Cook and vegetable grower Kathy Slack shares her recipe for spice-loaded pea and paneer curry that makes an excellently fragrant dish
“Don’t use fresh peas for this recipe. That might seem contrary to everything I stand for, but actually it isn’t. I say it to protect the peas. Fresh peas are delicate things and haven’t got anything like the required guts to stand up for themselves against loud flavours.
Their soft, pure green tune would be lost in the cacophony of curry, so using them would be a waste of their talents. But frozen peas, which have a brash, robust sweetness, shout loudly enough to be heard on their own, so save their subtler siblings for a more intricate task.”
50 minutes, plus optional overnight ‘maturing’
• 4 tbsp sunflower oil
• 1 large onion, sliced
• 3 fat garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, grated
• 1 red chilli, finely chopped (and seeds removed if you like a mild curry)
• 2 tsp cumin seeds
• 2 tsp coriander seeds
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 15 dried curry leaves
• 2×400g tins chopped tomatoes
• 450g paneer, cut into 2cm cubes
• 400g frozen peas
• 2 tbsp mango chutney or piccalilli
• 1 tsp nigella seeds, plus extra to serve
• a small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
• natural yogurt
• rice or flatbreads
1 Heat 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil in a large, wide non-stick saucepan over a medium-high heat. Fry the onion for 8–10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and blonde.
2 Reduce the heat a little, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook gently for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Scoop the mixture into a small food processor and whizz to an oniony paste.
3 In the same pan, fry the cumin and coriander seeds over a medium high heat until their fragrance fills the kitchen, about 2–3 minutes. Tip into a pestle and mortar and crush to a coarse powder.
4 Return the powdered seeds to the pan, along with another tablespoon of oil and the onion paste, ground cumin, ground coriander and curry leaves. Muddle them around the pan for a couple of minutes, then pour in the tomatoes and half a tomato tin of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15–20 minutes until thickened.
5 Meanwhile, take a non-stick frying pan and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over a high heat. Add the paneer and fry for 1–2 minutes on each side until golden. Tip the paneer into the pan of tomato sauce, then stir in the peas, chutney or piccalilli, nigella seeds and a pinch of salt. Bubble for a final 3–4 minutes.
6 Tuck in at this point if you must, but I cannot stress how much this dish will improve if you leave it to cool, then refrigerate overnight: everything will become richer, silkier and even more delicious.
7 To reheat, warm the curry over a low heat until it bubbles. Top with chopped coriander leaves and a sprinkling of nigella seeds, and serve with a dollop of natural yogurt and some rice or flatbreads.
Extract taken from the book: From the Veg Patch by Kathy Slack (Ebury Press, £25). Photography by Kathy Slack