Spiced Peas and “Paneer”

Spiced Peas and “Paneer”

The tour of India continues from my humble home. I found another recipe from the eloquent chef Anupy Singla, this time from her vegan cookbook—hence the quotation marks in the title. This recipe uses tofu in place of Paneer, making it both vegan and appropriate for those of us that have not climbed the evolutionary ladder enough to be able to drink milk in the adulthood.

I know what you are thinking: tofu is despicable. I used to agree, but then I found out that one should drain the tofu from the remaining liquid. Then, it acts as a sponge, and picks up the flavours from the sauce, so you cannot distinguish the original taste. Some people find the texture off-putting, but I am fortunately not one of those people, so I really enjoyed this dish.

To drain the tofu of its liquid, you put it between two folded pieces of kitchen paper and place some weight on top of it; a Le Creuset pan works well. Leave it for about 2 hours, and it is ready to use.

This recipe is available online also here. In the recipe, the “draining” is done by baking the tofu in the oven, but I find my procedure much simpler (and lower in energy costs!), so I will stick to it.

I left the original amounts of chilli in the recipe below; in my version, I reduced it to half of one chilli, as I am from the Mediterranean. Another deviation is that I did not blend the mixture, as I find the chunkiness appealing.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 heaping teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 5-cm cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom pod
1 large yellow or red onion, peeled and minced (2 cups [300 g])
1 5-cm piece ginger root, peeled and grated or minced
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or minced
1 can chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste
2-4 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped
700 mL water, divided
1 heaping teaspoon garam masala
1 heaping teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
450 g frozen peas
400 g tofu, drained and cubed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Procedure

1. In a large, heavy pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

2. Add the cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom and cook until the seeds sizzle, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the onion and cook until browned, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the ginger root and garlic. Cook for another minute, stirring to avoid sticking.

5. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chiles, 300 mL of the water, garam masala, coriander, red chile powder, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

6. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and cardamom. Blend the mixture, either using an immersion blender or by transferring it to a blender or food processor. (This step is not necessary, but it adds smoothness to your final dish.)

7. Add the peas, drained tofu cubes, and remaining 400 mL water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, uncovered.

8. Garnish with the cilantro. Serve with brown or white basmati rice, roti, or naan.

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