A Punjabi Jewel ...the Paneer, prepared at home, with Butter Masala
While growing up , we only ate paneer or cottage cheese that was made at home . It wasn't store bought . It was deliciously creamy , soft and fresh and that is why most of us grew up loving Paneer . My nanny would keep some pieces aside for me with sprinkled with rock salt and to this day I have to eat some pieces this way .Palak Paneer (spinach with paneer)and Matar Paneer (Peas and Paneer) , dry crumbled paneer and of course my mothers JEWEL tawa paneer (recipe posted before )were our favourites!
Paneer is a refined product that was developed in Punjab through knowledge from nomadic pastoralists and is made from spliting hot milk with an acid like lemon juice, collecting the curdled portion and chilling it . This is very different from the other European cheeses like paramgioano regiano or mozarella. Cheese in every culture exists because it is a form of preserved milk . In Northern India , it is savoured with a lot of relish and all menus will have paneer dishes on it and these are enjoyed by both non vegetarian and vegetarians alike. And now this has spread to mostly all regions in India.
I did not realize when Paneer started being bought from community sweetshops where they were bought brick wise. It doesn't require any time to prepare ...and it is here to stay , always home made ...
2 lts of Milk can make upto 8 servings of Paneer. Store it in an airtight container with little water for upto 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
There are 100 dishes one can prepare from Paneer , barbecued, scrambled or in a gravy , but I chose the Punjabi Paneer Butter Masala which we love.
I added green peppers in it too...and made a light version.
350 gms Fresh home made Paneer, cut into cubes
1/2 large green pepper, cut into cubes
For preparing cashew paste:
18 to 20 whole cashews
⅓ cup hot water for soaking cashews
For the gravy :
300 ml organic tomato puree
2 tablespoons butter or 1 tablespoon oil + 1 or 2 tablespoons butter
1 no.indian bay leaf
1 inch ginger and 3 to 4 nos.garlic pods - crushed or ground in a mortar and pestle
½ to 1 tspn kashmiri red chili powder
1.5 cups water or whey of the paneer or add as required
1 inch ginger julienned, reserve a few for garnishing
1 or 2 nos. green chili - slit (reserve a few for garnishing), optional
1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
½ to 1 tspn garam masala
2 to 3 tblsps low-fat cream , optional
¼ to 1 tspn jaggery – optional, I usually put this to balance the taste
Salt, as required
1 to 2 tblspns chopped coriander leaves (cilantro leaves) for garnishing
a few ginger julienne
1 tblsp low fat cream , optional
Preparing the cashew paste
1.Soak 18 to 20 cashews in a hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. When the cashews are soaking,you can prepare and fry the koftas.
3.Then drain and add the soaked cashews in a blender or grinder.
4.Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water and grind to a smooth paste without any tiny bits or pieces of cashews.
Preparing the gravy
Melt butter or oil in a pan on a low flame. Add bay leaf and fry for 2 to 3 seconds or till the butter or oil becomes fragrant .
Add ginger-garlic paste and saute for some seconds till the raw aroma disappears.
Add the tomato puree and stir well. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Then add Kashmiri red chili powder and stir again. Continue to saute till the oil starts to leave the sides of the tomato paste. The tomato paste will thicken considerably and will start coming together as one whole lump.
Then add cashew paste and stir well. Saute the cashew paste for a few minutes till the oil begins to leave the sides of the masala paste.
The cashew paste will begin to cook fast. Approx 3 to 4 minutes on a low flame. So keep stirring non-stop. Add the cubes of green peppers here and cook.
Add water and mix very well. Simmer on a low flame.
The curry will come to a boil.
After 2 to 3 minutes of boiling, add ginger julienne. Reserve a few for garnishing. The curry will also begin to thicken.
Add some of the ginger and green chilies, salt and jaggery and simmer till the curry begins to thicken.
After 3 to 4 minutes, add 1 or 2 slit green chilies. also add salt as per taste You can add sugar or jaggery from ¼ tsp to 1 teaspoon or more depending on the sourness of the tomatoes. Sugar is optional and you can skip it too. If you add cream, then you will need to add less sugar.
Add the Paneer cubes and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves, ginger julienne and cream (optional)
Enjoy with flatbreads or rice