Homemade Indian curries can be as simple or complex as you like. It’s easier than ever to find jars of Indian sauces that require little more than heating in a pan and serving with some kind of protein and rice.


On the other end of the spectrum, you make the curry totally from scratch, making homemade nut pastes and paneer and toasting and grinding spices for your own garam masala.


"MOB Veggie" author Ben Lebus’ recipe is somewhere in the middle. He uses store-bought garam masala and paneer but makes the sauce from scratch, starting with soaked cashews and sauteed onions and ginger. Lebus uses oil, but ghee is also a good choice if you have it on hand.


The softened nuts — you can use a combination of almonds and cashews if you like — are the backbone of this sultry sauce, but Lebus makes it even creamier with a finish of heavy cream. You can skip this ingredient if it’s already creamy enough or use a dairy-free cream, such as oat milk.


Remember that spinach wilts down to practically nothing when cooked, so add as many handfuls as you like. (I prefer to pinch the stems off the spinach before adding, and I always end up putting in twice as much as I think I’ll need.)


Shahi paneer, which means "royal" paneer, is one of many variations on this popular dish, and some restaurants — and home cooks — add even more layers of flavor, from cardamom, dried fenugreek leaves and saffron to dried fruits, such as apricot, mango or raisins. You can also use tofu instead of paneer if you want to avoid dairy altogether.


No matter which variation you make, this cozy (and quick) curry is perfect for a weeknight when you’re craving something with warming spices but might not have a lot of time to cook.


Shahi Spinach Paneer


A Punjabi special for under $10, which is less than you’d pay for four takeout servings from a restaurant. Careful with the turmeric; it stains everything.


— Ben Lebus


Handful of unsalted cashews


2 cups basmati rice


1 white onion


1 (1-inch) piece of ginger


4 cloves garlic


Olive oil


Salt and pepper


1/2 teaspoon red chile powder


1 teaspoon garam masala, divided


1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric


7 ounces tomato paste


7 ounces paneer


4 tablespoons heavy cream


Several handfuls of fresh spinach


Fresh cilantro, for garnish


Soak a handful of cashews in warm water for at least 15 minutes while preparing the other ingredients.


Cook the rice by following the instructions on the packet and set aside.


Meanwhile, dice the onion and ginger. Finely chop garlic cloves. Place them all into a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and saute until soft. Add salt, pepper, chile powder, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala and ground turmeric.


Leave to simmer until the onion gets soft and translucent. Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly.


After the cashews have been soaked and onion cooked, add them both to a blender and blitz to make a smooth paste.


Heat some olive oil in a skillet, then add the paste. Cook on low until most of the moisture evaporates, then add the tomato paste.


Stir well and cook until the oil starts to ooze out from the sides. Stir frequently to make sure that it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.


Add another 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala and mix well. Cube the paneer, add to the pan, mix well and allow to simmer for 2 minutes.


Add cream and mix in. Add some spinach and let it cook for a few more minutes.


Serve on a bed of rice and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Serves 4.


— From "MOB Veggie: Big Flavors on a Small Budget" by Ben Lebus (Pavilion, $19.95)