When I think of meatless Indian dishes for a fancy meal, the first thing that comes to my mind is paneer. I have always loved it whether it is paneer tikka, palak/saag paneer, butter masala or matar paneer. It is also one of my favorite dishes to prepare for a special occasion or a get-together. It is a simple cheese that could be easily prepared at home or is readily available at most Indian grocery stores. Just make sure it is animal rennet free. The beauty of this cheese is that it breathes in any flavor incorporated into it and also it does not melt which makes it perfect in a curry or as an appetizer.
Matar Paneer is prepared with bright green peas and soft paneer cubes cooked in a super flavorful tomato based gravy that is made creamy and rich with cashew paste or heavy cream or both. I prefer using cashews as I like the subtle nuttiness it adds to the gravy and also because I always have cashews in the pantry. The green peas add a hint of sweetness completing the spicy gravy really well. I always like to fry paneer before adding it to the curry. With just a couple of tsps of oil and a pinch of turmeric for color, I fry it very lightly on all sides dip them in water for a 2 to 3 secs and remove it onto a plate or paper towel. This step is totally optional but I do this so that the paneer cubes are still soft on the inside even though frying gives a crisp exterior. Garnish with coriander leaves and/or a few drops of heavy cream to serve.
Enjoy this flavorful dish along side any kind of bread…especially naan or with some aromatic pulav.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20 to 25 mins
Serves: 8 to 10
– 2 + 3 tsps of oil
– 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 3 or 4 cloves
– 1 medium-sized onion (finely chopped)
– 1/4th tsp powdered cardamom
– 3/4th tsp ginger-garlic paste
– 1/2 tsp turmeric
– 2 tsps red chilli powder
– 1/2 tsp coriander powder
– 2 tsps salt or to taste
– 1 large tomato (diced)
– 1/2 cup cashew paste
– 1 cup paneer (1-inch cubes)
– handful of chopped coriander
1. Soak 1/2 cup of cashews in water.
2. Cut paneer into 1-inch cubes. In a pan, heat about 2 tsps of oil and a pinch of turmeric, add paneer cubes and toast lightly on all sides. Remove onto a paper towel to remove any excess oil.
3. In a skillet or a pan, heat 3 tsps of oil. Add cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves. When they sizzle for a minute or so add chopped onions and saute until translucent.
4. Add powdered cardamom and ginger-garlic paste. Saute for a couple of mins. Add turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt. Saute for a few minutes. Add diced tomatoes and further saute for a few minutes until the tomatoes are nice and tender.
5. Drain off some water from the cashews. Blend the cashews and onion-tomato mixture separately into a smooth paste and set aside. Add about 1/4th to 1/2 cup of water to help in blending.
6. Remove both the pastes into the pan and give a quick mix. Add the fried paneer cubes, cover and simmer on low for at-least 10 to 12 mins.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot along-side naan, roti or rice.