Paneer, pepper and spinach curry

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Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese that is so versatile and can be used in a whole host of dishes however, sometimes, only a curry will do. I have written this recipe to be medium heat but of course if you are a chilli fiend then simply add in some extra along the way. After a festive season of excess and plenty of meat this recipe is a welcome break from heavy meals. Of course, if you can’t stand to wave goodbye to meat then this curry is perfect for chicken. I have kept the curry is purposefully light and fresh so the paneer is packed with flavour but not swimming in sauce. If, however, you want a curry that is saucier then you can add more tomatoes and reduce it less.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the curry paste
2-2 Kashmiri chilies
3tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tso ground fenugreek
2 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp curry powder
Pinch of salt

For the rest of the curry
Vegetable oil
1 block paneer- cubed
1 tbsp cornflour
1 onion- sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ajwan seeds
1 red and 1 green bell pepper- chopped
5 vine tomatoes- chopped
Small bag of spinach- washed and roughly chopped
1 tsp garam masala
Fresh coriander to serve (optional)

1. The first thing you will need to do is soak the dried Kashmiri chillies for a little while- around 20minutes will usually do the trick. Whilst they soak you can make the curry paste; simply combine all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add a splash of water to bring the paste together. Set aside.

2. In  a large bowl, toss the paneer cubes with the cornflour and a little seasoning. Heat a good glug of oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat to medium-high. Fry the paneer on each side until golden and crisp before removing from the pan and blotting onto kitchen paper to remove any excess oil. Take a third of the curry paste and toss through the paneer. Use a little more kitchen roll to wipe out the pan and add another glug of oil before turning the heat down to low.

3. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook until softening. At that stage add the mustard seeds, ajwan seeds and cook for a further couple of minutes.Stir through the remaining curry paste. Pop in the chopped bell peppers and continue to cook for a few minutes. If the pan starts looking a little dry then simply add a splash of water and mix it through the onions and peppers.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, an extra splash of water and simmer until the tomatoes start to break down and reduce. Don’t be tempted to rush this as the longer it has the richer the sauce will be! When the curry is a few minutes away from being ready, take the marinated paneer and roughly chopped spinach and add to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the paneer is warmed through and the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle over the garam masala and stir to combine. Serve the curry in warmed bowls with rice or flatbreads on the side. A liberal helping of coriander to finish the dish is optional!

Paneer, pepper and spinach curry- a great way to start the New Year, plenty of flavour and no turkey in sight!

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Truffle and parmesan risotto

This is not just any old risotto, this is a deliciously indulgent risotto making the best of Italian ingredients so it is perfect for a celebration. Truffles have become more accessible and can be bought in most good supermarkets or specialist food markets. Black truffles are cheaper than their highly prized white counterparts making them ideal for trying truffles for the first time. Truffles are wonderfully earthy and pungent and are best served when they are just warmed through to really bring out the flavours.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Knob of unsalted butter
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 shallot- finely chopped
200g risotto rice- I use carnaroli
60ml dry white wine
600ml hot vegetable stock
50g freshly grated parmesan
20-30g black truffle

1. Take a large pan that is suitable for cooking the risotto in. Heat the pan over a low heat and melt the butter. Gently cook the garlic and shallot until they are softened but not yet catching colour. Add in the rice and stir thoroughly to combine and so the butter coats the rice grains.

2. Pour in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Now for the stock! Add a little at a time and wait for the rice to absorb it before adding the next lot. Stir during this part of the process to give a creamy finish.

3. When the rice is cooked but remains al dente (soggy risotto rice is a definite no- no!), remove the pan from the heat. Take the truffle and grate half of if and thinly slice the rest. Stir in the parmesan, grated truffle and a little more butter; allow to the risotto to stand for a moment or two so the truffle warms and releases its flavour. Sometimes truffles come with some truffle juice, if it does then also add this in to boost the flavour even more. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and top the risotto with the sliced truffle.

Truffle and parmesan risotto- pure indulgence!

Cavolo nero and bacon tartiflette

Tartiflette is a comforting French dish popular amongst those heading to Alpine resorts. Just picture the scene, coming back in from a day on the slopes and in need of a comforting dish to warm you up whilst sipping a glass of wine or two in front of a roaring log fire- heaven! If you like potato, cheese and bacon then this is the perfect dish for you! In my version I have added cavolo nero as a nod towards one of your five a day but you could leave it out if you prefer or replace with spinach if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
150g smoked bacon lardons
250g cavolo nero- washed
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 shallot- finely chopped
Knob of unsalted butter
800g waxy potatoes, such as King Edwards
400g Reblochon or Camembert cheese
300ml double cream
120ml vegetable stock

1. Firstly preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a frying pan and heat over a medium heat; fry off the lardons until golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Keep an bacon fat which is in the pan. Shred that leaves of the cavolo nero and fry in the pan along with the garlic and shallot until wilted. Remove and set aside.

