Aubergine, paneer and pepper curry

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There’s an endless world of curries out there but sometime time is short but the need for a spice kick remains so this is where this speedy midweek curry comes in handy. I often prefer a vegetarian curry so this uses some of my favourite vegetables whilst being packed with flavour; you never know, it may even convert the most diehard carnivore! I have chosen vegetables that have distinctive flavours that can stand up to the spices so you can taste each element of the curry. Feel free to play around with different vegetable combinations- a potato based curry is always delicious!

Ingredients- serves 2
Block of paneer approx. 200g
2 tbsp corn flour
Vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 large garlic clove or 1 tsp garlic puree
1 tsp black onion seeds
1/2 tbsp. each of the ground cumin, coriander, fenugreek, chilli powder,
1 small aubergine- cubed
1 red or yellow pepper- chopped
Small bag of baby spinach- shredded
100ml passata

1.Cut the paneer into equal sized cubes- you usually get around 12-14 cubes from an average block of paneer. Toss them in the corn flour. Heat a good glug of oil over a medium- high heat and fry the cubes until golden and turning crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen roll to remove any excess oil.

2. Choose a large wide brimmed pan that is big enough to fit all the paneer and vegetables in. Heat another glug of oil over a low to medium heat. Fry the red onion until softening and turning a deep golden; don’t rush this as this will help the overall flavour. Add the onion seeds and fry for another minute.

3. Add the aubergine and pepper and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened and tender. Meanwhile, combine the spices plus the garlic, or garlic puree if you are using this instead, in a small dish with a splash of water to form a paste. Add to the pan with the vegetables and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are well coated and the flavours of the spices are being released. Pour in the passata, stir well to combine and add the paneer chunks back into the pan. Simmer until the sauce is reducing slightly and clinging onto the vegetables. If the sauce looks too thick at any point, simply add a splash of water and carry on simmering. When it looks nearly ready, add the shredded spinach and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted. Serve with your choice of Indian bread such as naan or chapatti and a sprinkling of freshly chopped coriander if you like.

Aubergine, paneer and pepper curry- a speedy curry for people in a hurry!

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Paneer, pepper and spinach curry

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Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese that is so versatile and can be used in a whole host of dishes however, sometimes, only a curry will do. I have written this recipe to be medium heat but of course if you are a chilli fiend then simply add in some extra along the way. After a festive season of excess and plenty of meat this recipe is a welcome break from heavy meals. Of course, if you can’t stand to wave goodbye to meat then this curry is perfect for chicken. I have kept the curry is purposefully light and fresh so the paneer is packed with flavour but not swimming in sauce. If, however, you want a curry that is saucier then you can add more tomatoes and reduce it less.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the curry paste
2-2 Kashmiri chilies
3tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tso ground fenugreek
2 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp curry powder
Pinch of salt

For the rest of the curry
Vegetable oil
1 block paneer- cubed
1 tbsp cornflour
1 onion- sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ajwan seeds
1 red and 1 green bell pepper- chopped
5 vine tomatoes- chopped
Small bag of spinach- washed and roughly chopped
1 tsp garam masala
Fresh coriander to serve (optional)

1. The first thing you will need to do is soak the dried Kashmiri chillies for a little while- around 20minutes will usually do the trick. Whilst they soak you can make the curry paste; simply combine all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add a splash of water to bring the paste together. Set aside.

2. In  a large bowl, toss the paneer cubes with the cornflour and a little seasoning. Heat a good glug of oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat to medium-high. Fry the paneer on each side until golden and crisp before removing from the pan and blotting onto kitchen paper to remove any excess oil. Take a third of the curry paste and toss through the paneer. Use a little more kitchen roll to wipe out the pan and add another glug of oil before turning the heat down to low.

3. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook until softening. At that stage add the mustard seeds, ajwan seeds and cook for a further couple of minutes.Stir through the remaining curry paste. Pop in the chopped bell peppers and continue to cook for a few minutes. If the pan starts looking a little dry then simply add a splash of water and mix it through the onions and peppers.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, an extra splash of water and simmer until the tomatoes start to break down and reduce. Don’t be tempted to rush this as the longer it has the richer the sauce will be! When the curry is a few minutes away from being ready, take the marinated paneer and roughly chopped spinach and add to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the paneer is warmed through and the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle over the garam masala and stir to combine. Serve the curry in warmed bowls with rice or flatbreads on the side. A liberal helping of coriander to finish the dish is optional!

Paneer, pepper and spinach curry- a great way to start the New Year, plenty of flavour and no turkey in sight!

