I have been thinking about creating a recipe for Vegetable Paella with Fried Paneer for a long time. I love Spanish food and paella is one of my favorites. Fusing a Spanish rice recipe with Indian flavors and ingredients seemed like a match.
I wasn’t sure how some members of my family would like it since the rice is rich in spice and flavor and there are many goodies mixed in with it. Once I made it and served it to the picky member of my family, who will remain anonymous, she loved it! Her facial response looked like a starving person who sees food for the first time after weeks without anything!
The traditional first step of Indian cooking is to season oil with spices. I use a special blend of cumin, chiles, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and paprika. Before I add a few of my favorite vegetables to get them started in the cooking process. The ones I like in rice dishes are cauliflower, carrot, red bell pepper and onion.
The uncooked basmati rice is roasted in the flavored oil. Vegetable broth that has been flavored with roasted saffron is added and the rice is boiled until tender. Roasting the saffron first brings out the flavor and deepens it to complement the rice. Everything simmers together.
While the rice cooks, several other things happen. Slices of coconut and raw cashews are toasted until golden brown. Small cubes of Indian cheese, called paneer, are fried in a bit of oil until golden. These are added to the rice just when it is tender along with some green peas for color.
Toppings are also prepared. Halved Indian/baby eggplants are seasoned and oven roasted. A sliced red onion is fried until it is brown and caramelized. These are placed on top as a garnish.
The last step is to turn the heat on the stove to high and let a crispy crust form on the bottom of the rice.
It seems like there are a lot of steps in this recipe. Each one is very simple, so it is a matter of just following the recipe. I prepare Vegetable Paella with Fried Paneer in a paella pan. If you don’t have one, just use a large oven safe skillet.
I hope you try this recipe soon. Your friends and family will be so impressed! Your family members who do not allow their food to touch will be your best fans!