Friday, September 30, 2016

Matar Paneer

Indian cuisine is well known for offering a wide range of vegetarian dishes for its massive population that relies purely on meat free diet. An array of lentils and beans, an abundance of seasonal vegetables and paneer along with a wide selection of herbs and spices form the backbone of Indian vegetarian cuisine.  
Indian cottage cheese or paneer is fresh cheese that can be easily made at home and requires no aging. It has a mild taste and  and soaks up the flavor of the spices its cooked in. It holds up well to frying and grilling and so is a great choice for curries and BBQ. This versatile ingredients is used to make a wide array of dishes ranging from starters to main dish to dessert. A fave among all you can find it in restaurant meals, home cooked food and street food.
Matar paneer is a tomato based peas and paneer curry from North India. Fried cubes of paneer and peas are simmered in an onion, tomato, ginger and garlic based gravy spiced with cumin, cloves, cinnamon and green chilies. So shallow fry paneer cubes till lightly golden and keep aside. Make the gravy and add frozen peas. Add the fried paneer and simmer for a bit to allow the flavors to blend in. Do not overcook the paneer as it gets rubbery. Serve with cumin rice or roti. 

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)
400 gms paneer
2 cups frozen peas
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches ginger, grated
2-3 green chilies, chopped fine
3 large tomatoes, pureed
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 cloves
Small piece cinnamon 
1/3 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
Deghi mirch (cayanne pepper) to taste
Oil for frying
1/2 tsp Garam masala
Handful fresh coriander for garnish
  1. Remove any excess moisture from the paneer using a paper towel and then cut into bite sized cubes. These need to be fried lightly till the edges turn golden. You can use one of the following two methods for this. The baking method works well when making a large quantity for a crowd.  
  2. Frying method for paneer - Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non stick pan over medium heat. Shallow fry the cubed paneer in batches till lightly golden on all sides. this should only take 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat onto a paper towel to remove excess oil. 
  3. Baking method for paneer - Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with foil sprayed with some oil to prevent the paneer from sticking. Brush the paneer cubes with some oil in all sides and place them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the hot oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, turning once in between. Do keep an eye as paneer can overcook quickly. Remove from oven and place in a bowl of warm water till you make your gravy. Drain and squeeze out excess water before adding it to the gravy. 
  4. Prepare the gravy - Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them roast for 5 seconds. Coarsely pound cloves and cinnamon in mortar and pestle, and add it to the pan. Add chopped onions and fry till they turn pink. Add minced garlic, ginger and green chilies and lower the heat a bit. Continue cooking till onions turns golden brown. 
  5. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, sugar, salt and all the powdered spices to the pan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking the tomatoes and spices till you see some oil leaving the sides of the pan. Add the frozen peas and 3/4 cup of water, bring to a rolling boil. Add the fried paneer cubes and mix to coat all the pieces with the sauce. Simmer covered for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in garam masala and sprinkle fresh minced coriander. serve with roti, paratha or rice.  

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