Tandoori Paneer Masala

I love having paneer in the fridge. It’s a goodun’ to just always have in. Home from work, don’t know what to make? Get on that paneer. Paneer is an Indian cheese that’s made from cows milk and is rather excellent at absorbing flavours. It has a wonderful almost meaty texture which makes it perfect for cooking it in curries (obvs), as a stuffing (paneer parathas anyone?) or even as a salad topping (toast paneer cubes in a dry pan until golden & crisp & pop on top of your next salad – you’re welcome). In addition, it’s packed full of protein and surprisingly quick to make. But enough of the paneer ad campaign, let’s get onto the good stuff. 

Today’s recipe is one that transforms this humble cheese into a luxurious, stand out dish. Mopped up with crispy, butter laden naans (I mean if you’re going to do it, do it right), it will not disappoint. This is also a fabulous one to whip out at a dinner party or pot luck. Enjoy. 

For Paneer Marination:
225g paneer, cut into cubes
1 red or green bell pepper, cut into 1cm squares
1 onion, cut into 1 cm squares
4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
2” ginger, grated
½ tsp salt or according to taste
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp lemon/lime juice
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp gram flour/chickpea flour (optional)
2 tsp sunflower/vegetable oil
For Masala:
4 tbsp oil
2” cinnamon stick
2 black cardamoms (optional), crushed open in a pestle & mortar
3 green cardamoms, crushed open in a pestle & mortar
5 cloves
4 tbsp tomato passata
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp double concentrate tomato purée
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp salt, or according to taste
3/4 tsp cumin powder
3 tsp kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
4 tbsp cream cheese
Handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

How to:
1) Line a baking tray and pre-heat grill at highest temperature setting. Place all “paneer marination” ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
2) Tip the marinated paneer into the baking tray and spread all over. Cook in grill for 5 minutes until slightly charred. Remove from heat and turn off grill.
3) Heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves and cook for 10 seconds.
4) Now add the tomato passata, purée, ketchup and green chillies and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining spices and cook for 1 minute. Now add the cream cheese a little at a time, mixing continuously until it is completely blended in.
5) Now add the grilled paneer as well as the fresh coriander.
6) Add one cup of water and bring to boil. Place lid on the pan and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Check the salt and chilli adjust to your taste. Enjoy with naan or chapatis.

Aloo Gobi

Cauliflower is so in right now. From pizza bases and buffalo wings to fried rice and nuggets, the humble cauliflower has been reinvented and is currently the trendiest vegetable around (move over kale). I’d like to point out I’ve been a fan from a young age (no bandwagon jumping here).

Cauliflower or gobi has been a regular part of my diet and in Indian cookery it’s used to make everything from curries and pakoras to pickles and paratha stuffings. Gobi Aloo is a quintessential Punjabi dish and ticks all of the boxes. With a super simple preparation and a limited number of spices, it’s unbelievably satisfying and really nutritious (without tasting like it!). Served up with some hot chapatis it’s a winner every time. Give it a go-bi! Sorry couldn’t resist…I’ll stop typing now. 

Gobi Aloo
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 5 tbsp oil
  2. 1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing (optional)
  3. 2 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 2" ginger, grated
  5. 4 tbsp tomato passata
  6. 1 green chilli finely chopped
  7. 3 medium potatoes cut into bitesize chunks slightly smaller than cauliflower florets (I like to use red/desiree)
  8. 1 medium cauliflower cut into bitesize florets
  9. 1/4 cup peas
  10. 1 tsp salt or according to taste
  11. 1/4 tsp paprika
  12. 1/2 tsp turmeric
  13. 1 tsp garam masala
  14. 1/2 tsp amchur/mango powder
  15. Handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a pan. Once hot add the asafoetida and cumin seeds. When they begin to splatter, add the ginger and cook for 3-4 minutes until light golden.
  2. Now add the pasata and chilli and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the potatoes, mix and place a lid on the pan. Cook on a low/medium heat setting for approx 5 minutes.
  4. Now, add the cauliflower florets along with peas, salt, paprika and turmeric. Mix together and once again place lid on the pan.
  5. Cook on a low heat setting for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. (Keep an eye on the pan -if the vegetables are catching, you can add a little more oil or a splash of water).
  7. The vegetables should be completely tender once cooked. Now add the garam masala, amchur and fresh coriander and place a lid on the pan again. Allow the flavour of the spices and fresh coriander to infuse for 10 minutes and then mix before serving.
  8. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Finish with fresh coriander.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Pyaaz Pakoras | Onion Bhajis

The Pakora… it’s as much of a favourite in restaurants, as it is at home. It’s so versatile – a great starter, a spicy canapé, a party nibble… but for me, as it is for most of my family, the pakora is the perfect comfort food. It belongs in the same class as the “onesie”, hot chocolate and mince pies! So it’s not a surprise that this recipe is such a favourite at my cookery classes.

You can make a pakora from basically anything – it’s an excellent way to recycle your left over veggies (and use up pesky things like broccoli stalks!). Crispy on the outside, steaming hot, spicy and fluffy on the inside – onion pakoras (or to be authentic… “pyaaz pakoras”) are my absolute favourite when I’m cold and in need of an internal hug.

So if you need an alternative for your mince pie this winter… try this – you will not regret it.

 

Pyaaz Pakoras | Onion Bhajis
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 onion, thinly sliced (paper thin long slices)
  2. 1 small potato, peeled and very finely diced
  3. 1 birds eye green chilli, finely chopped
  4. 1⁄2 tsp salt or according to taste
  5. 2 tbsp coriander seeds, coarsely crushed in a pestle & morta
  6. 1⁄2 tsp paprika
  7. 1⁄4 tsp turmeric
  8. Handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
  9. 1 measuring cup of gram flour
  10. Water to bind
  11. Sunflower/vegetable oil for deep frying
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients apart from the gram flour, water and oil into a bowl. Mix well so everything is incorporated. Now add in the gram flour and mix well.
  2. Gradually add enough water to bind the vegetables with the gram flour. You should be able to form clumps of the mixture with your hand/a spoon. If you find the mixture is not clumping - add more gram flour. Taste the mixture and adjust salt/chilli accordingly.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan (a small wok works best for this & you will need about 3-4" oil). Once the oil is hot, carefully place clusters of the pakora mixture into the hot oil (if you're confident, you can use your hands to do this or to feel more comfortable, use a tablespoon).
  4. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry on medium heat until the pakoras are golden-brown all over. It should take about 3-5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Repeat with the remainder of the pakora mixture.
Notes
  1. To test the temperature of the oil, place a little cluster of the batter into the oil. It should take about 5-6 seconds to rise to the top of the pan. If it comes straight up, it is too hot. Take the oil off he heat and allow to cool. If it stays at the bottom, continue to heat the oil.
  2. You may need to adjust the temperature of your pan as you begin to fry the pakoras as the temperature of the oil will drop. As a general rule it should take 3-5 minutes to ensure they are golden and cooked all the way through.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/