This recipe has a bit of a South Indian twist with the use of curry leaves, coconut and mustard seeds but it lends itself a bit to my Pakistani roots, where we use a lot of tamarind and jaggery in difference savory dishes. Indian cheese, Paneer can be substituted with firm cottage cheese or even firm tofu - Jaggery can be substituted with dark brown sugar or molasses. Asparagus is so lovely at this time of year and goes beautifully with these flavours. Asparagus is beautiful as this time of year and adds beautifully to these flavours. The balance of sweet, savory, hot and sour lifts the umami element and it's a dish eaten by itself or with some lovely warm flatbreads. —Sumayya Usmani
1 1/2 cups
Indian Paneer cheese cut into small squares
large tomato, chopped
paste of ginger and garlic
brown mustard seeds
fresh red chilli paste (I make mine by rehydrating Kashmiri dried chillis, you can use Mexican chillis too)
tamarind paste (try to use whole dried tamarind pods, rehydrate in hot water)
fresh grated coconut, dessicated could do, but won't be as lovely
grated jaggery, or 1 teaspoon brown sugar
fresh curry leaves, can use dried if fresh not available
Fry the paneer off in a pan with a little oil until brown on all sides. Steam the asparagus. Set both aside. Put a little more oil in a wok style pan and heat under medium heat. Now add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and once they start to pop add in the ginger and garlic paste and fry quickly not allowing the contents to burn.
Once the raw smell of garlic leaves the pan add the tomatoes and cook until soft, you may need to add a little water to ensure that the sauce doesn't burn. Add the tamarind, curry leaves and jaggery and once the sauce is cooked, and the oil starts to rise up, add the coconut and turn off the heat. Pop in the fried paneer and asparagus and fry for a minute or so, and top with more coconut, coriander leaves and spring onions and serve warm!
Sumayya is a food writer and cookery teacher who grew up in Pakistan, but has now found home in Glasgow. Sumayya is passionate about sharing the flavours of her homeland with a view to highlight Pakistani cuisine as a distinct one. The author or two cookbooks: Summers Under The Tamarind Tree (Frances Lincoln) and Mountain Berries and Desert Spice (Frances Lincoln, out April 2017), her writing reminisces about food and memories growing up in Pakistan. She writes for many publications, appears on television, and co-presents BBC Kitchen Cafe weekly, on BBC Radio Scotland.