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!

Creamy salmon, watercress and spinach rosti bake

A fish pie is such a classic recipe that people know and love all over the land however when the weather is warmer and the need for comfort food is high this is perfect. Move over mashed potato and usher in the dawn of the rosti! I used sockeye salmon which is firmer than most salmon so can stand up to cooking in a sauce. The addition of spinach and watercress is a welcome one to add a peppery kick which balances with the creamy sauce.

The crunchy rosti topping is easier to make than you think so do give it a go. Just make sure that the potato is well seasoned after you grate it. The potato strands need a quick rinse to remove the excess starch that comes out when they’re grated but this does not affect the end result. So, on your marks, get set… cook!

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Ingredients- serves 2
20g unsalted butter
20g plain flour
150ml milk
150ml double cream
2 salmon fillets
100g watercress
100g spinach
300g waxy potatoes such as Desiree
Lemon
Salt and pepper

1. Get going by making the sauce as this can be simmering away whilst you prepare the salmon. Take a pan and melt the butter and flour together to form a roux. Combine the milk and cream in a jug and gradually add this to the roux, stirring as you go to avoid any lumps. If a lump does sneak it, simply remove the pan from the heat and whisk the sauce until it disappears. Continue until all of it has been added and increase the heat to a gentle boil before lowering it again to a simmer. Stir until the sauce is thickened and silky; set aside to allow to cool slightly.

2. For the salmon, cut the fillets into large chunks. Choose an ovenproof baking dish and pop the salmon in. Take the watercress and spinach and gently wilt it in a pan before draining out any excess liquid and adding to the baking dish along with the salmon. Pour over the sauce.

3. Now is the time to preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for baking. To prepare the potato rosti topping, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the potatoes until just tender but firm enough to grate. Grate into long strands and refresh them by plunging them into a bowl of cold water. Remove and pat dry with kitchen paper. Add a squeeze of lemon to the potato strands, season well and scatter the strands over the top of the pie. Bake the pie for around half an hour so the salmon is cooked through and the pie topping is crunchy and golden. Serve with a simple leafy salad.

Creamy salmon, watercress and spinach rosti bake- a lighter version of an all time favourite!

 

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!

Artichoke, spinach and ricotta baked eggs

This recipe basically includes a whole host of my favourite things! I was sat trying to think of what I fancied for a late breakfast one day this week, looked in the cupboard, raided the fridge and came up with this! I loved how the earthiness of the artichokes balances with freshness of spinach and the saltiness of the feta. Marinated artichokes are a thing of beauty and so versatile so it’s always worth having a jar to hand. This recipe is for one person who fancies an indulgent treat but simply multiply the ingredients to share it with others. If you make it for more than one, I would suggest baking them in individual dishes as you simply won’t want other people to share this!

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Ingredients- serves 1
Splash of olive oil
1/2 white onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely sliced
Approx. half a dozen marinated sliced artichoke hearts
Handful of baby spinach- roughly chopped
2 tbsp ricotta
25g feta
1 large egg
Chilli flakes (optional)

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. If you are using ceramic baking dishes which are quite thick then you can preheat these too. Take a frying pan and heat a small amount of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes (if using) and cook until starting to soften but not until they are colouring.

2. Take the artichoke hearts and blot with kitchen roll to remove any excess oil. Slice the artichoke into slivers which are going to be easy to scoop up with bread. Add to the pan with the onion and cook along with the chopped spinach. Allow these to have a minute or so to themselves.

3. Next up goes the ricotta into the pan with a small splash of water to loosen it up. Give this a couple of minutes. Crumble in the feta and stir well to combine. Take the baking dishes and spoon the mixture into it carefully. Use the back of a spoon to make a hollow in the centre of the dish and crack the egg into the centre.

4. Bake for around 15 minutes but this will vary according to the size of the egg you use so do check from time to time. In the meantime toast some sourdough bread. When the artichoke is heated through and the egg is done to your liking, serve immediately. I finished mine off with a few more chilli flakes for a little bit more of a kick.

Artichoke, spinach and ricotta baked eggs- light, sumptuous and one of your soon to be new favourites!

 

Spicy Middle Eastern chickpeas with feta

When the weekend comes around again, spend a little time preparing a delicious breakfast or brunch- after all, you’ve earned it following a busy week! This spicy chickpea dish was inspired by the flavours of the Middle East to give a hearty and satisfying start to the day but would also be perfect for a dinner. If you have any leftovers, these can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days and can be enjoyed at lunch the next day.

