Paneer Mirch Masala

First things first: home-made paneer is the best and it is very easy to make. As I’ve said before if you have the skills to bring a liquid to a slow boil and then stir it then you have the skills to make paneer—see here for the method I learned from a friend, the late, great Sue Darlow. But if you don’t have the time to make paneer at home by all means go out and get some from your local desi store. For that matter, Costco has giant blocks of paneer too these days—I’ve not tried it; if you have and have an opinion please do share in the comments. In short, use whatever paneer you have but if nervousness is the only thing stopping you from trying to make your own then just know it’s not difficult. Anyway, when I make paneer my default uses for it are either palak-paneer or matar-paneer. This summer, however, I started making paneer-mirch masala in yet another attempt to use up the endless flood of Hungarian hot wax peppers from my vegetable garden. I played around with a number of variations with spices, the amount of tomato, the amount of gravy etc. and this is my current favourite version. Give it a go. Continue reading

Ginger-Mint Raita

Another week, another raita. Last week’s iteration was a simple one involving cucumber, radish and onion (and a bit of green chilli). This week’s is even simpler. There are only two main ingredients beyond the yogurt: ginger and mint. In this particular case, I used a variety of mint I’m growing in my garden for the first time this year: ginger mint. But if you don’t have any—which, why would you?—you can just use whatever mint you have. Despite the low number of ingredients this is a slightly fussier raita than last week’s, however, as it involves julienning and frying the ginger to just short of a crisp first. But once you’ve done that all that’s left to do is some mixing and I feel confident that you are capable of that. Make some today and have it as a cooling side with whatever you’re eating. Continue reading

Cucumber-Radish-Onion Raita

I made alu parathas for lunch today and obviously had to make a bowl of raita to go with it. Raita is not a recipe but a canvas. You take yogurt and beat it, add whatever you want to flavour it, mix it all in and you’re done. You can make salty raitas, sweet raitas, salty-sweet raitas. You can make raitas that incorporate cooked ingredients and you can make raitas that are entirely raw. The only thing I haven’t come across is non-veg raitas but I would not be at all surprised to discover they exist. As always, my knowledge of Indian food extends to only a small sliver of it. Anyway, as variegated as raitas can be, my own preference—usually—is for simple raitas with a few chopped veg (I’ve previously posted my recipe for raita made with grated watermelon radish). I like my raita to emphasize the yogurt and not be crunchy with too much veg and toppings. In fact, I sometimes think that in the era of Instagram a lot of people overload their raitas because otherwise it doesn’t make for a very interesting photograph. It’s a simple dish; in my opinion, best when simply made and is a perfect summer side to all kinds of dishes. Continue reading

Radish Raita

Radish Raita
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe; the last one was back in late October and coincidentally had the same featured ingredient as this one: radish, or to be more specific, watermelon radish. But whereas that October recipe was essentially for thinly sliced and dressed watermelon radish, in this one the watermelon radish does not form the base of the dish; that role is played by yogurt. No one needs me to explain what raita is. I can tell you, however, one thing it isn’t, and that is a dish made with any sort of fixed recipe. The necessary ingredient is yogurt and it needs to be beaten; beyond that it’s a free world. From texture to flavourings, you can do pretty much whatever you want (though it should stay vegetarian and you should remember that the primary function of raita is to act as a supporting, cooling agent during a meal). Continue reading

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer
This is another Indian restaurant favourite and like many Indian restaurant favourites it is usually made in restaurants with a gallon or so of cream. Home-made versions have a much lighter touch and, as in my version below, often leave out the cream altogether. This means you can actually taste the spinach and paneer—a radical concept, I know. Again, palak=spinach; you can make this with a combination of greens and if you do then you’ll have saag paneer (saag=leafy greens).

There are two major components to good palak paneer: good spinach and good paneer (ideally, home-made). If you have those two it’s hard to go wrong. You can tweak the other ingredients (proportions and texture) to your liking and make it entirely your own. You can even add some cream, I suppose, but to my mind palak paneer is best when it’s pureed spinach and soft home-made paneer that are the source of the velvety richness. Continue reading


Matar Paneer
Yesterday you made paneer (you did, right?); now here is something to make with some of that paneer.

Matar-paneer (literally peas-paneer) is a fairly ubiquitous dish on Indian restaurant menus in the US but, as with almost everything on most Indian restaurant menus in the US, often drowned in cream. The recipe below is a version of the basic way in which it is made in most homes in North India: a tomato sauce with clean, bright flavours that offsets the paneer nicely, with the peas providing textural contrast.

It is a very easy recipe, calling for not very many ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand, with a very light touch with the spices. Continue reading

Home-Made Paneer

Various paneer dishes have become quite identified with Indian food in the US but I’d wager that most Americans have never eaten anything better than mediocre paneer. The versions served at every Indian restaurant I’ve ever eaten it in in the US have in fact been worse than mediocre, whether served in a braised dish like palak paneer or fried as pakoras: it’s invariably hard and dense. I suspect most restaurants don’t make their own paneer or that if they do that they make it in mass quantities ahead of time and rarely use it fresh. Then again, paneer made well doesn’t always need to be fresh—as you’ll see, the recipe below freezes very well.

Anyway, if you like eating paneer in restaurants you should really make it at home; it will be a revelation. And if you think making paneer is some sort of higher-level skill, you’re wrong: if you’re capable of bringing milk to a boil and then stirring it you have mastered the two steps of making paneer. That’s pretty much all there is to it: bring milk to a boil, add an acid and stir as it splits the milk. Once the milk has separated into whey and lumpy curds you strain it, cover it with a weight and in as little as 10 minutes you have paneer ready to eat or cook with. Continue reading