Aah, the wonderful flavors and smells of Indian spices all come together in Paneer Curry with Tomatoes, Kale and Peas, with its delicious balance of spices and veggies and colors and textures.
Curry is actually a generic term coined by the English for the wonderful spicy foods of India. In authentic Indian cooking, the spices are freshly ground daily, with the actual combination depending upon the region and the cook. Not as eager to grind my own spices these days, I depend on the excellent curry powders from Penzeys which are blends of many spices, herbs and seeds. Among those most commonly used are turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, mace, chilies and coriander.
Many of these spices are known for their health benefits, such as cinnamon’s ability to protect against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In the West, turmeric has become a rising star of the spice world—being so much more than just the ingredient that makes commercial curry powders yellow.
Turmeric and Curcumin
Native to Indonesia and southern India, turmeric has been harvested for over 5000 years. With a peppery flavor, ginger-like aroma and deep yellow-orange color, turmeric’s place in history has been as a spice, a fabric dye and a medicinal herb. Called the “spice of life” by traditional Chinese and Indian healers, turmeric continues to be prescribed to treat a multitude of conditions from joint pain to toothaches, cuts and burns to colic.
Western scientists investigating curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric, are corroborating its wide range of medicinal uses. An added bonus is curcumin’s lack of negative side effects.
Indian Paneer is an easily made-at-home, fresh cow’s milk cheese—though I buy it at our local food co-op. Paneer has little flavor of its own yet it most wonderfully takes on the flavors in which it is cooked. It doesn’t melt but maintains its shape when sautéed and quickly develops and retains a beautiful golden brown crustiness even after cooking with the tomatoes in this recipe.
Comfort in a Bowl
A most wonderful dish, gluten-free Paneer Curry is comfort in a bowl with lots of vegetables, a little protein and a bit of spiciness balanced by the rice—an especially delicious way to add more turmeric (curcumin) to our diet and begin reaping its many health benefits.
Paneer Curry goes well with a refreshing spoonful of cucumber Raita made from peeled and grated, seedless or seeded cucumbers tossed with plain yoghurt, sliced scallion, chopped cilantro and a dash of cumin.
Inspired by and adapted from a recipe by Ivy Manning in Bon Appetit Magazine.
Paneer Curry is delicious served over brown or basmati rice which balances the spiciness. When there is no paneer to be found, or you prefer a vegan entrée, replace it with equally mild-tasting firm or extra-firm tofu.
A note on curry powder: I normally use Penzey’s Sweet Curry Powder; however, if I don’t have a Serrano pepper, I’ll replace the Sweet Curry Powder with Penzeys Hot Curry Powder instead.
Makes about 6 servings
½ pound paneer cut into ½ – ¾ inch cubes
1 tablespoon brown rice flour
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, peeled, cut into large chunks
2 14-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Serrano chili, seeds removed and finely minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ cup water
1 bunch Lacinato kale, stems cut into ½ inch pieces and leaves cut into 1 inch strips
1½ cups green peas (frozen or fresh)
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Toss the paneer in the brown rice flour. Put the paneer into a sieve and shake to remove any excess flour.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot add the paneer and cook until each piece is golden brown and crisp on at least two sides. Remove from the pan onto a paper towel. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
Finely chop the onion in a food processor using the pulse button. Be careful not to over process as the onion will sometimes turn green and watery. 🙁 Remove the onion and set aside. Pour both cans of tomatoes into the processor and pulse a couple of times to break them down but maintain some texture.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the sauté pan and stir in the minced onion and cumin seeds. Stir occasionally until the onion begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the minced ginger, crushed garlic, minced Serrano, coriander, curry powder and turmeric and cook for about 1 minute.