Paneer is a delicious non-melting Indian cheese that is quite easy to make at home. Home made paneer has a wonderful fresh taste and is also easy to make but store bought paneer is just as good and is easily available in any Indian grocery store. You can also substitute firm ricotta cheese or extra firm tofu as well but for this particular recipe I highly recommend substituting the paneer with goat cheese instead. Feel free to use organic milk and make your own home made organic paneer.
Leeks are a delicious member of the onion family & although not very commonly used in Indian cuisine, they have a lovely subtle flavor that works well in Indian cooking.
This is a delicious recipe that is always in high demand, I make it often for brunch or even serve it as a light meal. A light salad on the side or some fresh fruit makes it perfectly complete.
I dont think of myself as a baker really (although I love to eat baked treats & goodies), so for this recipe store bought frozen puff pastry was my best friend. Its a great timesaver & easily available in any grocery store. But if you truly enjoy baking, then by all means go for it, do feel free to bake you own tart shell.
PANEER & LEEK TART
1 sheet store bought puff pastry (thaw if frozen)
1+ tbsp all purpose flour (maida)
1 leek (you can use green onions/scallions if you like)
1½ cups paneer cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs, beaten
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cumin powder
salt & pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter
freshly chopped cilantro leaves
smoked Spanish paprika
2 cups dried beans or pie weights
Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Prep the leek by chopping off the tough ends on both sides & by removing any tough outer leaves. For this recipe, I like to use both the white part & any tender light green leaves. Then slice the leek in half lengthwise right down the middle. Then thinly chop the leek and add the slices to a big bowl filled with cold water (a salad spinner works great for this task). Leeks have many thin layers that are usually filled with sand & grit, so get your hand in there & swish the leeks around to make sure all the layers have separated completely. Let the leek pieces sit for about 5 minutes, all the sand/grit will go to the bottom & the clean leek pieces will rise to the top. Rinse, drain very well (salad spinner!) & set aside until needed.
Puff pastry is very easy to work with & if I can do it trust me, anyone can! Now with a rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface, gently roll out the puff pastry to about ¼ thickness. The puff pastry should also easily be able to cover a 9-10 tart pan (with a removable bottom). Gently press the dough into the tart pan, trimming off any of the excess dough & shaping it to fill the sides. Now take a fork & make several holes into the puff pastry crust so it will not rise too much. Using either aluminum foil or parchment paper to line the bottom (spray the side going down on the puff pastry with a little cooking spray), add 2 cups of dried beans to add a little more weight. Blind bake the crust for 15-20 minutes on the center rack. Then remove the foil/beans and bake the tart shell for another 10 minutes until golden brown. Let the pastry cool & set aside until needed.
In a large deep skillet on medium high heat, add the butter. When melted, add the leeks along with a little salt & pepper. Stir & let cook until completely softened (12-15 minutes). Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs along with the cream. Whisk to combine & add in the spices (red pepper flakes, nutmeg, ground cumin powder, salt & pepper). Now add in the cooked leeks, paneer cubes & half of the cilantro leaves. Stir well to combine & carefully pour into the cooled tart shell. Sprinkle the top liberally with some smoked Spanish paprika.
Bake for another 30-40 minutes until the tart has completely set (toothpick test) & browned nicely. Allow to cool for another 10 minutes, garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves & serve.
Feel free to add your favorite vegetables/herbs to this dish such as red bell peppers (even roasted red bell peppers), mushrooms, asparagus, green peas, spinach, zucchini, cherry or grape tomatoes, basil varieties, mint, rosemary
You could also add some toasted pine nuts to the egg mixture or sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan, romano or asiago cheese over the top.