When I hosted a guest at my place recently, I made my own paneer hoping to make this experimental pseudo-Indian dish. I always overestimate how much food I will need when people visit. I plan for breakfasts, lunches and dinners but prepare such elaborate breakfasts (a nice way of saying that I overdo it in a big way usually – even though I get better all the time), no one wants lunch.
Finally I got around to making this potato-paneer filling for red peppers, cooked in a tomato-curry sauce, accompanied by basmati rice and fried onions. Oh, how I love onion rice.
How did I do this? Well, I started a few days ago by making paneer. How do you make paneer? It’s pretty easy.
1 liter milk
1/8 cup lemon juice
Cheesecloth for straining
Put the liter of milk in a heavy saucepan, stirring every couple of minutes while you wait for the milk to come to a boil. Once it reaches boiling point, remove from heat and add the lemon juice in slowly until the milk completely curdles.
Line a strainer with the cheesecloth and drain the milk-lemon mixture. The liquid will drain away and you will be left with the thick curdled milk. Twist the cloth tightly and squeeze repeatedly from different angles to ensure that the liquid completely drains.
Turn the cloth over and place about one kilo of weight on top of it and leave for several hours to really make sure the liquid drains. This will create a solid paneer block, which you can use immediately or refrigerate for a few days – be sure to cover with water in a container if you are keeping it to ensure it does not dry out.
Now you can cut it into cubes, as many recipes call for, or use it the way I used it in my potato-paneer experiment.
Boil four small, peeled potatoes until soft. Mash them together with one cup of crumbled paneer. Mash in the following mixture of spices:
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste
Mash all of this together and then hollow out a couple of red peppers, discarding the insides and seeds and slice rings you can fill with the potato-paneer filling.
Set aside the filled pepper rings while you prepare the easy curry sauce and sauté the onions for the rice. (Prepare the rice at the same time in a separate pot.)
For the curry sauce… there is no exact recipe here, and you can adjust spices and heat levels to your own taste buds. I erred on the side of too spicy this time, but it was still quite tasty.
2 tablespoons oil
1.5 chopped onions
1 tablespoon garlic-ginger paste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper (I accidentally added far more than this)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
about 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
about 1/2 cup of tomato passata
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the onion for about 20 minutes on low heat, add the ginger-garlic paste and heat through. Add the spices. After a minute or two, add the tomatoes and passata. Let cook for about five minutes on low to medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of cream or coconut milk. Puree in a small food processor and return to oven-safe cast iron skillet to keep warm.
Now put the stuffed pepper rings under the grill and brown them and warm them.
Add the pepper rings to the sauce and heat on the stove or the oven.
Fluff the rice and add the fried onions on top.
Having completed this experiment once, I know where I went wrong and where I can improve. My next guest will benefit from my learning…