Paneer, split pea and spinach curry

Paneer is a firm Indian cheese which is one of my all time favourite things to use in a curry. It holds its shape when cooked and takes on flavours perfectly. Paneer is also a good way of introducing even the most avid meat fan to vegetarian curries. I have used an old faithful curry paste blend that works well every time. I started the curry off the day before so the paneer had plenty of time to marinade however a couple of hours ahead would be fine if you don’t have the time. This curry is gently spiced so you can taste each element however if you want to ramp up the heat then go ahead by adding more chilli powder, or fresh chilli if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the curry paste
2 tsps of the following: ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, turmeric
1 tsp amchur (mango) powder
1 tsp garlic puree or 1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp ginger puree or 2cm piece of grated fresh ginger

For the rest of the curry
150g yellow split peas
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 block of paneer approx. 200g
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 tsp black onion seeds
6 plum tomatoes on the vine- chopped
100ml hot vegetable stock
100g baby spinach- shredded
Handful of fresh coriander- chopped

1. Get going on the curry paste by simply combining all of the listed ingredients with a splash of water to bring it together to form a relatively thick paste. Cut the block of paneer into chunks which are around an inch in size. Take half of the paste and add into a bowl with the paneer and ensure it is well coated. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

2. When ready to cook, the split peas need preparing before you get going with the rest of the curry. Place them in a large pan and add 400ml of water straight from the tap. Bring the pan to a boil, add the split peas, lower to a simmer and cook for half an hour until the split peas are tender. Keep checking the split peas as some may need slightly longer depending on the variety and size you use.

3. Meanwhile take a large wide bottomed pan (preferably non- stick!) and heat half of the vegetable oil over a medium to high heat. Take the marinated paneer and fry until it gets a little colour; turn the pieces regularly so the spice marinade does not catch. When they are golden, remove from the pan and set aside. If there are any pieces of marinade that have burnt onto the pan then give it a quick rinse as you will need to use this again.

4. Heat the remaining oil over a low to medium heat and cook the red onion gently. I always take plenty of time over making the base of my curry so the flavours develop. Cook the onion until translucent but ensure it does not colour too much as this can make onion taste bitter. When the onion is a minute or so away from ready, toss in the black onion seeds and finish off together. Spoon in the remaining curry paste that you reserved and cook gently for a few minutes.

5. Take the chopped tomatoes and add into the pan making sure they combine well with the onion mixture. Simmer until the tomatoes are reducing and thickening. The time this takes depends on the size of the tomatoes and how juicy they are but be patient as slowly cooking the tomatoes base will make all the difference.

6. When the split peas are cooked and tender, add these to the pan along with the paneer. Cover the pan and simmer again until hot and until the curry is the consistency you like. Along the way you may find that you want to add a splash of stock if the split peas get a little dry but, again, this depends on how juicy the tomatoes are. For the final few minutes of cooking, stir through the shredded spinach and finish off with some freshly chopped coriander. Serve the curry with your choice or rice or bread such as chapatis and enjoy.

Paneer, split pea and spinach curry- ‘the best curry you’ve ever made’ was the quote from my fellow diner so it must be a winning combination!

Shashlik style spiced paneer

Shashlik is a takeaway and restaurant classic that never fails to please. I have made this recipe easier to file at home by cooking the paneer in a large roasting dish to save time however if you want to thread the paneer and vegetables on skewers then it will work just as well. You can also use chicken for this recipe if you prefer but if you’re not familiar with paneer then now is your chance to try it. Paneer is a firm cottage style cheese which loves spice!

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
1 1/2 tsp of the following spices: Ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mango powder, chilli powder, garam masala, ajwain seeds
1 tbsp garlic ginger puree
2 packs of paneer
100ml natural yogurt
Lemon juice
1 large red and 1 large green bell pepper
2 small red onions
Handful of baby plum tomatoes

1. Plan ahead so you have plenty of time for the marinade to work its magic with the paneer. Start off by cutting the paneer blocks into large, even chunks. Make the spice mix by combining all the spices and stir through the yogurt. Toss the paneer chunks and vegetables in the marinade, cover the bowl and chill for at least 2 hours but overnight if you can.

2. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200c/ 170fan. Take a large roasting tray and add the paneer mixture and give a good squeeze of lemon over the top to bring the flavours alive. Cook for around half an hour until the paneer is golden and vegetables are tender. Give the tray a jiggle halfway through cooking. Serve with beads such as paratha or chapatis.

Shashlik style paneer- a simple twist on a classic that’ll wake up your tastebuds!

An Indian summer… feast

Read on for an Indian feast fit for a king! After a summer full of meat laden BBQ’s it’s time to rediscover seasonal vegetables and to get creative.

Paneer, chickpea and spinach curry: This has become a firm favourite in our household and makes use of the tastiest vegetables around. Paneer is a firm, mild Indian cheese and can be used as a meat substitute so give it a go!

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Serves 4:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Few curry leaves (optional)
1 small onion finely sliced
1 tsp ginger grated or pureed
1 tsp garlic grated or pureed
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 green or red chillies
400g tin of chickpeas- rinsed and drained
Pack of paneer approx. 200g
Small bag of baby spinach- washed

1. Firstly heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Heat the pan until the mustard seeds begin to become fragrant, pop and sizzle. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and cook until golden.

