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Tandoor Hellim

Serves
4

Serves 4 for light dinner or as a starter, or 2 for hearty lunch

I have just returned from a quick sojourn in Rajasthan. The narrow, frenetic, scented streets and markets, sacred lakes and ancient hills, beautiful, generous people and monsoon rains have left me hungry for the heat, the strange peace and the spice. With great Indian cooking it is that subtlety and delicacy of spicing, that drawing together of ingredients, that dedicated care and application and the notes that climb and build and evoke like a whiff of sandalwood amongst the clamour of car horns. I have the happy hum of spice at the back of my throat and so am busy working on recipes that honour these incredible places, these faithful techniques and this sincerity of spirit. This is a dish of three quick, considered parts which compliment each other beautifully, and combine subtly and surprisingly. Halloumi (we say Hellim in our home) of course, is not traditionally used in Indian cooking, but works so well here, salty against the freshness of the paneer, marinated and basted with spice and coconut. Choose a good Cypriot style sheep and goat one (both goat and sheep milk being tri-doshic). This simple, layered paratha bread melts and flakes, the mint chutney cleanses and incises. It is satisfying dipping, reckless mopping or the best cheese sandwich I can imagine depending on your eating technique, Cutlery not required in any case. Or recommended. Why hold such food at any kind of distance?

Ingredients

100g of paneer (Indian cottage cheese)
100g of good Cypriot style, sheep and goat halloumi
½ tbsp coconut oil
1 small red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
¾ teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp of ground turmeric
1 hot green chilli
½ tin of organic coconut milk
2 tsp gram flour or corn flour (gram flour works best)

For the mint and coconut chutney:
½ tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
½ small red onion
5 / 6 curry leaves
30g fresh mint leaves
20g fresh coriander leaves
1 handful of toasted desiccated coconut
The other ½ of the tin of coconut milk
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 hot green chilli
1 tsp jaggery / 1 heaped tsp honey
2 tsp cider vinegar
Sea salt
½ a lime

For the paratha:
250g of plain flour (traditionally chapatti flour but white or wholemeal spelt work well, as does half white wheat or spelt to half khorasan or rye)
A good pinch of sea salt
A drizzle of rapeseed oil
Ghee for brushing (butter can also be used here)
Water

Method

  • 1 For the tandoori marinade, heat a frying pan on a medium heat. Warm the coconut oil until hot and add your cumin seeds. When they start to pop add the garlic, ginger, chilli, half the onion and the ground spices and toss in the pan until the onion softens
  • 2 Remove to a food processor and add the coconut milk and gram flour or corn flour. Blitz to a smooth consistency
  • 3 Cut your paneer and halloumi into 2cm cubes along with the remaining half of the onion and arrange on skewers in a baking dish
  • 4 Pour over the marinade, cover and leave while you prepare the chutney and parathas
  • 5 For the chutney, warm the coconut oil in a small saucepan and add the cumin and mustard seeds until they start to dance. Add the chilli, garlic, ginger and onion and toss for 3 or 4 minutes
  • 6 Add the coconut, coconut milk, curry leaves and vinegar. If using jaggery you can add it now, but if using honey add at the end once the chutney has cooled as honey takes on toxicity if cooked or heated. Warm through and remove from the heat
  • 7 Allow to cool completely. Tip into your food processor and add your mint, coriander, lime, a good pinch of sea salt and a grind of black pepper. Add your honey at this stage if using
  • 8 Blitz to a smooth consistency
  • 9 For the parathas, combine your flour and salt in a bowl with a little drizzle of oil. Add warm water bit by bit until you can bring it together into a dough. Remove to a floured board and knead until your dough is smooth adding flour as necessary. Return to your bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or cling film. Rest for 15 minutes or so
  • 10 Cut your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rough circle about 15 cm in diameter. Brush with ghee, fold in half, brush with ghee again, fold in half again and roll out again to about 20cm. A very rough circle shape is no problem here
  • 11 Heat a skillet or large frying pan on a medium heat. When hot add a tsp of ghee until hot. Drop in a paratha. After 30 seconds or so brush the top with ghee. Turn when puffed and browned until the other side is similarly coloured. Remove to a plate and wrap in a towel or foil to keep warm and soft. Repeat until you have the full 8 parathas
  • 12 Light your grill and allow to heat for at least ten minutes. Arrange your marinated paneer, halloumi and red onion skewer and brush again with the marinade. Cook under the grill until slightly charred, turning as necessary and basting often with the marinade
  • 13 Serve with your chutney and parathas, a grind of black pepper over the whole and a scattering of coriander and mint leaves