Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mutter Paneer (Peas and Cottage Cheese Curry)

The most popular North Indian dish ordered in an Indian restaurant.
Mutter Paneer is a crowd favorite! Absolutely hard to resist, you will be surprised how simple this recipe can be.

North Indian dishes are generally loaded with butter or ghee or cream. At least the good ones are!
Here I have tried to make this culinary gem into a much heathier version, so you could enjoy it as much and as many times as you would like.

Mutter Paneer is a spicy and creamy peas and cottage cheese curry. This curry is so versatile, that it can be enjoyed with rotis, naans or with plain or spiced rice.

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 people
Adapted from: Vahchef

1 tblsp cashewnuts (broken)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tblsp ginger garlic paste
2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 green chilly, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin powder (heaped tsp)
1 tsp coriander powder (heaped tsp)
1 tsp red chilly powder
0.75 tsp garam masala (I use tandoori chicken masala)
1 tblsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1.25 cups green peas (I used frozen)
14 oz packet paneer
Coriander to decorate
0.5 cups milk/cream (optional) (I use milk)
Salt to taste

Step 1 - Cut the paneer in cubes or in any shape of you like. Saute them in 2 tblsp oil like you would stir fry veggies. Do not over handle them, as the paneer crumbles if you move it too much in the pan. I use tongs to just turn them around. Once fried, plop the paneer in a small pot filled with water. Let them rest for 2 mins in the water. Lightly squeeze out the water and keep aside.

Step 2 - Let us get the peas ready. If you use frozen peas, which I do..microwave them for 2 mins with 1 tblsp of water. If you use fresh raw peas, steam them in your pressure pan or in a steamer for 7 to 8 mins till they are 75% cooked. Do not over cook them. They will boil in a the gravy for 5 to 7 mins in the end. Keep aside.

Now to the main dish,
Step 1 - Take 1.5 tblsp oil in a pot. When the oil is hot, add the cashewnuts. Saute till they turn light brown. Add onions. Again, saute till they turn light brown.

Step 2 - Add turmeric powder and ginger garlic paste. Stir the onion mixture for 2 mins, till you get rid of the raw smell of ginger and garlic. Add tomatoes. Cook till they are completely cooked and mushy. This should take 8 - 10 mins on medium heat. Cool the mixture and blend with little water to form a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Step 3 - In another pan heat 1 tblsp oil. Add the blended paste from Step 2. Add 0.75 cups of water. Add green chilly. Mix well and let the mixture come to a boil.

Step 4 - Turn the heat to medium low and add the cumin powder, coriander powder and red chilly powder. Mix well. At this stage, the consistency of the mixture in your pot should be watery and not pasty. Adjust water to get this consistency. Keep boiling this mixture uncovered for 15 mins, till the mixture thickens up to be a sauce. Keep stirring occassionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan and ends up burnt.

Step 5 - Add peas, salt, dried fenugreek leaves and garam masala. Add the paneer. Mix well and simmer the mixture for 5 to 10 mins. Add milk if you plan to use it. Adjust consistency as per your liking with water. Simmer for 1 - 2 mins. Decorate with coriander leaves.

Serve hot with naan, roti, rice.....

Another interesting and our favorite way of using leftovers is by making "Naan-Pizzas"...
Don't resist the urge! I know you want some!

The paneer that you get in India is really soft and fresh. If you can get some of that, you can just fry it a little and add to the gravy. The paneer I get in the USA, gets tough and chewy when stir fried. To get it soft, I use the dunk in water technique. This makes it perfectly soft for the gravy. It also makes the paneer healthier. Added bonus maybe?

Whenever I make this for a huge party or am in a hurry, I make this dish, along with the paneer, peas and gravy preparations upto Step 2 the day before. Then you just have to put everything together on your busy day.

As far as the milk is concerned, I add some only if I have kids coming over as it makes all the flavors a little mild.

Everyone has their family favorite garam masalas at home. In my case, I have malwani garam masala and a regular maharashtrian garam masala. But whenever I make North Indian dishes, I use Tandoori chicken masala or Kitchen King masala. This gives the dishes, a specific North Indian flavor. If you can get hold of Punjabi garam masala, please feel free to use it.

For that extra kick, sprinkle a pinch of garam masala on the curry just before serving. This step is optional of course.

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