Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery?
A while ago, I went to Colony in Marylebone. They have a luxurious lounge area with inspired cocktails and a delicious selection of bar snacks. Not just crisps or nuts, but something that is best described as “Indian tapas”. Little dishes to graze on before going for dinner.
Today’s recipe is my attempt to recreate one of their dishes, a block of paneer cheese with a fresh coriander (cilantro) sauce. It took a few attempts to get something that I was happy with. First time round I marinated the paneer in oil and the spices overnight, but when I fried it, it just seemed to have a thick coating of rather flavourless spices. Second time round was much better. I abandoned the marinade, and instead fried the paneer until golden, the added the spices, with salt and some water. The theory was that this would form a spicy “sauce” that would reduce down, and at the same time flavour the paneer. And, happily, this worked like a dream. The paneer stays soft and moist, and the flavours worked together beautifully. And, ahm, the use of a little salt makes all the difference to the flavour.
The blocks of spicy paneer work well with the coriander sauce. Mint might have seemed like the more obvious choice, but the coriander flavour is more subtle yet also fresh, and the combination with the turmeric and curry was just delicious. As good as Colony’s version? Well, not quite, but then they are the experts, and I still need to have some incentive to go back there for dinner. But in the meantime, I am still pretty thrilled with how this turned out and will be looking to serving this as a starter some time soon.
To make pan-fried paneer with coriander sauce (serves 4):
• Block of paneer (around 200-250g)
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 10g fresh coriander leaves
• 6 tablespoons natural yoghurt
Cut the paneer into slabs, depending on the number of people to be served. Add the oil to the frying pan, and cook the paneer on both sides until browned.
Add the spices and salt to the pan, and add 150ml water. Stir so that the spices and salt are combined with the water. Keep cooking on a medium heat. The paneer should start taking on a neon yellow colour.
Cook over a gentle heat until the water has evaporated and the paneer is coated in the spices. If the paneer looks too dry, add another tablespoon of oil
To prepare the sauce: place the coriander and yoghurt in a blender with salt (to taste) and blitz until smooth. The sauce should be a fresh, light green colour.
Serve the paneer warm with the sauce and a sprig of fresh coriander or mint.
Worth making? This was a little tricky for me to get right at first, but the above method works well and the result is delicious. Worth all the effort in developing it, and happy that it’s actually quite easy to make.