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Every parent with school-going kids has to face the morning or the night before with a very important question – what to pack in the school lunch box? What’s there in my pantry? Also, when you have to feed more than one kid, the agony is doubled, believe me!
If my older one wants muesli for breakfast, the younger one fancies ‘Chocos’. The day the older one thinks of a sandwich for lunch, the younger one would like rice. If one feels like some thing sweet, the other wants a savoury treat right then! The Universe connives with my kids such that, they have exactly opposite moods at any time. At such times, nothing helps - not requests to adjust with each other, not promises to make it tomorrow, not threats, nothing! Trust me.
And, I have an hour to make breakfast for them, make acceptable (read different gourmet meals) lunches, pack them, fill their water bottles, make sure they have brushed, showered, prayed (yes, that is important in my home), combed, attired in mandatory school regalia!, find random books/papers/assignments/stationery that they have forgotten to stuff into their school bags, find their socks, salvage their shoes from the chasm between the shoe racks and the wall, and make sure they reach the school bus on time!
I know I am not alone. Most mothers/parents in my city and maybe, the world over, go through some variation of this vertigo-inducing routine in the morning! Well, after going through this rigmarole for more than 15 years, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Some recipes which help me assemble quick, hearty, nourishing home-made lunches for my children.
This paneer curry is one such easy-peasy life saver on such insanity-causing weekday mornings!
If you have paneer ready, that is.
And coloured capsicum (bell peppers), and a couple of sauces.
It is versatile, easy to put together, can be used to partner with chapatis, filled into a sandwich, rolled into a kathi roll, or add pizzazz to some fried rice. Most important, when packed in a lunch box, it will come back home empty. Hopefully your child got to eat some of it
Preparation Time – 10 minutes; Cooking time – 5 minutes; Serves – 4-5.
- Does NOT contain egg, nuts, corn.
- Has dairy and lactose. Can be made dairy- and lactose-free by substituting paneer with extra-firm tofu.
- Has MSG. Not suitable for children below 2 years.
Cookware – Cutting Board, Knife, Colander, 9” Diameter frying pan / Wok.
- Paneer (Or extra firm tofu) – 200 gm
- Green, red and yellow capsicum, chopped – 1/3 cup each
- Red Onion – 1 big, or measure 1 cup, finely diced
- Fresh coriander leaves (Cilantro), chopped fine – 1/4 cup
- Schezwan Sauce (any brand) - 2 tsp
- Tomato Ketchup – 3-4 tbsp
- Salt – a couple of pinches ( if needed)
- Any vegetable oil – 2 tsp
- Saunf ( fennel seeds) – 1 tbsp*
- Honey – 1 tsp OR Sugar – 2 pinches (Optional)
*Do not omit the saunf in this recipe. It adds a unique flavour to the dish.
- Rinse paneer or tofu in drinking water. Carefully place it in colander to drain. Then, you can choose to either dice the paneer (or Tofu) or roughly crumble it. I prefer to dice, as then, the diced vegetables and the paneer all look similarly proportioned.
- Tip in the onion before the saunf browns. Sauté for a minute. Add a pinch of salt to speed things up.
- Now the sauces can go in. The sight of these liquids hitting the hot pan and then the aroma around – I’ll leave you to savour in your kitchen!
- A quick mix of the sauces and veggies, and now it is the turn of diced paneer followed by chopped coriander to hit the pan. Switch off flame, mix all contents well, taste and add more salt now if needed. Some paneer will get crumbled while mixing, that is fine. Add the (sugar /honey if you are using), now. Mix through, taste again to make sure the flavours satisfy your palate.*
* My family found the play of texture and flavour in this recipe to be very appealing! You could add more or less of the sauces, or add more seasonings as you prefer. Add red chilli paste instead of Shezwan sauce, omit the sugar, try the dish with any one type of capsicum – all these are variations you could try.
We are enjoying these filling, healthy and absolutely lip-smacking sandwiches at our home, in our lunch boxes and as after-school snacks too! Go ahead, make some for yourself, enjoy and let me know if you liked them.