I’ve been doing some thinking about peas.
Yes, I’ve been thinking about those diminutive, starchy green orbs that manage to tuck themselves into just about every type of delicious dish. There’s your standard fare of peas and carrot, the proud sidekick to meatloaves the world over. And whose heart isn’t warmed by a steaming bowl of split pea soup and a piece of crusty bread on a chilly November day? Or perhaps you’re feeling adventurous, so you whip up a sesame pea shoot salad. Truly, these are a very versatile vegetable.
I discovered peas at the age of seven. It was tough being a voracious little kid in a junk-food-free home. When those seven-year-old munchies hit, I learned to be creative with the resources around me. Seven-year-old Adriana would freeze grapes into miniature popsicles. Or she’d pick huckleberries in her yard, mix them with ground cheerios, and attempt to turn them into bakery-fresh treat in her EZ-Bake Oven. But all that stopped the day I discovered the stash of frozen peas. Though it might not sound palatable now, I found these tiny frozen treats to be everything I needed in a summer vacation convenience food: 1) they were easy to get to (our freezer was at a very kid-friendly height), 2) they were nice and cold (a bonus on a hot day), and 3) they were fun to pick out of the frozen mixed veggie bags my mom would buy at the grocery store (stand aside corn, carrots, and lima beans! I’m here for the peas). And if my mother ever
noticed the little holes bored into the sides of the frozen veggie bags, or, for that matter, an unusually low ratio of peas to other veggies as she steamed them for dinner, bless her heart, she never said a thing.
I’m 23 and I still like peas.
Although my methods of preparing them have…shall we say… somewhat matured. Instead of nibbling frozen peas straight from the bag, for dinner tonight, I decided to use some fresh peas in a spicy Northern Indian dish that my new cookbook (The Curry Bible) calls "Garden Peas & Paneer in Chili-Tomato Sauce." It was delightful. Really, you must try some. Should you not feel like purchasing the ingredients and preparing the dish on your own (which really wasn’t that hard), I would recommend you march right down to you local Indian eatery and order yourself up a dish of this enchantingly warm and remarkable curry.
So, without further ado...
Garden Peas & Paneer in
adapted from Curry Bible
4 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
9 ounces paneer, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 green cardamom pods, bruised
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced and mushed garlic
2 teaspoons minced and mushed ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder (add more if desired)
14 ounces (1 can) diced tomatoes, drained
scant 2 cups of warm water, plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons light cream or yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
rice or bread to serve it with
Step one: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the paneer and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until evenly browned. Be careful not to burn yourself, as paneer tends to splatter in the hot oil. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Step two: Add the remaining oil to the saucepan and reduce the heat to low. Add the cardamom pods and bay leaves and let sizzle gently for 20-25 seconds. Add the onion, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 3-4 minutes, until the onion is a pale golden color.
Step three: Add the coriander, turmeric, and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons of warm water and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until the oil separates from the spice paste.
Step four: Add the remaining warm water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 7-8 minutes.
Step five: Add the paneer and peas and simmer for 5 more minutes. Stir in the garam masala, cream or yogurt, and chopped cilantro and remove from the heat. Serve immediately with Indian bread or rice.
I also ate mine with some excellent Raita.