Spinach, mushroom and paneer curry
The ultimate lazy Sunday in my house would actually mean not cooking anything. This brings me nicely to my recipe for the month… If we are planning curry for dinner (at least twice a week!), I always try and make it the night before to allow the flavours to develop. This dish is no exception. There is relatively little prep and you can leave it simmering away nicely before adding the final few ingredients.
Back in the UK a typical Saturday night would involve an Indian take-away or going out to the local curry house for dinner with friends. The ritual of being given the poppadoms and condiments before being presented with your mains and sides – everyone commenting on the huge amount of food – the table ladened down with numerous dishes; all part of custom.
Then I travelled through Sri-Lanka and experienced so many varieties of curry. My. Mind. Was. Blown. Curry for breakfast, curry for lunch and curry for dinner – I just couldn’t get enough. In fact I pretty much ate my way around the entire country I think. I have spoken of my travels to this beautiful island before. It was my first travel destination and I was completely consumed with the culture, the people, the natural environment, the crowds, the history and the tea plantations – it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I desperately tried to immerse myself in to Sri-Lankan life. My favourite memory was going to an elephant orphanage and feeding a baby elephant, before finding this amazing curry house (surprise surprise!) which overlooked a river where the elephants bathed; you couldn’t get a better vista in which to enjoy such a deliciously simple meal. It was here I tried my first pumpkin curry. Now this was back in 2007 when for the most part, pumpkins came out for halloween – no one really ate them, did they? On my return from Sri-lanka I set about trying to recreate this dish using butternut squash and a whole host of other ingredients. I don’t think I have ever got it right, but that was fine. Even if I successfully recreated the curry, I could never recreate the atmosphere around me while I ate – and surely that element contributes to the flavour of a dish?
500g mushrooms (I used button) roughly chopped
250g frozen spinach
300g paneer – mine came in large blocks which I broke into smaller pieces using a fork.
2tbsp canola or rice bran oil
1 onion – finely chopped
2-3 chopped garlic cloves
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground tumeric
1.5tsp garam masala
1 cup of water
1 tin of coconut milk
2 large dried chillies
2 cinnamon quills
3 tomatoes – roughly chopped
2 cups of basmati rice
4 cups of water
1) In a large frying pan add 2tbsp oil and heat on medium. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and allow to warm through.
2) Reduce the heat to low and add the diced onion and garlic – cook until translucent.
3) Once the onion is cooked through, add the chopped mushrooms, the tumeric, and garam masala and stir gently, until the mushrooms are evenly coated with the ground spices.
4) Once the mushrooms are well coated and beginning to soften, add 1 cup of water and half of the coconut milk, along with the dried chillies (break each chilli into two pieces) and the cinnamon quills.
5) After 10 minutes or so, add the remaining coconut milk, all the spinach and the paneer, along with half of the tomatoes – cover and allow to cook for 40-60 minutes, before adding the remaining tomatoes.
6) If you are making this in advance, allow the curry to cool and refrigerate until needed. To reheat, add 1 cup of water and place on a medium heat until piping hot
7) This step shouldn’t be followed until an hour or so before you are ready to eat. Place your rice into a sieve and wash well – until the water is more clear than cloudy. Add the washed rice to a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water. Add ½ tsp salt, put the lid on and place on a low heat to cook. The rice should absorb all the water – this is when you will know it is cooked.