Tag Archive for comfort food

Butter Paneer {Vegan option}

It’s the end of January, and let’s be real; comfort food is on the menu 24/7. 

For breakfast most days I have warm maple oatmeal, and lunches are often rice bowls with tofu and veggies, or a hearty soup. I am craving warming, comforting foods pretty hardcore these days. 

Vegan Butter Tofu

And that includes food that’s spicy. Ginger, garlic, chili; as well as cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin are all warming spices that make you feel cosy. Like a hug for your insides. 

 

So a great deal of what I’ve been craving lately are things like laksa, curries, dosas. Warm, comforting, and satisfying. 

Just before Christmas, I had a work lunch with a bunch of my colleagues and we ended up meeting at an Indian restaurant. It was perfect: fluffy white basmati rice and pillowy warm naan bread, along with generous spoonfuls of warm, spicy curry. 

I love Aloo Gobi (which is potatoes and cauliflower), and I’m also a huge fan of chana masala (chickpea curry), but at this particular lunch, I couldn’t get enough of the Butter Paneer. It’s basically the vegetarian version of butter chicken; the sauce is spicy, but also rich and creamy. 

Indian Food

Traditionally, this sauce is made with tons of butter and whipping cream, but coconut milk makes a great vegan whipping cream substitute. 

So I played around with cashews and coconut cream, and came up with a nice, satisfying vegan version of the sauce. Paneer is an Indian cheese, but you can easily sub it out for tofu to get a very similar effect. 

Serve this over basmati rice with a side of naan bread. You’ll want the bread to sop up every last drop of this warming and satisfying sauce. 

Butter Paneer

Butter Paneer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegan butter substitute
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1″ thumb of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 bird’s eye or Thai red chili, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 can tomato sauce (156 ml)
  • 1 can coconut milk (400 ml) 
  • 1/4 cup cashews 
  • 200 g (half a package) of either paneer or tofu, cut into 3/4″ cubes

Method

  1. Place the cashews in your blender container, and cover with 1/2 cup of water. Set aside to soak. 
  2. In a large, heavy pot, heat the vegan butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until melted together. Add the ginger, garlic, chilies and cumin and coriander and stir well. Allow to cook in the oils for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn (especially garlic, it burns quickly). 
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir well together, allow to cook down for about 5 minutes, until it is starting to caramelize. 
  4. Place the masala (spice & tomato mixture) along with the can of coconut milk in the blender with the cashews that have been soaking, and blend well on high for at least a minute, until smooth. You can run it through a sieve if you are concerned about particulate. 
  5. Pour the sauce back into the pan, and bring it up to just under a boil, and the sauce thickens. Add the cubed tofu or paneer, and stir, allowing them to heat up in the sauce. When everything is heated through, serve atop a bed of basmati rice, garnished with chopped cilantro if you like. 

Indian-Spiced Mac & Cheese

Comfort food, thy name is noodles. 

Here in Vancouver, the forecast is nothing but clouds with raindrops for the next 7 days. It just doesn’t stop. When it’s deluging enough so that your thoughts turn to building an ark, it’s time for noodles. 

It’s always been amusing to me that noodles are universal comfort food. The Jewish have Kugel, the Germans have Spezle, the Italians have pasta, and Asia has ramen, udon, pho… 

When it rains like this, I want two things: warmth, carbs, and spice. I often crave Laksa, ramen or Tom Yum Soup. 

Indian Mac and Cheese

I recently had this amazing dish called Bombay Mac and Cheese at this local Vancouver place called The Noodlebox. It was recommended to me, and I have to say, as soon as I tried it, I became obsessed with reverse-engineering the recipe. 

The idea is that it’s basically what you would expect mac and cheese to taste like if you ordered it in India. Now, I’m pretty sure mac and cheese doesn’t really exist in India, so this is definitely a fusion (kind of like butter chicken pizza). 

Instead of cheese, this recipe uses chunks of paneer, and coconut milk instead of the butter-milk-flour roux. It also comes with a wollop of Indian spices: turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, chilli, and garam masala. 

The end result is creamy, spicy and very comforting. 

Indian Spiced Mac and Cheese

Indian-Spiced Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1″ thumb of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 bird’s eye or Thai red chili
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 smallish onion or 1/2 a large one, diced
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala 
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 450 g macaroni 
  • 1 package paneer, cut into 1″ squares
  • 1 400 g package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed out
  • garnishes: chopped fresh tomato and chopped fresh cilantro

Method

  1. Begin by creating the spice blend. In a small frying pan over medium-low heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds. Be careful to watch them so they do not burn. 
  2. Meanwhile, rough chop the garlic, ginger and chili together. Place the garlic, ginger, chili, cumin, coriander and 1 tsp of salt into a spice grinder and blend until a fine paste. 
  3. Bring a medium pot full of well-salted water to a boil and then add the macaroni. Stir well and allow to cook until almost done, about 7 minutes. Drain. 
  4. In a large pot on the stove over medium heat, drizzle some oil or a combo of oil and butter. If you want to be super authentic, you should use a couple tablespoons of ghee. When the oil is warm, add the onion, stir well, and allow to saute until they begin to get soft, about 5 minutes. Now add the spice mixture and stir it well to combine. Allow to cook out for another 5 minutes or so. Now you can add the other dry spices by sprinkling them overtop and then mix them in well. Finally, add the tomato paste and stir well. Allow to cook down for another minute or two. 
  5. Open the cans of coconut milk and add them to the pot. Stir everything well and allow to cook and meld together for a few minutes, then add in the pasta. Toss everything well together. 
  6. Now add in the paneer and the spinach, and stir well. The Paneer won’t melt, it will remain in chunks. Taste and for seasoning and adjust. You can add extra salt and pepper if needed. The final texture of the dish should still be a bit runny and saucy. The starch in the pasta will suck up extra moisture and thicken the sauce. 
  7. Spoon into bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro and chopped tomato. 

 

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