This time round on KCC we’ve been inspired to take on a curry house favourite of ours, matar paneer, cubes of fresh white cheese cooked with peas in a spicy tomato-rich gravy.
We’ve been in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the last two weeks to polish off the final chapter in a gruelling two-year run of Central Asian elections. While browsing around the supermarket, we came across a pack of locally made Ricotta cheese. Its dry, crumbly texture immediately reminded us of fresh paneer cheese from the Indian sub-continent, bringing to mind matar paneer.
This white cheese does not taste of much on its own so it needs to soak up some flavour. We prepared a tomato gravy and then marinated the cubes of cheese and the peas in the sauce overnight before heating it through just before serving. For any vegans reading, substitute chunks of plain tofu for the paneer cheese – tofu is another ingredient that benefits from being marinated for a while. Serve with our pumpkin dhal and rice or flat bread.
Ingredients (makes 4 servings)
3 medium tomatoes (approx 250 g)
1 medium onion
1 clove of garlic
200 g paneer cheese or tofu
250 g peas (tinned, frozen or fresh if you can get them)
25 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cm knob of chopped ginger
1 small bunch fresh coriander
Finely chop the onion and cook for five minutes in the oil over a medium heat in a heavy-based pan. Turn down to a low heat and add the spices and the minced garlic and stir well. Cook for another two minutes and then add the chopped, peeled tomatoes. Cook for 20-30 minutes over a low heat until the tomatoes have formed a smooth gravy with the onions.
Allow the sauce to cool and then add the white cheese (paneer) or tofu, cut into 1 cm cubes, and the peas and mix well. Leave to marinate for an hour or two at least – overnight in the fridge is better, and then heat through. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving with our pumpkin dhal and rice. Also goes well with a flat bread of your choice.
Over the last few days, we’ve been experimenting with perfecting a batter to make pakora – a deep-fried snack from the Indian sub-continent. After testing a few recipes we’ve hit on a formula that can be used to coat a variety of vegetables from cauliflowers to carrots, parsnips to peas, and also cheese!
While on a recent visit to the UK, we came across battered halloumi on many menus – the squeaky cheese from Cyprus that stays firm when cooked. We’ve discovered that it makes a perfect partner for our pakora batter when deep-fried. We recommend you try it with this spicy Yemini sauce, zhug.
But you’ll need to be quick, as halloumi has been a victim of its own success. Severe global shortages of this versatile cheese are predicted as demand far outstrips supply. Luckily for us here in Kazakhstan, a local producer has started making a version of this cheese. We’re pleased to report that it tastes pretty good, so for now the crisis has been averted in our winter base.
Ingredients (makes enough batter for a sliced up 250 g block of halloumi)
100 g chickpea flour (also known as gram flour or besan)
One small onion
1 cm knob of ginger
One garlic clove
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
One tablespoon of fresh coriander
50-100 ml cold water
Mix all the ingredients together with a fork or a whisk, adding water until you get a smooth consistency that is neither too runny not too thick with no lumps. Cover the batter with clingfilm and let it stand for an hour or so before using.
Heat a litre of cooking oil, we used sunflower oil but any will do, in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat until it reaches 180 c. To test the temperature, dip a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil – if the oil starts to bubble vigorously, then it is at the right temperature.
Slice a 250 g block of halloumi into eight pieces. Coat the halloumi slices in the pakora batter and drop into the oil. When the pakora rise to the surface and are a golden-brown colour, remove with a slotted metal spoon and drain on kitchen towel.
Serve hot with potato wedges or roast potatoes and minted peas. The pakora goes well with a coriander and coconut chutney – this site has a good recipe for this sauce, or with our zhugsauce.
Welcome to the first Knidos Cookery Club of the new year. While many of us have returned to the daily grind, it’s still party-time in some parts of the world.
in Russia, people are preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve on 13 January – the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which Russia adopted after 1917’s October Revolution. This switch created a 13-day lag between the calendars so, for followers of the Orthodox faith, Christmas Eve falls on 6 January and 13 January marks the end of the old year.
A centre-piece of Russian tables on this day, as people prepare to welcome in novy god, is the Olivier salad – a concoction of boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, peas, eggs, carrots and boiled beef or chicken in a mayonnaise dressing. This version dates from Soviet times as all the ingredients could usually be procured even in the depths of winter and despite chronic shortages.
A version of the salad, omitting the meat and eggs, is made in Turkey where it’s known as Rus Salatası – we’ve made our own veggie version that replaces the meat (Olivier purists look aside now, please) with black and green olives and uses sour cream in place of mayonnaise.
When I lived in Moscow in the 1990s I got it into my head that Olivier salad should include olives (mistakenly thinking that Olivier referred to olives rather than the salad’s originator!) and I was disappointed when it came minus olives – so now I finally have a chance to put this right!
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
150 g potatoes
150 g carrots
150 g peas
150 g pickled cucumbers
150 g black and green olives
two hard boiled eggs
150 ml sour cream or natural yogurt
pinches of salt and black pepper
Boil the whole carrots and potatoes until cooked but not going mushy and boil the eggs for 5 minutes or so. While they’re all cooking, chop the pickled cucumbers and olives into small cubes.
Drain the potatoes and carrots and cover with cold water to stop them cooking. Do the same with the eggs. Chop the potatoes, carrots and eggs into small cubes and arrange around the side of a large serving dish in separate sections with the olives, peas and cucumbers.
Pour the sour cream or yogurt into the middle of the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Now mix all the ingredients thoroughly, making sure they all get a good coating of sour cream or yogurt.
Leave in the fridge before serving alongside other Russian-themed salads, such as this veggie take on caviar made from beluga lentils, and wish a hearty S Novym Godom with shots of vodka and/or a glass of chilled Sovyetskoye Shampankskoye (if you can get hold of it in your local offie!) as you prepare to welcome Old New Year in true Russian-style!