Today I am sharing with you all one of my recipes that I have been cooking for the last few years and discovered on a whim. It is a straightforward recipe which cooks fast and one of those you wouldn’t usually find in a restaurant. I loosely named it Paneer Masala because of the spices that combine together in this recipe. Paneer dishes are one of our favorite meals in this house, so much that I cook with it over and over again. Sometimes with the generation old recipes and on some days I love to create different versions we sample in odd eateries around the city or back home. This one particular is my go-to dish for Friday afternoons when we want to stay back home and inspiration is lacking.
I have always adored the play of spices in Indian cuisine; each of the aromatic components coming together for a warming meal that families can sit together and enjoy. It is delightful to apprehend how a certain spice can lift the flavors and aromas in a dish while others are used reasonably for their overpowering qualities. In this Paneer Masala, I’ve ditched my usual garam masala, which is a fragrant foundation of Indian dishes, and instead picked up whole ingredients that are a pantry staple in every Indian home. I would usually make this spicy with lots of heat from red chilli but in last few years I’ve tamed the hotness because my boys like it that way. You can use red chilly powder or dried whole red chillies easily available at your local grocery stores but considering the spice level, use in moderation. However, I’d insist you hunt down a legit dried kahmiri chillies wherever you live – it has the right amount of spice and gives out a beautiful red color to the whole dish.
Paneer or cottage cheese is easy to find in supermarkets but I am telling you ditch those frozen sections and make one at home because it is super easy when you get the right technique. First time I did and my paneer was harder than it should be although in next attempts it was firm yet melt in the mouth when cooked. If I have to grab a block in emergency, Bikanerwala is my go to place as they sell the freshest paneer in UAE and I say that after buying it from different shops, Lulu and Carrefour and it was always a struggle to get the right texture, taste and freshness.
Getting on with the recipe, I hope Paneer Masala is cooked as often in your homes as it does in mine.
- Paneer or Cottage cheese - 400 gms cut in 1.5 inch cubes.
- Red onions - 2 finely chopped
- Tomatoes - 1 chopped or pureed
- Garlic - 5 pods
- Kashmiri red chillies - 4
- Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - 2 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Fresh cream - 2 to 4 tbsp
- Butter - 1 tbsp
- Vegetable oil - 1 tbsp
- Coriander leaves - 1/3 cup chopped
Cut paneer in cubes and keep aside.
Dry roast kashmiri chillies, coriander seeds and cumin until fragrant (approximately for 15 secs or less without browning them). Cool off and grind together with garlic into a thick paste by adding few tablespoons of water.
Heat butter and oil in a cooking pot. Saute onions on a medium flame until translucent. Add tomatoes and cook for few minutes till oil start to leave from the sides.
Add the ground spice paste, salt and mix well.
Stir in paneer carefully without breaking any. Add about 1/3 cup water and cook covered for 5 minutes on a medium low.
Mix fresh cream at the end. Garnish with coriander and serve with your favorite bread.