The Holiday Hangover
Happy New Year everyone! For many people in the Western world, the holiday season is over and thank God for that. Yes participating in all the festivities was fun, imbibing in all those specialty cocktails was treat and gorging on that decadent food was a sumptuous pleasure. I bet right now, you are even sick of it. No more cookies. No more roasts. No more booze.
How I prepared
Back in December I looked ahead at the menu and came up with a plan. We needed to prepare ourselves for the caloric extravaganza I had in mind. For me this meant healthy meals in between champagne breakfasts and pork pies. So I started experimenting with adding more meatless and vegetarian meals to our weekly menu. What resulted was a pleasant surprise. I found myself a little lighter in my step and not weighed down with a heavy meal. The budget was lighter too. I shaved about 20-30% off my weekly food costs just by going meatless.
Who says vegetarian is lame?
I have to admit, I always viewed vegetarian food as a bit of a bummer with tasteless tofu and stupid quinoa bowls. Yes, a meatless meal made with sustainable local produce is more environmentally and socially responsible but come on….who really likes tempeh????? It tastes like a litter box!
That’s why when it comes to vegetarian food, I look to the masters of meatless cooking, aka Indian cuisine. No one can work lentils, chickpeas and dairy products into a satisfying meal quite like Indian chefs. Coated in spice and hearty to boot, their vegetarian food is anything but dull. It is a way of life and how to live life-with color and flavor.
Did you say fried cheese????
This dish of fried cheese stir-fried with vegetables and coated in a garlicky sweet and sour sauce is a fine example of how to do vegetarian cooking right. Chili paneer is an Indo-Chinese classic recipe where the best of Chinese cooking and the best of Indian cuisine come together. I tend to do this dish a little differently by coating the paneer in batter which I find better soaks up the sauce but if you are inclined to be healthier and forego frying the cheese, then go for it.
My personal version of an Indo-Chinese classic dish of fried paneer stir-fry with chopped bell peppers and scallions then coated in a garlicky sweet and sour sauce. #vegetarian #cheese #Indian #Chinese #stirfry
- medium – large chunk of paneer
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 bell pepper (whichever color you prefer)
- 5–6 stalks of scallions
- 1.5 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 clove of garlic (minced)
- 1 tbsp water
- 1–2 Thai birds eye chile (finely chopped)
- oil for frying
- Mix together flour, cornstarch, sea salt, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup (120 ml) of water and mix to form a batter.
- Cut paneer into 1 cm / 0.5 in cubes. Add to batter and carefully fold in so that everything is evenly coated in batter.
- Add a generous amount of frying oil to pan and heat over high flame. When oil is hot, carefully add batter covered paneer to oil one by one. Fry on both sides until crispy and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the oil. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together ketchup, chili sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, minced garlic, water and chopped chilis (optional).
- Chop bell pepper the same size as the paneer cubes (1 cm/ 0.5 in). Wash and trim the edges of the scallion stalks. Cut into pieces no longer than 2 cm/ 1 inch long.
- In a large wok, heat 1-2 tbsp of frying oil over high heat. Add chopped bell pepper and chopped scallion pieces. Fry together for a minute or so (you want the vegetables cooked but still crisp so try not to cook them into mush). Add fried paneer pieces and stir fry together for a minute until paneer has picked up the heat of the wok.
- Add sauce mixture and toss to combine making sure everything is evenly coated. Cook for a minute or so then turn off heat and serve.
You can use store bought paneer for this recipe but I always find that homemade is best. Prepackaged paneer can be a bit tasteless and rubbery, so if you really want that cheesy kind of taste, try making your own at home. It’s quite easy to make-just heat milk to a low boil then add an acidic agent like lemon juice, vinegar or yogurt. Strain though cheese cloth then press together and VOILA-homemade paneer. Go here for details on how to make it at home.
- Category: Vegetarian
- Method: Stir-Fry
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: paneer, vegetarian, cheese, chili, sweet and sour, vegetables, bell pepper, scallions