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Peas And Fresh Curd Cheese, Indian Style (Panir mater)

ingredients

1 lb (450 g) frozen peas, thawed
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 3/4 in (2 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 green chilli pepper, finely chopped
2 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp chopped coriander
4 1/2 fl oz (140 g) sunflower oil
pinch saffron
salt

for the fresh curd cheese or panir (makes approx. 6 oz (180g)

3 1/2 pints (2 litres) full-cream milk
1 tsp salt
1 - 2 tbsp wine vinegar or cider vinegar

method

1. Make the curd cheese. Bring the milk slowly to the boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the salt, reduce the heat to very low and gradually add the vinegar to the gently simmering milk while stirring continuously, pouring in a very little at a time. Stop adding vinegar when the milk curdles and thickens.

2. Line a sieve with a piece of muslin and pour the curdled milk into it. Gather up the edges of the muslin cloth, twist them round and force out all the liquid from the curd.

3. Place this fresh curd cheese, still in the muslin, in a large bowl and flatten slightly by hand, place a small plate on the curd, with a weight on top and leave to stand for 2 hours. Drain off the liquid (whey), unwrap the cheese and place on a pastry board. Cut into dice.

4. While the cheese is being pressed, prepare all the vegetables. Heat 6 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the diced curd cheese until pale golden brown. Take them out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

5. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or flameproof casserole dish and fry the onion gently for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. When the oil is pale golden brown, add the ginger and chilli pepper and cook gently while stirring for about 30 seconds.

6. Add the chopped tomato, the peas and a pinch of salt, cover and cook for 20 minutes over a very low heat, until the peas are tender, adding a little hot water when necessary to moisten. Add the cheese, cook gently for just long enough to heat them through and then draw aside from the heat. Add a little more salt if needed.

7. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve very hot, with hot chapatis.

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