Tag Archives: Shahi paneer

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

Method

  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.

A royal Diwali- paneer and sweetcorn curry in a cashew and tamarind gravy

26 Oct

A royal Diwali- paneer and sweetcorn curry in a cashew and tamarind gravy
I asked a question over my Facebook group the other day about what sort of foods people liked to eat as children. The funny thing is that tastes haven’t changed for many people. Gourmet and Michelin food have their place but when we are hungry, what hits the spot? A pizza with pineapple? Chips with loads of vinegar? Samosa? Baked bean curry? Macaroni cheese? A big bowl of spaghetti. Yes…now we are talking! Food nostalgia is a beautiful thing.

I won’t lie. I have been called a food snob on more than one occasion. I can’t make a meal of beans on toast (I make my own ‘baked beans’ ) and I like roasted garlic and artichoke on my pizza. I don’t like to use generic curry powder and I do not, ever, cook chilli paneer. I can almost hear the shrieks of surprise. I eat it if I am a party, but I won’t actually order it or make it. Chilli paneer is a cliched and over rated dish that was popularised in the 90’s. It is essentially paneer that is stir-fried in peppers and onions, lots of garlic and then doused in soy sauce and ketchup.

I was at my boys playgroup the other day when one of the mums mentioned that she tried out one of my recipe. I love it when I hear that! Then she mentioned that she’s been looking for a good paneer recipe and asked if I would post one. I kept my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t mention the word chilli to prefix paneer. Anyway, so then as she and another mum talked about paneer and take-always their eyes lit up in excitement…so here we are.

There are some tastes and textures that will always make us smile. They anchor us to happy memories and smooth us, sweetly. Some foods are like a taste lullaby, they sing us into a natural rhythm and give us flavoursome satiety. Sweetcorn and paneer are two of these ingredients.
With Diwali coming up I have been reminiscing about the Diwali’s of my past. Festivities are so exciting in childhood and I really hope that I can instil the same memories and sense of fun with tradition for my baby. Fireworks, family, food, fantasy and fantastic clothes. Dark cold nights, watching mum dress up and sitting on dads shoulders to see the pretty lights and fireworks. Eating hot pakora in the street, jacket potatoes or of course, chips. Throwing bangers on the floor, aunties chattering. It’s Diwali.

My recipe is one that will definitely add the sunny colour and creamy flavour to enrich your Diwali. It is based on some of the shahi (royal) dishes I ate in Delhi during my last trip. I have used a creamy cashew nut paste and tangy tamarind; rich and special, just like Diwali. This is a full on show-off curry, so if you are entertaining definitely whip this one out. The colour a depth are impressive.

Ingredients

250g paneer, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup of sweetcorn kernels
1 cup of chopped tomatoes (I used tinned tomatoes)
One red onion, diced
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 tsp garam masala
2 green chilies, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
2 large cloves of garlic , minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 cup cashew nuts
1 cup milk
2 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp ground nut oil
2 cups of warm water

Method

1. Soak the cashew nuts in the milk for 15minutes or until you are ready to use them. Grind them to a smooth paste just before you add them to the curry.
2. Take a non-stick pan and add 1tbsp of oil and stir fry the paneer until it is golden brown. Remove it and place onto kitchen paper, allowing it to cool.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, chilies cinnamon, cloves and turmeric.
4. Allow the seeds to sizzle before you add the onion and the salt. Soften the onion for a couple of minutes before adding the ginger and garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes, tamarind, cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala and simmer for 4-5 minutes on a medium flame before adding the cashew nut paste and the water. Bring the gravy to a simmer before adding the paneer and sweetcorn.
6. Cook for 8-10minutes before serving hot with buttery chappati.

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