I’m a very happy omnivore but in recent years have felt that when when eating out it can be a bit difficult to gauge the quality or origin of the meat you are being served, and so tend towards eating the vegetarian option. This this is probably the reason why a few years ago I stumbled upon paneer, a cheese usually found in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisine, or more local for me in British curry houses. Its usually either speared on a kebab stick or cooked with spinach in a curry. Paneer Shashlik is now my favourite dish from my local curry house and I usually order this with a chick pea or aubergine veggie dish on the side.
So what is paneer? It’s a fresh curd cheese (so, no culturing), made from from whole milk. The process is fairly simple; boil milk, curdle with lemon juice (which separates the curds and whey), cool, then sieve or filter through cheesecloth. Finally the curds that you catch in the filter are pressed into a bundle and set under a heavy weight for around 15 minutes. There is a full tutorial for the adventurous here. Best of all paneer keeps its shape once heated (like halloumi) so is great for adding into curries and skewering rather than shredding and melting all over a dish like mozzarella on pizza.
We actually learned to make paneer during my natural chef training, but I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t had a go again since. Obviously making it yourself would allow you to choose the best source of milk possible (ideally organic), but for ease I bought my paneer, even I need to take a short cut sometimes!
Since I don’t have a tandoori oven at home, nor a BBQ which would be an excellent way to cook this dish, the grill has to do, and it does a pretty good job. Instead of serving what would be expected with a dish like this and dolloping mango chutney and a mint raita on the side I decided to mix things up a bit and grab some summer seasonal ingredients instead. Perhaps stone fruit from France could replace Costa Rican mangos? Since I already tried a peach salsa recently, I looked to its sister nectarine as I thought that would make an equally sweet chutney. As a homemade mango chutney novice I used this recipe as a vague guide. It’s got a good hit of spice from some fresh ginger and mustard seeds, though you could add chilli if you wanted it hotter. On the side to cool everything down, I decided to make a raita from fresh rocket instead of mint, my favourite of all the summer leafy greens. Rocket is usually quite spicy and needs balancing with sweetness (as in my rocket pesto), but here the creamy yoghurt and fresh cucumber did enough.
I love how we can look to other cultures for their interesting flavour combinations and recipes and then turn them into something more of our own. Shall we call it seasonal fusion?
Looking for other recipes with paneer now I’ve whet your appetite for it? Kavey’s Paneer Malai, Emily’s Paneer and Pilau Fritters, Kellie’s Beetroot and Tomato Rogan Josh Curry With Homemade Paneer Cheese (yes she made her paneer!), or Choclette’s Pistachio and Chocolate Kachori.
- 225g paneer, chopped into ~10 large cubes
- 1-2 red onions, chopped into wedges
- 2 tomatoes, chopped into wedges
- Tikka Marinade (see below)
- 2 tbs natural yoghurt
- ½ lemon juiced
- ½ tsp salt
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 knob of ginger (2cm), peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 red chilli, seeded
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp paprika dulce
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- 2 nectarines, peeled and small cubed
- ½ red onion, finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 knob of ginger (2cm), peeled and grated with a microplane
- 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
- ½ lemon, zest and juice
- tsp maple syrup (optional, or to taste)
- 100g natural yoghurt (remaining from a 150g tub after using for tikka marinade)
- Large handful of rocket
- 10cm cucumber, seeded, and small dice
- ½ tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp lime juice (from approx ¼ lime)
- Pinch salt
- First make your nectarine chutney. Place the chopped nectarines with the onion, salt and 30mls (2 tbs) water in a small saucepan and cook on low for 10 or so minutes, until the nectarine has softened. Then add the rest of the ingredients bar the maple syrup and cook on low for around 15 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and you have a soft gooey chutney, stir frequently to avoid the chutney sticking to the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool off a little then taste. If too sour add a dash of maple syrup. Transfer to a cold bowl and allow to cool fully before using. Will keep in a glass jar for a few days.
- While the chutney is cooking you can make your tikka marinade by placing all the ingredients along with 60mls water in a mini chopper or the jug of an immersion blender. Blitz until smooth. Transfer to a medium sized bowl and stir through 2 tbs natural yoghurt, juice of half a lemon and ½ tsp salt. Toss in the cubed paneer, tomatoes and onions, turning them all in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Combine all ingredients and season to taste. Transfer to a small dish for serving and refrigerate until required
- When you are ready to cook, pre-heat your grill to a medium-hot setting. Make your kebabs by skewering 2-3 pieces of paneer onto each skewer along with the onion and tomato wedges. Grill for 8-10 minutes each side, until charred then serve warm with the chutney, raita and extra yoghurt.
- You may wish to serve hungry diners an extra rice dish on the side,
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