This is the basis of a recipe I endlessly tinker around with, originally based on one in the brilliant Prashad vegetarian cookery book (which I hope I’ll be returning to on this blog). I’ve been making my own paneer for a while now, basically because it’s so simply and tastes so much better, but feel free to buy if you’re in a hurry. (I’ll include the method in due course). The original recipe involves deep frying the paneer. Again, feel free but as I don’t have a deep fryer, I find roasting works just as well and uses less oil.
At the end of cooking I normally had frozen peas or spinach. Actually, I’d meant to add peas to this recipe but forgot, so have included them as an option.
We ate this with a squash and split pea dal and large plates of coriander naan bread from the Iraqi grocer near where we live.
So, finally, here we are:
4-5cm root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Three cloves of garlic
2 small green or red chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
25g butter + a little extra vegetable oil
200g frozen peas OR 200g fresh spinach, roughly chopped with stalks removed
Vegetable oil for roasting/ frying
380g paneer cheese, cut into 1.5cm cubes (or the paneer from 2l milk)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 x 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes, finely chopped or blended
2 teaspoons turmeric
2–4 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste (I find it needs a little less than a teaspoon)
1 handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
25g butter to serve (optional)
Place the ginger, onion, chilli and garlic in a bowl and blend to a rough paste (adding a little water if necessary). Place in a pan with around 25g of butter and a small slosh of oil to stop the butter browning. Cook over a low heat, stirring regularly until the onion is cooked and the pan fragrant. This takes around five minutes in my experience.
Heat the oven to 220C. Place the cubes of paneer on an oiled baking tray, cover with a little more oil and roast until just starting to colour around the edges. Remove and set aside.
In a separate pan heat the cumin seeds until the start to brown. Remove and add to the onion mix. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the tomatoes. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and half the fresh coriander. Mix well and allow to cook for a minute, then stir in the paneer cubes. Increase the heat to high and pour in 275ml of boiling water.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer three-quarters covered for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this stage the dish can be removed from the heat and left to rest.
When almost ready to serve, return to a medium heat, add the peas or spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted or the peas are cooked (a few minutes). Add the extra butter if using and remove the pan from the heat. Cover to allow the butter to melt. Add a sprinkling of coriander leaf and serve with naan or rice.