2. Rub a little softened butter in the inside of a baking dish approximately 20cm x 25cm in size. I sometimes use individual baking dishes so everyone has their own so it’s up to you.

3. Cut the potatoes into 3mm thin slices and layer in the dish with the cavolo nero, bacon and half of the cheese. Leave the thinnest potato slices for the top so they go crispy when it’s cooked. Season the layers as you go.

4. Pour over the cream and stock and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden and bubbling. Allow to stand for few minutes before digging in.

Cavolo nero and bacon tartiflette- go off piste with my version of this Alpine classic! The diet starts tomorrow…

Crispy chilli ginger beef

Crispy chilli beef can be a thing of beauty unless you order it from the wrong Chinese takeaway and then it can become the thing of nightmares so if you don’t want to run the risk of being disappointed I suggest you try making this at home. My version is quick, easy and big on flavour. I have added ginger alongside the classic chilli to give it even more punch so add as much or as little as you fancy.

I served this beef as part of a Chinese feast with beansprout egg noodles, stir fried choy sum, prawn toast and crispy seaweed (you know, the one that is actually lettuce or cabbage). For this, simply shred cabbage leaves finely and fry in oil until crisp; sprinkle with sugar, salt and some five spice.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 sirloin steaks
1 1/2 tbsps cornflour
Salt
Vegetable or groundnut oil

For the sauce:
2 tsps Szechuan peppercorns
100ml rice wine vinegar
100g sugar
4tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
Freshly grated ginger

1. Start off by cutting the sirloin steak into thin pieces. Toss in the cornflour and season well with salt; set aside.

2. For the sauce, take a small pan and dry fry the Szechuan peppercorns. Grind in a pestle and mortar. Combine the rice wine vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and honey in a small pan. Gently heat over a medium heat and stir to ensure the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer so it reduces, thickens and turns glossy.

3. Meanwhile, add enough oil to a wok so that it is enough to shallow fry the beef strips. Heat the oil until it is hot enough to turn a piece of bread golden. Shake off any excess cornflour and lower the beef carefully into the wok. Fry until golden and crispy. Drain off the oil and return the beef back to the wok. To the sauce add the ginger and ground peppercorns and combine well. Add the sauce to the wok and simmer until the sauce is sticky and glossy. Serve with noodles or rice.

Crispy chilli and ginger beef- my take on a takeaway classic!

Spicy Szechuan tofu with beansprout noodles

Spicy, crispy, sticky tofu with super savoury noodles are a match made in heaven. At least once a week an Asian dish hits our dinner table and satisfies the midweek cravings that only Chinese can fulfil. I have used ‘Facing Heaven’ chillies that are used in the Szechuan province to add heat and colour to a range of dishes. They are mild enough to use whole in dishes to flavour but can be chopped if you prefer. If you cannot find them then use red dried chillies but adjust the quantities based on the strength of them- don’t get caught out! The beansprout noodles I served the tofu with are a great accompaniment to any Chinese main meal that you’ll keep coming back to.

Like a lot of my Asian recipes, the ingredients need a little time to prepare in advance as the dish comes together at speed so it pays to be organised.

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Ingredients- serves 2
1 pack of firm tofu
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp ground nut oil
Handful of ‘Facing Heaven chillies’
1-2 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 garlic clove- crushed
2cm piece of fresh ginger- grated
Small red bell pepper and small green bell pepper
4 spring onions- sliced in the diagonal

For the noodle sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp oyster or Hoisin sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour mixed into 2 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove- crushed
Small pack of beansprouts
1 head of shredded pak choi (optional)
2 nests of medium egg noodles

1. To start things off, make sure your ingredients are all prepared so you don’t have to scramble around your kitchen. Make the sauce for the noodles first by combining the vinegar, rice wine, soy, oyster or hoisin sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic. In a small bowl mix the cornflour with the water before adding into the sauce. Set aside.

2. Next, get going on the tofu. Take it from the pack and pat dry; if there is a lot of moisture with the tofu you buy then press firmly for a few minutes to remove excess water. Cut the tofu into bite size chunks, season with salt and sprinkle the cornflour over them, making sure that each piece is coated. Take a non- stick frying pan or wok and add 1 tbsp of groundnut oil over a medium to high heat. Take the tofu in a couple of batches and fry off until golden and crisp. Remove the first batch with a slotted spoon and blot on kitchen paper before frying the remaining batch.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a wok and heat the ‘facing heaven chillies’ over a medium heat for a few minutes. The chillies will release their flavour and turn the oil a wonderful shade of red. Add in the garlic and ginger and cook for an additional minute before adding the peppers; cooking these until the peppers are starting to soften. Spoon in the bean paste and stir well to coat the peppers. You are aiming for the peppers to retain some bite. Toss the tofu chunks into the wok and cook until heated through. You will find the sauce thickens as the cooking continues to give a sticky, savoury finish. Add the sliced spring onions before serving and toss through.

