The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

Indian-style vegetable and paneer stir fry

For several decades following the end of the Second World War we really believed that the challenge of feeding a growing population would be solved by chemicals and technology.

Now a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has laid bare how catastrophic this belief has proved to be.

The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, and in the report it reveals the extent to which the soil – which should be part of the solution in combating climate change – has in fact turned into part of the problem.

Stable soils naturally absorb carbon, and can contain up to three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. When it is in the soil, carbon provides nutrients for plants and helps provide a resilient soil structure.

However, practices such as intensive chemical use, excessive tillage and lack of crop rotation actually cause billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released annually from the soil into the atmosphere, in the form of greenhouse gas.

Our demand for red meat puts additional stresses upon the land, as well as creating an additional problem through the emission of methane (the meat industry is the single biggest contributor to global warming and is responsible for half of all methane emissions).

This problem is potentially reversible, if we make two huge changes.

The first requires us to adopt a sustainable approach to agriculture. This would mean nourishing the soil with compost and manure, reducing tillage, direct drilling seeds into the soil, diversifying the crops we grow and planting more trees.

The second would require us to change our diet. At an individual level this would mean stopping or at least vastly reducing our consumption of meat, and red meat in particular.

It is one of the great paradoxes of the current climate emergency.

The soil could be our greatest ally in stabilising and even reversing the damage that has been caused by intensive agricultural practices since the mid twentieth century. But while those practices persist, the soil has instead become one of the greatest sources of global warming.


This dish is inspired by a similar dish I enjoyed in an Indian restaurant some time ago. For a vegan version use firm tofu to replace the paneer.

Once the ingredients have been prepared this delicious dish takes just minutes to cook but it is seriously good food.

Indian-style vegetable and paneer stir fry

  • Servings: 2 (as main course) - 4 (as starter)
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Ingredients
225 g block of paneer, cut into 1-2 cm cubes
1 onion, sliced lengthways into thin wedges
1 red pepper, cut into 2 cm wide strips
1 green pepper, cut into 2 cm wide strips
1 small head broccoli, cut into 1-2 cml florets
2 large tomatoes, each cut into eight wedges
1 red chilli, seeds in, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped.
2 tbsp groundnut oil

Method
1. Place the ginger, garlic and chilli in a blender or pestle and mortar and grind to a paste.

2. Place a wok over a high heat and add the groundnut oil. As soon as the oil begins to shimmer, add the cumin seeds. After a few seconds they will sizzle and give off an aroma. Add the onions, chopped pepper and broccoli florets. Stir-fry for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are beginning to catch at the edges. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger paste and the tomato wedges and continue to stir-fry for a further three minutes. Add the cubed paneer, turmeric, coriander, sea salt, garam masala and two thirds of the chopped coriander. Cook for a further two minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened a little. Remove from the heat.

3. Serve alongside some basmati rice, with the reserved coriander scattered over the stir-fried paneer and vegetables.

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Categories: gluten free, vegetarian

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10 replies

  1. . . . ‘if we make two huge changes . . . ‘ You know and I know this ain’t about to happen till the cows come home . . yes, I know what I have written . . . ! . . . if just some of us try, vociferously try . . . ? . . . love the stirfry . . .

    • Thank you Eha. As Martin Luther King once said, “we must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope”. Steve x

  2. The Indian-style stir fry looks so beautiful, perfect & delicious.

  3. It looks amazing and I’m going to make it this weekend! Love your posts! And I agree with everything you wrote here. I’m vegan but not the preachy kind – everyone walks their own path – but how to eat dairy without breeding cattle and having to dispose of the calves would seem to pose a problem. And if we all ate soya I suspect there would be a disaster due to monoculture. Gautama Buddha said that there is no beginning or ending to any story – or beware unintended consequences. The story of chemicals in agriculture is a wonderful example. Thanks for reminding us.

  4. Whilst i agree with what you say here, should we not also think about use of ingredients in your recipe that have flown half way around the world…how many of us can grow peppers for example? or buy them in our local shops, not wrapped in plastic? Local seasonal food should be what we all aspire to eat.

    • Hi Christine. Thank you for commenting. I agree with your concerns about plastic and food miles. This blog advocates the use of locally produced, seasonal, organic food. The majority of the ingredients in this recipe were either grown in my own garden or came from an organic farm 4 miles from my house. Steve

  5. A quick stir fry dish. A regular at my house 😁. Beautifully written post

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