Paneer Makhani

Paneer Makhani5
Have you ever been to a restaurant and eaten a dish that you really liked and you wanted to make that dish at home? Well, this is one of those dishes that I really enjoyed in a restaurant in India and wanted to replicate at home. With every bite that I took, I tried desperately to detect what went into it. I also tried many recipes from cookbooks and finally came up with this version of paneer makhani which I felt matched what I tasted at the restaurant.

I recently made this dish for a potluck with my friends and was pleased when they asked me to post the recipe on my blog. The restaurant version had a lot of makhan (butter) floating in it, but I didn’t use as much as they did. Of course, adding an extra pat of makhan just before finishing the dish makes it richer and yummier. But I’ll let you be the judge of whether that is necessary or not when you taste my version.

There is a bit of prep work that goes into making this dish. The paneer needs to be cut into cubes, lightly fried and soaked in hot water. The onions need to be boiled and puréed. The tomatoes need to be blanched, the skin discarded, and then puréed. The ginger-garlic paste can be bought from an Indian grocery store or you can make it at home. I’ve described how to do that in the directions. Cashew nuts need to be soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and then puréed in a blender. Once all the prep work is done and you have all the other ingredients measured and ready to be used, it is easy to put the paneer makhani together. Please note that I made this dish for a large group so it is a larger quantity than I usually make. I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as I do. Happy cooking!

Paneer Makhani
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves: 10

3 cups water
2 14 ounce (400 grams) packets of paneer, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons oil
2 large onions, (quartered, boiled, drained and puréed – 2 cups onion purée)
4 large tomatoes, (blanched, peeled, and puréed – 3 cups tomato purée)
5 tablespoons butter, plus 2 teaspoons oil
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
1 teaspoon hot red chilli powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
3 teaspoons garam masala powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon red food color, (optional)
2 teaspoons kasoori methi, (dry fenugreek leaves)
20 cashew nuts, (soaked in water for 30 minutes and puréed)
¼ cup whipping cream
2 cubes grated fresh paneer, for garnishing

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring three cups of water to a boil, over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat off, and set it aside. You will use this to soak the fried paneer.

Set two cubes of paneer aside to be used for garnishing this dish. Fry the paneer cubes in two batches. Add one tablespoon of oil to a non-stick frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Swirl the oil so that it coats the bottom and sides of the pan. Add half the paneer cubes and fry until very lightly colored. Remove and put them into the hot water that you set aside for this purpose. Add another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and fry the rest of paneer cubes until light brown. Remove and put them also into the hot water. Let the paneer soak until you need to add them to the gravy, and continue with the rest of the prep work.

Cut the onions into quarters, boil them in one cup of water until they turn translucent, drain and save the water as you will use some of it in the gravy. Cool the onion and purée. You should have two cups of onion purée. Set aside. Next blanch the tomatoes in hot water, drain, cool, remove the skin, and purée the tomatoes. You should have three cups of tomato purée. Set aside. If you are making the ginger-garlic paste yourself, clean and chop a two-inch piece of ginger and eight cloves of garlic. Add them to a blender along with one tablespoon of water. Blend until a paste is formed. Set aside. Soak cashew nuts in hot water for 30 minutes and then purée in a blender until smooth. Set aside until you are ready to use it in the paneer makhani.

Heat a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add two teaspoons oil and the butter. The oil is being added so that the butter does not burn easily. When the butter melts add the ginger-garlic paste. Fry for three minutes or until the raw smell of ginger-garlic disappears. Add puréed onion. Sauté for eight minutes. Make sure that it does not burn or catch to the bottom of the dish. Turn the heat to medium-low if needs be.

Next, add Kashmiri chilli powder, hot chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, garam masala powder, and salt. Sauté for a minute and add quarter cup of the water in which the onion was boiled (if you remembered to save it or you can just add water). Sauté again till the water evaporates. Add tomato purée, tomato paste and food color. If you are using powdered food color, first dissolve it in a few drops of water and then add it. Stir, cover with a lid, and cook on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the cashew paste and crushed kasoori methi. Stir well, cover and cook for another five minutes. Use a slotted spoon to drain the paneer that is soaking in hot water and add them. You don’t need to squeeze the water out of the paneer pieces. Add whipped cream. Stir gently so paneer pieces are coated with the creamy gravy and cook on low heat for five minutes. Dish out into a serving bowl. Grate the two cubes of fresh paneer, that you saved to garnish the dish, and sprinkle on top. There you have it, a restaurant style Paneer Makhani.

Kadai Paneer – Paneer, Bell Pepper, and Onion cooked in a Kadai

Kadai Paneer2

A kadai, sometimes spelled karahi, is a must in every Indian kitchen. In fact, most homes have several. One to cook vegetables in, one to cook sweets in, and one for deep frying. A kadai is a thick, circular, deep cooking vessel, traditionally made from cast iron or copper. It is used in kitchens in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. It looks like a wok but it has steeper sides with two handles. Dishes typically made in a kadai have Afghan and Persian origins.

Don’t worry if you don’t own a kadai, you can still make this dish in a regular non-stick pot or wok. The paneer I buy is not as fresh and soft as the paneer we get in India. Hence, the extra step of soaking the pieces of paneer in hot water. If you get fresh paneer or if you make your own, you can skip this step. Kasoori methi is dry fenugreek leaves, which you can buy at an Indian grocery store. North Indians like the slight crunch of the kadai spice mix, but if you are not used to that, you can grind the spices to a powder. What makes my Kadai Paneer distinct is the kadai spice mix. Try it out once, and I think you’ll be hooked.

