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/

Lachha Paratha – Punjabi Layered Flatbreads

Although lachha parathas are a popular North Indian bread, the first time I ever tried them was in the South of India! I was very young but it was such a memorable meal. We had been on the road for 4 hours traveling from Chennai to Pondicherry when hunger struck. It was late but we found a roadside “dhabba” restaurant looking like it was about to close up. Being in the south we (naturally) asked (begged) for the dosa menu but alas, as it was closing time, we were told all they could prepare for us were lachha parathas and raita.

A few minutes later we had plates of crispy, buttery & flakey parathas before us and we devoured them as if we hadn’t eaten in days. To sum up how I felt, if it was possible, I would have inserted all variations of smiley emojis here. You get the drift. They were sensational.

Mum had never made them at home before but everything changed when we returned! They’re perfect for mopping up curries, as a base for wraps and rolls or even on their own with some raita and pickles. Try them and let me know what you think!

Lachha Parathas
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups (approx. 135g) plain flour plus extra flour for dusting
  2. 1 tbsp oil or melted ghee
  3. 1 cup water approx.
  4. Oil and ghee/melted butter for cooking
Instructions
  1. Place the flour and oil/melted ghee in a mixing bowl. Rub the oil/ghee into the flour with your hand so they are well incorporated. Now add the water gradually and begin to combine the flour and water to make a rough dough. It should be soft but not sticky. Cover with cling film and rest for 20 minutes.
  2. After 20 minutes, grease your hand with oil and knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until the dough is pliable and smooth. (If it is too sticky, you can add a little dry flour and if it seems to stiff or dry, add a little water and re-knead). It should be soft, smooth and springy.
  3. Heat a non-stick frying pan and fill a wide deep bowl with plain flour.
  4. Divide the dough into 6 smooth round balls.
  5. Press one dough ball in the flour and then turn it over and press the other side. Using a rolling pin, begin to roll out so the dough ball forms a disc approx 7-8" wide.
  6. Now, generously spread ghee or oil over the surface and sprinkle on some dry plain flour.
  7. Start making small pleat-like folds, about ½ inch wide, starting from one side of the circle and working toward the other side. The more pleats you make, the more layers the paratha will have. You will end up with a long narrow strip.
  8. Stretch it out slightly. Now roll up the strip like a Danish swirl.
  9. Tuck in the end. Press flat and press both sides into the dry flour.
  10. Now begin to roll out until 7-8 inches wide. Dust off any excess flour by clapping the paratha between your hands.
  11. Place the paratha on the hot pan. When it changes colour and small bubbles begin to appear, turn it over and cook the other side. Lightly brush the surface with oil and turn it over.
  12. Repeat on other side and cook until your paratha is golden and crispy. Remove from heat. You can finish by brushing with butter or leave it as it is.
  13. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Notes
  1. If you're making them to serve on their own with raita/pickles, you can add a pinch of salt when making the dough.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/