Lime, coriander and mint paneer with spiced chickpeas

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When the mood strikes, there is nothing quite like a hearty curry, but, with the weather hopefully on the up, sometimes you want a lighter version of your favourites so if this is the case then this is the dish for you. The idea behind this is that the chickpeas are coated in a sauce that doesn’t weigh it down so you can taste and appreciate all the ingredients. Paneer lends itself to pairing with a range of Indian flavours and I have kept this paneer fresh with herbs and the zing of lime.

If you can’t find garlic and ginger paste then substitute it with a garlic clove and a freshly grated piece of ginger. The paste is available in all good Asian supermarkets and is well worth buying if you come across it as it can be used in a wide range of recipes and takes the time out of having to make your own. There will be leftover toasted lentils but fear not; they are delicious sprinkled over salads or as a snack by themselves and will keep for several days if covered over.

Ingredients- serves 4
For the paneer
Block of paneer- cut into bite sized cubes
1 tbsp cornflour
1 small bunch of fresh coriander- finely chopped
1 small bunch of fresh mint- finely chopped
60ml olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
1 tsp salt

For the chickpeas and curry
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 red bell pepper- chopped
1 yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 small aubergine- chopped
1 sweet potato- peeled and chopped
1 can of chickpeas- drained and rinsed well
2 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp chilli powder or to taste
1 tbsp fenugreek
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
Salt to taste

For the crunchy lentils
Can of green lentils in water- drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
Crushed chilli flakes- to taste

1.I started by toasting the lentils and chickpeas first so I could then concentrate on the other elements of the recipe. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan; pat the lentils as dry as you can after draining them, place them on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Add the salt, garlic powder and chilli flakes and toss to coat the lentils. Place in the oven and cook for around 15 minutes or until crunchy; you can move them around on the baking tray halfway during cooking if needed to ensure they are evenly toasted.

2. As the lentils are cooking, place the chickpeas in a deep roasting tray and add half of each of the spiced listed apart from the garam masala. Toss to combine and roast in the oven for 15 minutes at the same time as the lentils until they have started to gain some colour. Remove the chickpeas and lentils from the oven when they are ready and set aside.

3. To make the curry base, add a glug of olive oil a wide bottomed pan that is large enough to hold the curry in its entirety. Over a low heat, gently cook the red onion until softened and starting to turn golden; add the tomato puree and cook this out for another minute. Add the remaining spices apart from the garam masala and the ginger and garlic paste as well as approx. 200mls of water; stir to form a paste. Add in the vegetables and chickpeas and simmer until the sauce lightly coats them; if it gets a little too dry then add another splash of water or two.

4. For the paneer, mix together all the ingredients listed under the paneer section of the ingredients list; taste and adjust seasoning and/ or the lime juice to taste if needed. Toss the paneer cubes in a tablespoon of cornflour. Add a good glug of oil to a non- stick frying pan and add the paneer; fry over a medium heat until the cubes are golden and crunchy. Remove using a slotted spoon and blot any excess oil using kitchen paper. Add the paneer cubes into the mint, coriander and lime dressing and toss well to coat.

5. To assemble the final dish simple choose a large serving dish and spoon the chickpea curry onto it. Top this with the herby paneer and finish with a liberal sprinkling of the crunchy lentils. Add extra fresh mint and coriander if you like and serve.

Lime, coriander and mint paneer and spiced chickpeas- a lighter take on a curry for the summer!

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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!

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!

Squash and kale daal

With autumn upon us it sees the return of squash and kale in my kitchen on a regular (and borderline obsessive!) basis. Squash and kale daal is not exactly an authentic Indian recipe however it is absolutely delicious.The combination of the two adds sweetness, earthiness and even more vibrance to the daal. Spinach is often an addition to daal but this is my autumnal twist on it. The base of the daal is very simple and the spice mix is added later on in the cooking process so the ingredients come alive. I have kept the spices whole to add bursts of flavour however you can lightly bash them with a pestle and mortar before frying if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g red split lentils
Vegetable oil or ghee
4 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- quartered
1 tbsp turmeric
1 small butternut squash
200g black kale
2 shallots
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp ajwan seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2-3 dried Kashmiri chillies- roughly chopped
Freshly chopped coriander for serving- optional

1 Kick off by rinsing the lentils in cold water. Place on the hob in a large pan and cover the lentils with water. Bring the water to the boil before lowering to a simmer. Skim off any scum that forms on the surface of the water. Add in the garlic, ginger and turmeric. Simmer the lentils for 1- 1 1/2 hours until the lentils have softened.

2. When the lentils are about 20 minutes away from being tender and creamy, peel and chop the butternut squash into small chunks. Wash and roughly chop the kale and add, along with the squash, into the pan.

3. In a separate pan, heat the oil or melt the ghee, depending on which you prefer. Slice the shallots and fry until turning golden. Pop in all the other spices and whole chillies; fry until colouring and releasing their flavours. Tip the spice mixture into the lentils and stir through. You may also like to hold a little back to use as a topping. Serve the daal in warmed bowls and sprinkle over some freshly chopped coriander if you like. Also serve with chapattis on the side.

Squash and kale daal- a hearty, vibrant dish for a chilly autumn day!