Sometimes you just want it easy. That was the mood dictating yesterday's lunch.

Now, I don't usually give peas a chance. Really....did you think I would resist? They're round, tiny and have this tendency to roll around the plate, adroitly and annoyingly giving the tines of your fork the slip each and every time; the Frank Abagnale of vegetables. I know, I're supposed to squish them against said tines then lift them to your mouth, but, I don't mix eating and exercising. I've been told combining the two causes stomach cramps....

So, unless the tiny terrors are safely ensconced in a pie or turnover, hunkered down in a pile of pilaf or heavily draped in a viscous blanket of moppable dice!

Which brings me to one of my very favourite Indian dishes, Mattar Paneer. The words are hardly out of my mouth and I'm salivating. Paneer is fresh, home made, Indian curd cheese. I have this each time I'm in a North Indian restaurant, with shards of naan usually, to corner and scoop up the peas. I don't need anything else after, except for some hot, milky tea, perfumed  by the spice Gods themselves!

Here's my simple version, made almost  vegan, not really by choice but because I can't get paneer where I live and don't make it, so tofu was the stand in. It's not as creamy of course, as paneer, but was still pretty darned close to curry heaven, for one hard pressed Matter Paneer junkie.

Anyone out there with an idiot proof home made paneer recipe?

Prep 20 mins      Cook 30 mins      Serves 4

4 squares firm tofu (7 cm / 3 in each) cut into large cubes
1 large onion, slice
6 cloves garlic, mince
Thumb sized knob fresh ginger, peel or scrape and mince very fine
2 green chillies, slice
2 medium sized ripe tomatoes, dice
2 level Tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp fennel powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 cups frozen baby peas
1/2 cup thick, full fat yoghurt
salt to taste


Heat about 1/2 cup light vegetable oil in a deep pan and when hot, fry the tofu cubes, in batches until light brown, with a very thin crust. Don't over fry. Drain tofu cubes on kitchen paper and set aside.

Remove most of the oil from pan, leaving about 4 - 5 tablespoons in the pan. Heat oil again and fry the onions until limp and beginning to colour. Add the garlic, ginger and green chillies and stir over medium heat until fragrant and lightly coloured.

Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until pulpy. Reduce heat and sprinkle over all the powdered spices. Stir until very fragrant, taking care that spices don't burn. Add yoghurt and stir until combined with spices and oil separates from spice mixture.

Gently add tofu cubes to the pan so they don't break, and stir to combine thoroughly with spices. Add a little water if mixture seems dry. I usually don't add any water. Cover pan and allow to cook gently for about 5 minutes, check to ensure that mixture doesn't stick to the pan or scorch.

Remove lid and add peas (and water if necessary). Stir thoroughly but gently and cover again, allowing mixture to cook gently for another 5 minutes. Taste the peas to make sure they've lost their "freezer flavour" and absorbed the flavours of the spices. Season to taste, give curry a final stir and turn off heat.

Dish out, garnish with cilantro if you like and serve immediately with rice or flat bread.