2. Now it’s time to make the paste- that’s right, homemade paste, none of this ready made stuff! This is so simple so combine the ginger puree, garlic puree, turmeric, curry powder, chilli powder and a little water. You are after a thick, rich paste so gradually add the water- you will only need a tablespoon or two. If you fancy paneer with an extra layer of flavour you can reserve a little of the paste and coat the paneer in this.

3. Add the paste to the onion in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. I then add in the fresh chillies (you can use milder chilies if you prefer or pierce the chillies if you want to release a bit more flavour). Add the chickpeas and stir gently so they get a delicious coating of the paste.

4. Add in the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat whilst you prepare the paneer. This is the perfect time to cut the paneer into 2cm cubes and to fry off in a frying pan so they turn golden on all sides. If you have reserved some of the curry paste this is the time to mix with the paneer before frying off.

5. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes and then add in the spinach. Continue to simmer until the curry sauce is thick and rich. Just before it’s ready sprinkle over the garam masala and stir in. Serve in warmed bowls with chapatis alongside.

 

Green chilli pickle: This is not for the faint hearted but if you are not a fan of heat then you can choose milder chillies. I make use of my local market and stock up on green finger chillies which you can pick up cheaply. This pickle lasts well and I store mine in a Kilner jar in the fridge so it is on hand for when a curry calls so it is worth making a jar of it at a time. Asafoetida is relatively easy to find these days so I would recommend trying to get hold of this.

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Makes a jar:
30 serrano chillies or approx. 50 green finger chillies
2 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp medium or hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
Juice of one lemon
5 tbsp of vegetable oil

1. First you need to get going with the preparation for the pickling spice mix. The mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds one spice at a time and dry roast in a small pan until fragrant. Each spice should take around 30 seconds to roast; put them aside to cool down.

2. Grind the spices so they are coarse and add the salt, asafoetida, chilli powder and turmeric to the mixture.

3. Next up wash and pat dry the chillies of your choice before chopping into 2mm pieces. If you want to reduce the heat level in the pickle then you can remove some or all of the chilli seeds as you go.

4. The pickle needs to be kept in air tight jar (I use Kilner jars which have a proper seal) and make sure the jar is properly sterilised. Now it’s time to mix the pickling spices, chillies, lemon juice and oil together and give a good old stir before putting into the jar. I then push the chilli mixture down a bit with the back of a spoon to level it out a bit and you can then top it up with extra oil if needed in order to create a protective layer if you find the chillies have absorbed some of it. That’s all there’s to it!

The pickle can be used straightaway however I like to leave it for at least a day to develop the flavour- if you resist! The longer the pickle is kept, the punchier it will get!

 

Homemade chapatis: With a bit of effort you can enjoy authentic chapatis which will rival those from even the best Indian restaurant! These are also freezable and I would suggest interleaving each bread with a cling film sheet so they don’t stick together.

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Makes 8 chapatis:
450g wholemeal plain flour
250ml cold water

1. Put 200g of the flour to one side to help with the shaping of the chapatis and place the remaining flour in a deep bowl.

2. Add the cold water gradually to the flour and be sure to knead as you combine the two until you have a soft dough. As rule of thumb, the longer you knead the chapati dough, the softer it will be resulting in a tastier chapati.

3. Lightly flour the work surface and divid the chapati dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball.

4. Take each ball of dough one at a time and flatten slightly before rolling it out to achieve a disc of approximately 15cm in diameter. Remember to use some of the leftover flour as you go to keeo the dough from sticking to the surface.

5. Heat a griddle pan to a medium/ high heat and cook each chapati for around 30 seconds until the chapati begins to bubble up and turn golden. Serve on the side of your favourite curry!

 

Onion bhajis:These bhajis are quick and easy to cook. Once you have mastered the basic recipe the ingredients can be tweaked so try experimenting with other vegetables. It is important to make sure you use chickpea flour as this gives a lighter, crisper bhaji.One of my personal favourites is a Brussel sprout bhaji which will convert even the fussiest of eaters!

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Makes approx. 8-10
2 red onions- 1 sliced and 1 finely diced
100g gram (chickpea) flour
1/2 baking powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1 dried red chilli finely snipped
1/2 tsp cumin
Vegetable oil to fry

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl to ensure there are no little lumps. Add the chilli powder, dried chilli, cumin and a pinch of salt.

2. Add 150ml of cold water to the mixture to create a thick, smooth batter. I gradually add the last 20- 30mls of water to make sure the right amount is added. To the batter, add the onion and stir well to ensure the onion is well coated.

3. Now this is the bit where you need you wits about you! Heat enough vegetable oil in a large pan so that it is 3- 4cm deep and bring it up to a medium/ high heat. When you think the oil is hot enough drop a slice of onion in it to double check- if the onion sinks and then comes back up to the surface then it is ready. Add heaped tablespoons of the onion mixture to the oil and fry until golden. Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying- I usually do 2 at a time. When the bhajis are golden, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen paper.

The bhajis are best served warm and fresh however they can also be gently reheated- that’s if you havent already demolished them all!

So there you have it, an Indian feast and not a takeaway menu in sight!