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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Place the cashews in your blender container, and cover with 1/2 cup of water. Set aside to soak.
- 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).
- Add the tomato paste and stir well together, allow to cook down for about 5 minutes, until it is starting to caramelize.
- 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.
- 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.