Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

18 Mar

 Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

The natural rhythm

There’s this park that has become a piece of my history. I can’t say that it’s anything spectacular, unusual or impressive and neither do I harbour much residual excitement for it or even love. But it’s there. Not here.

As a child it was the making of a special day out. The reason to gather cousins and friends, balls and bats and eat ice cream and thepla (spicy fenugreek chapatti because no picnic was ever complete without them). It was a reason to run fast and free, get wet and exhausted. The park felt enormous, an oasis in a city beating with samosa and cheese. It was a proper day out, from pet’s corner, café, boat riding to walking along the oriental bridge.

As teenagers my best friend and I, whom I met when we were just four, would take walks of distraction through the park. It felt much smaller now, as we walked fast to burn off those empty calories we had consumed during exam preparation with the drizzle on our faces. We would laugh and crack ridiculous jokes to ease the pressures and discharge the studious tones of the day. We would normally end up in the café, which looked like it had frozen in time a few decades ago. The counter revealed tray bakes with hundreds and thousands on them and sloppy icing. We giggled.

In our late teens my friends and I bonded on the bench that overlooked the boating lake. We had a hidden spot, or so we thought. I had overheard my mum and her friends talk about one of their colleagues who had an affair with a bloke and they would secretly meet on the same bench.

So we talked and shared. The more we shared the closer we felt and this was important at that age. Aspirations, family life, crushes, university, where we would like to live. Possibilities, opportunities, prospects and potentials; it was all open and we chattered about all the reactions surrounding this openness. Except now we weren’t beaming when squirrels came to greet us because we were busy scowling at glaring teenage boys and eventually we stopped frequenting that spot when we saw enormous rats scuffle along the trees behind the bench. Had they always been there?

In our early twenties, my now husband and I would find space in the park. Space to hold hands, to talk or to have it out about our frustrations. I had graduated but was in a London-Leicester limbo and he was working and missing me. We didn’t have a home of our own and when everyone else’s talking or eyes descended, we averted by walking in the park.

We took my boy and my niece to the park the other day when I was visiting the family. I could see the factories beyond the walls and hear the busses and cars swooshing past. My boy wanted to run free and fast.  The kiddies held hands as we showed them the ducks and the bridge looked small. The café wasn’t heaving with squeals or smiles but still sold sloppy looking tray bakes and chips with cheese on them. The faces were unfamiliar and there were fewer flowers. The rabbits were sleepy and fat. Had my rhythm changed, or is the past just the past.

It was good to be home. The house looked cleaner than I remembered leaving it and I wanted something to revive me from the fatigue and sleepy memories. Tomatoes are more intense and deep coloured when roasted, with more sweetness and that’s what got me started. There is no pairing like tomatoes and basil and a curry cajoles me into my natural rhythm, always. It was meant to be. This curry is unusual, but you know it will work, don’t you.

Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

Ingredients to serve 3-4ss

250g paneer cut into 2cm cubes

6 deep red tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic

2 cardamom pods

1 tsp. cumin seeds

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

2 cloves

1 small stick of cinnamon

200ml water

75g basil, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)

1 tsp. paprika

¾ tsp. paprika

Salt to taste

4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped

2 green chillies, slit and halved

½ tsp. turmeric

2 tbsp. oil for the curry and 1 tbsp. for shallow frying the paneer


  1. Cut the tomatoes and in half and drizzle them with oil. Sit them on some baking paper with the cut side upwards and roast them in the oven at 150degrees until they look lightly brown and intense. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, mid-way add 4 cloves of garlic in their shell and let them roast too.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan and add 1 tbsp. oil to shallow fry the paneer until it is lightly golden. Remove onto some kitchen paper and drain off the excess oil.
  3. Once the tomatoes and garlic are roasted, lightly blitz them together so that you have a chunky sauce.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp. in the non-stick pan add the cumin seeds, turmeric, chillies, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon and allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
  5. Pour in the tomato and garlic sauce and bring the mixture to a simmer before sprinkling in the paprika and garam masala and then the paneer with water.
  6. Simmer for 7-8 minutes before mixing in the basil and then simmer for a further two minutes.
  7. Serve hot with chapatti or rice.

