Vegan Mattar Paneer

In the winter months, I enjoy spending time in the kitchen creating warm, hearty, spicy dishes that make several servings and are easily transported to work. My boyfriend and I both have fairly stressful jobs, and we don’t have much time or energy to cook during the week. As a lover of Indian food since my first bite, I’ve experimented with a few traditional Indian dishes and had great success making them plant-based. I make a mean Chana Masala, Red Lentil Curry, and Baingan Bharta. But one of my favorite Indian staples was always missing…Paneer. Paneer is a homemade cubed cheese highlighted in many vegetarian Indian dishes. It’s like a milder, softer version of feta, and pairs well with a thick, hearty sauce. Lucky for me, my mother gifted me a plant-based cookbook called Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla (highly recommended if you love Indian food). This Mattar Paneer is the first dish I tried out, because paneer is SO hard to resist at the Indian buffet and I’ve been dying for a plant-based version of these usually cream-laden dishes!  This recipe uses tofu in place of paneer, and leaves out the cream, which I honestly didn’t even notice until I started writing this post. For an added bonus, the leftovers will be even more delicious as flavor tends to deepen after a day in the fridge.

Indian cooking uses tons of spices, so if you plan to experiment with different recipes I recommend stocking up on bulk spices. You can find these at your neighborhood Indian grocer or international food stores. My favorites to have on hand (and coincidentally all the spices you’ll need for this recipe) are:

  • Cumin, ground
  • Cumin, seed
  • Turmeric powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom pods
  • Coriander, ground (aka cilantro)
  • Garam Masala powder
  • Red chili powder

Also routinely stocked in my kitchen for cooking in general:

  • Fresh ginger (keeps well in the freezer)
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Tomato paste
  • Canned fire roasted diced tomatoes

In addition to being satisfying and delicious, this dish packs fiber, protein, and the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric. Lets get cooking!

Vegan Mattar Paneer (adapted from Anupy Singla’s recipe)

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Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: moderate

Serves: 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 two-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 pound bag frozen peas
  • 1-14 ounce package organic extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)

Instructions:

  • For the tofu:
    • Preheat oven to 350F. Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes and place on an oiled baking sheet (I use olive oil spray). Sprinkle with garam masala and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the tofu and then cook for another 15 minutes until slightly browned.
  • For the rice:
    • Cook 2 cups of your favorite rice (I use a rice cooker so I can forget about it while preparing the rest of the meal)
  • For the sauce:
    • In an extra-large skillet or large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat
    • Add cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom to the oil, cook until seeds sizzle
    • Add diced onion, ginger root, and garlic, 1/2 cup water and cook until translucent
    • Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1 cup water
    • Add remaining spices: garam masala, coriander, red chili powder, and salt
    • Remove and discard cardamom pod
    • Blend the mixture (either using an immersion blender or regular blender/food processor)
    • Return mixture to your skillet, add peas and tofu. At this point you can add some water to thin the mixture if necessary, but I prefer a thicker sauce.
    • Simmer on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, then serve over rice and garnish with cilantro

Enjoy! ❤ Christina

 

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