Creamy paneer & cashew nut curry

Creamy paneer & cashew nut curry
IMG_3872Sometimes, and I say this as a former vegetarian, I feel like you need to have a meal that contains meat or fish in order to have a ‘treat’ meal. Often not as a main ingredient, but more as the Chinese do – using meat or fish as a seasoning, a salt and flavour injection to an otherwise vegetarian meal. This meal came as a bit of a surprise in that it was perhaps the most filling curry I’ve ever eaten, had loads of flavour and just ticked every single Friday Night Dinner box going. One of the other brilliant things about this is it took well under an hour to completely prepare, from bags on the side to dinner on the table. Massive plus when you work late.. always…
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The idea for this dish basically comes from seeing that my local supermarket now stocks paneer (a firm and mild Indian cottage cheese – don’t let the word ‘cottage’ put you off – it’s a fantastic vehicle for spicy flavour) and that I was eating without my boyfriend tonight – he’s not super keen on paneer, but I reckon even he would have gorged on this meal. I had a look at different recipe ideas but kept stumbling across curry. It makes sense. However, I shunned the usual pairing of paneer with a tomato-based sauce and peas for something slightly more decadent, more akin to a sumptuous korma. I’ve borrowed the template for this curry from Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape book – specifically a lamb korma. I’ve changed it beyond recognition though to be honest – just kept the spice flavour pairings similar.
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Try it! It’s got chunks of unhealthy cheese, loads of unhealthy nuts, loads of healthy greens, and a really pleasant level of flavour and spice – it’s really fragrant without being overpowering. It doesn’t induce ‘curry mouth’ – you know where you can taste the curry you’ve eaten for HOURS after eating? Although sometimes I actually quite enjoy that lingering fragrance. Weird? The recipe below serves 1 very generously or two with rice and naan. I’ll admit. I ate the whole thing. It was just too good.

You will need:

For the nutty paste:
50g blanched almonds, toasted lightly
50g cashews, toasted lightly
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2cm ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green chilli, chopped roughly
100ml water
2 heaped tablespoons of natural yoghurt

For the curry:
225g paneer cheese, cut into large cubes
1 cardamom pod
1 large bay leaf
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 tspn ground coriander seed
1 tbspn tomato puree
200ml water
160g fresh baby spinach
1 small handful of peas, frozen (optional)
The juice of 1/2 lemon
Groundnut oil, to fry
Salt, pepper

Method:

1 – Start by toasting your nuts lightly; let them cool slightly before adding them to a deep pot (to avoid major spray when blending!) along with all of the other ingredients, bar the yoghurt, for the nutty paste
2 – Blend the ingredients well, until you get a thick hummous-like texture; add more water if necessary
3 – Set aside and move onto the curry; heat some oil in a large frying pan and add the cheese
4 – Fry briefly, turning often, until the cheese cubes are browned on all sides; removed from the pan and set aside
5 – Add the coriander, cloves, cinnamon, bay and cardamom to the pan and fry until fragrant, for about a minute
6 – Now stir in the onions and cook until browned, about 4 minutes, stirring the tomato puree in in the last minute
7 – Meanwhile, mix the yoghurt into the nutty paste mix, adding extra water if it seems too thick
8 – Lower the heat of the pan before tipping in the extra 200ml of water and yoghurty nutty paste; stir in well, mixing thoroughly to ensure the sauce is combined before stirring in the cheese and most of the spinach
9 – You only need to cook this for 10 minutes or so – it’s the speediest curry ever! – so once the spinach is fully wilted, stir in the peas and cook for another few minutes; season the mix well at this stage and add extra water if you think it’s necessary to prevent sticking
10 – Once the peas are cooked, stir in the remaining spinach leaves and the lemon juice and check seasoning before serving immediately

Note – you may want to remove the cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, cloves and bay leaves before serving, but I’m happy to pick round/eat these myself!
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