Friday, February 3, 2017

Shahi Paneer

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.
Shahi paneer means a royal paneer curry. This tomato and yogurt based creamy dish with cubed paneer has a definite Mughal influence. Fried cubes of paneer are simmered in an onion, tomato, yogurt, ginger and garlic based gravy spiced with cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. These spices add a delicate flavor enhanced by the sweet nuttiness of cashews, a touch of sour from the yogurt and a rich smoothness of the cream.
So shallow fry paneer cubes till lightly golden and keep aside. Make the gravy. 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 naan or cumin rice. 

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)
400 gms paneer
1 medium red onion, pureed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches ginger, grated
2-3 green chilies, chopped fine
10-15 cashews
1 large tomato, pureed
2 tsp tomato paste
1 cup hung yogurt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 cloves
Small piece cinnamon
2 green cardamoms
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 tbsp cream for garnish (optional)
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. Make the cashew paste - Soak the cashews in 1/4 cup warm water for 5 minutes. Add the soaked cashews along with the water in a blender and make a smooth paste.
  5. 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, cinnamon and green cardamom in mortar and pestle, and add it to the pan. Add onions and fry till they turn pink. Add minced garlic, ginger and green chilies and lower the heat a bit. Continue cooking till everything turns light brown. 
  6. 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 for a minute. Now add the plain yogurt and cashew paste and cook on medium heat till you see some oil leaving the sides of the pan. Avoid using very high heat or the yogurt will start to curdle. 
  7. Add 1/2 - 3/4 cup water (based on the desired consistency) and stir well to get a uniform gravy. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-5 minutes. 
  8. Add the fried paneer cubes . Stir gently to coat all the pieces with the sauce and simmer for a minute.  Remove from heat, stir in the cream and sprinkle fresh minced coriander. Serve with roti or naan.  

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