Paneer is a totally vegetarian Indian white cheese. I would say it has a texture similar to halloumi, (but without the salty flavour) and is delicious in Indian cooking.
Although I am half Indian, I can’t remember eating much paneer at home. Strangely enough, I fell in love with paneer in Vietnam. When I was travelling around South East Asia with my boyfriend, we met an interesting guy in a guest house in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We discussed books, the best hotels and places to eat. He had been living in Ho Chi Minh City and drew us a map on the back on a receipt. He recommended an Indian restaurant called Mumtaz on Bui Vien (road) and said we had to order the paneer tikka (grilled paneer). So of course, a week later, after we took the $10 bus crossing over from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, Lewis and I went to try out this personally recommended restaurant. The food was absolutely delicious, especially the paneer tikka which was coated in spices, skewered and grilled.
Since then, I often choose the vegetarian option in Indian restaurants simply to eat paneer. I understand that the slightly rubbery texture is not for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it then here are two recipes for you to try. I can only hope that you like at least one of them!
You can buy paneer at most supermarkets (in the cheese aisle) and it is very easy to cook. Here are my two favourite ways.
Both my recipes are designed as side dishes. They are perfect served hot with rice, a chapatti and any curry or a lentil dahl.
Start to finish time: 15 minutes
250g cubed paneer
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil
For the coating:
3 tbsps plain flour
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1. Mix all the coating ingredients in a bowl. Add the cubed paneer and stir it up so that all the paneer is covered in the mix.
2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add the paneer. Fry on a high heat and keep tossing the paneer so that is doesn’t burn.
3. When the coating looks golden and crispy, move the paneer to a plate covered with a napkin and dry off any excess oil.
Yum no. 1, done!
Paneer with Spinach and Peas
Start to finish time: 40 minutes
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
250g paneer, cubed
5 blocks frozen spinach
75g frozen peas
1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil
1 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp water
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
salt & pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1. Gently fry the onion, ginger and garlic in the oil until softened. Heat the spices in a separate pan and then add to the onion pan.
2. Add the frozen spinach and peas and stir through. When the spinach has started to cook, add the water, coriander and tomato puree. Stir through.
3. In a separate pan, dry fry the paneer until golden and then add to the main pot. Keep stirring on medium heat for about 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle. Add salt and pepper to taste.
You can also experiment with other vegetables, such as: cauliflower, tinned tomatoes, and cubed potato.
What is your favourite paneer recipe? Did you try my recipe? I’d love to hear from you.