Coconut Fried Cauliflower & Paneer

Paneer is such a wonderful ingredient and I’m always looking for an excuse to sing its praises. This cheese is similar in texture to halloumi, so it stands up to a lot of cooking whilst still retaining its shape. It is not as salty as halloumi, which is why I tend to opt for paneer when I’m looking for a cheese to fry or put on the barbecue. Paneer, especially, can get nice and crispy on the outside, and still stay soft on the inside.

The combination of cauliflower and paneer is a match made in heaven for me. I’d advise that you don’t over-cook the cauliflower, otherwise this dish could turn to mush. Instead, stick to the recommended boiling time. The beauty of this recipe is the contrasting textures and bright, zingy flavours.

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RECIPE: Coconut Fried Cauliflower and Paneer

FLAVOUR PROFILE: Sweet and sour, fresh with coconut and fragrant spice.

GOES GREAT WITH: Serve as a side dish with Tandoori Poussin and basmati rice or naan.

NOTES: It would also be nice to toast the desiccated coconut and would impart a fabulous flavour to the dish. Do it in the same way as the spices – in a dry frying pan for a minute or two. Although I must warn you that coconut burns very easily: take your eye off it for a second and you’ll find yourself having to make a new batch (that’s what happened to me)!

MAKES: Enough to serve 4 as a side dish.


  • 200g (7oz) CAULIFLOWER, chopped into florets
  • 200g (7oz) PANEER, cubed
  • 2 tbsp. OIL
  • 1 inch piece FRESH GINGER, minced or finely grated
  • 2 cloves GARLIC, minced
  • 2 large TOMATOES, diced
  • 1 RED ONION, finely diced
  • ¾ tsp. FENNEL SEEDS
  • ½ tsp. CUMIN SEEDS
  • 2 tsp. HONEY
  • ½ tsp. GARAM MASALA
  • 1 tbsp. DESSICATED COCONUT, (toasted, if you like)
  • FRESH CORIANDER, to garnish


  1. First prepare the CAULIFLOWER and PANEER: Boil the cauliflower for 4 minutes, then drain and leave aside. Fry the paneer in 1 tbsp. OIL until it is golden on all sides. Be careful here, as the paneer may splutter and be wary that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp. OIL over a medium-high heat. Add the ONIONS and cook until they are translucent. Add the GARLIC and GINGER and cook for a few minutes until the raw smell disappears. Then add the TOMATOES, turn the heat down to medium and put a lid on for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put the CARDAMOM PODS, FENNEL SEEDS and CUMIN SEEDS in a dry frying pan and toast for a few minutes. Be careful to watch them as they will burn easily. As soon as you smell the aromas, take them off the heat. Pop open the cardamom pods, remove the seeds and discard the husks. Grind all of the spices to a fine powder using a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
  4. Add the SPICE MIX to the saucepan and give it a stir. Add the TAMARIND and HONEY. Add a drop of water if the mixture is too dry, but you don’t want too much: ideally this mixture will coat the cauliflower and paneer rather than being too saucy. Cook for a few minutes, then taste. Adjust the honey/tamarind if you want it sweeter or more sour.
  5. Fold in the cauliflower and paneer along with the GARAM MASALA. Cook for a few minutes just to heat through. Then stir in the DESICCATED COCONUT so that each piece is coated. Garnish with FRESH CORIANDER and serve immediately.
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