I’ve made Paneer before, when I lived in Islington where I could get hold of cheese cloth. But now, you would have thought the whole of North Lonon had run out of muslin. How annoying. Ever since I found out how easy it is to make Paneer it seems to be a waste to buy it. As Londis did have paneer, even if it failed miserably in the muslin stakes, shop bought would have to do.
Mind you, this is why I love London so much. I can’t think of many other places where the local Londis would stock paneer, turkish sausages, chick peas, tofu, a decent selection of wine and jagaree. Amazing. Everytime I wander in I find something a little different, a little unusual. And when it’s Alphonso mango season on the sub-continent, there are boxes and boxes of sweet mangoes … *sigh* …
The idea of cheese in any sort of Asian dish does seem a little odd at first, but then paneer isn’t your usual cheese. Pretty bland to the taste (at least the shop bought stuff is), it does pick up the flavour of pretty much whatever you cook it with. In this aspect it is much like tofu and really does add something in terms of texture. It’s really good if you’re in the need of something non-meaty and simple.
Okra, on the other hand bring something completely different to the table. It;s definitely green in taste – plant-like, and vaguely slimy, but in a really good way. It;s hard to explain, but this sticky, sappy pointy vegetable is very moorish In this way it’s a bit like aubergine in that it brings both taste and an unusually texture to any dish. It tastes nothing like aubergine though. Obviously.
Both are enough for two as mains or four as sides
Both dishes benefit from some sort of added oomph, particularly the paneer. In this case I had a whole pack of birds eye chillis and a tin of chopped tomatoes – in went a couple of those chillies and the tommies, along with nutty cumin and pungent garlic.
In all honesty, the both would have benefitted from some lemon juice or similar, just to add a little more balance. Alternatively some warming spices like cinnamon would have been good. But simple is what I was aiming for and that is what I got – soothing and easy to eat. Just the ticket for a gentle and lazy Saturday night.
200g paneer cut into cubes
1 garlic cloves chopped
120g chopped tommies (I used half a tin)
2 birds eye chillis
.5 tsp fenugreek seeds
.5 tsp cumin seeds
1 pack/250g spinach – i used baby spinach
Chop one of the chillies. Thoroughly wash the spinach and put the wet leaves in a saucepan with the chilli and heat in a covered pan until cooked. Squeeze out the water and chop into mush.
Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the fenugreek seeds and stir for 30 seconds or so. Finely slice the onion and chuck them into the pan stirring until lightly browned. Finely slice the garlic and remaining chilli, add to the pan along with the cumin seeds and stir for about another minute then add the tomatoes and fry for five minutes until the liquid is almost gone.
Add the cubes of paneer and stir until it is starting to colour. Add the spinach and stir until it is heated through.
1 large onion
1 celery stick
1 birds eye chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds
120g chopped tommies (I used the other half of the tin from above)
A little salt
Slice the tops off the Okra fingers and slice into slices about as thick as your index finger. Watch out for the sap – it gets pretty sticky when you’re chopping away.
Finely slice chilli (discarding the seds of you don’t want it too spicy), celery and the onion. Fry the onion and celery in oil over a medium heat until lightly brown. Add the chilli and cumin seeds and fry for about another minute or two.
Add the okra pieces and stir and fry over a low medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir them in. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the okra is done, stirring occasionally to prevent the okra from sticking.