For many, January is a time of deprivation, of restoring a lost balance thrown off by those prior weeks of feasting and merrymaking.
I, too, feel a pull towards asceticism at the start of the New Year. It’s understandable, but so often framed as punishment. Times are hard enough right now – our resolutions don’t need to be. Instead, I’ve found there’s more power in positive aspirations than framing my goals from a negative vantage. Yes, I want to find innovative, satisfying ways to eat more vegetables. Yes, I want to experiment with new flavours and recipes. Yes, I want to cook more for myself (and really make the kitchen in my new house feel like home).
This amply spiced tomato-based curry – adapted from Anita Jaisinghani and Melissa Clark – fits in perfectly. It’s vivid at a time when we hunger for brightness. Ever since I tried making it from scratch two years ago, paneer has become a favourite ingredient (store-bought, used here, is fine too). In this dish it takes on a new dimension when roasted with ghee and Greek yoghurt before being mixed into the curry. Served with rice and flatbread, it’s warming and hearty, and feels more like reward than punishment.
And while I commend anyone committing to a dry month, I’ve found I prefer to cut down my consumption rather than halt it entirely. If, like me, you’re waiting for a special drink or occasion, I can’t recommend Johannes Zillinger’s Revolution White Solera enough. This delicious white, made with a base of Chardonnay, Scheurebe and – significantly – Riesling that’s undergone a solera-ageing process, is fresh and lively, citric and floral. Riesling-type wine and curry is a pairing that always works – and an unimprovable way to start the New Year off right.
Tomato Curry with Roasted Paneer
Loosely adapted from New York Times Cooking
550g paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
9 tablespoons Greek yoghurt, divided
3 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus additional to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
6 cardamom pods, cracked
1 cinnamon stick
2 onions, diced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
2 400g tins whole plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon chilli powder
Large handful coriander, roughly chopped, to garnish
Steamed white rice and/or your preferred flatbread, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 400°C and line a large baking tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, add the paneer, 6 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt, ghee, 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt and black pepper; mix until the paneer is well coated. Transfer to the baking tray and spread into an even layer. Roast for 15-20 minutes, pausing halfway through to flip the paneer and rotate the tray, or until the paneer is turning golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside.
2. While the paneer is roasting, prepare the curry. Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
3. Next, add the onions. Cook for roughly 5 minutes, or until translucent and softened. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1 minute more, or until they’ve lost their raw smell.
4. Add the tinned tomatoes and use the back of your spoon to break down the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Turn the heat down low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce has slightly thickened and reduced. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt and stir through. Season with salt to taste.
5. Finally, mix in the garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder, and add the roasted paneer. Cook on low until the paneer is warmed through; taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Garnish with the coriander and serve alongside rice and/or your preferred flatbread.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.