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beetroot and tomato curry with paneerThis redder-than-red curry not only looks amazing (for a curry that is – curries not being known for their looks), but features homemade paneer cheese. Yes, homemade cheese. An easy, fail-safe cheese. How good is that?

It gets better. Well, maybe not better-better, but better for you. Not only is it pretty (-ish) and has homemade cheese, this curry is also cheap, nutritious and quite low in fat. Woo hoo!

beetroot and tomato curry with paneerAlthough most of us can get raw beetroot nearly year-round, it is much more abundant in the northern hemisphere from June to October. These are the months we see the more attractive and unusual varieties in the market, some with beautiful deep pink and white candy-striped interiors (chiogga), or ones that look like little golden suns (the appropriately named ‘golden’).

A cultivar of the centuries’ old English and Indian wild seabeet, today’s Beta vulgaris – a relative of  spinach and chard – is rather a take it or leave it vegetable. Many would rather leave it, probably due to over-vinegared mushy slices that ‘adorned’ many a salad in the last century. Those were just nasty. Home-pickled beets are delicious (Indian/Scandi-style recipe soon!), but fresh is just fabulous: sweet, slightly earthy, minerally. Young beets, no bigger than golfballs, tend to be the sweetest, but even behemoth ones will deliver if treated with a little culinary tlc. Or just plunge it in a juicer.DSC_0116

It is incredibly versatile too. Some of us whack it into chocolate cake, where it lends its own subtle sweetness, but minus the earthiness of the straight raw stuff. And it is just wonderful roasted with olive oil then drizzled with raspberry vinegar; shredded into salads – both green and grain; simmered in soup; pinkifying an otherwise classic risotto (this one from Diana Henry looks a must-make). It also makes a damn fine juice, with ginger, lime, carrots and apple.

And the greens themselves are no slouches. Unless you get them from a farmer’s market or  farm shop, UK beets are likely to be topless, which is a real shame as the very pretty leaves – a rich green with deep red, almost palpable, veins – are incredibly delicious. The leaves taste much like their pricier kissing cousin, chard, but are almost always chucked out. One of my favourite things to do with them, on the rare occasions that I have a a good sheaf of them (from my neighbour Warwick’s allotment), is to wilt  them  in good olive oil with some smooshed anchovies or black, cured olives, sliced garlic and fresh chilli. Then I toss this rather alarmingly dark melange into cooked pasta and squeeze over loads of fresh lemon, adding chopped parsley and shavings of fresh pecorino. It sounds so simple, dull even. It is anything but. This is just one of many fabulous bonus meals from homegrown (or allotment/CSA) beets, and all the better for its knowing frugality. Last summer this was my go-to mid-week meal on at least half a dozen occasions.

Impeccable nutrition credentials round off this rather overlooked and unloved vegetable. Beets may even improve your stamina. Perhaps in more ways than one…

But what you probably want is the cheese recipe. And I am boring you about beets. Apologies. Here you go. Oh, and don’t be freaked by the wordiness of the recipe: it’s just me giving options and explanations. The whole thing is very easy. I promise.

beetroot and tomato curry with paneerBeetroot and Tomato Rogan Josh with Homemade Paneer

This Week in 2011: Brazilian-style Black Bean Salad (I make this often for my nutrition classes); Za’atar Aubergine and Onion Salad with Tahini-Garlic Dressing
This Week in 2012: Double Salmon and Beetroot Stack with Cardamom-Lemon Crème Fraiche Dressing; ‘Orange Julius’ Breakfast Fruit Salad
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Fly, by The Child of Lov (debut just out)
You are sitting pretty if you made last post’s easy and medium-spiced Rogan Josh curry paste. You can use it as the flavour base for any curry, but I think this one is pretty good – and cheap too. 
It is also quick for a homemade curry. Unbelievably, even if making the cheese from scratch – please do! – this cheap and cheerful curry shouldn’t take up more than 50 minutes of your time. And as most of this time is of the watching a pot simmer variety, it is none too taxing. Still too long? You could use home-cooked or vacuum-packed cooked beetroot (no vinegar!) to more than halve this time. Make double of the cheese and the curry so that later in the week you only need to spend five minutes heating before tucking in. And vegans, just use similarly-textured firm tofu for your protein hit – or even add in some cooked lentils. 
The Curry
1 ½ tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil, divided
1 large onion, diced or sliced
500g (1 lb) raw beetroot, peeled and diced OR equivalent cooked beetroot
2 tsp kalonji seeds (aka Nigella seeds and black onion seeds) – optional
1 quantity Rogan Josh paste mix (or bought – such as Patak brand)
400ml (14 fl oz) water
400g (2 heaped cups) chopped and sliced tomatoes – half diced and half sliced
1 quantity of paneer cheese, cubed (see below) – or one commercial package
¼ tsp garam masala – optional
Juice of half lemon
A few tbsp Greek or plain non-fat yogurt – optional
Chopped leaf coriander (cilantro) – optional
paneerThe Paneer
1.136 litres/2 British pints (just under five cups) whole organic milk
500 ml (2 cups) buttermilk

1 tsp salt – optional

Specialist equipment: muslin cloth, or a new thin tea towel

First of all, make the paneer. Sure you can buy it, but what you find is usually expensive, can be rubbery and will not be organic. And your own fresh batch will taste a lot better. So, pour the milk into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and, over a low-medium heat, begin to bring to the boil. Stir during this time to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Just as it starts to form persistent bubbles around the sides of the pan, add in the buttermilk. Give the milks a stir until the yellowy whey separates from the whiter curds. The whey will go a weird yellowish-green when the separation is complete – just a minute or two.

