In my cookbook, I share a special dadima’s recipe for paneer. However, I created the recipe below with a casual summer buffet in mind, and I hope you’ll love it. It’s also a great starter dish. Since I worked at a fresh produce company a few years ago, I’ve liked experimenting with beetroot in my Indian cooking – I always use cooked beetroot as I find it more convenient than uncooked beetroot. My mum gave me the idea of adding beetroot to paneer, over a teatime chat one day. What I like about this dish, is that you don’t feel bad having seconds as it’s so light. I just love the crunch of the little gem combined with the softness of the paneer.
In the recipe below, I use less beetroot than I do paneer. I like this ratio, as the flavour (and colour) of the beetroot goes a long way once it’s stirred through the paneer, so it balances well. You can use plain cooked beetroot instead of infused beetroot if you wish, but I prefer an infused version. My favourite is Tesco Sweetfire beetroot. I’ve reduced the amount of chilli I would usually add, as the sweetfire beetroot adds its own spicy kick. I’m looking forward to cooking this dish, at an Open Farm Sunday event, at the fresh produce company where I used to work!
- 4 heads of little gem lettuce, leaves separated into individual cups. Core not needed here
- 1 and a half tablespoons of ghee (see recipe for homemade ghee here. Alternatively, use rapeseed oil)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 2 white onions, chopped finely
- 1 green finger chilli, chopped finely (or to taste)
- 2 inch by 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
- 1 and a half teaspoons of haldi (turmeric powder)
- 1 and a half teaspoons of paprika
- Half teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
- 200g tomato passata
- A squirt of tomato puree
- 600g paneer, chopped into cubes of around 1cm by 1cm (Buy ready-made or see recipe for homemade paneer here)
- 180g Tesco Sweetfire beetroot, cut into small cubes (or any other cooked beetroot of your choice)
- half teaspoon garam masala
* Tip for step 7: If using a ready-made bag of cubed paneer, transfer the chunks into a bowl and soak in boiling water for 2 minutes before draining and adding to the masala base. This is a trick I learnt from my nanima (nan), to help soften the paneer and not clump together in the pan.
- Cut off the base of the little gem and separate into individual leaf ‘cups’. (I don’t use the core as the leaves are not big enough to hold a filling). Wash the leaves through a colander and leave to dry whilst you make the beetpaneer.
- Melt the ghee in a wide, heavy-based saucepan and add the cumin seeds until they sizzle.
- Add the onions and cook until softened and light brown, stirring regularly.
- Stir through the garlic, ginger, and green chillies, along with a splash of water. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the spices, except for garam masala. Cook for 2 minutes over a low heat, stirring regularly.
- Add the tomato passata and tomato puree. Cook over a medium heat until the oil separates from the tomatoes and the masala base (the tharka) thickens.
- Stir through the paneer so that it’s fully coated with the masala.
- Stir through the beetroot.
- Cook for a futher 2 minutes, or until the paneer softens. As soon as paneer softens, remove from the heat.
- Assemble your little gem ‘cups’ on a serving plate. Use a teaspoon to fill the cups and you’re ready serve.
Storage note: Any leftover filling of beetpaneer can be refrigerated for 2-3 days. In my house, it gets eaten the next day with mung daal and roti!
Serving suggestion: This dish makes a colourful contribution to a summer barbecue. When I’m hosting casual gatherings, I serve this with jeera chicken wings and corn on the cob subji (see page 170 and page p.126 in dadima’s book)