Mutter Paneer (Peas n Cottage Cheese Curry)
So I've been asked a thousand times for this recipe and yesterday I got asked for the 1000 and 1st time (I keep count of everything, no I don't have OCD...I'm just kidding............ or am I?!) and I thought, yeah, now is the right time to put up this favourite recipe of all on my blog! And here it is the favourite of Punjab, the favourite of India and the favourite of Ki's (my) kitchen......drumroll please.....Mutter Paneer.
Now this is a wonderful medium spicy, Indian curry dish. The consistency of the curry in India is quite varied. I prefer my curries to be a little runny so I can dunk my roti and spoon it on my rice. If you want a thicker curry, you can always add in cashew paste or melon seed paste and make the gravy rich and thick like the restaurants. But since this is a home-style version, I'll stick to how its been cooked since generations. The delicate hint of whole spices with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of love brings this homely version to a transcendental level. Hyperbole?- just a tad bit maybe but believe me not? Try this and you'll know what I'm talking about! Just have your ingredients ready and get started.
Time taken: 1 1/2 hours
2 big red onions, sliced
5-6 large garlic cloves
1" piece of ginger, sliced
4 medium tomatoes, quartered
3 green chilies
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp dry roasted and powdered cumin
3 black cardamoms
3 bay leaves
1" stick cinnamon, broken
500 gms of grean peas, approx 2 cups
300 gms of Paneer or cottage cheese, sliced into 1" square-ish slices
1 lts of water
2/3 cup oil
1 tbsp of dry powdered coriander
1 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp of red chili powder (add more if you enjoy the heat)
1 tsp of garam masala powder
Salt to taste
Coriander to garnish
Love to serve with
First and foremost, have all the ingredients handy. I can not stress how much it helps to have everything in place when you have such a long ingredient list so you don't leave out anything. The french didn't coin the term Mis-en-place for nothing.
Begin with your big pan on medium heat. Add the oil to it and the whole cumin to it.
When the cumin begins to splutter, add the onions.
Wait till the onions start softening in colour and add the green chilies to it.
See how I have split the green chilies. This helps on two levels- one the chilies won't explode in your face and also it helps infuse the heat of the green chilies gradually.
Now add in the garlic cloves and sliced ginger, here's your Indian mire-poix or as they say, the base for almost any Indian curry.
Let this saute on medium heat till the onions slowly caramelize to help release their sweetness. Keep stirring occasionally so that the garlic doesn't get burnt on any side. We NEVER want garlic to burn.
Wait till the onions turn brown and the garlic is evenly golden
Scoop everything out into a blender. Make sure to leave behind as much oil as possible in the pan. I usually turn off the gas at this point so my oil doesn't keep burning. Now to this hot oil, I added the whole spices- bay leaves, black cardamom and cinnamon stick. Just leave them there in the oil. The warm oil actually helps the spices to release their flavours.
Back to the onions in the blender.
Top off the blender with the quartered tomatoes. If you are using crushed tomatoes or tomato puree instead of the whole ones, feel free to add those to the blender as well.
Have your blender in place but before you switch it on, you want to cover the lid with a napkin. Since the onions are hot, the lid might come off due to the steam (I've had that happen to me and trust me when I say this that the kitchen walls don't look nice with splattered tomato n onion paste). Hold the lid of the blender and switch it on. On another note, doesn't the blender look prrettttttyyy with the napkin, or is it just me?!
Blend it all to a smooth paste. Add a couple tsps of water if required to fasten the process.
Now put the pan back on heat before you transfer the onion tomato paste to the pan. The paste should be a beautiful pale pink salmon colour. Let this cook for about 10 mins or so and keep stirring.
You'll see how the oil starts making its way to the top.
Now add the dry spices. Clockwise, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder and salt.
Mix everything and let this saute on medium heat till the whole paste turns deep red almost brown in colour. At this moment I'm usually sooooo ready to dig in!! Its an olfactory pleasure to experience. This is what 'bhuna' masala is. Slow roasting everything brings out a sweetness and depth of flavours that is enriched with the Indian spices.
What I like to do next is add in the peas to the reduced paste and roast it for about 5-7 minutes.
Add the water to the mix, give it a good stir.
At this point, add in the garam masala powder
Coriander leaves and cover with a lid. Let the curry simmer for 7-10 mins.
Meanwhile, take another shallow pan. Drizzle a few drops of oil in it and let the oil heat nicely. Add the sliced paneer pieces to it. This step is optional but I always do it because it helps make the paneer soft and buttery on the inside.
Let the pieces cook for a minute or so til they turn golden brown on one side before turning them. Don't let them cook for any longer otherwise they will turn rubbery in texture.
The curry should also be done by now. Carefully transfer the paneer pieces to the pan and take the pan off the heat.
Did you think I'd forget a generous sprinkling of love?! Make sure you add that before serving.
I served mine with rice and papadums. Yummmmmmm! Indulge! :)