Spinach daal with paneer

Another week, not another restaurant. I’m beginning to realise how hard this project is going to be! Life really gets in the way sometimes, doesn’t it?

It’s not entirely true that I didn’t go to any restaurants this week – Duncan took me to Tom’s Kitchen at Somerset House for my birthday, which was lush. And we had some really wonderful food at a wedding at the Barbican on Saturday night – Barbican starts with B, so that kind of counts. The bride was Cypriot (C) and the groom was half Chinese (also C) and half Welsh (W) – otherwise known as Chelsh – so if you think about it really hard then it’s almost like I’m doing my homework in advance.

I thought I’d try another daal recipe while you’re waiting for me to get my act together.

Spinach daal with paneer – adapted from BBC Good Food‘s 101 30-minute meals.

Paneer is a type of cheese commonly used in South Asian cooking. It’s an unsalted white cheese that is most commonly served deep fried, either with peas in a creamy tomato sauce (mattar paneer) or with spinach (palak paneer). It can be purchased in most major supermarkets – I find the Savera brand paneer the easiest to cook with; I got mine at Tescos. Tescos also sells cubed, frozen paneer but I don’t think this tastes as nice. Maybe I just don’t like to make things easy on myself.

BBC Good Food thinks halloumi is a good substitute for paneer but I would probably disagree. Halloumi is salty. Mmm. Salt.

Paneer, much like halloumi, is a love/hate cheese. I love it. It tastes great marinated in tandoori sauce and grilled on the barbecue. I also love lentil, hence the below!

Ingredients:

9 oz/250 g red lentils, rinsed

t tbsp sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

knob of ginger, grated

3 tsp garam masala

1/2 can reduced fat coconut milk

200 g paneer, cubed

100 g spinach

asafoetida

chili powder

cumin

coriander

cardamom

Directions

Boil lentils for 8-10 minutes; set aside.

In a wok or pan, stir fry ginger, garlic and garam masala, and any other spices you choose for a minute or two. Add coconut milk (1/2 can is probably generous – start slow) and lentils and simmer for five minutes. Add spinach, cook until wilted and remove from heat.

At this point, taste test and add whatever other spices suit your palette. I think some tomato paste might also have been a good add. Maybe also a little bit of curry paste.

Disclaimer: If you are going to follow this recipe directly from the book/website, it might be bland. I added tons more spices/mango chutney than the original called for and I still didn’t find it had enough depth.

Somewhere in there, heat your grill and cook paneer for five minutes on each side, or until browned. I used a frying pan, because my grill doesn’t work. If you’re going to do it this way, pay attention. Nobody likes burned cheese.

Add the cooked paneer to the lentil and spinach mixture, and serve with rice or naan. I served mine with paratha, because it’s a fun word to say.

English: Aloo Paratha

The verdict: The paratha was awesome. I also bought a frozen pack of these at Tescos and put them in the frying pan and they turned into hot fluffy dough. It was like magic.  The recipe was not the best – you don’t need coconut milk to make a great daal, and I found this a little bit creamy, but hey, some people like cream! British people, for instance, put cream on everything.

Top tip: Don’t drink with this one. As much as I’d like to make Hannah Hart proud, there are too many bits and pieces to do at the same time to drunk kitchen* it and not light anything on fire.

*This is now a verb.

Stay tuned for a real project post soon – it may just feature a parrot.

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