Halfway between two homes doesn’t sound like one or the other. If you stick a pin between my two motherlands of Aotearoa and old Albion, you are still 14 hours away from each of them. However, this doesn’t mean long pit stops lying on your hand luggage in airport transit, nor contortionist efforts to fit into terminal lounge chairs for a few winks. It means stepping out into another dimension where sights, sounds, colours and most of all smells dominate your senses. A place that has been home on a number of occasions, India.
My best memories of eating food throughout India are always a shared meal, eating with my hands. Or meals that make steam shoot from your ears, that no Kingfisher beer or yoghurt will quench. And always a colourful, divided plate of taste explosions on a thali dish. But one sure-fire dish that I can always rely on is the palak paneer. Put originally on my radar by Mr Beaver’s brother, the veggie king.
1 inch ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
7 cloves garlic, 4 finely chopped, 3 whole
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp chilli powder
1 cup water
1 tsp garam masala
300g paneer, chopped into 1cm cubes
1 tbsp yoghurt
Start by preparing your ingredients. Put on your rice. Next add the spinach to a large saucepan and cover with boiling water. Put the lid in and leave for 3 minutes to wilt. Then drain in a colander, and add to a blender. Also add 3 whole cloves of garlic and the 1/2 inch of ginger. Whizz until a smooth paste.
Next heat the butter in the large saucepan you used earlier on a medium heat, and add the cumin to brown off. Next add the bay leaf and the chopped onion, until the onion browns. Now add the tomatoes and cook until they soften. Add the turmeric and chilli powder, stirring in. Then add the spinach puree. Stir well. Add the cup of water and boil gently for about 5 minutes.
As this boils, brown off the paneer cubes in a frying pan. No oil is needed. Then add the garam masala, paneer and yoghurt to the sauce. It should be quite a thick consistency. Serve and enjoy.