For all of you doubters out there, think about halloumi and how well that works when cooked and with spicy ingredients. In fact the taste of paneer is a lot like halloumi, not to put you off but there is a hint of squeakiness about it but that firm texture works really well in a curry.
I first had paneer when travelling around India. In India I had some of the best and worst food I think I've ever had but the paneer was in the first category along with the traditional breads like chapattis and paratha and yoghurts. I just think if I decided one day to become a vegetarian I could happily live on Indian food without missing meat too much. My husband described this as "delicious" and said that it solved one of those issues for him with a lot of vegetarian food at not just being mush with that lovely firmness of the cheese. I also like chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for making a vegetarian curry with texture.
Oddly if you ever see paneer on a restaurant menu, it is often described as "cottage cheese" which in the UK anyway means a disgusting lumpy bland concoction, absolutely nothing like paneer. If you can't find paneer, there are recipes out there to make it on the internet.
Mutter Paneer - Serves 2 Adults and 1 Toddler
For the Paneer:
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce:
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, grated
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ginger powder
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander (is it still called cilantro in the US if it's ground seeds? Please enlighten me!)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 approx 400g, 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
100ml, 3.5fl oz water
1/2 green chilli, deseeded
Optional extras for adults: 1/2 - 1 dried chilli, chopped, 1/2 tsp salt
85g, 3oz frozen peas
1 tsp garam masala
A small handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)
Make the sauce first. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin, once it begins to release it's fragrance, add the onion and turn down the heat to low. Cook slowly until starting to go golden for 5 - 10 mins or so. Add the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, chilli and sugar, cook for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, water and turmeric. Simmer until thick, approx 25 mins stirring occasionally. At this point you can put the sauce aside in the fridge covered until you're ready to cook.
When you're ready to serve, put some rice on or get some flatbreads (e.g. chapatti) ready then while the rice is cooking, heat up the 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. While you're doing this, heat up the sauce adding a little water if needed. At this stage if you're just serving to adults you can add a bit more dried chilli and salt if desired. Add the peas to heat through.
Cut the paneer into cubes and dust with the flour. Fry until brown on all sides then add the paneer to the curry with the garam masala. Serve sprinkled with the fresh coriander.
People are a bit wary about serving chilli to toddlers but you can always keep it a mild variety and by taking out the seeds, you take out the hottest bit. If you're unsure how hot your chilli is, I touch a tiny bit (raw) to my tongue but even this is an inexact science, as a rule though green ones are often milder than red but as someone who grows chillis, the strength is very dependent on the kind of growing season you have, not just the variety. Bear in mind though you can always tone down a curry that's a bit too spicy with some plain yoghurt or raita.
Vegan adaptation: I can't claim I've tried this but I have heard of people substituting the paneer for tofu. It might be worth a try, I have to be honest and say I love cheese too much to go that far!
If you're aware of a UK comedy show though called "The Fast Show" it is kind of irresistible to call this dish "cheesy peas" which it kind of is.
I've linked this up to Meatless Mondays: