July 2, 2013
We’ve long avoided the family holiday. Someone said it was “the same shit, different location”. ‘Nuff said.
It didn’t take long to flip. The tots are growing fast. My time with them is limited to say the least. Mad aunty Mags suggested a resort near her finca in Tenerife, threw in a few days/nights of babysitting, and we were in. Hook, line and sinker.
Pretty quickly we knew this was not quite one of the lux holidays of our gilded past. The tattooed bald man who ran after his errant child shouting “oi” at the boarding gate kind of gave it away. The man and I looked at each other two shades paler than check-in. Package holiday here we come.
The fun continued overseas. The spirited (read: hyper) toddlers slid in and out of sugar comas brought on by unlimited ice cream, day glo slush and blazing sunshine. That’s all 200 of them.
In the meantime, parents loaded their plates with the free buffet and a generous helping of fries from the kids section. Who cares if there was a seafood salad bar, an endless selection of cured meats and cheese – a ripple went through the mainly British crowd at the rare sight of pie and mash.
Still, it was fun. I discovered fine Cava, served in a bar conveniently located by a water feature/kids play area. The kids slept for long enough during the day for us to soak up the sunshine. And add two weeks without domestic chores, work deadlines and rubbish weather and life was definitely beautiful.
All good things, sadly, must come to an end. The end came quickly in the shape of showery LOndon, 400 work emails and an empty fridge. What better time than now to be thankful for mother’s higgledly piggledy packages of suspect spices.
Said suspect spices were, in fact, the basics needed for Kashmiri-style dishes. Soonth or Sonth is a delicate ground ginger, Saunf is fennel and Kashmiri Chilli Powder is like paprika, better loved for its colour and smokiness than its burn rate.
So I made Kashmiri Paneer. Great with a defrosted portion of dal and some fresh and steaming hot Basmati rice. A gently way to creep back into life.
Dice the paneer into large chunks. Bring the oil to heat on high in a non-stick wok or kadai. When it is hot, fry the paneer cubes in two batches. Beware, they will splutter! The quickest way to do this I have found is to slide one batch in using a flat spoon, cover, and then remove from the cooker and flip to the other side. Frying to two sides will be quite enough!
Place the paneer on a plate, while you make the masala. In the same wok, add a pinch of asafoetida and as it sizzle up, the tomato puree, sonth / ginger, saunf and Kashmiri chilli.
Saute on medium for about five minutes, adding a tablespoon of warm water if the masala paste shows any signs of sticking to the pot. Next, gently stir in the paneer chunks. Mix well for a minute or so, stir in the garam masala and salt to your taste. A little thick Greek yoghurt stirred into the paneer with the yoghurt also works a creamy treat, if you fancy a change.
Leave to sit while you warm up some pitta breads (or a batch of pre-made rotis) to scoop them up with or go for my full veg meal combo above.