Every now and then, when we were growing up, Mum would find me and my sister wherever we were hiding in the house, whip us into the car and take us to Leicester on a sari shopping expedition. Our only consolation (aside from secretly unravelling beautifully folded saris in the shops) was a dish of freshly prepared chilli paneer from one of the nearby food stalls or cafés afterwards. This dish is as popular with kids as it is with grandparents. Here’s Mum’s recipe for this spectacular street food.
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 400g paneer
- rapeseed oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 fresh green chilli, very finely sliced
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced into rings
- lemon wedges, to serve
Throw the cumin seeds into a pestle and mortar and roughly grind them to a coarse powder. Next cut the paneer into 2cm cubes. Pour a thin coating of oil (2mm) into a large frying pan and bring it to a high heat. Fry the paneer in batches, turning the pieces until golden brown on each side, and transfer them to a paper-towelled dish. Watch out, as the paneer may spit; if so, half cover the pan with a lid.
Put 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan, followed by the garlic, green chilli, cumin, black pepper and salt. Sauté for around 3 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato purée and sugar and stir, then put the paneer back into the pan along with a splash of water. Cover the pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Take the lid off the pan, add the spring onions and simmer until there is no water left. Serve fresh and hot with a squeeze of lemon.