Pour the whole lot into a large sieve that you have lined with the muslin cloth, or similar, and rinse with cold water (this stops it from being rubbery). If you want to add salt, pull up the ends of the cloth and tie to the kitchen faucet. When it stops dripping you can pop the curds into a bowl and stir in the salt. Otherwise, a quick way to get cheese is to pull up the sides of the cloth and give it a gentle twist – like you do when you are hand-washing a delicate sweater, even though the tag tells you not to. The whey should come through very readily.

If you want it to have a square shape, pop the now-firm cheese – it is officially cheese! – into a small plastic container lined with another cloth. Press it to fit the corners. I just keep it as: a ball. I flatten it and press out more whey by putting it on a board or baker’s cooling rack and balancing a heavy pan on top. I leave it this way for 15-20 minutes. I then slice and use it, or store it in the fridge for later. It will keep well for three days. Makes 200 grams of cheese.

While the cheese is resting, make the curry.making paneerpaneer

Curry Instructions

Heat a large wide pan, such as a wok or karai, add 1 tbsp of the oil and the onions. Cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft. Now add in the beetroot, rogan josh paste mix and kalonji seeds (if using), mixing well then cooking for a further 5 minutes. Add the water and tomatoes and bring to the boil; cover and turn down to simmer for 30 minutes. If you use cooked beetroot you can get away with 15 minutes.

While the curry is simmering, you may want to fry until golden some of the paneer in the remaining oil with the garam masala.

Pop the (uncooked) paneer into the curry and simmer for five minutes; stir in the lemon juice, yogurt if using, and the leaf coriander. Divide between four bowls and top with the fried paneer. Serve with the optional raita (see below) and naan bread, chapati, roti, rice or quinoa.

Serves: 4


150g (3/4 cup) non-fat yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
8 cm (3 inches) cucumber, very finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (or 1 ½ tsp dried mint, total)
½ tsp dried mint
good pinch salt

a squeeze of lemon juice

Mix and use soon after making. You can substitute coriander/cilantro or parsley for the mint if you can’t get fresh mint.beetroot and tomato curry with paneer

21 thoughts on “Beetroot and Tomato Rogan Josh Curry with Homemade Paneer Cheese

  1. Urvashi Roe says:

    Goodness it must have taken you ages to write that post! I must try making paneer. I made Labneh and found the whole process so satisfying. I love how there is little waiting for your paneer recipe. 15 mins is not really a long wait and as you say you can make curry etc in that time.
    I do also love your musings on beetroot. I only recently started eating this and our current favourite is in mash. Turns it a glorious pink!

    1. Hi Urvashi 😀 I like making labneh too as it is so easy if you have the yogurt and muslin cloth to hand. Paneer is nearly as easy but of course there is the boiling to do first. I have also been experimenting with halloumi but that needs a thermometer and all that – dead tasty though! I have just got back from holiday so I must catch up with your blog soon – Once I get out from under all of the work that was waiting for me….

  2. lizzygoodthings says:

    Paneer made with buttermilk, how interesting Kellie, I must try this. I usually use lemon juice with the milk. Such a beautiful recipe, love your work… always.

    1. Thank you my lovely friend. Love your work too 😀

  3. What’s not to like, beetroot and curry all in one dish 🙂 A wonderful combination. We make something very similar but also include beef, and lots of fresh coriander.

    1. If you have a surplus of beets can you send some my way? And you know I have already placed an order for your greenhouse cucumbers. PS Good luck to Molly. You made the right decision xx

      1. Beets and cucumbers will wing their way into your kitchen…just as soon as nature has grown them 🙂 Will look forward to seeing what you do with them. Thanks for thinking of Molly, she has her op. on Monday 🙂

  4. uluvsnoozan says:

    I love making my own paneer! I usually use lemon juice, but will try it with buttermilk next time I have some.

    1. The buttermilk gives a beautiful tang but without the assertiveness of lemon juice (which I would always rinse, rinse, rinse until it was gone). I hope you give it a go!

  5. I can not begin to tell you how impressed I am with this entire dish, and although I have never made cheese, you have definitely persuaded me I can make it! Seriously fabulous combinations of tastes here Kelly. Gorgeous dish!!

    1. It is a cinch to make so is worth having a go with. You can customise it by adding in herbs or spices to the curds before you hang/squeeze them. The kids would find it an interesting science experiment!

  6. What a beautiful dish packed full of flavours I love to eat. I will try making paneer cheese sounds like fun and so good to make your own and know what has gone into it. I am planting beetroots at the allotment this year so hope they are a success, there is nothing tastier and I will save a few to try in this curry, delicious!

    1. Lucky you with the space and soil for beets. We had a go a few times but they didn’t amount to much 🙁 I stick with the dark leafys for the most part and raid my neighbours allotment (with permission) for the rest. I hope your garden is up and growing well with the tiny glimpse of sun and relative warmth.

  7. Indian food… My favourite! 😀

  8. I’ve always wanted to know how to make my own paneer. This looks totally doable, and sounds so much tastier.

  9. Sally says:

    I’m going to make this with my daughter. Loved this : ‘I toss this rather alarmingly dark melange into cooked pasta’ Great imagery.

  10. Natalie Ward says:

    Oh I have missed so much, you’ve been busy! This is excellent timing, I have few clients that I ccok healthy ready meals for and, this week I have lots of beetroot so decided to make a beetroot & lentil curry as one of their options! Thought It sounded unusual, but you’re already there!! 🙂 going to check out your Rogan Josh paste now, you lifesaver you!! 😉

    1. I’m glad the recipes came at the right time for you. It sounds like you are mega-busy with teaching AND catering. Lucky recipients!

  11. Natalie Ward says:

    Mmmm this is so good! Just finished it now the paste is wonderful, thank you! x

    1. Coming from a fabulous recipe developer such as yourself I am especially chuffed. Thanks for letting me know x

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