Turmeric is one of my favourite spices. I often add fresh pieces to hot water with lemon and ginger, and drink it first thing in the morning. When I cook, I usually use turmeric powder; I love its deep yellow colour and distinct, earthy flavour, at once peppery and mustardy, as well as slightly bitter.
I was introduced to turmeric through Yovina. She was the first person I met when I was living in Manchester and we quickly became friends. She was an absolute sweetheart, a gentle Mauritian beauty, with a lovely smile and enviable cooking skills. Everyday, she’d whip up at least one delicious meal for her and her boyfriend- and she was always willing to share food and little tips with me.
I still vividly remember the first time I saw her using turmeric: I remember her long, slim fingers slicing vegetables and gracefully adding pinches of different spices into the pot, and her calm and soothing voice guiding me through the recipe. I remember my fingers and working surfaces turning yellow, and turmeric’s peppery, slightly medicinal smell. Her dish, the one I’m sharing today from memory, was simple and delicious, comforting and satisfying in a way only an attentively made home cooked meal can be.
1 block of paneer cheese
1 1/2 medium red onions
3 garlic cloves
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida*
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
3 cups peas, frozen
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 to 1 cup water
sea salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, roughly chopped
*Asafoetida, often used in Indian dishes, is a pungent spice with quite a strong, even off-putting smell. When cooked however, it resembles flavours of onion and garlic, and combined with other spices, can really enhance a dish.
Cut the paneer in small squares; roughly chop the onions and mince the garlic cloves; set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over a medium heat. Add the paneer, onions, garlic and spices and cook for about ten minutes, or until the onion is soft and the spices have released their fragrance, gently stirring from time to time.
Add the peas, can of tomatoes, seasoning and enough water to just cover the ingredients and stir to combine.
Cook in medium low heat for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
Serve hot, with warm pieces of naan bread and/or rice.