular ones. It was when I started getting stressed about light boxes, expensive professional cameras, props and styling that I realised that I was moving away from what I love doing, and what I do best, and that's cooking. I will still try and get the best picture possible, and do the best I can in terms of styling. And, please don't mistake me, I love stunning photography as much as everyone does, but it takes me away from the heart of this blog, which is a homely one, consisting of recipes that are handed to me by my relatives or friends, or from my favourite cookbooks. Some are simple, some are complicated. Some are adapted, and some are original. Some are traditional, and some are more contemporary. Some are British, some Canadian, some Indian.
And that's pretty much who I am! My blog has no specific direction at the moment, and I like it this way. I love being able to take part in some blogger challenges, and love being able to sit some out. I have realised very quickly that if I take this space of mine too seriously, well, then I lose out on what makes it mine and unique. I lose out on the fun aspect of it, and I will lose my reason to blog, as it becomes more of a chore. And that, for me, would be a shame. My blog is an extension of me, and not a money making enterprise. Its a deeply personal one, and you can probably see that element running through it.
Two of my very favourite blogs have been Aayi's Recipes and Sailu's Kitchen. Both have delicious recipes, and beautiful food pictures, but I don't think either of them consider themselves to be 'professional' bloggers. They were my original inspirations, and still feature heavily in my everyday cooking.
That doesn't mean that I don't love or aspire to be like some of the stunning professional blogs I read and enjoy. But they have their place on the 'nterweb, and I have mine. I don't want to try and be something I am not, and I feel that this lost joy will reflect in the quality of the writing in my blog. I am sure I will reach a point where the blog will become more professional in its approach, or maybe even turn out into a career. But its not the right time for me now, personally or financially (something a lot of people don't seem to write about much, its vulgar to talk about money, right? :-)) and I don't know when it will be.
And, well, that's it really. This little side note may well offend some people, and maybe others will agree with it, and mostly the majority just won't care, but I just needed to write it and get it off my chest :-)
Well, if you've managed to get this far, here's my recipe for butter paneer. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as the butter is purely optional. But I love the creamy, silky taste of the sauce, and the smoky, spicy, soft flavour of the paneer in it. The recipe is not very authentic, as I usually work with what I have, and that includes taking shortcuts when I can :-) But I think you will really like the taste of this, and its a well tested recipe that has received the thumbs up from most of my family (we'll just ignore the one that didn't like it, you know who you are little girl!!)
Its also a relatively easy recipe to put together, once you make the minimal advance preparations. Its worth making my tandoori masala for this recipe, as it really enhances the taste of the dish. However, there is absolutely no harm in using store bought masalas, but I do urge you to look at the ingredients and try to buy one that's as natural as possible. One brand that I have used and liked in the past has been Eastern Tandoori Masala. Its stocked in Asian markets, or you can even ask them to source it for you.
The sauce comes together in less than half hour, and its very easy to put together. You can adjust the spice level by reducing the tandoori masala, but the spicy taste is mellowed with the cream and sugar, so keep that in mind. You could replace the cream with Greek yoghurt, if you want to make it healthier, but the yoghurt will make the dish tangier, so that's another thing to remember.
Barbequeing the paneer adds a wonderful dimension to the dish, but its completely up to you, if you want to grill or fry it as well. Grilling in a non-stick pan will make clean up easier :-) The paneer by itself makes a delicious appetizer, just serve with with some cubed vegetables, a sprinkle of coriander and a slice of lemon.
For the paneer tikka:
600 - 750g paneer, cubed
2 tbsp tandoori masala
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
For the sauce:
1 small onion, diced fine
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tbsp tandoori masala
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 - 5 whole cloves
4 - 5 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup (250 ml) hot vegetable stock
1 cup (250 ml) half and half (3/4 cup single cream + 1/4 cup milk)
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste1 tbsp oil (don't use extra virgin olive oil)
A knob of butter (optional) and handful of fresh coriander for the garnish
Whisk together the ingredients for the paneer tikka marinade. Marinate the cubed paneer in this for at least 2 - 3 hours, overnight, if possible.
Barbeque or grill the marinated paneer for about 10 - 12 minutes, turning ocasionally, and keep aside, once done. You can also fry the pieces on a heavy skillet, if you prefer.
Make the sauce. Heat the oil, and fry the onion for about 3 - 4 minutes on medium heat, until softened.
Add the ginger, garlic, tandoori masala, ground cinnamon, cloves and tomato paste, and fry together, stirring constantly for about 4 - 5 minutes. The masala will come together in a sticky mass, so keep stirring and scraping the bottom, so it doesn't burn.
Add the hot stock to this paste, and whisk together. Heat for an additional 2 -3 minutes, then take off the heat.
Very gently, whisk in the cream, little by little, until its all incorporated into the sauce (avoid whisking it all at once, as it could curdle). Stir in the sugar and salt, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Return the sauce to a low heat. Gently fold in the paneer tikka. Heat gently until just heated through, and do not boil.
Stir in the fresh coriander, and serve with a blob of butter on top, if desired. This dish goes well with rice, chapathi or naan.