Hackney Harvest Feasting & Chickpea Paneer Curry

I am currently in the final stages of moving back to north-east london from my temporary south-eastern home. So, my brain is a bit fried, but I really wanted to mention this event, and share a complimentary recipe.

Hackney

Communal eating is something I have mentioned before, and something Hackney seems to be very good at. It is also something I’m a big fan of – sitting down at a table, preferably made from scratch, usually with strangers, and eating some simple fare. If it’s local/homemade/using food waste, then all the better. These occasions bring a sense of community spirit that it’s often easy to miss in London, and focuses on real food – fresh and simply prepared, shared equally amongst the folk who attend.

Last weekend I went to the Hackney Harvest Feast, organised by Rara – a Clapton based co-operative of architects, designers, carpenters and artists. One of the contributors was the People’s Kitchen, who campaign against food waste and make weekly freegan meals at Dalston’s Passing Clouds. I’ve been meaning to go to one of these Sunday meals for a while – and this was the perfect reminder to go.

Along with music, and the biggest ever salad toss (great for pictures), there was free food for anyone who wanted to sit down at the community constructed picnic benches. The food had been donated by local businesses and there was even a fully stocked cheese board being passed around. And although it was the weekend, I was still very happy to be eating an entirely vegetarian meal. It reminded me of the Harvest “festivals” that we had at school, where everyone’s parents would donate a tin of food to a local charity and it would all be piled up on the stage in the school hall. It’s nice to remember that this time of year is traditionally about food, the land and working together. We forget that I think.

Chickpea & Paneer Curry

Following the thread of simple vegetarian food, good for sharing with the masses, I wanted to show you this curry recipe. My boyfriend is the big curry maker in our house, being half Mauritian, but I’ve made this chickpea and spinach affair a few times now. I’d always wanted to try making it with paneer, so when some caught my eye in the supermarket the other day, I thought I’d give it a go. Paneer on its own doesn’t taste of much, but it is a great carrier of flavour and adds another texture dimension to curries. I bought my paneer from the supermarket, but next time I will make it from scratch like this. Tips welcome!

The Ingredients:

1 tin of chickpeas

A handful of spinach – I used the frozen stuff I had left over from making the Spinach & Ricotta Filo Pie.

1 onion – diced

2 cloves of garlic – finely sliced

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 pack of paneer cheese (around 227g)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric

chilli (depending on your tolerance)

1 tsp ground coriander

salt & pepper (only nice salt please, try to avoid anything with anti-caking agents)

The Method:

1. Add a splash of olive oil to a large pan – I used a wok – and add the garlic and onion. When they start to become translucent add the spices and stir briefly until everything begins to combine and smell amazing (not very technical I know).

2. cut the block of panner into small cubes, chuck it in and stir until coated with the oil and spices. Leave for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown slightly and soften up.

3. Drain the chickpeas and the spinach and add to the pan, followed by the tinned tomatoes.

4. And voila! Let it simmer for a bit, season to taste (be generous with the salt) and serve.

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