Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Roast Small Red Onions, Shallots and Garlic

Obviously, being a Riverford customer, I am the kind of person who appreciates that to avoid wastage my vegetables are not necessarily always going to be all the same size. But then again, I am also not necessarily the kind of person who has time to peel and chop tiny onions. After all, it takes twice as long as peeling large onions and I never seem to have enough time as it is. So when cooking a roast for my family last week, I rather lazily just chucked all the abandoned, left over small onions in the oven with the chicken. That was it – no peeling, no chopping, just whole – skins and all.  They came out looking pretty much the same as when they went in, but when you peeled back the skin you could squeeze out the melted onion middle and do you know what? They were everybody’s favourite part of the meal.

roast-baby-red-onions-shallots-and-garlic

Roast Small Red Onions, Shallots and Garlic

There is no recipe, because it is too simple – take small red or brown onions, shallots and whole unpeeled garlic cloves and put them on a lined baking sheet (this will save on the washing up.) Put them in the oven at 180C for about 20-40 minutes depending on size. Garlic cloves will cook quicker and obviously, the smaller onions first. You know they are cooked when you can really squish them. Remove them as they are done and leave in the larger ones for longer. Chuck them in with your roast, alongside some sausages or just serve them up with lots of other roast veg. Peel back the skin and squeeze them out. I like to sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on them as I eat them or dip them in any extra olive oil from roasting the potatoes.

small-red-onions

Roast Garlic, Bread and Almond Soup

Got a cold yet? I have had a horrid one I caught off my daughter. Always seem inevitable. Garlic is proven to not only prevent colds but is thought to build up your immune system against getting them as well. So I thought this soup might help. You might think I am going completely mad with this recipe.

roasted-garlic-bread-and-almond-soup-2

I know you don’t usually make soup by toasting unpeeled garlic cloves and bread in the oven. But trust me – it works.

roasted-garlic-bread-and-almond-soup

Roasted Garlic, Bread and Almond Soup

2 large whole head of garlic – about 130g of unpeeled cloves

Extra virgin olive oil

130g good quality sourdough bread

85g whole almonds (I used flaked but just because I wanted to use them up)

2 pints chicken stock (you can use good quality stock cubes)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Break up the garlic into cloves. Cut the bread into slices. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Add the almonds and return to the oven. Cook for about 15 minutes more  until the bread is golden brown toast, the almonds are toasted and the garlic is really soft.  When the garlic is cool enough to handle, tear the skins and squeeze  out the garlic  cloves. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and add the other ingredients. Puree with a hand blender of a liquidizer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil.

roasted-garlic-bread-and-almond-soup-1

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free)

I am particularly pleased with my next recipe. I was planning to make a butternut squash lasagne, as I seem to have acquired a small collection of them in my veg drawer and off course I was going to layer up the usual tomato sauce, béchamel and roast butternut squash with the customary sheets of lasagne when I had a brain wave. Why not cut the butternut squash into thin slices and use them instead of the lasagne sheet, and create a gluten free lasagne?

Everyone these days seems to be making spaghetti with vegetables. In my experience, there is however one major flaw. As soon as your vegetable spaghetti is actually cooked enough to be palatable, it dissolves. Not surprising really, as it has to gluten to keep in together. But this is where my butternut squash lasagne comes into its own. It does not have to stay together and therefore can bake away until totally delicious. The whole family was really very pleasantly surprised.

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free).jpg 5

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free)

Serves 4

You can only use the top of the butternut squash for this recipe as it makes nice “lasagne sheets”, so you will need quite a lot. Use the rest of the squash for another recipe.

1 large butternut squash olive oil

For the tomato sauce

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 garlic clove, finely chopped

400g can plum tomatoes

Finely chopped fresh rosemary

Large head of chard

2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

For the bechamel sauce

50g plain flour (use gluten-free flour for Celiacs)

50g butter

500mls milk

100g cheddar cheese or parmesan

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cut the butternut just where it begins to bulge so that you have a nice even cylinder shape.  Peel the butternut squash and cut with a mandolin into nice thin sheets.

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free) 3

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. In a pan, soften the onion in the oil for 5 mins, then add the celery and garlic and cook for 5 min more. Add the tomatoes, rinse out the tin with a little water and add that too. Add the rosemary. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and leave to simmer, uncovered for 30 mins. Stir from time to time. You should be left with a thick purée. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, if the chard has a large stalk (this is not usually the case early in the season) separate the chard stalks from the leaves and chop both leaves and stalks roughly, keeping them separate. Add the stalks to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2–3 minutes, until tender. Remove the stalks with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the leaves to the boiling water and blanch briefly. Remove and spread out on a dry tea towel to cool. When cool use the tea towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut the wet garlic or garlic into very thin slithers. Heat a little more olive oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic until just turning light golden brown. Add the Chard and season with salt and mix well. Fry briefly and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile make your béchamel. Begin by melting the butter gently – don’t over-heat it or let it brown, as this will affect the colour and flavour of the sauce. As soon as the butter melts, remove from the heat and add the flour. Stir well and return to medium heat and cook until your mixture resembles sand. Now add the milk and whisk. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat and add your grated cheese. Season to taste with salt.

Assemble the lasagne. Put a thin layer of béchamel in your gratin dish and top with a layer of butternut squash sheets, Top with a layer of tomato sauce and some chard. Keep going finishing with a layer of butternut squash topped with béchamel. Bake for 30-40 mins, or until the lasagne is golden and bubbling.

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free)