Hankering for the kind of Indian food you can’t get at your local “Curry in a Hurry”? That’s because Indian food should be cooked at home in small batches for people you love, and that’s what London-based chef and writer Meera Sodha brings to the table in her new cookbook, Made in India. Say good-bye to soggy saag paneer and welcome a fresh new era!
My grandfather was an eccentric man. He wore polished patent shoes and a sharply cut suit and smelled of jasmine behind his ears. The week he retired, he signed up for a three-month round-the-world cruise to celebrate. Before he left, he received a courtesy call from the Kitchen Head of the ship to see whether he had any dietary requirements. “I really like Indian vegetable curries,” he said, and sent over a whole shipping container of Indian greens to travel with him until his return.
Spinach and paneer was one of his favorites. This is a much fresher version of the old curryhouse stalwart saag paneer. I like to eat it when the spinach has only just wilted so that it still tastes fresh and keeps its goodness.
- canola oil
- 1 pound paneer, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, then grated or finely chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 fresh green chili, very finely chopped
- 14 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed
For the paneer
Put 3 tablespoons of the oil into a lidded frying pan on a high heat. Lightly season the paneer cubes with salt and fry them in the pan, turning regularly until golden on each side. Watch out, as the paneer might spit; if it does, half cover it with a lid. Remove the paneer cubes using a slotted spoon and put them to one side on a paper towel.
For the spinach
Turn the heat down to medium, put a little more oil into the pan if need be, and add the onions. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are golden. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chili, stir well, then add the cherry tomatoes and tomato paste.
Put the lid on the pan and cook the tomatoes for 6 to 8 minutes, until they start to break down and become soft. Then add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, and 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt or to taste. Stir well and taste, adding the extra chili powder if you’d like to. The mixture should look quite paste-like now, and there should be very little (if any) liquid running from it. (If this is not the case, put the lid back on and cook for another 5 minutes.)
Return the paneer pieces to the pan, stir to coat them with the paste, and heat through. Finally, add the spinach in batches, wilting down a large handful before adding another, and coating the leaves carefully with the sauce.
Cook for a further 5 minutes with the lid on, to make sure all the spinach has wilted, then take off the heat. Serve with some lovely hot chapatis or naan.