Pretty paneer with spinach, peas and dark, grainy rice and a golden lemony sauce
“The population of India is over eighty per cent Hindu, the ancient religion espousing karma, multiple gods and holy cows, which are not so much worshipped as respected for their ability to produce dairy. In north-west India particularly, dairy forms a vital part of the daily diet in the form of ghee (clarified butter), paneer (curd cheese), creams, milks and yoghurt….Punjab is a verdant green land of dairy farming, abundant vegetables, tandoori meats and breads. Dishes are cooked in ghee, cream and butter, and curd cheese, or paneer, is also widely used. Paneer is native to Punjab and combines brilliantly with green vegetables–you may be familiar with curries such as saag paneer (spinach and paneer) or muttar paneer (peas and paneer).”Mina Holland, The Edible Atlas: Around the World in Thirty-nine Cuisines
I am ashamed to say that I completely forget the source of inspiration for this recipe – all I have is a scrappy, spattered cutting torn from a bright and colourful Sunday supplement. But it makes such an excellent vegetarian lunch that we couldn’t resist including it in the Saucy Dressings’ recipe repertoire.
Because you’ll be using ready-cooked rice and grains mix, the whole thing takes very little time – just allow about ten minutes to form the golden crust on the paneer.
Recipe for pretty paneer with spinach, peas and dark, grainy rice and a golden lemony sauce
- 2 tbsps coconut oil
- 1 x 200g/7 oz packet of paneer
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed with ½ tsp salt
- 1 cm/½” ginger – grated
- 1 tsp mild tandoori spice marinade (Patak’s is good) or paste
- 150g/5 oz/1 cup frozen peas
- 1 x 250g ready-cooked rice and grain blend – Merchant Gourmet does a lovely smokey Spanish-style mix
- 80g/3 oz/ a couple of very generous handfuls of washed baby spinach
- ½ lemon
- 2 x slices nice, puffy naan bread
- 120 ml/½ cup thick, creamy yoghurt
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp mint sauce (make sure you stir this up well first)
- pinch or two of golden caster sugar
- a generous tbsp of chopped, fresh coriander plus the odd leaf for garnish
- a pinch of textured salt – Maldon for preference
- In a large pan gently dry fry the cumin (which you’ve, in an ideal world, crushed in a pestle and mortar, first), or a minute or so.
- Add 1 tbsp of the coconut oil.
- As the oil is gently warming, at the garlic and ginger (grate this directly into the pan). Remove the contents of the pan and keep warm. Add the second tablespoon of coconut oil and up the heat.
- Meanwhile cut the paneer into 2 cm/½” cubes, and add to the pan.
- Fry the paneer until it forms a golden crust (ten minutes approximately). This will add the gorgeous caramel taste produced as a result of the Maillard reaction. The crust will also stop the paneer from disintegrating. And it will add a bit of texture.
- Warm the naan according to the packet instructions.
- Add the tandoori marinade or paste to the pan and stir well to coat everything. Add the peas. Add the spinach – stir well. After a couple of minutes, when the spinach has begun to wilt, add the ready-cooked rice and grains blend (or you can warm separately in the microwave if you wish). Add the ginger/garlic/cumin mix. Get it all good and hot.
- Meanwhile mix the yoghurt with a brief squeeze of the half lemon. Add the turmeric, mint sauce, sugar, and chopped coriander. Mix well.
- Serve the yogurt topped with some Maldon sea salt flakes and a coriander leaf or two; the glorious mix in the pan; and the warm, fragrant naan bread. Cut the lemon into wedges and serve with the rest.