Bean curry with spinach & paneer
It’s been a few weeks since I last cooked a Gujarati dinner so this evening I went for spinach & paneer, one of our favourites.
We had it with a quick & easy bean curry and some hot chapattis.
Sorry there isn’t more to say – get’s a bit tricky when I’ve made these dinners so many times before!
Spinach & paneer with lentils
Sorry about the poor quality photo, I was just too eager to get stuck into this meal to faff around with my iPhone for too long. Spinach & paneer is probably Karl’s favourite vegetarian Indian dish, with good reason. If you haven’t had paneer before, it’s similar to halloumi but without the saltiness – it’s rubbery and dense when cold, but beautifully soft when hot, with quite a subtle ‘dairy’ flavour. Surprisingly, it’s not actually something I grew up eating, and my mum and I only started cooking with it over the past 7/8 years.
It’s particularly good cooked with spinach because it offers a nice balance to the deep, green flavour of the leaves and intense spices. It’s very easy to make.
Chard pie with roasted beetroot
This is a recipe that I was given during a belated 'gap year' that Karl and I took in 2010. While we were in Australia, we spent a couple of weeks working on a farm in exchange for bed and board, via HelpX (it’s like a work-away scheme). The family we stayed with were unbelievably nice and welcoming, and we learned all sorts from milking cows and growing herbs to driving tractors (amazing) and tightrope walking (which neither of us got the hang of at all, unsurprisingly). More on all that here.
We also had some brilliant food, and one of the most memorable meals for us was a ‘pie’ made using silverbeet, which we know as chard. Now, we usually make it with spinach instead as that’s much more widely available, but we ended up with a couple of bunches of chard from our Abel & Cole box so we decided to go back to the original. Roasted beetroot makes a lovely accompaniment.
I’m afraid the recipe is all in cups as that’s how I was given it – to be honest, it’s more important to just get the proportions right rather than the exact measurements, so just do as I do and choose a vessel…perhaps a big teacup or a petite mug or a dinky bowl or you get the idea.
a bunch or two of chard (or spinach), chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups milk
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup grated cheese
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 200C and grease an ovenproof dish (a pie dish, or similar).
Fry onions until they’re just starting to brown. Meanwhile, steam your spinach. If, like me, you are a little bit lazy and like to save on washing up, fry your onions for a couple of minutes and then just bung all your chopped leaves on top and put a lid on so that the onions fry at the bottom of the pan and the leaves steam on top. It works, and you’re going to mix it all together afterwards anyway.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and add the milk and flour. Season. The mixture will be quite thin, this is fine.
Add the grated cheese, onion and chard and stir everything together.
Pour into a greased oven dish.
Bake for 45 minutes on the middle shelf – it will puff up, and after you’ve taken it out it will sink back down. This is normal.
For the beetroot, just peel, chop into quarters, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (or more if you’re feeling adventurous) and pop into the oven for 30-40 minutes.
Spinach & Paneer and Mung Daal
We have Indian food once a week and spinach & paneer is a bit of a favourite. I have made my own paneer before and it was delicious, but the blocks you buy from the cheese section of the supermarket or from Asian grocery stores are perfectly good too. This recipe makes better spinach & paneer (saag paneer, whatever) than you’ll ever find in a restaurant. As an aside, saag doesn’t necessarily mean ‘spinach’ – it can be another green too, and in India is more likely to be something like mustard greens.
Spinach & Paneer
1 bag/bunch washed spinach leaves (wash it carefully if you’ve bought it from a greengrocer, to get rid of any mud or grit)
1 block paneer, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp green masala (or 2 green chillies, 1 garlic clove and a small blob of ginger, all finely chopped)
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp dhana jeeru (or 1/4 each of coriander and cumin powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch fresh methi (fenugreek leaves) – optional
In a big frying pan or saucepan, fry the onions in some oil. The pan you choose needs to be big enough to hold all the greens.
Meanwhile, pick the methi leaves off their stalks and shred them, along with the spinach. You can do this as finely or roughly as you like. My mum doesn’t even both at all - it’s all going to wilt down anyway.
Once the onions are just starting to brown, add the green masala, dried spices and salt.
Stir the mixture and fry for about 30 seconds, and then pile your shredded spinach and methi leaves (if using) on top.
Don’t worry about stirring anything yet, it’ll just make a mess, just turn down the heat a little and put a lid on. This will allow the greens to steam and wilt down.
After a few minutes it should all have reduced in size by about half, which will make stirring a lot easier. Give it a mix and pop the lid back on.
Let the whole thing cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it starts to release too much liquid, just keep the lid off.
The spinach is ready once most of the liquid has cooked off, and the leaves are a deep dark green. It looks delicious when the leaves are bright and fresh, but the flavour won’t be nearly as intense.
Add your paneer and mix everything together, leaving it all to cook until the paneer has heated through completely and softened nicely.
We also had mung daal (recipe will be shared another time), and the last of the tuwar ringan sakh from the other day. All eaten with rice and homemade chapattis.
Spinach & Egg Pizza (an almost fail)
Dinner was very nearly a disaster today, but what we ended up with was actually pretty decent. Not at all as it should have been, but definitely more than just ‘edible’.
The plan (if it can even be called that) was to make Ottolenghi’s egg, spinach and pecorino pizza. It might have been a reality if I’d taken more than just a passing glance at the recipe, and a peek in the fridge, before visiting the supermarket. In my rush, I’d failed to notice the za’atar lurking in the ingredients list. And I’d assumed we had a hefty block of gruyere rather than just three grates more than the rind. As for pecorino, there was none. Hardly the end of the world I know, and certainly nothing a bit of improv couldn’t fix. Bulk out the gruyere with some cheddar, forget the sumac and za’atar and go with oregano and chilli flakes, and maybe a bit of garlic.
But then we had a mishap with the bread machine, an oversight with the quantities that resulted in a floury soup instead of an elastic dough (woe). I could have cried. Karl rescued it with some extra flour and yeast and a vigorous beating, and then rolled it out very thin. We brushed on some garlicky olive oil, sprinkled over the finely grated gruyere and mature cheddar, arranged the wilted spinach (which had shrunk to a puny amount) and topped it with some oregano, chilli flakes and black pepper, before popping it into the oven (180C). Five mins before it was ready to come out, we cracked over two eggs.
It was (thankfully) pretty damn tasty, all things considered. A minute less in the oven would have given us nice runny yolks, and it could’ve done with twice as much spinach and another egg. The base was perhaps a little too crispy for a pizza, but the cheese, garlic and other flavours worked really very well.
Would I make it again? Hell yes. Sure I’d make a few changes to our (ahem) process, but pizza fiorentina is a classic enough topping for you to know that spinach and egg are going to work together here. And I’d definitely do the whole thing exactly the same but without the spinach and eggs to make some incredible crackers.
As for the apple turnovers I just tried to make, you don’t even want to know. Fail. Mary Berry wouldn’t deign to look at it even if you threw it at her. Hey ho, I guess there’s always leftover chocs from Christmas.