Much of this blog so far seems to have seen me wistfully wandering country lanes in a fog of elderflowers and bluebells. But the truth of it is that I live in the city, where urbanity meets suburbia. It’s not very pretty and sometimes it’s a bit noisy and scary. But in just a ten minute walk, the culinary world is at my fingertips. From kaffir lime leaves to mango powder, salt-fish to kecap manis, I can buy pretty much any ingredient from around the world. And above all, I can eat curry. In the space of a mile I can eat Sri Lankan curry, Pakistani curry, Indian curry, Caribbean curry, Nepalese curry, Bangladeshi curry. It’s fair to say if I’m not cooking with cheese, I’m cooking a curry. But this is a blog about cheese. Cheese and curry?
Now in the deepest, darkest recesses of the web there are some recipes for Cheddar cheese curry. Now whilst I would hate to do anyone’s recipes down and I know you shouldn’t knock anything until you try it, I must confess that the thought makes me queasy. I love Cheddar cheese. And I love curry. But Cheddar cheese curry? Not on my watch. So it’s fortunate we have paneer. Cheese at its simplest, paneer is made by adding an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to hot milk to separate the curds from the whey (much like my feeble attempt at queso blanco). Whilst cheeses made with rennet melt, those made with acid don’t and so they’re ideal for cooking with.
This recipe is adapted from the wonderful Noon Book of Authentic Indian Cookery, which sadly seems to be out of print these days. I’ll admit that it has a tendency to look a bit like pond slime but it tastes incredible as the sauce is made from handfuls of fresh coriander and mint, lightly spiced and with the crunch of cashew nuts and coconut. Named after an Indian mountain range where herbs and spices grow in abundance, it’s fresh-tasting and mild – ideal for a summer curry.
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 green chillies, seeded and chopped
200g fresh coriander
100g fresh mint
100g cashew nuts, fried
150ml vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
200g onions, sliced
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp red chilli powder
150g desiccated coconut
150ml coconut milk
2 x 227g packs of paneer cheese, cut into cubes and lightly fried to brown (you don’t have to brown them but I find it improves the texture and flavour).
Put the ginger, garlic, chillies, coriander, mint and 250ml of water in a blender and process to a smooth paste. Add the fried cashew nuts and 150ml and puree.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the whole spices and let them crackle for ten seconds. Add the onions and fry until golden brown. Add the ground spices, desiccated coconut and salt to taste and fry until the coconut starts to brown.
Reduce the heat, add the herb and nut paste and cook, stirring, for about ten minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk and 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cubes of paneer and cook for 5 minutes until they are warmed through. Serve with rice or breads.
Oh – and if there’s a recipe in existence for Stilton Curry, keep it to yourself, yes?
This recipe uses fresh coriander and mint so I am adding it to this month’s Herbs on Saturday Recipe Sharing Blog Challenge, hosted by Karen Burns-Booth at Lavender and Lovage.