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Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
1 red or yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 tbsp harissa
400g soaked chickpeas- rinsed and drained
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls of baby spinach- washed, drained and roughly chopped
50g feta
1 tsp chilli flakes- optional

1. Kick off by heating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan, or similar, and heat the oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and pepper together until softening nicely. Add in the ground cumin and coriander as well as the harissa. Stir well so the spices and harissa coat the onion mixture; cook for a further minute.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan and combine well. In next goes the tinned tomatoes. Simmer the chickpeas for a few minutes until the sauce is starting to reduce and thicken slightly before adding the spinach. Cook until it wilts in the sauce and can be evenly distributed throughout it. Crumble over the feta and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if you want a but more spice and pop in the oven. Leave it until the feta warms through and starts to melt a little. Serve with crusty fresh bread and dive in!

Middle Eastern inspired chickpeas- spice up your day!

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie

If you think of a filo pie, it is likely that you think of those belonging to Greek cuisine. Well this is my take on the traditional spanakopita! Spanakopita usually includes spinach and feta but I have given it a twist to include kale and halloumi as well to make it even more scrumptious. I have used readymade filo pastry to make this even quicker and easier to make and to serve four people a pie tin which is 22cm in diameter is perfect. The pie also keeps well in the fridge for a day or two and the leftovers are great for a simple lunch.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 pack of ready made filo pastry
Glug of vegetable oil
4 spring onions- chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
200g kale- washed and roughly chopped
200g spinach- washed
1 tsp dried dill (or 1 tbsp fresh dill)
100g feta
100g halloumi- grated
1 egg- beaten
Pepper
60g unsalted butter

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan or according to the instructions on the pastry packet as it can differ from brand to brand. Make the pie filling by wilting the spinach- you can do this by pouring a kettle of hot water over it into a colander before then squeezing out the excess water; set aside. Take a large frying pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and spring onions and cook for a minute before adding the kale; cook until the kale is wilted and keep it moving so the garlic and onion does not catch. For the last minute or two of cooking, add in the drained spinach and dill. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. When the filling is cool enough, crumble through the feta and grated halloumi. Beat one egg and stir through the spinach mixture and season with pepper. You should not need to use extra salt as the feta and halloumi will provide this seasoning for you.

3. Now to assemble the pie! Gently melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and dig out a pastry brush from the depths of your kitchen drawer! Brush a light coating of melted butter in the empty pie tin before adding a sheet of filo. Filo is delicate so be careful when lining the tin. Brush the filo with more butter before adding the next sheet. Line the tin so each sheet of filo is put in at a different angle. Repeat so you have about 5 layers of filo on the base of the tin before adding the cooled pie filling. Make sure it is evenly distributed and press lightly with a back of a spoon to flatten.

4. Gather the edges of the filo sheets and fold in the centre of the pie tin. Brush with more butter. I then took a couple of extra sheets and ripped and scrunches them up and popped them on top of the pie before, you guessed it, brushing with more butter. To stop the filo from curling lightly sprinkle it with water before baking in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and hot. Serve with a simple side salad, sautéed potatoes or a liberal helping of cooling tzatsiki.

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie- my take on spanakopita which is fit for a king!

 

Cheese, spinach and mushroom baked gnocchi

Ah gnocchi- one of the great Italian exports which is a firm favourite in the household! Gnocchi can pretty much cope with any sauce that you throw (or daintily stir!) at it and is the perfect vehicle from which to serve a rich, wickedly indulgent and creamy sauce. I have used chestnut mushrooms in this however a combination of mushrooms or wild mushrooms would also be delicious. I have cut down the time by leaving the gnocchi to cook in the sauce so there is no need to boil them before baking as they will still go perfectly tender.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g gnocchi
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
50g blue cheese such as dolcelatte
50g freshly grated parmesan
2 cloves of garlic- crushed
1 red onion- finely chopped
200- 250g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Small pack of baby spinach- washed and shredded

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan in preparation for later. You need to make the cheesy sauce and it really could not be simpler (well, short of using premade of course!). Take a medium saucepan and melt the butter and flour together. Stir to ensure it is smooth and there are no lumps which will help later on. Gradually add in the milk and cream whilst keeping the mixture moving! Bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer and keep going until it is thickening.

2. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in most of the cheeses, making sure to keep some back for the topping; season to taste. Meanwhile take a frying pan and heat to medium/ high. Quickly cook the garlic and onion together before adding the mushrooms and cooking until tender. Mushrooms lose natural moisture when over a high heat which avoids potential soggy messes in the pan!

3. Add the cooked mushroom mixture into the cheese sauce and stir through the shredded spinach. It should start slowly wilting in the residual heat from the sauce. I love spinach so the more the merrier! Take an ovenproof baking dish and throw in the gnocchi before topping with the sauce. Stir gently to combine so each piece of gnocchi is well coated. Sprinkle the leftover cheese on top and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden and bubbling!

Cheese, spinach and mushroom baked gnocchi- a quick midweek treat that will have the family going back for more!