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Vegetarian Brunch: Indian-Style Pea Fritters, Saag Paneer and Spiced Rice

Vegetarian Brunch: Indian-Style Pea Fritters, Saag Paneer and Spiced Rice


For the Saag Paneer:

  • 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter, available in jars) or warm and separate butter solids to make your own

  • 12 ounces paneer, cut horizontally, then into bite-sized bricks

  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds or toasted sesame and black sesame seeds combined, plus more for garnish (optional) 

  • 2 inches ginger, very thin matchsticks or chopped

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped

  • 1 green chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

  • 1 ½ pounds (stemmed weight) spinach, chopped

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/3 palmful

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/3 palmful

  • ½ cup cream

  • ½ cup water

For the Spiced Rice:

  • 2 tablespoons ghee

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick or pinch of smoked ground cinnamon

  • 3 cardamom pods

  • 3 cloves or pinch of ground cloves

  • A handful of curry leaves (optional)

  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice, rinsed well and drained

  • 2 ½ cups vegetable stock and/or water

  • Salt

For the Indian-Style Pea Fritters:

  • About 3 tablespoons barberries, currants or chopped raisins

  • 1 ½ cups fresh peas, 1 cup pulse-ground into fine bits and ½ cup left whole

  • ½ cup walnuts, pistachios or pine nuts, toasted and cooled

  • 1 cup packed herbs: parsley, mint, basil, dill and coriander/cilantro combined

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 12 eggs

  • Salt and pepper

  • 2 tablespoons green tikka masala spice blend (see Tip)

  • 2 slices stale rustic white bread, crust removed and pulse-ground into homemade crumbs, or 1 ½ cups panko

  • Frying oil, ¾ to 1 cup (1/8 inch in shallow frying pan)


Serves: 4 to 6

For the saag paneer, melt 2 tablespoons of the ghee in large nonstick skillet, add cheese and brown it on each side until light golden. Remove from pan and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee, ginger and onion, soften a bit, then add garlic and chili pepper and soften a couple minutes more. Add spinach and wilt into pan, season with salt, pepper, cumin and coriander, then add cream and gently work in. Add water and simmer on low to thicken and cook the greens, 20 minutes. Add the cheese back and garnish with more sesame seeds, if you like.   

For the spiced rice, in a 3-quart pot with lid, melt ghee over medium heat. Add onion, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and curry leaves (if using). Add rice and toast. Add stock and cover, then simmer until tender, covered. Season with salt to taste.   

For the Indian-style pea fritters, place barberries, currants or raisins in small bowl and top with hot water to plump, then drain. 

 Prepare the peas: In a food processor, grind 1 cup and then combine with ½ cup whole in a bowl. 

Wipe out food processor and pulse nuts to a fine chop, then transfer to the bowl. Add herbs and garlic and pulse to fine chop. 

Whisk up eggs and add in spices, reserved ingredients and panko. 

 Heat oil over medium to medium-high heat in large cast-iron or nonstick skillet. Add the fritter batter in ladlefuls to form 3- to 4-inch cakes, brown on each side and drain on rack.