Spiced Paneer, Spinach and Pea Grain Bowl with Mint Yoghurt Sauce
The big trend for cookbooks this year is vegetarian food and no-one is better able to hold your hand and give you inspiration than my pal Elly Pear. This delicious weekday recipe, which can be rustled up in 20 minutes, comes from her new book Green.
Elly writes: The spicy cubes of fried paneer cheese are strong competition, but I reckon it’s actually the sauce that is the star of this show. Inspired by Indian restaurant yoghurt sauce (perfect for dipping shards of poppadum into while you neck a cold beer and deliberate over what to order), it was one of the most popular things I’d made in ages when I first served it up. Everyone loved it. I was then tempted to put it on everything, of course. For a real feast, this dish goes particularly well with Cauliflower and Spinach Pakoras (also in the book)
2 tbsp coconut oil (coconut is best for flavour, but any oil is fine)
2 x 225g packs of paneer, cut into 2cm cubes
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated or crushed
2cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and grated or crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
2–4 tbsp tandoori curry paste (according to taste)
250g frozen peas, defrosted
4 tbsp boiling water
2 x 220g pouches of mixed rice and grains (I use brown rice and mixed grains)
130g baby leaf spinach
Lemon wedges, to serve
Red chilli slices, to serve
Naan bread, to serve
For the yoghurt sauce
250g Greek-style yoghurt or plain coconut yoghurt
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp mint sauce
1 tsp caster sugar (or to taste)
2 heaped tbsp finely chopped
½ tsp flaked sea salt
Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add the paneer cubes to the pan and fry until golden, in batches if necessary. Allow the paneer to form a crust on each side of the cubes before turning them over.
This takes about 10 minutes, but it stops the paneer from breaking up and also adds a lot of important flavour and texture. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium–low then gently fry the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds for 1 minute. Return the paneer to the pan, add the curry paste, stir and fry for 1 minute over a medium heat. Add the peas along with 4 tablespoons of boiling water and stir everything together.
If you have a microwave, you can speed things up a little by warming the pouches of rice and mixed grains according to the packet instructions. If you don’t have a microwave, never fear. (Neither do I!) Simply add the rice and grains to the pan, separating them with your fingers to break up any clumps as they tumble in.
Add the spinach to the pan, toss it all together, then cover with a lid and cook for 2–3 minutes until the spinach has wilted and everything is piping hot. Meanwhile, make the mint yoghurt sauce. Place the yoghurt in a small bowl and stir in all the other ingredients.
Divide the rice and grains mixture between 4 bowls. Serve with lemon wedges, red chilli slices and naan bread, alongside the bowl of mint yoghurt sauce.
What to drink: Elly mentions a cold beer in her introduction which sounds spot on. A fruity rosé would also be good.
Green by Elly Pear (Curshen) is published by Ebury Press (£22.00). Photo credit Martin Poole.
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