4. In the meantime, prepare the egg noodles are per packet instructions as different brands vary. Prepare them so they are suitable for stir fry; this usually entails soaking them in boiling water for around 4 minutes before draining and then cooking with. Take a separate frying pan or wok and heat a glug of groundnut oil and fry the garlic. Beansprouts and shredded pak choi (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes. Pop the drained noodles in the pan along with the sauce you made earlier. Cook until the noodles are heated through and the sauce is thick and clinging to the strands. If you find it is a little dry then add in a little more oyster/ hoisin or soy sauce.

 

Gnocchi with red pepper, tomato and asiago cheese

Asiago is an Italian cheese that I have recently been using in everything from pasta to salads. It is a sheep’s milk cheese which reminds me of feta in texture and taste. When trying to rustle up a quick dinner the other night I stumbled across some tomatoes and peppers that were nearly seeing better days and, with a few added extras, this gnocchi dish took shape.

I have added another couple of my favourite ingredients here to really lift the flavours- anchovy and capers. The capers add a zip and zing whilst the anchovy dials up the savouriness of the sauce to eleven so do try them! I have kept the tomato sauce purposefully light for this time of year however a similar sauce could be made using tinned tomatoes if you prefer. You could also try baking the gnocchi in the sauce in the oven with a liberal extra sprinkling of the asiago to finish.

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Ingredients- serves 2
400g gnocchi
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
Chilli flakes- as many as you dare
2 anchovy fillets- finely chopped
1 red pepper- finely sliced
6-8 tomatoes- roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers
60g asiago cheese
Handful of freshly torn basil to finish

1. Take a pan and heat a glug of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and anchovy and cook for a couple of minutes. Pop in the red pepper and continue to cook until softening.

2. Next up, the tomatoes followed by the capers. At this stage lower the heat to low and allow the tomatoes to break down and simmer. You want the sauce to be able to lightly coat the gnocchi. If the tomatoes look dry at any point, simply add a splash of water. When the sauce is nearly ready, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes or as directed on the packet. Drain and add the gnocchi to the sauce to finish. Crumble in the asiago and finish with the basil before serving.

Gnocchi with red pepper, tomatoes and asiago cheese- the perfect introduction to this Italian beauty!

 

 

Kimchi rice bowl with braised pork and prawn

After recently restocking my supplies of kimchi I thought it was only right that this kimchi rice with prawns and braised pork belly took pride of place on the dining table. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and has become much easier to get hold of in recent years.

The key to cooking the rice is to prepare it ahead of time so it has plenty of time to cool before stir frying to reheat. This will give you rice that is fluffy without being stodgy. I cover the rice with water and then bring to a boil before simmering with the lid on for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the lid on so it steams. You’ll get perfect rice every time!

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the pork
2 generous slices of belly pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp gochujang paste
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 garlic clove- crushed
1/2 tbsp runny honey
400ml water

For the rice
300g white rice- cooked and cooled
Glug of groundnut oil
50g kimchi- shredded if in larger pieces
1/2 tbsp gochujang paste
Bunch of spring onions- half shredded, half kept whole
1 tbsp sesame seeds
200g raw king prawns

1. Start by preparing the pork belly. Cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pork for 2 minutes before removing from the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain the water and dry the pan before placing it back on the hob over a medium heat.

2. Add the vegetable oil and dissolve the sugar into it. Pop the boiled pork into the pan and cook until golden; this may take a good few minutes so don’t rush it. Combine the gochujang, soy, rice wine vinegar, garlic and honey and add to the pan; stir well to coat the pork before adding the water. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for an hour until the pork is meltingly tender and the sauce is reduced. Towards the end of cooking you may like to remove the lid to help it reduce even more.

3. Next up goes the rice base for the dish. Get going by heating a large wok or frying pan and popping in a little groundnut oil over a medium heat. Add in the kimchi and garlic and cook for a minute before adding the gochujang. Half of the spring onions need to be shredded and added into the pan next before tossing the cooled rice through to heat. Add the pork chunks back into the pan along with the prawns and stir through, cooking until the prawns are cooked through. Sprinkle in the sesame seeds before serving. Lightly trim the remaining spring onions and oil before griddling and serving on top of the rice.

Kimchi rice bowl with prawn and braised pork belly- a delicious introduction to Korean cuisine!