Kadai Paneer – Paneer, Bell Pepper, and Onion cooked in a Kadai
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

4 whole dry Kashmiri red chillies
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
14 ounces paneer, (400 grams)
3 cups water
3 tablespoons oil
1-inch piece ginger, grated
6 cloves of garlic, grated
8 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small onion, cut into wedges and petals separated
1 green bell pepper, cut into large cubes
1 teaspoon kasoori methi, (dry fenugreek leaves)
1 teaspoon garam masala, (preferably my garam masala)
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 green chillie, finely sliced, (optional)
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

To make the special kadai spice mix, roast dry Kashmiri red chillies, fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and whole black pepper in a small non-stick frying pan over low heat, until they smell fragrant. Cool and grind to a coarse powder. I use a coffee grinder to do this. You could also use a mortar and pestle.

Cut paneer into pieces. For this recipe, I cut my paneer into small rectangular pieces. Heat three cups of water in a saucepan.  When the water boils, off the heat, and put panner pieces into the hot water. Allow it to soften while you continue with the next step. If you are using fresh or home-made paneer you can skip this step.

Heat oil in a kadai or wok over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add one teaspoon of cumin seeds and wait until they splutter. Next add the grated ginger and garlic. Sauté for five seconds and then add tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt. Let the tomatoes cook for six to seven minutes or until the oil separates. Drain the paneer pieces and then add them to the dish. Reserve the water. Add one tablespoon of the ground kadai spice mix, capsicum, and onion. Mix well, add quarter cup of the reserved water, and let the vegetables cook for two minutes. You want the bell pepper and onion to have a crunch to them. Add crushed kasoori methi, the rest of the ground kadai spice mix, garam masala, and cream. Stir gently so paneer and vegetables are well coated with the creamy-tangy sauce. Garnish with sliced green chillies and chopped cilantro. Kadai paneer goes well with naan, roti or rice.

Mattar Paneer Curry

Muttar Paneer2

Mattar Paneer Curry is a North Indian dish made with paneer and peas. The sauce is spicy, creamy and slightly sweet. Mattar Paneer is a dish I make frequently when I entertain, especially when my guests are vegetarian.

To keep the paneer soft and moist, fry the pieces until they turn light brown, remove with a slotted spoon, and put them directly into warm water. Just before they go into the curry, gently dab them with paper towels, to remove as much water as possible.

I think this recipe comes pretty close the popular Indian restaurant versions. I hope you will try it and give me your feedback. You can buy paneer and kasoori methi at Indian grocery stores.

Mattar Paneer
To be ground in a blender
1 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
½ cup chopped cilantro

To fry the paneer
14 oz paneer (400 grams)
3 tablespoons oil
5 cups warm water

To make the mattar paneer curry
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 cups water
2 teaspoons kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice

To be ground in a blender
Grind chopped onion, ginger, garlic, and cilantro in a blender. Set aside.

To fry the paneer
Cut the paneer into small pieces. I cut my paneer into small rectangular pieces. In a non-stick frying pan, over medium heat, add one tablespoon of oil and then add a few pieces of paneer at a time and fry until light brown. Remove and put them directly into warm water. Repeat with the rest of the oil and paneer. Set aside.

To make the mattar paneer curry
Heat three tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers add cumin seeds. When they splutter add the ground onion, ginger, garlic, and cilantro. Sauté until it turns light brown and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, scrape the bottom of the pan well, and fry until the oil separates. Add the coriander, chilli, turmeric and cumin powder. Sauté for one minute and then add the peas. Add water, cover and cook until the peas are done.

In the mean time, drain the paneer pieces and with paper towels gently remove excess water. Add the paneer to the curry. Crush kasoori methi in the palm of your hand and add it to the curry. Add cream and lemon juice. Stir gently and cook for five minutes. Serve mattar paneer with rice, chapatis or naan.

Palak Paneer (Spinach with Indian Cheese)

Palak paneer is a popular North Indian vegetarian dish. When my friends and I go to an Indian restaurant, one of them always orders palak paneer. This recipe, my dear friend, is for you!

I have made palak paneer several times in many different ways, but this recipe is my favorite. Paneer can be bought at an Indian grocery store. I will share a recipe on how you can make paneer at home sometime soon.

A word of caution, make sure that you adjust the number of green chillies depending on the amount of heat you can tolerate. Also, gently crush the dry fenugreek leaves with your fingers, before adding them. This makes a big difference in bringing out the essence of these leaves. Using ghee, dry fenugreek leaves (which is called kasoori methi in Hindi), yoghurt, nutmeg, and lemon juice elevated this dish and gave it a unique flavor.

Palak Paneer

1 pound spinach leaves
3 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 cup finely chopped onion
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons dry fenugreek leaves, (kasoori methi)
2 teaspoons fined chopped green chillies
1 tablespoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup plain yoghurt
12 ounces (340 grams) paneer cut into cubes, and lightly shallow fried
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Wash the fresh spinach leaves, and put them in a large pot with three tablespoons of water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander and then place it in a large bowl with ice water. This stops the spinach from cooking and helps retain its color. When completely cool, drain the water, and purée the spinach in a blender.

Melt three tablespoons ghee in a medium sauce-pan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and when they sputter add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add onions and salt; cook stirring frequently, until softened. Lower the heat to medium. Gently crush the fenugreek leaves, before adding them to the onion mixture. Add green chillies, coriander powder, turmeric powder and grated nutmeg. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the yoghurt, and spinach purée. Stir, and bring to simmer, allowing the flavors to blend, about five minutes. Gently fold in the paneer cubes. Turn off the heat and stir in lemon juice. Your delicious palak paneer is ready to be served!