23 Responses to “Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry”

  1. EA Stewart-The Spicy RD March 19, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    If you say this curry will work out, I totally believe you 🙂 Lovely post and wonderful memories!

    • Deena Kakaya March 19, 2014 at 9:17 am #

      You are utterly wonderful my spicy friend x

  2. Anita Menon March 19, 2014 at 7:02 am #

    your post made me smile. The paneer curry is just the kind that will set everything in harmony.

    • Deena Kakaya March 19, 2014 at 9:17 am #

      Thank you Anita, I’m so glad the post made you smile. And yes, the curry brought me back to equilibrium. X

  3. Katie @ Whole Nourishment March 19, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Home visits are nice, aren’t that? Love roasted tomatoes and see how they would lend a deep richness to this dish. Lovely looking curry!

    • Deena Kakaya March 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

      Hi Katie, the trip was balancing! It’s a deep and intense dish but unusually, not because of the spicing. Went down xx

  4. Deb March 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Such an irresistible curry to pair with heady memories! A very lush post!

    • Deena Kakaya March 19, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

      Thank you lovely Deb, lush is such a good description for this curry x

  5. kellie@foodtoglow March 19, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    This curry sounds so comforting and warming. Perfect after a day out with the kids in a probably cold park. It is strange how our perceptions of places changes so much over time and how it is usually for the worse. Things feel smaller, less colourful, less lively. But we get to experience news things and make new memories. And seeing your son and niece enjoy themselves as you did must have been so nice. That was a cute instagram pic of your son by the pond yesterday 😉

    • Deena Kakaya March 20, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      Hi Kellie,

      Yes I think my perceptions changed and I changed, my tastes, ambitions and what I find comfort in has changed. That said, it is fun to revisit the past and as you said, even though i have made new memories it was wonderful to see my boy and my niece play so happily in the park, they were so excited.

      The curry was indeed balancing and comforting after a windy experiences in the park xx

  6. milkandbun March 19, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    Curry looks really great and tasty! Vibrant colors!

    • Deena Kakaya March 20, 2014 at 8:36 am #

      Thank you so much! I appreciate you reaching out to comment x

  7. Selma's Table March 20, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    How lovely to be able to see the park as a constant in your memories even as it changes through time as well as perception. Thank you for taking us with you! The curry looks and sounds delicious – a perfect end to the trip down memory lane. Off to check out your instagram now…x

    • Deena Kakaya March 20, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      Thank you Selma, yes looking back at it it’s wonderfully fortunate that I have this little piece of pretty calm to run to.

      Thank you, the curry has had a fabulous response! I’m really flattered x

  8. Choclette March 22, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    I don’t think there is any getting away from it, you must be one of the best vegetarian cooks ever. I desperately want to eat everything you make.

    • Deena Kakaya March 22, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      Choclette, that is the finest compliment I’ve received in a while, thank you SO much, I am very grateful indeed xx

  9. Lisa March 23, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    You’ve outdone yourself here. A must try, Lovely xo

    • Deena Kakaya March 24, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      Hi Lisa, thank you for the high praise, I’m flattered. This recipe has had a very warm response xx

  10. Poppy March 24, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Love the use of basil here, I’d never think of using basil with spices like cardamom but I can imagine it really works. Looks delicious!

    • Deena Kakaya March 24, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

      Thanks so much Poppy, I surprised myself with this one too, in a good way xx

      • Poppy March 24, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

        I love those surprise dishes! 🙂

  11. Deena Kakaya August 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    Thank you for including my recipe!


  1. Ten cracking curry recipes you'll cook again and again | Foodies 100 - August 22, 2014

    […] Kakaya’s recipe for roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry is one I must try this weekend as we love paneer. Deena’s recipe suggests roasting the tomatoes […]

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