INGREDIENTS:

Eggplants:
6 Indian eggplants, cut in half
2 Tbs olive oil
ground cumin
turmeric
red chile powder
Paneer:
2 Tbs olive oil
8 oz. paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
Caramelized Onions:
1 Tbs oil
1 small red onion, cut into long, thin slivers
Paella:
2 tsp saffron threads
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 Tbs olive oil, divided
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 cup coconut slivers
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 dried red chiles
4 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
​4 green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/2 head cauliflower florets
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into long, thin slivers
10 oz. bag red pearl onions, peeled
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups basmati rice
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tomato, finely chopped
12 curry leaves
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Special Equipment: paella pan

Vegetable Paella with Fried Paneer [Indian fusion Recipe]

This is based on a traditional Spanish rice recipe that is made with chicken, seafood and/or sausage. Every time I serve Paella to my family, they feel that I have created a special meal just for them. In this recipe, I created an option that is vegetarian but is loaded with vegetable goodies, coconut, cashews and a lot of flavor. The ingredient list looks long but is easily managed by preparing all the ingredients before you start. Your family and friends will be very impressed with your delicious feast.

TIPS:

- This recipe serves 6. To increase it to 8, simply add 2 more eggplants.

- Serve with Onion Raita.

STEPS:

 Eggplants:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Place the eggplant halves on a cookie sheet with the cut side up. Drizzle with the olive oil and then generously sprinkle with cumin, turmeric, red chile powder, salt, pepper.

3. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

Paneer:
1. While the eggplants cook, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the paneer cubes and fry quickly on each side until golden brown. Remove from the pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to remove extra oil. Set aside.

Caramelized Onions:
1. In the same pan, heat the oil. Fry the onions for about 10 to 15 minutes until they turn brown and are caramelized, stirring often. As they brown, reduce the heat so they do not burn. Set aside.

Paella:
1. In a saucepan on medium-low heat, toast the saffron until fragrant for 30 seconds. Remove the saffron to a clean surface and powder it with the back of a spoon.

2. Warm the broth in the saucepan then add the powdered saffron.

3. Heat a paella pan or large ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the cashews and fry for 1 minute. Remove the cashews and set aside on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

4. Add the coconut slivers to the pan and fry until they begin to turn golden brown. Remove the coconut and set aside on the paper towel with the cashews.

5. To the paella pan, add the cumin seeds, red chiles, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, paprika and red chile powder, and fry them in the existing oil for a few seconds or until the aroma rises. Add the remaining oil. Add the cauliflower, carrot, bell pepper and pearl onions to the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

6. Add the rice and stir to mix well so that each grain is coated in oil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the salt and black pepper. Cook the rice until it turns shiny, about 2 minutes. Pour in the saffron broth followed by the chopped tomato. Bring the liquid to a boil the turn the heat to low. Spread the paella evenly over the entire area of the pan. Let this simmer for 20 minutes. Move the pan over the heat so the rice cooks evenly.  Place the paneer cubes, peas, cashews, coconut pieces and eggplants evenly around the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes until everything is warm. If the rice is dry, pour a small amount of water over the rice and cook for 5 more minutes. When the rice is al dente, it is done. If it is not ready, simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes.

​7. Raise the heat to high and let the paella sit for 1 or 2 minutes to allow a crispy crust to develop on the bottom. Sprinkle the caramelized onion over the top. Place the lemon wedges on the paella and serve.