When it comes to curry I have one general rule: leave it to the professionals. In the majority of cases that means going out or ordering in. It’s a behaviour that’s not helped by the fact that we have a very good takeaway right at the end of our road. When I do cook curry at home it almost always comes from a packet or jar. It’s not very often I’ll pluck up the courage to make my own curry from scratch. But from time to time I will challenge myself and now and then things turn out pretty damn good! I wouldn’t have written a post for Paneer Masala if they didn’t, eh?
The main reason I don’t really make my own curries is because you need a well stocked spice rack before you even get going. Like a lot of Brits I spent many years with a shelf filled with little jars and packets, many of which were bought for a single recipe. Over time they were progressively nudged backwards, deeper into the cupboard. Some were replaced a few times a year, but most were just left untouched in the darkness.
A cupboard full of old spice is, like the aftershave of the same name, something that you just don’t need in your life. Like all good ingredients, herbs and spices are best used fresh. As such, I keep a much smaller collection of spices these days – focusing on those I know I’ll use on a regular basis. Fortunately this recipe doesn’t really use any that I needed to buy in specially. Yes, it does have cumin seeds and coriander seeds, but I use the powdered form a lot and it doesn’t take long to grind them down if needed.
Those spices come together here, along with some fresh garlic, ginger and coriander, to make a really tasty curry paste. It’s bright, colourful and bursting with flavour, whilst having a lot less oil than some commercially available products. When fried in the pan to form the base of the curry sauce it releases the most wonderfully mouthwatering fragrance. The rest of the sauce really isn’t complicated – being flavoured with onion, tomato and a little bit of cream right at the end.
It’s a great sauce when paired with any protein, like chicken, prawns or, as here, paneer. If you’ve not encountered it before, paneer is one of those non-melting cheeses that retains its structure even when heated. It’s a common ingredient in Indian cooking, as a good source of protein in a vegetarian diet. Paneer may not be strongly flavoured but does add a great texture and a gentle creamy texture. But do make sure you brown it in the pan before adding it, as those golden crunchy edges are essential!
For the Curry Paste
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
- ½ tsp Mustard Seeds
- 2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 2 tsp Garam Masala
- 1 tsp Sea Salt Flakes
- 1 tsp Dried Chilli Flakes
- ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 2 cloves Garlic peeled
- 5 cm Root Ginger peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp Tomato Purée
- 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 2 tbsp Ground Almonds
- 15 g Fresh Coriander finely chopped
For the Sauce
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 200 g Paneer cut into cubes
- 1 Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 400 g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Double Cream or Crème Fraîche
Make the Curry Paste
- Put the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and mustard seeds into a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Toast for a few minutes until some pop and they become fragrant, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure they don’t burn. Tip into a pestle and mortar and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Grind the spices into a coarse powder, then mix with the paprika, garam masala, salt, chilli flakes and cayenne pepper. Pour into a separate bowl. You could also do this in a small food processor or spice grinder if you have one.
- Put the garlic and ginger into the mortar and grind until they form a smooth paste. Add the tomato purée and oil, then mix together until fully combined.
- Mix the ground spices into the paste, along with the ground almonds and chopped coriander.
- You can store the curry paste for a couple of days in the fridge in a sealed container, or use it straight away if you prefer.
Prepare the Paneer Masala
- Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Add the paneer cubes and fry for a couple of minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen towel to remove any excess oil.
- Add the curry paste to the same hot pan and fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the onions. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until the onions have started to soften and turn translucent.
- Pour in the tinned chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for a further 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
- Return the paneer to the pan and stir until well coated. Allow the paneer to fully heat through before serving.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||23||g|
|of which Sugars||15||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|