Paneer, a non-aged fresh cheese made in India, is a common ingredient in Indian vegetarian cooking. Made by pressing fresh cottage cheese into a block, it’s often made at home but also readily available at the supermarket. As it has little flavour of its own, it’s a hugely versatile ingredient, and works in both savoury and sweet dishes. In this paneer pilau (sanar pulao) recipe from Mridula Baljekar’s Indian Vegan & Vegetarian cookbook, the cubed and fried paneer takes on the delicious flavours of the spices added to the rice.
Indian Paneer Pilau (Sanar Pulao)
- 225 g (8oz( basmati rice
- 50 g (2oz/4 tbsp) ghee or coconut oil or 15ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil and 25g (1oz/2 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 225 g (8oz) paneer (Indian cheese) or a vegan alternative, cut into bitesize pieces
- 6 green cardamom pods,bruised
- 4 cloves
- 2.5 cm (1in) piece of cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1-2 fresh green chillies, finely chopped (seeded if preferred)
- 2.5 ml (½ tsp) ground turmeric
- 5 ml (1 tsp) salt, or to taste
- 115 g (4oz) garden peas, thawed if frozen
- 25 g (1oz) seedless raisins
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) toasted flaked almonds to garnish
Variation: You can replace the paneer with halloumi, but omit the salt in step 4. You can also replace the frozen peas with frozen corn or soya beans, or with fresh broad beans or sliced green beans.
Wash the rice thoroughly in several changes of water, then soak it in fresh cold water for 20 minutes. Leave it to drain in a sieve or strainer.
In a heavy frying pan, heat the fat over a medium heat. Add the paneer or vegan alternative and sauté for 2–3 minutes, until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves to the remaining fat in the pan. Allow to sizzle for a few minutes, then add the onion and chillies. Fry for 15 minutes, until the onion is a caramel-brown colour, stirring regularly.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the rice, turmeric, salt, browned paneer or vegan alternative, peas and raisins. Mix it all gently together and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes.
Pour in 450ml/¾ pint water and bring it to the boil. Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 8–9 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for about 10 minutes.
Fluff up the rice with a fork and transfer to a serving dish. Serve, garnished with the almonds.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Indian Vegan & Vegetarian by Mridula Baljekar from publisher publisher Lorenz Books. Home cooked recipe photography, by Mr and Mrs NotLeafy.